This isn’t the end of the pandemic. But it’s starting to feel a lot closer than it has for a while.
First off, the omicron wave has crested in Connecticut. There may still be more variants to worry about but at least for now (a few weeks? months?), cases are declining significantly in Connecticut — down 60 percent in just the last two weeks alone. The case rate is now back to being among the lowest in the nation (which is still high relatively).
Another sign? The OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard, which mandated that larger employers impose a vax-or-test policy and which was struck down by the Supreme Court, is officially dead.
On Wednesday, OSHA will be formally withdrawing the rule, ending another chapter in our pandemic history books. Other rules remain in play and there may still be targeted rules being developed, but this broader rule is gone for now.
On top of this, comes press reports that the state legislature is considering allowing many of Governor Lamont’s emergency powers to expire in February. That may include the executive order requiring vaccinations for teachers and a vax or test requirement for state workers.
The rule is credited with increasing vaccination rates, according to the recent press reports. And Governor Lamont talked this week about lifting the mask mandate at schools sometime this spring.
So why are these rules and policies being allowed to expire? Why is there not a greater push to increase vaccination rates further still?
In part because these rules had their intended impact already — getting more people vaccinated. But those who were going to get vaccinated, have already done so. And now the rules have more of an administrative burden than the benefit that can be achieved by it.
Already, Connecticut has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country. Is another percent or two going to make a difference, particularly when we have also had another huge wave of infections giving people at least some additional immunity to boot? That seems to be the calculation.
For private employers, however, there remains a different calculus. Many are still keeping their mandatory vaccination policies; those policies are credited with keeping absences down overall and helped save employees from hospitalizations or even more severe outcomes. Indeed, United Airlines, for example, reported a few weeks ago that while they had a significant number of absences, none of their employees was hospitalized.
So what now?
I’m done making predictions but I think it’s fair to say that many employers are now trying to plot their next steps. Is it time to return more of the workforce to the office? Is it time for a mandatory vaccination policies to make that happen?
Nothing has been easy about this pandemic but there are small glimmers of hope that 2022 may still end up being, if not the end of the pandemic, at least the beginning of what comes next.