State Rep. Harry Arora: Vaccines/Masks: To mandate or not to mandate? Part2

Posted on August 3, 2021

Thanks for participating in the discussion about vaccine and mask mandates in schools. I have received over a thousand comments / emails and I truly appreciate your input. My objective is to promote dialogue and allow for robust and thoughtful decision making. Here is where the discussion stands, as of now:

Latest CDC and CT DPH/ CSDE guidance: On July 27th, the CDC released a new guidance in favor of masks for all school children and teachers, irrespective of their vaccination status. Just a day before, the CT state Department of Education (CSDE) and DPH released an interim guidance document which encourages vaccination, continues the mask mandate, recommends testing, and strongly urges 100% in person school. The final mask guidance is expected to be provided in the next few weeks. You can find the state’s interim guidance document HERE.

More about my community survey on mandates: I received emails from some of you questioning the survey and the sample size. The survey had broad participation with well over 1000 respondents from across the community. The participation in my surveys is not predominated by any specific party affiliation or ideology. No survey is perfect but considering the high response rate, it is my belief that the survey is a good representation of our community. You can read the first 500 comments from the survey HERE. The opposition to the mandates does not come from a fringe minority but from a solid majority. It is the compulsion and mandates which are being opposed, not the vaccination or wearing of masks. Nearly 80% of those eligible in our towns have accepted the vaccination and most would have their children wear masks voluntarily, if the school recommended.

My viewpoints on vaccination/mask mandates:
I received several emails asking me to provide my own recommendation. My family – my wife and my 12+ children are fully vaccinated. In my view, these vaccines have proven to be effective in our fight against COVID. They have without doubt reduced sickness, hospitalizations and mortality from COVID. Initial data does show that these vaccines also provide significant protection against the delta variant. 97% of those hospitalized are those who have not been vaccinated. However, the bar for a mandate – forcing or compelling our citizens, is a HIGH bar. In my opinion, given wide voluntary acceptance of the vaccine in our community, and the current state of sickness and hospitalizations, that high bar is NOT being met at this time. If new COVID sickness and hospitalizations increase beyond a threshold, both our community’s and my own viewpoint could change.

There are many who have suggested that public health professionals should make decisions about these mandates. I believe that public health professionals (as in CDC) should make their recommendations, but any decision to force, compel or take choice away from our citizens is a political one and has to be made by the people through their government. Compulsion on our citizens is to be used by our government as a last resort, only when there is NO doubt that the emergency justifies such action.