Quite a few items to unpack from Dr. Robert Redfield’s appearance on Good Morning America, but ABC does get the headline correct. The big news in terms of public policy is reopening schools, and the director of the CDC endorses that policy both professionally and personally. Redfield declares he would “absolutely” be comfortable seeing his grandchildren go back to school in the fall, with an exception for the one suffering from cystic fibrosis. Even that case depends on accommodation, Redfield says:
— Good Morning America (@GMA) July 22, 2020
As the new school year nears, Redfield said he would “absolutely” be comfortable with his grandchildren heading back to their classrooms. Redfield added he only may have “some reservation” about his grandson with cystic fibrosis, “depending on how he could be accommodated in the school.”
“I think it’s really important to get our schools open,” he said. “It’s not public health versus opening the schools or the economy — it’s public health versus public health. I think there really are a number of negative public health consequences that have happened to our K-12 [students] by having schools closed.”
“So it’s so important now to work together with school districts to figure out how they can take our guidelines and operationalize them in a practical way and to do it in a way that is safe,” he continued.
Unfortunately, we have to sit through a less-than-serious argument about a national mask mandate before we get to this declaration. Redfield says that “the most powerful tool we have against this outbreak” is a “simple face mask.” If Americans would adopt it universally while out in public, Redfield says, we could greatly reduce transmission of the virus and hasten reopening, even before a vaccine emerges.
Noting that Redfield called it a “social responsibility” to wear masks, the GMA hosts says, “So are seatbelts, so are laws against driving and — drinking and driving, that’s also part of social responsibility. Is a national mask mandate not imperative at this moment?” It apparently escapes her notice that the laws she just cited are not in fact federal laws. Those laws got passed by states, under some pressure from Congress by use of highway funds to be sure, but are still state laws enforced by the states. And state governments have the authority now to impose such mask mandates — if they want to spend the time and money enforcing them.
I’m an early adopter of masks, having argued for them before even Redfield thought it was cool, so this isn’t an anti-mask argument. Rather, I’m pointing out the idiotic demagoguery attendant in the media over the nonsensical question of a national mask mandate. Is anyone asking Nancy Pelosi why Congress isn’t passing a bill requiring masks to be worn, and for the federal government to enforce it — or even tying federal health-care funds for states to state-issued mask mandates? No, they aren’t, even though that would make more sense than demanding a mandate from the executive branch.
And how would the federal government enforce such a mandate? The media is in full freak-out mode over DHS personnel defending federal property in Portland, where the federal government has clear jurisdiction. Does this host propose that we send DHS officials into every city, every grocery store, to enforce a mask mandate? Or would Good Morning America lead the new freakout if they tried it? I know which way I’d bet on that question.
To get back to Redfield’s more important point, we need to reopen the schools as soon as we possibly can manage it. There’s clearly an educational crisis in America at the moment, as this interview proves.