Albany Times Union
New York declares an end to the pandemic emergency, but COVID-19 still rages in parts of the U.S. and around the world.
We need leaders to lead on this.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo may have declared an end to the COVID-19 emergency in New York, but the pandemic is hardly over.
The novel coronavirus is still raging around the world, with recent surges in India, Brazil, Argentina, Central America, parts of the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East and Europe.
The United States has yet to reach the epidemiological grail of herd immunity. Despite a glut of vaccines, vaccination in this country appears to have all but plateaued, with close to a third of the population still unprotected and many of those unvaccinated people resistant to getting a shot for one reason or another. That raises concern that vaccine-resistant variants could undo all the progress so far.
Yes, there are bright spots, including the low rate of infections New York is now seeing. Caseloads in the Capital Region are the lowest they’ve been since the novel coronavirus was first detected here in March 2020. Vaccination rates are rising, with 70 percent of New Yorkers getting at least one dose.
But there are some sobering reminders that the virus is still very much with us, starting with the most sobering of all, the death of a 50-year-old woman in Albany County the week before last. Though we’re not seeing the kind of mortality rates we’d seen in January, when 3,400 COVID-19 victims were dying in this country daily, we’re still losing around 300 a day to the disease, the vast majority of whom are, for a variety of reasons — distrust, indifference, poor access to quality medical care, lack of access to adequate health care — unvaccinated.
A Gallup poll earlier this month found that 24 percent of Americans don’t plan to get vaccinated and most of those individuals — 78 percent — say they are unlikely to change their minds. There’s a clear political thread here: 46 percent of Republicans don’t intend to get vaccinated, Gallup found, compared with 31 percent of independents and 6 percent of Democrats. A good share of the discredit no doubt goes to influencers who recklessly likened this deadly disease to the common cold or seasonal flu (we’re looking at you, Donald Trump, and you, Fox News).
Governments and in some cases private businesses have tried various enticements to get people to get a shot — lotteries, gift cards, a chance for a college scholarship, paycheck bonuses, sports, entertainment and amusement park tickets, even free drinks.
One thing that might make a measurable difference is if Republican leaders and conservative influencers would simply stop reinforcing the partisan resistance and instead follow the lead of politicians like Rensselear County Executive Steve McLaughlin — yes, the same Steve McLaughlin we disagree with on pretty much everything else — who has been out there strenuously trying to get people to get vaccinated.
It’s not a hard message to tailor for a conservative audience:
If you don’t want the economy to shut down again, get a shot.
If you don’t want to wear a mask again, get a shot.
If you don’t want your kids to have to wear a mask in school, get a shot.
If you want to keep visiting and hugging Grandma and Grandpa, get a shot.
If you don’t want to die from this still rampant and deadly disease, get a shot.
Oh, and if you don’t want Andrew Cuomo declaring an emergency this fall or winter and running your life again, get a shot.