Biden Administration Looks Gift Horse in Mouth, But Can’t See It Because the Horse Is Wearing a Mask

Matt Yglesias, in his column for Bloomberg:

The federal judge who on Monday struck down the CDC’s mask mandate in airports, airplanes and other public transit did President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party a favor.

This lingering non-pharmaceutical intervention, at a time when mask rules have been dropped in virtually every other context (including in the U.S. Capitol Building) has become an embarrassment at a time when the country has otherwise moved on from so-called NPIs.

The basic problem is that the rule itself was issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is a scientific agency — and a conservative one at that. CDC guidelines suggest, for example, that nobody should eat rare steak or runny eggs, and that a woman should not have more than one alcoholic drink a day.

The science behind those calls may be sound. But they are sharply at odds with the habits and values of huge numbers of Americans. Fortunately, they do not have the force of law. Alcohol regulations are made by state legislatures, which ideally will be guided but not controlled by science as they make laws about public health.

The CDC is even more conservative than Yglesias suggests. They recommend cooking steak to 145°F, which is a hell of a lot more well-done than merely “not rare”. I’d send a steak cooked that well-done back to the kitchen.

In reality the White House should have put its foot down and lifted the rule weeks ago. But its reluctance to meddle with a scientific agency is understandable. At the same time, scientifically speaking, it’s always going to be the case that everyone wearing a mask will be at least a little bit safer than everyone not wearing a mask. The problem is that mask-wearing is annoying and socially divisive, with efforts to enforce the rule generating clashes between passengers and airline staff.

So the judge — a Trump appointee who is surely no fan of Biden, Pelosi or their party — may have succeeded in getting an awkward topic off the agenda. For that, Democrats ought to be grateful.

Well, so much for that.

Tuesday, 19 April 2022