Letter: Hankering for ‘normal’ in an uncertain world
As omicron infection, hospitalization and death rates continue to fall around most of the nation (sorry, Maine), all sorts of mandates are ending for masking in stores and schools, restrictions on public gatherings and vaccinations.
And rather than rejoice at this newfound freedom and return to normal, I cannot shake the feeling that these announcements are not driven only by science, but also by politics. And that makes me wonder if we’re moving too fast.
We’re on the tail-end of the omicron surge, which is vanishing as rapidly as it swept through the country. But this is probably not the end of this sorry saga. Anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers constitute a large opportunity for COVID (or any other virus or bacterial infection) to continue to infect new victims, and mutate into new variations.
Which brings me to a final point: Although we’ve learned a lot in dealing with COVID-19, we’re not really ready for the next bug that is certain to emerge. It isn’t a matter of whether or not it can happen, but when and where.
We need early detection and monitoring around the world. We need international treaties about responding to epidemics, using the full range of tools like lockdowns, masking, travel restrictions, and crash vaccination development. An international pool of money should be ready to “hold harmless” the initial countries that have a new disease, so they won’t hesitate to act quickly and forcefully.
International teams of first responders need to be assembled, trained, equipped and prepared to sweep down into any village or elite neighborhood where a new disease first appears.
Massive investments need to be made in public health departments, at every level of government, so we have contact tracking, testing and vaccination programs ready to roll, as soon as vaccinations become available. Public health education is a priority, as is cracking down on misinformation and disinformation that is causing thousands and millions to die.
I’d also like to see massive and widespread use of vaccine passports, as basic to anyone being admitted to a school, university, store, entertainment venue, or government building. If that sounds discriminatory, yes, it is. Don’t like it? Tough. Get the jab.
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