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Why “Follow the Science” Failed

PLUS: Fauci Can’t Use Science to Excuse His Missteps

THE NEW REPUBLIC – When Covid-19 hit the United States, the California Department of Public Health wasn’t ready.

The reason had to do, at least in part, with a little-observed split between the state’s chronic disease experts and their infectious disease counterparts.

That’s what Michael Lewis showed in his 2021 book, The Premonition, which chronicled the impasse between Charity Dean, the department’s assistant director and an infectious disease detective, and her boss, Sonia Angell, the department’s director and an expert in nutrition and hypertension.

Dean foresaw the Covid-19 catastrophe, thanks to an indescribable sixth sense from a childhood spent reading about past disease outbreaks. “It has started,” Dean wrote in December 2019.

But when she brought the potential peril of the SARS-Cov-2 virus to Angell’s attention, her boss reportedly banned her from using the word “pandemic,” told her to erase her whiteboard then covered in scary Covid math, and began systematically to shut Dean out of memos and meetings.

“‘Trusting the experts’ and ‘listening to the science’ isn’t always easy, especially when health officials themselves can’t even seem to agree.”

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The initial response to Lewis’s bestseller focused on its often one-sided structure, mythological quality, and damning critique of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But as the U.S. marks the approach of its second Covid-19 anniversary, with public authorities still openly feuding over when to end mask mandates and how best to keep Americans safe, it’s time to refocus on The Premonition’s biggest, if easy-to-miss, message: that “trusting the experts” and “listening to the science” isn’t always easy, especially when health officials themselves can’t even seem to agree.

And that our national, state, and local public health bureaucracies need to be set up in a way that properly values different types of expertise. 

For many Americans, Covid-19 has been their first opportunity to see the enormous challenge of creating scientific consensus on an emerging issue. Unfortunately, the experience is further complicated by the fact this country’s public health infrastructure is crumbling … read more. 

Fauci Can’t Use Science to Excuse His Missteps

Ramesh Ponnuru is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist.

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Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser and the longtime head of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, keeps saying that his critics are “really criticizing science because I represent science.” Maybe he even believes it. But it might be time for science to find another spokesman.

It’s not necessary to bear Fauci any ill will — to think he has anything other than the best interests of Americans at heart, let alone to credit Lara Logan’s demented suggestion that he can be likened to Josef Mengele — to wonder whether his public statements are doing more harm than good at this point.

He arguably served a valuable function at the outset of the pandemic by explaining the situation, and offering reassurance, to those many Americans who had no confidence in former President Donald Trump.

Fauci can’t do the same thing for those many Americans who have no confidence in Biden, though, since they tend not to put much stock in what the doctor has to say either.

It’s hard to imagine that any of the vaccine-hesitant are waiting for one more Sunday-show appearance by Fauci before they will (as they almost all should) get shots. And there are plenty of other doctors and scientists who can and do speak with knowledge and insight about new developments in the pandemic.

Fauci has also dealt some blows to his own credibility. His journalistic defenders concede only that he is not “perfect,” but the truth is more disturbing than that. The lead exhibit in the anti-Faucists’ case is his flip-flop on masks: He discouraged their use early in 2020 but then became an evangelist for them … read more.

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