The people who are refusing the vaccine and refusing to mask up aren’t just killing themselves and infecting their neighbors. They’re destroying the American economy.
Life in the United States had been looking up. Cases had plummeted in the summer as mass vaccinations began to take hold. President Joe Biden was being pressured to ship extra vaccine doses overseas so developing countries could keep their populations safe, too.
In the big cities hit hardest by Covid in 2020, people poured into the streets for a Hot Vax Summer. Restaurants and bars were packed. Unemployment payments meant a lot of people had a little more cash in their pockets and weren’t having to choose between their lives and their jobs. Many businesses were booming.
The stubborn refusal of so many Americans to get vaccinated and wear masks is likely to continue doing damage in the weeks and months ahead, as kids go back to school, the weather cools and more activities move inside. Cue still more economic devastation.
“Keep your kids from getting a new and potentially deadly disease” should be argument enough for masking in schools — or at the very least, not preventing schools from requiring masking in areas with high Covid rates. But it’s been clear throughout this pandemic that far too many Americans don’t buy the argument that you have an obligation not to infect and potentially kill your family members and neighbors.
So let’s try another: Avoiding common-sense public health measures hurts the economy.
When schools shut down because of Covid outbreaks, the emergency child-care plan is often Mom. Women have already shouldered much of the economic burden of Covid. Another year of inconsistent schooling because of the unbroken cycle — reopen school, have an outbreak, close again and repeat — is going to push many more women out of the workforce. Note that in more than half of American households, women are the primary breadwinners — that is, they are the economy at home.
And many families, and especially mothers, are now making an impossible choice: Send a child to a school that doesn’t require masking, or vaccinating for adults, and risk your family’s health — but keep your job. Or give up your job to homeschool full-time and put your family on thin economic ice.
Every woman who drops out of the workforce is a hit to the economy. Every worker who decides they’d rather struggle financially than work for $7.25 an hour and risk Covid death or long-term disability is a hit to the economy. Every business that can’t keep its doors open because of the outbreak cycle, or the refusal of employees to risk their lives to wait tables or wash dishes, is a hit to the economy
The fault doesn’t lie with the people who are choosing life over potential illness. It lies with the people who are pouring gasoline on the current outbreak, and who are refusing to take commonsense steps to get Covid under control.
As businesses shutter, parents are forced out of work, Americans have fewer dollars to spend and fewer places to spend them, and life as we used to know drifts ever further out of our reach, let’s be clear about who is responsible: the anti-vaxxers, anti-maskers and their proponents in conservative media and in the Republican Party.