And just like that, social distancing is canceled. At least for some.
After submitting to house arrest orders for the past three months in order to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, Americans may have noticed a slight change in the rules this past week. There are no duct-taped outlines on city streets telling unruly mobs protesting the death of George Floyd where to stand. Rioters are not instructed to loot stores in opposite directions on downtown streets in order to avoid contact. Face coverings are optional but certainly useful when attempting to avoid identification by local law enforcement.
Drs. Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci are not seizing the White House press podium to lecture lawless thugs about keeping grandma safe from COVID-19. Social media shamers, the same ones who just a few weeks ago were publicly denouncing fun seekers in the Ozarks, are in silent solidarity with social distancing rulebreakers in downtown Chicago, Minneapolis, and New York City. The Atlantic isn’t accusing Democratic leaders of unleashing “an experiment in human sacrifice” and CNN’s Chris Cuomo isn’t calling groups congregating to break windows at pricy boutiques and assault police officers “fools” for not staying six feet apart.
In fact, the rules have changed so much and so quickly that the very same “experts” who demanded we adhere to unproven (and possibly counterproductive) social distancing dogma now explain why these rules don’t equally apply.
A letter signed by more than 1,000 activists disguised as public health professionals detailed the new terms. “White supremacy is a lethal public health issue that predates and contributes to COVID-19,” they explained. “[A]s public health advocates, we do not condemn these gatherings as risky for COVID-19 transmission. We support them as vital to the national public health and to the threatened health specifically of Black people in the United States.”
To their credit, the self-proclaimed experts owned up to their galling double-standard. The “heavily armed and predominantly white protesters” who swarmed Michigan’s capitol in April jeopardized public health. The approach to miscreants ransacking towns across the country, however, must be “wholly different from the response to white protesters resisting stay-home orders” because the presence of “COVID-19 among Black patients is yet another lethal manifestation of white supremacy.” Treating people differently based on skin color is totally not racist, experts find. (Plenty of the troublemakers are white, I might add.)
But there’s even more hypocrisy. According to an accompanying NPR article, the letter was organized by infectious disease professionals at the University of Washington—the same college that hosts Dr. Chris Murray at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. Murray’s flawed models built around stay-at-home orders were the basis for the extended shutdown that has devastated the U.S. economy, bankrupted small businesses, closed schools, and placed some 40 million people on unemployment. (May’s unemployment rate, by the way, is projected to be around 20 percent.)
Signers of the letter also included doctors at some of the nation’s top hospitals such as Harvard, Columbia University, and Johns Hopkins University, which has sponsored the lead tracking site for COVID-19 cases and fatalities since March.
Oh, and remember all the solemn messages from health care workers begging us to stay home to keep them safe? Some nurses wore scrubs and personal protective equipment to protest anti-lockdown rallies attended by Americans daring to want to re-open their businesses.
“This isn’t about politics, choosing sides, this virus does not discriminate at all,” Lauren Leander, an ICU nurse in Arizona, told CNN in April. “It’s taking lives from one end of the spectrum to another. I know it’s wishful thinking but I just would love if we just had that common ground with fighting this virus.”
Many recently have had a change of heart: Health care providers in several cities now are cheering protestors who are in full violation of those very same lockdown decrees. Nurses and doctors affiliated with an NYU cancer center gathered outside the facility to wave on marching protestors; ditto for nurses at Howard University Hospital and Sloan Kettering, just to name a few.
And the routine hectoring by Scott Gottlieb, the former FDA commissioner who has taken the lead on lockdown policies since the start and hasn’t met a cable news camera he won’t monopolize to warn Americans of pending doom, has taken a much softer tone with the Floyd protestors.
Asked about future spikes in coronavirus cases due to the overly populated demonstrations across the country, Gottlieb refused to give a straight answer. “I think it’s going to be hard to tease out what the impact of these protests have been on the spread because we’re going into them with rising spread in a lot of states,” he said Wednesday.
Further, Gottlieb added, there’s no way to know if the protests were the reason for rising infections since so many protestors were from out of state. “It’s going to be hard to say, well, we’re not seeing spread in New York but you might see spread in Philadelphia and New Jersey so is that a result of the protests in New York? We won’t know.”
That’s probably the most honest answer Gottlieb has given in three months.
But in perhaps the most egregious double-standard, a massive memorial service was held Thursday afternoon in honor of George Floyd. Places of worship for all faiths have been shuttered during the most sacred time of the year and people cannot hold funerals for family members but politicians and celebrities filled a Minneapolis auditorium to mourn Floyd’s death. Floyd’s family, his friends, and his supporters were allowed a privilege every other American has been denied since March: Saying goodbye to a loved one.
As I have explained, “social distancing” is pseudoscience at best, an ongoing experiment with devastating side effects that most of the “experts” failed to predict. Being wrong is one thing, but demanding that everyone except a select few submit to draconian government rules is its own kind of injustice. Unlike the looters and rioters and rulebreakers, however, we will suffer in silence.