A year and a half into a war that has claimed more than 650,000 American lives, we are stumbling in our efforts because of those among us who refuse to enlist in the fight. The war has claimed almost 500 residents of Santa Barbara County. These aren’t just numbers or statistics; these are our family members, our coworkers, our community brothers and sisters. I am absolutely heartbroken by the staggering magnitude of these losses.
After experiencing a glimmer of hope this summer, our fight against this lethal enemy has lost ground. There are those who feel that more ought to be sacrificed: more children, more seniors, more teachers, and more people with compromised health. I’d like to ask them, “How many more? What is the appropriate number of people to lose before we come together and take the necessary actions to safeguard our community?”
I believe it is our moral and ethical duty to do all that is in our power to protect our community from additional death and devastation. I can assure you that I will continue to do what I can to safeguard our community by taking actions to protect the health and well-being of our residents and strengthen our economy. I have supported measures to encourage — and even mandate — vaccinations and the wearing of protective gear like masks. Our community will not fully be able to recover from the pandemic while there are those who continue to get sick and die from this serious and highly contagious disease. The losses will continue to mount — losses of lives and livelihoods. Vaccine mandates have long been an accepted tool to protect the public health. Today, all states have vaccination requirements for children to attend school and childcare facilities. Vaccines have helped to control (if not eradicate) smallpox, measles, polio, and even chickenpox. They should absolutely be required to combat COVID.
We all must accept the personal responsibility we share for the common good. I am outraged by those who have abandoned this moral obligation to act responsibly and with care and compassion toward our neighbors. I am sick and tired of those who shout and yell and kick and scream about their individual “rights” but have no sense of responsibility for making things better for our community. What about our collective right to go to work or school and not be subjected to (preventable) risks to our health and well-being?
Unfortunately, too many people in our community have refused to accept this responsibility to protect the public’s health and common good. Because of this, vaccine and mask mandates are necessary to ensure the protection of the public — especially the protection of the elderly, sick, and those who are most vulnerable — and to bolster the strength of our economy so that our jobs and businesses can recover. Those who oppose the efforts to protect our public health are holding us all back. Like many others, my patience is wearing thin.
We need to enlist more soldiers in this effort. Together we can win this war, but to do so we will need more people to step up and exercise their responsibility to act with concern and compassion for the well-being of their neighbors.
Kyle Richards has been a member of the Goleta City Council since 2016 and submits this as his own opinion.