Some Dems Not Ready to Let Go of Pandemic Restrictions

Some Dems Not Ready to Let Go of Pandemic Restrictions woman wearing ppe protests A woman in personal protective equipment (PPE) holds up signs at a standout protest organized by the American Federation of Teachers at the Massachusetts State House on Aug. 19, 2020, in Boston, Massachusetts. (Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

Tuesday, 04 May 2021 04:04 PM

Progressives who stressed the scientific evidence during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic now seem less inclined to rely on it as vaccine rates rise, deadly coronavirus cases dip and pandemic restrictions ease, The Atlantic reported.

According to The Atlantic, surveys show that Democrats express more worry about the pandemic than Republicans do, and people who describe themselves as "very liberal" are distinctly anxious.

For many progressives, extreme vigilance in the early months of the pandemic in 2020 was in part about opposing then-President Donald Trump.

"If he said, 'Keep schools open,' then, well, we're going to do everything in our power to keep schools closed," Monica Gandhi, a professor of medicine at UC San Francisco, told The Atlantic.

Gandhi, who describes herself as "left of left," has now alienated some of her ideological peers because she has advocated for policies such as reopening schools and establishing a clear timeline for the end of mask mandates.

"We went the other way, in an extreme way, against Trump's politicization," she told the Atlantic.

But the spring of 2021 is different from the spring of 2020 and scientists know a lot more about how COVID-19 spreads — and how it doesn't. Public-health advice is shifting and yet progressives have not updated their behavior based on the new information, The Atlantic reported.

"Those who are vaccinated on the left seem to think overcaution now is the way to go, which is making people on the right question the effectiveness of the vaccines," Gandhi told The Atlantic.

Despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance that fully vaccinated people can participate in many outdoor activities without a mask, "at least in San Francisco, a lot of people are glaring at each other if they don't wear masks outside," Gandhi told The Atlantic. The Atlantic noted some progressives believe that the pandemic has created an opening for ambitious policy proposals.

"Among progressive political leaders around here, there's a lot of talk around: We're not going back to normal, because normal wasn't good enough," Alex Goldstein, a progressive PR consultant who was a senior adviser to Massachusetts Democrat Rep. Ayanna Pressley's 2018 campaign.

Yet progressives don't always agree on what prudent policy looks like, The Atlantic reported.

In very liberal Somerville, Mass., Mayor Joseph Curtatone and other Somerville leaders delayed a return to in-person learning, frustrating a group of moms — including scientists, pediatricians, and doctors treating COVID-19 patients — who saw the city's proposed safety measures as nonsensical and unscientific, The Atlantic reported.

And as evidence mounted that schools could reopen safely, a local Somerville leader appeared to describe parents who wanted a faster return to in-person instruction as "f***ing white parents" in a virtual public meeting, The Atlantic reported.

"I spent four years fighting Trump because he was so anti-science," Daniele Lantagne, a Somerville mom and engineering professor who works to promote equitable access to clean water and sanitation during disease outbreaks, told The Atlantic.

"I spent the last year fighting people who I normally would agree with … desperately trying to inject science into school reopening, and completely failed."

Most elementary and middle schoolers in Somerville finally started back in person this spring. Curtatone wouldn't guarantee that schools will be open for in-person instruction in the fall.

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