It’s Not Science That Has Changed; It’s the Political Calculus

Dr. Leana Wen, who appears on CNN frequently as a medical analyst, got tongues wagging earlier this week when she was asked by CNN anchor John Berman whether she supported the lifting of mask mandates across the country.

“I do,” Wen said. “(T)he science has changed.” She continued, “We know that vaccines protect very well against omicron, which is the dominant variant.” Wen also announced her support for what she called “one-way masking.” “We also know that … even if other people around you aren’t wearing masks, if you wear a high-quality mask, that also protects you.”

If you’ve followed Wen throughout the pandemic, those comments likely come as a surprise. The biggest head-turner might well be her blithe statement that “the science has changed.”

When frontline doctors and others questioned the official narrative about anything COVID — the origin of the virus, the effectiveness of drugs like ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, the safety and efficacy of the vaccines — Wen was on the bandwagon insisting that “the science is settled,” even as the official narrative about the pandemic changed almost daily. Those who dared to continue to voice their views or ask their questions were denounced as cranks spewing “misinformation” and were censored and silenced by social media companies. (The ongoing brouhaha over Joe Rogan’s podcasts on Spotify is proof that even as the official narrative “changes,” only those “officials” approved to carry the new message will be permitted to say it.)

Wen’s statements about the vaccines’ protection against the omicron variant of COVID-19 are similarly inscrutable. According to studies published last December, the currently available vaccines are not as effective against the omicron variant as they had been against earlier versions of the virus. The CEO of Pfizer admitted in a January interview that two doses of his company’s mRNA vaccine were “not enough for omicron,” and that the variant was a “more difficult target” than earlier versions of the virus.

Wen went further. She opined that, with respect to the decision of whether to wear a mask, “the responsibility should shift from a government mandate … to an individual responsibility by the family.” When Berman challenged her with data about large numbers of cases in New Jersey, Wen pushed back, stating, “I don’t think we should be looking at case counts at all at this point.” She emphasized the mildness of the omicron variant and even equated the protection afforded by vaccination with the natural immunities provided by having contracted the virus.

Wen concluded by saying that the first mask restrictions that should be lifted are those for children. “There actually is a harm that we should be discussing, of children continuing to mask … We should be intellectually honest and say that masking has had a cost, especially for the youngest learners.”

These are remarkable turnarounds.

Last summer, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lifted mask mandates for fully vaccinated people, Wen’s position was quite different. “We don’t trust the honor system,” she said. “The unvaccinated are now putting the vaccinated at risk.” Wen insisted that everyone needed to wear a mask to protect themselves and others. And, she maintained, “Masks can get hot and uncomfortable, but there are no health effects to wearing them.”

Wen also argued in very strong terms that the Biden administration should mandate taking the vaccines and should make life more difficult for those who chose to remain unvaccinated by taking their freedoms away.

What Wen says now, millions of Americans have been saying for months, if not longer.

It isn’t the science that has changed here; it’s the political calculus. We’re moving into the third year of this pandemic and its restrictions. Americans are fed up and they no longer believe the media’s constant fearmongering. In a Rasmussen poll taken last month, half of those polled said that they believe that the risks of the virus are being exaggerated. All across the country, people want an end to COVID restrictions. Parents are demanding that their children attend schools without face coverings. Businesses want to open without asking for vaccine “passports.” (And it’s not just Americans. The Truckers’ Freedom Convoy 2022 in Ottawa, Canada, has garnered international attention and is breaking the stranglehold of the global COVID cabal.)

Democrats control the White House and both houses of Congress, and the public is increasingly blaming the country’s woes on the Democratic Party. President Joe Biden’s approval ratings are his lowest ever. (Almost 60% disapprove of his presidency and more than half consider him the worst president in the country’s history.) Recent congressional polls suggest strong support for Republican candidates in the 2022 midterm elections. Record numbers of women and minority candidates are running as Republicans. Democrats currently hold the House by only nine seats, and 29 House Democrats have announced they will not be running again this year.

None of this bodes well for Democrats in a midterm election year, and they know it.

What does any of this have to do with Wen?

Wen flunked out of Planned Parenthood. She was named CEO in late 2018 and abruptly fired less than a year later for daring to suggest that the organization would focus on aspects of women’s health other than abortion, and for refusing to use “trans-inclusive language” instead of saying “women.” She’s been trying to reburnish her lefty bona fides ever since. If that means carrying water for the Biden administration when it is pushing vaccine and mask mandates, that’s what she’ll do. If polling numbers say that Democrats need to abruptly change course, she’ll do that, too.

Like any other good little Democratic operative.

Copyright 2022

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Laura Hollis

Laura Hirschfeld Hollis is a native of Champaign, Illinois. She received her undergraduate degree in English and her law degree from the University of Notre Dame. Hollis' career as an attorney has spanned 28 years, the past 23 of which have been in higher education. She has taught law at the graduate and undergraduate levels, and has nearly 15 years' experience in the development and delivery of entrepreneurship courses, seminars and workshops for multiple audiences. Her scholarly interests include entrepreneurship and public policy, economic development, technology commercialization and general business law. In addition to her legal publications, Hollis has been a freelance political writer since 1993, writing for The Detroit News, HOUR Detroit magazine, and the Christian Post, on matters of politics and culture. She is a frequent public speaker. Hollis has received numerous awards for her teaching, research, community service and contributions to entrepreneurship education. She is married to Jess Hollis, a musician, voiceover artist and audio engineer, and they live in Indiana with their two children, Alistair and Celeste.

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