Andrew Lewis: Uncommon Valor

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They never asked to be front-line workers in the pandemic response. But that’s what they are and Andrew Lewis wants them to know that they are appreciated.

On a recent October weekend we visited a local West County winery. Sitting outside in the brisk air we learned that they, along with their sister establishments, required indoor masking for all visitors and staff. All staff were vaccinated and all visitors were seated outdoors.

Later that evening we went to see the latest Wes Anderson movie at our local Rialto theater and a young employee diligently checked our proof of vaccination before we could enter.

And at a recent music event at our local Hopmonk Tavern, we were asked to be masked while the broad-beamed and imposing bouncer checked our vax status.

In each instance I thanked these employees for holding the line. In each instance they uniformly confessed that they rarely if ever received a kind word.

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Quite the contrary. Nearly every one that I spoke with had been attacked, screamed at, or abused in one way or another. Some teared up as they related their stories.

As public health departments across the country have become gutted, our service workers and small-business owners who, at times independently implemented and enforced mask, vaccine, and social distancing protocol, have in effect become front-line public health workers.

This is a job which they did not ask for, did not want, were not trained for, and that most definitely was not in their job description.

We may at last be on the verge of being able to experience a public life that feels almost normal. It’s happening despite uncivil behavior. And if we, in fact, succeed, it will be because of common citizens: baristas, and checkout clerks, hostesses and movie theater owners, exercised an uncommon valor.

With a Perspective, this is Andrew Lewis.

Andrew Lewis lives in Sebastopol.