Commentary: When politics run pandemic policy

The Biden administration has endured a disastrous fortnight and needed to reverse the news cycle.

President Joe Biden, joined by Vice President Kamala Harris, talks with CDC staff during a briefing Friday, March 19, 2021, at the CDC headquarters in Atlanta. (White House/Flickr)

Thursday afternoon’s Rose Garden announcement that fully vaccinated Americans no longer need masks — unless in crowded indoor spaces, medical settings, or public transportation — caught some people off guard.

There’s no significant recent changes in scientific data, infection, transmission or severity rates, yet the Biden administration made this sudden decision.

It’s simply the fallout from a bad political week.

“It’s long overdue, and should have been done six weeks ago,” former Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir explained Friday. “Someone in the administration probably said enough of the inertia. We have to get America back. We have to open up.”

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said people “can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic.”

It’s quite a reversal, since only last month, Walensky and “experts” like Dr. Michael Osterholm warned of “impending doom” and a “fourth wave” of COVID-19.

With cases dropping across the country, the CDC was under increasing pressure to loosen its position toward masks.

The impact of this week’s announcement will vary greatly across America.

For millions of us across the fruited plain who follow science and use common sense, the proclamation was met with silence or laughter, since our lives and activities won’t change.

In crowded left-wing locales like New York City, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. — where neurotic people still don masks as they walk down the street, even though guidelines for outdoor activities relaxed weeks ago — this raised anxiety and concerns.

“Maybe the new CDC guidance would be too liberal in a world where everyone listened to CDC guidance,” FiveThirtyEight editor-in-chief Nate Silver tweeted Friday night. “But in the real world, the people to listen to the CDC are liable to be both far more risk-averse and far more vaccinated than the population overall.”

Maybe some took cues from their president.

Fully vaccinated for about five months, Biden continuously wore his mask this spring, even when it offered limited or no health benefits.

It is possible Biden’s Thursday edict aimed to incentivize people to vaccinate, showing you can toss out your mask once you get your shot. It’s also possible he was mugged by reality.

“The political implications of today’s announcement were inescapable. The president needs the pandemic to end, but he also needs the public to see that his policies and leadership have helped make it end,” liberal columnist Russell Berman wrote.

Indeed, the Biden administration has endured a disastrous fortnight — skyrocketing inflation, a growing border crisisforeign policy turmoil, inept response to the pipeline fiascolegislative stumbles — and needed to reverse the news cycle.

And then there’s the public school closure debacle.

Facing public backlash for her catastrophic rhetoric the past year, AFT President Randi Weingarten finally recommended all teachers return to work this autumn — after 18 months of cruelty toward vulnerable children, all while never missing a paycheck. Her untenable position eroded, as sentiment shifted on the teachers unions and their criminal behavior.

As we enjoy Armed Forces Day, realize nothing suddenly and magically changed for vaccinated people this week.

Team Biden is not “following the science”; struggling mightily in May, they are following the success of Republican Govs. Greg Abbott, Ron DeSantis, Kristi Noem and perhaps some poll numbers.