Blue America has been searching for an exit strategy for masking, quarantining, and other pandemic mortifications on normal life. 

It wasn’t when vaccines were available to the most vulnerable. It wasn’t the survival of the health-care systems through the Alpha and Delta surges of COVID. It wasn’t the approval of the vaccine for adolescents, or the one for young children. 

So, when is it?

Well, Washington, D.C., mayor Muriel Bowser is ending one of the strictest mask mandates in the United States, one that applies to stores, gyms, houses of worship, and offices. 

“What you’ll hear discussed across the nation is, we’re moving from a pandemic to an endemic,” the mayor said. “I anticipate that’s where we’ll be moving too. Rather than the government telling you what you need to do to keep safe, you will evaluate risk and act accordingly.”

Now, schools and public transportation settings in D.C. will still require masks. And no exit ramp was mentioned for these.

However, it’s a notable development because it is a Democratic mayor articulating to the public that COVID is going (has gone) endemic, and that the state of exception we’ve been living under, wherein the government takes responsibility for managing population-level risks, will end by shifting the management of ongoing COVID risk to the people.

We’re still a long way from where we should be — but the ongoing restrictions are sustained in part by the lingering belief that we can entirely eliminate COVID, or that once we can get vax-resisters to just submit in a sufficient number, we never have to think about COVID again. 

That’s not how it’s going to work. Instead, the most fearful and cautious will have to accept that they will have to manage their own risks again. Getting Democrats to just say that — out loud and in public — is the first step to making it happen.

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