The coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage American lives and the American economy. Since the beginning of August, more than 1,000 people have died each day.
During the Democratic National Convention, party leaders have hammered President Trump on this failure. "Today, America has the most COVID deaths in the world, and an economic collapse," Elizabeth Warren said rightly in a speech Wednesday. "This crisis is bad, and it didn't have to be this way." Yet there has been comparatively little discussion of what must happen for the United States to actually contain the pandemic. There are two possibilities: If there is a vaccine by January 2021, then it must be distributed and administered to something like 300 million people. If there is no reliable vaccine by then, then we must go through the whole lockdown and buildup of test-trace-isolate systems from scratch. Those are the only options.
Either possibility presents major challenges. Vaccine denial is a gigantic and growing problem, particularly on the extreme right. QAnon fanatics have spread misinformation far and wide, and several believers have recently won congressional primaries. Fully 40 percent of Americans now say they will not get a coronavirus vaccine. It may be necessary to address the plague of conspiracy theories before we can get to the actual plague — perhaps by direct regulations, or perhaps by slapping strict content and anti-trust regulations on YouTube and Facebook, whose mindless algorithms are spreading this toxic stuff like wildfire.
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If there is no vaccine, President Biden will have to set up a big, complicated containment bureaucracy at the same time he is fixing the smoking ruin of the federal bureaucracy. It will be uncomfortable and people will hate it, and it will be necessary to convince people to go along with the containment for it to work. Yet so far Democrats have not mentioned the possibility at all. It doesn't bode well for a COVID-19 free future.
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