Jim Franco is an award-winning journalist with Spotlight Newspapers. His primary beat falls within Colonie, but he will often cover matters of state and county government, as well as human interest stories throughout the Capital District.
Bright and early, I went into Stewart’s on Sand Creek Road on Wednesday, May 19, to get a cup of coffee and the generally good feeling I get right before having the best coffee in the Capital District was elevated exponentially by the new sign on the door.
In big, bold, red letters it read: “Unvaccinated Individuals Must Wear a Mask. In smaller letters it says “Fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear masks, indoors or outdoors.”
I kind of smiled, took off my mask, shoved it in my pocket and walked into the store with a spring in my step. There were maybe a half dozen customers and three or four employees and, surprisingly, I was the only bare-faced person in the store.
It felt weird.
I may have gotten a dirty look or two, but I could have imagined it. I admit to being a bit paranoid but instead of putting my mask back on, I straightened my spine and had my hand on my cell phone ready to whip out my Excelsior Pass like a light saber.
Of course, the policy is nearly impossible to police unless there is a security guard type at each store checking paperwork but who cares. If someone wants to lie about being vaccinated and not wear a mask, who cares. It’s on them now.
Along with the majority, I wore a mask for more than a year. Not because I was afraid of the virus, but because it is what was expected to protect those who had reason to fear. And, it’s because I am a part of society, the greater good called for minor inconveniences like wearing a mask and who am I to argue.
But now there is a vaccine. Three to choose from, actually, and as soon as I could I went and got my shots. I am fully vaccinated, and I earned the right to not wear a mask any longer. If you don’t want to get vaccinated for whatever reason, that’s your call and I really don’t care. Be prepared, though, to either wear a mask or catch COVID without any of the protections the vaccine will afford.
The sacrifice for the common good currency is spent. It’s on you now.
Just like it’s on you if you want to keep wearing a mask. Go for it. Just don’t give me dirty looks when I don’t.
Of course, there are those unfortunates who can’t get the vaccine because of one medical or philosophical reason or another. Thankfully, I have to think, those cases are few and far between and there is no single or simple answer.
For everyone else. Get a vaccine or wear a mask. It’s as simple as that.
It’s not like the government isn’t providing every possible opportunity to get vaccinated. There are mass clinics, pop up clinics, schools are offering it, drug stores will deliver the shot and in some places, like Albany County, professionals will even go to your house with needle in hand if you can’t get to a clinic for whatever reason.
There are no excuses outside of conspiracy theories and fear.
(As an aside, the best conspiracy theory I heard so far is that in a year the Moderna people will wage war against the Pfizer people and that will begin the end of the world. The observation was made in jest. Or, at least I hope it was.)
Outside of a surprising lack of participation, the vaccination mobilization is going smashingly well. It’s too bad the government, Gov. Andrew Cuomo in particular, doesn’t follow through and open things up all the way.
Why we have capacity and other restrictions in place, I really don’t know. For example, when the Albany Empire plays its first home game on May 29, the Times Union Center will only be 33 percent filled with a section for those who are vaccinated and one for those who are not.
That is just stupid.
The people who are vaccinated are not going to get COVID, or if they do it won’t be as serious, and the people who aren’t vaxed obviously don’t care if they get it or not so fill the seats and mix the crowd and let whatever happens, happen. The same can be said for other large gatherings, public or private.
It’s a different story for private small businesses. The state is leaving it up to them to continue the mask requirement or not and that’s fine. The business owner will have to make that determination on his or her own based on whatever facts, personal belief and economic data they choose.
It’s been a tough year, without a doubt, but we, collectively, are coming through the other side. It’s time for government to step aside and let people take responsibility for their own actions and decisions.
Yes, we will see the ramifications of COVID for a long time to come, especially on a number of economic fronts, but at least I can walk into Stewart’s to get a cup of coffee without having to run out the door in shame because I forgot my mask in the truck.