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The politics of COVID mandates, Delta variant edition

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Politico being Politico here:

SO MUCH FOR OUR HOT VAX SUMMER — America’s official return to pre-Covid life lasted all of three weeks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention abruptly reversed its guidance on mask wearing today. The agency now says that vaccinated people in Covid-19 hotspots should mask up indoors, and sometimes even outdoors, based on new data on the highly contagious Delta variant.

For President Joe Biden, who pledged a “return to normal” on July 4, the CDC’s about-face is a tacit admission that competence alone won’t vanquish the coronavirus.

When his administration took office in the chaotic early days of the nation’s vaccine rollout, it picked the low-hanging fruit by working to streamline vaccine distribution channels and improve communication with governors and other state officials. The federal government set up a network of high-volume vaccine mega-sites across the country and arranged for pharmacies nationwide to give out the shot, helping to boost Covid vaccinations to a daily record of 4.6 million doses on April 10.

But the deep partisan split over the pandemic — and the value of the vaccines — has helped to stall the country’s adult vaccination rate at just under 70 percent, the goal Biden hoped to reach by Independence Day. In states like Alabama and Louisiana, where the Delta variant is driving a surge in new infections and hospitalizations, the adult vaccination rate is just over 50 percent.

The deeply partisan split over whether the Earth is round or flat is going to kill a lot of people, but the CDC has to work with the country it’s in, not the country it wants to be in.

Still, the politics of all this are tricky. The scientific situation is this: from a purely self-interested perspective, asking most fully vaccinated people to take defensive measures now is based on asking them to be essentially altruistic, since the risk to them personally of becoming seriously ill from COVID is extremely small. (If you’re a youngish healthyish person and are fully vaccinated the risks are for all practical purposes basically zero). But the Delta variant is so contagious that even fully vaccinated people carry some significant risk of potentially transmitting it.

At this point, burdensome measures — such as not opening schools for in-person attendance — are 100% a product of people refusing to get vaccinated, since there’s no way such measures would even be considered if enough of the adult population was vaccinated.

But nearly a third of all adults remain unvaccinated, mainly because of right wing propaganda, but also because of a certain degree of laziness, selfishness, ignorance, etc. among people who aren’t in the Trump cult. Those in the latter group are certainly reachable by a combination of carrots and sticks, and right now we need a lot more sticks.

It’s understandable that a lot of vaccinated people are going to be resentful about being asked to undertake in some cases burdensome — see schools again — measures, when they did the right thing and are now expected to take on those burdens to protect those who won’t. But blaming the CDC/the Biden administration for this situation is perverse: what else are they supposed to do?

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