Talking Points

The problem with the 'vaxxed and done' convo

Here's the problem with all the recent "vaxxed and done" discourse: While my pandemic may be over, ours isn't.

Like a lot of Americans, I'm vaxxed and boosted, and so is everybody in my household. My son goes to middle school every day and my wife works in a grocery store, so I assume the virus is coming home sooner or later — but I'm not too worried about it. Even as the Omicron variant surges and breakthrough infections rise, vaccinated people are pretty much staying out of the hospital.  My family has done what we reasonably can to protect our health and lives. Under "vaxxed and done" logic, we should be free to return to some kind of normal, right? 

But things aren't normal in my mid-sized community, and in lots of communities around the United States. My kid is in school, but thousands of his fellow students aren't. (The same is true in New York, where about 70 percent of students are showing up for class.) My favorite coffee shop has reverted to carryout-only service; the baristas were scrambling to find at-home tests to help ensure they were safe to keep serving the public. The same is true of a few other businesses. Most distressingly, the local hospital — like hospitals around the country — is swamped, struggling to keep up with a wave of COVID patients. This is a bad time to have a heart attack or a car wreck. 

I'm fine. But we aren't. And because we aren't, my life can't go entirely back to normal.

That's frustrating for a lot of folks who — having done the right thing and gotten all their shots — are ready to move on. "The medical establishment remains singularly focused on this virus, even as life-saving vaccines have been available to every adult in America who wants them for almost a year now," the writer Bari Weiss grumbled in her latest Substack column. "Meanwhile, other problems go ignored." She's vaxxed, she's done, and she's not entirely wrong. 

But if the medical establishment is "singularly focused" on COVID despite the availability of vaccines, that's because there's not much choice. More than 1,700 Americans died of the coronavirus on Tuesday, a 40 percent increase over two weeks ago. Another 140,000 were hospitalized with the virus — an 84 percent increase — and while those hospitalizations might be shorter than in previous waves, that's still an incredible drain on our collective medical resources. A lot of the "vaxxed and done" conversation treats our groaning healthcare system as an afterthought.

I'm not sure how to resolve the tensions between "I'm fine" and "we're not," except to hope the Omicron surge passes quickly. In the meantime, an old truism bears repeating: We may be done with COVID. I certainly am. But it is not done with us yet.