The Dumbest Phase of Pandemic Starts…NOW! Again.
Every time I think America’s response to COVID can’t get any more obtuse or cruel, we all band together to prove me wrong. This time, we have help from BA.2.
As I type this, everyone is cheering the decisions being made by more and more states to lift their mask mandates. At long last, our national nightmare is over!!! See, it was the masks that were the real scourge, not the virus. Vaccination requirements are being lifted, too, to save us from the horrors of one of the safest vaccines ever produced. What a relief.
All this is predicated on the idea that omicron is the end. I hope it is. I really do. But wouldn’t it be smart to wait just an extra week or two and be sure? We’re like Gollum, dancing around with our precious (read: hamburger in a restaurant), not realizing Frodo is about to dropkick us into a river of lava. Before we start celebrating, we should probably check to see if Frodo is dead or at least unconscious. It might be a good idea to check on Sam, too.
Our Sam is BA.2. It’s too soon to say if it’s going to be a big deal or not, but its mere presence should be a reminder to us of the idiocy of spiking the football before the goal line. The early read is that it’s more transmissible than omicron, it is as deadly as Delta, and it eludes prior immunity.
We aren’t just celebrating too soon — we’re turning off the scoreboard. Testing sites are closing up. Those of us not dumb enough to think that two years is some magic time limit for fighting a pandemic (“That’s long enough isn’t it? It’s gotta be. Back me up on this one, epidemiologists — the pandemic is over when it’s not fun anymore, amirite?”) are about to be forced to fly blind and join everyone else in the game of make-believe as companies call workers back to the office for literally no good reason other than this: seeing people toiling away in cubicle farms reminds executives that they have immense power over said people. I personally am about to face peer pressure to huff other people’s aerosolized saliva just so I can catch the live version of a pointless Powerpoint, which — if we just maintained the nihilistic loneliness of working from home — I could at least blunt the cost of by multitasking like the coked-up-hamster-on-a-wheel that I am.
Everyone wants the pandemic to be over — I get that — but the thing that made the pandemic so miserable is the stupidity and selfishness with which we prosecuted our inadequate response. We won’t ever go back to “normal” without reducing the surge of both those things, and our latest decisions show that we won’t do that anytime soon. We’re prioritizing the wrong things, and it will only be by a stroke of mutational luck that our short-sighted decisions don’t kill off another couple hundred thousand or even millions of our fellow human beings.