I realize “we” is an overstatement, but a recent story about Americans who won’t eat out or fly until herd immunity arrives illustrates a very important point (boldface mine):
A growing share of Americans would feel safe resuming activities like dining out or flying within a few weeks of their second dose of COVID-19 vaccine, but about 25% to 30% would wait until the nation reaches herd immunity, according to a Harris Poll survey for USA TODAY.
Their attitudes bode well for what’s expected to be a historically robust recovery from the coronavirus recession. But the sizeable share of people who prefer to wait until at least 70% of the population is immune could mean a less roaring launch to the rebound as some activity shifts to late summer and fall from midyear.
Leaving aside the focus on the economy and not, let’s say, dead and disabled people, when you read the entire story, the prevalence of COVID-19 (how many people are currently infected) is nowhere to be found. That’s obviously not the only consideration, but if the prevalence is low–and I obviously hope it will be–then lots of activities become far safer.
There has been a real failure, going back to the initial policy wonks whose ideas were adopted in the fourteen day declines, to explain to people that part of assessing risk for behaviors needs to be based on prevalence. State and local governments, which devised various thresholds, only to ignore them, haven’t helped either.
For me, I’ll be far more focused on the prevalence of COVID-19–which, in D.C., is far too damn high–than my vaccine status (though I would love to get vaccinated). For example, I won’t return to the gym, which I really want and need to do, until I’m vaccinated and the prevalence is somewhere around one daily new case per 100,000 people (D.C. is currently around fifteen times higher than that) based on what was observed in Oslo, Norway last year.
I’m hopeful that, as vaccination increases, prevalence will continue to drop, but that’s not a given. As far as I can tell, most local officials aren’t even considering prevalence in their plans to reopen. That’s what should be driving policy and behavior until we are fully* vaccinated.
*For whatever definition of ‘fully’ floats your boat.