The focus, instead, is on Americans who have had enough of Covid-19 and the safety measures imposed because of it. By March 26, every state will have dispensed with indoor mask mandates. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concurs, recommending masks only for the 7 percent of Americans who live in high-risk counties.
The number of immuno-compromised individuals is consistently underestimated at 7 million (not including children). However, when you add up the numbers of people who suffer from specific diseases that compromise the immune system—organ and stem cell transplant recipients, cancer patients, those with primary immunodeficiency, individuals treated with immunosuppressive medications, and those with autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease, among others—the number is much higher. The National Institutes of Health says that at least 23.5 million Americans suffer from autoimmune diseases.
Immuno-compromised people are at high risk for serious illness and death if they contract COVID-19, even after full vaccination plus a booster, because their immune systems don't produce a strong response to the vaccines. A 2021 study showed only about 56 percent of immuno-compromised people developed an adequate level of protection against COVID-19.
Nevertheless, the CDC, state governors and the Biden White House, intimidated by the loud, shrill and hysterical protests of anti-vaxxers, anti-maskers and members of the Trump MAGA-verse, have announced that the pandemic is effectively over and that we all can dispense with the safety measures we have been living under for two years. This amounts to nothing less than rampant discrimination directed at and contempt for the immuno-compromised. Our political leaders and the CDC have washed their hands of the people at the highest risk of contracting the virus and of hospitalization and death. In proclaiming its relaxation of safety measures, the CDC lamely suggests that the immuno-compromised “talk to their health care provider(s)” about what to do to stay safe.
Thus, the immuno-compromised have no choice but to continue to live under the former Covid-19 restrictions: masking, social distancing, staying outside, avoiding crowds, etc. But that will serve them not at all if the rest of the community runs around free of such common sense restraints and potentially able to transmit the virus to others. Moreover, many immuno-compromised individuals will wrongly believe that they too can dispense with all Covid-19 restrictions.
The reality is that the pandemic is not over. A new sub-variant of the Omicron variant, designated BA.2, is sweeping across Asia and Europe and causing skyrocketing Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations. At this writing, 30 percent of new Covid cases in the U.S. are attributed to BA.2. It is only a matter of time—and a very short time at that--that BA.2 will entrench itself in the U.S. and cases will once more begin to rise. And that is only the next new variant to impact us. More will likely follow.
Our federal and state governments are failing us once again when it comes to tackling the worst pandemic in a century. While President Trump botched the original battle to contain the virus by his stunning ignorance, monumental incompetence and advocacy of ridiculous and dangerous “cures” such as drinking bleach, we expect more from the Biden administration. Especially since the hacks and buffoons that populated the political and public health communities under Trump have been replaced by seemingly competent professionals with unassailable pedigrees.
Sadly, these seemingly capable leaders who should know better have once again allowed politics to prevail over public health. This is unfortunately underscored by a feckless Congress unwilling to enact legislation currently before it to fund public health preparedness for the next pandemic. This head-in-the-sand irresponsibility is reminiscent of the Trump administration’s negligent deep-sixing of the offices and planning documents it inherited that outlined the steps to be taken in the event of a pandemic threat.
For millions of vulnerable people, COVID-19 is far from over. Soon that may also be the case for the entire population. When that happens, reimposing safety measures will be extremely difficult if not impossible. The consequences of allowing politics to overpower public health will be dire.
March 18, 2022