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COVID and Choice
       Unfortunately, the problems with COVID are not vanishing. A major reason for this is the opposition to vaccination. Some, such as children under 12 and those with medical limitations, are unable to be vaccinated. In some parts of the world, vaccines are not easily available. However, another problem is the opposition to vaccination by a noticeable portion of the population. Many in this same group also oppose wearing masks, claiming they have the “right” to make their own decisions.
       A critical place where this comes into play is in schools, as the school year is resuming. Parents who object to their children having to wear masks are in error when they are claiming that this interferes with their “rights.” The requirement to wear masks is equivalent to any other component of a school’s dress code. In every school, there are a set of standards of dress that are expected of each student. This is no different.
       On August 11, Arnold Schwarzenegger made a valid comparison of requiring wearing masks to stopping at a red light. As he said, “you have the freedom to wear no mask, but you know something? You’re a schmuck for not wearing a mask.” There are limitations to our “freedom” that are reasonable and are regularly accepted. At one meeting in Texas, a father reinforced this message. He said how he objected to having to wear a jacket and tie to work, taking them off as he talked. He continued undressing as he explained that he didn’t feel he needed to honor stop signs, red lights, speed limits or reserved parking. He ended up in a bathing suit, making clear his message of accepted limitations and also gaining cheers from many attending the meeting.
       The issue of individual rights does not extend to having the right to risk exposing others to this life-threatening disease. Rights are not without limits, and that needs to be recognized. The rights one has end when they become a threat to others. The freedom of speech does not allow one to falsely shout “Fire!” in a crowded movie theater. Vaccination should be mandated for those who work with others who cannot be vaccinated. A New York Times report on August 27 noted that an unvaccinated teacher in an elementary school infected half of the class students, eventually infecting 26 people.
       If one objects to students wearing mandated masks in school, there are other choices. One possibility is to find an alternate school that does not infringe on the “rights” one chooses to claim. If all else fails, there is always the option to home school one’s children. For those who are adamant that they feel their children should not be required to wear a mask, this option would not endanger other students.
       Another angle worth considering is that masking is a disability rights issue. Wearing masks protects those who are unable to be vaccinated due to age or a medical limitation. The bottom line is that COVID is a real issue and we must deal with it seriously. The longer we face this problem, the more variants will develop. Delta is not the last that has thus far developed, but it is the most threatening at this point. Other variants that have already branched out include eta, iota, kappa, lambda, epsilon and theta. The more people oppose fighting this battle, the greater the chance of a strain evolving that is more dangerous than delta – and that is something we should try to avoid!
       As noted on August 30 in the New York Times, to battle COVID, we need: “more vaccine mandates in the U.S.; a more rapid push to vaccinate the world (and prevent other variants from taking root); and an accelerated F.D.A. study of vaccines for children.”
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