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Finley: Shots are better than shutdowns


Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is finally treating Michigan residents as adults, free to decide for themselves their risk tolerance in the face of a still-raging pandemic.

The governor has surprisingly put on pause the nanny state instincts that guided her policymaking over the past year.

Instead of trying to force Michiganians to comply with often arbitrary orders for shielding themselves from COVID-19, she's facing this fourth major virus surge by providing her citizens with the resources to protect themselves, and trusting them to do so.

Whitmer's response has been markedly different from how she handled previous spikes. Michigan has endured the harshest shutdowns and restrictions of any state, and yet it is still leading the nation in the number of new COVID cases.

Things can go south in a hurry, but this time, so far, Whitmer is urging residents to voluntarily avoid dining out, gathering in large groups, playing youth sports and attending school in-person.

And she's rushing to help get as many of them vaccinated as fast as possible.

While some of her earlier restrictions remain, including limits on restaurant capacity and a ban on in-office work, at least she isn't moving the state backward, as is happening in Washington and a few other hard-hit states. 

Vaccinations have been the game-changer. Michigan's inoculation rate is at 40%, and availability of doses across the state is improving. 

Vaccines should drive policymaking, and that seems to be the approach Whitmer is taking, even though Centers for Disease Control Director Rochelle Walensky is urging her to issue a stay-at-home order to combat the current surge.

Complicating her ability to resist that pressure is what is emerging as a lackluster response to vaccinations.

After an initial, desperate rush to get the doses, demand has ebbed in many counties, Bridge Michigan reports.

Available appointments are going unfilled in out-state communities, as residents make the curious choice not to get in the lifeboat.

I don't pretend to know why people would reject a shot that would protect them from the worst virus in modern American history, one that has already taken the lives of more than 16,000 Michigan residents.

By now, they must understand the deadliness of COVID-19, and that the vaccinations will likely keep them from dying. If they think because they've dodged the virus these past 16 months that they're invincible, they should read the obituary pages. 

But if they're willing to take the risk, it's on them, and not on the governor or the fellow citizens.

State measures should not focus on protecting those who refuse to protect themselves, but rather on getting more people protected. I got the vaccine at my first opportunity because I didn't want to get COVID, but also because I didn't want to keep living like a groundhog.

With vaccines becoming available to all who want them, Whitmer should stay the course on her vaccination strategy and keep moving toward a fully free Michigan.

We will get to herd immunity one way or the other — either through vaccination, or by those who refused to get vaccinated catching COVID and developing resistance the old-fashioned way. 

Twitter: @NolanFinleyDN

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