Forget for a moment the dubious constitutionality of Joe Biden’s decision to mandate that all medium- and large-size businesses oversee a COVID vaccination mandate or administer a weekly testing regime for those who opt out—an authority the president, his White House, and its executive agencies have repeatedly said they did not possess. Let’s put aside the debate over the unknowable impacts this policy would have on vaccination rates. Let’s even assume for a minute that we don’t have to worry about exceptions for religious objectors, people with disabilities that preclude vaccination, or the abundant wrongful-termination suits that are sure to follow this mandate. Let’s focus on what Joe Biden admitted was the goal of this extraordinary federal intervention into the conduct of the public sector: to “protect the vaccinated workers from unvaccinated coworkers.”
With this utterly bizarre flourish—one the Biden White House took such pride in it chose to highlight it on the president’s Twitter account—Joe Biden has given away the game. If this policy increases vaccination rates on the margins, that’s a fringe benefit. The White House’s chief objective is to mollify his own supporters—hyper-anxious, fully-vaccinated Americans who have been getting mixed messages from this administration for weeks over the efficacy of vaccines in preventing serious COVID infections resulting in hospitalization or death. Joe Biden has just deepened their confusion and heightened their undue sense of existential dread.
But why? No fewer than three recent studies have demonstrated that the fully vaccinated are exceedingly unlikely to suffer a symptomatic case of COVID. The risk of serious health complications arising from one such “breakthrough” infection is vanishingly rare, according to the CDC. As the intrepid New York Times columnist David Leonhardt has been trying to communicate to the vaccine-skeptical left, even COVID’s delta variant has not presented a threat to the vaccinated statistically significant enough to justify the burdensome public health interventions to which this White House so readily appeals. And yet, he notes that an ABC News/Washington Post survey published last week found that “nearly half of adults judged their ‘risk of getting sick from the coronavirus’ as either moderate or high—even though 75 percent of adults have received at least one shot.” Where are these Americans getting this kind of misinformation? In part, from the pop public health apparatus.
Take, for example, the ubiquitous Dr. Leana Wen. “Remaining unvaccinated [and] going out in public is equivalent to driving under the influence,” she insisted. “You want to be intoxicated? That’s your choice, but if you want to drive a car, that endangers others. No one should have the ‘choice’ to infect others with a potentially deadly disease.”
“The vaccinated should not have to pay the price for the so-called choices of the unvaccinated anymore,” she concluded. Beyond being a terrible metaphor that has no bearing on the matter at hand, articulating this thought reveals a discrediting level of paranoia. The data do not in any way indicate that those who are immunized against COVID are threatened by those who are not any more than they are by many other communicable diseases. That is precisely the kind of irrational nosophobia that the Biden White House is reinforcing.
Over the course of the pandemic, the American left succumbed to a delusion. They were convinced that Donald Trump had so badly mishandled this national health crisis that all it would take to restore the status quo ante was better management and a more competent executive. That was always an illusion, as the last eight months have demonstrated. And now, that delusion is contributing to a neurosis that Joe Biden has promised to alleviate through a presidential pen stroke. But you can’t outlaw mass hysteria through an executive order. You can, however, contribute to it. By legitimizing a panic, that is what this president is doing.