Susan Estrich: Mask-Free: A Democratic Miracle
Summary: The state of the union is very different than it was back in November. It is a Democratic miracle brought to you in part by the man who still won't come out and strongly urge his supporters to get one of the vaccines. A
I keep masks right next to the front door, along with sanitizer and gloves. They have been there for over a year. I have extras in my purse and my car, although, other than errands for medical stuff, I haven't gone too many places since then.
And now, as an "incentive" to people who've been wearing masks up until now, those of us who are fully vaccinated don't need to wear masks outside (if we're not in a crowd) or at outdoor gatherings with other vaccinated people.
Poor Donald Trump . He was dead wrong about masks and social distancing, about lockdowns and limits on gatherings. Too many people died. He could have pulled us together, and instead, by politicizing science, he split us apart, which is why he did not get reelected.
But he was right about COVID-19 vaccines . Operation Warp Speed, as they called it, worked, almost miraculously. No one I know who knows anything about science thought that a vaccine could be developed in a year. We taxpayers gave billions of dollars to Pfizer and Moderna and Johnson & Johnson (and others that have not made it over the finish line yet) to do the impossible, and they did.
The stunning announcements of successful trials and an imminent beginning of a vaccination effort came a matter of days and weeks, not months, after we voted. Trump, focused only on overturning the election results, didn't even seem to notice. I kept waiting for him to accuse someone of timing things that way so as to help Joe Biden ; if he did, it was lost in his tirades against Pennsylvania and Georgia and Wisconsin and Michigan and the rest.
That's history. Science triumphed. Walter Isaacson, an old friend and a brilliant biographer, is so good that I almost understood the miracle in his latest book, "The Code Breaker," about Dr. Jennifer Doudna and her colleagues around the world, who saved us.
But it's hardly time for "mission accomplished." What is really happening in Los Angeles is that vaccination rates vary dramatically from one neighborhood to the next. Big surprise. You can look at it solely in terms of race and it makes sense: The whiter the neighborhood, the higher the vaccination rate. But it works equally well if you look at it in terms of class: The wealthier the neighborhood, the more people who've made sure to get vaccinated. You can see it as a gender issue: Men are much less likely to get vaccinated than women. And you can see it as a political issue: Trump supporters are less likely to get vaccinated than Biden supporters.
However you look at it, the people who aren't getting vaccinated aren't going to wear masks outside either. They could be dining at the next table, depending on where the restaurant is. It's not as if someone is going to ask people walking to show their vaccination cards before entering a park. The new mask guidance makes non-vaccinated people even harder to spot. The new guidance is the right move for all kinds of reasons, but not because it will lead resisters to rush to get vaccines.
I felt like I'd won the lottery when my daughter managed to snag me an appointment in February. I was fully vaccinated within 30 days of Biden taking office. Thanks, Joe. And thanks to former Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama, for rolling up their sleeves in front of the camera.
The City of Los Angeles' appointment website, maintained by Carbon Health, shows openings every day; the county sites are open for walk-ins. The state of the union is very different than it was back in November. It is a Democratic miracle brought to you in part by the man who still won't come out and strongly urge his supporters to get one of the vaccines. A different sort of ex-president might see the vaccine as the greatest accomplishment of his administration.