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If you're keeping score at home--and you really need to stay home considering this score--the tally Tuesday was 4,107 to 2,229.

That was in the race in Arkansas between new coronavirus cases and coronavirus vaccinations. New cases held the unhealthy lead.

It's easy to blame those in sworn positions of leadership, beginning with the governor. But you must acknowledge that the state can't inject more vaccinations than doses it receives. And the early score is often not indicative of the full contest.

Clemson scored first, and easily, on Ohio State.

The failure from the Trump-diseased federal government thus far in vaccination distribution is epic, just as its failure in controlling the virus was epic before and so remains.

But surely the state could do better than the 28 percent of doses available to it that had been administered to first-phase recipients in vaccinations as of Tuesday, not to mention the 5 percent of doses that had been administered to residents of nursing homes.

The fault I'm finding is less in these early numbers, which surely will improve, than in the seeming lack of urgency and command.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson's grandfatherly calm is a good thing until hospitals get close to running out of acute-care capacity. And I'm positively hostile to his new slogan, "the power of you."

Sure, each of us has the power to be responsible and compassionate, to wear a mask and keep distance and wash our hands and avoid gatherings. But everyone also has the power to drive safely, even as speeders and drunks run them over.

None of us has the governor's executive authority or bully pulpit to lay down the law that we will not stand for vaccine doses sitting idle and not inside warm bodies while our hospitals are within a few beds of acute-care capacity.

Full-up hospitals mean not only that we might find ourselves without places to put severe covid-19 cases. They mean we might not have places to put you or me in case of heart attack or stroke or traumatic injury.

So, whatever you do, don't get run over by a speeder or a drunk until the vaccination pace picks up.

It's true that the governor is square in the closing-in-on-him middle. Cases rise, vaccinations plod and criticism grows. Meantime, the Legislature prepares to infest Little Rock with a contingent of right-wing demagogues wanting to rein in his logical and essential emergency powers.

But surely right-wing demagogues wouldn't object to his getting more urgent about vaccines--as long, of course, as no one was made to take one. We can't dare make mandates in violation of the personal freedom to be ridiculous.

If a brief lockdown is out of the question, then somebody official needs to commandeer a war room to take charge of stepped-up enforcement of the activity restrictions in place as well as a faster, more efficient, more transparent and more accountable system for distributing the vaccine.

In the absence of that, my email inbox gets peppered with people's stories of vague or confusing answers from their pharmacists and rumors that druggists are sneaking shots to their pals.

The governor tells me that I ought to see all the hard work being done. I have no doubt. I would love to see it and write about it--because it seems entirely too covert while the governor drones on about a graph and most people walk around oblivious.

For now, to his credit, the governor at least is outlining a schedule. He says, by which I'm sure means he hopes, that we should finish vaccinating top-priority persons by the end of January, at which time we'd start vaccinating--mainly by appointments through pharmacies--those over 70 and other higher-risk or essential workers, like school teachers.

That would take two months, he says, by which he surely means hopes. That would mean that, by April, we'd start vaccinating those 65 to 70 and some of the more medically vulnerable younger than that.

Since each vaccination is a two-injection process separated by 28 days, that schedule, which we'll call a best-case scenario, suggests that the general population will wait until summer.

I've had occasion lately to talk with the governor about his developing legacy, at least to the extent that he puts me off by saying now is no time to think about one's legacy, but simply to do what one thinks is best amid the pandemic.

Regardless of what history may eventually say about his balancing of the economy-versus-health question, the heroic scientific world has delivered him, and us, a bailout in record time.

But that's true only if we can relay the bailout from laboratories into upper arms with urgency, expeditiousness, efficiency, justice, transparency and accountability.

The virus has scored first, but, then, so did Clemson.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at [email protected] Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

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