The federal government is once again urging states and citizens to stand firm and abide by COVID-19 restrictions, even as successful efforts to vaccinate the most at-risk members of the population make the worst case scenario—another wave of mass death—not particularly likely.
"This is not a time to lessen our efforts," said President Biden on Monday. "If we let our guard down now, we could see the virus getting worse, not better."
Of course, this is a familiar refrain by now: It has never been the time for the public to let its guard down. And according to federal health bureaucrats, it probably never will be.
Sounding a similarly apocalyptic note, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky warned of "impending doom" if states reopen too quickly. "Right now, I'm scared," said a "visibly shaken" Walensky, according to POLITICO.
The CDC continues to recommend that people avoid unnecessary travel, and is urging states to pause their reopening efforts.
It's true that cases are currently plateauing around 60,000 each day, and hospitalizations have ticked up slightly. What federal health authorities do not seem to understand, however, is that human beings are not just numbers on spreadsheets. We have a desire to socialize, to reopen our schools and businesses, to go outside and start living life again. Mass vaccination was intended to make this dream a reality, and the news is very good. According to the data, vaccination reduces death and severe disease to basically zero, and vaccinated people are much less likely to transmit COVID-19 to others. This means that vaccinated people can reclaim normality with minimal danger—particularly if the activities in question (going to the park or the beach) do not themselves carry much risk in the first place.
If the authorities really believed we were facing impending doom, they should immediately distribute all available vaccines. And yet 30 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are currently sitting unused in a warehouse in Ohio, just waiting for the government to get around to signing off on them. According to the government, the situation is so dire that people should cancel summer travel plans and keep wearing masks even after they're vaccinated, but not dire enough to tell federal bureaucrats to pick up the pace.