Scott Gottlieb to Biden: Look, Jack, Americans are going to be getting together long before July 4

Biden knows this, though, right? The reason he targeted July 4 as a day when Americans might be able to gather with friends and have barbecues isn’t because he thinks it’ll take that long to achieve a degree of normalcy. It was partly for symbolism (“we’re declaring our independence from the virus!”) and partly because his habit with the pandemic is to underpromise and overdeliver. He’s never moved off of his goal of administering 100 million doses in his first 100 days even though it was clear by Inauguration Day, with the U.S. already approaching that pace, that we’d hit that target easily.

Bear in mind that even blue-state governors like Larry Hogan and Andrew Cuomo have begun reopening *large venues* like Camden Yards at limited capacity. By the time July rolls around, some may be at full capacity. There are unquestionably going to be mass gatherings on Independence Day this year to watch fireworks, and maybe not exclusively in red states. Biden just wants to set the bar for returning to normal as low as possible to make it child’s play for his team to clear it — and, of course, to manage expectations in case some vaccine-resistant black-swan variant pops up to complicate things.

Skip to 2:55 here and watch Gottlieb drop another truth-bomb into the debate over relaxing precautions. Vaccinated people are going to relax their precautions no matter how “the debate” goes, he says, correctly:

Now check this out:

We’ll reach 50 percent vaccinated by early May at a pace of 1.43 million doses per day — but we’re well ahead of that pace, averaging 2.2 million doses over the past seven days. And of course some meaningful share of the population has already been immunized by contracting the virus and recovering from it, meaning that actual population immunity will be higher than 50 percent on the day we reach that vaccine milestone. Herd immunity could be setting in by April sometime. And certainly, with so many senior citizens having been vaccinated, the risk of hospitals being overwhelmed by a new wave will have all but disappeared by then.

Why, things are looking so good right now supply-wise that even the blue state of Michigan led by Gretchen Whitmer is preparing to toss “equity” considerations in prioritizing the vaccine and open it up to everyone in just a few weeks:

Michiganders will be celebrating July 4 however they want.

When our friends in Europe will be able to celebrate holidays en masse again is another matter, as Italy, Germany, and France are each plagued with rising case counts at the moment. Italy’s looking at another lockdown around Easter and German scientists say a “third wave” has already begun in their country, with more restrictions soon to follow. How come? In part it’s because the British variant is running wild, but partly too it’s because they’re struggling with vaccinations. Here’s how they stack up to the U.S. in cumulative vaccinations per capita:

We’re roughly three times better. Measured by the current seven-day rolling average, we’re twice as fast. I wonder how scenes of the U.S. and UK getting back to normal are going to play on the continent this summer. Hopefully it’ll lead to less vaccine hesitancy among Europeans but I wonder if there won’t be political fallout for governments over the slow pace too.

I’ll leave you with this grim story, which is characteristic for the media. It’s not untrue, strictly speaking: The only way to “end” COVID is to vaccinate the planet, which won’t happen anytime soon. So long as there are populations where the virus can spread, the risk of a variant arising that can beat the current vaccines will remain. But the pandemic as we know it will end here by summer and the mRNA vaccine developers should be able to adapt quickly to variants as they pop up and provide Americans with boosters. The pandemic’s not “over,” but it’s over.