Something came out wrong.
This was supposed to be the year when we controlled the Coronavirus with vaccines, and this would be a “summer of joy” in the United States. As a result of its enormous economic power, millions of vaccines were purchased for the entire population. But we did not count on our ignorance and stubbornness. There are many people who can get the vaccine, but won't. And today the pandemic is hitting the unvaccinated.
Not long ago, at the beginning of June, President Joe Biden was optimistic. “America is headed towards a summer that is dramatically different from last year's summer,” he said during a speech in the White House. “A summer of freedom. A summer of joy. A summer of get togethers and celebrations. A summer that this country deserves after a long long dark winter that we all endured.”
Biden's optimism was felt throughout the country. The New York Times sent out 40 photographers and nine reporters between May and June, to record the return of night and street life. They snapped pictures of hundreds of people dancing in clubs, gathering happily in bars and restaurants or jammed into the back seat of an Uber. Everyone was smiling, without masks.
And then the optimism punched us in the face
What happened? I asked Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and one of the public health advisors to the White House. “Several things happened. We had hoped that we would have more uptake in vaccinations in certain communities, and that didn't happen. And the second thing that happened is the Delta variant … that is much more transmissible than our prior variant,” she said. “We knew that in areas that we did not have a lot of vaccinations, that this virus would be an opportunist and go to those areas.”
It's hard to believe that even though the United States has a surplus of vaccines, we had more new cases in August than in the same month last year. One example: On Aug. 10 2020 we had 47,173 new cases. But this August 10 saw 118,067 new cases. And there's been an 86 percent increase in new cases in the past two weeks.
As White House adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci put it, it is “a pandemic among the unvaccinated.” What is the problem? That only 50 percent of the population of the United States has been vaccinated, including 61 percent of those 18 and older.
I can understand when the pandemic spreads in a country with no access to vaccines. But it is unforgivable that the United States – the world's top economic power and one that just gave full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine – is suffering through another wave of the pandemic because people don't want to be vaccinated.
Social networks are jammed with lies and stupidities about the vaccine. It is not true that it will inject a microchip under your skin. It is not true that the vaccine is more dangerous than Covid19. It is not true that the virus does not attack young people. Is is not true that the vaccine is part of an international conspiracy to control our minds. And many of those who believe such foolishness wind up infected and intubated in hospitals around the country.
Only the vaccines, masks, social distancing and other measures will block the spread of this virus. That is what science tells us. “The use of masks must be a part of a strategy to suppress the transmission and save lives,” the World Health Organization said.
But Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, going against the most basic public health and hygiene practices in the middle of a pandemic, signed an executive order banning Florida school from mandating the use of masks. “The federal government has no right to tell parents that in order for their kids to attend school in person, they must be forced to wear a mask all day,” DeSantis said.
Classes already started in the United States, and several schools are defying the governor and forcing students to use masks. And the reason for that is simple: Children under the age of 12 cannot be vaccinated so far. The debate sparked by Gov. DeSantis in Florida, where I live, have more to do with his possible presidential hopes than with science.`
Some have tried to turn the vaccines and masks into an issue of personal freedom. But it's not. In some cases, and for the public good, governments impose measures on citizens such as requiring driver's licenses and seats belts to avoid accidents, and airport security checks to avoid terrorist attacks. What's more, there are companies in the United States that are requiring employees to vaccinate or face frequent Covid tests if they want to go to the office. The federal government and the military also are requiring vaccinations or frequent tests for employees and soldiers.
“Let me be very clear, this is not about politics,” said Dr. Walensky. “This is about how my job as the head of the CDC is to protect the public's health. And I don't care who you vote for and neither does the virus. So our recommendations … are to wear a mask if you are unvaccinated.”
The saddest part is that we could have beaten the pandemic in the United States this summer. In fact, for a few weeks it looked like we had done it. But we ruined everything – because of ignorance, disinformation and politics.
How many countries would like to have the many vaccines we have here? The “summer of joy and happiness” has turned into another period of infections, death and disillusionment.
And it's our fault.