As of Midnight this past Saturday, Los Angeles County is officially living under a tyranny of the stupid.

It’s a multilayered idiocy rooted at the grassroots, resident level and traveling all the way to the federal government and while there’s plenty of blame to go around, we have to hold everyone at every level to account here or face an even worse situation.

L.A. is experiencing a spike in Covid cases among unvaccinated people who are contracting the more infectious Delta variant at a high rate and this weekend Los Angeles County officials reinstated a mask mandate on all indoor activity.

According to LA County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis, “it’s the easiest thing to do in terms of ensuring that we’re all protected, regardless of the risks that we have.” The easiest. Not the smartest, or fairest or most effective thing. Nope, the easiest.

This punish-the-whole-class mentality brings with it justifiable confusion and anger because we’re now implementing widespread public health policy not for the benefit of the vulnerable, but rather, to compensate for the stupid.

To be clear, masks absolutely work. Covid is absolutely real. Vaccines are the best tool to fight the disease. All of these things are true and if we were in a situation where masks were necessary to protect vulnerable citizens, we should all wear them without complaint.

But hospitals are not being overwhelmed with vulnerable patients, they are being flooded with unvaccinated patients and we’re not in a place where information is unknown, it’s not a pandemic of ignorance. This is a surge of straight stupidity and we shouldn’t base our public policy around it.

You absolutely have a choice and the government shouldn’t be forcing needles into arms. However, giving people a choice doesn’t mean all choices are equally valid.

Smoking gives you cancer. It’s absolutely a choice to use tobacco but we don’t pretend the choice to smoke is some philosophical value that needs to be weighed against the public good. We are not forced to put on masks to protect us from the smoker’s poison. Smokers have their rights restricted to protect everyone else from their reckless behavior, not the other way around.

Many of the people who go unvaccinated will get sick and some of those people will die. However, that’s no longer a tragedy when preventable suffering is the choice of the patient.

This is where the spineless, unimaginative regulators have let us down. Smart, brave, bold and functional leadership would have created an immunization record to verify vaccinations that would have enabled us to separate wheat from chaff. Instead, we’ve relied on a hodgepodge of private systems to show vaccine status and created perhaps the world’s least secure document in the form of easily photocopied paper cards that utterly undermine faith in the system.

A trustworthy system of verification would allow businesses and other service providers to restrict unvaccinated patrons in a way that would create a societal pressure to vaccinate.

What if there was a priority line at the DMV or the post office for the vaccinated? Cut the wait time, allow them inside buildings and generally incentivize the vaccine with that experience. Airlines could create fully vaccinated flights (or limit unvaccinated flyers to a group with fewer flight options) and restaurants could provide more reservations to vaccinated diners while confining the unvaccinated to the now semi-permanent outdoor zones.

This pandemic doesn’t have to continue. We can prevent the vast majority of negative outcomes with an easy, effective and readily available vaccine. However, instead of allowing life to return to normal for good actors, we’re prolonging this horrible experience to cater to the feelings of the stupid and that is itself, very, very dumb.

SMDP Editorial Board