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VICTOR JOECKS: Mask reversal shows fallacy of ‘following the science’

Following the mask guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a good way to give yourself whiplash.

Last week, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky appeared before a Senate committee and defended the agency’s strict virus guidelines. “While we continue to have community transmission, we must also maintain public health measures we know will prevent the spread of this virus — masks, hand hygiene and physical distancing,” she said.

Walensky said the CDC was following “the science as our guide.” Dare to oppose her or Anthony Fauci, and you’d be labeled a “science denier.”

Two days later, Walensky reversed herself. On Thursday, she announced that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask in most circumstances. In response, many states, including Nevada, dropped their mask mandates for the fully vaccinated. Some large retail chains have announced similar policies.

So was Walensky denying the science in her testimony or when she scaled back the CDC’s mask guidance?

Then, there’s Fauci. In March, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., accused Fauci of engaging in “theater” for wearing two masks after receiving his vaccine. “Let me just state for the record that masks are not theater, they are protective,” Fauci said.

That was then. Now, he’s singing a different tune.

“I am now much more comfortable in people seeing me indoors without a mask,” Fauci said this week. “Before the CDC made the recommendation change, I didn’t want to look like I was giving mixed signals but being a fully vaccinated person, the chances of my getting infected in an indoor setting is extremely low.”

In other words, it was theater. He was performing to influence the masses.

If this doesn’t sound like science, you’re right. Science is a process that produces information or gathers knowledge. Scientists can use what they’ve learned to create technologies, such as vaccines, that do incredible things.

Science, however, can’t make policy judgments or weigh trade-offs. It can’t tell you the right decision when it comes to mask mandates. That’s not a knock on science, just a recognition that it’s not all-encompassing.

Stretching science beyond its capabilities has resulted in numerous failed doomsday predictions. For instance, in March, President Joe Biden and Fauci condemned Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to end his state’s mask mandate. Biden called it “Neanderthal thinking.” On Sunday, Texas had its fewest coronavirus cases in more than a year and no reported coronavirus deaths for the first time since it started tracking data. Oops.

Throughout the pandemic, Walensky, Fauci and many politicians, including Biden, wielded “science” as a cudgel to attack those who disagreed with their policy prescriptions. But science doesn’t create policies. People do. And people make mistakes, even when they act as if they’re impervious to error because they’re following the science.

Contact Victor Joecks at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698.

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