First and foremost, I am not an epidemiologist. I am a public relations practitioner, not an infectious disease expert. I live in the world of messages, narratives, and strategic communications, so take my words for what they’re worth. But, as a non-scientist, and a citizen, I can still opine on the COVID-19 pandemic and the public policies associated it—just like President Biden or White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.
I can still call balls and strikes, based on what I see. And what I see worries me immensely.
In the span of two years, COVID-related mandates have been normalized to the point of “standard operating procedure,” whereby dissenters are shunned and shamed for daring to speak out. Contrarian doctors are now banned from Twitter in the name of “science” by non-scientists like me. When the First Amendment still exists, that is a problem—a serious problem.
(For the record, I am not a “dissenter,” as classified by the regressive Left. I am vaccinated and I do comply with mask mandates in public spaces, wherever masks are indeed required and not just recommended.)
In 2020, the logical endpoint of the pandemic—even among many liberals—was vaccination. Reach the point of “mass vaccination,” they said, and the end would be in sight—without even taking into account natural immunity, which may be more effective than the COVID-19 vaccine. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, mass vaccination (again, without even taking natural immunity into account) would lead to normality by the end of 2021.
So much for that. In 2021, the narrative shifted from “promote vaccination while protecting individual liberty” to “forget liberty and get vaxxed, or else.” From one year to the next, vaccine mandates replaced mask mandates as par for the course, regardless of the repercussions—legal, privacy, and otherwise. The narrative shift is best personified by President Biden, who vowed that COVID-19 vaccination would never be mandatory in 2020. Yet, within months, the president reversed his position to mandate the vaccine at all costs.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court blocked President Biden’s vaccine mandate for large employers, but the requirement remained in place for healthcare workers at facilities that receive federal funding. How the goalposts move.
What happened in the meantime? President Biden’s message evolved (or devolved) from “encourag[ing] people to do the right thing” to forcing compliance. The concept of vaccination morphed from a patriotic duty to a requirement. In the meantime, Merriam-Webster Dictionary changed the definition of “anti-vaxxer” to a person who not only “opposes the use of vaccines,” but also criticizes “regulations mandating vaccination.”
Really? In the span of months? Did individual liberty suddenly stop mattering?
Cities like Boston and Chicago now require people to show proof of vaccination at indoor venues, such as gyms and restaurants. Many colleges and universities are requiring students to receive the booster shot while still upholding mask mandates for the boosted. That’s right: We’re past the point of requiring the initial vaccine. We are at the point of mandating and masking boosted Americans, including Americans who are overwhelmingly not at-risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19.
Let me be clear: This is not to be “anti-vax,” or anti-booster for that matter. Again, I am vaccinated and encourage all Americans—assuming they are able—to get vaccinated. The benefits of vaccination, in terms of generally limiting hospitalization and preventing death, are clear. But the necessity of initial vaccine mandates is not even “settled science,” let alone booster mandates.
To the north, the Canadian province of Quebec continues to toy with curfews and school closures like the world is stuck in March 2020, despite the fact that nearly 80 percent of Quebec residents are fully vaccinated. The province even charges a health tax to unvaccinated residents. Again, how the goalposts move.
What is to stop a health tax from being imposed here? The idea is already being thrown around, and there is nothing about the last two years that suggests government coercion will recede in the near future. To the contrary, Americans have given away unprecedented freedoms to the federal, state, and local governments, despite being assured that recommendations would not turn into mandates and that “normal” was near. We were assured and reassured countless times.
What is to stop policymakers from proposing or enacting indefinite masking? Dr. Fauci has already suggested that mask-wearing will be necessary for air travel into perpetuity—not until 2023 or 2024, but forever.
We have reached that time in the pandemic when you expect the worst—not necessarily from a public-health perspective, but from the standpoint of government overreach. In truth, there is much to celebrate about the Omicron variant (in the midst of tragedy, of course), since Omicron-related symptoms tend to be milder as the coronavirus becomes endemic. Whether the mainstream media chooses to cover it or not, mass immunity is being established as we speak.
Alas, government power is not given up easily. Expect the worst. Expect the goalposts to keep moving. We are not out of the woods yet—nowhere close.
Catalyst articles by Luka Ladan