Does the Biden administration want Democrats to lose November’s midterm elections?
That’s the only explanation for the White House’s refusal to move on from failed COVID-19 policies, such as vaccine mandates and mask mandates in schools.
Asked about the decisions by several Democratic state leaders to lift remaining COVID-19 restrictions over the next month, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky insisted that “now is not the moment” to drop mask mandates in schools and other public places.
“I know people are interested in taking masks off. I too am interested. That would be one marker that we have much of the pandemic behind us,” she said on Wednesday. “But right now, our CDC guidance has not changed. … We continue to endorse universal masking in schools.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki agreed, urging the public to listen to the CDC rather than state leaders.
“Masks are effective at reducing transmission in schools and other places, and we know that from what the data has told us, right?” she said. “There are a range of health and medical experts who advise the president and make determinations about how the CDC guidance will be changed. We rely on the health and medical experts who work on the federal government as we should, even as we account for and consult with outsiders.”
Biden’s team is wrong on several fronts. There is no evidence that universal masking in schools or any public place reduces the transmission of omicron, which is now the dominant coronavirus variant. In fact, multiple experts have admitted in recent weeks that cloth masks are not at all effective at stopping the spread of the virus and can do significantly more harm than good in the school setting, where children depend on facial expression and recognition for social and academic development.
The same is true in larger community settings. Masks did nothing at all to temper the most recent COVID-19 wave. Cities and states with mask mandates logged similar case rates to cities and states without mask mandates. Surely, if masks were as effective as the Biden administration has claimed, the opposite would be true — areas with strict restrictions would have fared much better than areas without any restrictions.
The Biden administration is also wrong to think it can continue to push COVID-19 restrictions on the public without consequence. There is a reason so many Democratic states are beginning to lift restrictions at the same time: They see the writing on the wall in terms of public opinion. They understand that restrictions on the public’s return to normalcy (permanent, pre-COVID normalcy) will come with a severe political cost. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, for example, one of the Democratic leaders to lift remaining mandates in his state this week, almost lost his reelection bid last November, in large part because he underestimated just how frustrated voters were with the lockdowns, the back-and-forth mandates, and the shifted goalposts. Clearly, he is not willing to make that mistake again.
The Biden administration, however, seems determined to make the same mistake over and over and over again by pressuring states to enforce counterproductive and unscientific recommendations. Either they’re so out of touch that they think this is a winning strategy, or they really just don’t care what happens to their party come November.