When the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that fully vaccinated people can safely participate in both indoor and outdoor activities without wearing face masks, it was good news for most Americans. In addition to a sense of vindication for those of us who object to post-vaccination masking, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky’s statement provided another much-needed service — it forced the metastasizing mask cult to reveal itself as a coalition of anti-science zealots and petty tyrants. A typical example of their collective response to the CDC guidance appeared in the Washington Post under the title, “The CDC shouldn’t have removed restrictions without requiring proof of vaccination.”
Its author, former Planned Parenthood CEO Leana S. Wen, is a proponent of vaccine passports for routine activities such as retail shopping, restaurant dining, going to the theater, and working in a fully staffed office. Aside from the constitutional and legal issues raised by the kind of government-issued passports Dr. Wen advocates, her views aren’t shared by most Americans. A recent Gallup survey found that a mere 40 percent support vaccine passports for restaurant dining, and only 45 percent favor them in the workplace. The only activities for which majorities supported such passports were airplane travel and attendance at large public gatherings such as concerts. Dr. Wen isn’t satisfied with such modest limitations:
The problem is this: You know what you’re doing, but you have no way to be confident of trusting everyone else. Let’s say you go the grocery store. It’s crowded and few people there are masked. Perhaps everyone is vaccinated, but perhaps not. What if you’re vaccinated but not fully protected because you’re immunocompromised? You can no longer count on CDC rules to help you keep safe. What if you don’t have child care, so you had to bring your kids along? They didn’t choose to remain unvaccinated — the shots aren’t available for them. Surely, it’s not fair to put them at risk.
First, as a practical matter, it’s impossible to know who is vaccinated and who is not. If vaccine passports are mandated, it will create a black market through which forgeries can be purchased. Indeed, they are already available. Second, it isn’t necessary to rely on “trust.” If you have been fully vaccinated, your chances of contracting COVID-19 in a grocery store are close to zero. As to the immunocompromised, it simply isn’t reasonable to impose a coercive passport mandate on the entire country to accommodate 3.6 percent of the U.S. population. Finally, Dr. Wen’s reference to “your kids” is cheap fearmongering. Children too young to leave at home while you run to Kroger have a very low risk of contracting COVID-19.
Dr. Wen isn’t the only cult member to express disapproval of the CDC mask guidance. Cheryl Healton, dean of the NYU School of Global Public Health, told WebMD, “We have more people not vaccinated than vaccinated, and we are declaring victory.” Healton added that she would continue masking: “I am doing it to be a role model at this point.” Georgetown Professor of Global Health Law Lawrence Gostin peddled vaccine passports in comments made to The Hill: “The CDC is telling the public and the private sector that they have to make a very sharp differentiation between vaccinated and unvaccinated people, and yet the federal government stubbornly refuses to help businesses to gain proof of vaccination status.”
But such advocacy is dangerous according to Harvard Medical School epidemiologist Martin Kulldorff and Stanford Medical School professor Jay Bhattacharya. They write in the Wall Street Journal, “Those pushing for coercive Covid vaccination threaten [public health] progress by undermining trust in vaccines. In this sense, they are more dangerous than the small group of so-called anti-vaxxers have ever been.” If the CDC insists that masks must be worn, even by the fully vaccinated, it would signal that our public health officials don’t trust the vaccines. Kulldorff and Bhattacharya also note that government-imposed vaccine passports will provide preferential treatment for members of the mask cult:
Vaccine passports are unjust and discriminatory. Most of those endorsing the idea belong to the laptop class — privileged professionals who worked safely and comfortably at home during the epidemic. Millions of Americans did essential jobs at their usual workplaces and became immune the hard way. Now they would be forced to risk adverse reactions from a vaccine they don’t need. Passports would entice young, low-risk professionals … to get the vaccine before older, higher-risk but less affluent members of society. Many unnecessary deaths would result.
For members of the mask cult, however, mere life and death are less important than signaling virtue and retaining as much power as possible in the hands of the political class. The president greeted the new CDC guidance by taking off his mask and exclaiming, “Today is a great day in America.” But Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) announced that she plans to keep her mask on: “Personally, I’m going to keep wearing my mask in shared indoor public spaces like elevators, subway, grocery store, etc.” And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has decreed that masks must still be worn on the floor of the lower chamber of Congress. This prompted Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) to observe, “It’s about control.”
As if to bolster Scalise’s point, Walensky was reprimanded Sunday morning on ABC’s This Week for trusting Americans to behave responsibly under the new mask rules. An incredulous Martha Raddatz barked, “You said on Friday that the CDC is empowering the American people to make their own decisions about their own health, but this all on the honor system.” That sentence succinctly captures the ethos that animates the mask cult, and it has little to do with science. Its insistence that Americans wear masks or provide proof of vaccination just to exercise their right to free association is all you need to know. The petty tyrants of the mask cult don’t care about public health. For them, it’s all about power.