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It looks like Americans are having second thoughts about how their government has responded to the CCP Virus pandemic, at least according to this new Pew Research Center survey. And that’s great news for those of us who have insisted that, once it became clear (awfully early on) that the pandemic wasn’t a rerun of the Black Death, the widespread lockdowns, mandates, and other indisciminate measures were cures that, on balance, were needlessly worse than the disease.

To be sure, Americans still feel pretty cautious about the pandemic and its effects. Principally, in May, 41 percent of U.S. adults told Pew that they viewed the virus as a “major threat to public health.” That’s down considerably from the spring of 2020, when the share describing the virus this way was in the mid-60s percent. But it’s still more than four in ten.

The public also still gives robust endorsements to many restrictions on behavior and anti-covid measures that have been strongly encouraged or required nationally or in various states at various times during the pandemic era. For example, 55 percent said that vaccination had been “extremely” or “very” “effective in limiting the spread of the coronavirus,” 49 percent agreed with his characterization of “wearing masks around other people indoors,” and 48 percent thought the same of “limiting activities/interactions with other people.” One exception: Only 34 percent put much stock in “staying at least six feet apart from other people indoors.”

But by an impressive 62 percent to 31 percent, respondents said that “the country’s COVID-19 response has given too little priority” to “meeting the educational needs of K-12 students.”. By 48 percent to 40 percent they felt that short shrift had been given to “supporting overall quality of life for the public.” By 46 percent to 40 percent they said not enough attention was paid to “supporting businesses and economic activity.” And by 46 percent to 30 percent they said that anti-virus strategies failed adequately to “respect individuals’ choices.”

Moreover, the public approval of the authorities most supportive of the virus-centric priorities has taken a major hit. In the spring of 2020, 79 percent agreed that “public health officials such as those at the CDC [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]” had done “an excellent or good job responding to the coronavirus outbreak.” By this past May, this support had dropped to 52 percent. And since February, 2021 (shortly after his inauguration) the share of U.S. adults stating that President Biden’s response to the CCP Virus has been excellent or good fell from 54 percent to 43 percent. (Such approval for former President Trump’s virus responses sank as well – from 48 percent in March, 2020 to 36 percent in February, 2021. But no samplings about the Trump strategy have been taken since.)

Predictably, partisan splits appeared, and although no trends over time were presented, it was striking how many self-identified Democrats and ”Democratic leaners” expressed disenchantment with some priorities that have been pursued for most of the pandemic era. In particular, 57 percent of them agreed that “the educational needs of K-12 students have been neglected and 45 percent agreed that too little attention has been paid to “overall quality of life for the public.” At the same time, only 34 percent of Democrats and leaners felt that “businesses and other economic activity” should have received more support, and only 28 percent believe “respecting individuals’ choices” has deserved more emphasis. 

To me, the big takeaway is that Americans may finally be realizing that the tradeoffs between public health and other pressing needs were never adequately acknowledged by the nation’s lockdowns- and restrictions-obsessed public health establishment, or by the political leaders who uncritically followed their advice and failed to understand that balances needed to be struck.

Far from a position that’s “anti-science” or dismissive or the virus’s deadly properties and potential, it’s one that’s entirely consistent with that pressed by the legions of eminent epidemiologists, virologists, and other medical specialists who signed the Great Barrington Declaration. This manifesto urged viewing the public health dangers posed during the pandemic holistically, avoiding the wide-ranging and grave consequences of shutting down entire national economies and societies, and focusing virus-mitigation measures instead on those most vulnerable to serious disease and death.

Will the U.S. public health establishment display as much of the learning curve that the Pew poll indicates the public has demonstrated? Will the politicians whose policies overwhelmingly reflected their conventional wisdom? Those are questions whose answers had better be “Yes” if America is to cope with the next pandemic better than it handled this one.