When, exactly, do we get to return to normal life? Is it when every single person is vaccinated? Is it when lockdowns finally demonstrate any effectiveness at fighting COVID-19? When we've driven all our kids nuts and small businesses bankrupt with restrictions? When disease is completely eradicated around the time the sun sputters out? Or will it be when the pajama class is finally bored with lording it over the rest of society and decides it's time to come up for air? It's a question requiring an answer as our lords and masters show every inclination to once again tighten the screws to address a never-ending public health emergency.
A year and a half into the pandemic, every American 12 and older who cares to be vaccinated against COVID-19 has had the opportunity to get a shot. That's important, because all of the available vaccines are extremely effective at reducing the dangers of infection for their recipients.
"All authorized COVID-19 vaccines demonstrated high efficacy (≥89%) against COVID-19 severe enough to require hospitalization," according to current Centers for Disease Control Guidance that includes consideration of the Delta variant that has so many people concerned. "In the clinical trials, no participants who received a COVID-19 vaccine died from COVID-19."
That's about as much assurance as you can ask of a world that offers no guarantees of safety. Epidemiologists have warned for months that COVID-19 is probably a permanent part of our lives, so we need to learn to tolerate it as one risk among many.
"The pandemic seems to be shifting to an endemic situation, meaning the virus could remain a constant presence," notes a July news piece from the Medical University of South Carolina. "We have to figure out how to live with it, I think," comments Dr. Michael Sweat, a public health expert with the school.
So, we can get on with our lives, right? After all, we have a lot of digging out to do. Millions of children lost a year of education and struggled with mental health issues. Jobs and businesses evaporated as the world sheltered in place, usually by command of the powers that be. And fundamental human liberty took a body blow from which it may never recover when the political class took advantage of public fear to expand its power—not just in traditionally authoritarian countries but even in nominally liberal ones.
"As COVID-19 spread during the year, governments across the democratic spectrum repeatedly resorted to excessive surveillance, discriminatory restrictions on freedoms like movement and assembly, and arbitrary or violent enforcement of such restrictions by police and nonstate actors," observed Freedom House.
Worse, we sacrificed liberty, prosperity, and our children's sanity for little in the way of good reason.
"We find that shelter-in-place orders had no detectable health benefits, only modest effects on behavior, and small but adverse effects on the economy," according to University of Chicago researchers.
That means we should finally turn our backs on a year-plus of authoritarian policy failures inspired by the Chinese government's draconian crackdowns and get on with life, right?
Not so fast! Pandemic-fueled control freaks aren't yet done messing with us in the name of public health.
This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a new eviction moratorium that even the Biden-supporting Washington Post editorial board called "almost certainly illegal" and even President Joe Biden concedes is "not likely to pass constitutional muster." But what a wonderfully effective way to drive small property owners into bankruptcy and force them to sell out to large investors who are well-positioned to prosper once tenants start paying rent again.
We're also seeing the much-dreaded debut of vaccine passports under a variety of names, as localities move to demand proof of a shot as a permission slip to enter bars, gyms, and restaurants. It's a pointless move given that the vaccinated are already well-protected against catching COVID, transmitting it to others, or getting seriously ill if they do contract it, so the risk is borne primarily by the unvaccinated who have chosen to accept that risk. But what an opportunity for transforming normal activities like buying lunch or going to the gym into privileges to be dispensed or withheld at government whim!
But this comes after the return of mask mandates intended, it seems, to keep vaccinated people who are already protected against the virus from passing it to people who don't think the virus is much of a threat and have rejected vaccination.
"Leaning heavily on masking and distancing is what we did when we didn't have vaccines," points out Aaron E. Carroll, the chief health officer for Indiana University. "Hospitalizations and deaths are rising in some areas not because someone didn't wear a mask at the ballgame. They're occurring because too many people are not immunized."
That said, Carroll gets to keep his control freak membership card, since he advocates mandatory vaccination. It's a measure that, he concedes, would require "enormous political capital to enforce," not to mention the use of violence to compel people to take shots they don't want and that aren't necessary to protect those who are protected because they already volunteered to be inoculated. That policy might involve some risks of its own.
Once again, vaccination is widely available in the United States and the unvaccinated have chosen that status. They've made their own decisions and assumed the resulting dangers, just like people who smoke, eat too much, ride motorcycles, or go rock-climbing. In a free society, people have the right to make their own risk assessments, even if others don't approve, and the rest of us should get to live our lives without limiting ourselves because of the decisions made by others.
COVID-19 has been an unpleasant ordeal for the entire planet, but perhaps not so awful as the policies inflicted on us in the name of public health. It's time to move beyond pandemic panic to rebuild our prosperity, raise our kids, and reclaim our freedom. If the control freaks don't like that, well, they're another affliction we can do without.