Opinion: CJ Opinion

Protecting our freedom to choose is, sadly, becoming a forgotten principle

(CJ photo by Maya Reagan)
(CJ photo by Maya Reagan)

The freedom to choose — where we work, what we eat, what we wear, etc. — is a core tenet of libertarianism, and that freedom, though often questioned and even attacked, endures. Even as we’re still crawling out of the entangled system of government-imposed lockdowns, suppressions, and restrictions. 

Sad results from the pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday said people who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear masks indoors, and social distancing is an option, not an order. Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper, following the CDC’s lead, in a news conference Friday, May 14, said he is lifting the indoor mask requirement, though masks will still be required on public transportation and in other settings.

Only a handful of states still require people to wear masks, and even New York, which bathes in progressive ideas, is relenting. Allowing people to shop, talk, and work out without them inhaling their own noxious breath is why we got the shots in the first place, after all.

But people will still wear masks, because it’s their choice. Not because it’s a mandate or rule. Private businesses, of course, can make their own rules, and we also can decide whether to comply or take our business elsewhere.

My neighborhood YMCA lifted its mask mandate hours after Cooper’s announcement. Working out indoors sans mask — for the first time in about a year — was, well, freeing. Still, most people working out around me wore masks. I have no idea whether they’re even partially vaccinated, and I really don’t care. Not my business.

One doctor, on one of the Sunday morning news shows, said the practice of fully vaccinated people choosing to mask up is akin to wearing suspenders and a belt, an added layer of protection, so to speak. People in the Y wore — and will wear — the masks because they chose to, and not because of some dubious order from one elected official or another. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser, told attendees to an international medical conference the real-world evidence of vaccines against the virus that causes COVID-19 is even better than expected, the American Journal of Managed Care writes.

“Clinical US trials of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines showed 95% and 94.1% efficacy, Fauci said, according to the story. “The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which was tested in the United States, Brazil, and South Africa, had 66% efficacy overall and 85% efficacy against severe disease.

“Now, usually, as many of you know, the effectiveness in the real world is often not as good as the efficacy in the pristine conditions of a clinical trial,” Fauci said. “We have found just the opposite with COVID-19 vaccines, where effectiveness is easily as good, if not better, in the real world setting.” 

He cited a study of more than 23,000 employees of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, where vaccinations began Dec. 15. The infection rate for fully immunized workers was 0.05%, said Fauci, as reported by AJMC.

Vaccines — like masks should have been months ago — are voluntary, and artificial targets regarding the percentage of people who get the shots are nonsensical because, um, people have a choice. 

In a statement before Cooper’s announcement Friday, Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said, “Imposing personal restrictions on those who pose no public health risk is senseless and will further undermine what trust remains in public health authorities.”

Many mainstream news outlets, most notably CNN, seemingly take pleasure in scaring the bejesus out of people. People, mostly, who have trouble thinking for themselves. A lead fearmonger, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, said the CDC “made a critical error here in surprising basically everyone with a very significant change,” a CNN story says. 

“[Gupta] added that just days before the announcement was made, he spoke to senior leaders at the CDC who told him indoor masking would probably be the last thing to be lifted because ‘it is so effective and it’s not that hard to do in most situations — just to put a mask on.’”

He worried about a lack of guidance on how best to implement these new guidelines, “and if the loosened restrictions could potentially increase the risk of infection for those who cannot yet get vaccinated and the immuno-compromised.”

Nonsense.

By now, everyone who wants a vaccine has gotten a vaccine, and things such as lotteries or other government-funded incentives are equally ridiculous. Whether it takes legislation or a breakthrough lawsuit, N.C. residents and politicians alike must focus on a singular goal — ensuring no one elected official can continue making decisions for them.

“The CDC finally formalized what many Americans who think for themselves have been doing for months: Those who are vaccinated should resume their normal way of life, and without masks if they so choose,” Berger said.

If they so choose. A simple sentence yet, in some sad ways, a forgotten principle.