By Travis Mounts, managing editor
Twelve months ago, most of the nation held high hopes that 2021 would be a better year than 2020, when we were introduced to a new disease called COVID-19.
We hoped that in 2021, we would have a vaccine that would allows us to return to normal. We embraced the idea that we could ditch masks and social distancing, and that our collective Christmas 2021 present would be that we had beaten COVID-19.
Instead, we gave ourselves a lump of coal.
We got our vaccine – three of them, in fact. And we started acting like we did in 2019.
And things got worse. Much worse.
By November 2021, the number of COVID-19 deaths in the United States already had surpassed the number of Americans who perished in 2020, despite multiple vaccine options and far more knowledge about how to prevent the disease.
We got the Delta variant, which was far more transmissible than what we dealt with in 2020. Now we have Omicron. We’re still waiting to see how bad it will be. Omicron is the most transmissible variant yet, and it appears that it is better at infecting vaccinated people than Delta is. There is one piece of good news in that the vaccine does appear be very effective most of the time at preventing serious health issues caused by Omicron.
We are still a nation that is very much split over basic middle school science concepts, like the facts that masks help prevent the spread of disease, and that vaccines work.
The anti-mask, anti-vax crowd has shown a level of vitriol from the start that is far beyond reason. It is childish, and potentially dangerous.
Those who have been acting like responsible adults – wearing masks, getting vaccinated, and limiting their exposure to crowds – are angry, too. These folks look around and see where we could be in beating COVID-19. Then they see where we are, knowing that the deliberately unvaccinated and unmasked have been the breeding ground for the continued spread and development of new variants.
The arguments of personal freedom ring hollow to me, because nowhere in those arguments do I hear anything about personal responsibility – either to their family and friends, or to their communities. One person’s freedoms are only supposed to extend to the point that they do not infringe on the freedoms of the next person. If we had this attitude in the 1950s, we would still be dealing with polio today.
I suppose it would be fine if COVID-19 only impacted those who are ignoring their own safety. But one person’s lack of precautions endangers many others. A family member of mine is recovering from a case of COVID-19, despite taking all precautions. And a colleague of mine recently passed away from COVID-19. I do not know that person’s vaccination status. What I do know is that more than 450,000 Americans have died this year of COVID-19, and many of them were unnecessary deaths.
Maybe we will settle into a situation where COVID-19 is still with us but manageable. I am struggling to see that day from where we are now, with rising cases across the country again and hospitals once again running out of space.
Through it all, I am trying to remain positive. All Americans are tired and ready to be done with this. I sincerely mean it when I wish everyone a happy and prosperous new year.
But from what I’ve seen in 2021, I don’t have a lot of optimism for 2022.