Covid-19 Recommendation: Don’t be an Idiot

By now just about everyone has heard of Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s announcement that the restrictions placed on businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the statewide mask mandate, are being lifted. While the decision has been lauded triumphantly by the right, it has been greeted with predictable alarm and consternation by those on the left.

A post on twitter, retweeted by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, lamented that, “It will fall on largely unvaccinated frontline workers to enforce mask policies in grocery stores and other businesses.”

As a believer in limited government and personal responsibility, who generally believes people should generally be allowed to make their own choices as to how they will live their lives and run their businesses, my first thought was, “That’s how it should be. Mask enforcement should be left up to businesses and individuals, not the government.”

However, liberty does not absolve us of personal responsibility- in fact, it heightens our obligation to be responsible. Just because we have the liberty to do something doesn’t mean it is a wise choice to do so.

When it comes to Covid-19 (although I am not a doctor), my take has been that while the level of threat posed by the virus does not warrant shutting down the entire economy and completely upending the daily lives of billions of people, the coronavirus is still a very real thing and has proven deadly to the most vulnerable among us, and there are prudent precautions that we should take. I suspect that the truth lies somewhere between the extremes of, “we can never leave our houses and everything must shut down or we will all die” and, “The ‘China-virus’ is all a hoax so Bill Gates can usher in one world government.”

The question policy makers should be asking is: “How do we minimize the spread of the virus while still protecting personal liberty and keeping the economy going?” We should all be asking ourselves how we can be responsible and what steps we can take individually to mitigate Covid-19 and protect the vulnerable among us as we go about our daily lives, guided not by excessive fear, but by common sense.

In The Office episode “Business School”, Michael Scott asks Dwight Schrute what the most inspiring thing he ever said to him was. Dwight’s response? “‘Don’t be an idiot.’ Changed my life.”

Dwight then tells the camera in interview format that, “Before I do anything, I ask myself ‘Would an idiot do that?’ and if the answer is yes, I do not do that thing.”

Words of wisdom.

Now that government mandates are largely out of the way, and it is up to us to make our own choices, the “Dwight Schrute Rule” provides a helpful guideline for exercising personal responsibility in the midst of the pandemic.

So use common sense:

Wash your hands frequently. Avoid sick people. Get a Covid test and stay home if you have symptoms. Be careful around elderly people. Try to avoid crowds (good advice regardless of the virus). Don’t go around licking doorknobs.

Face masks are not the magical talisman that some seem to treat them as. Wearing two masks in the car by yourself is being an idiot. The ritual of putting on a mask to walk ten feet to your table at a restaurant, taking it off for an hour once your sit down, and then putting it on again for the ten foot trek back to the exit is not going to make you immune to the virus.

However, since medical studies indicate that masking can reduce transmission of the Covid-19 virus, there are some circumstances where I believe it is prudent to take the precaution of wearing a mask, particularly in crowded areas such as grocery stores where I am going to come in close proximity to people I don’t know. I’m not going to shame people who don’t wear a mask though, because they’re adults and can make their own choices.

Just because the government has lifted its restrictions doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still take precautions. It was never the role of the government to force us to act responsibly. It is up to each and every one of us to look at the data and make good choices.

Some of the choices you make may be different from the ones I make, and I completely respect that. People can in good faith look at the data and use common sense to arrive at different conclusions as to how to apply it do daily life, and decide what precautions are best for them personally. After all, it’s (supposed to be) a free country.

I am going to continue wearing a mask in certain circumstances, but if you choose not to, I respect your right to make your own decision. I will get the vaccine when it is available to my age group, but if you choose not to, then even though I disagree, I still respect your choice and will defend your right to make it.

This is a very large and diverse country. People are going to have lots of different views and opinions, and that’s ok! The problems arise when the coercive power of government is used to force your view or lifestyle on other people. The state should be provide people with data and recommendations and then let us make our own decisions about how we live our lives, and trust that the majority will generally be responsible, since it’s in our own self interest.

Now that our overlords have so graciously granted us the freedom to make our own choices, let’s use common sense to make good ones. And, to quote the immortal wisdom of Dwight Schrute, “Don’t be an idiot.”

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