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Where’s the Off Ramp?

Even with vaccine mandates, international travelers are still required to follow the most stringent Covid-19 procedures.

Foreign visitors can once again feed the tourism industry in the U.S. as of Monday, thanks to the Biden administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new allowances. The new State Department rule permits all international travelers for non-essential visits, so long as they are fully vaccinated with a World Health Organization-approved vaccine.

In addition to showing their Green Pass, according to rules from the CDC, international travelers are also required to produce a negative Covid-19 test within three days of boarding an airplane to enter the United States, and wear a mask over their nose and mouth at all times while within the airplane and airport. Moreover, all travelers entering the country from abroad—regardless of both vaccination status and citizenship status—will be required to provide their personal information (such as their name, email, and mailing address) to airlines to be contact traced in the case of an outbreak. The new rules require airlines to keep this information for at least 30 days.

We’re supposed to be popping corks and booking flights right now, because globalism is finally back in business. If the joys of reunification are somewhat stale, it may be because after 19 months, this feels more like a pittance than any kind of genuine win.

But really: What just happened here? Every rule we were told was temporary, every procedure which was initially “recommended,” every new measure which was supposed to restore to us the freedoms that Covid took away (not, of course, the healthcare bureaucracies) has been kept in place, mandated by law, and stacked on top of the others like a game of Jenga that is as ineffective as it is ridiculous. Many have asked, but it’s worth raising again the question, where does it end? If I still have to wear a mask if I’m vaccinated, why should I take the shot? If I’m required to be vaccinated, why do I also need to take a test at either end of my trip? If I’m vaccinated, masked, and take Covid tests before and after travel, why do I need to submit to airline-enforced contact tracing? (Better yet, why are private businesses being weaponized against American and international travelers?)

The underlying question, especially as the NBA mandates booster shots for certain athletes in order to be considered “fully vaccinated,” is bigger: Will I ever be considered “clean” for good, or does the idol of this virus require endless ritual sacrifices, as, to mix my metaphors, the goal posts keep on moving?

There is no off ramp while we’re taking our cues from an entity that still recommends U.S. citizens get tested for Covid-19 both before and after traveling domestically, and self-isolate for seven days following air travel, even if they do not show any symptoms of the flu-like illness.

But there is an off ramp, if we would take it, by following the science as Sweden has done. After remaining open throughout the pandemic and boasting death tolls and infection rates that were equal to, if not better than, the Western world in lockdown, Scandinavia no longer requires travelers to mask up on airplanes. (Also following science, Sweden and Denmark stopped using the Moderna vaccine in October for anyone younger than 30, after reports of severe side effects, including myocarditis and pericarditis.)

The mania over this virus is clearly not going to peter out on its own, but the American faith in the experts already is. With a wary eye toward Australia, we ought be saying “enough,” before we’re wearing so many masks that no one can hear it.

about the author

Carmel Richardson is the 2021-2022 editorial fellow at The American Conservative. She received her B.A. from Hillsdale College in political philosophy with a minor in journalism. She firmly believes that the backroads are better than the interstate, and though she currently resides in Northern Virginia, her home state will always be Tennessee.

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