by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
We’re just a couple months into the year and 2021 is already looking better than 2020. COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are all falling as multiple vaccines are approved and being administered. The distribution system is not perfect, and improvements are needed, but in general, the news is good and hopeful. Americans are looking forward to getting vaccinated and getting back into the regular swing of life.
The message from the Centers from Disease Control, however, is: “not so fast.” In contrast to the rising hopes of most Americans, Dr. Anthony Fauci is preaching more caution, more isolation, and more of the same. “There are things, even if you’re vaccinated, that you’re not going to be able to do in society,” Fauci said last Monday in a White House briefing. “For example, indoor dining, theaters, places where people congregate. That’s because of the safety of society.”
People have largely followed the CDC’s advice on the pandemic, in part because they believed it was valid, and in part because many states’ governors used it to guide their emergency decrees that carried the force of law. …
… Science and public sentiment are aligned in saying that people who are vaccinated are safe from COVID. That is, in fact, the point of a vaccine, and studies continue to show that these particular vaccines are all very successful at that task.
As public sentiment diverges from the law, the law becomes irrelevant. Many pandemic mandates were already difficult to enforce and relied on the public agreeing to follow them. Even backed up by the state’s monopoly on the use of force, they will be irrelevant without widespread public buy-in.
Laws can sometimes change behavior at the margins, but only if they are enforced and the idea of law is respected.