President Joe Biden campaigned on the idea that his administration — unlike that of President Donald Trump, he claimed — would make decisions on the basis of science, not politics.
In a slew of executive orders, he signed several declaring to that effect, proclaiming: “[I]t is the policy of my Administration to make evidence-based decisions guided by the best available science and data.” But Biden’s policy on the re-opening of schools shows that he puts politics before science.
In January, new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky suggested that schools ought to be able to reopen soon. “Current data from schools, from summer camps and whatnot also suggested that the children not only have decreased rates of symptoms, but have decreased rates of transmissibility,” she said. But Biden’s allies in the teachers’ unions, who have been fighting re-opening in major cities like Chicago and Los Angeles, resisted.
When the Biden White House was asked about Walkensky’s comments, it told reporters that she had been acting only in her “personal capacity.” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki stressed that the administration would await the CDC’s formal new guidelines before taking a position. The new guidelines, issued Friday, were dressed up as a strategy for re-opening, but they make re-opening all but impossible, and imply that many schools that are currently open should close.
As public health experts Joseph G. Allen and Helen Jenkins write in the Washington Post:
The report adds new and unnecessary demands that will ultimately keep millions of kids out of school. In particular, there are two items that will act as barriers: the use of community-spread metrics to determine whether schools should open, and the requirement of routine screening testing.
[C]ommunity-spread metrics pose major problems. We’re part of a group of faculty and researchers at Harvard, Boston University and Brown University that released a report in July using such metrics as indicators for when to open schools. We changed our position on this in light of overwhelming scientific evidence that transmission within schools can be kept low regardless of community spread, so long as good mitigation measures are in place. It’s also clear that community spread is not an indicator of within-school transmission. The CDC itself released a study showing this. It also recently wrote that there is “little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to community transmission.” So why tie reopening schools to community spread?
Economist Emily Oster was more diplomatic, praising the CDC guidelines in a New York Times op-ed, but noting:
The C.D.C. has provided a good framework to get more students back to classrooms. But the guidance makes it difficult to do what’s best for the country’s children: to get all students, in all grades, into classrooms five days a week, in person. … The new guidelines for the spring are a start, but keeping them in place for the fall will likely mean we cannot open all schools. This would be a tragedy for children.
She recommended the guidelines be “updated.”
The Biden administration’s wild swings on school re-opening suggest that what really happened was that the teachers’ unions successfully pressured the CDC to defy the scientific results of studies on transmission in schools, as well as the conclusions of the agency’s new director, and to adopt guidelines that would back the unions in their political fight.
So much for letting science lead. What Biden and the Democrats meant was: science that suits their political interests.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.