It is time for the Greater Good to Outweigh Individual Desires

Judith Cabelli
4 min readMay 15, 2021
Photo by Marcin Jozwiak on Unsplash

I am utterly flabbergasted by Governor Northam’s premature decision to lift Virginia’s mask mandate. Discussing the CDC’s new guidance that vaccinated individuals do not need to mask up indoors, I adamantly exclaimed sensible Virginia would surely retain its mask mandate.

How wrong I was.

Governor Northam’s press release accurately stated that “…the vaccines are the best way to protect yourself and your community from COVID-19. The message is clear: vaccinations are how we put this pandemic in the rearview mirror….” I could not agree more. However, it is common knowledge that children 11 and under do not yet have the option to become vaccinated and, therefore, are unable to access this essential virus protection. The only protection afforded children 11 and under is wearing a mask while other unvaccinated individuals simultanesouly don one.

Removing the mask mandate before all ages have access to the vaccine categorically alters the limited protection afforded individuals not yet eligible to access vaccine protection.

Sadly, I simply cannot wrap my head around the logic behind the decision to essentially follow an “honor system” for vaccinated individuals to move through society unmasked when a gas shortage just arose simply because people hoarded it. Time and time again behaviors on a mass scale in our society illustrate that we simply don’t have the mentality on an individual level to operate in favor of the greater good, let alone through an honor system, particularly when individual behaviors will directly affect the lives of others in a profound manner. Simply put, people are selfish. People favor their individual desires too often over what is better for the collective good. Lifting the mask mandate will make it too easy for individuals who would rather ditch their personal mask without being vaccinated to do so, thus drastically reducing the limited protection currently in place for those who are unvaccinated.

Going out in public with people who are unvaccinated will become more unsafe again as a consequence, with limited overall gain to the public. True, I’d personally love to go back to the days of maskless existence. But wearing a mask is not that big a deal. I’d rather pick out my own peaches with my 10-year-old wearing masks in a grocery store while a mask mandate is in place, instead of leaving her home to keep her safe, just in case an unvaccinated, covid-19 contagious individual decides to shop maskless at the same time under the pretense of being vaccinated. Our kids have put up with enough these past 14 months. Their safety shouldn’t be put at greater risk at this point in the pandemic due to this political decision. Not to mention the additional risk it will bring to communities already devastated by inequities exacerbated by the pandemic that continue to be pervasive in communities of color and in lower income communities locally and around the country.

Getting rid of a pandemic requires a community minded approach that necessitates a substantial element of selflessness. Even though I have an overly optimistic nature, I am skeptical that people will be truthful in this new reality.

If vaccines were available to individuals of all ages, I could begin to understand this decision. If we had universal vaccine access and herd immunity, it would be a no brainer. But after 14 months, this is not where we are yet. This politically motivated decision is simply premature. Access for those 11 years old and under is just a few short months away. For the collective good, surely we could have waited. Importantly, we cannot forget that there are people who are immune compromised that won’t ever be able to be vaccinated. Our individual actions directly affect their lives, particularly during a pandemic.

The past 14 months provided no shortage of lessons for individuals to heed, for parents to impart on children and for our society at-large to understand. We learned in a profound way we are truly interconnected. We understand now more than ever that our actions affect one another. While I am terrified people in our society don’t intrinsically value the collective good sufficiently to make this work, I hope the Governor’s decision will unmask a strong desire in each of us to put aside our individual desires to instead act in favor of the greater good, knowing that is the way out of this pandemic, individually and collectively.

Judith Cabelli is a passionate leader committed to advancing housing affordability, social justice and racial equity. She is motivated by fairness and equity for all and the belief that access to food, housing and health care are human rights. She is a voracious reader and an aspiring writer. She lives in Fairfax, Virginia with her husband, daughter, son and their crazy dog Lila.



Judith Cabelli

A passionate leader committed to housing affordability, social justice and racial equity.