Author and scientist Carl Sagan wrote, “We’ve arranged a global civilization in which most crucial elements … profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster.” He could have been referring to our handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fundamentally, science is a process — a means of explaining the world through observation, questioning, formulating assumptions and testing through experimentation and further observation. To quote Sagan, “Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge.”
What is not science? Blind and unquestioning adherence to the opinions of anointed “experts.”
Yet, during the past year, obedience to politicians, their cherry-picked experts and government bureaucrats has been demanded of Americans as a patriotic duty — all in the name of science. From no corner have these calls been louder, more frequent and expressed with greater opprobrium, than from members of the Democratic Party – the self-proclaimed “Party of Science.”
Americans have been insulted, censored, shouted down and physically attacked for requesting empirical evidence before agreeing to imprison themselves in their homes, abandon interpersonal contact, shutter their businesses, sacrifice their children’s education and walk around with condensation-laden glasses – all imposed with the imprimatur of “science.” This, despite the knowledge that absent effective vaccines, there was little we could do to alter the epidemic’s ultimate course.
Alas, the data is in. States that took a balanced approach to the epidemic fared as well or better than those that imposed prolonged, stringent, economy-crushing and unemployment-inducing lockdowns.
Florida, with its large elderly population, took a targeted but liberal path and is 27th among states in its COVID-19 population death rate. Florida’s 1605 deaths per million people is much lower than that of New York (2668 deaths/million), New Jersey (2,833 deaths/million) and Michigan (1802 deaths/million), and only modestly higher than that of much younger California (1545/million). These latter 4 states employed prolonged, draconian lockdowns. Florida’s unemployment rate sits at an impressive 4.7 percent, compared with California’s 8.3%, Michigan’s 6.8%, New Jersey’s 7.7% and New York’s whopping 8.5%.
The Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed confounded the experts, bringing spectacularly effective vaccines in less than a year. Over 80% of Americans 65 years and older, and more than 50 percent of adults, have received at least one shot. Deaths and hospitalizations have plummeted.
Vaccination of the elderly and vulnerable is ending the crisis. Instead of riding out the epidemic, acquiring natural immunity through infection while our at-risk relatives suffered through serious and deadly infections, we gained control. Science won.
We would expect jubilance at the supremacy of science from a science-infused party. Instead, many Democrats seem gloomy, unwilling to embrace the shining light at the end of the tunnel. Have Democrats become vaccine doubters?
Joe Biden could not bring himself to celebrate our success, largely the result of his predecessor’s policies. Biden on March 29 said, “Our work is far from over. The war against COVID-19 is far from won. This is deadly serious. … I’m reiterating my call for every governor, mayor, and local leader to maintain and reinstate the mask mandate.” The same day, a CDC study reported that vaccinated individuals are at low risk for infection, do not carry the virus in significant numbers and by extension are not an important source of spread.
Despite the over 200 million administered vaccine doses and the millions of people who gained immunity through infection, Americans are told it is too dangerous to go on with their lives. Why? Some people continue to get infected. New variants have been identified. Even if most of those infected are young and healthy and variants pose no immediate threat, the vaccinated must hunker down.
Want to fly to Florida for sunshine and a return to normalcy? According to the CDC, if you are vaccinated it is safe to fly. But the agency’s Biden-appointed director has a feeling of impending doom and says to say home.
On April 11, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Biden administration’s chief medical adviser and COVID-19 shaman, told vaccinated Americans they should not dine at indoor restaurants and this week again insisted they need to wear face coverings. Last month, when Senator Rand Paul, an ophthalmologist, pressed Fauci on the incongruity of the position and asked for evidence, he was met with silence.
Over half the states – mostly led by Democrats – remain under mask mandates. In Illinois, Washington and Oregon, Democratic governors are reimplementing COVID restrictions — or considering doing so — in response to local outbreaks.
During the COVID-19 epidemic, Democrats have taken advantage of fear and confusion to expand their authority, entrench their positions, and adopt self-serving policies that under ordinary circumstances would never be accepted. Politicians can easily become addicted to power. Perhaps that is why the Party of Science has become anti-science.
Roger D. Klein, M.D., J.D., a pathologist, is an expert with the Regulatory Transparency Project’s FDA and Health Working Group, a faculty fellow at the Center for Law, Science and Innovation at the Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law, and a policy advisor to the Heartland Institute. A former advisor to HHS, FDA, and CDC, he completed his medical training at Yale School of Medicine and received his law degree from Yale Law School.