If You Won’t Get Vaccinated, You Shouldn’t Be Allowed to Have Fun

The rise in cases caused by the Delta variant could be halted if we stopped coddling the source of the problem. More institutions should follow the lead of the Philly restaurants refusing service to those who won’t get vaxxed.

anti-vax covid

It’s time to stop coddling the anti-vax folks. Photograph by Lazartivan

In one of my all-time favorite films, Mean Girls, there’s a scene in which the alpha-female of her high school, Regina George, decides to wear sweatpants on a Monday — a violation of the code of her inner circle, the Plastics.

“So that’s against the rules, and you can’t sit with us,” says Karen Smith, a member of the Plastics.

“Whatever, those rules aren’t real,” Regina says dismissively.

“They were real that day I wore a vest,” counters Karen.

“Because that vest was disgusting,” claps back Regina.

“You can’t sit with us!” declares Gretchen Wieners, another Plastics member.

Feeling the sting of embarrassment, Regina immediately leaves the table.

I’m reminded of this scene because this is exactly how we must treat those who remain unvaccinated against COVID-19: You can’t sit with us.

The infuriating rise in cases caused by the Delta variant has led to an increase in public restrictions, including, in some places, a return to mandatory mask-wearing regardless of vaccination status. This time around, the science behind what’s setting us back couldn’t be more clear: Unvaccinated people are at a higher risk of infection, given how much more contagious this particular variant is. In other words, if more people got vaccinated and practiced other safety protocols, we wouldn’t be wading right back into this clusterfuck of restrictions.

At the very beginning of this pandemic, I had a little more empathy for those who were hesitant to get vaccinated. There were fair discussions on the institutional and cultural stigma surrounding the health-care system, and I understood the initial fear some people had about getting a shot. There’s been plenty of time since then, and  lots of proof that the vaccines are safe and effective. I had assumed that those who weren’t getting vaxxed knew that this meant they couldn’t party like the rest of us when the world began to reopen — because otherwise, we’d risk a return to restrictions and case spikes.

Sadly, that’s exactly what’s happening: Some of the unvaccinated wanted all the benefits of a reopened town without doing their part. Those of us who got vaccinated in the beginning are the reason reopenings have happened, but now we all stand to suffer because others who are too selfish to get vaccinated are being careless.

Which is why we should all cut to the chase and clamp down, both socially and institutionally, on those refusing to be vaccinated. It’s time to pull out all the stops, via more restrictions and peer pressure. I cannot emotionally afford another government lockdown. Being isolated from close friends, family and colleagues for a year was hell. I hate Zoom meetings, virtual “happy hours,” and staring at screens for hours on end. Although some experts don’t foresee another lockdown, anything that even hints at that risk angers me.

Playtime is over. We have the power to stop the spread, so let’s do so now.

All colleges, hospitals and universities need to immediately mandate vaccinations for students and employees or enforce testing once a week. Employers need to ask applicants if they’re vaccinated up front and act accordingly to protect their workplaces. Nonprofits and other service organizations need to enforce “vaccinated-only” events for in-person gatherings to reinforce how serious such measures are to public health and safety. Restaurants, nightclubs, and other recreational spaces need to implement “No vaccination, no play” policies that ensure such socialization is safer. And yes, our government, at all levels, needs to support and encourage similar mandates within its departments. And no, none of this violates HIPAA. Nice try, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Translation: We are going to have to restrict the unvaccinated so that we don’t all have to suffer. All institutional, personal and governmental hands should be on deck in applying pressure to the most stubborn among us. To this end, New York City has just taken the bold step of mandating vaccination proof for indoor dining and workouts.

Locally, my hat goes off to Irwin’s Upstairs in South Philly’s Bok Building for now mandating that all guests and employees be fully vaccinated, “no exceptions.” They are requiring that vaccination cards (or a valid cell-phone photo of one) be provided before entrance and requesting that patrons who aren’t fully vaccinated cancel their reservations immediately. Meanwhile, Martha’s restaurant in Kensington is imposing similar requirements, though only for indoor dining/drinking.


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A post shared by Irwin’s (@irwinsupstairs)


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A post shared by Martha (@marthakensington)

The CDC says “the war has changed” because of the variant. That means our approach must change as well. We can’t keep rewarding bad behavior, so let the guilt-tripping and increased restrictions for the unvaxxed begin.