On Monday, St. Louis County — where I live — became among the first in the country to reinstate an indoor mask mandate in public places for everyone, vaccinated or not. That’s an anomaly in a state that regularly contends for title of both Most Unvaccinated and Most New COVID Infections. The hospitals in southwest Missouri are so full they’re sending overflow patients here, where the ICUs have also begun to fill up with people who haven’t gotten the shots, and probably never wore masks in the first place.
While I think the county had no choice in this public health issue, it hasn’t gone far enough. Above and beyond the mask rule, it should also mandate that anyone on the public payroll be vaccinated. That should include not just cops, EMTs, teachers, and firefighters, but also those who work in county offices or courts.
Why? Because we’re long past the point of asking nicely while letting the deniers, liars, and fools endanger others, causing the COVID crisis to not only endure, but sicken and kill thousands more people, too.
In the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen many employers issue such mandates, as well as the Veterans Administration. But President Biden should have the rest of his federal government lead the way by making vaccination a condition of employment, local and state authorities must follow suit.
There have been more than 150 positive COVID tests among athletes at the Tokyo Olympics because the USOC and other governing bodies did not put such a policy in place before the games. With all the rules regarding what participants are allowed to put into their bodies, getting the jab should have been a prerequisite to competition.
I spoke with a friend the other day who’s a nurse in a local hospital system. She estimates that about 40% of her fellow nurses haven’t been vaccinated. Forty percent! How can you be a medical professional and not understand the importance of these vaccines? Many of them live in counties like St. Charles, where there has never been a mask mandate, so they don’t put on that facial protection when they run errands or are around others. Again, I’m talking about nurses, who have to wear masks on the job to protect themselves — and their patients — from spreading germs, infections, and deadly diseases.
The hospitals that employ them should follow the lead of Houston Methodist, one of the first health systems to require the coronavirus shots. Some of the nurses and other staff balked there, at first, and filed a lawsuit, which they lost. By the time of the hospitals’ deadline, nearly all of the 25,000 people employed by Houston Methodist had gotten the vaccine — but 150 of them still refused, so they were fired.
That’s what we need now on a county, city, state, and national basis — a zero-tolerance policy. They’ve done it in France. They’ve done it in Italy. While it’s true our president can only issue such an order for the people who work in his government, businesses and universities and sports leagues and every other institution can add to the pressure by laying down the law to their own employees, students, and staff.
Will there be a backlash? Of course. But our leaders at every level must resist the pushback and act to protect our public health.
Bottom line: if you want a paycheck, roll up your sleeve.