See if you can spot the contradiction in this paragraph from the editorial board of the Washington Post, endorsing the proposals of Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel and five other doctors for a “A National Strategy for the ‘New Normal’ of Life With COVID”:
To reach the new normal, they envision continued reliance on vaccines and vaccine mandates. They envision annual shots tailored to strains and urge accelerated efforts to develop a universal coronavirus vaccine, one shot that would hit all variants. They call for an electronic vaccine platform to replace the paper cards, and they suggest that no-cost, convenient outpatient treatments for covid be made widely available for anyone testing positive. They also point out that trust in public health institutions needs to be rebuilt after two bruising years of crisis.
In short, everyone will be required to carry an electronic card with their vaccination records and to show them at schools, workplaces, to get on public transportation and attend indoor events, and so on. Also, this unprecedented edict will be carried about by public-health institutions that large swaths of the public no longer trust. Hey, what could go wrong?
Before we start making new and far-reaching demands of the public, how about these health institutions rebuild trust first by leveling with the public about what they know and what they don’t know, acknowledge disagreement within their ranks, concede that sometimes the data doesn’t offer a clear picture and the right path isn’t so obvious, admit that every policy decision involves trade-offs, and stop seeing their role as dictating the rules to everyone else, and instead building consensus where possible?
How about they start by stopping insisting that any disagreement with their proposals are “attacks on science”? How about we start by accepting that opposing vaccine mandates does not make one an “anti-vaxxer”? How about health officials start calling out health restrictions they find excessive or counterproductive, such as telling schoolkids in Chicago to eat outside in winter, or colleges and universities putting fully-vaccinated and boosted students in the equivalent of solitary confinement?
Wouldn’t it be refreshing if public-health officials called out misinformation from those irrationally or excessively worried about the virus, as much as they called out misinformation from those insufficiently worried about the virus? Wasn’t the Florida grim reaper guy, who contended it was unsafe to go to the beach, as much as source of misinformation as your Aunt Edna’s Facebook feed?
When a Supreme Court justice erroneously believes that 100,000 children are in serious condition because of Covid-19, is that because the justice is uniquely foolish, or because public-health institutions have cultivated an all-consuming sense of dread and paranoia about the effects of the pandemic? (Okay, maybe that one is mostly the justice’s fault.)
There will probably never be a wide consensus in favor of vaccine passports, and requiring the display or scanning of a vaccine passport to go about public life does not sound acceptable under the U.S. Constitution. (A Supreme Court that seems wary about federally-imposed vaccine mandates at workplaces is not likely to be any more receptive to a national mandatory vaccine-passport system.) But attempting to enact a national mandatory vaccine-passport system before even attempting to rebuild trust in public-health institutions is a formula for disaster.