Health and safety mandate, an open letter to Secretary French

Dear Editor,

Hello, Secretary French. First, thank you for your good work on an important job under difficult circumstances. Like my legislative colleagues, I’ve generally refrained from injecting myself into the details of managing a public emergency. But, as we approach the mid point of summer, I’m compelled to urge you to limit entry to Vermont schools to people fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

Or, if we must allow viral vectors into our children’s schools, let us at the very least require masks, hand sanitizing, social distancing, and a negative Covid test.

I’m sure we agree that bodily autonomy is a fundamental right. People have a right to not vaccinate. But the rest of us also have the right to bodily autonomy, including the right to public spaces that are as free of contamination as possible. This government duty, to protect bodily autonomy, is especially pressing regarding our schools, where unvaccinated people act in a manner that threatens the health, indeed the lives, of staff, faculty, parents, visitors, and, most importantly, unvaccinated children.

Admittedly, one “catches more flies with honey,” and people who might be persuaded to do something may resist being told to do it. The governor’s gentle persuasion may have gotten better results than he’d have gotten using the full authority available to him. But it has had the unintended effect of lending credence to anti-vaccine nonsense, as though this public health imperative is a mere matter of differing opinions, and not a question of life and death, as though factual claims derived scientifically and factual claims derived from the slums of cyberspace are of equal value. We have many mandates and prohibitions. We ban drunk driving. People go to jail for committing physical assault. We don’t treat these as matters of personal choice in which we try to persuade people to choose to behave well. Rather, we recognize certain behaviors as invasive, assaultive, dangerous, and we prohibit them.

I urge the AOE to require adequate Covid hygiene when schools open in a few weeks. Thanks for your consideration.


Sen. Dick McCormack

Windsor County

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