A reality check for the complainers who say they’re ‘done with COVID’
The conversation between Bari Weiss and Bill Maher was one of the most self-indulgent, petulant and unaware I’ve heard in a long time, outside of outlets like Newsmax and kooky anti-vaxxer rallies.
Just this past week, COVID deaths hit an 11-month high in the United States, surging 11% compared to the previous week. While cases are finally beginning to drop, an average of 2,200 people a day are still dying thanks to the highly contagious Omicron variant, bringing total fatalities in our nation of 330 million to 868,000 and counting.
Cut that any way you want: You can say it’s mostly the unvaccinated dying now, mostly the elderly or immunocompromised. It’s still a significant and tragic number. At that rate, COVID deaths account for a full quarter of what used to be the average of American deaths per day.
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But if you’re Bari Weiss, a journalist and recent guest on “Real Time with Bill Maher,” who cares? COVID is so, like, five minutes ago.
In full disclosure, I know both Bari and Bill. I like and respect them both, and I’m also a frequent guest on Maher’s show. But the conversation they engaged in over the weekend was one of the most self-indulgent, petulant and unaware I’ve heard in a long time, outside of outlets like Newsmax and kooky anti-vaxxer rallies.
After Maher boasted that Europe’s decided to “treat [COVID] like the flu,” and therefore so should we, even though science says it is not like the flu, Weiss offered up her fresh take: “I’m done. I’m done with COVID.”
She went on to describe the great many, erm, sacrifices she’s personally made, leading to her exhaustion with the deadly pandemic that’s killed 5.6 million people worldwide: “I sprayed the Pringles cans that I bought at the grocery store, stripped my clothes off because I thought COVID would be on my clothes. I watched ‘Tiger King.’ I got to the end of Spotify. We all did it.”
Indeed, the boys of World War II are head-nodding in sympathy. Of course, “we all” did much more than that. We kept our kids home from school, we missed out on weddings and funerals, we lost jobs and loved ones, our lives were upended and put on hold. Many of us who survived got very sick and struggled with long COVID.
But none of that deterred Weiss, who still had some serious complaints, and very much wanted to talk to COVID’s manager:
“Then we were told, ‘You get the vaccine and you get back to normal.’ And we haven’t gotten back to normal. And it’s ridiculous at this point. If you believe the science, you will look at the data we did not have two years ago. You will find out that cloth masks do not do anything. You will realize you can show your vaccine passport at a restaurant and still be asymptomatic and be carrying Omicron. And you will realize most importantly that this is going to be remembered by the younger generation as a catastrophic moral crime.”
It’s hard to unpack all this, because none of it really makes an argument that we should, for any rational reason, be “done with COVID” as Weiss is. It’s just angsty, teenage word-salad that could easily have been checked by a willing moderator.
If she’s angry that we haven’t gotten back to normal, she should blame not “bureaucracy,” as she does, but the unvaccinated, enough of whom are still floating around to keep the virus and new variants alive and well.
None of her other grievances are arguments to stop caring about COVID either, but particularly not the way “the younger generation” is going to “feel” about this moment in history.
But it’s a funny thing about feelings.
Years ago, right-wing provocateur Ben Shapiro popularized a phrase meant to mock liberal “snowflakes” for their overly emotional and irrational responses to policy problems like gun violence or climate change: “Facts don’t care about your feelings.”
But in the era of Trumpism, when facts became relative, alternative and often altogether fake, it’s increasingly the case on the right that feelings don’t care much about your facts.
There are reams of facts available to all proving COVID is still real and not “ridiculous.” It’s common sense to say continued mask-wearing and vaccines are the best ways to avoid getting it and spreading it.
This isn’t a corporate conspiracy, an assault on your freedom or political propaganda. And just because science has evolved over time, or even changed based on better information, that’s not an argument to reject science as untrustworthy.
We’re all frustrated, exhausted and want to go back to normal. Especially those of us who gave up more than just a few hours to binge “Tiger King.”
We should absolutely have grown-up conversations about COVID, what’s working and what’s not. Those should be divorced from politics and informed by facts. And they should acknowledge the deep losses we’ve all suffered.
No one was well-served by the child-like comments on Maher’s show, which sounded more like a cheap pander to the Fox News crowd than the thoughtful commentary Weiss is capable of.
Of course, her erudition on COVID — remember, she’s “done” — has been met with the predictable and deserving response on social media: Her supporters are #DoneWithCovid, too. So there. If only COVID were done with them, and us.
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S.E. Cupp is the host of “S.E. Cupp Unfiltered” on CNN. Follow her on Twitter