More than 75% of eligible Massachusetts residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, one of the highest rates of any state in the country.
Yet the Massachusetts Statehouse remains essentially shuttered 18 months after the onset of the pandemic. The public is barred from the building, and the House and Senate are doing most of their work remotely. It’s no way to do business.
It doesn’t have to be this way. House and Senate leaders are ready to reopen the historic building and return to some semblance of legislative normalcy. Making that happen requires the same steps most businesses are taking — requiring that their workers be vaccinated, testing for COVID-19 regularly and following spacing and other guidelines.
That common sense hasn’t reached all the corners of the cavernous Statehouse, where a small group of lawmakers who oppose a House-specific vaccine mandate refuse to share their own vaccination status.
The group — mostly Republican, with a few Democratic allies — has cosponsored a bill that would ban government and private business from requiring a COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of entry to any building.
The bill’s author, Peter Durant of Spencer, told the State House News Service vaccine mandates were a “knee-jerk” reaction to the pandemic.
“You have to ask what it is you’re trying to accomplish by mandating that they be vaccinated,” Durant said. “Who are you trying to protect? I think you end up in this circular logic that says if you’re trying to protect those who have been vaccinated because they think they’ll catch it, why are you still vaccinated? You get a lesser version of COVID, you don’t get as sick. Why are you afraid of people who don’t get vaccinated? Isn’t it their choice?”
Such muddled, selfish thinking is astounding a year-and-a-half into a pandemic that has killed more than 640,000 Americans, more than 18,400 in Massachusetts. It also leaves House Majority Leader Ron Mariano in a bind.
“I don’t want to have a two-tiered system where I’m asking folks to come in and work beside people who will not declare whether or not they’ve been vaccinated,” Mariano said
We would argue there is already a two-tiered system in place: Those who care about the health and safety of their constituents and coworkers, and those who do not.
We’ll give the last word to Gloucester state Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante, who is trying to serve her constituents while battling pancreatic cancer:
“I am deeply disappointed in my colleagues who put political showmanship ahead of the lives of those of us who are managing life-threatening conditions and the important business of the House during the pandemic.”