While many government leaders sound the all clear message on COVID-19, dropping vaccine restrictions and mask mandates, some states and municipalities are clinging to the emergency powers that allowed them to govern people’s behavior in unprecedented ways.
Citing the need to direct emergency funding and oversee hospitals, they have held on to their emergency orders even as many restaurants, shopping centers, and sports arenas are once again packed and lingering pandemic concerns have faded into the background of a more normal life.
Emergency orders at the state level are usually issued in response to temporary threats, especially weather disasters, and are wrapped up in a few days or weeks. Soon after the new coronavirus exploded in March 2020, most governors issued broad executive orders. Under these powers, governors banned crowds, closed businesses, and imposed mask and vaccination mandates. They have also deferred to unelected public health officials in imposing restrictions.
Last week, I dusted off my Chinese-flu soapbox and said a word or two about (cue the scary music) the Omicron variant. It sounds like the title of a Robert Ludlum novel, doesn’t it? A friend told me about a parlor game that the journalist Christopher Hitchens and his pals used to play in which the object was to contrive names for Shakespeare’s plays that sounded like the title of a Ludlum novel. Hamlet was “The Elsinore Conundrum.” I am sorry that Hitch is not still with us to try his hand at the Omicron variant.
So far, I have to say, it’s been pretty much of a dud—unless, that is, you’re the stock market, which has taken a beating this last week or so, in part because of this new kid on the medical block (there is also that much more toxic financial emergency, the Biden Administration, but that’s for another day). The new variant has also been a godsend for scolds, nags, bureaucrats, and meddlesome so-called public health officials nannies who are just itching for another excuse to lock down your world, introduce new travel restrictions, and impose new testing protocols.
Top U.S. health officials told the White House pandemic coordinator on Thursday to scale back the Biden administration’s plan to administer the coronavirus booster shots to individuals in September, The New York Times reported.
Dr. Janet Woodcock, the acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeffrey D. Zients that they need more time to collect and analyze the necessary data relating to the booster shots, The New York Times reported.
The doctors told Zients that their agencies might be able to determine whether to recommend boosters for recipients of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the coming weeks, according to the Times.
The two doctors presented their argument to Zients at a meeting on Thursday. It is unclear how Zients responded to the news.
Public health confidence in the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine appears to be waning as officials warn of enhanced danger — even for vaccinated individuals — from the “Delta variant” of the SARS-Cov-2 virus.
For most of the past year officials have claimed that vaccinations are the only viable path back to normalcy and away from lockdowns and other aggressive mitigation measures. “Look at the folks in your community who have gotten vaccinated and are getting back to living their lives — their full lives,” President Joe Biden said at a May press conference, arguing that the vaccine was “going to help them and their loved ones be safe, get our businesses open again, and get us back to normal.”
The rollout of the vaccines starting last year and continuing throughout the spring and summer of this year has been hailed as the driving force behind the reopening of the economy and the ending of masking mandates and similar restrictions.