Reminder: A lot of 'experts' started revising pandemic rules last summer

AP Photo/Noah Berger

Is the new CDC quarantine guidance based on science or is it just an accommodation of the fact that sticking to the earlier rules no longer seems very practical? As Allahpundit pointed out yesterday and today, it’s pretty clearly the latter. Pronouncements about the science have suddenly included a fudge factor meant to make allowances for what people are willing or likely to tolerate.

But it’s worth remembering that this is not the first time the science stopped being the determining factor in public health pronouncements. In fact, as Glenn Greenwald pointed out yesterday, you can go all the way back to last summer and see this same phenomenon in action.

Just to highlight a few of these examples, here’s a bit of Politico’s story from June 4, 2020. This is the point where a lot of realized exhortations to follow the science were just another partisan game of Calvinball. [emphasis added]

“The injustice that’s evident to everyone right now needs to be addressed,” Abraar Karan, a Brigham and Women’s Hospital physician who’s exhorted coronavirus experts to amplify the protests’ anti-racist message, told me. “While I have voiced concerns that protests risk creating more outbreaks, the status quo wasn’t going to stop #covid19 either,” he wrote on Twitter this week.

It’s a message echoed by media outlets and some of the most prominent public health experts in America, like former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Tom Frieden, who loudly warned against efforts to rush reopening but is now supportive of mass protests. Their claim: If we don’t address racial inequality, it’ll be that much harder to fight Covid-19. There’s also evidence that the virus doesn’t spread easily outdoors, especially if people wear masks.

The experts maintain that their messages are consistent—that they were always flexible on Americans going outside, that they want protesters to take precautions and that they’re prioritizing public health by demanding an urgent fix to systemic racism.

But their messages are also confounding to many who spent the spring strictly isolated on the advice of health officials, only to hear that the need might not be so absolute after all. It’s particularly nettlesome to conservative skeptics of the all-or-nothing approach to lockdown, who point out that many of those same public health experts—a group that tends to skew liberal—widely criticized activists who held largely outdoor protests against lockdowns in April and May, accusing demonstrators of posing a public health danger. Conservatives, who felt their own concerns about long-term economic damage or even mental health costs of lockdown were brushed aside just days or weeks ago, are increasingly asking whether these public health experts are letting their politics sway their health care recommendations.

How bad does the hypocrisy have to be for Politico to take conservative complaints seriously? Answer: Very bad indeed. Drew Holden did a whole thread at the time on some of the people who’d lashed out at anyone refusing to follow lockdown guidance who then did an about face when it came to BLM marches. Here’s a sample.

There’s more but you get the idea. A significant portion of the very online left was ready to verbally crush anyone who refused to follow lockdown orders, especially those who protested those orders. And then the George Floyd protests started and they forgot all of that overnight and became protest supporters.

Today, Tom “the expert” Nichols made essentially the same point.

They changed the rules and then covered for behavior that only weeks before they’d been spitting mad about.

He even does the “Imagine…” think where we put the shoe on the other foot so dopey progressives can remember how they felt about this.

It’s a bit painful to say but he’s right. It was last June when it became pretty clear to anyone paying attention that the rules of this particular game were subject to change, not because of the science but because of politics.

Frankly, it was clear in plenty of other ways at the time. The fact that Gov. Cuomo was treated by the media as the hero of the pandemic was always absurd and unjustifiable. And the fact that so many progressives, including Joe Biden, were insistent that President Trump was responsible for every individual death was equally absurd. That standard has also conveniently been abandoned with a Democrat now in office. So there’s nothing new about pandemic guidance being adjusted to suit the left’s needs of the moment. This is exactly how things have gone for at least the past 18 months.