Well, it’s hitting the fan again.
We have returned to a national COVID case rate as high as it was during last year’s dark winter, with nearly a quarter million average new cases per day, a doubling over two weeks. Over the same period in California, the case rate has nearly tripled over the same period. In Los Angeles County, it has more than quintupled.
There are silver linings to this cloud, but don’t exhale just yet. Nationally, hospitalizations are up only 6% and deaths are down 5%, but hospitalizations tend to lag behind the case rate by 2 weeks, and deaths by 3 to 5 weeks. The omicron variant is deemed to be less virulent (or less symptomatic) than delta, but it is as much as 5 times as contagious, so we can expect hospitalizations to rise further, and in a couple of weeks, deaths to do the same. And yes, being vaccinated AND boosted will do an excellent job of protecting you from severe disease.
But it’s not about you. Or not just you. Even if you are boosted, you can turn into a super-spreading machine with omicron. So each and every one of us needs to severely curtail our social activities. To this end, my congregation has enacted a moratorium on in person events for at least the next couple of weeks.
Yep, that means another boring New Years. That means cancelling your parties, your dinner reservations, your hotel stay, your pricey tickets to the latest museum, etc.
Many are already taking this advice. On my social media newsfeeds, I’ve seen a vast increase in the number of posts asking if anyone wants their tickets to whatever. I have to assume here that correlation is causation: A lot of people had plans for vacation, but do not wish to take a financial bath with all the events they paid for in advance. So they see if anyone wishes to pay them to go in their stead.
This is a sin.
Judaism has an amazing ethical tradition, grounded largely in the Holiness Code in Leviticus 19 – 27. There we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves, love the stranger as ourselves, to revere our parents, not to oppress each other, not to insult the deaf and not to place a stumbling block before the blind. Passing off your tickets to another when you are concerned about COVID places a proverbial stumbling block before the blind.
Rabbinic Judaism clearly points toward this, understanding the universal ethical implications of such stumbling blocks. One is cautioned not to strike one’s child, as it may make them turn violent. One is cautioned not to offer wine to a Nazarite, or to give advice unfit for the receiver, or to sell land with the ulterior motive to get it back. Any deed or statement that leads another to do something dangerous, unhealthful, immoral or illegal places a stumbling block before the blind.
We are mostly blind to the impact we have on this world. We might know how we caught COVID, and we might know some of the people we’ve infected, but we do not know all of those linked to our own chain of transmission. Even though we may be boosted, we may be blind to the fact we have COVID (due to being asymptomatic), and we might infect someone not boosted, or not vaccinated at all. We could be indirectly responsible for someone’s death. We cannot rest on our laurels thinking of how many lives we saved by getting vaccinated and boosted. We are still potentially dangerous to others.
So be extra careful out there for the next month, and consider your financial sacrifice to be worth it. Your tickets are kosher. Eat them.