The departments of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security have announced their intention to “start the process to end” the COVID-19 vaccination mandate. 

Now, before we get too excited, “start the process to end” sounds a bit too much like “set up a committee to study the issue.” It could be soon, or over the next few years, decades or millennia. 

But whenever it actually happens, it’s way past time. 

We’ve been ignoring the obviously sexist nature of the word “mandate” for far too long. I get that since most oppressive government or corporate edicts are created by those of the male gender, maybe its continued use can be weakly defended. But if something is going to be universally required, it should from now on be called a “youdate,” since it’s you who’s going to have to obey. 

Hopefully, even when it’s not compulsory, sentient long-term care professionals with a self-preservation instinct and sense of social responsibility will still choose to be vaccinated. It falls into the category of obviously important things your mother used to say, like, “Put your jacket on!” or “Eat your vegetables!” or “Don’t get in that van!” They just make sense, and a law really shouldn’t be necessary. 

Still, we’re going to have to get used to this. There’s bound to be a sense of societal emptiness when we suddenly lose something this incendiary to argue about. But don’t worry, there will still be plenty of other ways to start unpleasant conversations and ruin Thanksgiving. 

Last year, when your turn came around the holiday table, maybe you said, “I’m so thankful for each of you, and that we have a vaccine that’s not only scientifically proven effective, but required by law.” This year, to induce a similar melee and create lifelong rifts, you could try something like, “I’m thankful for health, family, and that we know for certain the pandemic started in Hunter’s laptop.”

The end of this government vaccination youdate joins an array of personal pandemic-era rules I had made for myself which have now also met their demise. I don’t wear a mask to the symphony anymore (though I said I always would), and I’ve started shaking hands again, when I said I always wouldn’t. Old habits are hard to break though, so I still quarantine my groceries and wash my mail. 

And one more thing hasn’t changed. Remember early in the pandemic when people started working from home and stopped bathing and shaving? While it wasn’t technically a law, growing a beard was definitely an unspoken expectation and I’ve dutifully continued to comply. With so much uncertainty in the world, it gives me a sense of comfort and stability I’m reluctant to jettison. 

So instead of removing the beard, I’m celebrating the end of the vaccination requirement with a commemorative hairpiece. Just to give us something new to argue about this Thanksgiving. 

Celebrating the end of the federal vaccine requirement, Gary unveils his commemorative hairpiece.

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a two-time national Silver Medalist and three-time regional Gold and Silver Medal winner in the Association of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) awards program, as well as an Award of Excellence honoree in the APEX Awards. He’s been amusing, inspiring, informing and sometimes befuddling long-term care readers worldwide since the end of a previous century. He is a writer and video producer for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.

The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News guest submissions are the author’s and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News or its editors.