Common good

After a COVID hiatus, some things are reopening and getting back to a semblance of normal, including one of my ministry commitments. At the entrance to the facility where I volunteer, a poster indicated two mask-wearing selections — optional for those vaccinated and mandatory for those unvaccinated.* Clear and simple, right?

A short time later, I was walking with a staff member to our service site. He wasn’t wearing a mask. Just to make conversation, I asked if he was vaccinated. He said “No.” “If that’s the case, why aren’t you wearing a mask?”

This is what he told me:

  • He’s not at risk.
  • He doesn’t “believe” in the vaccines.
  • The mask mandate is only for visitors, not staff.

We don’t operate in isolation; we’re part of a system. We trust that another driver won’t run a red light or swerve into our lane. Sometimes that trust is misplaced. It’s not just about any one person. In a public space, we take others into account, whether a driver, a pedestrian, or the ages and potential health issues of the people we interact with. While personal health is rightly a private matter, unless you’re a hermit, we’re sometimes in the company of others. Underlying the notion of “public” health is the realization that we’re all in this together. So, “liberty to swing a fist ends where my nose begins.”

I’ve read about Covid and vaccine beliefs, including fears that the vaccine is worse than the sickness and that symptoms and statistics have been exaggerated. Luckily, I don’t have firsthand experience. So, I pay attention to weekly reports by a local ER doctor, who provides his “boots on the ground” perspective with observations about Covid hospital admissions, but I also check out the CDC website to find out what’s been reported nationally.

Another belief floating around is that the vaccine comes with a microchip allowing tracking, similar to the identification device implanted in pets to help with recovering a lost animal. Why would the government duplicate the efforts of cell phone and social media companies? Many people have already opted-in to tracking by virtue their mobile phone habits or social media posts.

Feelings can’t be fact-checked and I’m not going to argue with anyone’s strongly held beliefs, but I am also not willing to be put at risk by beliefs that aren’t supported by anything stronger than feelings or opinions. Any person has the right to their beliefs and to protest using whatever acts of civil disobedience they deem necessary. But they also have to be willing to pay the price for the consequences of their actions and consider they might be endangering others, such as aiding and abetting a known “serial killer.” If you choose to, go ahead and pay the price with your health, but don’t facilitate the spread a virus and put others at risk .

At dinner with some West Point classmates, the topic of vaccines came up. Everyone at the table had been vaccinated against Covid and had war stories about pre-deployment vaccines and medications. Hands down — gamma globulin shots were considerably more memorable than anthrax, rabies, or any of the Covid jabs. Service members know that a flak vest or ballistic helmet won’t protect completely, but like a vaccine, it’s better than nothing. Also, anyone who has served in the military probably still has their issued yellow shot record, a “vaccine passport.” In the military, you do certain things — yes, because you’re told to, but it’s also because you’re looking out for others in your unit.

Can I trust you to do the right thing? It may be naïve, but I take it on face value that you are looking out for more than just yourself. Life is a series of tradeoffs: good times and bad; sickness and health; freedom and responsibility. Thank you for keeping your infections to yourself.

© Joan S Grey, 6 August 2021 ∞
IndexCardCure™: We’re all in this together…

*Effective July 29, 2021 the Department of Defense has directed that all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, to wear masks in indoor settings at DoD installations and facilities to protect against rising COVID-19 cases. 

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