COVID alarmists are already looking forward to the next lockdown. We say: No freaking way.
Yes, New York may well see another COVID surge, with Omicron’s BA.2 subvariant a likely candidate. But the threat just doesn’t justify major disruptions to fight it.
Look: It’s now clear that much of what New York (state and city) did these past two years was a mistake. The New York Times tells you that the 2020 shutdown worked and vaccine mandates saved lives, but the same piece also claims that the school closures were less than a disaster.
Happily, New York’s leaders seem to get it. “We are not in an alarmist mode. We’re not panicking over this,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said last week. And Mayor Eric Adams is ending the last, worst schools mask mandate — for kids under 5 — as of April 4.
The test going forward: As case numbers climb, the city and state should do . . . nothing.
But Adams and Hochul — taking their cue from federal health bureaucrats, despite their dismal record these last two years — still say the loosening of restrictions is conditional on future case numbers staying low. That’s precisely the wrong attitude.
Case numbers are not going to stay low. But bringing back restrictions won’t do anything.
We’re now more than two years into COVID. Over that period, New York tried every restrictive measure short of China-style “don’t leave your home” tactics to “slow the spread.” And not a one had a notable effect on our COVID outcomes.
We experienced the brutal and deadly surge of spring 2020, with harsh restrictions implemented by Andrew Cuomo and Bill de Blasio. At the peak of that surge, we saw around 10,000 new cases per day, with around 1,000 deaths.
Since then restrictions have gotten progressively looser and looser — through the winter 2021 surge, through Delta and most recently through Omicron.
Now, the numbers are clear. Despite less and less stringent rules, the virus is not killing more people.
At Omicron’s peak, New York saw a staggering 90,000 new cases per day — but deaths were only around 90.
Why the massive reduction? Not mandates. Not social distancing. No, those lives were primarily saved by vaccines. Also, a lot of New Yorkers had survived COVID already and were protected that way.
Plus, Omicron is milder (as viruses become over time).
COVID risks are overwhelming to older people (plus others with compromised immune systems). So protective efforts should have a laser focus on protecting the vulnerable — the opposite of what our disgraced former governor did.
Again: Data across states and countries show that mandates and lockdowns made no difference in the long run. Sensible voluntary action did all the good to be done.
In any case, between vaccinations and past exposure, roughly 95% of America has significant COVID immunity: Serious cases will be rare; the most vulnerable should get booster shots; authorities should stockpile treatments; that’s about it.
We know what works: vaccines and therapeutics. We know what doesn’t: forcing schoolkids to wear masks and firing people for not getting jabbed.
By holding out the possibility of a return to restrictionism, the city and state undermine New York’s full recovery. Businesses need clarity on their future. Ordinary citizens need to know that stores, subways and schools will stay open.
Mr. Mayor, Madam Governor: End every remaining mass restriction (and not just for athletes and entertainers), and let New Yorkers know they won’t be coming back. Ever.
Don’t leave New York in limbo.