by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Probably before the summer is out, Biden will be under pressure to declare the pandemic over — with some caveat about monitoring variants as we head into winter.
The Biden White House knows it cannot bring Democrats through congressional elections or launch its own presidential reelection campaign without declaring such an end. Especially not if Red America is enjoying post-COVID life in Florida and Texas, while all the purple and blue states remain gagged, hiding their children behind plexiglass. …
… But as we come to an end, we have a lot of tough questions to ask. Were our interventions any good? Some of the incoming data is enough to make you wonder about any human plans. Texas opening, dropping mask mandates, and allowing a packed Opening Day of baseball was associated with no increase in COVID — a decrease continued apace. It was also associated with no serious economic or employment benefit. The CDC’s own 2020 study of mask mandates claimed a “statistically significant” result in their favor; it was less than 2 percent. And the study didn’t even do a great job of assessing all the factors that go into spread.
If U.S. pharmaceutical companies, with their foreign partners, hadn’t produced massive amounts of massively effective vaccines, how would the pandemic have ended? At a certain point, a kind of existing pandemic investment seemed to determine the rest of this era’s course. We had settled on a strategy of haphazard and not strictly enforced closures and distancing. Limiting, but not closing, travel. Declaring this strategy an outright failure, or just abandoning it as too psychologically and economically costly, would have been too painful. We probably needed the vaccines to rescue us from the sunk-cost fallacy. …
… Before there is another pandemic, we’re going to need to learn a bit more about the failures in this one.