Susan Bigelow head shot
SUSAN BIGELOW

What a dreary, depressing close to what was supposed to be the year of recovery. COVID-19’s variants are hitting us hard this winter; Connecticut is seeing case numbers the likes of which we haven’t seen since the bitter days of last January. 

At this point, it’s hard to see an imminent end to the pandemic. Vaccines work for the most part, but unequal distribution to poorer countries and the stubbornness of the anti-vax crowd here at home means that the variants will keep on coming. That means we’re going to be living with this virus for a long, long time to come. 

These days, thinking about life before the pandemic feels like remembering some long-past decade; there’s a warm, comforting nostalgia for the familiar, tinged with the sadness of knowing those days won’t ever come again. 

The politics of all of this are impossible. President Joe Biden’s approval ratings are in the toilet, not necessarily because of anything he’s actually done or not done, but because his promise to get us back to normal hasn’t panned out at all. Maybe it was always too much to promise, or maybe we underestimated the twists and turns of this virus. In any case, it feels like we’re heading into Year Six of a seemingly endless political, cultural, economic, and health crisis with all the anger, grief, exhaustion, and depression that go along with it. 

Politics and elections are just as much about our emotional state as they are about the actual government and our emotional state right now is lousy. If that continues or, heaven forfend, gets worse throughout 2022, Democrats both nationally and here in Connecticut are in for an absolutely historic drubbing next November. Unfortunately, because all we have are two choices, this will put people in charge who are unbelievably bad at governing as well as a few who think democracy is for losers. 

So that’ll be fun.

Gov. Ned Lamont is treading carefully as he eyes re-election next year. Neighboring New York is implementing a stricter mask requirement for businesses, but Connecticut is opting instead to develop a digital vaccine passport. This way, when people lie about being vaccinated so they don’t have to wear a mask into the Big Y, the people working at the store can actually check.

My guess is that when this app drops, people who are already vaccinated will use it, most businesses will only rarely check it, and the unvaccinated will simultaneously ignore it and rant about it. In short, it won’t make a heck of a lot of difference, but it will rile people up. That’s the worst of both worlds.

This whole system is going to be a problem in two big ways. On one hand, it’s going to cause all the people who think not wearing a mask is basically the same as being at Valley Forge in 1777 to blow their stacks. Again. The last thing we need is yet another thing to have a dumb cultural fight over. I can’t wait for the bumper stickers and lawn signs for this one.

In a more serious way, though, this isn’t going to work because it’s voluntary. It’s great that the governor wants to give businesses a tool they can use to figure out who should be wearing a mask, but how many of them are going to use it? How many underpaid employees working retail want to risk a confrontation?

My guess is that when this app drops, people who are already vaccinated will use it, most businesses will only rarely check it, and the unvaccinated will simultaneously ignore it and rant about it. In short, it won’t make a heck of a lot of difference, but it will rile people up. That’s the worst of both worlds.

The public has no appetite for harsher mandates. We’re grasping for anything that feels normal and taking that away would be a disaster. That means anything that the governor suggests that’s more onerous than a voluntary app is going to go over about as well as his tolls proposal, and the last thing he wants as he enters a re-election year is another lead weight the opposition can tie around his neck. 

We’re at an awful point where public health and mental health are at odds. Strict mask mandates, such as requiring masks for everyone in any kind of public setting, would work better at controlling the spread of the virus. But it would be a very visible step backward and that would be like tossing a drowning man an anvil.

So, optional digital vaccine passports it is. Maybe, somehow, they’ll make us feel a little better.

Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.

The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

Susan Bigelow

Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.

The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.