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February 14, 2022

In Brief: Open Everything

The time to end pandemic restrictions is now, say an increasing number of Democrats.

“Welcome to the party, pal.” So said Bruce Willis’s character in the classic movie “Die Hard.” That welcome might just be relevant to Democrats and other leftists finally coming around to the position held by most conservatives since approximately April 2020: It’s time to reopen the country even in the face of the pandemic.

Yascha Mounk, contributing writer at The Atlantic, was an early proponent of lockdowns:

In March 2020, I wrote that America should “cancel everything” in response to the acute threat posed by COVID-19: Mass events should be postponed, companies should send employees home from the office, and schools should move classes online.

I remain convinced that this was the right thing to do.

But he has joined the growing chorus from across the political spectrum that is ready now to “open everything.”

Almost two years later, highly effective vaccines are available, free of charge, to any American over the age of 5 who chooses to take them. Antiviral pills, which will further reduce the risk posed by COVID-19, will soon be in wide circulation. We finally have the tools to live with the coronavirus. Yet life in America remains shaped by pandemic caution thanks to state directives, policies adopted by private organizations, and choices made by individuals.

At the beginning of the pandemic, we were too slow to adapt to changing circumstances. Now we are once again in danger of prolonging the status quo more than is justifiable. It is time to open everything.

He marvels at the ways in which COVID still interrupts our lives, noting a poll showing that “only 18 percent of Americans say their lives have returned to normal.” Kids and teachers still wear masks, travel restrictions persist, “white-collar workers still haven’t returned to the office,” and so on. He worries that all these things put together “significantly decrease the quality of life” and “create a deep sense of societal malaise.”

This makes defining a clear end point to the pandemic posture all the more important. How much longer will the restrictions on everyday life drag on? What purpose do they still serve? …

Some future COVID variant may prove much more dangerous than Omicron to the functioning of society. If a return to social-distancing measures should once again prove necessary, I’ll be among the first to say so. But at this point, the restrictions still shaping everyday life in America have become unnecessary. It is time to draw the logical inference — and end our pandemic purgatory.

“Just as we are willing to take on calculated risks in other areas of life,” he adds, “so we should be willing to tolerate some risk of infectious disease.” And given that COVID is now endemic, normal life is all the more desirable.

If no one ever went out to a restaurant or threw a party again, we’d slow the spread of COVID as well as that of plenty of other infectious diseases. But that would be a cure worse than the disease. Like our ancestors, we should prioritize the living of life over the minimizing of mortality.

Let’s drop the remaining restrictions on our everyday lives. Let’s shake off the pandemic malaise. Open everything.

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