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Column: Mad about the new mask mandate? Blame Donald Trump and Tucker Carlson

Former President Trump speaks at a lectern.
Need to be persuaded to get a COVID-19 vaccine? Ask yourself: What would Donald Trump do?
(Associated Press)

Here we go again.

The new L.A. County mandate, thanks to a rise in coronavirus cases, is for everyone to wear masks indoors whether they’re vaccinated or not.

If you think this is unfair, I’m with you. People who have done the right thing by getting vaccinated shouldn’t have to pay a penalty because others have refused.

But as you might have heard, we are a county, and a country, divided.

Fox TV host Tucker Carlson — who has refused to say whether he’s been vaccinated — has called President Biden’s plan to save lives by getting more people vaccinated “the greatest scandal of my lifetime.” For me, the fact that people get paid a fortune to say dangerously stupid things on national television is the greatest scandal of my lifetime.

In Sacramento, 12 legislators surveyed by The Times refused to say whether they were vaccinated or not, and 11 of them are Republicans.

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In Los Angeles, as of a month ago, only 51% of city firefighters and 52% of police officers were at least partly vaccinated, far below the state average. And these are people who work on the front lines, where they can easily catch and spread the virus.

We’ve tried offering money, sports tickets and even cannabis to overcome resistance. So what more can we do?

We can make the vaccine even more readily available, and we can talk to the hesitant about fears and misinformation, says Dr. Christina Ghaly, L.A. County’s director of health services.

“Relationships really matter,” Ghaly said. “One-on-one conversations — it’s very labor-intensive, not always very fast, it takes time. But that’s been the best thing that has really helped.”

I am ready, willing and able to serve, so put me down as a soldier in the truth squad. Anyone who’s reluctant to get a vaccination can feel free to contact me (steve.lopez@latimes.com) and I will walk you through your fears.

Until that time, a few thoughts, and let me begin with the legislators.

Do you courageous, principled rebels who won’t reveal your vaccination status have any idea how many Californians have died from COVID-19?

The answer is more than 63,000.

Now if the argument is that vaccines have side effects and risks, that is true. But the virus is a far greater risk to public health and safety, and so are public officials who shy away from their civic responsibility to lead by example. They should be reminding everyone that 99% of the people still dying from COVID-19 are those who were unvaccinated, and that nearly all of the recent deaths were preventable.

If you have educated yourself on the virus and the vaccine, yet chosen not to get vaccinated, I have to question your suitability for public office. And if you got vaccinated but fear that admitting so will cost you votes with the anti-vax crowd, shame on you for your hypocrisy.

As for cops and firefighters, if I were in charge, this would be simple.

The LAPD motto is: “To Protect and to Serve.”

The LAFD motto is: “Serving with Courage, Integrity and Pride.”

Get a shot or you’re fired.

The lowest vaccination rates in California are among Blacks and Latinos. This speaks to, among other issues, inequitable vaccine distribution early in the pandemic, lack of access to vaccination sites due to transportation and work issues and historic suspicion of the true motives behind government-run public health programs.

All of it is understandable, to a point, but these are the communities hit hardest by the virus. Resistance to the vaccine is driving up the body count and keeping a lid on the economic resurgence so desperately needed to lift working-class families that have been devastated in the last year.

Then you’ve got your red state reluctance (the lowest vaccination rates, at less than 50%, are in Missouri, North Dakota, Georgia, South Carolina, West Virginia, Arkansas, Idaho, Tennessee, Alabama, Wyoming, Louisiana and Mississippi). Each of those states, with the exception of Georgia, voted for Trump, who was the national leader of mask resistance and ridiculed public health experts as the COVID-19 toll soared to hundreds of thousands.

This is a tough group to convince with truth and logic alone, given that more than half of all Republicans think Trump won the 2020 election.

But as a distant cousin of Sisyphus, I have no choice but to keep pushing the rock up the hill.

I will not bother pointing out to vaccine skeptics and resisters that it was Trump who engineered and bragged about Operation Warp Speed, the all-hands-on-deck drive to produce vaccines that are now readily available and saving lives. That doesn’t seem to matter.

I will not bother pointing out that scientifically speaking, the vaccines have proved highly effective — more so, even, than injecting household disinfectants into our bloodstreams, as the former commander in chief suggested.

And I will not bother to point out that mask resistance was one of the major factors leading to the shutdown of the economy and spread of the virus, and vaccine resistance in the midst of a deadly new variant could hamper the return to normalcy we’ve all clamored for.

I’m just going to go with a single argument that I hope will make a difference with Republican doubters.

Even Trump, for all his bluster, had the sense to get vaccinated.

steve.lopez@latimes.com


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