One of the most upsetting aspects of the coronavirus pandemic (aside from the millions of deaths globally) has been the politicization of public health, especially in the United States.
Facilitated in part by the unclear and theatrical messaging of former President Donald Trump, a large number of Americans have eschewed masks since the pandemic’s start because they perceive a piece of fabric over their mouth and nose as an encroachment on their civil liberties.
Many conservative pundits have preached about the tyranny of the mask, urging their audiences to exercise their freedom of speech and conscientiously object the most basic of health precautions.
Once vaccines were produced and readily available, the story played out much the same. “Exercise free speech!” the anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers chant. “Public health is a choice, not an obligation!” they cheer.
Yet if people are able to choose against protecting their health and the health of others, then they should be ready to face the consequences.
In addition to still being at risk of contracting and dying from COVID, anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers should be prepared to face additional obstacles as the rest of the country gets its act together and tries to return to some sort of normal life.
Although Mayor Bill de Blasio encourages people to wear masks even if vaccinated, he should not re-institute a mask mandate for the entire population. Instead, future messaging about masks and vaccines should be specifically targeted at those who ignore them.
“If you are not vaccinated, you must still wear a mask,” the headlines should read.
New York City is doing a good job at tackling the pandemic. If we want to cross the finish line though, we must not bend to the will of a selfish minority of the population. Instead, government officials should be prepared to play hardball with the anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers.
Make it known that they are the problem and make it clear that the city can continue on its path to recovery with or without them.