Joining the war on COVID

Humanity can blunt the impact of Omicron and other variants — if we all do our part

A person wearing a mask.
(Image credit: PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

I am sick of the pandemic. You are sick of the pandemic. We are all very, very sick of the pandemic. It seemed last spring that vaccination might soon end this ordeal … and then, Delta brought a huge new wave of misery and death, nearly all of it among the unvaccinated. Booster shots seemed to promise a real measure of freedom going into this winter … and now Omicron may (or may not) set us back again. Viruses are microscopic bits of parasitic proteins that exist only to replicate themselves, but natural selection makes them a formidable, shape-shifting enemy. As it mutates and spreads from person to person and continent to continent, SARS-CoV-2 doesn't care if we're weary of the fight; in fact, when potential human hosts act as if the pandemic were over, they do the virus a great favor. Even before Omicron reared its ugly, mutated head, COVID was still killing more than 1,200 Americans a day — a rate of more than 430,000 deaths a year. In 1943, everyone was no doubt sick of World War II. But one side cannot call the end of a war and expect peace to follow. This pandemic is a war between all of humanity and an invading virus. Human beings are smarter (or should be); less than a year after a new virus began its assault, science, medicine, and government had devised, manufactured, and started distributing billions of doses of a weapon exquisitely designed to neutralize SARS-CoV-2. But millions of people have refused to enlist in the battle, and the vaccines have thus far failed to reach large swaths of the population. Given time and opportunity, the enemy continues to evolve new weapons of its own. Our frustration and impatience won't change reality. So let's put our big-boy and big-girl pants on and do what's necessary to end this damn pandemic. Get vaccinated. Get boosted. Wear masks in indoor public places. Don't spread the virus. Join the war effort.

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William Falk

William Falk is editor-in-chief of The Week, and has held that role since the magazine's first issue in 2001. He has previously been a reporter, columnist, and editor at the Gannett Westchester Newspapers and at Newsday, where he was part of two reporting teams that won Pulitzer Prizes.