They must be burning the midnight oil these days at the Fifth Floor Excuse Factory, because the news on Covid-19 continues to be stubbornly bad. Any shred of belief that we’ve turned a corner was dashed with the last few days’ case counts — including an all-time one-day record of 342 new cases on Saturday. The seven-day rolling average remains dauntingly high, as do test positivity rates, hospitalizations, and deaths.
Can’t wait to see how they’ll explain all this at the Tuesday Covid briefing.
It’s approaching undeniable that Gov. Phil Scott’s plan of vaccination first, last and always is just not working. We’ve blown through prediction after prediction of Delta’s decline, and it’s still going strong.
One might expect the governor to change course, or at least tack a little against this gale-force wind, but I don’t think he’s quite convinced yet. Scott has stuck to his guns even as his justifications and explications have gotten thinner and thinner. I mean, last week he openly admitted that he didn’t know what was going on with Covid.
At the very least, he ought to come to the briefing with an air of humility and tell the people that his administration is rethinking the entire issue in light of the numbers, and is putting everything on the table. That would actually be a good way to prepare Vermonters for stronger measures if needed.
Now let’s try to answer the musical question, why hasn’t his policy worked? Vermont does have a high vaccination rate, after all. Are our current numbers a blip on the radar, or can we expect the high case counts to continue? Well, a couple things argue for the latter: Vaccination alone is insufficient, and the vaccine’s effectiveness seems to ebb over time.
On Friday, the Financial Times published a thorough analysis of why Great Britain has fallen far behind western Europe in fighting the pandemic. Case rates are much higher, Britain’s death rate is three times higher, and hospitalizations are eight times higher. Last week, there were more infected Britons than any time since January.
The difference between Britain and its former EU partners? Countries like Spain, France and Italy have combined aggressive vaccination drives with continued masking mandates and limitations on public gatherings. Britain has relied on vaccination alone. And it hasn’t worked.
Sound familiar? Yep, Boris Johnson’s policies are a lot like Phil Scott’s. That’s no more a good thing than adopting Johnson’s hairstyle.
There’s another key similarity between Britain and Vermont: Both launched their vaccination campaigns early. That was a strong positive at the time, but it’s now caught up with us because the vaccines’ effectiveness wanes over time. A British study found that the Pfizer vaccine dropped from 88% effective to 74% after five to six months. Similar results have been found for the Moderna vaccine.
Initial response to Vermont’s booster program has been tepid at best. That means a lot of people are less protected than they think.
That sense of confidence, and the lack of stricter masking policies by the state, has led a lot of folks to abandon their masks. Or wear them chinbeard-style, which is as stupid as you can get.
Unless the numbers get better in a hurry and stay that way, the governor will be forced to take tougher action. He won’t like it, and he probably won’t do it quite yet, but he’s getting backed into an uncomfortable corner.