Mona and masks: Coping with COVID
Posted on October 8, 2021 at 3:05 PM by Mike Owen
I have now seen the Mona Lisa with my own eyes. I saw Michaelangelo's works in the Sistine Chapel and his statue of David. I sampled incredible wine and food for which France and Italy are known, and met delightful people.
A bucket-list trip delayed a year by COVID was well worth the wait — even, dare I say it, while I wore a protective mask. And yes, I had to show evidence of receiving the COVID vaccine or a recent negative COVID test result to enter a restaurant, bar or other public indoor space — and to return to the United States.
Such rules were not a problem for me or anyone I saw in those two weeks in France and Italy. People deal with it. Shopkeepers watch. Folks keep a mask handy on their wrist or elbow, to put on for entry to a building. They show their vaccine card at the door. It was no big deal.
Yet for months, Iowa politicians have pandered to those who throw a fit at the smallest inconvenience or any thought challenging their anti-science worldview. They ignore the fundamental responsibility every member of our society has to each other in a public health crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic is unlike anything anyone living today has seen, and lingers with inaction.
As a result, Iowa’s power elites have pushed mandates against mask and vaccine requirements. They refuse to exercise real leadership that comes with telling people, even their friends, what they might not want to hear.
So, we have a continuing spread of the pandemic in Iowa — and other Midwestern states with weak leadership on this issue — and people are noticing. Some are staying away.
The Boston Pops Orchestra and comedian Bill Irwin have canceled scheduled appearances at Hancher Auditorium in Iowa City because of COVID concerns — Irwin's appearance specifically because Hancher, at the order of the Board of Regents, won’t require masks. In Des Moines, the band Spoon canceled a September appearance at Hoyt Sherman Place, citing Iowa's ban on vaccine requirements for organizations receiving state contracts.
I saw the Mona Lisa because I was vaccinated and wore a required mask. No problem. But fans of Bill Irwin or Spoon won't see them in Iowa because of political pressure that contradicts health and science.
We have lost more than 6,650 Iowans and variants of the virus have kept the crisis going, pushing toward the 500,000 positive test mark. Regulation has been intentionally lax, leaving the obvious question: How many more Iowans would be alive today with a united front against COVID-19?
We could learn from our friends overseas about sensible, responsible precautions that can carry us all to a day when the precautions are not necessary. In the meantime, the precautions are simply no big deal. The big deal is getting to go, and enjoying the experience.
Mike Owen is deputy director of Common Good Iowa.