The US needs a clear Covid-19 goal now more than ever
It’s the most important question since March 2020: When will the Covid-19 pandemic end?
The omicron variant, as well as other unexpected twists and turns with the coronavirus, have made the question a difficult one to answer. But, since the beginning, so has the lack of consensus on what level of Covid-19 the US and world are willing to tolerate. Even as government officials have ramped up and scaled down restrictions, they’ve seldom given clear standards — goals with specific metrics attached to them — explaining what’s driving the changes. All of that stands to replay with omicron.
“It’s been a major problem,” Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told me. “If you’re not articulating what the metrics are that are driving your public health decision-making, it makes everything more opaque to the general public.”
The initial objective was to “flatten the curve.” But that was vague: The idea was to keep Covid-19 spread, and ultimately hospitalizations, down to avoid overwhelming the health care system. But there was never a defined standard for how low cases or hospitalizations should be, and what threshold was too high.
Then even that goal seemed to fall by the wayside. Instead, officials across the country seemingly adopted and eased rules based on media attention, political sentiments, and public backlash.