The President wants a 98% vaccination rate before we can return to “normal,” despite that normal is already here for much of the country and the figure is clearly impossible. This myopic focus on vaccines makes him Captain Ahab stalking Moby Dick with a much smaller harpoon. What is the party of science going to do if there is no next wave as our own CDC is now predicting?
As we saw in England earlier this year, the Delta-variant induced wave of coronavirus in the United States appears to be breaking and daily infections are down substantially from their peaks. The 7-day rolling average has declined by close to a third in just two weeks, dropping from 175,822 on September 13 to 119,833 on September 26. Given that the most popular vaccines are administered in two shots, taking approximately six weeks to have their full effect, we can pretty safely say that people getting vaccinated since the start of this wave had little or nothing to do with the decline. Instead, as we have seen in the past over the course of the entire pandemic, the wave simply subsided on its own for reasons we are not entirely certain of. The Spanish Flu of 1918-1919, for example, tore through the world in three separate waves and there is no shortage of literature on the subject, even as the reasoning behind the spread and subsequent slowing is unknown.
In our own era, astute observers might have noticed that Florida was a hot topic in the news a month ago. Even President Joe Biden got in on the act, urging Republican governors to “get out of the way” when cases were spiking, but now not so much: Cases there have declined even more dramatically than across the nation at large, peaking at a 29,711 7-day average on August 16 and dropping to 7,334 on September 26. Despite massive media and political pressure, Governor Ron DeSantis implemented no new restrictions and actively fought mask mandates, providing yet another data point that strongly suggests the impact of all of these techniques is minor at best. It’s been a similar story in other southern states, where retrograde and reprobate Republicans who think like Neanderthals, have all seen declining case counts without additional prevention measures. Texas peaked at 20,982 on September 14, down to 12,065 as of Sunday. Mississippi at 3,586, down to 1,356, and even Missouri, ground zero for this wave of coronavirus hysteria, has seen a decline.
The establishment media has simply ignored these developments, of course, pretending that weeks of hyperventilating coverage simply didn’t happen, refusing to even consider that their position on masking, social distancing, and vaccines might be just a little overstated and should be subject to some form of critical thinking. On Monday, The New York Times was still all-in on vaccines as the answer to our prayers, hopes, dreams, and then some, claiming that reliable blue states have higher vaccination rates than reliable red states, coining the phrase “red covid” to clearly indicate their position that Republicans are beyond redemption on the matter. David Leonhardt writes, “The political divide over vaccinations is so large that almost every reliably blue state now has a higher vaccination rate than almost every reliably red state…Because the vaccines are so effective at preventing serious illness, Covid deaths are also showing a partisan pattern. Covid is still a national crisis, but the worst forms of it are increasingly concentrated in red America.” Apparently, Mr. Leonhardt didn’t bother to look at the facts on the ground in Florida. CNN, picking up on the same “red covid” theme, declared Trump was to blame. “How did we get here? There’s no single person to blame, but in my mind it’s quite clear that former President Donald Trump and Fox News bear the lion’s share of the responsibility,” wrote Chris Cilliza.
None of this is not to minimize the impact of the vaccine: It seems equally safe to say that having a significant percentage of the population vaccinated before the Delta-wave helped keep infection and hospitalization levels below what we experienced last winter. On January 8, the 7-day average of cases spiked to 259,616, 47% higher than the latest wave, which is no small achievement considering the Delta-variant is known to be significantly more infectious and communicable, spreading faster and wider than the original strains.
There is a difference, however, between believing the vaccine offers a significant level of protection and encouraging people to get vaccinated, and framing the issue as a clear-cut matter of life and death. President Biden, for example, is so all-in vaccines one might think he was getting a kickback from Pfizer for each dose. Earlier this week, he held a public event to receive his booster shot, acting like it’s totally normal to need a booster within 6-months of the original vaccination. He was asked what percentage of the population needed to get vaccinated to get back to “normal.” The President replied, “97%, 98%. I think we’ll get awful close. But I’m not the scientist. I think one thing is for certain. A quarter of the country can’t go unvaccinated and us not continue to have a problem.” Where that impossible to reach figure came from is anybody’s guess, but it’s much, much higher than previous numbers floated by public health experts including Dr. Anthony Fauci.
