Newsweek’s cover: ‘Forget Herd Immunity!’ ‘Deadly New Variants’

Newsweek magazine has published a scary cover story for the May 21-28 issue, calculated to inject a little pandemic anxiety back into summer plans.

The cover tag, “Winter Is Coming,” appeared over a bleak blue winter scene featuring spiked COVID virus instead of snowballs and fearsome predictions underlined for effect: “No herd immunity.” “Deadly new variants.” “Why scientists predict another COVID surge.” Eek!

Even as the Centers for Disease Control delivered surprising new guidance that fully vaccinated people can shed their masks, Newsweek is repackaging pandemic fears (lockdowns! travel restrictions!) in a dramatic cover story. 

The online headline deck: “Forget Herd Immunity! Winter COVID Surges Will Bring Lockdowns, Travel Bans, Crammed ICUs.”

Newsweek’s Fred Guterl made plenty of cheap shots against Republicans.

As India descended into a COVID-19 tragedy that dwarfed anything the country had experienced in the pandemic so far, with hospitals inundated, oxygen supplies short and vaccines reportedly being stolen from warehouses, American politicians thousands of miles away were clamoring to end pandemic restrictions.

Representative Jim Jordan railed at Dr. Anthony Fauci in the House chambers, “You don’t think Americans’ liberties have been threatened in the last year, Dr. Fauci? They’ve been assaulted!” Alabama Governor Kay Ivey told Fox News, “We have been at this for more than a year now, and we have simply got to move forward. Endless government mandates are not the answer.”

Many Americans are eager to invite friends for a barbeque, belly up to a crowded bar, attend concerts and eat dinner in popular restaurants. Texas and Florida opened beaches and bars in early May….

Cue the doomsaying:

But the pandemic is not over. In the U.S., the nation is still divided in its willingness to accept vaccines or heed precautions against infection. Vaccination rates have peaked and herd immunity now seems unlikely before next winter, almost guaranteeing that pockets of people will remain vulnerable to the coronavirus in the fall, as the cold weather closes in….

The coronavirus will continue to circulate widely for months, giving it plenty of opportunities to mutate into troublesome new forms that chip away at the effectiveness of vaccines. The prospect that dangerous new variants will trigger fresh outbreaks — with the accompanying lockdowns, travel restrictions and calls for social distancing and mask-wearing — is a dark cloud over hopes of a return to pre-pandemic normal in 2021 and 2022.

Guterl made more bleak predictions. No herd immunity for the US?

When Dr. Fauci announced at the end of 2020 that vaccines would be distributed in the spring, he was optimistic that the U.S. would achieve herd immunity — a level of immune resistance in a population that eliminates, or sharply curtails, the virus’ ability to spread — by the fall….

It’s now clear that this is not likely to happen.

Why not? After quoting a melodramatic epidemiologist in Seattle, Guterl found an explanation.

Vaccine uptake has already slowed. The 7-day average peaked on April 11 at 3.3 million doses per day and is dropping fast, according to the CDC…..

He worked in some Republican abuse.

[Cornell’s John] Moore puts the matter this way: “If a significant fraction of America simply refuses to be vaccinated because they’ve drunk the Kool-Aid and get their information from QAnon and crazy Republican politicians, then that compromises the entire nation’s ability to return to normal.”

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