Prominent coronavirus expert and emergency medicine professor at George Washington University, Leanna Wen, said Saturday that President Joe Biden “absolutely declared a victory too soon” over the COVID-19 pandemic, referencing a decision to relax mask rules in May, Yahoo News reports.
Wen wrote in her recently released book, Lifelines: A Doctor’s Journey in the Fight for Public Health, that Biden and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made a mistake when they announced that unvaccinated people could ditch the masks, but didn’t make people prove that they were vaccinated.
“The single biggest mistake that the Biden administration made during this entire pandemic response — and I would argue in the entire Biden presidency — was back in May when the CDC said that vaccinated people can take off their mask, but did not have proof of vaccination attached to it,” Wen said. “And as a result, people understood the pandemic to be over them. The unvaccinated began behaving like they were vaccinated.”
At the time of the CDC announcement, the delta variant of the virus was already in the U.S. but was not yet prevalent. The variant is highly transmissible, compared to the original strain, which has resulted in higher numbers of cases among the vaccinated population.
“The honor code did not work”
“We saw exactly what I and many public health experts predicted at the time,” Wen said. “The honor code did not work. Surges have happened because of unvaccinated individuals. Now with the Delta variant, restrictions are coming back, except nobody’s listening anymore.”
While it does seem that people are more reluctant to return to wearing masks and living under restrictions due to the resurgence of the virus, there may be other reasons at play.
While the delta variant is causing higher numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths are not rising in the same way. It appears that the delta variant is less lethal, and people may be acclimating to the possibility that the COVID-19 virus will become just another virus that people can get but are highly unlikely to die from, such as the common cold.
Looking at numbers from the UK where the delta variant hit much earlier than it did in the U.S., the cases were at similar levels to where they were at the height of the pandemic, and deaths were at about 20 per day, as opposed to nearly 1,000 per day with the first strain.
It’s different now
Many believe that it doesn’t take a medical degree to deduce that we shouldn’t treat something that is roughly 50 times less deadly than it appeared to be a year ago in the same way we treated it before.
Even some medical professionals agree. Wen is adamant that schools should still reopen, and government officials are not forcing large events like Lollapolooza in Chicago to shut down.
Instead, they are pushing vaccine and mask mandates that are questionable in their effectiveness, but make people feel safer. Do 12-year-olds really need to be vaccinated when hardly anyone in that age group is dying of COVID-19, even without the vaccine?
Only time will tell if the delta variant causes state and local health officials to take us back into lockdown, but it appears as if there are plenty of reasons to be able to avoid that outcome.