‘Normal’ in a Time of (Still) COVID

Brian Beutler notes what should be obvious to professional Democrats, but isn’t (boldface mine):

One of the biggest problems with the normalcy bug is that it’s an unwise promise to make because it’s a difficult promise to keep. Events are unpredictable; the forces that thrive on chaos and unpleasantness are impossible to control…

Democrats’ evident desperation to turn the page on the pandemic before conditions are actually normal underscores the folly of thinking of normal as a performance people want to watch, rather than the backdrop they want for their personal and political lives.

Whatever benefit Democrats think they’ve derived from, say, staging a State of the Union address without requiring anyone to wear a mask, they’ve more lastingly created a fog of cognitive dissonance that makes governing much harder than it should be. At the level of individual Democrats, it means a bunch of important people, including people very close to President Biden, have contracted COVID in the past couple weeks. At the collective level, their panicky consensus that mitigating the pandemic has become bad politics, and their ensuing abandonment of war footing, have transformed voting for pandemic mitigation measures from core obligations to matters of discretion (which are kind of a drag). And in their haste, they’ve allowed coverage mandates to lapse, and failed to pass critical legislation to pay for testing and vaccines.

Playacting normal this way amounts to rolling the dice that normal will materialize on its own. Maybe there won’t be another big COVID-19 wave; maybe Democrats will get it together and renew these pandemic-mitigation measures. But they made a choice to stop treating the pandemic as an emergency, they’ve thus embraced the arbitrary stipulation that pandemic-mitigation measures must be paid for, and that naturally has made passing legislation much harder.

And as with most gambles, it’s easy to imagine things going terribly wrong. What will Democrats do if there’s another big Omicron wave (or if a new, worse variant emerges) and it sweeps through the country without the necessary funds and protections in place? What if an elderly, unmasked Senate Democrat gets a particularly bad breakthrough infection?…

In erecting an artifice of normalcy, they’ve set themselves up for big, preventable failures.

And Beutler didn’t even mention long COVID:

Where I disagree with Emanuel is, while we might not definitively know the answer, we have reasonable evidence to date to think that one to two percent of people who have received two doses* come down with either chronic fatigue or mental disability (it’s likely double that for unvaccinated people, so get your damn shots). That’s not definite, but it seems like a reasonable working prior, though some would argue for a higher percentage than that.

Instead of acting on that preliminary assumption, our political betters are assuming long COVID in vaccinated people approaches zero.

From a political perspective, since it seems like the Biden Administration has given up on trying to prevent infection, this could mean millions of disabled people–people, who if we took limiting infection more seriously, might not become disabled.

This could blow up politically. In a functional political system, it would blow up politically. How this ends well without serious attempts to limit spread–something the U.S. has abandoned–escapes me.

You can’t bullshit the virus. It’s going to do what we let it do, attempts at ‘normalcy’ notwithstanding. And I don’t think this is something you want to go into the midterms with either.

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