Absence of vaccination? Americans support strict laws and obfuscating demands that defend the general good.
As a fourth wave of the coronavirus spreads, Americans overwhelmingly believe that protecting the common good is more essential than preserving personal liberty when deciding whether to mandate people to receive a COVID-19 vaccination or wear a protective mask.
Mask mandates were deemed “a issue of health and safety” by an overwhelming 72 percent -28 percent of those surveyed by USA TODAY and Ipsos, not an infringement on personal autonomy. They approved mandatory vaccines except for those with a medical or religious exemption by a margin of 61 percent to 39 percent.
“I believe that everyone should have the right to make their own choices as long as they do not cause harm to another,” said Donna Sharp, 54, of Wynne, Arkansas, a caregiver who was among those contacted in the poll. “However, in this case, with the vaccination, you are indirectly harming other people if you do not get it and spread it.”
However, this attitude is not widespread. Nearly 1 in 5 respondents claimed they have not received a COVID-19 vaccination and have no plans to do so in the near future, highlighting the difficult terrain ahead as the number of cases identified and deaths documented increases, particularly in places with poor vaccination rates.
“I believe the mandates and obligations violate our rights as United States citizens,” said Carlie Wright, 30, a stay-at-home mother of two sons from Logan, Utah, who has opted out of vaccinations and wearing masks. “Government should not have the power to direct our lives and tell us what we can and cannot do.”
By a margin of more than 2-1, 70% -30%, Americans agreed that while individuals had the choice to choose not to receive the vaccine, they do not have the right to be around the vaccinated. There was widespread support for businesses, employers, institutions, restaurants, and airlines to prohibit people who had not had the shot from operating.
The COVID culture war: At what point should individual liberty be sacrificed for the greater good?
Both practical and philosophical aspects
This argument is resonating across the country as schools prepare to reopen in the coming weeks and businesses seek to rehire staff who worked remotely during the pandemic. The Biden administration threatened last week to withhold federal funds from nursing homes that do not require staff vaccinations. In Texas and Florida, some school districts have battled with governors over the ability to enforce masks.
The poll revealed widespread support for punitive measures against persons who were eligible for the vaccine but chose not to receive it:
66 percent favored requiring masks by state and municipal governments.
Employers requiring vaccinations was supported by 62% of respondents.
68 percent backed businesses refusing to serve unvaccinated customers.
65 percent supported a ban on unvaccinated individuals traveling by airline or public transportation.
65 percent of respondents favored sporting events and concerts that were not open to the unvaccinated.
71% believed institutions were within their rights to compel students to be vaccinated prior to returning to campus.
“It’s a tight line, but there comes a moment when a person’s freedoms are forfeit,” said Michael Tricarico, 50, a Brooklyn transit system employee. “The common good outweighs the special interests of a few.”
His own workplace has been impacted by the aftermath. This month, outgoing New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an order requiring all MTA and Port Authority employees to be vaccinated by Labor Day or face weekly coronavirus testing.