The vaccines promised freedom, but political opportunists have spoiled that.
“Just think back to where this nation was a year ago,” an ebullient Joe Biden said on July 4, as he gave remarks billed as a celebration of U.S. independence—and independence from COVID-19. “Think back to where you were a year ago. And think about how far we’ve come.”
You might not have to work very hard to remember. Across the country, summer 2021 is starting to look distressingly like summer 2020. Not everything is the same: Today, roughly half of the population is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, a step that (we are learning) does not necessarily prevent infection, but that does provide a good shield against serious illness, hospitalization, and death.
But the highly transmissible Delta variant is ravaging the United States. In many parts of the country, vaccination rates still lag far behind that 50 percent mark, and far behind the 70 percent target that Biden set for mid-summer. Hospitals in hard-hit areas of the country are filling up and sometimes overfilling with Delta patients. Health-care providers who have worked themselves to exhaustion for 16 months are being asked to find a little more energy. Businesses are putting office reopenings on hold. Elected and public-health officials are bringing back restrictions. The CDC said this week that Americans, even those who are vaccinated, should wear masks indoors in public spaces if they live in areas with substantial or high transmission of the virus.