Mandates have saved the day, but time has come to lift them

Few have been more staunchly supportive of masking, distancing, disinfecting and vaccinating than we have throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

From the outset, we have cast our lot with Anthony Fauci, Kate Brown, the CDC, Joe Biden and other voices of caution, science and reason. We have resisted at every turn calls to give business and the economy primacy over health and human life.

But we think the time has come for Gov. Brown to give up on her 70% vaccination goal and settle for today’s 69%, which presents no material difference in public health risk from 70%. The vaccination rate, in this sense, calculates adults 18 years and older receiving at least one dose of vaccine. 

Her target seemed fully justified when it was announced. It did so until this week, when a rapidly declining vaccination rate stretched projected success further and further into the future. Meanwhile, thousands of businesses suffer unnecessarily.

We think every Oregonian should be committed not just to reaching 70%, but to surpassing that by the widest margin possible. In the meantime, if elimination of restrictions is destined to occur at 70%, it makes sense to drop those restrictions now.

Declining vaccination rates can’t reasonably be blamed on lack of opportunity, and we can’t allow the reluctant and resistant to continue penalizing the rest of us. They must bear responsibility for inaction that puts their health and lives at risk, and we all must continue the campaign to increase lagging vaccination rates.

We are reminded of Walter Cronkite’s pronouncement of Feb. 27, 1968, upon returning from a stint covering the Tet Offensive, that the war in Vietnam was no longer winnable, that negotiated withdrawal was the only realistic option.

Cronkite was known both as one of the war’s most consistent boosters and the most trusted man in America. So when he publicly bailed on the war effort, it led President Lyndon Johnson to concede, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.” Shortly thereafter he conceded something else as well — his 1968 re-election bid.

Far be it to compare ourselves to the legendary newsman. But here’s hoping we can play Cronkite to Kate Brown’s Lyndon Johnson here in our little corner of the world.

The vestiges of the lockdown have served their purpose and run their course. We admire the governor for standing firm despite a deluge of derision, but the time has come to declare victory and withdraw from the field.

Unpersuaded? Let’s try a little exercise in painting by the numbers:

We reached 67% on June 8 and 68% on June 15. But it’s been a real slog from there.

On June 15, 6,038 Oregon adults received their first dose of vaccine. But the average daily count of new vaccinations from June 16-23 was just 3,418, with just 1,082 on Tuesday and below average 2,591 on Wednesday. At that rate, it would be mid-July before we hit 70%, and even later if the vaccination rate continues dropping.

The truth is, we’re plenty well tapped out on willing arms. And a veritable array of lottery-style inducements seems to be having little discernible effect. The 70% figure, combined with natural immunity for COVID-19 victims, has long stood as a benchmark for achieving herd immunity. However, there is nothing magic enough about 70% versus 69% to justify another month of shutdowns.

The time has come for Gov. Brown to be as bold in letting go as she has been steadfast in holding on, and to let us celebrate a fuller independence before this coming Independence Day.

Comments

Lizzy

If you are advocating for removing the mask mandate, it would be helpful to inform us of the sources of the current cases and going forward so we can know what to avoid. For instance if a store or a workplace or school are identified as the source of the exposure we should be informed.