They ended up on this topic when Sunny Hostin chose to blame Fox News’s (now-fading) skepticism about masks for outbreaks in red states, which understandably annoyed Meghan McCain. What about all the woke politicians and public health experts who cheered on the protests last month, going so far as to carve out special exceptions for demonstrators from social-distancing rules? The governor of New York just lost a case in federal court because of that double standard. Why not blame them, and specifically Fauci, asks McCain? “The leaders in place, like Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci, I think should have been screaming bloody murder when all the protesting and rioting started,” she added.

Which is a little unfair. Fauci *did* warn about the risk from mass protests, remember. He didn’t scream bloody murder about it, but then he also didn’t scream bloody murder in May when states like Georgia began reopening early despite not having satisfied the reopening guidelines that the White House had crafted. Fauci’s attitude seems to be that he’ll offer his advice when asked, and if you don’t want to take it, fine. Reap the consequences. He’s not going to waste his time trying to convince idiots not to be idiotic.

If we want to be mad at Fauci for something, we should be mad at his apparent complicity in the big lie early on about masks. God only knows how many lives, and jobs, could have been saved if the White House had gone all-in on masks early instead of telling people that they didn’t work because they were worried the public would buy up the existing supply and deprive doctors and nurses of equipment they desperately needed.

That’s not the only thing he and the administration were slow to adapt to, either. The Times has a story out tonight about how the feds are fi-nal-ly getting around to “pooled” testing, a practice already in place in countries like Germany and Israel, which could greatly increase U.S. testing capacity. And yes, although testing in America has skyrocketed since the ruinous early days in March, we’re still feeling a crunch. The Atlantic reported just this morning that the “supply chain is stretched to the limit” and rising demand in states with outbreaks means labs soon might not be able to keep up. Pooled testing could ease the pressure:

“We’re in intensive discussions about how we’re going to do it,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease expert, said in an interview. “We hope to get this off the ground as soon as possible.”…

Given the many advantages, experts said, health officials should have embraced pooled testing much sooner. The United States military has used the technique at its bases worldwide, and has done so since it first tested men for syphilis in the 1940s…

“I’m just wondering why the federal government does not mandate now that this be done to preserve the testing capacity,” said Dr. Jain, of Emory University. “We really haven’t learned from our counterparts in Europe and Asia.”

The idea is simple. Instead of testing each person’s sample individually, the samples are combined into batches and the batch is tested. If it comes out clean, great. You’ve just discovered that that entire group of people is clean using a single test. If it comes out positive, each member of that batch is then tested individually to find out who the infected person is. Fauci told the Times he’s been recommending it for months but was stonewalled until now, with the situation turning urgent in the south.

The underlying debate in the clip is about who’s ultimately to blame for the outbreaks in the south — and California, which has been overlooked lately by the media. Is it a case of reopening too soon and people letting down their guards, perhaps egged on by Trump and Fox? Or is it a case of protesters abandoning social distancing because they decided that demonstrating against police brutality was more important than containing the pandemic? The AP has a story out tonight that purports to exculpate the protesters:

If the protests had driven an explosion in cases, experts say, the jumps would have started to become apparent within two weeks — and perhaps as early as five days. But that didn’t happen in many cities with the largest protests, including New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Washington, D.C…

Drawing from data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, The Associated Press reviewed trends in daily reported cases in 22 U.S. cities with protests. It found post-protest increases in several cities — including Houston and Madison, Wisconsin — where experts say other factors were more likely the main drivers.

Health officials are still investigating case surges in different states, and more data may come in. But experts believe that if the protests did have a big impact on cases, stronger signs would be apparent now.

I made the same point two days ago. If the protests were driving transmissions, we should be seeing a national outbreak, not a regional outbreak. But I understand why people wouldn’t want to trust the media or public health experts in drawing that conclusion. These same people encouraged the demonstrations, going so far as to argue that the cause they were championing was at least as much of an urgent health concern as a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic. Why should you expect them to take responsibility for the outbreak across the south by frankly admitting that, yes, their advice was terrible?