Thinking Citizen Blog — to Mask or Not to Mask, to Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate, to Mandate or Not to Mandate

Thinking Citizen Blog — Thursday is Health, Health Care, Health Insurance and Global Health Policy Day

Today’s Topic: To Mask or Not to Mask, to Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate, to Mandate or Not to Mandate

A recent New York Times headline: “Evolving Virus and Guidance Sow Confusion.” Yes. What should students be taught in grade school, high school, or college about how to deal with this confusion? Is this an opportunity to teach (and learn) to apply the “tools of critical thinking” to a real world problem? So have you done so? What tools did you use? What was your conclusion? Today, a little live experiment in applying my favorite tool of critical thinking: the matrix. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

WHAT ARE THE COLUMNS? WHAT ARE THE ROWS? MATRIX #1

1. Column headings: local, state, and federal government

2. Row headings: vaccine mandate, mask mandate

3. Questions: what level of government should/does have the responsibility for making these decisions? Should the unvaccinated force the vaccinated to wear masks?

NB: My provisional conclusion: the national government should mandate vaccination. This was not an easy decision. Not a big fan of government forcing anybody to do anything. But there are exceptions to every rule. And the idea that the unvaccinated should be able to force the vaccinated to wear masks does not pass my version of the smell test.

WHAT ARE THE COLUMNS? WHAT ARE THE ROWS? MATRIX #2

1. Column headings: employees, employers

2. Rows: vaccine mandate, mask mandate

3. Questions: should employers decide whether or not employees should get vaccinated? who bears responsibility for a healthy work environment?

NB: My provisional conclusion: if I were an employer I would mandate vaccination not mask wearing. But this burden of decision should not be put on employers or employees. The buck stops at the desk of the country’s chief welfare officer — POTUS.

WHAT ARE THE COLUMNS? WHAT ARE THE ROWS? MATRIX #3

1. Column headings: economic, political, ethical consequences

2. Rows: mandates, no mandates

3. Questions: do the economic, political, and ethical consequences of mandating vaccines or masks outweigh the costs? which consequences can be roughly quantified? which can not? What weight should be assigned to each?

NB: My provisional conclusion: failure to mandate vaccination is a measure first and foremost of political cowardice with economic, political, and ethical consequences that far, far outweigh the costs. This is one of those moments in history that define the meaning of words like courage and leadership.

FOOTNOTE

1. The quote above is from the NYT print addition. The online versions differ.

An Evolving Infection and Safety Guidance Sow Confusion in U.S.

Americans Suffer Pandemic Whiplash as Leaders Struggle With Changing Virus

2. For other applications of the matrix as a thinking tool, see the following two websites: “Thinking Citizen” (especially the appendices) and “Liberal Arts Academy” (especially the “thematic before and after test” and “matrices” sections). The latter includes applications to math, physics, music, art, and fitness as well as to civic issues such as foreign policy, health care, education, climate change, gun control.

The Thinking Citizen

Thematic Before and After Test | Liberal Arts Academy

Matrices | Liberal Arts Academy

For the last three years of posts organized by theme:

PDF with headlines — Google Drive

YOUR TURN

Please share the most interesting thing you learned in the last week related to health, health care or health care policy — the ethics, economics, politics, history…. Or the coolest, most important thing you learned in your life related to health are or health care policy that the rest of us may have missed. Or just some random health-related fact that blew you away.

This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your mind something really important you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than you otherwise would about something that matters.