March 6, 2022 Reading Time: 4 minutes

A few days ago, the Biden administration released an updated pandemic roadmap, detailing its plans to combat Covid-19. The plan came out after President Biden’s State of the Union Address, where he stated, “thanks to the progress we have made this past year, COVID-19 need no longer control our lives.”

The plan calls for a “return to normalcy” and represents an approach to the pandemic where individuals make decisions based on their personal risk tolerances, rather than submitting to government mandates. For now, lockdowns, school closures, and other draconian pandemic measures are out of the picture.

In addition to the Biden administration’s recent shift, the CDC updated its guidelines on masking. The agency’s risk guidelines now include hospital burdens as opposed to solely focusing on local transmission. The change in guidelines is significant. Under the old guidelines, the CDC recommended that individuals in nearly all counties across the United States should wear masks. The new guidelines say that masking is not necessary for nearly half of the US counties.

The maps below highlight the stark difference between county-level masking recommendations under the old CDC guidelines and the new ones. The abrupt shift is curious. There is no new research or a significant drop in COVID-19 cases or deaths that would prompt this change. 

Sources: Before, After

Even once-influential left-wing public health activists and scientists pointed out the government’s flip-flopping. Gregg Gonsalves, a vocal proponent of the “Zero-Covid” strategy, expressed outrage at the new White House approach, tweeting an image accusing the government of having blood on its hands.

“The Science” has not changed. So, why are the Biden administration and public health agencies pivoting on their approach to the virus? One answer is that the decision is purely political. And now, thanks to the information in a leaked memorandum, written by the Biden Administration’s polling and research team, Impact Research, that conclusion seems obvious.

The Memo

The memo articulates a major problem the political left faces with upcoming elections in November, and offers solutions for Democrats to save face. President Biden’s approval rating is falling. One factor that could be driving this drop is that Americans are no longer content with seemingly never-ending COVID restrictions. Therefore, per the memo, Democrats should “take credit for ending the COVID crisis phase of the COVID war,” and “push for feeling and acting more normal.”

What’s significant about the memo is its timing and the near-immediate response by the Biden administration and the CDC. In near lockstep, both followed the memo’s recommendations. The Biden administration updated its COVID-19 plan, Biden’s State of the Union address presented a stark deviation from previous messaging, and the CDC’s new guidelines relaxed masking recommendations for a significant portion of the country.

Gone are Biden’s doomsday messages from two months ago, where he told the unvaccinated “you’re looking at a winter of severe illness and death for yourselves, your families, and the hospitals you may soon overwhelm.” White House Chief Medical Advisor Anthony Fauci, who a little over a month ago stated, “we are still in the middle of a pandemic,” is no longer doing TV interviews.

In short order, the Biden administration and the CDC changed their entire pandemic approach. Given that we saw no new research or COVID-19 data to instigate a policy shift, we can only speculate that the Biden administration’s new approach is not related to “The Science.”

This Is Not Surprising

Although the leak and response to the memorandum may seem egregious, it is not without precedent. One of the only constants in the policy response to the pandemic is a near nonstop politicization of public health.

This is seen through the actions of Anthony Fauci and former NIH Director Francis Collins, who conspired to smear the scientists behind the Great Barrington Declaration through the popular press because they dared question the efficacy of lockdowns. 

In addition to Fauci and Collins, the CDC consistently demonstrates it is influenced by partisan politics. Throughout the pandemic, the CDC spread misinformation on masking, spun medical studies, disparaged natural immunity, allowed teachers’ unions to influence its school reopening guidance, and used deeply flawed studies to push an unconstitutional eviction moratorium. Trust in the CDC is dropping because Americans see it as a politicized agency.

The memo and response by the Biden administration and the CDC appear damning, but none of this is new. The Biden administration and the CDC’s apparent reliance on politics disguised as science only further discredit them.

While a return to normal is welcome, if the driving force behind it is political polling and stakes for reelection, we should all pause and reflect on whether these people should be making such monumental decisions about our lives. In the words of William Niskanen, “a nation that expects the government to prevent churches from burning, to control the price of bread or gasoline, to secure every job, and to find some villain for every dramatic accident, risks an even larger loss of life and liberty.”

David Waugh

David Waugh is a business development and communications specialist at Coinbits, a bitcoin investment platform. He formerly served as AIER’s Managing Editor from 2021 until 2023, overseeing the publication of The Daily Economy. He previously worked for S&P Global Market Intelligence.

He has co-authored numerous academic book chapters and journal papers on cryptocurrencies, financial markets, political economy, and higher education. His popular writings have appeared in The Hill, RealClearMarkets, National Review, Commentary, Seeking Alpha, and various other media outlets and publications.

Waugh earned his BA in economics from Hampden-Sydney College.

Selected Publications

“General Institutional Considerations of Blockchain and Emerging Applications” Co-Authored with Peter C. Earle in The Emerald Handbook on Cryptoassets: Investment Opportunities and Challenges, edited by Baker, Benedetti, Nikbakht, and Smith (2023)

The Hyperpoliticization of Higher Ed: Trends in Faculty Political Ideology, 1969–Present.” Co-authored with Phillip W. Magness. Independent Review, (Winter 2022-2023)

“Cryptocurrencies, Blockchain, and Public Choice” Co-authored with Ryan M. Yonk, Cryptocurrency Concepts, Technology, and Applications, edited by Leibowitz (2023)

“Enrollment declines increase pressure on ‘woke’ higher ed” The Center Square, (January 2023)

“Fed’s cryptocurrency pilot opens door for dangerous retail option” The Hill, (December 2022)

“Pandemic Socialism: Hayek’s Critique of Scientism and the Fatal Conceit of Government Lockdowns,” Co-authored with Matt Kibbe in Pandemics and Liberty, edited by Raymond J. March and Ryan M. Yonk (2022)

“Do Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Offices Achieve Their Stated Goals?” The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal (August 2021)

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