The New Mandate

My latest on KQED.

Day 10 of my infection and the rules don’t seem to apply. Infected in an outdoor gathering. Home rapid tests maddeningly inaccurate. Protection from booster wanes rapidly. I would gladly give up another two years of social interaction to avoid feeling like this again.

Uncommon Valor

And the radio version is here.

On a recent October weekend we visited a local West County winery. Sitting outside in the brisk air we learned that they, along with their sister establishments, required indoor masking for all visitors and staff. All staff were vaccinated and all visitors were seated outdoors.

Later that evening we went to see the latest Wes Anderson movie at our local Rialto theater and a young employee diligently checked our proof of vaccination before we could enter.

And at a recent music event at our local Hopmonk Tavern, we were asked to be masked while the broad-beamed and imposing bouncer checked our vax status.

In each instance I thanked these employees for holding the line. In each instance they uniformly confessed that they rarely if ever received a kind word.Sponsored

Quite the contrary. Nearly every one that I spoke with had been attacked, screamed at, or abused in one way or another. Some teared up as they related their stories.

As public health departments across the country have become gutted, our service workers and small-business owners who, at times independently implemented and enforced mask, vaccine, and social distancing protocol, have in effect become front-line public health workers.

This is a job which they did not ask for, did not want, were not trained for, and that most definitely was not in their job description.

We may at last be on the verge of being able to experience a public life that feels almost normal. It’s happening despite uncivil behavior. And if we, in fact, succeed, it will be because of common citizens: baristas, and checkout clerks, hostesses and movie theater owners, exercised an uncommon valor.

With a Perspective, this is Andrew Lewis.


At a recent gathering I stepped into a dispute about the efficacy of vaccinations for children.  I haven’t been paying too close attention, but I guess there’s been a growing backlash against vaccinations.  Anti-vaccine adherents have cited studies showing a causal tie between vaccines and autism (the data which was later shown to have been falsified), or are driven by a general distrust of Big Pharma. Some believe that vaccines may actually compromise our immune systems, by making them “more dependent on outside drugs” and less robust.

Well, here’s one.  In a widely cited study of measles and pertussis vaccinations and outbreaks in Colorado, CDC researcher Daniel Feikin discovered that children who went unvaccinated were 22 times more likely to contract measles than vaccinated children.  That’s perhaps to be expected.

The interesting kicker is that the unvaccinated children were actually vectors for measles outbreaks among children who had been vaccinated.  Schools with pertussis outbreaks had three times as many exemptors. The chances of there being an outbreak in a county basically increased with the number of vaccine exemptors.  Believing that they had the right to tend to their own bodies how they saw fit, anti-vaccination proponents put the larger community at risk.

As Dr. Feikin noted, “A single unvaccinated child in a community of vaccinated children holds a strategically opportunistic high ground, protected from risk of disease by herd immunity while avoiding risk of exceedingly rare adverse events associated with vaccination. Yet, when too many parents want their child to be that child, the entire community is affected.”

The final grace note?  My wife is a doctor within Kaiser.  Where do the greatest number of unvaccinated children in the Kaiser California system reside?

Marin County.

One of the most affluent community in California chooses not to vaccinate their children.  They’ve never seen the effects of measles or polio.  What risks can those diseases possibly pose?  So they opt out, thinking it won’t affect the larger community.

A national study shows that unvaccinated children come from well-educated, upper income, predominantly white families.  And in Colorado?  It’s San Miguel County, home to the wealthy and largely liberal San Juan ski towns.

Take that cake and eat it.