It’s a necessary and overdue step. But why aren’t more cities and states taking it? And more importantly: Why isn’t President Joe Biden?
Nearly a year and a half into the Covid-19 pandemic, and as a new and highly contagious variant rages, you’d think that our politicians would be getting better at navigating it.
And a few are — certainly the competence of the Biden administration’s vaccine rollout stands in sharp contrast to the chaos of Donald Trump and his Covid toadies with their science denying, disinfectant-injecting suggestions, and staff outbreaks. But even somewhat sensible leaders are still refusing to fully follow the science and implement commonsense rules to protect public health.
Even now, too many of them are putting politics — and what they seem to assess to be their own political futures — ahead of making the difficult but necessary calls to keep us all safe.
The answer may be that Cuomo, who is also facing ongoing allegations of sexual harassment and a scathing new report finding those allegations credible, fears a political backlash.
Conservatives set up early opposition to requiring “vaccine passports”– proof of vaccination before one could attend a concert, dine indoors, go to a bar, fly on an airplane, take a cruise or enter a stadium. And many liberal public officials simply bowed to that opposition.
There is an obvious and simple solution here, and it’s partly what Cuomo wants restaurants to do on their own: Require proof of vaccination for anything that is inside and nonessential, as well as for all public sector jobs and those that pose a high risk to a vulnerable population — health and care workers, for example. For essential activities — grocery shopping, taking public transportation, going to the doctor — universal masking should be required, as the current honor system of “mask if you’re not vaxxed” is obviously ineffective.
This model (you could steer away from the politicized “vaccine passport” and call it a health card instead) allows for a fair balance of protecting public health and protecting individual freedom.
It is absolutely a person’s right to refuse vaccination, and our regulations have to preserve bodily autonomy. But it is not a person’s fundamental right to go to the club or eat inside at the restaurant of their choice, if their doing so poses a health risk to those around them.
Which is why it’s so maddening to see politicians shirking their duties here. Cuomo is hardly alone in that — not a single state, including any of those with strong Democratic majorities, has instituted a vaccine requirement for all inessential activities.
And while politicians in red states are tying their own citizen’s hands on the most effective method to prevent Covid, politicians in blue ones are obsessing over mask rules, instead of embracing the most effective method to prevent Covid.
Why are most blue-city and blue-state leaders taking such modest half measures? The mayors of Washington, DC and San Francisco have reinstated mask mandates, for example, but have not required vaccination for indoor dining.
Unfortunately, mask mandates are not particularly useful for indoor dining, given that the whole of the restaurant removes their masks to eat. The nation has a more effective solution available to it, and it’s absurd we aren’t taking full advantage of it.
And there’s an opportunity for Democratic leaders in blue states to lead the way.