Elizabeth Milias: No COVID test for you!
The Red Ant
It was bound to happen. I suppose it was naïve to think that somehow, here in Aspen, the land of mind-body-spirit at 8,000 feet, we’d manage to stay above the cancel-culture fray. But just before last week’s holiday weekend, we officially succumbed. And today we’re a different town. That town. The place where you can and will be denied services if someone disagrees with your politics or disrespects your personal choices.
In a widely publicized brou-ha-ha, conservative pundit Candace Owens was denied an elective PCR rapid test at Aspen Laboratories, a privately-owned COVID testing clinic on Hyman Avenue. Suzanna Lee, the owner of the business, in no uncertain terms canceled Owens’ scheduled appointment in a scathing email. “I’ve just learned of this testing request and as the owner of this business am going to refuse this booking and deny service,” she wrote. Owens, vacationing in Aspen with her family, is controversial for her choice not to be vaccinated, yet she sought a COVID test. In the absence of vaccination mandates, an either-or scenario exists in today’s world: show proof of vaccination or the results of a negative COVID test, typically within 72 hours, in order to enter certain establishments and attend various events. Lee continued, “We cannot support anyone who has pro-actively worked to make this pandemic worse by spreading misinformation, politicizing and discouraging the wearing of masks and actively dissuading people from receiving life-saving vaccinations.”
It was indeed Lee’s prerogative, but no one was asking her to “support” anyone. She was simply asked to do her job. Her political rant raises many ethical questions. It’s a shame to have to point out that Lee could not have legally denied service to someone for their skin color, religion or sexual orientation, yet, for now, political affiliation and personal choice are fair game. And it’s curious how Lee identified Owens, given that the testing appointment was made under Owens’ married surname, Farmer. Does Lee google each of her clients before deciding whether or not to treat them? This episode would indicate that she most certainly does. What are her criteria? Would you pass muster?
But equally troubling and unnecessary was Lee’s snarky direction to “the only other local testing option,” a free kiosk with “inconsistent result times,” located in the back alley behind Aspen City Hall. That Owens is of African-American descent only exacerbates the gruesome implication, “Not here. You go over there to the lesser facility, the free one. The one in the back alley.” An inconvenient coincidence? Or something more sinister? In either case, it’s very ugly, and not at all who we purport nor aspire to be.
Think what you will about Owens’ personal choice not to be vaccinated. Wouldn’t you want unvaccinated people to at least get tested for COVID and to do so regularly? In my book, an unvaccinated person who regularly tests negative for COVID is far preferable to one who doesn’t get tested at all. And that tested person is far safer for the community. Lee’s self-righteous, political virtue signaling is not only discriminatory, it’s counter-productive and has no place in Aspen.
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I can practically hear the blood boiling from my defense of Owens. Some say Lee is a hero because they despise Conservatives. As a fierce Libertarian, I defend the freedom of choice to get vaccinated or not, regardless of your politics. What I cannot abide is the denial of a service, and a medical one at that, to someone who is taking steps to prevent the spread of the disease. And, yes, there is a difference.
This unfortunate episode can be loosely compared to another “denial of service” instance in our fair state. Jack Phillips of Lakewood-based Masterpiece Cakeshop was famously sued for violation of Colorado’s public accommodations law, which prohibits refusing service to customers based on race, sex, marital status or sexual orientation, when he refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in 2012 based on his religious beliefs, directing them elsewhere. In defense of the couple, the ACLU represented, “The law is squarely on David and Charlie’s side because when businesses are open to the public, they’re supposed to be open to everyone.” In the end, the Supreme Court sided with the bakery based on religious animosity toward Phillips in earlier rulings, however, the slippery slope where the exercise of religious freedom intersects with protected classes and their access to publicly available goods and services remains. Today, political affiliation is not a protected class. But does that make it OK?
Denying medical services to political enemies is not a laughing matter. This shameful example of wokeness and political activism in the end, ironically, put Aspen more at risk for the spread of COVID than had Lee simply administered the test. Suzanna Lee, you’re no hero. You showed your disdain for Conservatives and demonstrated your willingness to put your personal politics above the health of our community. And you put Aspen, the world-class destination that relies on tourism, in a bad light. That’s nothing to be proud of.
For those needing a COVID test, there is free testing at the airport cell phone lot, and you can also get one at Aspen Valley Hospital where they provide excellent service to everyone. Call 970-925-1120. Contact TheRedAntEM@comcast.net
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