Late last week, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released new guidance declaring that fully vaccinated individuals generally no longer need to wear masks indoors or outdoors. While conservatives welcomed the news and many liberals reacted with befuddlement and hostility, the decision once again underscores the Biden Administration’s confused, ad-hoc, and constantly changing COVID messaging—the very thing that Biden so frequently accused President Trump of causing last year.
Indeed, the Biden Administration’s current set of COVID policies is so inconsistent and self-contradictory that it often seems they are just making it up as they go along. Biden was recently accusing Republican governors who lifted restrictions of “Neanderthal thinking,” and a little more than a month ago that CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said she had a sense of “impending doom” regarding the nation’s efforts to combat the virus.
Yet when it comes to inconsistent and improvisational COVID messaging, no one can surpass the king of COVID confusion, Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Last week, Fauci declared that the abolition of mask mandates was not a contradiction of previous policy but instead followed “evolving science” on the virus—although no examples of this supposedly new scientific evidence were forthcoming. Fauci then added to the confusion by declaring, apparently on his own authority, that young children would still be required to wear masks in school. (Young children generally do not experience severe illness from the virus and are not thought to be a major vector for transmission.) Then, just yesterday, Fauci suggested that it was “reasonable” for businesses to maintain mask mandates even for vaccinated Americans, in blatant defiance of the CDC’s recent guidance.
Despite Fauci’s reputation in the media as a clear and knowledgeable communicator, he has, in fact, been one of the most prominent sources of misinformation throughout the pandemic. After initially declaring in April of last year that the virus was “not a major threat to the people of the United States” and that it was “not something the citizens of the United States right now should be worried about,” Fauci repeatedly urged Americans not to wear masks early in the pandemic. Later, Fauci admitted that he had believed all along that masks were effective but said he had wanted to ensure that supplies would be reserved for medical professionals. In other words, he asserted that he had the right to lie to the public for what he believed to be their own benefit. If Fauci is correct that masks effectively contain the spread, then the cost of his misinformation as the pandemic worsened may be incalculably large.
Fauci has also steadily moved the goalposts on the percentage of the population that will need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity. Earlier this year, he said herd immunity would be achieved when 60% were vaccinated; in recent interviews, he has spewed out numbers as high as 85%.
Questions about the reliability of Fauci’s statements came to a head last week at a Senate hearing on the origins of the virus. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, a medical doctor and outspoken critic of mask mandates and government lockdowns pressed Fauci on the theory that the COVID-19 virus escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China. After repeatedly dismissing such claims previously, Fauci now says he cannot rule out the theory. “I do not have any accounting of what the Chinese may have done,” he said. “I’m fully in favor of any further investigation of what went on in China.”
Fauci was also forced to backtrack on his comments about the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding for the Chinese lab under his leadership, clarifying that while the NIH does send money to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the funding is not for “gain of function” research, a laboratory technique that intentionally makes pathogens more dangerous and transmissible. Senator Paul contested this point, pointing out that gain of function research in Wuhan was indeed funded through one of Fauci’s grants.
Meanwhile, Democrats who have constantly been trumpeting the call to “listen to the scientists”—namely Fauci—are suddenly eager to defy CDC guidance in the wake of Biden’s new masking policy. Several states, including New Jersey and Massachusetts, will continue to keep mask mandates in place. Even in states like Minnesota, where Democrat Governor Tim Walz lifted the statewide mask mandate last week, liberal city leadership in Minneapolis and St. Paul are refusing to listen to the scientists and will continue enforcing their punitive and coercive mask rules.
It has not been Democrats but rather Republican governors such as Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas who have been ahead of the scientific curve in reopening throughout the year. Contradicting both the advice and the predictions of the “experts,” these states have not seen a rise in COVID-19 cases or deaths since lifting restrictions and are on the whole faring far better in their economic recovery.
Thanks to President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed, nearly 275 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have now been administered, and 85% of Americans 65 and older are fully vaccinated. Cases in the United States are continuing a steep decline, even as many other countries struggle to produce vaccines and stem rising case numbers. Despite what some left-wing media voices are saying, the country is undoubtedly rounding the corner on the virus—whether Democrats want to “listen to the scientists” or not.
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