Back in December, I wrote about the rather chilling prospect of America becoming a two-tier society in the wake of the pandemic. In the upper-tier would be those who had achieved a minimum level of immunity from the novel coronavirus through vaccination or the development of antibodies after surviving COVID. (Or possibly both.) Those fortunate individuals would be free to return to a mostly “normal” life where they could travel, dine out at restaurants and partake in the typical activities of free citizens. The rest of the people who didn’t manage to acquire any sort of immunity would be forbidden most of those opportunities, perpetually locked down and kept from all but the most unavoidable interactions, such as obtaining food and seeking medical care.

Of course, you really can’t operate in a system such as that without some sort of proof that the privileged, immunized people could provide to show their status. Think of it as an immunity passport. If you think that sounds like something from a George Orwell novel, I would have to agree with you, but that doesn’t mean that it’s fictional. We’re only just now beginning to vaccinate significant numbers of people and executives in the travel industry are already working on a system that would provide such passports, either physically or digitally. And they’re going to be here before you know it. (CBS Denver)

As more people receive vaccinations, the desire to return to semi-normal is greater than ever. Getting access to pre-pandemic activities will likely require proof of vaccination with what’s being referred to as a “vaccination passport.”

“So, we’ve seen the tech companies and some of the travel companies in talks about how to create a universal, for lack of a better word we’ll call it an app, where I can upload my travel documentation. That app is going to be smart enough to know what my vaccine documentation means, and then it’s going display an ‘all clear,’” said Skyler McKinley, Regional Director of Public Affairs for AAA.

McKinley says AAA has been anticipating vaccination proof would be part of future travel since the pandemic began.

Scott Keyes, Chief Flight Expert and founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights, tells CBS that multiple international organizations (almost certainly the WHO) are already working on developing a system of vaccination passports to cover international travel. He anticipates the announcement and rollout of these programs as soon as March of this year. If you attempt to board an international flight or book a berth on a cruise ship, you will need to be able to verify your immunization status or you will be denied.

AAA’s Skyler McKinley, quoted in the excerpt above, explains that establishing such an official system in the United States would be more difficult, if not impossible, because of the constitutional freedoms we enjoy. But even if the government can’t do this in a mandatory fashion (though it’s possible they could), the private sector is able to function in the same manner and force compliance.

By and large in this country, we cannot require people to get vaccinated. Governments can’t do that. You can’t say you must get this, and probably from a libertarian perspective, from the values that this country was founded on, that makes sense, but also in America we have private companies that can say, ‘if you want to do business with us you’re going to need to follow our guidelines and our risk mitigation,'” said McKinley.

Perhaps the United States government can’t physically haul you to a medical facility and have you vaccinated against your will. But as has been demonstrated all through the pandemic, they can certainly impose mitigation requirements on business, either through legislation or executive orders, that would turn you into the equivalent of a 21st-century leper. Bars and restaurants could be made to require an immunity passport for customers wishing to drink or dine indoors or face the loss of their business licenses. Airlines, private charter buses, and car rental companies could similarly be made to deny service to the toxic lower-tier of American society. And, of course, the COVID vaccine will be made mandatory for children seeking to attend public schools once the serum is tested and approved for minors. Should you fail (or refuse) to have your child vaccinated, you’ll be teaching them yourself at home or hiring a tutor if you have the means to do so.

They couldn’t forbid you from shopping for food or medicine, but is it such a stretch to imagine stores having “special” entrances and shopping areas for those lacking an immunity passport? And of course, you would still be forced to wear a mask even after that mandate had been lifted for the fortunate masses who are immune.

From there it’s only one small step to a process where all of this contact tracing work that’s being done is fed into an app that everyone has on their phones. It would use location data to alert you every time an unvaccinated person was in the vicinity so you could avoid them. Before you scoff at that, recall that they’re already doing this in Israel. Spain has begun rolling out their own version as well.

Frankly, I don’t see any way to avoid this. By the end of the year, things may begin going back to something that looks like the old “normal.” But under the covers, it’s not going to be the old “normal” at all. The world is changing before our eyes and we have definitely lived to see interesting times, as a frequently misattributed curse suggests.