“No!” to the return of mask mandates

This afternoon UAB announced that masks are required indoors, regardless of vaccination status. This one has me mad. The incentive to getting the vaccine was – “get the vaccine and get back to normal”.

What’s changed? Numbers are going up for unvaccinated people.

(By the way, if you’re a media organization – please include vaccination status in any COVID numbers you report.)

Before I go on, let me mention a couple of things:

  1. I have a couple of clients that are hospitals. I was on-site at one today. I wore a mask. It was uncomfortable, but I understand that that’s the thing to do in a hospital.
  2. This fall, I’ll be volunteering at a school to help teach computer science. I’m resigned to the fact that I’m going to need to wear a mask. I’m not thrilled about it, but I understand that a lot of the kids there are under 12 and can’t get the vaccine yet.

Having said that, at this point – we generally have a “pandemic of the unvaccinated”. Here’s a quote from Dr. Karen Landers from an article posted today on AL.com: “If you look at the outcomes of COVID-19 and persons who have been fully vaccinated and then you look at the outcomes of COVID-19 for persons who haven’t been vaccinated. The persons who have not been vaccinated, right now, are making up almost all of the hospitalizations that we’ve had.”

If you choose to not get vaccinated, that’s your right. But it’s also your responsibility to accept the consequences of your decision.

I understand there are “breakthrough cases” of vaccinated people getting infected, but – their experience seems on par with getting the flu in previous years.

I have a child starting at UAB this fall. UAB decided earlier in the year that freshman orientation would have to be virtual via Zoom. (Auburn and Alabama decided to return to in-person orientation.) But later, UAB decided that in addition to Zoom sessions, they would offer “Bonus Days” to let students come on campus. I was on campus with my son on Monday. I was grateful that they decided to offer some on-campus experience, but it seems to me like they jumped the gun on the original decision.

Today’s announcement feels like that. It also feels like decision makers are making the calculation that people have been vaccinated are less likely to be “unruly” about further inconveniences imposed on them and that the vaccine skeptics are more likely to yell and scream.

Ironically, yesterday my son had to go the doctor to get his “required vaccination” paperwork. From UAB’s website: “All entering freshmen must show proof of the following immunizations: MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella), Tdap (tetanus and diphtheria), meningococcal, and varicella.”

I’m opposed to government’s issuing vaccine mandates. But – here’s an institution that already has vaccine requirements in place and they’re going to make a decision that requires vaccinated people to be inconvenienced to accommodate non-vaccinated people. Why not just add the COVID vaccine to the list for on-campus students?

If I’m a non-vaccinated person, the logical take-away from this is “Why should I get vaccinated? Apparently it doesn’t make any difference and I would still have to wear a mask anyway.”

This isn’t just about UAB, but they are a convenient target at the moment. I fear that many other institutions and businesses will follow in their footsteps with logic-defying decisions and I want to preemptively yell “Don’t do it!”. We have been generally compliant, but we’re about to start getting unruly.

Addendum added on July 30, 2021 – I didn’t realize that Alabama schools are prohibited by law from adding the COVID vaccine to their list of requirements. SB 267 prohibits creating vaccine requirements that weren’t already in place on January 1, 2021. Personally, I think this may need to be re-considered.