Look hard enough and you will find some good news this final week of 2021: two new studies suggest that Omicron infections more often result in mild illness, compared with previous variants of the coronavirus, offering hope that the current surge may not be quite as catastrophic as feared.
President Joe Biden acknowledged how we all feel: Americans are tired, worried, and frustrated about this seemingly never-ending pandemic. And he explained for the majority who are fully vaccinated and have planned or already received the booster shot “you have much, much less reason to worry. You have a high degree of protection against severe illness…We should all be concerned about Omicron but not panicked. ”
But what struck out most to us was when he told the unvaccinated that “it’s your patriotic duty” to get the free vaccine as they “have an obligation to yourselves, to your family, and, quite frankly…to your country.”
While cases are rising, research shows that hospitalizations are overwhelmingly of those unvaccinated. This is causing another wave that is stressing our frontline hero nurses and doctors again as well as causing hospitals across the U.S. to be overrun.
The bogus argument about “medical personal choice” is easily deflated by pointing out among those prominently preaching this viewpoint have themselves received the booster—starting with Donald Trump. We note with gratitude his recent willingness to promote the vaccine as being safe and pushing back on those who have campaign against it.
The frustration you hear in people’s voices is a result of the patchwork rules and enforcement for public health protocols. Private employers and businesses are too often forced into an adversarial role with patrons because there is no unanimity from state to state, county to county, and city to city.
We applaud the requirements in Newark and New York that anyone entering a restaurant must be vaccinated. Now those looking to enjoy a meal with family and friends can do so without worry that they will get severely sick.
As we start the New Year, we believe the time has come for adjustments of how to deal with COVID with an eye to rewarding those who have done everything the right way—getting the vaccine and the booster shot, getting tested and wearing a mask.
Going forward, being vaccinated should be the price to pay for admission to be part of our society. As Rep. Tom Malinowski said it perfectly to us recently, “We could use a dose of personal freedom mixed with personal responsibility.”
That includes means testing when it comes to government support. If you lose your job or become sick because of your personal choice to not use a safe vaccine that works, you should not receive any type of financial support from the government.
Some would say this is too harsh. We disagree because we have means testing for government programs—such as having to look for work when you are unemployed—already.
Plus, private companies have started enacting these policies. Kroger recently informed employees it will no longer provide two weeks of paid emergency leave for unvaccinated employees who contract COVID-19 and will add a $50 monthly surcharge to company health plans for unvaccinated managers and other nonunion employees effective Jan. 1, 2022.
This is not Spring of 2020 again. We have vaccines, we have proven behaviors that lessen the chance of spread and it appears over-the-counter medicines will be available sooner rather than later.
But the waves of this insidious virus will not stop unless we follow the historical roadmap that has stomped out viruses that have previously posed a public health crisis—getting vaccinated. If you choose not to, the majority of Americans have the right to restrict your freedoms to ensure our own health.