Five hundred and eighty one days ago, I wrote a column that appeared in these pages with a headline on the cover that read “It Needs To End. NOW.” In May 2020 there were no COVID vaccines, and limited treatments, and yet already, many voices had begun to call out the excessive illiberal measures enacted by gubernatorial despots in our bluest states. A year and a half later, the results are in. The critics of lockdowns were right. 

Take a look at Sweden. Remember when it refused to lock down and liberal news anchors gravely warned that half the country would be dead by next Tuesday? You don’t hear much about Sweden these days because, in fact, the Scandinavian naysayers had the lowest excess mortality of any European country this year — approximately 785 per 1million people. By comparison, the United Kingdom had 1,657 per million in excess deaths. 

Sweden decided to do what other countries refused to: focus on protecting the most vulnerable while letting the vast majority who were not in mortal danger live as normal a life as possible and trust their sense of personal responsibility. 

People wait in a long line to get tested for COVID-19 in Times Square.
People wait in a long line to get tested for COVID-19 in Times Square.
AP / Seth Wenig

Insidious rules 

God willing, we will never again see the barren glass and steel valleys of abandoned Midtown Manhattan, nor walk again in the middle of wide avenues devoid of cars, but what has replaced those extreme measures in Gotham is in its own way more insidious. 

Quarantine rules make for a stealth lockdown, with visitors and workers out for more than a week if they happen to be near someone who had COVID. Mask rules that still make no sense — wear it coming through the door, but take it off at the table. Our kids outdoors, masked, distanced school lunches look like something out of a prisoner of war film. 

And why? Why hasn’t New York gone back to relative normalcy like so many places our citizens are fleeing to? Now we are told to believe it is because of the Omicron variant. Never mind that this variant appears to have mainly mild symptoms akin to a common cold, especially in the vaccinated. Three new studies show that hospitalization is down as much as 80% with Omicron. But we refuse to accept the good news. 

A senior housing resident is tested for COVID-19 in 2020.
A senior housing resident is tested for COVID-19 in 2020.
ASSOCIATED PRESS / Seth Wenig

And while the government performs theatrical mandates and throws more curveballs to small businesses, we still haven’t learned the most important lesson of the pandemic: Protect the elderly. It never made any sense to keep children, who are low risk, out of school, but it was Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s edict forcing nursing homes to take COVID-positive patients that caused devastation. The vast, vast majority of deaths from COVID are among older people, especially those with comorbidities. People over 65 account for 80 percent of COVID deaths in the United States. 

We’re making the same mistakes all over again. We shouldn’t have widespread lockdowns or mask mandates, but we should say you need to be tested to go anywhere near a nursing home. 

Right now, you can walk in with only a vaccine and see a relative, but we know that people with vaccines can carry Omicron. 

The inability of New York’s leaders to free themselves of pandemic hysteria, and all the broad power that comes with it, is eroding the city on every level. 

People talk with the staff member of Radio City Music Hall after cancellations of The Rockettes performance due to COVID-19 cases.
People talk with a staff member of Radio City Music Hall after cancellations of The Rockettes performance due to COVID-19 cases.
AP / Yuki Iwamura

If enacting overly strict measures in May 2020 was a mistake, and it was, then doing so now, when anybody can get a vaccine and the extremely dominant variant is mild, is flat-out incompetence. Mayor de Blasio and Gov. Hochul have learned a lesson from COVID, but they haven’t learned what is best for New York. Instead, they have learned how much New Yorkers will withstand, and by extension, how far their power reaches. 

Teachers unions are pushing again for schools to close, again. Shows on Broadway are shuttering, again. Businesses are suffering, again. All when WE SHOULD KNOW BETTER. 

Emergency’s over 

This is not an emergency anymore. Emergencies don’t last two years. The science tells us we should be sweeping away the bureaucratic tangle of contradictory and confusing rules and regulations that strangle our society. Even Democrat Jared Polis, governor of Colorado, acknowledged this last week in a rare outbreak of nonpartisan common sense. 

And yet, New York’s leaders are doing the exact opposite, clamping down once again on the city that has borne the harshest brunt of the pandemic. Yes, de Blasio and Hochul have said no more lockdowns, but they will push it as far as their political polling figures will allow. 

Sadly, while some of that punishing brunt was a natural result of our density and lifestyles, much of it was self-inflicted by our government of self-important bureaucrats and power-hungry politicians. 

A May 21, 2020 cover of The New York Post displays Marcus's column pleading for COVID to end.
A May 21, 2020 cover displays Marcus’s column pleading for COVID to end.
A general view of signs stating "you need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter this business" and "all people must wear a mask to enter" as seen on the doors of Broadway theaters in New York.
A sign requiring masks is displayed on the doors of Broadway theaters in New York.
Christopher Sadowski

The hard truth is that a sprawling bureaucracy has attempted to minutely control the lives of everyone, yet dropped the ball on properly protecting the minority most at risk. An army of officials tasked with drawing up myriad rules for justifying masking children could have spent time more constructively studying how to keep nursing-home patients free from infection. 

In May 2020 I wrote that COVID “needs” to end now, not that it should, but that it needed to. That was because if restrictive measures went on too long, they would start to metastasize, become a part of the system. That has happened. We have crossed that bridge. Who will have the courage to go back? Who will have the courage to call it first? 

It didn’t end five hundred and eighty-one days ago. And today, there is reason to fear that it never will. 

David Marcus is the author of “Charade: The Covid Lies That Crushed A Nation.”

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