CNN medical expert Dr. Leana Wen said that it might be time to lift mask mandates — not because they don’t work or because the threat has passed, but in order to “preserve public health authority for when it’s needed again.”
Wen explained that she was not saying it was a good idea for people to stop wearing masks, but that governments needed to ease up and allow people to make the decisions for themselves — arguing that people were more likely to accept later restrictions coming from “public health authorities” if they were first given back some of their liberty and autonomy.
In the coming days, we will see many Governors and local leaders lift mask mandates. This is the right step, and marks a needed shift from government-imposed requirement to individual decision. It helps to preserve public health authority for when it’s needed again. @wolfblitzer pic.twitter.com/66zwIw6vgH
— Leana Wen, M.D. (@DrLeanaWen) February 7, 2022
“You say we can start removing at least some coronavirus restrictions,” anchor Wolf Blitzer began, adding, “Now, tell us why?”
“Well, I agree with Colorado, with many other local and state’s jurisdictions that are beginning to lift government mandates,” Wen replied. “And I think this is the key: I’m not saying that we should be stopping masking, but rather that this needs to shift from a government requirement to an individual decision.”
“The government can’t keep telling our citizens that this is a five-alarm fire all the time,” she continued, suggesting that the move was at least as much about human behavior as it was about available data. “People are just going to start tuning it out and not pay attention, they’ll be desensitized.”
“And so what needs to happen is we need to end the state of emergency and preserve the ability of public health authorities to reinstitute mandates in the future if we more and more dangerous variants later,” she concluded, effectively arguing that public health authorities would have no power to implement future mandates if they pushed the people too far.
“Keep up the pressure, y’all. It’s working,” RedState managing editor Jennifer Van Laar tweeted. “Also, elect people who will change public health laws because we can’t ever let this BS happen again.”
A number of officials have rolled back mask mandates in their states — most notably newly-elected Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin (R).
Democratic Governors Phil Murphy (NJ) and John Carney (DE) have also announced a plan to remove school masking requirements in a matter of weeks, prompting a response from White House press secretary Jen Psaki at Monday’s briefing.
Reporter: "What does it say then that a governor like Phil Murphy, who's been so closely aligned with the policies of this administration, would get ahead of the medical experts?"
Jen Psaki: "It's always been up to school districts [on masking], that's always been our policy." pic.twitter.com/KCy58Xp70M
— The Hill (@thehill) February 7, 2022
Psaki said the White House still recommended that children wear masks in school because that was the most recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but she noted that individual schools and localities were at liberty to adopt different policies.
“What does it say then that a governor like Phil Murphy, who’s been so closely aligned with the policies of this administration, would get ahead of the medical experts and say, ‘Never mind what they say, school districts, you decide’?” a reporter pressed.
Psaki said again that it had always been up to the districts but that the federal government recommended abiding by the current guidance.
The reporter pushed back, asking whether she believed that Democrats moving to lift mandates suggested a change in public opinion that might also warrant a change in federal guidelines.
Psaki insisted that she understood people were “tired of COVID,” but that the White House was not going to get out ahead of the CDC.