Friday, July 30, 2021

More on Masks and Vaccines

It was not the kind of comment one might reasonably have expected from a high-ranking member of the Congressional leadership, but in a world where Republican misbehavior has long lost its capacity to shock, Keven McCarthy tweeted that requiring masks "is not a decision based on science, but a decision conjured up by liberal government officials who want to live in a perpetual pandemic state."

“He’s such a moron,” House speaker Nancy Pelosi reportedly told reporters Wednesday when asked for her reaction.

It is, of course, one of the idiotic orthodoxies of pseudo-libertarian fantasy that "liberal government officials" are always looking to impose restrictions on the freedoms and liberty of others. Perhaps there really may be those who have been sufficiently deluded by party propaganda who will believe such nonsense. It is, however, highly unlikely that anyone - moron or not - who has risen to the level of leadership that McCarthy has, is really so deluded not to know that the single factor most powerfully pushing us into "a perpetual pandemic state" has been the failure of so many of our fellow citizens to get vaccinated - thereby prolonging the spread of the virus and enabling it to mutate into ever more dangerous variants.

Personally, I think that, if "liberal government officials" are to be faulted for anything, it should be for their reticence thus far in mandating vaccinations wherever they have the authority to do so. Frankly, the Biden Administration and Democratic officeholders have been slow in meeting this challenge. (Yesterday, President Biden finally announced that all federal employees will be required to be vaccinated or face frequent testing, as well as mask mandates and distancing rules in the workplace.) Meanwhile, for some strange reason we are still waiting while the Food and Drug Administration is taking its time to grant the vaccines full approval - rather than the current emergency use authorizations. Such full approval would eliminate the last semi-rational reason why some sub-set of people still resist receiving the vaccine. This is no time for traditional Washington "business as usual."

Compare our situation with France, for example, where once President Macron so much as suggested the likelihood of government mandate the number of vaccinations surged. The U.S. has a long history of requiring vaccinations against smallpox and other scourges of humanity. We need to do the same for the one weapon we have against covid. 

As Ezra Klein, for example, has noted in The New York Times:

"There is nothing new about this. We do not solely rely on argumentation to persuade people to wear seatbelts. A majority of states do not leave it to individual debaters to hash out whether you can smoke in indoor workplaces. Polio and measles were murderous, but their near elimination required vaccine mandates, not just public education. When George Washington wanted to protect his soldiers from smallpox, he made vaccinations mandatory. It worked."

That said, the main culprits in this tragic opera of vaccine resistance have been and remain Republican politicians, who obviously must know better but who in various ways and through their notorious media outlets have tolerated, encouraged, and even promoted vaccine resistance. If this disease continues to spread and sicken and kill people, if students have to miss more school, we know whom to blame.

Pope Francis has made it clear that it is morally acceptable to take any of the vaccines and said that we have the moral responsibility to get vaccinated. There is no moral or religus basis to exempt oneself from this obligation.

Meanwhile, I guess those who have acted responsibly and gotten vaccinated will be keeping their masks on for the foreseeable future.

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