I Did Not Comply: Testing Mandates and Escape From New York City

I did not comply with the unjust and tyrannical vaccine mandates imposed by politicians in New York, and as a result my life has dramatically changed, mostly for the better. As soon as the mandates were announced, I knew compliance would not be an option for me and that I would lose my job. I also knew that I would be unable to get another job in my field in New York due to the mandates and that I could not afford to live in New York City without a job. Consequently, I immediately worked on an exit plan and ultimately relocated to a more free locale.

Escaping New York’s Traumatizing New Normal

Life has been so much better since leaving New York City, where the climate is still oppressive with Covid hysteria. The people who claim that New York City today is back to normal are proof of how normalized the Covid culture has become in that city, even among the critics. Sure, New York City is “normal” compared to everything being shut down by the government in spring 2020, but it is nowhere near what it used to be.

Even if you yourself are not anxious about Covid, you cannot escape the multitude of people in New York City who are masked (double-masked even, and outside at that!), the pop-up testing sites on every other corner; being excluded from numerous, privately segregated, social and recreational events; the slavish ebb and flow of fear and hygiene theater among the locals in response to the news cycle; the masking requirement on the subway (albeit unenforced); the social distancing announcements and signage at every indoor location; the outdoor dining sheds that serve as a reminder of the 2020 lock-downs in which local businesses were decimated and are still struggling to recover; the increase in violence and filth on the streets; the commercials from the New York City health commissioner that constantly appear on streaming services; interacting with friends who proudly and demonstratively engage in inane hygiene theater rituals and who would gladly live like this forever; the numerous vacant storefronts; the increased number of junkies in public spaces; the risk of social and business repercussions if you are too outspoken in your criticism of the government; the ubiquitous fearmongering propaganda from the government that is displayed on posters and digital kiosks all over the city, a visible step in the direction of 1984; and continual reminders that the government could easily bring restrictions back at any time. New Yorkers became so adapted to this atmosphere of hysteria and minute government interventions that they no longer remember what normal is like. Because these changes were so insidious and pervasive in New York City, it is hard to believe that normalcy can still exist when you are mired in hysteria.

The culture has not improved since I left. The minds of my remaining New Yorker friends are addled by Covid culture. Every interaction I have with them continues to be permeated with Covid anxiety. Some of them still have vaccination frames on their social media, profile pictures. One friend recovered from mild illness and proceeded to test everyday until he got a negative result, which is not an unusual thing to do in New York City. Another friend tells me of how he got a booster just so he can go to a social event. Another friend sends me a masked selfie from Grand Central station. And yet another friend asks whether I will demand visitors to my new home provide a negative Covid test to enter. They all know my critical stance, and yet they are so mired in groupthink that they cannot conceive of my inability to relate to these rituals. All of this is completely normal to them because nearly everyone they know in New York talks and acts like this, a product of the mass hysteria they cannot seem to escape. By contrast, no one in my new hometown has mentioned Covid to me in the two months I have been here.

While the onerous and punitive government restrictions on business were, I believe an unconstitutional atrocity that led to increased impoverishment and wealth inequities, the worst part of New York City’s Covid culture is the trauma that it has inflicted on residents for two plus years. Imagine the worst Covidian Reddit commenter you can think of, and now imagine they are the majority and hold the political and economic power to ruin other people’s lives. It is hard to articulate the anxiety you feel in such an environment, the constant dread and fear you feel every time you step outside your home that someone is going to attempt to police your body and the angry confrontations that might ensue. It is hard to make people understand the dehumanizing effect on your soul when you have to deal with other people who are scared of human contact and are strenuously trying to avoid you or of the numerous “temporary” barriers that were erected to minimize human contact. And dating in New York City was hard enough when people were not scared of human contact; now you also have to negotiate Covid protocols as well (or be summarily dismissed once your critical stance is revealed). How can someone who has not been in this mass formation culture understand the worry you feel when the fear-inducing headlines about Covid and monkeypox start ratcheting up, a fear of what your neighbors are capable of and of what they might do to you if the politicians and news media provoked them? It left me traumatized, and I feel the anxiety start to rebound when I simply hear about the continued hysteria in New York.

But, safely ensconced outside of New York City, I can tell my fellow New Yorker critics that normal living does continue on outside of New York, and not just in Florida. I cannot overstate the relief at leaving that city and getting to feel again like a human being instead of merely a perceived vector of contagion and, for us critics and unvaccinated, social pariah. You do not realize just how much you have maladapted to the stressful conditions in New York City until you are free of them. Living somewhere where I am not constantly reminded of the pandemic and where the people around me are not suspicious of human contact is incredibly healing. I implore all remaining heretics in New York to get away from that forsaken city, even if it is only a brief sojourn to restore your mental well-being.

Why Testing Mandates Are Not a Compromise

As for the personal fall-out from the mandates, my employment was terminated to punish my non-compliance. I was the only one at my job who directly objected to the mandates. The mandate I faced was a vaccine-or-test requirement in which individuals who failed to provide the employer with proof of vaccination had to submit Covid testing results each week. Faced with an alternative of compulsory vaccination, most people see the testing option as a palatable compromise. Even many critics of the mandates treated testing as a reasonable option, and there was almost no discussion about the implications of a requirement that employees be tested regularly. While forcible vaccination is a clear violation of bodily autonomy, a testing mandate, though less invasive, is equally sinister in its ramifications. The following are reasons why a Covid testing mandate for employees is objectionable:

Why Not Just Comply With a Testing Mandate?

Collateral Beauty

In light of these objections, there was no way I could comply with the mandate and feel good about myself. No matter what happens from here, it will remain a decision I am most proud of rather than a source of regret.

I do not know where I will go from here, but I am using this as an opportunity to reset my life. I don’t want to over-romanticize it; I am starting my life over from scratch and facing a lot of uncertainty, especially financial uncertainty. But I think this is a positive step.

When the lock-downs began in 2020, I found myself totally alienated. None of the people in my social network or everyday life understood my position or were willing to accept my deviance from the crowd. It was a wake-up call as I realized that no one in my life shared my values or was willing to accept me as I am. I could only conclude that ending up in such a hostile situation was the result of not fully living my values. I was living my life all wrong, and this situation forced me to take stock of my life and correct course. Now I feel happier than I have been in years and am finally pursuing some long-held dreams of mine. As horrific as these last couple of years were, the collateral beauty is magnificent.