I have not written much on the Coronavirus in recent months (You can see past articles by clicking here). There are two reasons for this. The first is that I didn’t have anything new to say about it. The second is that the number of new cases was way down. It seemed we had turned the corner for the better. People were getting vaccinated and masks were coming off.
Now, the number of new cases is on the rise. (One might wonder if we relaxes precautions too soon.) In the last month, some areas have set record number of new cases. Calls for more people to get vaccinated are being renewed. Mask mandates are coming back. There is debate about whether one can be mandated to get the vaccine and/or wear a mask.
Some of this is political. I am not interested in being political here. I am not writing to tell anyone what to do. I am writing to offering a perspective that flows from my faith. In fact, if you have read all that I have written in the past about the Coronavirus, I’m not sure there will be anything new here.
Why are people reluctant to get the vaccine? First, I want to acknowledge that before there ever was a Coronavirus, there were people concerned about side effects of vaccines, both short-termed and long-termed. That is beyond the scope of this article. I do not have the scientific knowledge to address those questions. If you fall in this category, you need to make your own decision about the COVID vaccine with genuine prayer to God. There are also people who have pre-existing health issues that may make the Coronavirus vaccine a risk to them. They need to consult with the doctor and allow God to help make a prayerful decision.
There are people who are open to vaccines in general but are concerned with the speed with which the Coronavirus vaccines were developed. Was safety compromised? Will there be long-term side effects? I pray the answer to both of these is no. As to how the vaccines were developed so quickly, I offer another possibility. God. The people who work in health care and vaccine development, whether they know it or not, are given the gifts they need by God. People were praying (and should continue to pray) for God’s help against the Coronavirus. God’s answer to these prayers can include how fast the vaccines were developed.
I had my concerns about the vaccine. I was not eligible to receive a vaccine for the first three or four months. I took that time to pay attention to both what was said about side effects and how effective the vaccines are. There was also questions about the morality of receiving the vaccine because they were developed using cells from aborted fetuses. Here I trusted in what the Catholic Church said (see USCCB “Vaccines and Biomedical Research” page). I got my first shot in May and the second in June. Why did I get vaccinated? The obvious answer would seem to be protect myself. Of course, that is part of the reason but it is not my primary motivation. I got vaccinated because I didn’t want to be responsible for contracting the vaccine and giving it to someone else.
What about wearing masks and social distancing? Do they really help? Certainly, the material of which the masks are made makes a difference.) An article, “Flu cases remain low in GLOW region” published by the Livingston County News on March 24, 2021 reported that at that time there were just 29 cases of the flu in the region at that time compared to 2,013 the previous year. How might one explain the drastic reduction? The precautions we were taking (facemasks and social distancing) must be a major factor here. The flu and the Coronavirus are related viruses. Thus, one would expect comparable effects from the precautions.
In the debate about wearing masks, there is another element that seems to have been forgotten. People talk about their freedom to make their own choice about protecting themselves by wearing a mask. That would be true if we wore masks only to protect ourselves. However, we must remember that facemasks do more to protect the other person. My mask protects you and your mask protects me. I wear a mask when recommended because I believe it is part of the second greatest commandment to love my neighbor. Do I like wearing a mask? Of course not. It involves a sacrifice but I believe it is a very small sacrifice with a greater good that can come from it.
We still don’t have all the answers to the Coronavirus. Numbers are reported in different ways. Not everyone who tests positive for it actually gets sick. The facts remain unclear. I stress unclear because “facts” do not change. What is our changing is our knowledge and understanding of how the Coronavirus spreads and what precautions are effective.
We would like to have all the answers. We don’t. I choose to err on the side of caution. We pray that the Coronavirus ends. Until it does, we pray that God gives us the strength to persevere in making wise choices and practicing precaution.