March 10, 2020: The start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was Purim Day. At that time, we had no clue what was going to be coming our way for the next 15 months and counting. It’s true that there were some communities that saw the effects of COVID prior to Purim, and others that would not see the effects until a week or two later, but that was the day that many, especially in our communities, remember the pandemic starting.
March 11, 2021: One year later, almost to the day, President Joe Biden says the words, “There is light at the end of the tunnel.” In telling us that the light is visible and we’re almost there, President Biden made the point that we are closer to the end of the COVID pandemic than we are to the start of it. Exactly one year after the start of a global crisis that has taken the lives of a reported 3.2 million people and inching closer to 600,000 in the United States alone, we have been told that we are more than 50% of the way done with it.
It is now two months later and there is no reason to believe that this is true. Since Biden made the announcement, vaccination rates have all but stalled. ABC News reported that at this point, herd immunity is not a possibility; there are not enough adults who have been vaccinated at this point that we will be able to hit the 75% threshold for immunity once children are able to get it. As a result, most epidemiologists and public health officials are no longer confident that we will ever hit herd immunity. Dr. Anthony Fauci has told us that we are in the bottom of the sixth inning of COVID. That’s about 70-75% through. If Dr. Fauci is correct, we should be back to 100% by October or November of 2021.
But this does not take the high likelihood of extra-innings into account. If the reports of the inability of herd immunity are correct, as sports and concert venues open, as restaurants return to full capacity, as teacher unions allow schools to begin welcoming students back, there will be more outbreaks - and these will happen before we are at 100%. Local governments know this; they are preparing for this. The reason many areas are not at 100% right now is because the government knows that once the cap is open, the toothpaste will remain out of the tube. If they send us back to pre-COVID levels, it will be much harder to reinstate the rules. Right now, there are many who are disobeying the rules in place. If we were to roll back the rules now, the government know that once the gathering rules are reinstated, there will be far more who do not follow them.
This is why I was skeptical when Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on April 29 that New York City will be 100% open on July 1. The Mayor’s office has yet to clarify what 100% means. Will masks be required? Will camps have restrictions? Does the 100% include unvaccinated people? And since that announcement, there has been no further clarification on any of this. It has been quiet. They realize what allowing us to go back to our lives will mean. And they are scared.
It is no wonder we still hear ridiculous anti-science guidelines and restrictions coming out across the nation. From the high school wrestling league that allows full body contact but disallows handshaking, to the Washington DC mandate against dancing at weddings, to the fact that President Biden wore a mask on a Zoom meeting, the government shows no signs of getting us over the finish line.
The reasoning for all of this is the stagnation of the vaccine rollout. Right now, there are enough vaccines in circulation to inoculate close to 90% of the adult population in this country. But we are stuck at under 50%. That’s because the messaging of this administration has never once been that if you get the vaccine, we can go back to normal life. We have exclusively been told that even after we get the vaccine, we will have to wear a mask. The likelihood of contracting a fatal case of COVID after being fully inoculated is almost zero. There has yet to be a reported case of someone dying from COVID after being two-weeks post second dose. We take riskier behaviors every time we get behind the wheel of a car. Yet we cannot unmask in large crowds.
The mere fact that as of today we are not anywhere close to being out of the woods should cause serious doubt if any of the targets previously stated will be met: July 1 in New York City, October or November in Fauci World, or even March 10, 2022. None of these seem like a possibility right now. The hope is that this is wrong, and we should all be anxiously waiting for anything out of the Biden, de Blasio, or Fauci administrations that will show us this is wrong. Until then, we shall remain slaves to our governmental overlords.
Izzo Zwiren is the host of The Jewish Living Podcast, where he and his guests delve into any and all areas of Orthodox Judaism.