In July of 2021, President Joe Biden signed an executive order demanding that federal employees and contractors had to wear masks while on the job and had to be fully vaccinated. In September of 2021, Biden promised an order that businesses with 100 or more employees would have to ensure that the workers were vaccinated and doing weekly COVID-19 testing.
As of early August of 2021, six states have imposed different variations of bans on vaccine requirements. Such states include Tennessee, Texas and Utah. Tennessee and Utah do not allow employers and different agencies to require a COVID vaccine to work, with Utah only banning the vaccines not fully approved by the FDA. In Texas, employers and agencies are not allowed to force their employees to get vaccines and cannot discriminate against unvaccinated employers.
With some states requiring you to wear a mask and get vaccinated, and others banning that requirement, the question to ask is if these mandates limit our freedom. Does my body, my choice apply when it comes to this debate?
When it comes to requiring masks to be worn and people to be vaccinated, some people argue that it violates our individual rights as citizens of the United States of America. Having to wear masks and get vaccinated do not violate our individual rights and here is why.
The United States Supreme Court Case, Jacobs v. Massachusetts, determined the standard of balancing public health with individual rights. The court was deciding if Massachusetts could allow their municipalities to require their residents to be vaccinated against smallpox. The court came to their decision that, “The answer is that it was the duty of the constituted authorities primarily to keep in view the welfare, comfort, and safety of the many, and not permit the interests of the many to be subordinated to the wishes or convenience of the few.”
This basically means that a state can use its constitutional power to protect the health of its residents. When something becomes a danger to the public health, a state can require its residents to be protected from that danger. The state cares more about the overall health of its people than the individual rights of a couple of people that think they’re above others.
Some people claim that mandatory mask mandates violate the First Amendment’s right to speech, assembly, and association. They also claim that they violate a person’s constitutional right to liberty and to make their own decisions when it comes down to their own health. The people who make these claims are incorrect, because mask mandates do not stop you from expressing yourself. The First Amendment is based more on the content of the speech.
All constitutional rights are subject to the authority of the government and their ability to protect its residents’ health from dangerous outside forces. A pandemic where the virus at hand is airborne can affect some of our liberties, but sacrificing those liberties to ensure the safety of ourselves and others is a sacrifice worth making.
In a state like Utah, religion impacts a lot of decisions made by the state government and its people. I would like to invoke to the religious side of the audience, especially those familiar with the Bible, specifically Mathew 22:39-40. It states, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” This means that one should treat others as you would treat yourself. By not obeying COVID mandates, we are endangering others around us. By doing that, we are showing that we don’t care about our own health since we don’t take precaution to protect the health of others.
This issue affects me and others around me every day. I have a very weak immune system, so I must protect myself from catching an illness, especially one as strong and dangerous as the coronavirus. I wear a mask whenever I go outside and have been fully vaccinated for about four months. So has my family. Taking these precautions as allowed us to stay safe.
Others in the situation that my family is in can relate to having to be cautious and careful so that no one gets sick. We need to come to realize that these precautions will not only keep us safe from COVID, but will later protect us from other illnesses and the deadly pollution that we release out into the Earth.
We cannot defeat this illness, or future ones, by being ignorant. They can only be defeated by listening to facts and reason.
Christian Soto, Taylorsville, is a humanities major at Salt Lake Community College and an aspiring writer.