“Surest sign yet that the internal polling on COVID restrictions is disastrous,” Sonny Bunch remarked at this news.
I don’t know. Other awards shows are still demanding that guests be vaccinated, THR points out. And since when do Hollywood liberals care about polling? Being out of touch with normal American sensibilities is practically the industry’s calling card!
If anything, you’d expect the Oscars to demand vaccination and masks and proof of a negative test to signal maximum COVID conscientiousness.
The ugly truth, THR theorizes, is that the Academy is kowtowing to celebrity egos with this policy, something that very much would be in keeping with industry culture. There are likely anti-vaxxers among the nominees and presenters and the Oscars doesn’t want to risk having them boycott the event given the pitiful ratings the show has drawn in recent years. They want maximum star power. Result: No vaccines required.
But, The Hollywood Reporter has learned, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is planning not to mandate proof of vaccination (with or without a booster) in order to attend this year’s ceremony. Instead, it intends to require a negative PCR test or a negative rapid antigen test on the day of the event…
Some industry insiders have speculated that the Academy is being less stringent than it could be because more than a few high-profile industry figures — including at least one of last year’s acting winners and prominent members of the casts of multiple best picture nominees, as well as nominees in other categories — would otherwise be precluded from attending the Oscars.
The Academy has yet to publicly release its COVID policy for Oscar night, but unless it significantly changes between now and showtime, the organization can expect considerable blowback from some members of the community. “Shocking” is how one highly connected industry insider, speaking to THR, described the Oscars’ willingness to accommodate anti-vaxxers.
They’re apparently calculating that pro-vax celebrities won’t boycott the ceremony to protest the new policy. Which is an … interesting assumption given Neil Young’s and Joni Mitchell’s pullout from Spotify.
It’s scientifically defensible to drop vaccine passports at a moment when an immune-escape variant like Omicron is dominant and hospitalizations are falling. If vaccination is no longer much good at preventing transmission but still very, very good at protecting the individual from severe disease then there’s no strong communitarian logic to having all guests at an awards show be vaxxed. Each guest can do what they like and take their chances with infection. For the record, though, being vaccinated does still help limit transmission of Omicron’s new and even more contagious sub-strain according to a recent Danish study:
Transmission rates among unvaccinated people were higher with BA.2 compared to BA.1, indicating unvaccinated people were carrying a higher viral load with BA.2. Although fully vaccinated people are more likely to catch BA.2 than the previous strain, they are less likely to spread it to others, researchers found.
People who received a booster were even less likely to transmit the virus than people who were fully vaccinated.
“This indicates that after a breakthrough infection, vaccination protects against further transmission, and more so for BA.2 than BA.1,” the scientists found.
Vaccination also shortens the duration of contagiousness after being infected:
Just published @NatureMedicine
In the large @moderna_tx placebo-controlled trial, vaccination reduced viral copies 100-fold on the day of diagnosis and shortened the median time to undetectable virus from 7 days (placebo) to 4 dayshttps://t.co/YtfhcZuL8f pic.twitter.com/DTvWMsV8Uy
— Eric Topol (@EricTopol) February 10, 2022
Only a fool would attend a packed auditorium without protecting themselves. But this is what endemicity and winding down restrictions entail: People now get to choose whether they want to be fools. And celebrities are people too!
Rest assured, though, that all of the ushers, production crew, and other wage slaves at the Oscars will be triple-vaxxed, masked, and tested. VIPs are famously immune from COVID, after all, but the hoi polloi remain at perpetual risk.
Your must-read today comes from Cathy Young, who sifted through pro- and anti-restrictionist arguments about the end of COVID mandates to arrive at a fair-minded conclusion. Young is sympathetic to COVID doves who say that some rules have gone on way, way too long and never had much science to support them in the first place. But:
One: Just because “Normality now!” is a justifiable position in February 2022 doesn’t mean it was a justifiable position in March-April 2020, when there were no vaccines, no treatments, very little knowledge of how to help the sick—or even of what kind of disease we were dealing with—and when case fatality rates were frightening (as high as 13 percent in Italy, 12 percent in the United Kingdom, and 11 percent in Belgium and France, with the global case fatality rate peaking at 7.2 percent during the week of April 22–28, 2020). So current “back to normal” moves should not be treated as a vindication of the early “dissenters.”
Two: If your goal is “normal life,” antivax propaganda should be your Public Enemy No. 1. The reason Denmark can lift all COVID restrictions, for example, is that it has one of the world’s highest vaccination rates (81 percent of adults have had a double dose of the vaccine and 65 percent have had the booster shot). The evidence is overwhelming that even if the vaccination don’t stop the spread of the virus as much as originally hoped, it does reduce transmission, and drastically lower the risk of serious illness or death…
[I]f we’re going to talk about moral crimes [like school closures], perhaps we should also apply that term to the unnecessary deaths of tens of thousands of people, just in the United States, who chose to forgo vaccines because they got pulled into dumb-and-dumber culture wars.
“Remember in 2020 when estimates that Covid would claim 1-2 million American lives were dismissed as hysterical? I do,” Ari Schulman tweeted yesterday. We’re at 911,000 dead and counting, with the million mark expected to be passed sometime this spring.
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