Unvaccinated making adaptation impossible in U.S.
So long as red-state governors and other MAGA cultists attempt to obstruct vaccination for the coronavirus, and so long as they encourage risky behavior, more people will become seriously ill and die.
That’s not exactly what members of President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 response team said as they discussed the spread of the omicron variant at their news briefing on Wednesday. But the message was unmistakable.
Omicron, administration officials explained, spreads more easily than previous variants but is much less severe than the earlier delta variant. That means the goal should be devising a public health strategy to “live” with the virus, rather than simply reducing the number of cases.
As Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Biden’s chief medical adviser, explained, “We’re never going to stop counting tests.” But, ultimately, the country will have to accept that the virus “very likely would not be eliminated but can actually be at such a lower level of control.” He also reiterated that “boosters bring back up that degree of protection” offered by the original vaccine doses.
The problem, as always is the case, is the unvaccinated. “We should not become complacent since our hospital system could still be stressed in certain areas of the country,” Fauci warned. “And so, to repeat what we say so often and that deserves reemphasis: The risk of severe disease from any circulating variant, including omicron, is much, much higher for the unvaccinated.”
As Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted: “If you are unvaccinated, you are 10 times more likely to be a case and 20 times more likely to be a fatality; compared to people who are [vaccinated], you are 17 times more likely to be in the hospital.”
Yet Republican elected officials keep doing all they can to throw obstacles in front of the vaccination effort. Some have proclaimed publicly that they refuse to be boosted. Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt even attempted to challenge Biden’s vaccine mandate for National Guard members in court (seriously?). Fortunately, a federal judge threw out the lawsuit on Wednesday.
It’s hard to overstate the impact that vaccines are having on hundred of millions of lives as well as the economy. It’s already clear as more and more kids are vaccinated that schools can finally shift to a frequent testing process that allows the vast majority to continue with in-person learning. Meanwhile, vaccinated people who are exposed to the virus but remain asymptomatic need not miss work. For responsible Americans, the days of lockdowns, separation from family and travel avoidance should be over.
Jeff Zients, the administration’s COVID task force chief, made clear the federal government will still be “working around the clock to surge reinforcements to communities as they battle omicron, helping to staff hospitals, administer monoclonal antibody treatments, transport patients, add testing capacity, and get more [personal protective equipment] to where it is needed.” The good news is about 1 million people are receiving either a vaccine dose or a booster shot each day.
But in regions of the country where vaccination rates are low, the risk of hospitalization and death remain high. It will be impossible for people in those regions to return to “normal” absent responsible behavior, especially receiving vaccines and booster shots and wearing masks.
We are fast becoming two nations in yet another respect: the America of vaccinated and boosted people returning to normal lives, and the America of those unvaccinated who remain in the grip of a deadly pandemic. The latter have right-wing media and MAGA cultlike politics to thank for their predicament.