Show us your papers, or not?

Cities including Washington, D.C., Minneapolis, and St. Paul have implemented vaccine mandates requiring vax cards to enter restaurants and other public places. The Star Tribune endorsed the Minneapolis-St. Paul mandates last week in the editorial “Lessons learned from vaccine mandates.”

RealClearPolitics thought highly enough of the Star Tribune editorial that it was included in its daily lineup. Star Tribune editorial page editor (and vice president) Scott Gillespie highlighted the editorial in his daily email, noting “[w]ith caveats, the Editorial Board voices its support today for new temporary vaccine mandates at Minneapolis and St. Paul restaurants and bars.” Gillespie’s email quoted from and summarized the editorial:

“It should be painfully clear by now that the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t a sprint but a marathon, potentially an ultramarathon. Learning to live with it involves calibrating measures to deliver normality while preventing as much harm as possible from a dangerous virus,” the board writes.

“The temporary vaccination requirements announced Wednesday for Minneapolis and St. Paul bar and restaurant patrons are the latest attempt to strike that balance. While far from ideal and overdue, the requirements are a sensible middle ground between a shutdown or doing nothing in the midst of omicron’s alarming surge.”

The board goes on to argue that the requirement “will help ease pressure on the state’s swamped hospitals by helping prevent severe illness. It also should provide a timely nudge for vaccine holdouts to get the shots.”

Where are the “caveats”? Gillespie omitted them. The editorial concludes:

We wish that [Minneapolis Mayor Jacob] Frey and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter had provided more scientific evidence to support the measure. At an editorial writer’s follow-up request, Minneapolis city officials provided two studies, one from The Lancet and another published in Nature, suggesting that the new requirements will help boost vaccination rates.

The mayors also should have been more forthcoming about vaccines’ waning protection against omicron infection (but note: The shots still are highly effective against hospitalization and death).

In response to an editorial writer, city officials said, “We know that restaurants, bars and large events are places where COVID-19 spreads. So increasing the number of people that are vaccinated in those places will reduce the probability of severe disease and hospitalization even though it might not reduce infection.”

Omicron’s rapid spread requires action. Medical providers are exhausted and their ranks thinned. Complying gracefully with the new vaccine measure shouldn’t be too much to ask.

Yes, we must “take action.” It is a good substitute for thought, and it gives the appearance that something good is being done.

The Star Tribune’s lazy reference to the “hospitalization” rationale is not only a substitute for thought, it is part of the liturgy at this point. Just absolutely pathetic, a credo delivered without an argument.

Minneapolis and St. Paul residents who would like to dine out without showing their papers can still hit the drive-through or hike a few miles to Edina, or Bloomington, or Brooklyn Center, or Eagan, or Roseville, or Maplewood, or any of the many other suburbs that ring the Twin Cities. And let us not apply the disparate impact analysis that otherwise governs Minnesota discourse with an iron hand to decry the mandates as racist.

Seeking another side of the story, I turn to the concise column by Washington Examiner commentary fellow Zachary Faria. Faria asks how many more “temporary” Covid restrictions we need:

The mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul have announced they would impose more “temporary” restrictions. Both cities will require proof of vaccination or a negative test to enter restaurants or sports arenas. That includes unvaccinated children down to the age of 5. Children between the ages of 2 and 5 in Minneapolis not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine will also be forced to provide a negative test.

As you can expect, these measures are designed to combat irrational fear of the virus — not the virus itself. The policies don’t even go into place until Jan. 19 because apparently, the omicron variant is willing to give them a head start. The policies won’t even extend to ticketed events until Jan. 26. Children are included, even though there has been no indication COVID-19 is causing child hospitalizations to rise (note that child hospitalizations normally rise around this time of year).

These measures will do little, if anything, to slow the spread of the omicron variant, which we know is more transmissible and less lethal than previous variants. Vaccinated people can contract and spread the virus, and people providing a negative test within 72 hours to go to restaurants or sporting events can contract COVID-19 after testing.

So, in short, this is a half-measure. It won’t protect anyone, but it is designed to avoid unpopular total lockdowns while appearing as if something is being done.

You be the judge.

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