On March 2, 2020, I sat with Denise in our favorite Chinese buffet restaurant. While I always try to sit facing away from any of those obnoxious televisions that have invaded even restaurants, I could not help but be aware of the CNN news feed. They were reporting that asymptomatic COVID-19 transmission had been confirmed. I knew at that moment that it would become a pandemic. We went into weekend isolation on that date. On April 24, 2021, we went into the grocery store to buy a week’s groceries for the first time since that date. It had been two and a half weeks since my second shot and one and a half weeks since Denise’s. Since mask-wearing was well-enforced in enclosed spaces enforced here in Maryland, we felt that the risk had been sufficiently attenuated. Two weeks later, we had our first unmasked meal with others: a Mother’s Day lunch with our daughter and son-in-law. May 15, Maryland is dropping most of its COVID restrictions this weekend. According to the Associated Press, 15% of Americans are confident they will not get vaccinated, and 17% say that they probably will not. KFF breaks the data down further, indicating that 12% of Democrats have adopted a wait-and-see approach, 4% will get vaccinated only if required, and 3% will definitely not get it. These numbers balloon to 20%, 14%, and 8%, respectively, for Republicans and 19%, 13%, and 7% for Independents. Epidemiologists do not think herd immunity is possible with such numbers.

In December, I did an informal look at the relationship between national GDP and COVID mortality and caseload based on data from Our World in Data. I found that countries, mainly in Asia, with more aggressive, successful COVID suppression had a much smaller negative impact on GDP than their more lax counterparts. In this country, it has been the COVID and vaccine deniers who have been most vocal about the economy. Of course, one cannot expect people whose brains are already too muddled to understand or accept the overwhelming science on COVID and the worth of vaccinations to put credence into the opinions of experts at MIT and the University of Chicago on the topic of the dismal science. So we have a situation where the vocal minority is doing nothing except whine about personal rights and the economy while the rest of us wear the masks and get the shots to raise the economy out of the Trump depression and get the nation going again. But there are enough of them to prevent us from getting to herd immunity. The damage they do is not limited to COVID. The anti-vax movement had enabled the return of measles, mumps, and rubella, endangering populations worldwide.

The minority who make the most noise about their patriotism and rights, most likely to wave the flag and declare political opponents un-American, are the very same ones who will do nothing for the national interest. Vague fears of vaccines, their side effects, and even Big Pharma are enough to prevent them from doing what most of us have easily stepped up to. In another time, we had a term for this type of person: “patriot-lite.”