As we head into the winter holidays nervously checking news about the Omicron variant and rising COVID-19 case numbers, let’s take a moment to think of how a more just society might handle the coming weeks.
Schools and many workplaces would offer remote options for the final week before Christmas to slow the spread just before people gather with older relatives and immunocompromised loved ones. Airports and bus stations would have free rapid tests for all passengers traveling for the holidays. Finally, of course, pharmaceutical companies and wealthy nations would have been forced to share vaccine supplies and formulas with the rest of the world, which probably would have prevented Omicron in the first place.
Unfortunately, we don’t live in that society, but rather in one that hoards vaccine supplies, and in which leaders like New York Gov. Kathy Hochul urge workers to be forced back into offices even as they anticipate that hospitals will be pushed to the breaking point by the coming COVID spike. It is because of this greed and short-term thinking that the U.S. is now entering a fifth wave, and the dream of eradicating COVID is dead — despite the astonishing success of scientists in quickly developing effective vaccines.
The personal depression many of us are feeling about another holiday season being ruined is matched by the political gloom that comes after a year of our expectations being steadily lowered. As frightening as the first year of COVID was, it was also a time of hope and new possibilities — fueled first by Sen. Bernie Sanders’s insurgent presidential campaign, and then by the summer’s historic movement for Black lives uprisings. It was common to hear talk in the mainstream press of how the pandemic revealed the need for deep structural changes, and President Joe Biden’s first stimulus bill — the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan — offered hope that the country’s political leaders might actually do something for once.
Since then, however, Biden has reverted to the inadequate centrism that has marked his entire career. While the new administration has thankfully not continued its predecessor’s daily stream of misinformation about masks and fake cures, it left in place many of former President Donald Trump’s most disastrous…