By Ethan Nikfar
Over a year ago, a deadly new virus struck the world, forcing us to entirely adapt and revamp our lifestyles to prevent its spread. In response, we embraced public health officials, particularly in the federal government, to make sense of it. But today, those same public health officials have become increasingly unreasonable, withdrawn from reality, and unwilling to accept new evidence that challenges their outdated stances.
Public health officials have done a ton of admirable work through the duration of the pandemic. But as the figures Americans are looking up to for guidance in uncharted waters, they have an obligation to define and explain risks associated with the pandemic accurately.
Their job is not to coax us into behaving a certain way or lie to us about the data. Unfortunately, over the last several months, such distasteful behavior has become all too common for members of the scientific establishment.
Among the culprits are Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert (also the highest-paid official in the federal government), the CDC, and FDA.
Let us start with Dr. Fauci. At the beginning of the pandemic, Fauci was a welcome sight for most Americans; he was the voice of reason we listened to in order to keep up with the latest news and updates on the virus. For the first few months of the pandemic, he did this relatively solidly. But since, he has become intentionally misleading, power-hungry, and relishing in his newfound celebrity status.
Fauci began the pandemic in early March by discouraging mask usage. In an interview on 60 Minutes on March 8, 2020, Fauci stated, “there’s no reason to be walking around with a mask.” This was in an attempt to influence Americans to not wear masks so that healthcare workers would not face a shortage. But Fauci is a public health official. His job is to convey accurate public health information to the public – not to try and influence our behavior by tricking us into acting a certain way. Sadly, the deception was not limited to mask usage.
Fauci also deliberately shifted the goalposts when discussing the percentage of Americans who would need to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity. Initially stating that only 60 to 70 percent would need to be vaccinated, Fauci nudged the number up to 80 to 90 percent of the population. In an interview with the New York Times‘ Donald McNeil Jr., Fauci admitted to moving the goalposts “partly on his gut feeling that the country is finally ready to hear what he really thinks.”
Fauci also praised Governor Andrew Cuomo’s handling of the pandemic. Fauci, of course, will not mention the fact that New York has the second-highest COVID-19 death rate per million in America. Nor will he tell you that Cuomo signed an executive order to force COVID-positive patients back into nursing homes, killing nearly 13,000 elderly residents. Additionally, the governor’s aides tried to cover up and undercount the number of nursing home deaths for months to avoid federal investigation. For Fauci, New York was worthy of praise. The state’s citizens probably think differently.
When Fauci was questioned about the risk of COVID-19 spread in migrant detention facilities that force migrants into extremely close quarters, he stated, “I have nothing to do with the border . . . Having me down at the border, that’s really not what I do.” Really? Fauci has been more than happy to insert himself into other discussions, such as the travel ban, in the past year. He just does not want to criticize the Biden Administration.
Fauci criticized Texas for lifting its mask mandate. Yet, more than a month and a half after Governor Greg Abbott rescinded the mandate, the seven-day average of daily deaths in Texas is at its lowest point since early July of 2020. Daily cases have declined at a similar rate. When asked about this, Fauci stated, “You know, there are a lot of things that go into that. I mean, when you say that they’ve had a lot of the activity on the outside like ball games, I’m not really quite sure. It could be they’re doing things outdoors.” Fauci lacks the prerequisite understanding that behavioral patterns do not shift when the government announces a law that is impossible to enforce. Many on the political left (seemingly including Fauci) also seem not to fathom that people can wear masks without a mandate. Perhaps that can be attributed to their worldview that individuals cannot make rational decisions without the force of government compelling them to do so.
In late February, Fauci maintained that vaccinated individuals should not go to indoor restaurants or crowded movie theaters. Curious, given that data from Israel found that vaccinated individuals are at very low risk of transmitting the virus to others. If being vaccinated does not allow you to resume engaging in everyday activities, then what will?
Fauci’s recommendations for vaccinated individuals are not only ridiculous, but they actively discourage people from getting vaccinated. If being vaccinated does not change what you are allowed to do, then why would a healthy 25-year-old whose parents and grandparents have been vaccinated now choose to go through the hassle of getting vaccinated himself?
Fauci should instead be promoting the message that the faster we get vaccinated, the sooner we can return to everyday life. But he will simply not let that happen.
It took Fauci until late April to announce that vaccinated people can start to unmask outdoors. He stated, “It’s pretty common sense now that the outdoor risk is really quite low.” If so, what took him so long?
But even now, his stamp of approval is limited to certain outdoor activities.
Not only has Fauci deliberately downplayed the efficacy of vaccines by recommending that vaccinated individuals cannot go and enjoy their lives, but he has also mirrored Democrats’ misguided arguments about perpetually delaying school reopenings.
Questionable behavior was unfortunately not limited to just Fauci. The CDC has done its part too.
The CDC has continued to maintain its recommendation that 90 percent of schools remain partially closed. This is even as studies have shown that children are not at risk of receiving nor transmitting the virus, and teachers are at no more at risk than the general public. Schools have been safe to reopen the entire time – especially now that so many school staff have been vaccinated.
Moreover, the CDC’s summer camp guidance insists that kids over the age of two and all adults (regardless of whether they have been vaccinated) need to wear masks at all times. This makes zero sense. As studies have documented, not only are the vaccines tremendously effective at preventing spread, but young children have never been a key vector of transmission. Combine that with the humidity of the summer, and the CDC is actively recommending the needless suffering of kids.
Not only is the CDC’s guidance scientifically illiterate, but when any organization makes recommendations that are lacking in reason and logic, people stop listening to them.
On April 27, in another instance where public health officials discouraged people from getting vaccinated, the CDC updated a chart on the activities that vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals can safely do. According to them, when indoors, vaccinated people still need to wear masks at all times. There is no evidence to suggest that vaccinated people are vectors of transmission. The vaccines are a scientific miracle; we should treat them as such.
The FDA is certainly not devoid of criticism either. Earlier this month, it recommended pausings Johnson & Johnson vaccines across the country. Why? You may ask. There were six blood clots found in vaccinated patients out of 6.8 million people. The FDA wanted to pause the J&J vaccine because one in a million people who received the vaccine developed a blood clot. Let us put that into perspective – in the U.S., the odds of being struck by lightning in any given year is 1 in 500,000 – a better chance than developing a blood clot due to the vaccine. Not only is the FDA’s decision nonsensical, but now it likely makes people increasingly skeptical of receiving the vaccine because they are even more worried about side effects that are extremely rare.
What do we get from the FDA in return? Likely only a warning put on the side of a label that no one outside of a vaccine administrator will ever read. How many more lives would have been saved due to the vaccine if not for the FDA’s questionable cost-benefit analysis?
If it were up to the public health officials in the federal government, kids all across the country would not be able to go to school, and we would still be largely forced to the confines of our own homes.
Our scientific establishment has maintained that to avoid risk, Americans should give up all that made life great without considering tradeoffs and reality. “Avoiding risk” has now actively become risk-taking. In actuality, most Americans have been participating in the majority of their normal life for months. By denying that reality, public health officials will continue to be ignored. But in the end, they may deserve that.
Mr. Nikfar is a sophomore at Chapman University majoring in Pre-Pharmacy and a columnist for The Hesperian.