According to MedPageToday.com, the initial target was 60-70%. Dr. Fauci himself has infamously taken several positions, ranging from 70-75% to 80-85%. When asked about the difference, he wrote “When polls said only about half of all Americans would take a vaccine, I was saying herd immunity would take 70 to 75 percent. Then, when newer surveys said 60 percent or more would take it, I thought, ‘I can nudge this up a bit,’ so I went to 80, 85.” President Biden is apparently trying to “nudge” it up even higher, to a clearly impossible goal. How difficult would anything resembling 98% be to actually achieve in the real world, here on planet Earth? First, the vaccine isn’t even approved yet for children under 12; therefore, it’s statistically impossible right now, pointless to even consider. Even if we assume it will be approved at some unspecified future date, The New York Times projects we will reach 85% of the non-child population sometime next June. Apparently, Biden plans to end the pandemic sometime in 2024, and this doesn’t even include the distribution of the booster shots. In short, we might well be distributing vaccines to fight coronavirus forever.
Perhaps, he’s counting on his new, yet to be fully released and completely untested in the courts, vaccine mandates to command that kind of compliance. One thing he’s not doing: Actually looking at the work product of the public health professionals at the CDC. He’s not a scientist, after all. Last week, NPR reported on an analysis of a consortium of researchers who have been advising the CDC about the potential future of the pandemic this winter and spring. The news is promising, to say the least: “Americans may be able to breathe a tentative sigh of relief soon, according to researchers studying the trajectory of the pandemic. The delta surge appears to be peaking nationally, and cases and deaths will likely decline steadily now through the spring without a significant winter surge.” The COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Hub integrated nine mathematical models from different groups to reach the conclusion that both cases and deaths will fall, from about 140,000 and 1,500 per day right now, respectively, to 9,000 and less than 100 per day in March. Further, these models predict no winter surge like we experienced last year.
To be sure, these are just models and I’ve previously argued that models in general have been unreliable over the past 18 months, but, at the same time, these are the first reported projections actually predicting an effective end to the pandemic. “We have to be cautious because the virus has shown us time and time again that new variants or people loosening up on how careful they’re being can lead things to come roaring back,” Justin Lessler at the University of North Carolina, who helps run the hub, noted. Adding, “But I do think that the trajectory is towards improvement for most of the country”
Of course, news like this and the evidence the Delta wave is receding prompts the question: Why the myopic obsession on vaccines and boosters? How did getting shots in people’s arms turn President Biden into Captain Ahab stalking Moby Dick with a much smaller harpoon? It’s not as if the announcement of federal and state mandates is having the anticipated effect and people are lining up to get vaccinated in droves. On the contrary, the pace of vaccinations has slowed by more than a third over the past three weeks. In other words, right about the time the Biden Administration started pushing mandates, people started doing the precise opposite. Why is that?
Personally, I have no idea, but there’s another question on my mind that’s far more important: Assuming the CDC is correct and we can expect the pandemic to wind down between now and next March, will President Biden also wind down the mandates and stop pushing boosters that, embarrassingly for him, aren’t even approved for the general public yet? Biden is, after all, the chief representative of the self-proclaimed party of science and, if the science says the pandemic is over with the current level of vaccination, there would be no reason to continue pushing federal government authority into never-before entered realms like using a Nixon-era law that wasn’t about vaccines, to mandate vaccines. Perhaps, one of the intrepid reporters on the White House Press Corps should ask him, assuming he deigns to actually answer questions one of these days.
Then again, why am I complaining when the United States could well be Australia, where the police are forcibly arresting people for not wearing a mask outside or simply eating a sandwich? Fortunately, America has a Bill of Rights and a Constitutional Order that protects citizens from the worst excesses of government overreach and abuse, unlike our friends down under. At the same time, the pandemic in the United States has always been conducted with a large amount of political theater, a classic case of the growing disconnect between establishment elites and the citizenry at large. By that I mean: The mainstream media, the politicians, and the public health experts have been describing a country that doesn’t exist since at least this past spring. Whether it be the President acting like we need his permission to have a barbecue, Dr. Fauci claiming restaurants are simply too dangerous, or the media still wondering when we will get back to normal, America at large hasn’t been listening for a long time now.
Barbecues and smaller parties returned last summer, bigger ones this year. We’ve been traveling in droves since at least last Thanksgiving, much more so in recent months, despite howls and admonishments from the media and politicians. Even in more liberal states like New York and New Jersey, people have been dining in restaurants for the past year or more. Concerts, sporting events, and other large gatherings returned en masse and aren’t rolling back. Bruce Springsteen re-opened Broadway. The new mask mandate ordered by Biden in July was rejected by almost everyone except for a few progressive enclaves.
It’s enough to make one wonder why anyone is even bothering with the political theater of a return to normal, when normal is already almost upon us. To be sure, there remain a few important battles left to fight. The situation in our schools and the forced masking of young children is intolerable. The extension of never before used federal power to generalized vaccine mandates is equally concerning. These are challenging issues that remain to be addressed and require our constant vigilance. They say people vote with their feet, however, and clearly people are voting every day to get back to normal as quickly as possible. How long before Biden, the mainstream media, and the public health experts get the message?