- - Sunday, April 18, 2021

Americans should brace for a netherworld between the pandemic and normalcy. COVID-19 won’t last forever, but making vaccines available to all adults is no silver bullet.

Jabbing 80% of the population for known strains of COVID-19 will prove tough. Getting vaccines to the homeless, poor and illegal immigrants is especially difficult.

Public health and community service agencies are sending mobile units into those communities, but the marginalized are among the most likely to shun good science.

A recent CDC-Census Bureau study found 17% of the population definitely or probably won’t get a shot, 20% of the population is under 16 and many others should not be vaccinated for medical reasons. Vaccines are being tested in adolescents and young children, but it is easy to see that it will be difficult to get to 80% before 2022.

Businesses can fully reopen offices, restaurants and concert halls and theaters to workers and patrons showing proof of vaccination. And where enforceable, subject to temperature checks, testing, digital tracking and isolation when necessary.

BLM, the Squad and others in the victimization business will scream discrimination. And on the extreme right, everything sensible is denied — social distancing, masks and mentioning digital contact tracing is like suggesting that President Biden burn the Bill of Rights.

It’s time for reasonable people to say enough. Make exceptions with precautions for those medically unable to be vaccinated, but science deniers should be left to a marginalized world.

Vaccination can take us only so far, because among the unvaccinated population new, more lethal variants of COVID-19 are emerging, and the petri dish outside the United States is percolating.

The diplomatic, financial and logistical challenges of quickly vaccinating the developing world are daunting, and the EU is an absolute state of COVID-19 dysfunction. We need to accept that most of the world is a ready host to develop strains that could outsmart our vaccines.

COVID-19 has been detected in more than a dozen species, including minks, great apes, lions, tigers, cats, dogs and pigs. The potential for a new strain that can spread to humans, outsmart public health agencies and spreading globally is real and palpable.

International travel should be limited for several more years. But with legal immigration and catch and release for asylum seekers permitted by the administration, new strains of COVID-19 have ready mules into America.

Multilateralists have suggested a grand effort to vaccinate the world and contain new pathogens, but extra cash and a piece of paper in Geneva won’t take public health nurses into every hamlet in the developing world.

If we don’t want to risk another Black Plague, commercial contact with most of the world will be limited to Zooming and vacationing to the United States — less perhaps the U.K., Canada and a few other places that accomplish 80% vaccination and put in place the tough protocols for workplaces and public gatherings.

It is terribly amusing but also tragic in terms of squandered resources to see large corporations building new grand workspaces for a new era when folks only commute three days a week — shared desks, common areas with couches and the like.

We don’t know how workers will feel most comfortable and productive. Most folks put value on a private nest with a photo of the kids and a signed baseball from the outing to Wrigley Field.

COVID-19 and the netherworld emerging is forcing us to embrace technologies that have been waiting like orphans among childless adults. We have been happy to rely on smartphones for personal finance and Facetime for social interactions but would not readily embrace artificial intelligence to save time and Internet tools to accomplish collaboration.

All in all, adapt or don’t survive but in the bargain, we may be on the cusp of a productivity breakout that ends years of anemic economic growth.

Prolonged pandemics radically change social arrangements. The Black Plague created labor scarcity, caused the peasantry to overturn the feudal order and set Europe on the path to a modern economy.

Churchill purportedly observed, Americans do the right thing but only after having exhausted all the alternatives. Over in China, the coverup in Wuhan has engendered unrest and as of early April, only 4% of the population has been vaccinated.

The Europeans will ultimately take the jab, but EU governance has been laid bare by a grand fraud.

A new order may ultimately leave President Biden, former President Trump and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson smiling, but leave President Xi Jinping and President Ursula von der Leyen wishing they had never been.

• Peter Morici, @pmorici1, is an economist and emeritus business professor at the University of Maryland, and a national columnist.

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