I haven’t felt joy like this since I heard “The Walking Dead” was ending this year.
Nevada’s Democratic governor, Steve Sisolak, surprised his constituents by abruptly announcing yesterday that the state mask mandate would be lifted — for everyone, adults and kids, vaccinated and unvaccinated alike. Go figure that with thousands of gamblers expected in Vegas this weekend for the Super Bowl, the governor didn’t want anyone who’s prepared to throw money around turned away from casinos or restaurants due to a mask policy,
Lifting the state mask mandate didn’t mean local mask mandates would also lift, though. On the contrary, like Phil Murphy in New Jersey, Sisolak made a point of saying that school boards are free to impose their own rules. The Clark County School District soon followed his announcement by announcing that they’d drop their mandate too, though, setting off this scene worthy of a Super Bowl victory.
Stop what you’re doing and watch this.
Kids at a Las Vegas elementary school burst out into cheers after learning they no longer have to wear a mask to school pic.twitter.com/xIuHgFtmHo
— Courtney Holland 🇺🇸 (@hollandcourtney) February 11, 2022
Sisolak’s up for reelection in less than nine months in a state Biden won by less than three points. Not that that had anything to do with his calculations about mandates, of course.
Some parents in Clark County grumbled about the decision. “It feels like we’re loosening the reins at the wrong time when we’re not in the clear,” said one whose daughter got sick with COVID after Christmas. Really? Here’s the case curve in Nevada. If not now, when?
Biden was asked by Lester Holt in his new interview with NBC whether he supports Democratic governors like Sisolak who dropped mandates this past week. That’s a tricky question for him because it traps him between his duties to two different constituencies. On the one hand, he wants to maximize his party’s chances of winning this fall, which means responding to the public’s COVID fatigue by loosening restrictions. On the other hand, he’s the head of the federal science bureaucracy and his bureaucrats aren’t ready to pull the plug on mask mandates. What answer should he give?
Here’s what he said. The vibe I get from this exceptionally noncommittal word salad is that he agrees it’s time to ease COVID rules but feels obliged to back the CDC by allowing that lifting mandates might be “premature.”
— Tommy moderna-vaX-Topher (@tommyxtopher) February 11, 2022
Translation: Sisolak and his colleagues may not be following “the science” as articulated by the CDC but the White House certainly isn’t going to make a fuss about it. The key caveat for Democrats as they abandon state mandates is letting local governments continue to impose their own rules if they want, something they can use to reassure lefty COVID hawks that mandates aren’t going away entirely. Jen Psaki has highlighted that fact as an important distinction between Democratic and Republican governors several times this week when quizzed during White House briefings. Unlike Ron DeSantis, she’s said, Democratic governors aren’t banning school boards from setting their own pro-mask policies. The rules might remain. It’s just that high-profile Dems like governors are washing their hands of them.
That position seems risky to me, though, inasmuch as it may alienate both sides of the debate. COVID hawks will be grumpy that Democratic governors aren’t pushing the “safety first” approach more aggressively. And anti-mask swing voters in some counties will be grumpy that their kids are still being forced to mask at school because the local government refuses to lift its own mask mandate.
Biden should do what he can to reality-check nervous liberal parents, nearly all of whom are vaxxed to the gills by now, about the probability of severe COVID at this stage of the pandemic. Befitting a post about Las Vegas, Damon Linker runs through an analysis of the odds:
[The vaccines] in most cases protect a vaccinated and boosted individual from getting seriously ill and dying. We can see this from CDC data showing that the incidence of death last October and November from COVID-19 for someone vaxxed and boosted was about 0.1 per 100,000 infections — or about 1 out of a million…
For comparison, the National Safety Council calculates that as of 2019 the average American’s lifetime odds of dying in a car accident are about 1 in 107. (That of course includes reckless drivers and very cautious ones, as well as those who drive a lot and those who rarely do, and so forth.) The chance of choking to death on food? One in 2,535. The chance of being killed by a dog? One in 86,781. And the event we often treat as the epitome of an extremely rare incident of terribly bad luck — being killed by a bolt of lightning? The chance of that happening to any random individual, without incorporating other risk factors? One in 138,849.
Which means that, all else being equal, you’re roughly seven times more likely to die from being struck by lightning than you are to die from catching COVID-19 (in its current variants) if you’re fully vaxxed and boosted.
The odds of winning a top prize on a Vegas slot machine are one in 373,248. You’re considerably more likely to hit the jackpot than you are to die of COVID if you’ve had three shots and are in reasonably good health. For a kid, I’d guess the odds are similar even if they’re unvaccinated. Set ’em free!