It’s been an eventful Covid-19 week.
To clear up two spreading misconceptions, per Apoorva Mandavilli’s “As Infections Rise, C.D.C. Urges Some Vaccinated Americans to Wear Masks Again (The New York Times, July 27th), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “said on Tuesday that people vaccinated against the coronavirus should resume wearing masks in public indoor spaces in parts of the country where the virus is surging.” That organization neither ordered Americans to comply nor suggested that for the entire country. It released the following map, and said that those fully vaccinated in the counties colored blue or yellow need not resume wearing masks:
The orange and red counties were those with 50 new recent weekly cases per 100,000 in population. Businesses are still free to name their own masking policies, but in the safer counties this pronouncement should not encourage them to reinstate such requirements.
“Will the Delta Variant Wreck the Recovery?” That was the title of a July 28th New York Times piece, in which author Neil Irwin attempted to judge that. First, though, according to “Flush with COVID stimulus money and boosted by reopenings, the U.S. economy grew sharply in the spring but slower than projected” (Paul Davidson, USA Today, July 29th), our gross domestic product gained 6.5%, annually and seasonally adjusted, in the second calendar quarter. That did not match 8.5% forecasts, but is still strongly positive, given that, per Davidson, we still have “supply chain bottlenecks” and “shortages of materials and workers.”
Irwin, though, missed the point. He said that this more contagious coronavirus version could have the effect of “throwing sand in the gears,” even though business is continuing, feared damage if “schools were to return to remote learning” when the C.D.C. recently announced that they would not need to, and “that the pandemic policy story… is starting to repeat itself,” when it does not even approach that. We have enough problems dealing with reasonable fears to add others.
However, we do have a sort of time bomb now set and ready to go off, as described in “The Delta variant is jeopardizing the economic recovery, but Congress isn’t budging as 20 million workers are set to lose unemployment aid” (Juliana Caplan and Joseph Zeballos-Roig, Yahoo News, July 27th). That many “are poised to lose all jobless aid on Labor Day,” and the current 8 or 9 million advertised positions aren’t enough. Expect much more on this issue over the next week or two, including continuation proposals.
The special pandemic problems of an unusual place make up “How to Reopen a Festival City When a Virus Lurks: Very Anxiously” (Katy Rockdahl, The New York Times, July 25th). New Orleans, with an economy heavily dependent on close-quarters face-to-face activities, has an above-average vaccination rate, but also vast numbers of visitors of unknown status. Ultimately, concerns there are only a more intense version of those elsewhere, in response to which getting the shots is even more important.
Consistent with conversations I have had with other fully inoculated people, I agree with David Frum that “Vaccinated America Has Had Enough” (The Atlantic, July). Indeed, “this pandemic could be almost over by now,” and “the reasons it’s still going are pretty clear,” namely “vaccine resistance among conservative, evangelical, and rural Americans.” I don’t fault the last set as much as the other two, since people living in the country are often isolated and get into contact with a small and limited set of others, resulting in tiny numbers of new Covid-19 cases – for verification of that, see the concentration of blue-colored counties in the Great Plains – but the other two have been a national embarrassment. They remind me of the church sign I saw which ended by saying that if you want to meet Jesus now, text while driving, and have made a mockery of calls to “make America great again.” See the Northeast region above, and imagine the entire country like that – that’s what imprudent people have blocked.
I end with a pungent and remarkably humorous July 26th article by Ryan Cooper, “Is the American economy about to fall back into the pandemic pit?,” in The Week. That magazine usually reviews news and commentary from elsewhere, but went beyond that here. As you have seen I don’t think our economy will do any such thing, but I enjoyed reading “as infrastructure negotiations drag on interminably, depressing liberal base voters about the dysfunctional U.S. political system,” “you should never underestimate the irresponsibility of the conservative propaganda apparatus” as shown by “months and months of deranged anti-vaccine propaganda,” “for decades the hegemonic view among American political elites has been that the government needs to force people to work,” and, my favorite, “seemingly all it took for the entire political establishment of both parties to abandon (the $300 federal unemployment supplement) was a handful of restaurant owners whining on television that they couldn’t find enough workers at the wages they were offering.” Whether you agree or disagree – and I did both while reading Cooper’s piece – I hope you too want to see more from this man.