First, I want to give credit to Roy Cooper and Mandy Cohen for managing the pandemic in North Carolina. Our state has done far better controlling the spread of the virus than our neighbors, particularly those to the South. The administration has made tough decisions against harsh criticism from the right and now those decisions have proven to have saved lives. Over the duration of the pandemic, our case rates, hospitalization rates, and death rates are all lower than South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee and about equal to Virginia. They are much lower than states in the deep South and Florida.
The states with the most deaths, cases, and hospitalizations are all run by Republicans. Conservatives have been wrong about the disease and the spread since day one. It’s not like the flu. Masks and social distancing do work to reduce transmission. And pressuring people to get vaccinated is a solid strategy. Waiting for natural herd immunity without mandates and regulations would have caused a lot more death and illness.
Republicans who argue that businesses should be able to discriminate against people because of their sexuality demand that we don’t discriminate against people who won’t protect others from a deadly disease. Being gay is neither contagious nor a choice. Being unvaccinated is certainly a choice and the unvaccinated may be contagious. Republicans are neither consistent nor logical in their opposition to measures to control the spread of the pandemic. They are just consistently wrong.
That said, we are on the back side of the pandemic. While the Delta variant may cause problems, the current pandemic is among the unvaccinated. One in three new cases is in either Texas or Florida where Republican governors have done all they can to keep COVID alive and well, even if they haven’t done much for their people. We don’t need to be overcautious as we try to return to normal.
There’s also evidence that the virus may be in retreat in general. David Leonhardt of the New York Times writes that the Delta variant in India and Britain petered out for no apparent reason. An outbreak in Canada and the upper Midwest this spring seemed poised to spread to rest of the country, but didn’t. He notes that viruses often DO just go away, even if masking and social distancing can slow their spread.
Leonhardt’s article also gives guidance about schools. Serious cases among children is still extremely rare. For people under 18 years old, the flu and pneumonia are greater risks than COVID, even with the Delta variant. Curbing our children’s education is a greater long term risk to them than exposure to the virus in the classroom, especially if schools will require personnel to get vaccinated.
The greatest protector against the virus is the vaccine and everything else pales. While masks and social distancing can help reduce transmission, they can’t stop the virus. Using coercive measures that don’t violate rights are common sense strategies to get the population protected. People who refuse to get vaccinated should be isolated from those who do. Vaccines should be required in the workplace, in bars and restaurants, in athletic events, concerts, and any other place with large crowds. People who would prefer to take their chances with the virus need to understand that’s their choice and the rest of choose not to be around them.
Again, Cooper and Cohen have successfully guided North Carolina through a perilous pandemic. As it comes to a slow end, let’s hope that they continue to make the right choices. So far, they appear to be doing so, taking cautious steps to returning to normal while putting the onus on the unvaccinated to do the right thing. And let’s remember, if Republicans had controlled the executive branch, a lot more North Carolinians would be dead. Elections do make a difference.