Are you vaccinated? If so, you are in the majority. More than half of all Californians 16 and older are now fully or partially vaccinated, according to the state Department of Public Health; as of midweek, 30 percent had received their full vaccine doses against Covid-19. The numbers are significantly higher in the Bay Area.
So, are you vaccinated yet? And is everyone in your family also vaccinated?
We all know by now that masks are essential. Physical distancing, too. Staying away from people not in your household is an important safety step, as is proper ventilation of indoor spaces.
But as leaders of Bay Area Jewish institutions were informed in a recent Zoom session organized by the Jewish Community Federation, the only thing that guarantees protection from the deadly coronavirus is that jab — or two — in the arm.
As we reported last week, Dr. Bob Wachter of UCSF’s Department of Medicine provided advice and answers to those looking to reopen agencies, JCCs, schools and synagogues safely. Will we be able to hold High Holiday services in our sanctuaries? Can we have a choir? Can we resume in-person visits with social service clients? When, how and how much?
There are no hard numbers on how safe or unsafe various practices are, Wachter said — communal singing, outdoor vs. indoor services, how many people can safely gather in a room, how much ventilation is required. It’s about assessing the risk and finding your comfort level.
If you’re a leader in the Jewish community, whether the CEO of an agency, a congregational rabbi or the president of your college Hillel, you want to take responsibility for yourself, your institution and your people.
Given that the only safe gatherings are those where everyone is fully vaccinated, how can we be sure that our Jewish communal spaces provide that measure of safety? Should there be a “vaccine passport,” written or digital proof of vaccination? The proposal has raised alarms among those who see parallels with the Nazi mandate that Jews identify themselves with a yellow star.
That argument needs to be put in its place right now. It is not the same, not even close. This isn’t about singling out an ethnic or religious group for persecution; it is about a community looking out for the health and well-being of every single person.
One staffer at a local synagogue who attended the Zoom session shared that some of her congregants are established “anti-vaxxers” who refuse to have their kids vaccinated against the usual childhood diseases. She is certain they will also refuse Covid-19 vaccines. So how can this congregation protect itself, she wondered, while still respecting individual rights?
As Wachter puts it, when a decision not to get vaccinated could lead to the transmission of a potentially fatal virus, that decision is no longer an individual one, it’s a communal one.
And the community has the right, and the obligation, to ask: Are you vaccinated?