As we emerge from 18 months of COVID mania, mandates, name-calling, neuroses, and the convoluted 2020 election season, we begin to hear footsteps. Footsteps? Yes, new warnings about “delta” and “lambda” variants, Europe shutting down, indoor masks, and fresh panic. Is all this worth fresh panic – or are we just seeing … the 2022 Pelosi variant?
Facts are important, so let us start there. Most have gotten a COVID vaccine, and those who have not likely never will. Most states are healthy, families healthy, and people want in-person schools, work, and economy. Most are not clamoring for more masks or shutdowns.
Yes, several variants exist, as always. They seem less worrisome than political actors claim. They are routine and routinely monitored. Objectively, medical experts put “variants” in three classes, “of interest,” “of concern,” and “of high consequence.” Of all the COVID variants reported, none is “of high consequence.” Others are being monitored, offer no basis for panic. See, e.g., SARS-CoV-2 Variant Classifications and Definitions.
With respect to reported vaccine effectiveness – for example, of vaccines against the original (alpha) COVID-19 strain against other strains – numbers are highly encouraging. Where two shots worked against “alpha” at 93.7 percent effectiveness, they work against “delta” at 88 percent effectiveness, close. See, e.g., Effectiveness of Covid-19 Vaccines against the B.1.617.2 (Delta) Variant.
Likewise, other research indicates the primary concern is that, for unvaccinated Americans, the transmission rates (rather logically) will be higher, specifically “delta” is making rounds in the less vaccinated states. Transmission may be higher for some variants, although severity seems no different. See, e.g., COVID-19 variants: What’s the concern?
In other words, just like with flu strains, changes tend to affect those not previously sick, not inoculated, and unusually susceptible. But there is no reported reason for panic or return to a nationwide shutdown. This is even true of variants like “lambda,” which afflicted Peru. Objectively, fewer than one percent of US cases can be tracked to Lambda. See, e.g., The Lambda Variant: What You Should Know And Why Experts Say Not To Panic.
But here is where politics gets into it. All this science aside, tempers and rhetoric can be expected to rise. Why? Because COVID was the driver for mass mail-in ballots, absentee ballots without reason, ballot harvesting, reduced identification checks, online registration, out-of-precinct voting, and blocked ballot count observations – in 2020. Some seem to like that.
Whatever you think about the 2020 outcome – and everyone has an impassioned view – one thing uncontested is that the virus drove fundamental changes in the election process. These changes created major doubt in the minds of many voters about election efficacy and integrity.
Politics aside, 37 states in 2020 permitted wide use of mail-in ballots, often without reasons or standard identification, to accommodate COVID. Many states extended vote casting and counting timelines, changed rules at the last minute, and compounded civic doubt. Most countries in the world do not permit this kind of voting due to vote fraud risk. See, e.g., Why Do Most Countries Ban Mail-In Ballots?: They Have Seen Massive Vote Fraud Problems.
So, here is the point.
If time for panic is over, if shots and collective immunity make Greek-lettered variants a minimal threat to health, if most who were going to get COVID got it, got over it, averted it, or sadly did not, the world we live in is now different.
There is no need for a fresh panic, no need for a push to set the table for another shutdown, return to unprecedented state restrictions on life, commerce, worship, gathering – or voting.
The only reason that a political player would be pushing fresh panic would be that they see an advantage in that push, perhaps room for reintroduction of election procedures alike those pushed in 2020, and like those pushed by Democrats in HR 1 and S 1, and so far defeated.
In short, federalizing the election process – in ways that encourage fraud and undermine public confidence – is unwise, unjustified, and highly suspect. Barring a wildly malignant variant – and there is no evidence that such exists – let us not default to mutual recrimination, federalization, panic, or the train wreck of 2020 in our 2022 midterm elections.
Science says – there is no need for panic or a return to unprecedented 2020 voting practices in 2022.
But do not think this is over. More variants will be reported; fear stirred, Democrat arguments made for federalizing our elections, a push for mass mail-in ballots, ballot harvesting, online registrations, no need for ID checks, less oversight. Beware the 2022 Pelosi variant.