The pandemic is over: Time to return to normal

The pandemic is over.  This statement might seem counter-intuitive, as COVID cases are on the rise and the Delta mutation is sweeping through the state, but it is the truth.  The pandemic is over, and it is time for life to return to normal.

At this point, half of the Missouri population is vaccinated, but the number of vaccinations does not accurately represent the risk still facing the general public.  The people who are most at risk from the virus, those individuals over the age of 65, are vaccinated at a rate somewhere between 75–85%.  According to the CDC, almost 80% of all the deaths from COVID in the country came from people within this demographic.  So if our at-risk population is vaccinated at such a high rate, why should everyone else continue to worry?

A lot of the public hand-wringing over COVID comes from a poor grasp of the actual risk factors associated with the virus.  Less than 3% of all the deaths from COVID in the U.S. occurred in people under the age of 45.  Fifty-seven percent of Missouri's population falls within this age bracket.  Almost all cases of severe illness experienced by people under 45 included numerous comorbidities such as obesity, diabetes, and hypertension.  In other words, if you are young and healthy, the risk of being hospitalized or dying from COVID has always been remote

Mask mandates, lockdowns, and vaccine passports should be off the table indefinitely.  If a person is vaccinated, the virus poses him almost no risk of severe illness or death.  If someone has chosen to remain unvaccinated, despite the fact that the vaccine is now widely available, then the rest of society should not be expected to mask for his benefit.  The population that makes up the unvaccinated and the people who oppose further government intervention overlap heavily.  The government should not attempt to impose its will on people who explicitly do not wish to be protected.  People are capable of assessing their own risk factors and deciding what to do with their health, and governmental paternalism is not needed, nor is it appreciated.

Let us look at the risk the unvaccinated present to those who chose to get the jab.  Breakthrough cases of COVID, despite the fact that they are becoming more prevalent, remain rare.  Those who do come down with an illness after vaccination tend to experience mild symptoms.  Of the 164 million people in the country who have been vaccinated against COVID, there have been only 1,500 deaths.  This means that the odds of dying from COVID post-vaccination are less than 0.0001%.  The unvaccinated pose no threat to those who have chosen to get vaccinated.  Segregating our society by vaccine status, via vaccine passports, is both divisive and unnecessary.

The peak week for COVID deaths in the United States came back in January of 2021, when 25 thousand people died in a single week.  Last week, that number was down to 1,600.  This 15-fold improvement cannot be overstated.  In Missouri, 116 people died of COVID last week, which is not nothing but is much less than the height of the pandemic, when that number was 600.  This is even less than the numbers from mid-July, which were closer to 150.  This drop in deaths mirrors data from other countries, such as the U.K., and suggests that we may already be on the downslope of the delta mutation.  When the inevitable Echo, Foxtrot, and Golf mutations of the virus surface, Missouri will get through those as well.

If the goal of those in power is to see the virus eradicated entirely, it is a goal that is bound to fail.  The government cannot mandate its way to zero COVID, and it is misguided to think otherwise.  With booster shots for the vaccinated on the horizon, COVID appears poised to remain a daily part of life for the foreseeable future.  Mask mandates, lockdowns, and being forced to show your papers in public are not the answer for how to live moving forward.  Learning to assess personal risk factors accurately, trusting in the protection the vaccine provides, and working on improving individual immune systems are the best things we can do to mitigate future risks.

Tyler C. Chrestman is the host of the Chrestman Conversation podcast and blog.

Image: Pixabay, Pixabay License.

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