Back to normal

DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco - The Philippine Star

It is scary to see folks in California and Colorado almost back to normal. Some still use face masks, but most no longer do. As the Manila I left went back to GCQ, Los Angeles and Denver appear to be going back to life as it was before the pandemic, as if the Delta variant threat isn’t real.

Indeed, my connecting flight to Denver on Southwest was packed full, as in all seats taken. No social distancing on the aircraft.

The only concession to the virus was the requirement to wear a mask on the flight. It was the longest two hours for me, feeling totally insecure and vulnerable to the virus, my two Sinovac jabs notwithstanding.

Apparently, the US airlines have been allowed to go back to normal… no more vacant middle seat. And the airlines are eager to recoup as much of their losses when they flew almost empty planes.

US health authorities have earlier loosened their rules as the number of vaccinated Americans approached the halfway mark. But the US CDC is once more urging Americans to mask up due to the Delta virus surge.

Over 56 percent of Americans over the age of 12 are now fully vaccinated, according to the US CDC. That’s more than 161 million people getting two doses of an approved vaccine.

They are still working to achieve herd immunity levels of between 70 to 90 percent.

Nationwide, more than 99 percent of recent deaths have occurred among unvaccinated people, and more than 97 percent of recent hospitalizations have occurred among the unvaccinated, according to the CDC. This led US President Biden to say  “the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated.”

Based on the packed flight I took and the crowded airport at Denver, it seems Americans now think the summer is too good to waste being locked down.

US health officials were initially worried they were hitting a  wall of vaccine hesitancy, an unfortunate development in the light of the Delta threat. The number of cases is rising in all 50 states. And with the colder months just around the corner, a serious surge can happen.

The New York Times reported that a Kaiser Family Foundation poll at the start of the year among American adults revealed that 23 percent said no to being vaccinated. But a significant portion of that group have since changed their minds in a follow up interview by the Kaiser pollsters.

Vaccination has become a political issue, thanks to Trump supporters who think vaccines are either unnecessary or harmful. Far right evangelicals are also resisting the call to vaccinate. Vaccination rates are higher in blue states and rather low in red states.

For someone coming in from Manila after over a year of being locked down, it takes a while to get adjusted to the approach the Americans are taking on COVID.

The airport was almost empty when we arrived, and the immigration people were at their friendliest best.

No one checked my test results at LAX, most likely because the All Nippon Air check-in clerk at NAIA already took a copy of it, as well as the US CDC health declaration form, and uploaded everything even before take off. I hope this approach to living with the virus works.

The first thing I had to discard is the face shield, never required in the US. I felt insecure without it, though. They were giving free tests as you exit the airport.

But the US government has also announced last Monday  it will not lift any existing travel restrictions as lobbied for by the airlines. The US currently bars most non-US citizens who within the last 14 days have been in the UK, Ireland, the 26 Schengen nations, China, India, South Africa, Iran, and Brazil.

Colorado is essentially wide open spaces and the freedom to walk around without masks outdoors feels good. I still wear my mask indoors, but not too many do. I will next check when I can get a booster shot of Pfizer or Moderna as I feel insecure with my two Sinovac shots.

Pfizer had been suggesting that even with their vaccine, a booster shot may be needed six months after the second shot. American health officials are still to be convinced that is necessary. Delta may prove the need for such a booster.

Have been reading about the COVID situation back home and I am hoping a more rounded approach to the steps being taken is adopted. There is more to the pandemic response than lockdowns. The IATF should have more sectors represented. We should know by now  the ex-military and the clueless DOH Secretary need help to widen their perspectives.

Officials like NEDA Secretary  General Karl Kendrick Chua can contribute facts-based solutions instead of the knee jerk conjectures that become policy. Right now, the President is being led blindly, a case of the blind being led by the blind.

We are in our second year of the pandemic. We all deserve better.

Olympic gold

Congratulations to Hidilyn Diaz, the first Filipino to win an Olympic gold medal. Actually, many other Filipinos have won the gold, but they represented the United States.

We almost lost Hidilyn too, thanks to the politics of Philippine sports. She complained of being under funded during her training. This is awful considering that after winning silver in Brazil, she was obviously our best chance for a gold in Tokyo.

We keep on losing good athletes because of the self-serving politicians who have similarly been the bane of our country overall. A politician heading the chess federation lost Wesley So, a top world chess grandmaster to the US.

In the case of Hidilyn, the Duterte administration demonized her, even including her in a list of political enemies out to destabilize Duterte’s reign. How stupid can that be? Par for the course!

For now, let every Filipino bask in the glory Hidilyn made possible by her gold win. Hopefully, she will inspire other athletes to aim for the gold… and our sports officials to think of developing the athletes rather than their bank books.



Boo Chanco’s email address is bchanco@gmail.com Follow him on Twitter boochanco@yahoo.com

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