I think I’m more pissed off now than when COVID-19 first sent us all scurrying into hidey-holes. Despite the coronavirus continuing to spread, mutate, and kill, it seems like the country has moved on and let at-risk populations live in isolation and fear.
Here in Harris County, we’re still averaging between 1,000 and 2,000 new cases a day. That’s thankfully a drop from January when it was ten times that high, but it’s still the second worst summer so far by numbers. Vaccination rates have brought our deaths down to nearly nothing, which is good, but every fresh case is a gamble on the virus mutating into something the vaccines can’t handle. It’s not exactly comforting that President Joe Biden, one of the best protected men in the world and chocked full of boosters, has a rebound case of COVID.
I live with a person on immune system suppressant medication. On top of that, she works in a neo-natal intensive care unit. If she gets sick, not only is she in severe danger to herself, but she risks passing it on to very fragile babies. She caught non-COVID related pneumonia earlier this year and almost died.
For over two years now, we’ve lived mostly like hermits. There was a brief spell last May when we felt safe enough to spend a few days in Galveston and even ate in restaurants inside. Aside from one concert and a play where we knew they were checking vaccine passports at the door, we’ve barely left the house. Movies? Gone. A friend’s parents want to take my child bowling? No. I’ve missed two Christmases with my aging parents, and I will almost certainly miss this one as well.
I do go out to the grocery store, though, and to pick up take-out. When that happens, barely anyone is bothering to wear a mask. I’ve slowly had to weed independent eateries off my list because they tend to be the ones who least enforce waitstaff and cooks masking, but the national chains aren’t doing much either. Everyone seems so glad to have put that (insert sarcasm) terrible restrictions on our freedoms behind us.
Wherever you went, there used to be hand sanitizer by the door. More often than not, those bottles are empty now, and the tops are dusty. When you ask if someone has some, they roll their eyes or look at you like you’re a little kid who wants to leave the closet light on.
In an election year when all the Republicans are betting that moving further right will keep them in power, anything that remotely resembles public safety is a non-starter, but the federal government is not exactly pushing back either. The Biden Administration has put all their efforts into getting vaccination boosters up, which is needed, but they’re also looking at when they can call COVID officially over. Currently, that would be around 200 deaths a day, according to some people familiar with the matter.
That corpse algebra from the White House is probably much more generous than what the general public is using, especially in Texas. All precautions have become vestigial. The only people left participating are those at most risk of being one of those two hundred a day.
There was a time when it seemed like America might have a change of attitude. The toxic individualism that dominates everything gave way, just a little, to the possibility that we are our brother’s keeper. So little was asked of us: masking, hand washing, social distance, get a shot. These were minor inconvenience that allowed vulnerable people to live lives to the fullest.
The way it looks these days, America had enough of that commie nonsense. Millions of at-risk people stuck in quarantine is an acceptable price for the freedom of not giving a shit, same as it ever was.