Here we go: CDC asks DOJ to appeal court ruling lifting mask mandate

Stefani Reynolds/The New York Times via AP, Pool

The only people less happy about this than anti-maskers are the Democrats on the ballot this fall who’ve just been fed this sh*t sandwich and will have to figure out a way to digest it.

Yesterday the DOJ punted the decision on whether to appeal to the CDC, offering to proceed if the agency deemed it in the interest of public health to do so. The vibe I get from this afternoon’s statement, though, is that the CDC is more worried about its institutional authority long-term than whether a mandate remains in effect right now. Note how the statement begins, with a clause about “protecting” the CDC’s power; I think that’s Rochelle Walensky’s team worrying that if they don’t challenge the ruling lifting the mandate, they might run into legal trouble later this year if/when there’s a surge in cases and they conclude that a mandate needs to be reinstated urgently.

What do you do now if you’re a House Democrat in a purple district? Piss off Republican voters by backing the appeal in the name of “the science” or piss off the Democrats whom you need to turn out by not doing so?

Also, what’s the timetable on this appeal? The current mandate is set to expire on May 3, less than two weeks from today. It was hoped that the CDC would choose not to extend it again in light of the low number of COVID hospitalizations and deaths nationally. But I’m not sure they can do that now. Unless the appeal is heard in the next 13 days, letting the mandate expire on May 3 would moot the case. If the CDC is serious about asserting its authority here, its insistence on an appeal may require it to extend the mandate until that appeal is heard.

The truly ridiculous part is that everyone but everyone expects Biden and the CDC to lose if the case lands before a 6-3 conservative SCOTUS majority. Which means the White House is going to burn scant political capital by pursuing this, they’ll accomplish nothing and lose anyway, and the CDC’s public health authority will be permanently weakened in a way that it wouldn’t be if they chose not to appeal. (“The ruling by a Federal District Court judge, Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, an appointee of former President Donald J. Trump, does not set a legal precedent. But should an appeals court, or the Supreme Court, uphold her decision, it could permanently constrain the C.D.C.’s authority.”) Literally the only thing Biden will get from it is the ability to shift blame for the lifting of the mandate from his own administration to the Court.

Maybe that’ll earn him some goodwill from lefties for like 48 hours.

Or maybe not. It’s an open question to me how many Democrats are truly committed to masks unto eternity, this morning’s polling notwithstanding. Why, here’s an interesting clip that I *never* would have anticipated a year ago:

Symone Sanders is the former spokesperson and senior advisor to Kamala Harris. Let that sink in.

There are many different benchmarks we could use to pronounce the pandemic over, but I don’t know that any would top Harris’s former top flack conceding that a governor who prided himself on opposing restrictions actually performed creditably with COVID. We knew Dems would try to “pivot to normalcy” before the election but someone who worked in the Biden White House giving a pat on the back to a man whom the left calls “DeathSantis” is … unexpected.

It’s like a “defund the police” activist saying that Sheriff Joe Arpaio seems to know what he’s doing. On MSNBC!

She’s right, by the way, that Florida has done all right with COVID under DeSantis. They’re 17th out of the 50 states in deaths per capita, but holding down deaths from a novel virus is a special challenge in a state with so many retirees. They’ve still managed to fare better than other purple jurisdictions like Arizona, Michigan, Georgia, and Pennsylvania, all of which have higher death rates than Florida does.

Where liberals were more accurate in their predictions was in believing that highly vaccinated blue states as a group would fare better than less vaccinated red ones. Among the 16 states with higher death rates than Florida, only two (New York and New Jersey, which were crushed in the first pre-vaccine wave of COVID) are deep blue.

That’s another reason why the left is going to have a collective aneurysm when SCOTUS inevitably rules against Biden and the CDC and cashiers the mask mandate. They think their mandate-heavy strategy for COVID management, which includes vaccine mandates, is the only way to responsibly manage the virus and they’ve got numbers to show in support of that claim. Never mind that every state will still be free to impose its own mandates even if the CDC loses its suit. Or that mask mandates have already been lifted nearly everywhere apart from interstate transportation and the country’s been doing just fine lately.

I’ll leave you with this as evidence that Sanders’s lukewarm praise for DeSantis today is still very much an outlier on MSNBC.