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Goodman: Restricting COVID-19 Safety Precautions Is The Real Government Overreach

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Peter Goodman
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Commentary: Congresswoman Yvette Herrell is providing a tragic example of putting ideology (or political convenience) ahead of her constituents’ welfare.

There’s a Delta-powered resurgence of COVID-19, particularly where vaccination rates lag. The Delta variant is more contagious, and may also cause more serious infections.

I called Herrell’s office Friday to ask about why she had introduced a bill to strip schools of federal money for mandating the COVID-19 vaccine. (This could deny hundreds of millions of dollars to UNM and NMSU. Both have ordered that almost all faculty, staff and students must be fully vaccinated by Sept. 30 (or take weekly COVID-19 tests) to access university programs and facilities in-person.)

When a young gentleman named Riley answered, I asked why Herrell would introduce such a bill. “Because it’s not right to force schoolchildren” into such preventive measures when science says the students are not in much danger from COVID-19. “So it won’t apply to NMSU and UNM?” It would. “Why?” Riley responded, “We’re already getting out of the pandemic successfully.”

In Florida, where the governor is forbidding towns and companies to require masks or vaccines, the COVID-19 daily infection rate is higher than ever. As of May 1, deaths per million residentsin the US were about 1.5, in both highly -vaccinated and less vaccinated counties. Between May 1 and early July, both death rates declined. Then the rate in low-vaccination counties jumped from about 0.8 to 2.0 between early July and August 1  compared with 0.3 in more highly-vaccinated counties. Yeah, a couple of humans per million ain’t much, but six times the death rate?

In early July, Biden announced house-to-house visits to give citizens information about vaccines’ safety, efficacy, and availability. Herrell wrote him to complain that this would “coerce individuals” to get vaccinated, which public health officials and sheriffs did in 1918. Herrell’s website emphasizes the rights of foetuses to be born, but asks Biden to identify “the constitutional and statutory authority” for the door-to-door effort. Our Constitution is silent about abortion, which was not uncommon in the 18th Century, but does require the government “to promote the general welfare” of citizens.

When I asked Riley why he thought we were “successfully” getting out of the pandemic, he said, “herd immunity is happening, and the rate of hospitalization is down.” Most authorities I read say we’re NOT reaching herd immunity yet because vaccination rates of 50-70% aren’t high enough. The vaccination rate is 65.1% in New Mexico, but 50% or less in several counties in CD-2. A “leader” might promote the general welfare through vaccination; but Herrell doesn’t because “it’s a personal choice.”

It is personal; but making that personal choice can endanger others. More than 3500 health workers died of COVID-19 in the first year. Isn’t Congresswoman Herrell giving them and their families a giant middle-finger? When I asked Riley if he wanted to say anything more to explain the Congresswoman’s actions, he said, “it’s a matter of not having government overreach.”

Riley was polite and responsive; but the conversation reminded me that he and Yvette live in a very different world from mine. I’ve invited Herrell to talk with me on radio and hope she’ll take the opportunity to articulate why she thinks COVID-19 dangers have largely passed and why she’s not encouraging folks to take actions that help their neighbors.

And why vaccination’s “a personal choice,” but women’s health choices are government business.