CBS poll: People just aren't that worried about Omicron

AP Photo/LM Otero

We’re in the midst of an increasingly bizarre disconnect between all of the mainstream media coverage of pandemic news and the government’s response to it when compared to the public’s general reaction. The new Governor of New York just issued a statewide face mask mandate for public indoor activity unless the venue has a vaccine passport requirement, citing the Omicron variant as the reason. But she’s not ordering any businesses to close because she claims to want to minimize the spread of the virus but (and this is the important part) do so “without harming businesses.” At the same time, CNN is running promos for their New Years’ Eve special with Anderson Cooper, saying “the crowds are back!”

It’s enough to make anyone dizzy. But we might be seeing an explanation of these dueling messages in the results of a new poll from CBS News. While dire warnings are being issued about the Omicron variant (from which almost nobody has died yet) and elected officials are once again issuing mandates in some states while others refuse to do so, the majority of Americans are simply not all that concerned over the new variant. In fact, CBS found that most people are planning travel and very “social” holiday gatherings.

Omicron isn’t causing Americans to cancel plans this holiday season, which looks to be a social one, in part because the vaccinated are at least somewhat confident they’re protected from the virus and its variants. That doesn’t mean they’re shrugging off the threat, though, but rather that they believe there are ways to mitigate it.

It’s the vaccinated, in particular, who want to see proof of vaccination required for things people might do, like getting on planes and entering public venues. And they overwhelmingly feel everyone shares a responsibility to help stop the spread of the virus.

Reaction to Omicron looks somewhat similar to the reaction to the Delta variant last summer, albeit with fewer now very concerned, and it breaks along much the same attitudinal lines we’ve seen through the pandemic.

Most respondents seem to believe that the vaccination drive has done its job and the danger is largely behind us. 85% said that they are either “very” or “somewhat” confident that the vaccines will protect people from serious illness or death. Only 14% are either “not very” or “not at all” confident. 81% say they have not canceled any planned holiday gatherings, while only 19% said they have. In other words, it’s the holiday season and people are ready to party.

But this laissez-faire attitude doesn’t apply to every aspect of life. If the government has been trying to drive a wedge into society between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, they seem to be succeeding. CBS asked people if they thought that proof of vaccination should be required for activities such as getting on a plane, going to work, or dining out at restaurants. 75% of vaccinated people felt that should be the case for air travel, while a similar requirement for work or dining out was supported by 67 and 58 percent respectively. The unvaccinated (obviously) did not see it the same way.

In other words, the government, with the constant help of the mainstream media, has created a situation where a significant majority of citizens who complied with the government’s demands are now willing to see the rights and freedoms of their fellow citizens who refused to comply be compromised. Last year, before the first vaccines were ever approved for use by the public, I was shouting from the rooftops about how immunity passports would create a two-tier society comprised of those with the normal expectation of freedom and those who would be restricted.

Sometimes I really hate it when I turn out to be right. But that’s exactly what’s happening now, only it’s worse than I thought. I had little doubt that many elected officials, particularly among those leaning to the socialist side of the scale, would be fine with restricting the rights of the unvaccinated. But their endless messaging and fearmongering have obviously convinced a depressingly large number of Americans to sign on to such a system and kick the unvaccinated into a 21st-century version of internment camps.

A very smart person once said, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” And yet… here we are.