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Mask Mandates & Vax Passports: Safety Trumps Politics


The CDC now says mask mandates can be lifted for fully vaccinated citizens. You want to celebrate, right? Let’s burn our masks! Really? Do fully vaccinated people need to protect themselves from people who claim to be fully vaccinated but are, in reality, anti-vaccination zealots?


Okay. Calm down. Take a breath. Here’s exactly what CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said:


“Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, with wearing a mask or physical distancing.”


So, the question remains: What about those of us who have not been vaccinated or refuse to be vaccinated?


Until at least September 13, 2021, the CDC still requires masks for doctor or hospital visits, and for all types of public transportation (planes, trains, buses), both within and outside the United States. Furthermore, the CDC’s recommendation is trumped by order of state or municipal authority. Private businesses and workplaces may also mandate mask-wearing.


Feel better? Well . . . not really. This unmasking requires an honor system and many of our citizens have been less than honorable. How can we know that someone is fully vaccinated without some sort of proof?


And here is the crux of the problem. The ‘to mask or not to mask’ question has become a divisive, politically charged question. Vaccination opinions are equally controversial. On the positive side, CDC’s new guidelines are clearly based upon the efficacy of the vaccine and the steady decline in serious cases of Covid 19. Dr. Walensky says she is “encouraged by these positive trends.”


Studies show that fully vaccinated people are unlikely to carry and spread the deadly virus. But only 35 percent of the American public is fully vaccinated. How do we reconcile the two? Do we know the duration of vaccine protection? What about vaccine effectiveness against virus variants? Is this a case of too much too soon?


The recommendation is just that: a recommendation. If cases spike, the recommendation may be rescinded or modified. Even more controversial, though, is this notion of ‘proof’ of vaccination, the so-called vaccination passport. Is it legal for the government to require a vaccination passport? What about our constitutional rights?


Once again, this is an area of controversy and political divide. Vaccination passports are a popular idea in New York but opposed by Republican governors in Texas and Florida and other red-leaning states. Can the feds legally step in and mandate passports?


President Biden is on record as saying he has no plan or desire to require a passport. Furthermore, any POTUS would have difficulty implementing a mandate because public health powers belong to the states, not the feds. Any type of national policy would have to be passed by the Congress, a probable non-starter. And while such a policy may be constitutional as a national emergency safety measure, its application to houses of worship or protest marches might be unconstitutional.


What does all of this mean for me and you? In my opinion, the feds have a role to play. Even if they can’t or won’t require a vaccination passport, they should be actively involved in assuring transparency, assistance, and scientific guidance to local governments and private businesses. The country cannot afford anything less.


By way of example, if public schools or universities will require students, teachers, and administrators to be vaccinated, doesn’t it make sense for the federal government to coordinate the effort based on scientific and ethical principles? Wouldn’t this also make sense for large sporting events?


The bottom legal line is that safety trumps politics in America. Private businesses, for instance, can require passports, despite executive orders at the state level. Governors issuing executive orders do so in violation of federal government oversight.


Why? Because many companies operate nationally and internationally, and those companies may want to implement a safety-based passport policy. Think Florida and the cruise and airline industries. Safety concerns have a chilling effect on travel—people are not going to fly or cruise at the risk of contracting a deadly disease.


In my opinion, federally mandated vaccination passports are probably quite legal, but not politically possible. Look for a piecemeal approach, such as the one I described for public schools, universities, and the travel industry.


The larger problem continues to be our political divide and harsh rhetoric back and forth on these issues. As I indicated, legally, safety trumps politics. Wouldn’t it be nice if safety trumped politics as a common sense, practical solution to these problems?


Come on, America—stand up for safety!


Mark M. Bello, a trial lawyer, is the author of “Betrayal in Black” and other ‘ripped from the headlines’ Zachary Blake Social Justice Legal Thrillers available on Amazon.com and other online booksellers. For more information, please visit www.markmbello.com.


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