Amanda George/Contributing Writer
The CDC announced new guidelines back in May allowing those who have been fully vaccinated or can claim to be, to forgo masks and social distancing measures in public places. While we’ve seen a wave of “HIPAA” (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) or HIPAA lovers in recent years, no amount of their false equivalency of boasting “my body, my choice” rhetoric towards wearing a piece of cloth across your face to prevent spreading a potentially deadly virus against feminist arguments to maintain reproductive freedom stands up.
The exact issue with these lifting mandates is that not only does it allow those who never believed in the severity of the virus to participate in society mask-free and potentially spread the virus freely; it puts the future we want at risk due to negating safety measures around vaccinated individuals who can still spread the virus, as those who have been vaccinated need to still mask up.
The New York Times surveyed 723 epidemiologists who, despite the CDC’s citation of scientific studies, state that America’s pandemic won’t see an end until children are vaccinated. Seeing as children under 12 aren’t permitted for vaccinations, there is no viable way for the population to reach the 70 percent herd immunity threshold needed to forgo masks and social distancing precautions. Without herd immunity and with the reopening of public spaces, especially seeing a rise in the Delta Variant, which causes surges in cases faster than we’ve previously, the U.S. is looking at another rise in cases.
Following the news, major establishments such as Trader Joe’s, Publix, and Universal Orlando have lifted their mask mandates. As the previous stores’ policies state that vaccinated shoppers will be the only ones not forced to abide by the mask policy, many were quick to point out the conflict with Florida’s ban on any form of “vaccine passport”.
According to CNBC, retail employees and others possibly required to ask customers for proof of vaccination feel burdened as a form of “vaccine police”. HIPAA laws are often misquoted as a defense to avoid disclosure of one’s vaccination status in such situations, as those like Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene proclaim, but truthfully, there is no HIPAA protection for businesses.
“Because the average business is not a covered entity or a business associate of a covered entity within the meaning of HIPAA, the statute does not prohibit them asking them about vaccination status,” Glenn Cohen, Harvard Law School professor, told TEGNA.
So it might help to brush up on the law you cite before berating minimum wage workers for enforcing safety measures.
However, Governor DeSantis essentially made this entire argument moot with the exception of private businesses mentioned above when he suspended all “remaining” COVID restrictions earlier this month. DeSantis, not known for having a science-based, cautious approach to governing, has also stated he will pardon those who broke COVID ordinances and mandates – most famously Mike and Jillian Carnevale, gym owners arrested three times for refusing to require masks in the middle of the pandemic as cases rose to 709,144 by the end of September.
FIU itself has announced the decision to remove their campus mask mandate to some protest, as the CDC’s guidelines state those fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities without masks and social distancing, according to CNN.
While the CDC states that this was not a social choice to encourage those skeptical of the precautions to endure the vaccine to avoid “losing their liberty to a face diaper”, and instead based on science markers, the surrounding science says otherwise.
The 70 percent vaccinated threshold may be a bit optimistic. That requires almost 230 million Americans to get vaccinated twice, but don’t fear: at least 175 million, or 50% according to President Biden, have already received one or both doses.
On a recent trip to shop indoors, I felt eyes of confusion observing me as I kept my mask on and the surrounding shoppers’ naked faces silently questioned me, “They said it’s fine now if you’re vaccinated, didn’t you only wear the mask because everyone else said to?” And I think that’s the problem: most people only wore masks not to protect others or out of care, but due to community pressure; letting these recent lifting of mandates enable them to silently un-mask en masse.
The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community
Photo by Tai’s Captures on Unsplash