Over many months of the pandemic, the discussion has focused on the rights of an individual’s personal decision to choose not to vaccinate, and take other precautions such as masking or quarantine in contrast to the public health and safety restrictions imposed by government.
And you may wonder why I bring that debate up again We appear past that heated discussion as the fuss of the COVID crisis has seemed to wane, much as the immunity of the early wave of vaccinations may also be waning and the importance of staying up to date with the new bivalent boosters seems to be ignored.
For many the challenge to personal freedoms brought back that old battle cry, “Live free or die.” Regrettably, many believed the old mantra of the serpent, “You will not surely die…” But many did die and continue to do so. The power of misinformation will no doubt continue to take a toll on many, especially those who have the greatest need for protection.
Typically, public health education and public safety measures are thought to protect the vulnerable, but those efforts must rely upon the consensus of the majority, which has been elusive in the debate over the rights of an individual to make his own choice. Other societies, like our Eastern friends who have been in this fight many more times than their Western friends, seem to accept the inevitable adjustment to lifestyle that includes masking in public as the way to preserve the health of their society.
Mask-wearing customs vary overseas because each country has responded over the years to different sets of epidemiological and environmental threats. But this much is clear: Surgical masks have generally been the public face covering of choice for protection against all manner of epidemics, allergies and pollution. They have also been the go-to mask for those who cover their faces in public, as a courtesy, to prevent others from catching their sniffles.
So, we cannot disagree that it does come down to choice.
I accept that my Lord gave me free will and the power of choice; therefore, I can’t deny that others have that same power. I will accept that my choice is mine to make, but I also know that my choices, much like those in the Garden, can and do affect others.
I will choose to live in a way that models my Teacher, and which shows my love of my fellow man. I will continue to choose to wear a mask to protect others. My choice may not be popular or easy, and I do not make it in conformity to “public opinion,” which often seems fickle. I can’t really say that I understand all of the science either, but I trust that doing the right thing in love is sufficient for all purposes.
But in doing so, I will also protect myself, because I still have work to do before I leave this world and wearing a mask, getting vaccinated and boosting is the best choice for me.
I plan to continue a masking regimen in the “new” normal as we head into cold and flu season. I will get a flu shot and take other recommended precautions. I already received the bi-valent COVID booster. I try to limit the situations where I come into close contact with congested groups of people without masking or social distancing. Am I a patriot? I believe I am, because I love my community and my country. Some may think I am just a follower, but like my Teacher, I would invite you to “Follow me,” and live free, knowing you have made the choice to love others, and experience true freedom.
Karla Sexton is the compliance officer at River Valley Health and Dental in Williamsport and a member of Let’s end COVID!