I’m not really sure what the current situation is, for starters. It seems, from what I’ve been hearing and reading, that things are rapidly getting worse again. Case counts are going up, flights are getting canceled left and right because of COVID-related staffing issues, there are rumblings about LA County reinstating mask requirements, etc. It’s also a little hard to conceptualize the idea of the status quo not changing. Like, does that mean things will be about the same no matter what we do in terms of masking and other public health measures? Obviously I wouldn’t want to bother if those things made no difference. But I’m not really sure exactly how much of a difference they do make, and that makes it hard to say what is and isn’t “worth it.” I swear I’m not trying to fight the hypo; it’s a great question, I’m just struggling to answer it.
Anyway, some scattered thoughts:
-I vote for vaccine mandates forever, with a slightly-behind-schedule booster requirement (e.g. if the CDC starts recommending a third booster for everyone, let’s give it at least six months to a year before people who haven’t gotten it can’t go places.) Medical exemptions should only be available through a list of pre-approved non-quack doctors; no religious or personal belief exemptions. Those who don’t get vaccinated and don’t have medical exemptions can go to the grocery store, the pharmacy, the courts, the hospital/doctor’s office… and that’s about it. No concerts or restaurants or anything fun for you. And you’ll need to wear an N-95 or similar to go to those necessary places. (I’m assuming we’re getting a vaccine for little kids soon, but obviously anyone too young would also be exempt.)
-I kind of hate everyone on both sides of the mask debate right now. Sorry, I know I just insulted everyone, and you’re mostly wonderful folk here. But I get irritated with both the “I find this mildly uncomfortable so I refuse to do it ever for any reason” types, as well as the “I personally don’t mind it; I even like it, so let’s all do it all the time forever!” types. Ugh. I find masks somewhat uncomfortable for long periods at the best of times, and seriously uncomfortable at the worst. If it were just about me, I’d be a lot more inclined to take my chances. But I’m tryna be a good citizen and all, so I’ll certainly wear them when required, and sometimes even when not required, when it seems like it would be imprudent not to. As a matter of public policy, I’m grudgingly on board with masks on airplanes, public transit, stores, and other crowded indoor spaces, even if that’s indefinite, if that’s what it takes. But I’d really rather see us come up with some better ideas. Such as…
-Better ventilation, filtration, UV sterilization of air-- we have good preliminary data that this works. We also have good, better-than-preliminary data that being outside works. The former is expensive to install and maintain, but if we have reason to believe this isn’t going away anytime soon, it’s worth the investment. Throw a bunch of taxpayer dollars at local businesses to help them retrofit; I won’t complain. The latter, being outside, won’t work in all locations at all times of year, but let’s make it happen as much as practicable. Here in Pasadena, the city has allowed restaurants to take over most of the sidewalk and all of the street parking to build little patios so guests can eat outside. Let’s never go back on that, 'kay?
-Working from home: I’m somewhat ambivalent on the prospect in a non-pandemic context; I’m more in agreement with the reluctant bosses than most people I know. But at least while this thing rages on, let’s do the best we can to minimize people coming in to the office. I’d also really like to normalize the idea of working from home when you have a little sniffle, instead of coming in and infecting everyone (or staying home when you could easily work from bed and not inconvenience your colleagues.) That part can stay even if/when COVID is totally gone forever.
-I feel like a smart long-term strategy would have to involve some high-tech contact tracing with a lot of surveillance that, if hacked into, could be used for nefarious purposes. And that makes me nervous, honestly. I’m not sure how many lives it would have to save for me to be on board.