Talking Points

How vaccinated America has split over COVID

My big Friday night out this past week consisted of getting a COVID booster at a suburban Walmart.

As I was checking in at the pharmacy counter, one of the pharmacists wandered up and spoke to the woman who was helping me. "What's this?" he said. "First shot, Moderna? Second shot?" "Third shot," she answered, and they both looked surprised. I can't be sure, of course, but my educated guess is that the surprising thing was that I wanted a third shot yet attended my appointment unmasked.

Of course, to my mind, that combination makes sense. I went to the store unmasked because I'd had two COVID vaccines, was about to get a third, and wasn't sick. I am, in the phrase of a useful new article from The Atlantic's Derek Thompson, "vaxxed and done." I was eager to get vaccinated and was cautious before I did. I'm willing to wear a mask if required, especially in medical facilities and small businesses. And I would stay home or don a mask were I ill, particularly with COVID-like symptoms.

But outside of that? Well, I'll turn things over to Thompson, writing in character as a "vaxxed and done" American:

For more than a year, I did everything that public-health authorities told me to do. I wore masks. I canceled vacations. I made sacrifices. I got vaccinated. I got boosted. I'm happy to get boosted again. But this virus doesn't stop. Year over year, the infections don't decrease. Instead, virulence for people like me is decreasing, either because the virus is changing, or because of growing population immunity, or both. Americans should stop pointlessly guilting themselves about all these cases. In the past week, daily confirmed COVID cases per capita were higher than the U.S. in Ireland, Greece, Iceland, Denmark, France, the U.K., Spain, Portugal, Italy, Switzerland, and even Australia, one of the most COVID-cautious countries in the world. As the coronavirus continues its unstoppable march toward endemicity, our attitude toward the virus should follow a similar path toward stoicism. COVID is becoming something like the seasonal flu for most people who keep up with their shots, so I'm prepared to treat this like I've treated the flu: by basically not worrying about it and living my life normally. [Derek Thompson, The Atlantic]

This isn't exactly how I'd make the case for my current approach, but it's pretty close.

Yet I also want to turn things over to Thompson where opposition to this perspective is concerned. He describes a second broad stance of vaccinated Americans ("vaxxed and cautious") with equal clarity and — I think, though admittedly I'm assessing it from the outside — fairness.

Whether you're in one camp or the other or another place entirely, the whole piece is worth a read.