A debate is going on about whether our economy and culture is better off in a “Phase 3” COVID-19 lockdown or a more restrictive “Phase 2” lockdown. Instead, here’s a better, updated idea: End all the lockdowns now.

It may sound radical to call for the complete reopening of Washington, but if you take a step back, it’s not radical at all — it’s reasonable.

Let’s start where we all agree. First, COVID-19 is a serious infectious disease, especially for elderly people and particularly those with existing health issues. It can also be serious for the middle-aged, and particularly people in poor health. Fortunately, the majority of these people are now vaccinated. 

Second, these vaccines work and dramatically reduce your chance of contracting COVID.

Third — and this is the important part — everyone who wants the vaccine has pretty much gotten it. And it’s so easy. When I got my first shot on April 13, I had to drive more than 90 miles away to Island Drug on Whidbey Island. By May 4, I was able to make an appointment on 30 minutes notice a few miles away at the Microsoft Conference Center. 

Today, you don’t even need an appointment in many places. You can stroll into several leading drugstores, Lumen Field or other sites. But diminishing numbers of people are doing so. Lines are down dramatically, suggesting that we’re getting the vaccine into the arms of every American who wants to be protected.

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If you’re vaccinated, it doesn’t matter who’s sitting or standing next to you — there is little chance you can give them the virus. And of Americans fully vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports only 0.008% got the virus. So why the continued mandates? Why is capacity limited or reserved for vaccinated people at concerts and graduation ceremonies? If you’re not vaccinated at this point, you’ve decided the risk of getting COVID exceeds the benefit of getting the shots. That’s a choice you’ve made despite a long, expensive, public education campaign and a vast network of outlets that make free vaccines available to you. Because I am vaccinated, my wearing a mask or staying 6 feet away probably won’t help you. 

Our public officials, all of them, need to look at a calendar. The only reason we’re still locked down in the second week of May 2021 is because lockdowns are the status quo, and it’s always easier for government to maintain or tweak the status quo than change it. But when circumstances change the status quo should change, and those circumstances changed dramatically when the vaccine went mainstream across the country. That’s our new reality. Even when cases (a positive COVID test) go up, death rates continue to tumble — and that’s what matters most. Even when hospitalizations rise, the average stay in the hospital continues to drop — and that’s what matters second.

Some will argue that vaccinated people should stay masked because a variant of COVID might appear. But that would mean locking down forever. If you still want to wear a mask, you can do so. If you want to avoid crowds, you can do so. And unvaccinated people who get COVID at this point have no one to blame but themselves. How are they different from the senior citizen who declines to get a flu shot, then gets a serious case of the flu? Do we lock down for them?

Americans everywhere have sacrificed a lot to make it through this pandemic. We are a free people in a free country yearning to live freely again. Lift the lockdowns now. Not in July, not in June, but now. It’s time to reopen Washington.