Masking in schools is particularly difficult. No one wants to force young children to wear masks for hours a day indefinitely, but it would also be foolish to abandon the practice altogether. A middle ground may be requiring masks for students during power surges or when new variants of concern are detected and vaccine evasion is still being measured. The rest of the time, the evidence so far suggests the requirement could be waived. Nevada has successfully linked its school masking mandates to community transmission rates, and experts say it’s worth trying the same in other states.
Prepare for power surges. No scientist or health official has managed to predict, or even explain after the fact, what constellation of forces is causing the pandemic to come and go around the world as it does. But it is clear that there will continue to be periods of substantial increases in coronavirus cases, and there should be sensible and significantly better policies in place to deal with them.
Country-specific travel bans are futile: by the time a variant like Omicron is detected in one country, it has already spread to the other side of the world. Penalize countries that report new variants — such as South Africa fact, with Omicron – will only discourage them from sharing this kind of information in the future. Broad policies — like requiring anyone entering the United States to test negative or possibly quarantine — would be harder and more expensive to implement.
It would also have a better chance of actually working. If federal authorities are serious about using border control to slow the spread of dangerous pathogens, they will need to establish clear and enforceable testing and quarantine protocols, not to mention adequate quarantine facilities, at ports of entry. .
Ending the Covid theater. The coronavirus is airborne and any money spent on deep cleaning would be better invested in improving building ventilation. But instead of upgrading their HVAC systems, too many schools and businesses still rely on things that won’t work as well. The plastic barriers that have become common in restaurants, nail salons and offices, for example, can actually impede airflow and exacerbate viral spread. Lawmakers and local authorities should make a concerted effort to change this. Not only would better ventilation help thwart the coronavirus, but it would also curb the spread of other airborne pathogens, including the flu and those that cause colds.
Continue the vaccines. Public health authorities were once a common feature of American life. When cholera and yellow fever regularly plagued major cities across the country, citizens accepted and expected their health departments to issue warrants, quarantine orders and travel restrictions. It’s crucial that officials strengthen those powers now, as scientists say epidemics and pandemics will only become more common in the years to come. Mr. Biden’s vaccine mandates have been bold and effective — and administration officials should stay the course no matter how many legal battles they encounter.
In the meantime, government officials and private companies would do well to stand firm on certain fundamentals: Covid vaccines should be mandatory for public employees and in large companies, for healthcare workers, in schools (for staff like for students for whom vaccines are permitted) and for a range of indoor activities, including dining in restaurants and attending concerts. Masks should be worn again in indoor public places whenever transmission rates are high, vaccination rates are low, or new variants of concern are circulating.