To the editor:

“Individual rights are honored; but they do not include the right to spread sickness and death.” This was my husband’s reaction to an opinion written in response to his letter of Nov. 10, “Have Consideration for Others.”

A counter-argument was made that individual rights always take precedence based on personal freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. Regarding the mandates to wear masks in public gatherings and to obtain vaccinations in unique workplaces, some claim it is their right to refuse. Others say, “If you’re afraid, then just stay home; I’m not afraid, I’m free.”

It is the job of the U.S. Supreme Court to interpret, validate or override those claims about personal freedoms. The justices have upheld that individuals exist in the context of a community, not independent of others. Individual liberties are limited when individual choices pose a real threat to others or to the communities affected by their individual behavior. So it is not true that individual rights always take precedence over community rights.

According to the Supreme Court, Americans making “individual rights” the whole basis for rejecting mandates are using too narrow a view of their constitutional freedoms. On a commonsense level, those who consider community safety to be as important as personal safety see non-maskers as selfish. On a spiritual level, protecting the vulnerable among us is held even above personal needs. So, if you step into Len’s Drugs where elderly and sick are lining up at the pharmacy, how can you stand there without a mask, exposing them to disease or worse? Isn’t that selfish?

It’s your personal right to not vaccinate, but you are still obliged to take measures to protect your community; it’s not the vulnerable who should isolate themselves. Mask wearing is one way to stop viral spread in communities. Vaccines help keep severe disease from hospitalizing and killing more people. This has been scientifically proven and known for centuries. What is new are flawed political objections.

Terry (supported by the Supreme Court rulings) had it right – “Individual rights are honored; but they do not include the right to spread sickness and death.”

 Kay Scheurer Steele


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