We’re avoiding the hardest questions about living with the coronavirus long term.
We knowhow this ends: The coronavirus becomes endemic, and we live with itforever. But what we don’t know—and what the U.S. seems to have no coherent plan for—is how we are supposed to get there. We’ve avoided the hard questions whose answers will determine what life looks like in the next weeks, months, and years: How do we manage the transition to endemicity? When are restrictions lifted? And what long-term measures do we keep, if any, when we reach endemicity?
The answers were simpler when we thought we could vaccinate our way to herd immunity. But vaccinations in the U.S. have plateaued. The Delta variant and waning immunity against transmission meanherd immunity may well be impossibleeven if every single American gets a shot. So when COVID-related restrictions came back with the Delta wave,we no longer had an obvious off-rampto return to normal—are we still trying to get a certain percentage of people vaccinated? Or are we waiting until all kids are eligible? Or for hospitalizations to fall and stay steady? The path ahead is not just unclear; it’s nonexistent. We are meandering around the woods because we don’t know where to go.