It’s no secret that COVID-19 vaccination in the United States has hit a wall of right-wing obstinance. Meanwhile, state and local lockdowns have somehow become even more politically perilous for governors and mayors. The renewed public health gridlock has chilling implications as a dangerous new variant of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, becomes dominant in the U.S.
Barring an unexpected and radical change in Americans’ attitudes, all we can do is hold on tight as the Delta variant burns through the country’s unvaccinated millions. The only thing that might stop it, in the least-vaccinated cities and towns, is population-level immunity—herd immunity, to borrow a loaded term. But like any pure herd-immunity scheme, that path is a potentially catastrophic one.