Opinion | We Can Live Better Lives While Being Smart About Covid

Hiding in schools presents a unique challenge. No one wants to force young children to wear masks for several hours a day indefinitely, but it would also be foolish to forgo the practice entirely. A happy medium might be asking students for masks during sudden increases in current or when new worrisome variables are discovered and the vaccine escape measure is still being measured. The rest of the time, the evidence so far suggests that the requirement can be rescinded. Nevada has successfully linked school-hiding states to community transmission rates, and experts say it’s worth trying the same in other states.

Prepare for sudden spikes. No scientist or health official has been able to predict, or even explain after the fact, what set of forces are causing the pandemic to ebb and flow around the world the way it is happening. But it is clear that periods of significant increase in coronavirus cases will continue, and there must be reasonable and much better policies to deal with it.

No point in country-specific travel bans: By the time a variant like Omicron is detected in one country, it’s already spreading halfway around the world. Punishing countries that have reported new variants – as South Africa did, with Omicron – will only discourage them from sharing this kind of information in the future. Comprehensive policies — such as requiring everyone entering the US to test negative or possibly quarantine — would be tougher and more expensive to implement.

It will also have a better chance of actually working. If federal officials are serious about using border control to slow the spread of dangerous pathogens, they will need to put in place clear and enforceable testing and quarantine protocols, not to mention appropriate quarantine facilities, at ports of entry.

Get rid of covid theater. Corona virus is airborne, and any money spent on deep cleaning would be better used to improve the ventilation of the building. But instead of upgrading their HVAC systems, a lot of schools and businesses are still relying on things that won’t work nearly as well. Plastic barriers that have become commonplace in restaurants, nail salons, and offices, for example, can actually obstruct airflow and further spread the virus. Lawmakers and local officials should make a concerted effort to change that. Improving ventilation will not only help thwart the coronavirus, but will also limit the spread of other airborne pathogens including influenza and those that cause the common cold.

Keep getting vaccinated. Public health authorities were once a common feature of American life. When cholera and yellow fever routinely haunt the nation’s major cities, citizens have accepted and expected their health departments to issue mandates, quarantine orders and travel restrictions. It is critical for officials to strengthen these powers now, because scientists say that epidemics and epidemics will become more common in the coming years. Mr. Biden’s mandate on a vaccine has been bold and effective — and administration officials must stay the course no matter how many legal battles they face.

In the meantime, it is best for government officials and private companies to stand firm on some basics: Covid vaccines should be required for public employees and large corporations, for health care workers, in schools (for employees as well as students who get the vaccines are licensed) and a host of indoor activities Including eating in restaurants and attending concerts. Masks should be worn again in indoor public spaces any time transmission rates are high, vaccination rates are low or worrying new variables are circulating.

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