Opinion: Americans have the right to put others at risk — but at what cost?

Danny Solano, Reporter

Like many vaccinated Californians, I am tired of the seemingly endless COVID-19 restrictions affecting our everyday lives. We all want the pandemic to be over and return to our normal lives, and for a time it appeared we were nearly there.

There was a time when I would have agreed that government mandates imposing restrictions that essentially forced vaccines on Americans was an overreach of government powers, and could inadvertently establish a foundation in which such powers could be abused, akin to past laws like the Patriot Act and the short lived stop-and-frisk policy of New York.

To an extent, I still agree with those thoughts.

On the other hand, private organizations and companies can impose whatever reasonable restrictions they want. Many restaurants already have specific rules like a code of conduct and dress codes for employees and customers alike, so what does it matter if they also request that someone be vaccinated in order to protect themselves, their staff and other customers?

On the same token, however, a private entity can also choose to not participate in such practices.

California staple In-N-Out Burger has famously defied state government mandates, stating, “We refuse to become the vaccination police for any government.”

The fact remains that we cannot force people to commit their bodies to something that they do not want to do, just as we cannot force businesses to act on behalf of the government, and I will continue to begrudgingly support an individual’s right not to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

However, we all have a social responsibility to protect those that are susceptible to sickness. As someone with family members that are immunocompromised, I understand the dangers of having individuals walking around with a virus that could very possibly kill people.

That being said, if you are one of the nearly 30% of Americans without at least a single dose of the vaccine, then it is time to take ownership of the fact that the pandemic’s continuance is your fault.

To bring the COVID-19 outbreak under control, we need an 85% vaccination rate, according to the Los Angeles Times. California boasts a 72% vaccination rate, but despite having such a high rate, this means that more than 10.6 million Californians are still unvaccinated.

While these numbers bring much more optimism than the statistics we saw in the weeks following the vaccine release, the newly-identified omicron variant had its first confirmed U.S. case right here in California.

Fortunately, the infected individual was vaccinated and only experienced mild symptoms, which while proving the importance of being vaccinated, is still terrifying as it is a reminder that this pandemic is not over, and there are at least 10 million potential cases in this state alone.

Statistically speaking, if those 10 million cases were to come to fruition, that means that there is a chance that we could see more than 110,000 more deaths in the months to come.

The research is there. The numbers are there.

Study after study has shown that 98% to 99% of individuals dying from COVID-19 are unvaccinated, with daily hospitalization rates in the thousands. People are free to choose as they please, whether they want to be vaccinated or not. However, realize that by choosing to forgo the vaccine, you are also choosing to risk killing others for the sake of … I don’t know what.