Opinion

Authentic liberty

The U.S. is beating COVID because of rational compliance, not irrational defiance

Liberty. It's busting out all over. Isn't it glorious? Vaccinated people are pouring into the streets and parks, their unmasked faces radiating joy and relief. Friends are hugging. Kids are racing into grandparents' eager arms. Restaurants and bars are booming again. Baseball and basketball stadiums are putting real fans in the seats instead of cardboard cutouts. Concerts and theater are coming back. Some of us are even looking forward to returning to our offices and escaping the sterile, one-dimensional jail cell of screens and video conferences. Our rebirth is hard-won, purchased by a year of mask wearing, distancing, and limited socializing, which curtailed the virus' spread while we waited for vaccines. Those precautions, epidemiologists say, prevented tens of millions of additional COVID cases in the U.S. and more than 1 million additional deaths. To see what a no-mask, no-­restriction America could have been, take a look at Brazil and India, where COVID races through the population like wildfire, lighting innumerable funeral pyres and filling acres of mass graves.

Our wait for vaccines has been rewarded with a near-­miracle. Real-world data shows that, so far, the vaccines are 99.9 percent effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths. New COVID cases and deaths have dropped to levels not seen since the early days of the pandemic. But because this is America, lifesaving vaccines desperately sought around the world have been ensnared in issues of class, race, and political tribe: Many blue states have double the vaccination rate of several red states in the South, where roughly 2 in 3 people remain unvaccinated and the virus is still finding unprotected new hosts. But for now, let us be grateful to science and to one another for the heroic sacrifices we've made for the common good. This has been nothing less than a war, with terrible casualties. We have not yet beaten COVID, but we are winning. L'Chaim. Salud. To life.

This article was first published in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more like it, you can try six risk-free issues of the magazine here.

More From...

Picture of William FalkWilliam Falk
Read All
The limits of power
Soldiers.
Opinion

The limits of power

How fiascos happen
President Biden.
Opinion

How fiascos happen

Rage is in the air
A speeding car.
Opinion

Rage is in the air

The 'natural' fallacy
The plague.
Opinion

The 'natural' fallacy

Recommended

FDA panel rejects Pfizer boosters for people 16 and older
Pfizer vaccine
no can do

FDA panel rejects Pfizer boosters for people 16 and older

6 lions, 3 tigers at the National Zoo are being treated for COVID-19
Sumatran tiger.
zoonotic

6 lions, 3 tigers at the National Zoo are being treated for COVID-19

Idaho doctors and nurses 'beyond frustrated' by COVID misinformation
Nurses.
the fourth wave

Idaho doctors and nurses 'beyond frustrated' by COVID misinformation

Facebook found 41 percent of comments on vaccine posts 'risked discouraging vaccinations'
Facebook
cesspool

Facebook found 41 percent of comments on vaccine posts 'risked discouraging vaccinations'

Most Popular

Did Theranos Lose Afghanistan?
Elizabeth Holmes and James Mattis.
Samuel Goldman

Did Theranos Lose Afghanistan?

How Newsom ran away with the recall
Gavin Newsom.
Picture of David FarisDavid Faris

How Newsom ran away with the recall

France says it killed ISIS Africa leader in 'decisive blow against this terrorist group'
France announces ISIS death
ISIS

France says it killed ISIS Africa leader in 'decisive blow against this terrorist group'