The news Wednesday was grim: a sixth death at Keene’s Alpine Healthcare Center resulting from the recent COVID outbreak the state says includes 38 resident cases and 15 among staff. A relative of a resident there has said the facility’s reported a much higher total of cases.

Also making news this past week was that six people at Fuller Elementary School in Keene had tested positive for COVID. While not as dire a situation, it was disturbing in its own right, though not completely unexpected. Returning to in-person instruction this fall across the Granite State (and almost every other state) amid a delta-variant-spurred surge in coronavirus meant almost assuredly there would be COVID cases.

So the danger is clearly still present, and deadly. Yet there are those who continue to pretend otherwise. Sadly, this includes some supposed “leaders” in the Granite State, among them the House speaker, who has insisted all meetings, hearings and other House business be conducted as if there is no pandemic: no remote sessions; no real social distancing; masks are optional (though recommended). As for vaccinations … well, let’s just say the GOP leadership has put itself in a bind by catering to the anti-vaccine, personal freedom set.

How’s that working out? At a rally this week, held by Speaker Packard and others specifically to rail against President Biden’s announced mandates, the crowd lambasted the state lawmakers and governor for not doing even more to prevent the president from infringing on their self-proclaimed “right” to put others at risk.

As for Biden’s planned mandates on employers, we note that despite the blathering of Fox News pundits and others, they are not “vaccine mandates” that require those who object to being vaccinated to do so. The outline calls for employees of larger companies to submit to frequent testing for signs of COVID. Or, they can get out of that testing by being vaccinated.

This is not a violation of anyone’s rights. Employers are held responsible for the safety of their workers, and the coronavirus presents a known deadly threat. Not taking action would be reprehensible and foolhardy. No one is being forced by Biden to get vaccinated, but those who don’t choose to are presented with consequences: get tested frequently.

As the saying goes, “Your right to throw a punch stops where my nose begins.” The same is true of going out in public or to work unprotected during a pandemic. Any “right” to do so stops where you can reasonably pass on the virus.

It’s no different than an employer’s right to curtail smoking on company property. Secondhand smoke has been found to be a danger to those around the smoker, so there’s an imperative to protect those workers who have to be in the area. COVID is far more dangerous to those forced into rooms or hallways with potentially virulent coworkers.

So no rights are being thwarted. Rather, we’re all being held to a very basic standard of society: to do what’s right for the common good, even when it’s not what you’d prefer.

This is why we HAVE societies in the first place: to help and protect each other.

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