An apology is issued, but masks mandates and vaccine passports won't be applied in the state
On June 14th, outspoken Republican Marjorie Taylor-Greene issued an apology outside of Congress for having compared Covid-19 mask mandates to conditions faced during The Holocaust, after a recent visit to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.
While the apology may have been heartfelt and genuine and while Taylor-Greene said all the right things (including acknowledging the offensive nature of her comments) it begs the question whether she feels it is entirely due.
She had originally made the comparison in May of this year, likening the segregation of people during the Holocaust based on their ethnicity and religion, with the proposed segregation of unvaccinated and mask-less House members from their vaccinated colleagues.
Having seen nothing wrong with her comments in spite of angry responses from Jewish groups and various other lawmakers, Taylor-Greene then went further, Tweeting her views on the proposed implementation of vaccine passports:
"Vaccinated employees get a vaccination logo just like the Nazis forced Jewish people to wear a gold star," - Marjorie Taylor-Greene
She had previously described the proposed idea of vaccine passports as President Biden's "Mark of the Beast"
Her tweet echoed the announcement of an executive order from Republican Governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp who announced on the same day that Georgia would not allow the use of vaccine passports by its government or by businesses in the state.
The states banning the use of vaccine passports
It appears that Georgia is leading the way amongst Republican states that are choosing to overlook the freedoms of citizens who might benefit from or feel safer because of vaccine passports.
On June 7th Texas Governor Greg Abbott joined the ranks, signing a law that will penalize Texas businesses that require customers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Such businesses will be denied state contracts and could lose their licenses or operating permits under the new legislation.
His stated intentions were clear in a video posted on Twitter:
"Texas is open 100%. Texans should have the freedom to go where they want without any limits, restrictions, or requirements." - Governor Greg Abbott
His message was impassioned, and intended to appeal to those who demand the right to do whatever they want without restriction.
Why are the rights of those residents of states like Texas and Georgia more valuable and worth protecting more than the rights and freedoms of those who are vulnerable to COVID-19, who cannot get vaccinated or who need the certainty and peace of mind that vaccine passports would help to assure?
Protecting the freedoms of everyone
After living under restrictions and stay-at-home orders for much of the last 12 months, many Americans are looking forward to getting back to normal. The return of legitimate freedoms without fear of illness or increasing the odds of a further wave of Covid-19 seems to rest on a couple of things - getting the vaccine rolled-out and adopting precautionary measures to beat the virus into submission without causing further death and widespread illness.
The use of masks and regular hand-washing are two such measures. A further tool that many nations and various states are exploring are vaccine passports as a means of tracking those who've received the protection of their full vaccine dose and who present less of a risk of transmission of the virus to others.
It's surprising then that while New York has pressed on with the rollout of its Excelsior pass (with over 1 million downloads since the voluntary program began) states like Alabama and Florida, and now Texas have gone as far as to ban the implementation of Covid Passports by Executive Order.
Is it wise that states rule out vaccine passports completely? What is the cost to residents of these states who won't have an easy means of proving their immunity to the virus? Doesn't it deny them the freedom to actually use such a passport if they want to?
It requires more than vaccines
The US rollout of the Covid vaccination is going well by most measures - 311 million doses have been administered so far. But progress is now slowing and 1 in 4 Americans saying they don't intend to get vaccinated which is a potential barrier to completing the rollout and reaching herd immunity.
Different states (both Democrat and Republican-ruled) are exploring innovative ways to encourage their residents to get vaccinated, including lotteries (in Ohio, California and Maryland) and free beer or pot (in New Jersey and Michigan respectively) but there's a further problem to be overcome:
How can we go about preventing the spread of the virus to those who haven't been vaccinated or those who are most vulnerable to it? One answer seems to be vaccine passports.
These are personalized records that may use an app on our smartphones to document and provide proof for those who've had their shots. Such passports could then be used to reduce their risk of exposure to large groups including those more likely to be carrying the virus.
Aren't all freedoms equal?
Articles in renowned medical and scientific journals have considered concerns over whether vaccine passports violate personal freedoms and confidentiality alongside the benefits of such schemes. In his comments against the use of vaccine passports in Florida, Ron DeSantis specifically called out concerns over an overreach of authority by the federal government.
The Excelsior Pass being rolled out in New York has tackled this issue by being developed so that it contains no biometric data for privacy reasons. Holders of the passport have to produce their personal ID to use it for accessing travel and restricted events.
Whether citizens choose to believe that vaccine passports erode their freedoms or not comes down to individual choice. Those who are resistant to signing up for them are likely the same people who are against being vaccinated too.
The ban on vaccine passports is a bold and characteristic move from Gov. Kemp. It's clear though that his actions are shaped around pleasing and protecting the freedoms of those who are resistant to masks and vaccines generally. It neglects to consider the freedoms of those who feel vulnerable or in need of protective and preventative measures. The impacts of the move will no doubt emerge in time.
The comments from Marjorie Taylor-Greene, regardless of how justified she may think them, are indefensible - apology or not.