This time a year ago, the stock market had begun its epic collapse, and our new COVID-19 reality was just about to set in. It’s been a rough go ever since, with the lucky ones suffering only disappointment—closed schools, ruined holidays, canceled vacations, rough toilet paper—instead of tragedy. The repeated implosion of our hopes and plans has, I think, caused many of us to embrace an eternal pessimism about the pandemic and our eventual return to normalcy—one seemingly shared by a lot of journalists, public health experts, and political leaders who rarely miss an opportunity to follow up good news with the possible downsides, no matter how remote.
This pessimism is not only annoying to us eternal optimists (I’m also a morning person, so hate away, haters), but—as laid out in a recent piece (and accompanying Twitter thread) by the New York Times’ David Leonhardt—also damaging for the country’s fight against COVID-19 and the economic recovery that hinges on it. In short, there’s a large and ever-increasing pile of evidence that the vaccines work incredibly well and the worst of the virus is behind us, but incessant alarmism and nitpicking—it’s not 100 percent; it doesn’t prevent transmission; what about the variants; the science isn’t ironclad; we’ll be masked till 2022; etc.—is undermining the very public support that’s needed to make the vaccines a true success (and thus let us get back to our lives). The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson provided a timely and frustrating example on Monday: