Opinion: We must stay vigilant as politicians lift pandemic restrictions

Forgotten+mask

Eddy Yeretnov

Masks are being removed across the country as people begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel for the pandemic; however, with cases still running rampant, this is not the time to be complacent.

When the COVID-19 pandemic became serious in the U.S., the country went into stringent lockdowns. Even though much of the government response and contact tracing abilities were delayed, many people took mask-wearing and other precautions seriously.

Today we see the light at the end of the tunnel. The Biden administration has looked towards FDR’s wartime production tradition and recently negotiated a deal between corporate biotech rivals Merck & Co. and Johnson & Johnson to have Merck produce the Janssen vaccine, hopefully getting every adult vaccinated by the summer. 

This is all excellent news, but we are not yet out of the tunnel. According to Dr. Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical advisor to the President, “when you have a significant amount […] of cases, the virus will continue to mutate and will mutate for its own selective advantage.” 

As the country is vaccinating people, cases should go down, and mutations should become minimal. However, if we can not keep cases low as we make and distribute vaccines, we may be stuck defenseless against a stronger pandemic and have to repeat the whole dreaded process.

Some U.S. governors’ ending lockdowns and COVID restrictions are counterproductive and may cause more economic damage by exacerbating the pandemic. Texas governor Greg Abbott set the worst example by pledging to “open Texas 100%” on March 10 and lift the mask mandate. Other states’ actions will also affect the whole nation as we complete this battle against the mutating pandemic.

Yet, we are not immune from irresponsible action taken locally in California and the Bay Area, exposing hypocrisy on the side of the Democrats. It goes without saying that former President Donald Trump politicized this pandemic. You could often tell who someone was going to be voting for by how they wore their mask. Without an enemy in the White House, many coastal Democrats have abandoned their sense of personal responsibility in dealing with this pandemic. 

On the local level, we can see this with the Sequoia Union High School District planning on reopening for in-person instruction as soon as April 5. When schools were closed in March of 2020 and remained closed through September 2020, case counts were lower than they are today. But the erosion of vigilance surrounding the pandemic, in addition to politicization and normalization, has pushed local and national agendas toward a riskier path. Although there are some potential benefits to school reopening, they can be more effective with a targeted reopening for those with the greatest need. 

Now, as we sit on a precipice of a possible extended pandemic, it is up to us to maintain responsible precautions, even if they are un-mandated, and push our local officials to be bold in their actions to protect our health and safety in the future.