by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
As the Omicron variant rips through areas of the United States with among the highest vaccination rates in the world, it should be abundantly clear that we will not be able to “end” Covid. But we still have the power to end the “Covid zero” mentality.
The “Covid zero” mentality is an overriding belief that there is some ideal combination of government restrictions and personal behavioral changes that would enable us, in President Biden’s infamous words, to “shut down the virus.”
Ever since the federal, state, and local governments started taking aggressive action against Covid in March 2020, Americans have been taunted by the promise that if we could just get over one hump, Covid madness would be over. In practice, once we got to the top of one hump, another one became visible in the horizon. And then another one. And another one. And another one.
The initial “15 days to slow the spread” is now used only as a punchline. That’s because it ended up getting extended to six weeks, and then months, and for children who were shut out of schools in many parts of the country, over a year. While the slogan may now be treated as an artifact, the central conceit of “15 days to slow the spread” is still with us. That conceit is that if Americans only sacrifice normalcy for a certain period of time, Covid will be over.
When he entered office, Biden called on Americans to wear a mask for just 100 days as a “patriotic duty.” The resulting executive order requiring masks for travel has already been extended to at least next March (over 400 days from his initial regulation). When vaccines became available to everybody who wanted them in the spring, that was also supposed to be the end point.