In a lengthy interview with Colorado Public Radio, the Democratic governor says the “medical emergency” phase of the COVID-19 pandemic has passed. With vaccines readily available to anyone who wants one, Polis says it is time for public health officials to step aside and let individuals make their own decisions about masks. Even with the emergence of the new omicron variant, Polis is refusing to reimplement a statewide mask mandate.
“The emergency is over. You know, public health [officials] don’t get to tell people what to wear; that’s just not their job,” Polis said. “You don’t tell people what to wear. You don’t tell people to wear a jacket when they go out in winter and force them to [wear it]. If they get frostbite, it’s their own darn fault.”
When vaccines were not readily available to anyone who wanted one, Polis argued, mask mandates made sense as an alternative. But following the science means adjusting to changing circumstances, and vaccines are far more effective at mitigating COVID hospitalizations and deaths.
“At this point, if you haven’t been vaccinated, it’s really your own darn fault,” Polis said.
(DBx: I’ve gotten several hostile responses to my letter to operators of venues that require that their patrons show proof of vaccination and wear masks – a letter motivated by much the same reasoning as appears to motivate Gov. Polis.)
Writing in The Atlantic, Matthew Walther describes the happy condition – the condition of largely ignoring Covid and being free of Covidocratic tyranny – enjoyed by at least some Americans living outside of major metropolitan areas. (HT Ian Fillmore) A slice:
I am old enough to remember the good old days when holiday-advice pieces were all variations on “How to Talk to Your Tea Party Uncle About Obamacare.” As Christmas approaches, we can look forward to more of this sort of thing, with the meta-ethical speculation advanced to an impossibly baroque stage of development. Is it okay for our 2-year-old son to hug Grandma at a Christmas party if she received her booster only a few days ago? Should the toddler wear a mask except when he is slopping mashed potatoes all over his booster seat? Our oldest finally attended her first (masked) sleepover with other fully vaccinated 10-year-olds, but one of them had a sibling test positive at day care. Should she stay home or wear a face shield? What about Omicron?
I don’t know how to put this in a way that will not make me sound flippant: No one cares. Literally speaking, I know that isn’t true, because if it were, the articles wouldn’t be commissioned. But outside the world inhabited by the professional and managerial classes in a handful of major metropolitan areas, many, if not most, Americans are leading their lives as if COVID is over, and they have been for a long while.
In my part of rural southwest Michigan, and in similar communities throughout the country, this is true not despite but without any noticeable regard for cases; hospitalization statistics, which are always high this time of year without attracting much notice; or death reports. I don’t mean to deny COVID’s continuing presence. (For the purposes of this piece, I looked up the COVID data for my county and found that the seven-day average for positive tests is as high as it has ever been, and that 136 deaths have been attributed to the virus since June 2020.) What I wish to convey is that the virus simply does not factor into my calculations or those of my neighbors, who have been forgoing masks, tests (unless work imposes them, in which case they are shrugged off as the usual BS from human resources), and other tangible markers of COVID-19’s existence for months—perhaps even longer.
(DBx: Reading Walther’s essay buoys my spirits. I live in the DC metro area. Yesterday I saw at a northern Virginia Whole Foods market such a frightful sight of Covid overreaction that I will not describe because to do so would cast doubt on my honesty. Clearly, the experience of living in a major metropolitan area – especially one swarming with the officious – is very different from the experience of living outside of such areas.)
Though it may be futile in the face of Opposition support (I use the term ‘opposition’ loosely), I will vote against the regulations tomorrow for three reasons.
Firstly, the collateral damage to wider society will be high. Many people have written at length about the appalling costs of lockdowns and restrictions and evidence of permanent damage continues to emerge.
Secondly, there will be a further undermining of confidence in the rule of law. Good laws are clear and based on consensus; they should not be difficult to interpret or adhere to or make criminals out of ordinary people. Far from uniting us, these regulations will invite conflict, judgement and segregation.
But perhaps most significantly, the new measures threaten to cement a permanent shift in the balance of power between the Government and the British people that has been brought about by two years of ‘hokey cokey’ restrictions on our freedom. This is a shift that is no doubt being celebrated by those on the Left, but it should chill Conservatives to the core.
Do we want to live in a society where Ministers can — at no notice — impose serious, damaging restrictions on individuals instead of trusting us to behave responsibly? Do we want a society where people are judged and discriminated against by their health status? Or where the state, far from being a stabilising force, becomes an unpredictable and overbearing menace, perpetuating a climate of fear?
I don’t believe that the Government has deliberately set out on a road to authoritarianism, but we must acknowledge that this is the path we now tread.
Amid this fresh uncertainty, one thing is clear: we cannot go on living like this. As a majority-vaccinated country, we cannot go on suffering the permanent threat of lockdown restrictions, for fear the health service could be overwhelmed. We cannot go on being plunged into panic by pessimistic modelling that has consistently been proved wrong in the past. We cannot go on pursuing Covid Plan Bs, Cs and Ds without a sensible cost-benefit analysis that weighs the harms and uncertainties of the virus against those of the restrictions. We cannot go on with a superficially populist Tory Government that will entertain the drastic action of lockdowns but not radical NHS reform.
True, it is a game of chance: the virus is statistically just as likely to mutate against vaccines in a way that makes it more lethal, and it is simply too early to say anything conclusive about the new strain. But the threat posed by omicron is not the only unknown risk in play. The other is the effect of further restrictions. Like the variant, the fallout of another lockdown could be milder than some of us fear, or it could be catastrophic beyond comprehension.
Unlike omicron, though, this risk gets no air time. In particular, there is little sign that No 10 has done a proper cost-benefit analysis, weighing the risks of omicron against the potential damage of new measures.
Worse are the gratuitous vaccine passports, which are unlikely to stem omicron, given its spread among the double-jabbed. That No 10 would cross the Rubicon with such an authoritarian measure in a cheap attempt to divert political heat in the direction of the unvaccinated is terrifying. So too its contempt for the entertainment venues that could see their profits slashed.
Bill Rice writes wisely about Covid and the overreaction to it. Here’s his conclusion:
The leaders of our country are going to continue to take away civil liberties in the name of “protecting” the public. But these people and organizations are actually harming the public.
If they had done nothing to “flatten the curve” or “slow” or “stop” the spread of the virus, the virus would have still spread, and people would have still died from COVID. (Really, “the road less travelled” by the nation of Sweden was the safest road to travel).
If America’s leaders had not overreacted, many people gone today would still be here today… and more people would be alive a year from now. The future of every inhabitant in the world would not be as bleak as it is today.
By 2022, an additional
✴️9.3 million wasted kids
✴️2.6 million stunted kids
✴️168k child deaths
✴️2.1 million maternal anemia cases
✴️$29.7 billion in future productivity losses
Lockdown ➡️ worst public health catastrophe in history