Covid-19 and the Return to Normal

 

It’s been a year since this coronavirus pandemic that many said wouldn’t happen. One year ago, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID), reassured Americans there were only 24 known cases of coronavirus in the U.S. and everything was being done to contain the spread. There was nothing to worry about. The U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adams, pleaded with Americans to “Stop Buying Masks” because they were of little value to most people and they should be reserved for use by the sick and healthcare providers only.

A lot has happened in the past year. Despite government efforts to “lockdown the virus”, the virus has eluded those efforts and over 500,000 Americans have died with illnesses attributed to the virus. We’ve seen these lockdowns have resulted in economic disaster with a rise in mental illness, suicides, delayed cancer diagnosis, and school shutdowns. Despite these seemingly well-intentioned measures, the prevalence of the virus and resulting hospitalizations and deaths have largely been unaffected. Just look at the comparable results in California and Florida despite widely different approaches to virus containment. (see California v. Florida Showdown: Who Won?)

Now that the vaccines are being given to millions of Americans, with another vaccine from Johnson & Johnson just authorized, you would think a wave of optimism would be sweeping the country. Yet the Biden administration and the media seem intent on continuing a picture of gloom and doom.

Even Dr. Fauci, once an optimist about virus containment, is now part of this gloom and doom movement. Despite the knowledge that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are producing remarkable efficacy greater than 95%, with vaccine cases, hospitalizations, and deaths plummeting, he’s talking as if nothing has changed! Here is his response when asked if things will change now that people are getting vaccinated: “There are things, even if you’re vaccinated, that you’re not going to be able to do in society. For example, indoor dining, theaters, places where people congregate. That’s because of the safety of society.” What’s more, he’s even talking about wearing more than one mask, possibly even three!

Why this change of attitude?

In an earlier post (CDC Director Caves to Politics), I discussed the sudden change of attitude of newly appointed CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, who declared the science supported the reopening of schools without the need for teachers to be vaccinated. One week later she was singing a different tune, clearly castigated by the Biden administration for speaking the truth without their approval.

The same must be happening to Dr. Fauci. Clearly, he is enjoying the limelight as the national authority on all things concerning the pandemic. Since the Biden administration doesn’t want him to paint a picture of optimism and a return to normal, now he’s the chief gloom and doom officer.

Why would the Biden administration want us to think things are worse than they are?

Philip Klein, editor of The Washington Examiner, says there are three elements of this multi-dimensional challenge: the individual element, the social element, and the government element. He explains, “The individual element pertains to people’s own assessments of their risk of getting severe Covid-19 relative to their desire to engage in certain activities. The social element refers to individuals’ desire to reduce the likelihood that they may unwittingly infect others who are more vulnerable than they are. The government element refers to policies imposing restrictions on human behavior.

The importance of the government element was to “slow the spread” to allow hospitals to respond to increased demand and the private sector to produce sufficient PPE for healthcare workers. Additional ventilators were produced in the thousands to meet the anticipated, but never realized, shortage if ICUs were overwhelmed. At this stage of the pandemic, government intervention was needed. Operation Warp Speed, which greatly facilitated the rapid development of new vaccines in record time, was a perfect example of government response to the crisis.

With adequate hospital beds, ventilators, and PPE available, and declining new virus cases since the introduction of vaccines, what is the role of government now? Klein responds, “This should have created a natural limiting principle on government action. That is, government would take extreme measures to avoid a systemic collapse, but once that was not at risk, those measures could be removed, and we’d return to people making decisions based on their own individual risks assessments and social conscience. But we ignored this limiting principle. Instead, we migrated into the mindset in which restrictions wouldn’t be lifted until we met some sort of arbitrary and constantly shifting standard of safety.”

Very soon, those with the greatest risk of Covid hospitalization and death, people over 65 years, will have been vaccinated, if they so choose. This demographic accounts for over 80% of the deaths associated with the virus. If they do not choose to be vaccinated, they are accepting the increased risk or banking on the development of herd immunity to protect them. There will be no real risk of overwhelming the hospital system and therefore no justification for government restrictions.

It’s easy to forget what “normal” used to be. “Normal” included the risk of getting influenza, which kills about 40,000 Americans every year (except in 2020), but no one considered the need for wearing a mask, social distancing, or avoiding restaurants. No government intrusion into the lives of millions of Americans was necessary and no schools were closed.

Unfortunately, politicians have found the virus pandemic a great excuse for government control of every facet of our lives. These same politicians are now reluctant to give up that control as they see the pandemic as a useful excuse to demand government intervention in all sorts of non-pandemic related issues. The Covid-19 Relief Bill is a prime example of this kind of thinking. Less than half of this $1.9 trillion bill’s expense, $825 billion, can be even remotely connected to the pandemic. The rest of the bill is a long laundry list of Democratic agenda items completely unrelated to the virus and its impact; a perfect reminder of the liberal philosophy, “Never let a crisis go to waste.”

Gerard Baker, Editor at Large of The Wall Street Journal, offers another explanation for this negativism of the Biden administration. He says, “The Biden team is concocting a fiction, elaborately developed and assiduously repeated. It is designed to cement the new president’s legacy, ensure the political success of his party and ineradicably defame their opponents. It is that before January 20, the Covid-19 pandemic was out of control, threatening an even larger catastrophe than the one that had already claimed more than 400,000 lives and destroyed so much productive economic capacity. It had been allowed to do so, the narrative asserts, by Mr. Biden’s callously indifferent predecessor, who ignored the virus, disparaged science and did nothing to protect Americans. Only the heroic efforts of the Biden team, with deference to science and carefully targeted economic relief, averted catastrophe. It is a preposterous fabrication.” (emphasis mine)

Baker reminds us that the Biden goal of putting vaccines in the arms of a million Americans a day was nearly achieved before Biden even took office. The peak of the virus pandemic in the U.S. had already been reached on January 11th, nine days before Biden’s inauguration. Economic indicators suggest the economy is poised to rebound, without a stimulus package, as soon as blue state governors allow businesses and schools to reopen.

But these undeniable facts don’t fit the Biden team narrative that wants to paint him as the hero of this pandemic and his party as the savior of America. To quote the late Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

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