Trapped in the COVID Hotel California

We struggle with a muddle of rules, regulations and admonitions about what we can or cannot do. Nothing is trusted. Even less is certain.

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White Sox fans packed Guaranteed Rate Field all summer, no masks required. But the United Center will require that Bulls and Blackhawk fans show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test.


The global pandemic has birthed a bundle of contradictions. As we yearn for an end to the plague, we contend with an inexplicable whirl of rules, regulations and admonitions. 

We are grappling with a long list of “irrational” COVID-19 policies, writes Tyler Cowen, a professor of economics at George Mason University. 

For example, “the federal government tells people that a vaccine is more important than a test, yet to get into the U.S. you need a negative test result, not a vaccine,” Cowen writes. And while the highly infectious delta variant is sweeping the nation, the Centers for Disease Control “doesn’t have the data tools to know whether this is an early, middle or late stage of an outbreak.”

It’s all a muddle. And it’s feeding misinformation, suspicion and paranoia.

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The Chicago Public Schools has mandated that all students, K-12, attend school in person. Yet, tens of thousands of them cannot be vaccinated. 

The City of Chicago constantly issues useless travel advisories. The latest, from last week: If you are unvaccinated and travel to Chicago from any state in the nation (except Vermont) you are urged to either quarantine for 10 days or get a negative coronavirus test within 72 hours of your arrival. 

These advisories are unenforceable. 

We are pummeled with the mantra that we should socially distance, staying at least six feet away from each other in indoor public spaces, even when on a quick run through the grocery store. Yet, Chicago’s public schools are allowing unvaccinated children to sit in classrooms just three feet apart, for hours every day. 

For the first year of the pandemic, singing was not allowed at my Catholic Mass, even if everybody in the pews wore masks. The argument was that singing was more likely to lead to the spread COVID-bearing liquid particles. 

But now? A rousing rendition of “Eye Has Not Seen” is A-okay. 

This summer, baseball fans have packed Wrigley Field and Guaranteed Rate Field, no masks required. But on Thursday, the United Center announced that fans must show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to attend Bulls and Blackhawks games. 

The Biden administration has announced that COVID-19 booster shots will be available the week of Sept. 20 to most people who were fully vaccinated eight months earlier. But the booster shots first must be approved by the FDA and the CDC.

Yet some people are already getting the booster shots. “More than a million fully vaccinated people have received an additional dose since mid-August,” the New York Times reported Friday.

Two friends told me they got COVID boosters last week — at a Walgreens pharmacy. 

Why can’t I get mine?

Meanwhile, take the unvaxxed. Please. They are shunning lifesaving COVID vaccinations, claiming the vaccines are unproven and unsafe. Yet, when they come down with COVID, they are lining up at pharmacies for Ivermectin, a medicine typically used to treat parasitic infections in horses and cows. High doses of Ivermectin, the FDA says, can be “highly toxic” in humans.

Nothing is trusted. Even less is certain. And it all guarantees that the end of this pandemic is farther away than ever before. 

It’s a contrarian muddle of rules, regulations and admonitions. We are trapped in a COVID Hotel California. We can check out at any time, but we can never leave. 

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