As long as New Bedford's Zeiterion Theatre requires patrons to present proof of vaccination, I won't be attending any performances there. The new policy takes effect today as the theater tries to get back on its feet following the pandemic shutdown.

I love the "Z" and have seen many enjoyable presentations there, including the gala re-opening show with Shirley Jones on September 25, 1982 – almost 39 years ago.

I have also received the COVID-19 vaccine and believe vaccinating against COVID is the right thing to do. But I do not believe in forcing others to receive the vaccination against their wishes, nor do I choose to present proof of vaccination to see a performance at the Zeiterion or anywhere else. That is my choice.

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The new rules require that all guests and staff show proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID test within the last three days (PCR test) or within the past 24 hours (antigen). Guests ages 12 and up and theater staff, including kids, will be required to wear masks at all times while not eating or drinking, whether or not they are vaccinated. The rules are posted on the theater's website.

According to Executive Director Rosemary Gill, the move was in response to the "virulent and highly contagious nature of the Delta variant."

The demand for personal health documentation is reminiscent of a police state. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Americans have seen their businesses, churches, and cultural sites closed by overreaching government officials. To require now that they present paperwork on demand to move about freely is beyond the pale.

There may come a time when I have to present a vaccination card to fly or to work, but for now, I won't show papers to attend a theatrical presentation. I could live with a mask mandate, but a vaccine mandate is too much for me.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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