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VICTOR JOECKS: CES shows public has moved on from COVID panic

It’s great to welcome CES and its tens of thousands of attendees to Las Vegas. It’s even better to realize how it shows that the coronavirus no longer needs to dominate public policy.

CES starts on Wednesday. While some high-profile companies pulled out of in-person exhibits, it will be a massive event featuring some 2,000 companies. It’s unlikely to draw the usual 170,000 attendees, but there will still be a significant influx of visitors this week.

Just days earlier, Las Vegas’ New Year’s Eve festivities attracted an estimated 300,000 visitors.

That’s a lot of people not listening to Anthony Fauci. He recommended people avoid New Year’s Eve gatherings of even 30 people at which you don’t know everyone’s vaccination status. “I would recommend strongly stay away from that this year,” he said. Presumably, he wouldn’t be a fan of someone attending CES either.

If your No. 1 priority is to keep someone from catching COVID, Fauci’s advice makes sense. But Las Vegas’ visitation numbers show that’s not the priority for many members of the general public — and for good reason.

Most vaccinated individuals face very little personal risk from being exposed to COVID. Even if they catch it, they’re very unlikely to need hospitalization. For the vaccinated, catching COVID has now become a background risk of living, like catching the flu or being in a car crash.

This is especially true for omicron. There is evidence from around the world that this variant is super contagious and much less deadly than delta. If someone feels differently — or is in a high-risk category — fine. A personal risk calculus is just that. Personal. Act accordingly.

This shift should have several public policy implications. For one, closing schools should be a non-starter. That’s been obvious for almost two years. COVID has always poised a vanishingly low risk to kids. Teachers have long had the opportunity to be vaccinated.

Fortunately, closing schools here seems unlikely to happen, but thousands of schools across the country closed their doors this week. Even The New York Times is starting to question accepting “more harm to children in exchange for less harm to adults.”

As it becomes obvious that the coronavirus won’t disappear, there needs to be less focus on raw case counts. It’s plausible Nevada will see summer and winter surges for years to come, as peaks seem to be seasonal. But unless there’s a dramatic spike in hospitalizations and deaths, that’s not a public emergency.

Some tests are more important than others, too. Certain treatments need to be started early, so testing makes sense if an elderly American thinks he or she could be positive. But mass testing of 20-year-old healthy college students makes less sense.

Finally, Gov. Steve Sisolak needs to acknowledge that most masks are the pandemic equivalent of security theater. That’s been obvious for almost two years, but even liberal commenters, such as CNN’s Leana Wen, are being more vocal about it. It’s at least plausible that masks with filters, like an N95 mask, offer wearers some protection. But cloth masks are pointless, and Sisolak should roll back his mandate.

Even draconian measures, like vaccine passports, haven’t stopped cases from skyrocketing in places such as New York City.

The coronavirus may be here to stay. But CES shows that life can — and must — go on.

Contact Victor Joecks at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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