The final weeks of 2021 and the accompanying surge of COVID-19 cases have led to a trend of elite liberal media figures realizing coronavirus is here to stay and life must adjust accordingly.
After nearly two years of advocating or defending various lockdowns and mandates in an effort to end the virus for good, more journalists appear to be accepting that even with effective vaccines that diminish its impact, COVID-19 is an endemic disease that can't be eradicated at any point in the near future.
CNN's Brian Stelter said on Dec. 19's "Reliable Sources" that in many media circles, there was an "acceptance" that everyone would likely be infected by the virus as the omicron variant races through the country.
"The definition of cases is changing," Stelter said. "With a highly transmissible variant, there are many, many, many cases … With this inevitability about more and more and more cases, what's the better metric to be using? How should we be evaluating the fight against COVID?
"Since we're hearing about schools closing again, we collectively took action to protect the elderly in 2020. Now, shouldn't we be doing more to protect children by letting them live normal lives? Are we really going to let the kids suffer even more?"
Some conservatives who have long advocated for schools to stay open, given how far more statistically safe youngsters are from severe COVID outcomes, cried foul at Stelter for coming around to what they had been saying for more than a year. Others were grateful.
Around the same time, Stelter's colleague Chris Cillizza mourned in a lengthy Twitter thread that he had realized getting vaccinated wouldn't necessarily prevent him from getting the virus and would have to adjust accordingly.
"Because the reality is – and has always been even if I didn't realize it – that the vaccines don't, really, prevent you from getting the virus. Or, at least, they don't guarantee it won't happen," he tweeted, adding, "According to all the available data, it's doing its job (preventing serious illness and death among those infected). But it can never do what I had hoped: Ensure no one I loved will become infected. My work now is getting used to that reality. I realize I am way behind lots of other people in doing that. But, you have to start somewhere."
MSNBC's Chris Hayes had a similar realization on Wednesday, saying that for those who are vaccinated and boosted, the disease was more like a seasonal flu: not good, but also not something to scramble all of American life.
"The risk went from something that we hadn’t really dealt with specifically like this before in our lifetimes – we hadn't quite had an illness this infectious and this possible to cause serious illness – to something that does look more like the flu. The flu of course can still be dangerous … but we don't orient our lives around the flu. So that's closer to the level of risk that 200 million Americans … are now dealing with," he said. The "sheer exhaustion" for Americans had altered the "politics of the pandemic," he added.
Two of the most loyal Biden White House boosters in media, MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace and the Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin, had similar remarks to liberal colleagues about accepting coronavirus and adjusting how it should be covered.
"You see how difficult this is for this administration. I mean, I'm a Fauci groupie," Wallace said on Monday. "I'm a thrice-vaccinated, mask adherent. I buy KN95 masks by the, you know, caseload. They're in every pocket. I wear them everywhere except when I sit down, and I am certain that this is not a variant I can outrun."
"As we recognize that covid-19 is not a deadly or even severe disease for the vast majority of responsible Americans, we can stop agonizing over ‘cases’ and focus on those who are hospitalized or at risk of dying," Rubin tweeted, promoting yet another one of her pro-Biden columns that often gets Twitter love from White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain.
Rubin's critics were withering, given her past rhetoric assailing those who made similar points as not taking the virus seriously enough.
The shift appears to mirror the messaging coming from the federal government and President Biden, who pledged as a candidate to "shut down" the virus, but has seen record-setting case numbers in recent weeks powered by the omicron variant of COVID-19. While milder, the highly transmissible variant is upending American life again and breaking through even among the vaccinated, although the vast majority of those who are hospitalized and dying from the virus continues to be unvaccinated.
Chief White House medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci stated this week that child hospitalization numbers are inflated, as kids who are admitted who have the virus are counted even if the virus didn't cause their hospitalization. Biden himself said there was no "federal solution" for the virus and many issues would need to resolved around coronavirus at the state level, a seeming departure from his earlier language for Republican governors against his policies to "get out of the way." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lowered its recommended quarantine time for asymptomatic people with COVID-19 from 10 days to five days, in part citing what it thought people could "tolerate."
"We're getting to the point now where ... it's about severity," Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said earlier this month. "It's not about cases. It's about severity."
That's not to say everyone in elite liberal media circles is getting on message. Far-left host Joy Reid, who has frequently advocated for hyper-caution, disparaged Republicans as a "COVID-loving death cult," and boasted she wears two masks while jogging despite being vaccinated, mourned Friday that the upcoming College Football Playoff bowl games would be "superspreaders" and recently compared the pandemic to the "apocalypse."