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Last week, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards issued new COVID guidelines including that people both vaccinated & unvaccinated return to wearing a mask indoors - especially when social distancing cannot be maintained. While this is not a mandate, it was a strong suggestion and the Governor alluded to the possibility that more restrictions and guidelines could be on the way. Will those be mandatory? Could we return to where we were around this time last year? Only time will tell. Other states, on both sides of the political spectrum, have started re-issuing mask mandates, restricting capacities, etc..

My question is this: Why? I know the obvious answer is "the spread of COVID is getting out of hand again". Which it is...kind of. As Governor Edwards called it last week, we currently have a "pandemic among the unvaccinated". Roughly speaking, 98% of all new COVID cases are among unvaccinated individuals. Those that have been vaccinated, with the exception of breakthrough cases, suffer little to no ill effects and  those that test positive generally have extremely mild cases.

So, that brings me to my original question posed in the headline: "Are COVID Mandates Still the Way to Go in Louisiana?" And I would venture to say no. Before I begin, I want to put this out up front: I'm not an anti-vaxxer, I'm not a conspiracy theorist and I'm not one of those people who think the virus isn't real. COVID most certainly is real and barring a minor miracle, will probably be around until the end times. Also, not that it is anybody's business, but I made the decision months ago to get the vaccine. However, despite my belief that adults who are eligible should be vaccinated, I don't believe the Government should issue any other mandates and regulations. That may seem like contradictory beliefs, but really it's not.

As things stand today, getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is optional. It's a choice. It's not something that is required by the majority of employers, the Government or anybody else. So, it is a personal health choice that is up to the individual. In my estimation, you should not punish people (especially those who have been vaccinated) for something that is optional.

Now, one argument that has been levied against me and my humble opinion is this: "We have to keep up the good fight. Just because someone didn't want to mask up or get the vaccine doesn't mean I shouldn't do the same to protect them". And I say to that argument - I 100% agree. If you want to go above and beyond to provide additional protection to those that CHOOSE not to protect themselves, then please do so. But, the Government should not be involved.

For over a year, most of us banded together to stay inside, mask up and all that while a vaccine was mass produced and widely available. Today, unlike a year ago, anybody that wants a shot can go get one at the nearest drug store, pharmacy or quick care. The social contract of all of us banding together for "the greater good" is over. It's optional. And an option that is widely available. No matter your income, status, whatever...you can go get one if you want one.

I get it. It sucks watching people suffer and get sick. But, they are suffering and getting sick by their own choosing. Should we encourage people to get the shot? Absolutely. But, it is an optional medical procedure and completely up to the individual whether or not they want to get it. Bully tactics, threats, acting like you're some kind of Guardian Angel is not going to convince somebody they should get the shot. In fact, that will probably do the opposite effect of what you're trying to accomplish. Shaming or punishing someone for not doing something rarely, if ever, works.

Furthermore, if the state wants people to get vaccinated, they should make the vaccine more readily available. For instance, I have a friend that has an irrational fear of needles. He knows it's irrational but it's a fear he has nonetheless. So, he decided that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the best choice for him. However, despite the fact the state COVID website said the J&J vaccine was available at numerous locations, he had to drive  to 4 or 5 different clinics to find a place that had it in stock. He convinced himself that he was going to find and get the J&J vaccine one way or the other. But, how many people in similar situations just gave up because the state didn't order enough? As my friend Stephen Parr always says "The Government should make it easy to do the right thing and hard to do the wrong thing." In this case, the Government is making it a bit more difficult than it should be to do the right thing.

And finally, since when did personal choice become a thing of the past? And yes, there are PLENTY of choices when it comes to COVID. You can get one of three vaccinations. If you still don't feel safe you can mask up. If you don't feel safe sending your kids back to school, you can home school them. It's a choice, no different than a thousand other choices you make. I had a public official tell me "But choosing not to wear a mask or get vaccinated can affect others." That is true. And that's why I made the CHOICE to do what I feel is necessary to protect myself. I don't particularly like a lot of choices people make...but it's not my duty or responsibility to protect them from themselves.

Let me put it to you like this - I'm a walking billboard for preventable illness - I smoke, I eat fast food, I do all the things that a healthy adult is not supposed to do. There are free government resources available to me to get treatment and live a healthier life. However, I made the conscious choice to ignore my doctor's advice and live life the way I want to. Is it going to kill me? Yes. Is it anyone's duty to be my savior and make tobacco illegal or close down Whataburger? No. I made a choice knowing all the consequences of my actions and the potentially horrific outcome.

Unless, you make the vaccine mandatory, that's the current situation as far as COVID goes. Treatments and vaccines are available. But, even if it's not in my best interest, it's still optional. A choice. My choice. Your Choice. An individual's responsibility to do what they think is best. And I'm not egotistical enough to think that it's my responsibility or duty to force someone into making a different choice. Yes, I think it's probably best for most people to get the vaccine. But, no matter my thoughts or opinions on the matter, it's not my place to dictate to someone else what's best for their health. If I did, that would make a bit of hypocrite in light of some of the other choices I've made.

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