As the nation’s liberals begin to mask and even lock down again (perhaps rightfully), one problem we face is the question of how long we sacrifice for those who simply don’t care if we (or they) live or die? Of course, some of this is self-protection, but the question does come up about how much we should care about people who refuse to care about themselves. This brings us to this Politico story on Lake of the Ozarks, one of the worst places in America and a center of one of the previous large-scale outbreaks of COVID-19. It’s hard to find a group of people that most bring us to ask these questions. Like, why should I care if these idiots get sick when they act like this? A few tidbits, if that’s what we want to call them.
The petite blonde bartender in ripped jean shorts bounced to each side of a square-shaped bar as women in bikinis and shirtless men lined up on a sweltering afternoon to order Bud Light, vodka and soda, and piles of nachos at this dockside retreat in the Lake of the Ozarks region.
In a county designated a Covid hot spot, in a state with one of the lowest vaccination rates in the nation, and in a region where hospitals are nearing capacity as the Delta variant takes hold, Erin, a bartender at Backwater Jack’s, couldn’t be in a more vulnerable position. She interacts closely with hundreds of maskless customers—sometimes on a single day. She knows most of them are probably not vaccinated. And she doesn’t care. She isn’t either.
“I’m living, breathing proof—I’ve not been sick once. I’ve been as hands-on as you can be with people from everywhere,” Erin said, as a motorboat thundered to the dock and another group of customers climbed out. Like others who spoke for this article, she asked to go only by her first name. She said she’d heard a rumor—common among vaccine skeptics but also plainly false—that “more people are dying from getting the vaccine this week.”
“Personally,” Erin added, “I feel like my immune system is doing a good job, so why pump it full of something that we don’t really know what it is?”
Depending on your politics, the scene at Backwater Jack’s is either a symbol of reckless abandon or unapologetic living in the face of a pandemic. It is one pole of the divide that has erupted across the country, which increasingly seems cloven into two Americas: vaxxed and unvaxxed. In the Lake of the Ozarks region, where Missourians and out-of-staters pour in to boat, fish, sunbathe and party, to be unvaxxed is a source of identity and—at times—pride, a totem of one’s independence and politics.
Interviews with dozens of the clientele frequenting dockside bars, restaurants and resorts in this area, famously featured in the Netflix dark drama “Ozark,” revealed an opposition to the vaccine campaign and a disbelief in news around the Delta variant so intense it bordered on belligerence. No promise, they say, would entice them to voluntarily get vaccinated, not a $1 million check, or a plea from a loved one, or the encouragement of Donald Trump himself.
Among the few who admitted to getting vaccinated, some described being shamed by friends or family.
One woman, Brittany Hanlon, who wears a mask while battling cancer, said she was heckled for doing so while walking through a Wal-Mart. “Take off your mask!” two women shouted at her as she tried shopping. The women told her, “that the mask was making them uncomfortable,” Hanlon recalled, “which I don’t understand. It’s not like I was doing anything mean or inappropriate, I just had a plain black mask on.” An employee at the Ha Ha Tonka State Park Visitors Center, in the Lake of the Ozarks area, Hanlon says she wears a mask while interacting with roughly 600-700 people a week there. She is typically greeted with sneers and requests that she remove it.
So what do we do here?
Obviously, we can give all the incentives possible for vaccination. We can also make life a bit more difficult for those who don’t get it. Employer mandates are necessary if government won’t engage in mandates. But that is going to go to so far. Thanks to these people, the virus is never really going to go away. Other than getting vaccinated and then getting boosters, I can’t think of any other way to protect myself and the people I love. And I have to say, I’m not real excited about sacrificing my life choices for people who actively make fun of me for doing so.
Anyone have any ideas on what to do here?