The four-minute clip below succinctly captures Becerra’s political strengths and weaknesses. If you want someone to prosecute your side of the culture war, he’s your guy: He was on CNN this morning to announce that discrimination against trans people in health care would be banned under ObamaCare.
If you want someone to set sensible scientific policy, not so much. Which makes him a poor choice to lead HHS, as the White House itself increasingly seems to realize.
I mean, even Anthony Fauci sounds more gung ho to ease off on masking as vaccination numbers climb than Becerra does.
His attitude is straightforward. If being vaccinated cuts your risk of contracting the coronavirus a lot, and masking cuts your risk of contracting it a tiny bit more, why not encourage the vaccinated to keep masking? What’s wrong with that?
Well, here’s our answer:
Republicans are among the most vaccine-resistant groups in America, yet the prospect of dropping masks if they get their shots seems to meaningfully shift their willingness to do so. If higher vaccine uptake is our best weapon against the virus — and it is — then the public health messaging should be shifting away from restrictions that limit contact between people and towards behavioral incentives for holdouts to get immunized. Fauci seems to have gotten that message. Jim Justice, the Republican governor of West Virginia who’s been among the more cautious members of his party on COVID, seems to have gotten it too.
Maybe if enough people who know what they’re talking about urge him to change his tune, he’ll do so:
Scott Gottlieb has been among the most outspoken doctors on easing restrictions as cases decline and was back on TV this morning to reiterate the point, stressing that many states have already reached their target (10 cases or fewer per 100,000 residents) for relaxing restrictions. “We’ve hit our own goal — we just are reluctant to relax the measures now,” he told CNBC this morning. Granted, Becerra isn’t necessarily encouraging states to keep mandates or other regulations in effect, but he wants people to keep voluntarily taking precautions prescribed by those rules.
Masks forever, even if the state isn’t demanding it.
By the way, note how openly skeptical CNN anchor John Berman is of Becerra’s hypercaution in the clip below. That’s a trend I’ve noticed among TV anchors lately when interviewing federal officials. Savannah Guthrie nudged Fauci recently about easing off mask requirements for young children and Jake Tapper pressed COVID czar Jeff Zients about Biden’s habit of masking in safe surroundings yesterday. The feds are losing the media by being too risk-averse. Becerra’s spiel here is just the latest example.
The Department of Health and Human Services will enforce a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra: "There is a provision in the Affordable Care Act which said that. And so now it's clear. There's no ambiguity." pic.twitter.com/6hKDWXzlWh
— New Day (@NewDay) May 10, 2021