Why Are Covid Restrictions Coming Off?

Across America, jurisdictions are ending covid-related mandates and shutdowns. No more masks! No more vaccine certificates! Get the kids back in school! Of course I think these developments are all good; I have argued from near the beginning of the epidemic that shutdowns and mask mandates are useless and counterproductive. But why are liberals in government now throwing in the towel?

The standard explanation is that the extreme measures taken to “combat” covid have worked, along with vaccination. Thus, because of the great progress we have made, life can get back to normal. Joe Biden framed it in typical fashion in his State of the Union speech:

Because of the progress we’ve made, because of your resilience and the tools that we have been provided by this Congress, tonight I can say we are moving forward safely, back to more normal routines.
Just a few days ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new mask guidelines.

Under these new guidelines, most Americans in most of the country can now go mask free.
Thanks to the progress we have made in the past year, Covid-19 no longer need control our lives.

Really? What progress is that? Is there any reason to think that covid is receding into the past? No. This screen shot shows new covid cases reported to CDC on a rolling seven-day average basis:

In fact, we are just now coming out of the highest spike in covid cases in the history of the epidemic. With regard to cases, there has been no progress in the past year, and there is zero reason to assume there are no major spikes coming in the future. And the vaccines have been widely available for a year now, while the CDC reports that 81 percent of Americans have received at least one shot. Obviously the vaccines have done little or nothing to stop the spread of covid.

You might say, sure, but those recent cases are the harmless omicron variant. Cases are up, but deaths are not. But you would be wrong. Here are the CDC’s numbers for covid deaths, again on a seven-day rolling average basis:

It looks to me as though the last seven months have seen at least as many covid deaths as any prior seven-month period. And, despite the fact that various government agencies have produced data purporting to show that vaccines dramatically reduce the incidence of hospitalization and death–data that in some instances, at least, appears to be flawed–the overall numbers do not reflect any such dramatic impact.

In short, if you believe that “covid deaths” really are deaths caused by covid, and if you think covid is such a serious disease that unprecedented measures must be taken to combat it, and if you think that mask mandates, shutdowns, school closures and vaccine passports actually work to stop the spread of the disease, then there is no reason why those measures should stop now.

The reality is twofold. First, politicians are implicitly giving up on those anti-covid measures, even though they will never admit that they were wrong to impose them in the first place. Second, most people are fed up with covid restrictions and have more or less gotten over their fear of the disease. (Some, of course, never feared it in the first place.) With the midterm elections coming, politicians, including the politicians who run bureaucracies like the CDC, are giving in to the public will, while taking credit for giving us our freedom back. But none of this has anything to do with science.

Notice: All comments are subject to moderation. Our comments are intended to be a forum for civil discourse bearing on the subject under discussion. Commenters who stray beyond the bounds of civility or employ what we deem gratuitous vulgarity in a comment — including, but not limited to, “s***,” “f***,” “a*******,” or one of their many variants — will be banned without further notice in the sole discretion of the site moderator.