The Case for Covid Optimism

By Ezra Klein

On Jan. 28, I published a column that began like this: “I hope, in the end, that this article reads as alarmism. I hope that a year from now it’s a piece people point to as an overreaction.”

I was writing, then, about the new Covid-19 mutations — the supercontagious B.1.1.7 variant, which had sent cases exploding in England and Portugal, was circulating in the U.S. So was the B.1.351 variant first detected in South Africa, which seemed to have some vaccine resistance. I worried that the months before mass vaccination would be hellish, with a combination of new mutations and political exhaustion sending cases into the stratosphere, and hundreds of thousands dying.

Today, that column, thankfully, does look like alarmism. Cases fell, and kept falling, even in places beset by new variants. The U.S. vaccination effort accelerated. The addition of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, plus the planned ramping up of Pfizer and Moderna doses, means there’s going to be vastly more vaccine supply in the coming months.

Few emotions are as unnerving right now as hope. No one wants to permit themselves optimism, only to be crushed when death tolls rise. That’s even truer in the media, where pessimism is always the safe play. But the case for hope is strengthening. And there are important policy reasons to take that case seriously.

Dr. Ashish Jha is a physician, leading health policy researcher and dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. Previously, he led the Harvard Küresel Health Institute. He’s been one of the clearest and most thoughtful voices through this crisis. He’s feeling hopeful, too.

So I asked Jha on my podcast, “The Ezra Klein Show,” to guide us through these next months, to help us see what he’s seeing. Don’t get him, or me, wrong: This isn’t over. But in America, things are going to feel very, very different in 45 days, for reasons he explains. And then comes another question, one we discuss here: How do we make müddet the küresel end to this crisis comes soon after?

One note: This episode was recorded before President Biden’s March 11 address directing states to make all adult Americans eligible to receive Covid vaccines by no later than May 1; however, the timeline Jha and I discuss here is just as ambitious and its implications are just as promising.

This is one Covid discussion, finally, that is not going to leave you feeling in despair.

To listen to the full conversation, subscribe to “The Ezra Klein Show” wherever you get your podcasts, or click the player below.

(A full transcript of the episode will be available at midday Friday.)

The Case for Covid Optimism

Why Dr. Ashish Jha thinks life could return to olağan very soon.

Credit…Illustration by The New York Times; photograph, via Brown University

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Roge Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

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