There’s a “new normal” and then there’s a “we don’t want to go back there again,” and a simple quick Sunday afternoon trip with my daughter to Dave’s was feeling more like the latter.
We were there for about 20 minutes just picking up some stuff for dinner, a carve-out of time for us that we enjoy, sharing time together while milling around, she the chef and me the cart pusher. You always bump into somebody you know. It’s relaxing, just nice.
And for the last couple months, you take notice that it’s comfortable again. No masks, no arrows on the floor, no tension.
But this past weekend, while we weaved in and around the aisles freely, there was an eerie increase in mask-wearing, my guess would be a ratio of 20 percent. It clearly felt like a step in the wrong direction.
It’s the Delta variant, of course. And most of us vaccinated folks are fed up.
There are polls popping up across the country reflecting a sentiment for mandatory vaccination. And par for the course, the numbers are very high in blue states, split in red states, and the national averages are in the mid-60s.
Governance by polling is a dangerous thing. But in this case, the polling could drive the momentum toward more everyday quality of life roadblocks for the unvaccinated.
Because right now, there’s not much choice.
We all should be protective of the Constitution and each of our inalienable rights.
But there are shots that we do force ourselves and our kids to take, and until now, there’s been hardly a blink.
We are likely moving to say, “sorry, if you have no medical or religious waiver, you can’t dine here, you can’t attend this event, and your kid can’t go to school here.” Already, private institutions and businesses are beginning to require proof of vaccination to come back to work.
It’s awful and feels like an exacerbation of division, but it is likely the one thing that will edge up the protection against this variant and, heaven help us, the next one or two that bust this current vaccination protection for good.
In Rhode Island and Massachusetts, the governors are hesitant to formally act because their good vaccination work has kept the new surge to a minimum, pointing to very low hospitalization and mortality rates. But it could end up being they can no longer thread the needle, and have to move to a more aggressive vaccination plan instead of a return to public-venue mask mandates that will reverse the economic comeback.
It will require constituent buy-in, specifically in Rhode Island, where the General Assembly quietly stripped Dan McKee’s executive authority effective Sept. 1. That means your state representative and senator will have to step up and be counted on a major social and public health matter. They will no longer be able to run and hide like they did at the pandemic’s start.
Then again, they could take the easy way out and vote to give him the executive authority right back.
These are important public decisions. Do we want to return the power of emergency authority to this governor, repeating last year’s experience with Gina Raimondo? Which branch of government is better to decide on the question of issues such as mask mandates in schools and vaccination mandates in general?
We’d better get over our collective COVID coma right now and start acting like engaged citizens.
Our quality of life, and our lives themselves, depend on it.
Dan Yorke is the PM Drive Host on 99.7/AM 630 WPRO, Dan Yorke State of Mind weekends on MyRITV/Fox Providence and owns communications/crisis consulting firm DYCOMM LLC