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Even This CNN Medical Analyst Thinks Biden's Gone Too Far on the Masking

Jim Watson/Pool via AP

In addition to the lack of substance on key issues during President Joe Biden's joint address to Congress last night, one noteworthy aspect was that only 200 were in attendance, masked and socially distanced. Keep in mind, these are fully vaccinated people, considering they're members of Congress. The ridiculous scene did not go unnoticed by Dr. Leana S. Wen, a CNN medical analyst. The Washington Post published her op-ed on Thursday, "With masks and distancing, Biden’s speech sent the wrong message about the power of our vaccines."


"With his speech before a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night, President Biden missed his biggest opportunity to reduce vaccine hesitancy," Dr. Wen opened with. 

The president encouraged Americans to get vaccinated early on in his speech, and touted his administration's accomplishments in that area. "Everyone over the age of 16, everyone – is now eligible and can get vaccinated right away. So get vaccinated now." Another line of his was that "our progress these past 100 days against one of the worst pandemics in history is one of the greatest logistical achievements our country has ever seen."

That may seem like a good segue to Biden detailing what else he's done for the first 100 days. But it lacks substance, and, more importantly, truly meaningful encouragement when it comes to getting vaccinated so that Americans can get back to normal.

Dr. Wen also writes, with added emphasis:

The 200 attendees entered the 1,600-person-capacity House chamber spaced apart and wearing masks. Some appeared to be double-masked. They were asked not to make physical contact, though some still fist-bumped or shook hands. There were markers indicating which seats could be occupied, with numerous empty spaces in between. As the president spoke, the vice president and speaker of the House sat behind him, both clad in masks.

If I didn’t know better, I would have thought this was six months ago, before Americans had access to safe, highly effective vaccines.


President Biden isn't the only subject of Dr. Wen's criticism, but the CDC as well. In addition to calling the CDC guidance "the problem" she writes:

How incredible are [vaccines]? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest report, there were only 7,157 breakthrough infections among 87 million fully vaccinated people — a rate of 0.008 percent.

Of course, you wouldn’t know that the vaccines are so effective by looking at the CDC’s overly-cautious guidelines. Already, a very damaging narrative is taking hold: If the vaccines are so effective, then why so many precautions for the fully vaccinated? What’s the point of getting inoculated if not much changes?

While the op-ed criticizes President Donald Trump at the start of one paragraph, it continues by noting that "the message coming from Biden isn’t right either. Over-correction has a price; at best, it makes public health measures seem performative rather than science-based. At worst, it calls vaccine efficacy into question."


Some of Dr. Wen's points served as an echo from remarks she made about vaccines during her Tuesday appearance on "Anderson Cooper 360°."

"I understand that the Biden team wants to be cautious, but caution comes at a price," she said. "And that price is that people are saying, well, what’s the point of getting vaccinated? If not that much changes for me." Dr. Wen also made a point she would later make in the op-ed, that the guidance didn't go far enough. "I actually think outdoor mask mandates can go, but I also think we can do a lot more with, specifically, incentivizing vaccination, including allowing businesses to come back at full capacity if they are checking for proof of vaccination."


If you hated the address as much as we did, this anti-science display just makes it worse. If you liked it, though, shouldn't you be less than thrilled about such a distraction? The likes of Dr. Wen certainly seem to be.

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