You know what? Public health experts are letting their “politics” sway health care recommendations. But I might suggest that “politics” is being used as a sort of derogatory slang for blind partisanship, and that’s not what this is. Remember the two sets of protests we’re discussing here: One aimed to reopen the economy, something public health officials had good reason to be wary of at the time, for public health reasons. In late April, when these protests were happening, thousands of Americans were dying every day from the virus. We still didn’t know a lot about transmission, but there was a reasonable expectation that reopening the economy with that many cases would cause more spreading, and more death. Yes, people were also protesting the negative health consequences of a closed economy, particularly the long scapegoated “mental health” effects, but it’s unclear if those will actually manifest—some experts actually think the opposite could happen. The protests were mainly an expression of rage at the pandemic and the bungled early response to it, which, while understandable, did little to change the situation. That’s why public health experts were skeptical of its focus.
The protests we are seeing now are also about a public health issue. Police brutality, and racism more broadly, has an enormous and well-documented impact on public health and loss of life, as the public health letter does quite effectively lay out, including in the disproportionate effects of COVID on black Americans. So if we consider the public health arguments of each event, it does make sense that public health experts might weigh in favoring one side based on their expertise. Their expertise connects to ideas that are inherently political. Things that kill us frequently are.