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Editorial roundup: Thoughts from around the nation

Inconsistent COVID-19 guidelines confuse public

Even as COVID-19 cases spiked last month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cut in half the amount of time that people should remain in isolation after infection if they are without symptoms — and eliminated the recommendation that they get a negative test before they start interacting with other people. The change caused an outcry among many scientific experts who thought it was reckless.

Just a week earlier, the CDC reduced the amount of time that health care workers were advised to stay off the job after a coronavirus infection if they tested negative and were symptom-free.

Meanwhile, parents of California’s public school students are receiving multiple notifications that their children have been exposed to COVID-19 at school, but most simply don’t know how they should react. Should the child be tested right away? Should the rest of the family keep their distance until symptoms have had a chance to show up?

We’re told that our old loose-fitting cloth masks are inadequate to protect us from the omicron variant, but entering a store wearing a gauzy bandana across the lower face is still allowed.

Home COVID-19 tests are supposed to be our new weapons against spreading the disease, but we’re mostly on our own when it comes to getting them, if you can find them at all.

Omicron passes from person to person with terrifying speed and yet the public may be more confused now than at any time in the last year about how to prevent a COVID-19 infection — or what vaccinated people can reasonably do to protect themselves.

New circumstances often call for changing guidelines, of course, but with omicron, the overall message about COVID-19 has grown more contradictory and muddled.

The shifting protocols may make sense, given all the factors public health officials need to balance. It could be that the danger of not having enough hospital workers is greater than the danger of having infected employees on the job. The costs to our economy and the inability to get needed products and services might outweigh the risks of ending quarantines earlier and without negative tests.

What does not make sense is leaving the public in a zone of utter uncertainty about this stage of the pandemic, what the game plan is, why the rules are changing and how we’re supposed to react to all this.

Some scientists argue that we don’t need to be as fretful about omicron as we were about the earlier variants. Vaccines appear to be doing an excellent job of keeping people from becoming seriously ill from a variant that appears to be milder. Maybe we’re turning a corner toward a future where COVID-19 will be less of a threat for most people — though we are still far from that point.

Despite pandemic fatigue, the majority of Americans have shown that they can step up during rough times and deal with an ever-changing landscape. But to do that, they need to know what’s going on. It’s about time officials put their communication skills together and told us clearly.

—Los Angeles Times

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Don’t eliminate filibuster; restore its original intent

Proclaiming himself “tired of being quiet,” President Biden on Tuesday proposed retiring the filibuster — the 60-vote threshold for getting almost anything through the Senate — for a narrow category related to the core mechanics of our elections. Under his exception, a bare majority of the 50-50 split Senate could pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would restore the federal government’s authority to review some state voting laws to prevent discrimination, and a broader bill creating national rules for voting by mail, early voting and the like.

Unless democracy itself can be preserved and protected, goes the argument, nothing else matters, so a carveout is warranted.

We agree that state legislatures’ partisan gerrymandering and restrictions on the franchise are indeed pernicious, partisan thumbs on the scale. But be careful what you wish for: If Republicans narrowly regain control of the Senate in this November’s elections, Democrats’ current howl about protecting the will of their majority will immediately be turned on its head, as they’ll have fewer votes but represent millions more people. Imagine a Senate with 51 Republicans, the ruthless Mitch McConnell in charge, and a new principle established that the 49 Dems can be summarily ignored.

In this case, even if Republicans were to show a glimmer of humility (don’t laugh) and accept Biden’s chosen carveout, one can easily imagine grave harm done: New laws requiring all voters present picture ID at the polling place and onerous rules to combat largely imaginary voter fraud.

The better answer for Democrats is to follow the wise advice of congressional scholar Norm Ornstein: Restore the true intent of the filibuster. Require 41 senators to maintain an exhausting, logistically complicated, all-eyes-on-them talk-fest to block passage of legislation.

Today, in a rejection of the better part of our history, the mere threat of invoking the filibuster is the same as actually going through the grueling motions. Rescue the will of the majority by making the minority work a hell of a lot harder, under klieg lights.

—New York Daily News

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Of sheep and COVID-19 vaccinations

Activists in Germany came up with a novel way to promote coronavirus vaccination: They arranged 700 sheep and goats into the shape of a giant syringe, then took aerial photos of it. As reported by The Associated Press, organizers used bread to coax the animals to stand in position so they formed the clear outline of a more than 300-foot syringe.

Germany, like the U.S., is currently facing a coronavirus surge. The country has a full-vaccination rate of a little over 70%. In America, it’s about 62%.

German health officials say many holdouts have come around lately, prompted in part by public-awareness projects like the one with the sheep and goats. Said one organizer: “Sheep are such likeable animals — maybe they can get the message over better.”

It was unclear if the project was intended as ironic commentary on anti-vaccination culture, which (in America, at least) derides as “sheep” people who follow science-based health guidance. Of course, it’s almost entirely the unvaccinated who are crowding like sheep into America’s hospitals lately.

—St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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