The Premature Victory Lap and the Single Strategy Surrender

The CDC’s announcement that vaccinated people could go maskless — indoors, outdoors, wherever — was, for all intents and purposes, a declaration of the end of active combat operations against COVID.

Yes, there was some nuance. The unvaccinated still have to mask up (ha! good luck with that), and there are places where the CDC still “requires” mask wearing. Most people, however, will have heard just one thing:

The pandemic is over.

Of course, it’s not — daily confirmed cases are still counted in the tens of thousands and 4,000 people a week are still dying. After driving the test positivity rate down steadily, we have now plateaued at around 3%. There are still plenty of warm, moist lungs willing to welcome COVID in for a nice comfy stay.

The only explanation for all this is the psychological crutch of the vaccine. Now that it’s here and widely available, we’re just…done. We can finally declare that COVID is a matter of personal choice. You — you individual you — you have all the personal liberty we’ve been promising. If you are concerned about COVID, you can take the vaccine. If you do not feel you should have to wear a mask or avoid Buffalo Wild Wings, well, you are free to swap air with strangers and shove deep fried chicken parts down your gullet.

America has decided to place all its eggs in one basket. In Pfizer we trust.

This is a bad strategy, if you can call it that. The right way to protect people and end this thing is to have multiple layers of defense. If we were serious about ending this — really ending it, not pretending to end it — we would keep doing several things while finding the right incentives for people to get vaccinated:

  1. Minimize indoor gatherings outside of our households.
  2. Continue wearing masks.
  3. Ventilate all essential workplaces.

Those things plus the vaccine might actually bring cases to something like zero, if we cared. We don’t. Instead, our defense has just a single slender branch: pharmaceutical acumen. As spectacular as Pfizer and Moderna’s masterpieces are, they do still leave a 5% chance to infection; and of course they offer no protection to the 63% of Americans who are less focused on public health than they are on showing the know-it-alls in the little white coats that they can’t tell us what to do. Neener neener. The rate of vaccination is decelerating rapidly. The kids of the conscientious will up the count a bit, now that Pfizer has been approved for ages 12 and up. After that? The ranks of the meek sheep [sic] will plateau, just like the test positivity rate.

It’s not hard to predict the future, such as it is. The virus will continue to circulate. Variants will continue to pop up — we’re giving COVID ample room to innovate. Our free market will have to save us. Pfizer and Moderna will come out with boosters. COVID will become, more than anything, a corporate welfare program.

It will also remain a real risk for those of us who actually care to pay attention, but now we’re officially on our own.

I'm just a humble Italian duke happy to be living in the New World.