Would it surprise you to know that Washington County has no COVID-19 guidelines, recommendations or requirements for businesses when it comes to masks or vaccine mandates?
The county is in the “very high-risk” category for spread of the contagion. Cases have increased recently. Wisconsin Health Department guidelines ask various organizations only to “consider” staying open at 25% of capacity. That includes bars, restaurants, entertainment venues, retail shops, offices and workplaces.
From the federal level, the Center for Disease Control rates Washington County at an extremely high level for unvaccinated people. It recommends that even vaccinated people wear masks indoors.
The county’s high level of risk results from only 50.4% of its adults fully vaccinated and 54.0% with one shot.
The mixture of guidelines at the federal, state and county levels is a confusing mess. There are few absolute requirements.
From what I can see in the county, business operators are paying almost no attention to such “considerations.” My wife and I went to a concert Saturday night, and no more than 25% of the audience were wearing masks. I have seen very few masks in retail shops in West Bend. Employees are wearing masks at some stores like Home Depot and Sendik’s, but very few customers are doing so.
Also, the 25% capacity limitation is clearly being disregarded.
There is one exception. The Milwaukee area health systems require vaccinations for their workers, as they should when dealing with vulnerable patients. That includes their branches in this county.
The local non-conformance picture stands against a national backdrop that is highly mixed. Democratic President Joe Biden bit the bullet and is about to enforce vaccination mandates on employers with more than 100 employees or be tested weekly. That is a move welcomed by most employers. They want this epidemic done with.
Republican political leaders have put themselves on the wrong side of the biggest public health issue of this generation. Sen. Ron Johnson is nit-picking the roll-out of the virus vaccines with one minor concern after another. Out of one side of his mouth he supports vaccinations; from the other side, he says they “could be dangerous.”
Question: why isn’t he vaccinated? He had the virus last October. Vaccines trump (pun intended, as the former president has been vaccinated), immunity from having had the disease.
On a similar note, when former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, a cinch to win the GOP primary for governor in 2022 now that Bill McCoshen has dropped out of the race, came down with COVID this month, she equivocated. Her policy would be “to trust people.” FYI: she herself is vaccinated.
Most people are trustworthy when it comes to public health. More than 7 in 10 adults (72%) in the U.S. now report they are at least partially vaccinated. That’s far above our beloved, but unenlightened county.
That’s up five points since late July, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. People get a shot when someone close to them gets real sick, hospitalized or dies.
But what about the 12% who say they will never get a shot, those who want to protect their constitutional right to infect other Americans? Trust them?
What about business people who don’t want to get shut down by a spreader event in their operation or by a dampener on customers who are still careful about going out? What would our wanna-be governor say to them?
Long and short: Republican leaders are punting on COVID mask and mandate requirements. They are not leading.
Sen. Johnson is still thinking about a third term, despite declining approval numbers. He wants an endorsement from the vaccinated former president. So he asks 1000 questions to look like an adversary to vaccines.
Kleefisch doesn’t need a Trump endorsement, but she needs his base in the general election. Hence, her lack of leadership on this all-encompassing public health and economic issue. She is trying to duck the biggest challenge in the coming 2022 election for governor.
Johnson and Kleefisch should recall that Trump, who earned major points when he jump-started the vaccine development, became an all-world loser when he fumbled the ball on its roll-out.
The end game here for all parties is herd immunity so we can return to a semblance of normal life.