After the CDC announced on May 13 that fully vaccinated Americans don’t have to wear masks, many big news organizations followed not with stories of celebration, but warnings that the guidance was confusing for businesses and governments and jarring to those who had gotten used to working from home.
This is the New York Times‘ America: People learned to adapt to remote learning, and they’re so comfortable they fear going out again. In this America, anxiety is king.
A bigger story is out there. It involves the other America where people have been living as if the rules changed much earlier. In this America, folks couldn’t work at home, others traveled for pleasure, and parents sent kids to schoolhouses in lieu of laptops.
My question: How will residents in lockdown cities and states like California react when they encounter Americans who lived larger?
I’m not talking about people who had to stay home and miss work or school because of health issues or vulnerable family members. They may choose to avoid public spaces and wear masks even after they are fully vaccinated.
Others, however, forfeited autonomy, friendships, and their lives’ work out of a misplaced sense of the virtue in social-distancing overkill. They stayed indoors when they could have been outside in the fresh air and sunshine because experts ignored research that showed outdoor transmission to be responsible for less than 1 percent of cases.
When Americans start moving around outside their bubbles, the most powerful gut punch could follow when lockdown state parents watch their children go to school, play with friends, and be kids again after a year-plus at home.
Middle-class parents may swallow that bitter pill and strive to make up for experiences their children should have had. But many single mothers and working-class stiffs won’t be able to help their children catch up with sons and daughters of higher-paid workers.
Income inequality will get worse, and people will suffer as a result.
I’m not blaming health-care professionals. The experts on then President Donald Trump’s White House Coronavirus Task Force got things wrong, but they got the most important thing right. They ably and patiently walked skeptical Americans (like me) to the place where they would take the virus seriously.
While the high number of more than 580,000 American COVID-19 deaths makes the mind reel, the death toll unquestionably would have been worse without the experts.
It’s the politicians and big media who went into overdrive with rules that weren’t based on “The Science.”
Be it noted that in May of 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not advise that public schools be shuttered. For that bad idea, thank timid governors and local officials, who disregarded CDC guidance and ignored research on the extremely low risk to children as they bowed to teachers unions.
In July, the American Academy of Pediatrics advised educators to start the fall semester “with a goal of having students physically present in school.” Trump supported the statement. Crickets.
Big media didn’t focus on the school closure fiasco until 2021. Before then to their undying shame, cable news networks were too busy fixating on their idea of a big story: people who don’t wear masks.
Not such a big story: How Operation Warp Speed motivated the medical establishment to develop vaccines in record time.
Now President Joe Biden doesn’t have to wear a mask — even if he does. And he can thank Trump — not that he will.
Partisan politics have poisoned the nation’s COVID response.
You just know that blue-state governors banned mass meetings and outside dining because Trump supported such gatherings. Their progressive constituents happily ceded their vaunted right to choose just to show Trump how much better they are.
Trump made things worse by not keeping his ego out of the coronavirus response. He went barefaced, and worse, staged packed rallies and events that turned the Rose Garden into a COVID petri dish. And he got the virus.
As small businesses have been waiting for Washington, D.C., to signal that America is getting back to work, Democrats continued to use mask-wearing as the ultimate sign of virtue. It’s become such a partisan prop that for months after he was fully vaccinated and it became clear that he would not get or give the virus to others without a face covering, Biden continued to wear a mask. Outside.
After the CDC said the fully vaccinated need not wear masks outdoors or indoors, Biden would take off his mask as he delivered remarks but don a face covering before or after.
No wonder Americans who didn’t follow CDC guidance to the letter don’t trust COVID rules and see them as politically motivated. This country should have been united during the pandemic. Instead, it became an excuse for finger-pointing at the other side. And maybe the other side wasn’t so wrong.
Debra J. Saunders is a fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Chapman Center for Citizen Leadership. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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