Last Friday, Bill Maher had Bari Weiss, a writer and podcaster, on his HBO Real Time show. Weiss said that she was "done with Covid," which led to she and Maher engaging in an irritating diatribe against Covid restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the virus.
If you have a high tolerance for largely fact-free ranting, here's a You Tube video of that part of the show. The Democratic congressman from New York is a breath of fresh air, but he wasn't able to correct all of the misstatements made by Weiss and Maher.
Joe Berkowitz provides a counterpoint in his "You may be done with the pandemic but the pandemic isn't done with you."
No, we haven't gone back to normal. Nor should we, not when several thousand people a day are dying from Covid-19 in the United States and hospitals are filled with Covid patients. Here's a chart from an Oregonian story.
But Weiss is overstating the degree to which things haven't gotten back to normal. There's no shutdowns. Almost all schools are open. Sure, in states like Oregon where public health science is respected, masks are required in indoor public spaces, which isn't a big burden.
Regarding masks, Weiss said this.
In addition to feeling duped by vaccines, Weiss feels hemmed in by restrictions. Speaking with Maher and gobsmacked New York Rep. Ritchie Torres, she lists three science-based reasons why public-safety precautions in 2022 are an utter farce. They are as follows: that cloth masks aren’t effective against omicron, that an asymptomatic COVID-carrier can get into a bar with a vaccine passport, and finally, that the current state of restrictions is going to be remembered by younger generations as a “catastrophic moral crime.” (Yes, that third point is presented as the product of “science.”)
Well, Weiss is correct that cloth masks aren't effective against Omicron. They also weren't effective against the Delta variant, or the original Covid strain. A Wall Street Journal graphic shows this.
A cloth mask is barely better than wearing nothing at all. However, if an infected person wears a surgical mask or N95 mask, this provides substantial protection for non-infected people, especially if they're also wearing a high quality mask.
Regarding a comment by Bill Maher that vaccinations only protect the person who's gotten vaccinated, not other people, this isn't true.
People who are vaccinated for SARS-CoV-2 but get breakthrough infections may be less likely to spread the virus because they shed it for a shorter period than unvaccinated people who are infected, according a new study led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Of course, the Omicron variant is much more contagious than the Delta variant and original Covid, so both the effectiveness of vaccines and of masks is lower with Omicron. But vaccines still prevent serious illness in most people if they've gotten a booster shot.
And masks offer protection against all variants, according to the CDC.
So the idea that Bari Weiss, or anyone, should "be done with Covid" makes no sense. It's akin to someone in England saying "I'm done with the war" while the fight against Hitler was still raging. Pandemics, like war, have to be fought with an all-hands-on-deck attitude.
Every American has to do their part to combat Covid-19. Getting fully vaccinated and wearing a high-quality mask in public indoor spaces is the patriotic thing to do. You're not only protecting yourself, you're protecting other people.
Doing anything else is both selfish and ignorant.