Joe Biden has once again been spotted reaching for a face mask, following on from the news of First Lady Jill Biden’s positive Covid test. During a Tuesday briefing, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre confirmed that, despite testing negative and displaying zero symptoms, the president “will be masking while indoors and around people, in alignment with CDC guidance.”
It’s an odd move. In continuing to test for Covid (and publicly responding to the threat of inspection) Biden is signalling that his administration continues to see the disease as significant threat. He’s not afraid to put his money where his (covered) mouth is, either, having awarded in August over $1.4 billion to develop the “a new generation of tools and technologies to protect against Covid-19 for years to come” as part of Project NextGen. New Covid variants – like the catchily-named “EG.5” – are a likely catalyst for action, conjuring hysterical visions of mass infection. But such conspicuous fearmongering isn’t backed up by the science. The World Health Organisation has stated that “the public health risk posed by EG.5 is evaluated as low”, and most Americans seem to agree. According to a recent Gallup poll, just 3 per cent of respondents described themselves as “very” concerned about catching the virus.
It’s unfortunate, then, that Biden’s policy decisions are no longer guided by reality. Our institutions have committed themselves to reviving morbid Covid nostalgia, and seem to be soft-launching yet another round of restrictions. First up is masking: officials in New York City have begun to encourage residents to cover their faces, following the lead of a slew of corporations, colleges, and hospitals. Of course, masking is no panacea to Covid. Recent studies have suggested that masking had little impact in slowing the spread of the disease, even at the height of the pandemic. It’s hard to get a concrete answer on whether restrictions achieved their stated goals of halting the disease – but we certainly have a clear picture of their downsides. Mask mandates, and the lockdowns that often accompanied them, have resulted in some of the most damaging public consequences ever experienced. It’s important not to forget that wealth and education disparities, suicide rates and substance abuse issues all skyrocketed after their enforcement.
Policies championed by Leftist government officials and their allies in the professional-managerial class led to outlandish spending which has decimated the American economy, contributing to the out-of-control inflation we are currently embroiled in. They cheered on extreme censorship of speech on social media under the guise of fighting disinformation, and inflicted educational disturbances on an entire generation of school children. We were told every part of this process was necessary to protect public health. Three years have passed, and it’s hard to see what good has come from Covid hysteria. The median American is poorer, sicker, and less free. Perhaps mistakes were inevitable in 2019 – but to continue to stoke panic in 2023 is unforgivable. Dangerously authoritarian impulses, fostered by pandemic-era special legislative powers, have proven to be remarkably durable. It seems that the powers that be simply cannot let Covid go. The only method of recourse we have is to put faith in the legislative process. Luckily for us, some have already begun the fightback. J.D. Vance, the Republican Senator from Ohio, has introduced legislation that if passed and signed into law would prohibit President Biden from implementing mask mandates on public transit and in schools.
Vance’s Freedom to Breathe Act is an encouraging movement towards common-sense public health policy. But it’s unfortunate that such an intervention even had to be made. Despite living in a nation with resistance at the heart of its ethos, considerable portions of the American public are now conditioned to roll over for the collective if they are told something is in their best interest. The only way to effectively put an end to Covid hysteria is to elect people who are committed to a regime of radical transparency. We must push back upon the federal bureaucracy of the petty tyrants who seek to rule us by edict.
Given the entrenched power of the lockdownphiles, this revolt will likely prove difficult. But Biden’s dwindling popularity is cause for hope. The 2020 election was shaped by a botched Presidential response to a public health scare, allowing an opposition candidate to position himself as a representative of sanity and reason. Let us hope that 2024 will follow the same pattern.