by Edwin Quinabo
The dramatic drop in national and local stats of COVID-19 infections and COVID-related fatalities look very promising that we could be heading out of this historic crisis.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said it is time for the United States to start inching back towards normality, despite remaining risks from COVID-19.
Public health officials announced Feb. 16 that they are working on new COVID-19 guidelines as Omicron’s peak is now behind us.
Several states, including those like California and Oregon that have adopted strict and tough safety restrictions since the beginning of the pandemic three years ago, have announced they are lifting mask mandates in schools and other public settings in the coming weeks.
Keeping it all into perspective
While the numbers look encouraging, at the same time we cannot forget that as recently as the last week of November 2021, politicians and public health officials were also riding high in confidence that the worst of the pandemic has gone by.
Then suddenly, Omicron came as a deadly storm sweeping across the nation infecting far more Americans than any previous COVID-19 variant.No one expected this to happen including public health officials and politicians at the highest level.
In December 2021 after the breakout of Omicron, Vice President Kamala Harris spoke honestly about the pandemic. Perhaps, too honestly as she was criticized for making the following comment.
“We didn’t see Delta coming. I think most scientists did not — upon whose advice and direction we have relied — didn’t see Delta coming,” she said. “We didn’t see Omicron coming. And that’s the nature of what this, this awful virus has been, which as it turns out, has mutations and variants.”
VP Harris spoke unlike a politician here. Gave us the truth, even as Biden himself has been of late talking up the administration’s progress in battling COVID.
The reality is no one knows the future of COVID-19. It could be that our nation, the world, is lucky that Omicron did not have the deadly force of Delta and original COVID-19, given how much more contagious Omicron is and the extremely high number of breakthrough cases. No one knows if there will be a next COVID-19 mutation.
No one knows if existing vaccinations will hold up against a future COVID variant should there be one.
As for the current COVID-19 statistic, certainly it’s positive and an upward trend. But in three years we’ve seen multiple upswings followed by surges. This has been the pattern all along. And putting into perspective, the current seven-day daily average of COVID-19 cases at 147,000 – that’s hardly cause for some new sense of security. If there were 147,000 average daily infections in the U.S. when Trump was in office, it’s highly unlikely that the media and top public health officials would be signaling the end of the pandemic is near, as what we are seeing now.
What’s really happening
The truth is practically everyone is tired of the pandemic and wants to return to normalcy. Politicians know this. And to continue to talk about restrictions and safety is politically risky especially in an election year.
We are so tired of the pandemic that we are already willing to accept a tradeoff of high infections rate and COVID-related fatalities for getting back to normal life.
Think about it – 147,000 average daily infections in the U.S. and states are already revising COVID-19 policies to be laxed. To Hawaii’s credit, there is a reason why our state has fared much better than most in the nation. Unlike other liberal-leaning states, as of press time, Hawaii hasn’t changed its mask-wearing policy. It might be soon. But as Gov. David Ige and county mayors have been doing all along, they’ve sided with precise caution.
Clearly, there should come a time to return to normalcy. For example, we’ve already assessed that risk when we’ve decided schools must return to in-class learning last year. But it’s questionable if that time has already come to lift broad critical safeguards like mask-wearing.
It’s not like we’re seeking to balance public health with the economy as we did in 2020 and the very early part of 2021. Most businesses already have been operating at near 100% with only mask mandates in place. There hasn’t been a lockdown in months, even this past January 2022 when COVID cases skyrocketed.
The reality is the country has been open for business a long time ago. This sudden urgency to claim to be returning to normal is relative. In many practical aspects, we’ve already achieved that. We don’t hear of a CARES ACT part 4 in deliberation. Why? Because there’s hardly restrictive impediments left imposed onto businesses, except on some businesses in some states with regard to proof of vaccinations.
And given that there is still 147,000 average daily infections in the U.S., vaccination mandates is hardly an excessive trade-off of individual liberties over public health, or an unreasonable sacrifice at this current juncture of the pandemic. Vaccination is not federally mandated and failed to be enacted earlier this year.
Let’s resist giving into political expediency, show patience, and see through this pandemic successfully. Let’s get vaccinated. And when the numbers truly reflect that we’re ready to move on (not 147,000 average daily infections), we can revise safeguards, what little that’s left.
by Edwin Quinabo