Clinging to emergency powers won’t stop the spread of COVID
by Doug Badger and Kevin Dayaratna |
The Philadelphia Inquirer |
April 17, 2022
Starting today, Philadelphia is reinstating its indoor mask mandate. In so doing, the city is failing to adapt policy to the changing nature of the COVID public health challenge, Doug Badger and Kevin Dayaratna write in an op-ed for The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Much has changed since federal, state, and local governments first invoked emergency powers to combat the spread of COVID-19. Immunity—whether acquired through a previous infection or through vaccines—is much more widespread, the Heritage experts write. And many more breakthrough treatments are available for those who contract the disease.
The Centers for Disease Control is equally out of step in announcing it will continue to require airline passengers to wear masks, ignoring studies by Harvard University and the Department of Defense. These studies found that airplane cabins are among the safest indoor environments, with air constantly filtered, exchanged, and properly directed.
Further, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra has extended the federal public health emergency, already in its third year, for another 90 days.
These approaches to COVID are rooted in unrealistic “zero COVID” policy goals. The only virus that was ever truly eradicated was smallpox—and that took nearly 200 years.
It’s time to return to a public health policy that prizes individual liberty over government authority. The better policy path is for public health officials to acknowledge that they cannot eradicate COVID-19 and that it has likely joined the ranks of diseases with which we coexist.
Living with COVID is not surrendering to the pathogen. It is government accepting reality and surrendering the extraordinary control it has exercised over the lives of 330 million Americans.
Public health officials should begin by making it clear that the realities of April 2022 are nothing like the nightmare of April 2020.
We can live — without government mandates — with a virus whose worst effects are muted by immunity and antivirals, just as we live with other diseases that pose substantial threats that pose substantial threats to the elderly and medically vulnerable.