Hundreds of Americans keep dying each day due to the coronavirus. Tens of thousands of people across the country are reporting they are newly infected with the disease, even as at-home testing lowers this count. Thousands of patients still are hospitalized due to the virus that has killed at least 1 million in this country. But even as worrisome measures of the pandemic rise anew, important ways to battle the deadliest infectious disease outbreak in a century are dwindling.
Health officials are grappling with a federal judge’s ruling, upending nationwide what has been a minimally inconvenient step to quell the pandemic — a requirement for passengers to cover their faces while traveling on public transportation.
The judge — yes, an appointee from the last administration who was deemed by the Bar to be not qualified for her lifetime post — staked out a dubious legal view that federal officials overstepped their authority with the mask order. U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, sitting in Tampa, Fla., asserted among other things in her ruling that she thinks Congress limited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be involved only in “inspection, fumigation, disinfection, sanitation, destruction, or pest extermination.”
She goes to the hoary resource of a dictionary to argue that the definition of sanitation — to clean or remove filth — cannot extend to requiring face coverings because these are not “cleaning measures.”
Really? Perhaps even a non-lawyer might clue her honor that, say, ordinary underwear and feminine hygiene products do not clean but clearly would be regarded by even the extreme as wearables squarely for sanitary reasons.
It will be interesting to see whether the conservative higher court to which the Biden Administration has appealed the judge’s decision will not only further politicize face masks but also leave up in the air who should deal with national health calamities and who has the legal authority to do so.
Have Americans seen how chaotic it can be in a pandemic if public health policies and practices are set alone, city by city, county by county, or state by state? Do tiny towns have the medical-scientific expertise to respond to a novel infection that already has confounded elite scientists around the planet by mutating multiple times in short order, throwing off variants of increased contagiousness and detrimental effect? Should Americans wait for the politically riven Congress, which has shown it only responds to crises and drop-dead deadlines, to deal with a disease that moves like wildfire?
Lest anyone argue for greater role for politicians in public health, multiple news organizations have reported how anti-science, counterfactual advocates are congealing in campaigns attacking not only the demonstrably safe, effective coronavirus shots but all vaccines, notably those for youngsters. The evidence-free extremists want to eliminate requirements for shots that long have protected youngsters from any array of damaging and even deadly infections, including measles, mumps, whooping cough, and more.
The political frenzy that has engulfed vaccines, combined with the logistics challenges caused by the pandemic, has led pediatricians to warn that grownups are putting the nation’s young at serious risk by failing to get them immunized against an array of preventable illnesses according to well-known, proven, safe, and effective schedules.
Those who natter about vaccines and spread utter hokum about them simply must be clueless about the unbearable sorrow that can torment even the best of parents when their kids suffer harms, including death, from avoidable illness preventable by vaccines.
It is hard to fathom that the vaccine hesitancy or outright resistance sources to the coronavirus vaccines. Tens of millions of people around the world have received them with relatively little or no harm. Indeed, updated estimates say that a little less than a quarter million of the Americans who have died due to the coronavirus could have been saved, if they had gotten vaccinated, and increasing vaccination and boosters keep saving even more lives.
We are not done with this pandemic, which has many mysteries to be resolved still. We all would be wise to recognize this, including sustaining the money and other resources to battle the disease, including the baffling, distressing long Covid and the traumas in getting it treated.
Doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, and others in the U.S. health system also must improve patient access to prescription medications that have shown good results in reducing the coronavirus’ harm, if taken early. There are simply too many obstacles to getting these helpful drugs out to people who need them.
Regular folks appear to be having varied reactions to health officials easing coronavirus measures. But those with heightened vulnerability to the virus — those who are older, immunocompromised, overweight, and with underlying conditions, or individuals from hard-hit communities of color — still may be staying careful, including by keeping on their masks. And, yes, so-called one-way masking has protective benefits. Face covering, just to remind, may be the requirement still in parts of the country, and who knows what will happen in the days ahead, notably with the appeal of the rejected CDC mask requirement on public transportation.
A word to the wise: Don’t toss out those masks yet. The savvy will want to build up their supply, nabbing test kits, too (free from the federal government, including a second round of them, and delivered to your door). Just in case.
The vaccines remain life changers and life savers. Why aren’t more nursing home staff getting them still, notably with an unusually high number of them having received questionable exemptions? If you have not gotten your shots, please do so, boosters and all, pronto. If you haven’t chatted with your doctor for a bit, you should — especially about whether your individual health would benefit from an additional dose of vaccine and when might be the time to get it. Parents should discuss potential booster shots for their kids with their pediatricians. (Get the young folks caught up on their shots now if you can, too.) If you have been exposed or think you have gotten infected, please get tested — and quarantine or isolate to protect yourself and others.