Personal Freedom vs Corporate Choice

Since close to the very start of the Covid-19 outbreak, the virus and our collective responses have turned into a political issue. Sides were taken based on how seriously one took the virus, and once vaccines became prevalent, that too took on a left vs. right dynamic. One local restaurant is taking a stance that is bound to inflame passions on both sides however: Scottsdale restaurant FnB is requiring diners to be vaccinated to dine in-person.

Their rationale is sound; their servers and staff are essentially at the front line of the virus, so they want to make sure that they are protected. Certainly this isn’t purely magnanimous, as with a relative labor shortage for service jobs in America, a Covid outbreak even amongst vaccinated staffers would be a significant threat to their business. But it also makes a powerful statement; some of your rights end at the door.

Some conservatives and many vaccine-resistant folks will certainly balk at this. Comparisons to civil rights will almost certainly come up. “What if they put a sign up saying ‘No African-Americans allowed’?” Perhaps the case of the baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple will be brought up, although the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the baker for reasons that were more procedural than one of codification into later discrimination cases and judgments. Regardless, vaccination status is not a protected trait, and while considerations for HIPAA protections may have some degree of merit, any such cases have not worked their way through the courts yet. By the time they do, Covid will likely be in our rear view mirrors anyway.

Naturally, there is also a restaurant that has stated that it will only admit non-vaccinated people. Obviously this is a ridiculous concept, a significant business risk, and makes it a strong possible source of viral spread. Then again, in a sad indictment of our polarization today, it may also be an effective marketing tactic. Time will tell (but we will choose to keep our distance).

We are at the point of mass vaccination that the low hanging fruit has been picked, and now collectively we must incorporate some degree of incentivization to help get us to “herd immunity” vis a vis vaccinations. Lotteries, cash incentives, and prizes have been incorporated around the country with some success, but little has been done so far in the way of negative incentivization. Perhaps this is where corporate America can play a role. It wouldn’t be too surprising to see health insurers raise rates on people who cannot prove that they received a vaccination. Frankly, this makes sense even though it would ruffle many feathers. We don’t see how this is much different than charging smokers higher premiums; they add a cost burden that even those that live a healthy lifestyle have to pay, and that’s not fair.

There are no easy answers. But as the virus continues to rage, with the most significant consequences accrued by the unvaccinated but the cost spread out through vaccinated and non alike, something has to change. Perhaps this is an initial step towards costs and benefits that reward vaccinations and nudge us closer to herd immunity, which we would welcome.