(Jan. 21) As more grim coronavirus statistics flood in, the simple reality is that the most prominent voices on both sides of the political spectrum have all been wrong in their assessments and policy advice.

Conservatives have been, in general, far too dismissive of the pandemic and far too eager to label it “over.” Liberals, in general, have been far too focused on command-and-control, ineffective mandates, and enforcement than on more useful tools to manage and treat the disease after it inevitably spreads.

On the very day President Joe Biden celebrated his first anniversary as president, the seven-day average of daily COVID-19 deaths crossed back above 2,000 for the first time since September. For all the talk about how the omicron variant tends to be less severe than earlier iterations of the virus, the fact it also is far more easily transmissible means its deadliness in raw numbers is significant.

Even if only, say, one-sixth as many infected people die from omicron as from the delta variant, it is still simple arithmetic to see that if seven times as many are infected with the newer variant, the raw death toll will go up, not down.

And that’s exactly what has been happening. As I have noted previously in this space, mutations in the virus mean that lethal versions of it are likely to be with us for several years. About 450,000 more people in the United States alone have died since many conservatives began pronouncing the pandemic “over.” Nearly 300,000 have died since Biden announced vaccinations had given this nation “independence” from the pandemic, making it obvious that U.S. politics have been woefully inadequate for the challenge.

n a sense, both conservatives and liberals tended to put too much attention on vaccines. Yes, vaccines surely have saved hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions, of lives worldwide. But it was always foolish to assume that vaccinated people would remain safe in the long run, and it was morally benighted to say, in essence, that civic responsibilities somehow end once one has allowed an inoculation needle into their arm…. [The full column is here.]



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