While still well below their winter peaks, the latest spikes in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are raising concerns among health officials and among many Americans — just not among enough, given how many people still remain unvaccinated.
Even now, 16 months into this public health crisis, there remains much we don’t know about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19, the disease it causes. But it’s very clear that the vaccines work very well and that more Americans should have shots by now and more should get them as soon as possible.
As Michelle Goldberg noted in her column in The New York Times this week, the irony is that the social distancing required to control COVID-19 “nurtured pathologies that are now prolonging it,” and isolated people “turned to movements that turned them against vaccines.”
Thankfully, some pundits and Republican politicians whose forceful advocacy might have helped prevent a new surge are joining the fight this week.
Fox host Sean Hannity, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and House GOP Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana offered their loudest, most unambiguous endorsements of getting vaccinated yet. With the CDC reporting more than 97% of COVID-19 hospitalizations nationwide are occurring among the unvaccinated, the value of vaccinations has never been clearer. The stunning drop in U.S. life expectancy in 2020, announced last Wednesday, only adds to the case. “If there is anybody out there willing to listen: Get vaccinated,” McConnell said. “This is not complicated.”
Goaded on by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson and social media disinformation merchants, many supporters of Donald Trump have depicted their refusal to get vaccines as an affirmation of both their individual freedom and their contempt for the mainstream media and public health officials. They have done so even though Trump himself was vaccinated long ago, and new reporting has suggested that aggressive, innovative medical treatment saved him from death last October when he contracted COVID-19 after a manic half-year of defying mask edicts at the White House and during rallies.
Nationally renowned scientist Eric Topol told the San Diego News Fix podcast that he is wearing a mask again indoors because of the delta variant surge. He called wearing a mask, especially when inside for a protracted period of time, “the best thing you can do indoors.” Mask-wearing shouldn’t be mandated, Topol said, to avoid rebellions. But common sense dictates wearing one — “just out of intelligence and the science that backs it up.”
The decision on whether to reopen the U.S.-Mexico land border is more complex. Citing the delta variant surge, U.S. officials announced last Wednesday the federal government will keep restrictions on non-essential travel across the border through at least Aug. 21. The Biden administration should set specific benchmarks for when restrictions can be eased. Complete pandemic safety is not possible. Considerable safety is. With COVID-19 deaths a fraction of what they used to be, pandemic policies must be calibrated to reduce the collateral damage they create, in schools, on the border, everywhere.
This editorial first appeared in The San Diego Union-Tribune last Friday. This commentary should be considered another point of view and not necessarily the opinion or editorial policy of The Dominion Post.