Our actions directly create a safe and healthy future
People around Vermont by and large followed the guidance regarding wearing face masks in public but, as seen here in this impromptu debate on Main Street in Brattleboro in July, there were still a few differences of opinion.

Our actions directly create a safe and healthy future

Public health needs to be considered a public good — not an option for some

PUTNEY — What is going on with the millions of Republican/conservative/Trumpist Americans who refuse the reality of public health? I continue to follow - in awe - the strange, ignorant, and hostile views of people who deny repeated realities.

It feels completely counterintuitive to think that there are still Covid deniers, but those people are still out there. In a December 2020 survey, they comprised 13 percent of the United States population.

Their explanations for the illnesses and deaths are thoroughly convoluted.

People really have died from other diseases, they say; the numbers of people who are infected and who have died are not really as high as stated, as Ron DeSantis, the Republican governor of Florida, would have you believe.

Many of these people follow the most conspiracy-fueled “news” sites that have promoted the notion of the Coronavirus and COVID-19 illness as myth.

More people - millions of them - are refusing the most basic community prevention techniques. The numbers who refuse the vaccine are high. One third of those are in the military.

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Some of the myths around the vaccine are really strange. Some people claim that the mRNA (messenger RNA) vaccines will alter your basic genetics. Some white evangelical people are convinced that they are “covered in Jesus' blood - completely protected.” I heard a woman emphatically stating this on CNN.

Others spread stories about the possibility of Christians being killed en masse for vaccine refusal. And still more state that the vaccine contains tissue from aborted fetuses.

Or they use the my-body-is-a-temple excuse. Well, I don't like those chemicals in my body, either. But I am just taking a wild guess that many of those Trump cult members with precious bodies don't care about how their precious germs infect others.

What about the selfish and sorry who refuse to wear masks?

This seems like the strongest indication of the truly selfish and anti-community aspects of the Trump cult. Nobody likes wearing a face covering. Those of us who have consistently worn masks in public places for the past 13 months do not like it any more than the snowflakes (to borrow an offensive term from the cult) who are too fragile to wear a mask.

Neither do those of us who have been adamant about our own public spaces being mask-mandatory zones - and I don't mean the tiny percentage of folks with lung problems who really can't breathe with a mask.

The excuses of the anti-maskers are poor. They include assertions that masks are not manly, that the refuser has a “doctor's excuse,” that masking is oppressive, that their rights are being trampled.

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This sizable minority who refuse to work to keep their communities safe and minimize disease, I believe, would have appalled the population who came together to vaccinate the country against polio in the 1950s and 1960s.

Public health is not just a nice concept. It is a goal for a healthy society.

The Trump White House undercut all the nutritional goals toward fresh foods and less-corporate fake food. His administration challenged any expansion of universal health insurance. They shrank public spaces, which create a healthier society and environment; they refused to enforce any worker health issues; they expanded deadly pesticide use.

So are we surprised that these same Republicans have no use for attempting to control Covid in society?

Are we surprised that when someone like Donald Trump gets Covid he gets far better treatment than the general public?

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In 2022, when Americans vote, we need to link our future with the disdain for public health of the Republican party as a whole - I know our governor, Phil Scott, has taken this disease very seriously, but he remains a notable exception.

We all need to remember that we face an unknowable future, with possible pandemics increasing in frequency with ever-expanding globalization, climate change, and millions of people on the move.

If anything, we need to expand our spending on public health, so that when the next pandemic hits, we will be prepared.

It is vital that the United States not allow ignorant and shortsighted “leaders” like Donald Trump to get their hands on the mechanisms of power again. Public health needs to be considered a public good - not an option for some.

And it can't be something that we think about only in a crisis and only with serious funding for research, preparation, and emergency treatment for all citizens.

As we open our towns and cities with the mass spread of vaccinations, we need to keep our families, friends, and neighbors safe by our actions.

As a fully vaccinated person, I am re-learning what is appropriate and safe in my interactions.

But the lessons we are learning are giving us insights into a safe and healthy future.

So let's pay attention.

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