I saw the front page of a national newspaper Friday that had a graphic displaying the microscopic percentage of hospitalizations and deaths attributable to “breakthrough” Covid infections of the vaccinated. The headline said, simply, “Insanity.”
Both Presidents Trump and Biden heralded vaccines as the protection Americans needed to minimize the risk of serious illness or death from Covid, and return life to normal. Our elderly and vulnerable complied, were vaccinated, and began to enjoy a return to a life of hugs and smiles. But the Centers for Disease Control announced recently that the indoor use of masks is necessary again because of the risk that a vaccinated person may get a new infection or pass Covid along to someone unvaccinated. So, we must do our part to “flatten the curve” and don the mask, right?
Holding them accountable
Well, not so fast. I think we have a right to ask questions this time. Questioning mask mandates is not minimizing the danger of Covid or partaking in partisan politics. It is holding government officials accountable for the dictates they pass along that have sweeping, destabilizing social consequences in real life.
Some might ask, “What’s the big deal about wearing a mask?” After all, it isn’t a big imposition on one’s personal freedom. But how would you feel if the government asked you to wear a dunce cap? When officials stoke irrational fear through confusing and contradictory CDC guidance, public confidence is eroded. What happened to common sense?
Meanwhile, while our government vacillates on Covid strategies, the toxic consequences of the 2020 lockdowns reverberate. What I saw from my travels last week in Chicago, Boston and New York has me worried. Business travel is not recovering to anything approximating pre-2020 levels. I saw boarded up, closed small businesses everywhere. A veteran employee of Hertz at O’Hare told me that they aren’t even at half of the business they once knew. The Courtyard Marriott manager in Elmhurst told me that he is below 50% occupancy; in Julys past, it was 75-100%. Same story in Boston. Logan airport on Friday afternoon was a ghost town compared to years past. In all three major cities, the TSA lines were five minutes or less.
Non-Covid casualties persist
Of course, all this information is anecdotal and unscientific. But it confirms my concerns that we haven’t fully understood the non-Covid casualties of sweeping, non-focused prevention efforts like the new mask imposition (which again is deterring the revival of DC’s downtown businesses). Yes, there is an appearance of economic prosperity in America owing to the trillions of dollars that Trump and Biden gave to individuals, small businesses, local governments, and large corporations.
But I have my doubts that underneath the sunny economic growth data is an underlying strength approaching anything like America knew pre-Covid. The pro- and anti-mask debate is a distraction from that major question. And only now are the evictions for millions of delinquent tenants beginning. I hope and pray I am wrong about what is ahead when the anesthesia of borrowed trillions and eviction embargoes wear off.
Life goes on
But on a brighter note, I also saw something beautiful last week – as I sat in Fenway Park. The stadium was nearly at capacity. We were all packed in together in the little, wooden seats in the vast grandstands that make a trip to this historic ballpark so nostalgic and special. People were happy to be together, outside, chatting, enjoying normalcy, experiencing human connection. The home team was losing 13-1 by the 7th inning and rain threatened, but no one had left. The only masks I saw were on the two catchers and the umpire. The vaccinated and naturally immune like me in attendance seemed to be buying what the beer and hot dog vendors had to offer – but not what the CDC was selling.