An open letter about COVID and pandemic-related mandates

August 11, 2021

Dear Friends,

Recently, there has been a great deal of discussion about the ongoing COVID pandemic and, specifically, what public responses (if any) the government should mandate. This subject also is the reason for numerous recent constituent inquiries to my office.

I’d like to share with you some of my thoughts.

To begin, I would like you to know that my office spends a great deal of time monitoring trends regarding the pandemic so as to better educate ourselves and inform our response. We receive regular updates regarding virus caseloads with special attention on the effects the virus is having on health care providers, hospitals, and long-term care facilities. We also do our best to keep in close contact with state, local, and regional officials to monitor effects in the community. I anticipate these efforts will continue and include renewed emphasis on our schools as students prepare to return to class in several weeks. I am also in frequent communication with local businesses and associations to monitor the ongoing effects the pandemic is having on our economy.

My fiancée is a nurse practitioner, and I have great respect for the medical community. Doctors, nurses, and other health care workers deserve our tremendous appreciation and thanks for all they have done throughout this pandemic to keep us safe. Part of this work includes the tireless efforts many people have made to ensure that personal protective equipment and vaccines are distributed effectively to those who need them. Alongside these efforts, I credit the first responders who also serve on the front lines of our response to the pandemic, as well as the many people who have volunteered their time to distribute food and other resources to those in need. I also acknowledge the work of our teachers to deal with incredibly difficult educational circumstances that presented themselves last year, and which could arise again in the future.

As we see case numbers creep back up this summer amidst word of virus “variants,” I think we are all concerned about what future effects the pandemic will have on our health, our economy, our schools, and our way of life. In the face of such fears, many see it as the proper role of government to impose strict mandates on people. I acknowledge an important role for government in the fight against COVID. However, I also believe strongly in the concept of individual liberty and the belief that the most important health care decisions are those made between a doctor and a patient.

Several months ago, I publicly opposed proposals for students in Massachusetts schools to be required to receive a flu shot. As I said then, I believe the decision on whether someone should receive any form of health care should be made between that person, their family, and their doctor; it shouldn’t be decided for them by the state. I feel the same way about COVID vaccines. Our government should not mandate vaccines for the general public, nor should our government be in the position of requiring proof of vaccination (“vaccine passports”) for everyday life. Such proposals go against the fundamental concept of individual liberty, a concept which I believe is too often under assault these days and critical for us to protect in a free and democratic society – even during a pandemic.

At the same time, I would like to make my personal feelings about vaccines clear. I believe we are fortunate to live in a world where medical science has provided a chance for people to possibly protect themselves against the harshest dangers of the COVID virus. I chose to become fully-vaccinated. I am not anti-vaccine. To the contrary, I openly support and encourage every person who wishes to be vaccinated, and whose physician has recommended vaccination, to receive the shot. This is particularly true for people in vulnerable populations such as the elderly. However, I also believe it would be irresponsible of me as a government official to presume to make health care decisions for people, since those decisions can and should only be made properly by those people themselves in consultation with their doctor. There is no “one-size-fits-all” answer to health care, even when you’re in the middle of a pandemic. That is why I am against mandatory vaccination.

The same approach holds true for masks in schools. I support the concept that wearing a mask indoors and when social distancing is impractical might help to protect people from COVID. However, I think it is irresponsible and potentially harmful to require all children to wear a mask throughout the school day. I believe it is important for the education of our students for kids to go back to school in-person this fall, and I do not support universal requirements for teachers and students to wear masks in public schools. Those who wish to wear a mask for their own protection and the safety of those around them may feel free to do so, but young kids shouldn’t be expected to sit in school wearing a mask all day long.

Nobody knows what the future holds with regard to this virus. We all hope and pray that recent increases in caseloads are only a temporary spike and that ever-increasing vaccination rates will help to reduce threats going forward. However, the possibility of future danger remains. Further increases in cases could eventually call for additional action in the future. I trust in our ability to make those decisions appropriately going forward. When we do, I also hope any restrictions will be limited in time and scope as much as possible. I do not wish for our region to return to the same type of shutdowns we experienced a year ago.

As always, I appreciate your consideration of these comments. I hope that if you have questions, or concerns, or comments of your own about the pandemic, that you will feel free to share them with me at any time. I am always here to listen and to provide whatever support and assistance that I can to the community. Together, we will get through this. Of that I am sure.

Thank you.