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Theater: Why Is Fully-Vaccinated Boris Johnson, Also a COVID Survivor, Isolating After a New Exposure?

AP Photo/Frank Augstein

Yesterday was "freedom day" in the United Kingdom, meaning that "face masks were no longer legally required in England, work-from-home guidance ended and, with social distancing rules shelved, no limits existed on the number of people attending theater performances or big events," per the Associated Press. But over the weekend, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that he's once again entering quarantine, having been exposed to COVID: 


The close contact was, in this case, his own Health Secretary, who has tested positive for the virus with mild symptoms, despite being double vaccinated. As we mentioned yesterday, "breakthrough" infections do occur among the vaccinated (even as the overwhelming majority – 97 percent plus – of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths are among the unvaccinated), and it seems at least plausible that the intense contagiousness of the Delta/Indian variant is increasing the number of still-rare breakthrough cases. But the outstanding news is that the vaccines still offer strong protection against all COVID variants – on infections, yes, but especially against severe cases. Among the (reportedly fully vaxxed) Texas Democrats engaged in their absurd partisan stunt, for instance, those who tested positive have either extremely mild symptoms or none at all. In short, the vaccines are highly effective at keeping people healthy and alive, even if they have a breakthrough run-in with Coronavirus. Which brings us back to PM Johnson's video above. Why is he isolating for more than a week, based solely on a known exposure?  


Here in the US, the CDC says immunized Americans experiencing no symptoms do not need to seek out COVID tests or enter quarantine protocols after being exposed to the virus. Based on Johnson's comments about everyone playing by the same rules, things are clearly different in the UK. But the science suggests that this precaution is unscientific window dressing. The prime minister famously survived a scary bout with COVID, during which he was hospitalized and put into intensive care. He is also fully vaccinated. In other words, he has exceptionally strong immunity – natural immunity plus the double-dosed inoculation. This looks like an example of a leader going through the motions of abiding by rules imposed on everyone else, even if those rules are overly restrictive and not really justifiable based on the known data.  Boris is already getting ripped for reopening the country amid a huge Delta wave, though it's hard to say what alternative course would be better at this point. Meanwhile, back at home, something that I am concerned about is teachers unions and school districts using Delta variant worries to justify additional school closures and restrictions. This is Allahpundit's take, and I'm starting to get anxious that he might be right: 

If you’re a parent in a blue state or county, though, I’d say now’s the time to worry about school closures again this fall. That’s the one aspect of the pandemic where the opinion of local authorities does matter. If the Delta wave ends up being as nasty as it’s shaping up to be, some skittish bureaucrats are going to want to shut classrooms againno matter what the CDC says to the contrary.


I'm strongly opposed to backsliding into renewed mandates and restrictions for vaccinated Americans, or for schools, for reasons I've explained. The people who are, by far, at the highest risk for bad health outcomes from COVID (still with a very slim death rate) are unvaccinated adults, who at this point have made that choice for themselves. We shouldn't craft our public policy, especially involving children, to marginally mitigate risk for adults who have made an anti-vaccine decision. What we should do is continue to try to persuade the hesitate to get on board the vaccination train. In addition to what we discussed yesterday, these findings also relate to that ongoing conversation: 

Although vaccinated people remain almost guaranteed to avoid serious symptoms, Delta has put the unvaccinated at greater risk of contracting the virus — and, by extension, of hospitalization and death. The Covid death rate in recent days has been significantly higher in states with low vaccination rates than in those with higher rates...What helps move people from vaccine skeptical to vaccinated? The Kaiser polls point to three main themes. 1. Seeing that millions of other Americans have been safely vaccinated...2. Hearing pro-vaccine messages from doctors, friends and relatives...3. Learning that not being vaccinated will prevent people from doing some things. 


With a highly contagious strain of COVID becoming dominant in the United States, I hope that respectful persuasion efforts are successful. There's no need to be an alarmist or overstate the implications of another major COVID wave. The death rate is quite low, hospitals are not in any imminent danger of being overwhelmed, and our most vulnerable citizens are disproportionately vaccinated, having been correctly prioritized. But it's true that in a third wave, there will be unnecessary suffering and death (almost exclusively) among unvaccinated Americans, which is very much avoidable, thanks to the miraculous vaccines and Operation Warp Speed: 

I'll leave you with this, in response to another breakthrough case: 


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