I love my unvaccinated friends.
I don’t agree with their decision to refuse the COVID-19 vaccine. I’m convinced of the effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing the contraction, spread, and severity of the virus, including the more contagious Delta variant.
Still, I love the people in my life who’ve chosen to remain unvaccinated. They are fathers, mothers, coworkers, bread winners, care givers, and the love of someone’s life. Yes, they are adults who’ve made their own decisions regarding COVID, but their lives are still worthy of protection.
And it’s because I love them that I’d like to see North Carolina make the tough decision to ban unvaccinated people from indoor restaurant dining.
Businesses, hospitals, and my liberal friends’ dinner parties have been increasingly making their spaces exclusive to the vaccinated. This week, New York City became the first major city to require proof of vaccination in order to dine indoors or visit an indoor gym, courtesy of an executive order from Mayor Bill DeBlasio. North Carolina should follow suit.
Mask mandates are looming. There are questions of a second lockdown. If it happens, the rule followers will obey it, but we are already the most likely to be vaccinated. While breakthrough cases are possible, our focus on them is outsized. Our current COVID-19 surge is overwhelmingly among the unvaccinated.
So far, the weight of the pandemic response has been placed mostly on the shoulders of the rule followers, a group I am part of. I canceled my 30th birthday party. I skipped weddings. I missed Thanksgiving with my family. I endured mental and financial hardships as I spent months confined to a studio apartment. Many suffered much worse experiences, losing jobs, closing businesses, and even missing funerals in order to slow the spread of the virus.
During this time, the COVID critical people among us flaunted their refusal to follow the rules. They walked into grocery stores without masks, violated six foot rules and dared anyone to stop them. They use insults like “sheep” and “gullible” to describe those of us who’ve taken the vaccine. This has caused a growing resentment toward the unvaccinated. Expressions of this anger vary wildly from the laissez-faire (“They’ve made their decision and we need to let them live with it”) to the contemptful (“I don’t care if they die”).
We are reaching the limits of positive reinforcement. If offering incentives doesn’t change behavior, every parent would tell you it’s time to start removing privileges. Indoor dining is a perfect place to start.
Restaurant owners and workers are still struggling. Another shutdown would be devastating to this industry. It is the spread of the virus that continues to threaten their safety. Banning unvaccinated people from dining rooms would employ the same strategy every teacher knows to execute when dealing with an unruly classroom: remove the problem.
Some may claim this move would restrict the rights of unvaccinated people. I’ve thoroughly searched the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence and can’t find one place where the founders declared anyone has a right to eat inside a restaurant.
Unvaccinated people will be angry. Many seem to have wrapped up much of their identities into remaining unvaccinated. But sometimes showing a person a form of love that is uncomfortable to them requires the risk of angering them.
The fall is approaching. Our water droplet sharing via sniffles and sneezes will rise. Kids will go back to schools whose administrators are currently involved in a bizarre debate about whether hundreds of people should have to wear masks indoors. Our window to slow the spread of Covid-19 and the Delta variant is shrinking. It’s time for North Carolina to step up and aggressively lead our state out of this pandemic.
We’re doing it because we love you.
Contributor Dion Beary is a writer in Charlotte.