What does it mean to be "done with COVID"?

The desperate desire to get back to normal is understandable. What’s odd is seeing the absence of normality as a political betrayal instead of an epidemiological curveball. The reason things aren’t normal isn’t that power-mad public health officials went back on their promises. It’s because a new coronavirus variant emerged that overwhelmed hospitals and threw schools and many industries into chaos, and because not everyone has the luxury of being insouciant about infection.

Even with Omicron around, there’s a fair bit of normality available, especially if you don’t have kids. Here in New York City, restaurants, bars, nightclubs and theaters are generally open, though shows are closing at the last minute when cast members fall ill. You can have a party or go on vacation. What you can’t do is force other people, whose vulnerabilities might be much greater than your own, to agree with your risk assessments and join you in moving on while the pandemic still rages…

But in general, what’s standing in the way of normal life is Covid, not Covid prevention. In most cases where schools are closing, it’s because too many people are out sick to staff them. The same is true of stores that are cutting back their hours and airlines canceling flights. To have more normalcy, we need less illness. That means doing all the things public health people drone on about, especially getting more people vaccinated and boosted, which still — even with the high number of Omicron breakthrough cases — reduces the risk of infection as well as hospitalization.