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There’s more than one unnerving viral problem in the US. Here’s a dangerous one: the spread of neurotic, unjustified, perpetual panic.
The risk of getting seriously ill from COVID is, for people who are fully vaccinated, negligible. Be happy about this! Get out there! Go to a restaurant! See friends! Hug Granny!
Instead, the United States of COVID is showing signs of turning into the Republic of Never-Ending Fear. People with large followings are painting a nightmare scenario of continuing misery.
A shocking example is the ironically named MSNBC host Joy-Ann Reid, who turns out to be joyless about the vaccine. In a tweet the other day, she said, “I too am one vax down, but even when I get the second shot, I am too ‘scurred’ to be out there wildin. No flying and no indoor activities for me. Nope!” Reid is, of course, free to be as frightened as she wants about everything, and whether she stays home huddled beneath a blanket with the door quadruple-locked for the next six years is of little concern to me.
Nevertheless, Reid has a large number of acolytes (2 million Twitter followers) and her pandering use of black vernacular (“scurred”?) suggests she is urging a subset of the population that is already vaccine-hesitant to be as paranoid as her. This is bad advice, and combined with hysterical newspaper headlines and a blockheaded FDA decision to instill fear because six people out of 7 million reported serious blood clots after receiving the miraculous and safe Johnson & Johnson vaccine, it will cause more and more Americans to think, “Why get a vaccine that might harm me if smart people say we should be equally ‘scurred’ after receiving it?”
Joyless Reid has plenty of company in the Panic Caucus: The Washington Post published an op-ed by a fully vaccinated writer reading “I’m vaccinated, but I’m really not ready to leave my pandemic cocoon.” CNN published an insane story (eventually corrected) massively overestimating the COVID risk from flying (which is very, very small, contra Joy-Ann Reid) and advising passengers not to use the bathrooms on the plane. Know how many COVID cases were traced to planes last year? Sixty out of 1.2 billion passenger flights. And the virus rarely spreads via surfaces.
Yet the papers are full of stories about Lockdown Lucies and Quarantine Quentins saying they never want to return to normal. In some cases, they freely admit that they have other motives, such as hating human interaction or not wanting anyone to see how much weight they’ve put on since switching to an all-sweatpants wardrobe. Hey, fine, folks, stay locked up forever. More room at 5 Napkin Burger for the rest of us.
But stop spreading irrational fear. High-strung, neurotic people are being handed the microphone at a critical moment for America: About 38 percent of adults have been at least partially vaccinated. In the UK, it’s about 62 percent, and the virus is about to wave the white flag.
Getting the US past the 60 percent vaccinated mark (some experts think we may need to go even higher to kill the virus) is going to take a major push. Black Americans, Latinos and white rural Americans exhibit high rates of reluctance to get the shot. Every person who refuses the vaccine is a potential COVID playground.
Everyone who has a public platform should be hammering away at the same message: The vaccines work. They’re safe. With scattered exceptions, everybody should take them. And once we’ve done so, life can get back to normal.
We’re almost at the finish line. Why do so many people want to trip us up in the home stretch?
Kyle Smith is critic-at-large at National Review.
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