INFIDEL753, Portland, Oregon, writes at a blog of his own name Infidel 753. Describes himself as an individualist, transhumanist, socialist, atheist, liberal, optimist, pragmatist, and regular guy — it has been my great good fortune to live my whole life free of “spirituality” of any kind.
I know Infidel from Crooks and Liars. He posted many of our topics at Mikes Blog Round Up whenever he was in charge.
At the current phase of the covid-19 pandemic, the US finds itself in the peculiar position of being morally obligated to attempt that which is almost certainly impossible.
I assessed the situation here last week. Of 258 million US adults, 80 million (31%) are unvaccinated. Given the far higher transmissibility of the delta variant, it will probably infect most or all of that population within about four months (except for those among them who do get vaccinated in the meantime). And given the greater severity of the disease it produces, including in young and otherwise healthy people, this could mean a death toll in the millions.
Vaccinated people can still contract the delta variant — the main protection the vaccine provides is that if they do contract it, it very rarely progresses to really serious illness. So vaccinated people are basically potential carriers — they almost never get very sick, but they can transmit the virus to unvaccinated people who are at much greater risk of severe illness or death.
Frankly, I am long past caring about the willfully unvaccinated — the Trumpanzees and conspiracy believers and miscellaneous idiots who make up the great majority of that 80 million. These are the people in the “fuck your feelings” T-shirts, the ones who cheered Trump on through every lie and betrayal, the BFYTW assholes, the people who keep bellowing that global warming is a hoax while half the northern hemisphere dries out and burns, the morons who call masks “face diapers” and spent the last year and a half bullying store clerks who were required to enforce masking rules, the Deliverance mutants who will shit on anything and everything to “own the libs”. They hate and despise people like me, and they aren’t shy about saying so straight out, and I have no qualms about returning the sentiment. The more of them the delta variant mows down, the better off the country will be.
So it’s tempting to say, as Andrew Sullivan does: let it rip. Almost all the people who die will be those who freely chose to make themselves vulnerable while spitting in our faces, and there’s no reason for those of us who were responsible, who wore masks and got vaccinated, to accept any further annoying precautions to protect assholes who refuse to lift a finger to protect themselves (or anyone else).
The problem is the potential innocent victims.
There are some people who, for legitimate medical reasons, can’t get the vaccines. There are some people with immune-system problems for whom the vaccines do not work. There are some people who, even if they are fully vaccinated, have other medical conditions which put them at risk of serious harm if they do nevertheless get infected (here is the voice of one such person). The numbers of such cases are relatively small, but they matter, and the wingnuts are endangering them by rejecting the vaccines and other precautions. So the government needs to press on with its efforts to vaccinate as many of the remaining 80 million as possible.
This is, by the way, why even vaccinated people should return to mask-wearing in high-transmission regions. Masks mainly protect other people, not the wearer. Since vaccinated people can get the virus and transmit it even though they rarely get very sick, wearing masks still helps protect those who are vulnerable for the above reasons.
There’s also the issue of indirect effects of overwhelming the health-care system. As hospitals get swamped with covid-19 patients, the capacity available to treat “normal” emergencies like heart attacks and strokes is correspondingly reduced. Some number of additional deaths will result from this.
Unfortunately, as I noted at the beginning, the task of persuading the great majority of the vaccine refusers is almost impossible. As far as I can see, right-wing blogs and sites are still just doubling down on the same old misinformation and conspiratardia. The vaccines are killing huge numbers of people and may even be a plot to reduce the world’s population by killing or sterilizing people. It’s a conspiracy of globalists / Jews / Satanists / pedophiles (yes, really) to enslave us all. Doctors are exaggerating covid-19 death numbers because they somehow make money that way. Biden is a pedophile and Fauci is an evil monster who conspired with China to create the virus in the first place. Most of the people now getting hospitalized are vaccinated, not unvaccinated. Hydroxychloroquine works (yes, some of them are still pushing that) and the vaccines don’t. The fight against masks and vaccines is an existential struggle against descending tyranny. Republican leaders who now urge vaccination are “cucks”, lackeys of the vast conspiracy. You need to spend some time reading this stuff in their own words, not mediated through left-wing paraphrases, to grasp how hopeless the task of coaxing the hard-core wingnuts out of this seething maelstrom of bullshit really is. It’s become part of their tribal identity.
Yes, the number of people getting newly vaccinated has ticked up a bit; it’s about half a million a day now. But that’s nowhere near enough to work through eighty million people fast enough to avert mass deaths, even if it continues at that rate, which I doubt it will. What we’re doing is collecting the last of the low-hanging fruit, the people who hadn’t been vaccinated out of laziness or relatively weak objections. For them, monetary incentives or restrictions on unvaccinated people’s access to workplaces and public spaces are effective. The hard-core Fox-addled wingnuts, who really believe that this is all a vast evil conspiracy, are a different matter.
The one thing that, so far, does seem to be able to bring them around is seeing their unvaccinated relatives or close friends die of covid-19. But each such death convinces only a few other people, so to reach tens of millions of anti-vaxers would take millions of deaths.
The government must do what it can, and we must do what we can, for the sake of the innocent potential victims. But the wingnuts are now in what amounts to kamikaze mode, and while they can’t win that way (whatever that would even mean), we must recognize that we probably can’t stop them from doing a lot of damage.