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Wolf striking different tone on mask mandate is welcome

Regular readers of this opinion page know we have been consistently critical of Gov. Tom Wolf’s unilateral manner of guiding Pennsylvania through the COVID-19 pandemic. He created authority from thin air, crafted rules without the legislature’s say-so and upended the lives of millions of Pennsylvanians, often with little to no advance notice.

So, hearing the governor’s comments Tuesday regarding whether he’d reinstitute a mask mandate statewide in light of the latest recommendations from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advocating a return to mask-wearing in public was a somewhat-surprising, albeit welcome, bit of news.

Wolf said that although he recommended following the CDC guidance, he was not going to mandate doing so, citing the wide availablity of COVID-19 vaccines and people’s ability to choose to protect themselves by getting the shot(s).

That’s good to hear and is a welcome change from how he had been going about this.

At this point, reinstituting restrictions on everyone (including the fully-vaccinated, as the CDC announcement suggests) serves only to punish those who have responsibly gotten vaccinated for the sins of those who have opted not to — most of whom do not have a legitimate medical or religious reason for refusing the shot(s).

As the governor said, we urge everyone who can and who has not done so already to choose vaccination. There are several vaccines — all of which came to market in record time thanks largely to former President Donald Trump’s Operation Warp Speed — and they are all available, free, safe and could very well save your life.

Those who resist or refuse inocculation are quick to point out that some have experienced significant side effects and others have also become infected with COVID-19 despite vaccination. They are right that no vaccine is 100% foolproof, but the science clearly shows virtually all deaths and serious COVID cases occurring now are among those who haven’t yet received the shot(s). Plus, at least two of the available vaccines have proven more effective than those given for many other common ailments.

It’s clear that getting more people vaccinated is the most effective way to fight the pandemic and it should be a top priority of the governor.

But a return to heavy-handedness would only cause those opposed to vaccinations to dig in further, all while innocent business owners and those who have already been inocculated needlessly deal with more restrictions many who are not vaccinated never really adhered to anyway.

We hope the governor — and the Republicans in the state legislature — will point their efforts toward convincing the skeptics that the vaccine is the best weapon we have against all forms of COVID-19, especially the delta variant.

We hope if you haven’t yet gotten vaccinated, you make the choice to do so as soon as possible.

And we hope the governor continues to show he understands how to remain on the correct side of the line between staunch advocate and wannabe king.

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