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Pandemic Plan C

February 10th, 2022 by dk

Smart people and liberals have a hard time admitting they are wrong, especially when they aren’t. When pragmatism fails for reasons that shouldn’t have happened, they want the rules changed or the opposing malice/corruption/incompetence exposed so that their original plan can continue.

Better if they admit that their plan should have worked but didn’t, and then move to a new plan that might succeed where the last one failed. That’s where we are right now with COVID-19.

Plan A was herd immunity. We endured lockdowns, masks, and distancing to slow the spread and buy us time until vaccines — Plan B — could be developed to protect us. Scientists don’t know the exact percentage of an immune or inoculated population that would cause the virus to die out, but we clearly won’t reach that plateau.

Mixed messages fostered distrust as vaccines became available. Freeloader selfishness made it worse. Epidemiologists were not prepared for social media compound effect on skepticism. Compliance or protest has degenerated into tribal signaling. We stand for personal freedom or respect of authority. There’s no ground in between.

That’s not how it should be, but that’s how it is. On to Plan C! Our leaders are reluctantly coming around to it. Their reluctance is understandable, but it’s also part of the problem.

Most of us share the same wish for our next virus response: no masks, no distancing, no gathering restrictions. Both ends of the polarized spectrum share the same hope. It may not work out so well for those who have refused the vaccine, but they’ve chosen personal autonomy over personal health. So be it.

For those who are fully vaccinated, they may still get the virus and they may spread it to others, but their personal suffering will be reduced 99 percent. For the fully vaccinated, COVID-19 has moved from hardship to nuisance.

Two smaller groups will be unfairly victimized in this scenario, but they have been handed the short end of the coronavirus stick from the start. First, those who have compromised immune systems will need to continue taking extra precautions. Those who are near and dear to them may choose to join them.

Masks will signal an individual’s vulnerability or a person’s connection to the vulnerable, but without an enforceable mandate on those who feel safe themselves.

The second group that will be gravely inconvenienced by Plan C will be health care workers, who have been overworked for two years. Congress should authorize doubling the pay of every health care worker until this pandemic ends. That will attract more workers where we need them, even while the buildings and beds remain full.

We will of course need our health care system to continue their vigilance against variants. We may need a steady regiment of booster shots to remain protected. Some may still choose to avoid large gatherings.

Many states are lifting restrictions and rescinding mandates. Oregon’s current mandates a projected to end in March. Personal choices will mark the policies and the consequences of this next phase. That may be as close to “normal” as we can get.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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