We should be able to see how the different COVID-19 regulations are applied by the states and have a better grasp of the reasons our Founding Fathers believed that federalism was the best form of democracy. States can experiment with regulatory strategies that suit local attitudes.
The political leaders of today have just muddled along like everybody else. They have no great wisdom about viruses, so it’s best for people with a variety of ideas to try a variety of approaches—rather than giving one leader supreme powers. We can now look back at data after nearly two years of pandemic-related panic and identify what worked and what didn’t.
California, as always, has taken a top down approach with Governor. Gavin Newsom reinstating the indoor mask mandate as new variants of COVID-19—including Omicron, which sounds like an outer-space villain—are spreading. Yet the latest data shows an inconsequential difference between death rates in restrictive states such as ours (0.16) and laissez-faire ones such as Florida (0.13).
Although it is more complicated than this, let us not assume that California’s political leadership has all the pandemic-related knowledge. There’s evidence suggesting that mask-wearing might help prevent the pandemic’s spread, but one needs to evaluate the real-world ramifications of the latest kneejerk Sacramento mandate.
How useful are unenforceable edicts? “Local officials state that the state doesn’t provide any direction on enforcement. Some local authorities claim they will not enforce state orders at all.” Sacramento Bee reported. Californians are against mask-wearing and won’t accept fines or arrests. This month-long ban is mostly for public relations.
I actually agree with the governor’s words: “I think people are more capable once they’re given the ‘why’ and the ‘what’ to apply themselves…and I think a lot of people will self-enforce and do the right thing.” To this libertarian, that’s the best approach to almost any crisis—expecting a free and responsible people to self-regulate.
Newsom does not allow Californians to exercise this right without a mandate. This is because Newsom cannot force Californians into taking decisions he dislikes. A form of local federalism is already taking root. When I went to dinner recently in San Francisco, the restaurant (per city code) required our party to provide proof of vaccination. In the rural area where I live, virtually no one wears masks—mandate or not.
We need to rely more on our individual responsibility and use common sense. Nearly 75 percent of Californians have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine, with more than 65 percent having received two doses. Presumably, that includes a large percentage of conservatives – the folks most likely to portray the vaccination regimen as a leftist plot to control the population.
The vaccine is widely available. My doctor gave me a boost without any appointment and cost. It’s now time to allow people freedom to choose and accept the results. Let’s move on and not try to juggle another set of rules that will only make our heads spin.
Fortunately, this view of the pandemic—the result of exhaustion and frustration at the disturbing side effects of economic disruptions and lockdowns—has an ally in Colorado. Colorado isn’t a redoubt for right-wing revanchism. There was a 55% to 42% margin of support for Joe Biden in the Rocky Mountain State over Donald Trump.
Gov. Jared Polis may be a Democrat but his comments during a recent Colorado Public RadioThe interview made me laugh. The “emergency” is over and it’s not up to public-health staff to tell people “what to wear”. He later walked back that “what to wear” comment by supporting local public-health efforts rather than state ones, but his remarks represent a welcome shift.
“You don’t tell people to wear a jacket when they go out in winter and force them to (wear it),” he said. They are responsible for their frostbite if it happens. Likewise, Polis argues that, “Everybody had more than enough opportunity to get vaccinated…At this point, if you haven’t been vaccinated, its’ really your own darn fault.” Exactly.
Americans need to wake up. You can refuse to take a vaccine. You just need to deal with the consequences. To be clear, I have taken the COVID-19 situation seriously since the outset—especially given that I have an elderly mother who lives in an independent-living facility with other older people. Typhoid Mary spreads potentially fatal diseases to people vulnerable to me, and I do not want to be Typhoid Mary.
Some pushback against vaccines and masks has been zany, but I can’t blame people for skepticism at this point, as evidence pours in about the mental-health and economic effects of the lockdowns. 50 states can chart their own future post-pandemic. Colorado is proof that even Democratic states are capable of trying something new.
This column appeared in The Orange County Register for the first time.