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Commentary: Remember when the Biden administration was going to listen to the experts at the CDC? That lasted two weeks.
Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images

Commentary: Remember when the Biden administration was going to listen to the experts at the CDC? That lasted two weeks.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

One of the more frequent complaints leveled by the Biden campaign was that the Trump administration was exerting improper pressure on experts from public health agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to shape their opinions to match what President Trump's base wanted to hear.

"I think it's important to follow the science. Listen to the experts. Do what they tell you," Biden said in April — a refrain that he would repeat often on the campaign trail.

Immediately after being inaugurated, Biden bragged, "We're going to make sure [scientists] work free from political interference and they make decisions strictly based on science and health care alone."

Well, the experts have spoken. Earlier this week, Biden's hand-picked director of the CDC, Rochelle Walensky, stated unequivocally, "There is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen and that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated in order to reopen safely. Vaccination of teachers is not a prerequisite for the safe reopening of schools."

Walensky made these comments at a CDC briefing, standing at a podium and answering questions from reporters in her official capacity as the director of the CDC. There was absolutely no reason for anyone to believe that Walensky's comments constituted anything other than the CDC's official position on school reopening. Nor, for that matter, is there any reason to suspect that Walensky was speaking off the cuff or out of pocket. Indeed, her comments merely echoed what public health experts have been saying since the beginning of the pandemic: that schools are extremely low-risk environments for the spread of COVID-19.

In fact, even the liberal Democrats who run the city of Chicago (and Chicago Public Schools) cited Walensky's comments while attempting to convince the recalcitrant Chicago Teachers Union to return to the classrooms they were hired to instruct in.

Suffice it to say, however, that the teachers unions do not agree with this assessment. Across the country, enabled and emboldened by the elected Democrats that they have donated millions to, they have claimed that they alone, for some reason, should be exempt from having to return to their workplaces, while workers in other, more dangerous industries (like the food processing industries) have been back at work for months.

Rather than listen to the public health experts who have universally concluded that their workplaces already are safe, they have demanded that their schools meet a series of impractical or non-germane metrics before they will return to work — for example, until all children are vaccinated with a vaccine that has not been approved for use on children, or until racial and "equity needs" are met.

Until then, they insist, they will do their jobs from home, and receive deliveries at home from Amazon workers who have been forced to go back to work, and eat food that has been prepared and packaged by people whose lives are apparently worth less than theirs, because they were forced to go back to work months ago. These teachers who have hypocritically refused to re-enter a classroom during the pandemic and have accused people who insist that they do so of trying to kill them have continued, during the last year, to enjoy the benefits of a society that continues to more or less function because of people who, unlike them, have willingly returned to their places of employment, and also unlike them do not have the benefit of a union that donates heavily to the dominant political party in their state.

And so Biden, whose election campaign was bolstered by the teachers unions enormous war chests, found that he was not so enamored of the idea of "mak[ing] sure [scientists] work free from political interference," after all. Almost immediately, the Biden administration claimed, contrary to the evidence, that Walensky was speaking in her "personal capacity" when she spoke as the director of the CDC at a CDC news conference.

Now, the agency has made it official: Walensky's comments will be walked back and replaced with new comments next week.

Walensky, who is one of the most respected infectious disease experts in the nation, has already indicated what she believes, based on the science and the evidence. Dismissing her advice, given less than two weeks into her term, as remarks made in her "personal capacity" does not bode well for the principle of allowing the CDC to make decisions "strictly based on science and health care alone," as Biden promised.

Make no mistake: The Biden administration has already telegraphed, less than two weeks into his presidency, that he, too, will allow political considerations to govern the advice given by the CDC. It's just that under his administration, the people who dominate the political considerations will be the people who donated to and supported his campaign, not Trump's.

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