Coronavirus developments across the country have largely taken a positive turn, with deaths and hospitalizations declining and new infection rates plummeting. Widespread immunity from a combination of vaccination and prior infection, as well as the likely seasonality of the virus, all point toward the strong possibility that the COVID-19 pandemic may finally be reaching its end.
But you would never imagine this was the case if you get your information solely from government and public health officials, who continue to insist that Americans practice aggressive social distancing and masking—even double masking.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, for instance, advised residents of his city to wear not just one mask, but two masks, until at least June.
"June is the earliest we would even consider changing guidance around masks," said de Blasio at a press conference on Tuesday. "It may be we continue that guidance for quite a while given what's going on. Keep doing exactly what you're doing, not just wear a mask, wear two."
De Blasio stressed that vaccinated New Yorkers should continue to follow every conceivable precaution out of concern for others, even though preliminary evidence strongly suggests that vaccinated people are substantially less likely to spread the virus at all.
"I would say to anyone vaccinated: Keep wearing that mask," said de Blasio. "It's also just the culture, we want everyone to remember that the mask-wearing culture has been part of what turned the corner for us, and we have to keep it that way until this is finally defeated."
This framing is ridiculous. Government mask mandates are an infringement on individual liberty—perhaps a useful one, but an infringement all the same—not some hot new cultural trend. People are understandably tired of having to wear them, they are sick of avoiding social gatherings, and they miss their friends and family. We were all asked to put up with an astonishing amount of misery for an entire year in order to keep the pandemic at bay. It's one thing for government officials to stress that people need to hold steady until they receive their vaccines, but it's quite another to implore them to be even more cautious even after they have been vaccinated.
It's not just de Blasio sounding an excessively pessimistic note: Anthony Fauci, the Biden administration's top coronavirus adviser, recently poured cold water on the idea that vaccinated people can enjoy normal life.
"There are things, even if you're vaccinated, that you're not going to be able to do in society," Fauci said during a White House press briefing on Monday. "For example, indoor dining, theaters, places where people congregate. That's because of the safety of society."
People are already dining indoors, of course—and have been for much of the pandemic. While this activity has certainly carried risks (COVID-19 spread has been linked to restaurants), those risks drop precipitously if everybody is vaccinated. The notion that we must all live under pandemic rules until some distant, illusory future when the coronavirus has vanished from the earth is demoralizing—and may even make people less interested in getting vaccinated at all—but many public health officials keep implying it.
Perhaps this isn't so surprising: In his excellent Slow Boring post on this subject, Matthew Yglesias pointed out that public health officials often make impractically cautious pronouncements on a whole host of health-related subjects.
"The thing about public health officials is that they are really into public health," wrote Yglesias. "The CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] once put out a bulletin urging sexually active women who aren't on birth control to preemptively abstain from drinking alcohol lest they risk accidentally exposing a fetus to the demon rum."
The CDC says you shouldn't eat eggs with runny yolks.
By the same token, they will continue advising masks past the point at which business or government requires them. pic.twitter.com/ogEZcuIcDB
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) February 23, 2021
The upside of this is that everyone who is waiting for government leaders and public health experts to give them permission to live their lives as normal will be waiting forever. So don't be that person: Get vaccinated as soon as you can, wait for the protection to kick in, and then seize normalcy for yourself.
Read Matt Taibbi on Democratic lawmakers' letter to cable providers urging them to drop Fox News, Newsmax, and One America News Network:
Incredibly, Fox News may soon be the last line of defense against an all-out assault on the heterogenous free press as an institution, and people like me, who've despised the channel their whole lives, now find themselves in the unenviable position of having to defend the "Fair and Balanced" channel as a matter of self-preservation.
The local and alternative presses are already dying, and tech platforms have already successfully asserted their rights to censor. All that remains is to topple a behemoth like Fox as a show of strength, leaving an untouchable Soviet-style club of Chuck Todds and Jennifer Rubins and Max Boots in charge of disseminating an approved™ top-down version of reality. Are you excited yet?
Remember "kids in cages"? Well, Donald Trump is no longer president, so The Washington Post has rebranded this disturbing phenomenon:
First migrant facility for children opens under Biden https://t.co/ADgQxIlMYU
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) February 23, 2021
It's true that President Joe Biden ended the Trump-era policy of routinely separating families caught crossing the border, but Biden did not abolish the practice outright. As Reason's Billy Binion explained, Biden's policy is for states to use their discretion when deciding whether to charge someone apprehended at the border: "It goes without saying that those indicted on criminal charges cannot take their children with them to jail, thus splintering families for the crime of trying to claim asylum. Hundreds are yet to be reunited. Some likely never will be."
Many children who arrive at the border are unaccompanied—they have no parents from which to be separated. They may have family members already inside the U.S., but the government is often slow to reunite them.
For its part, the Post maintained that criticism of the "migrant facility for children" line was unfair, given that the actual story did contain some criticism of the new practice. This is unpersuasive: The detention of children at the border received dramatic coverage from the mainstream media, often justifiably. Now is not the time to undersell the cruelty of hardline immigration policies.
- Congress held hearings on law enforcement failures before, during, and after the Capitol Riots.
- Golf legend Tiger Woods was badly injured in a car crash.
- Virginia voted to abolish the death penalty.
- Apparently, a lot of people had not realized that Elizabeth Olsen is the sister of twins Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.