If you’re not confused by the latest news/recommendations on the coronavirus, I have to confess that you’re way ahead of me.
In his news conference Monday, Jared Polis announced — in what is very good news — that by the end of the week, everyone 16 and older is eligible for the vaccine. That doesn’t mean you can necessarily find one. Older citizens will still be prioritized, and those with a combination of computer savvy and persistence will still be the most rewarded. Polis is hoping that sometime in May, the vaccine will be readily available to all. Meanwhile, according to a statewide poll, a stubborn 20-some percent say they don’t trust the vaccine and are unlikely to take it.
And yet, we’re speeding ahead. As we should be. The most important thing now is not who gets the vaccine but how many get the vaccine.
This is clearly the right strategy — the same one that’s coming from the Biden White House — because we’re now essentially in a race to get people vaccinated before the COVID-19 variants wreak further damage.
As you may have heard, many medical science people are very concerned, with the emphasis on very, that a fourth wave might be coming. In some parts of the country, in fact, that wave is already upon us. According to the New York Times database, cases nationwide have risen by nearly 19% over the past two weeks. Deaths have been in the 1,000 range daily over that time. Meanwhile, nine states have seen cases rise by more than 40%. In Michigan, it’s 133%. And yet, in most of the highly affected states, the mask mandate is still in place, which suggests the mandates aren’t working or the masks are overrated. I’m still ready to go with science.
At the news conference, Polis offered sound advice on what we still should be doing. It’s simple enough. He said those without vaccinations should keep wearing masks and should stay socially distant.
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“The last thing we want is a setback here,” Polis said. “… You’ll be safe soon. Just a little while longer.”
He added: “If we can keep it up a little bit longer, then we will have a fairly normal summer.”
What’s confusing about that, of course, is that the Dial 3.0 is now a thing, meaning that restrictions have been lessened around the state — how significantly depends on where your county falls on the dial. In nearly every part of the state, bars can reopen on at least a limited basis. Indoor dining is reopening. Gyms have fewer restrictions. Twenty-three mostly rural counties are now at level green, the lowest level, which requires very few limits.
And the mask mandate, which is scheduled to end April 3, either will or will not be renewed. More likely, it will be extended, but on a dial-related basis.
When Dial 3.0, and its lifting of many restrictions, was announced, some of us were worried that it was too soon. Now, some of us are very worried.
My guess is, in fact, that if Polis hadn’t already announced the new dial, he would have put it off for a few weeks. Biden, meanwhile, is begging those governors who have loosened restrictions to tighten them up and those who have ended mask mandates to reinstate them.
By “letting up on precautions,” Biden said, “We are giving up hard-fought, hard-won gains.” He added: “The failure to take this virus seriously is precisely what got us into this mess in the first place.”
But even as an increasing number of former Trump people — does anyone actually see Dr. Birx as a victim here? — are saying how they basically helped him mislead the public on coronavirus, either by downplaying the virus or by exaggerating the numbers of tests, PPEs, etc., it looks as if the Biden administration is going all in. And more.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the new head of the CDC, said even though there “is so much reason for hope,” when she looks at the rising numbers across the country, she couldn’t let go of a feeling of “impending doom.”
“We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are, and so much reason for hope,” she said. “But right now I’m scared.”
She went on to say: “The trajectory of the pandemic in the United States looks similar to many other countries in Europe, including Germany, Italy and France looked like just a few weeks ago, and since that time those countries have experienced a consistent and worrying spike in cases.”
People are gathering more. They’re flying more. Vaccinations are giving people hope, but at the same time, maybe too much hope.
I know how I’m playing it. I’ve had both vaccine shots for a while. I still wear my mask. I still socially distance. I still don’t eat in restaurants. I still don’t go to bars. And I’ve never needed any encouragement not to visit a gym.
We may be nearing the end, after all. We keep hearing that we could be so close to something that resembles normalcy. Or, if we slow down on vaccinations and speed up on risky behavior and allow the variants to get out of control, we may be facing “impending doom.”
The best bet, in my view, is to embrace both possibilities because the good news is that the best response in either case is exactly the same.
Mike Littwin has been a columnist for too many years to count. He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.
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