Medical Examiner

In Praise of What Lindsey Graham Just Said

Graham speaks at a podium
Sen. Lindsey Graham. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Monday afternoon, Sen. Lindsey Graham announced that he had come down with COVID-19. He is fully vaccinated. It’s the first known breakthrough case experienced by a member of the Senate.

It’s notable for another reason, though. About the positive test, Graham had this to say:

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It’s a good statement! Graham presents his COVID-19 infection as something to be taken seriously, but not something to freak out about. The move to quarantine takes into account the latest science that the delta variant can be spread by vaccinated people. And in acknowledging that his symptoms may well have been worse if he weren’t inoculated, Graham presents a neat case for getting the vaccine, even though, as we are all learning together, it is very much not perfect.

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Yes, this is from the same guy who came to a press conference last week wearing a face covering that read “Mask Up the Border,” suggesting that the real problem isn’t Americans refusing to follow COVID protocols; it’s immigrants.

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Just 49 percent of Graham’s constituents in the 18–65 age group have received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared with 65 percent nationally, making South Carolina one of the least vaccinated states. While it’s nice to hope that Graham’s skilled endorsement of the vaccine could help boost those numbers, being unvaccinated isn’t always a simple matter of not wanting to get a shot; it’s about overcoming barriers like distance to a pharmacy, too. And Graham’s position gives him a lot of benefits other people lack—chiefly, access to routine testing from a work-supplied physician in order to quickly catch a breakthrough infection in the first place, plus the ability to work from home and to quarantine, without major repercussions.

While of course even mild breakthrough infections can be unpleasant, and worse ones do occur, Graham illustrates what COVID has become—for Americans who are very lucky.

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