The first amendment allows Santa Barbara demonstrators like these to voice their opinions, as dangerous as they may be. But that doesn’t mean we as a community have to let them eat next to us at an indoor restaurant or breathe on us at the gym. | Credit: Ryan P. Cruz

We can’t make people get the COVID-19 vaccine. Forced inoculation only has room in dystopian fiction. But what we can do is limit the privileges of those who choose their deluded definition of personal freedom over medical science and the common good. 

San Francisco has the right idea. Starting August 20, the City by the Bay will require patrons to show proof of complete vaccination to enter indoor gyms, restaurants, bars, and other venues. While some cities are limiting indoor activities to people who have at least one dose or negative test results, San Francisco is the first municipality in the country to require the full monty.

Santa Barbara should follow suit. Not to punish the anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers ― though maybe a little consequence for their irresponsibility wouldn’t be such a bad thing ― but to keep those of us who’ve done the right thing safe. 

Won’t get the shot? Okay, that’s your choice. But then you don’t get to drink at the bar. Or go to the movies. Or see an indoor show. Seems fair, no?

An overarching edict like that would have to come from our Public Health Department. Given its reticence to make big and controversial moves, I’m not sure we can count on them to drop such a large hammer all on their own. So perhaps we should pressure our elected county supervisors to in turn lean on them a little.

There’s always the opportunity to do so through email ― believe it or not, the board’s staff do read the messages and tell their bosses which way the public opinion wind is blowing ― as well as during the public comment portion of their weekly meeting. And believe it or not, the supervisors care what people think and want because guess who elects them?

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Every time I start getting jaded over the concept of civic engagement and whether it makes any damn difference to what government does, I get a reminder that it actually does work. This time it was the successful efforts on Tuesday of neighborhood preservationists and local history buffs to stop the demolition of the Mission Canyon Bridge.

There’s no denying it anymore ― we’re firmly in a fourth wave. Over the last two weeks, new cases in Santa Barbara are up a whopping 90 percent; active cases have increased 51 percent; hospitalizations have risen 40 percent. People are dying again. If the purple tier still existed, we’d be at the high end of it.

ICUs are once again bracing for another wave of new cases. “We know that’s coming,” Dr. Lynn Fitzgibbons with Cottage Health said on Thursday, adding that about 90-95 percent of hospitalized patients are not vaccinated.

Even if the county won’t pull the trigger on a vaccine mandate for indoor venues, individual business owners can. Think of the good PR it would generate. For the same reason I now won’t eat at The Chase for refusing to follow basic safety rules, I’d be happy to patronize a place that made sure its indoor diners had all their shots. I think a lot of others would feel the same way. 

Rumor has it some of Santa Barbara’s concert halls are considering a vaccine-only rule. If that’s true ― we’re supposed to find out today ― maybe that would have a positive domino effect on other businesses. Someone just needs to be the first.

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