Dr. Leana Wen, CNN medical analyst and public health professor, is quite upset with a Florida court striking down the Biden administration’s lawless mask mandate for air travel and public transportation.
“The United flight attendant right there informing passengers masks can come off,” CNN’s John King said. “That after a federal judge in Florida struck down the federal government’s mask mandate for planes and public transportation.”
“Our CNN medical analyst, former Baltimore City Health Commissioner, Dr. Leana Wen joins me now,” King said. “Dr. Wen, one judge in Florida did this yesterday because the Biden Administration did not rush to court to try to get a stay. Essentially, the administration said, ‘we’d like you to wear a mask but we’re not sure what we’re going to do yet,’ and then the domino effect. Is it the right call? Is it safe to be on a bus or plane or train or in an Uber without a mask?”
“Right now, John, there is so much confusion,” Dr. Wen said unironically. “My husband was on a flight this morning in Baltimore. Ninety percent of people at the airport wore a mask he said. He landed in Atlanta, and in Georgia and less than 50 percent, he said, at the airport wore masks. And I think that’s the situation that we have right now.”
“There’s this piecemeal approach all across the country,” she added. “And what people need to know is that just because this ruling was made by a judge, doesn’t mean that suddenly the science has changed.”
She’s right. Masks still don’t work.
“We know that masks remain very protective, masks reduce the risk of virus transmission, and one way masking you wearing a mask protects you very well, and I would absolutely urge for people, especially if they are vulnerable, if they’re concerned about getting Covid to be wearing an N95, KN95 or KF94 mask whenever they are in crowded indoor settings, that includes on airplanes, on buses, on trains,” she continued. “Just do that because that protects you very, very, well.”
Wrong. She’s not only conflating different kinds of masks, she is contradicting what she has said quite forcefully prior to the court’s decision to end the CDC’s mask policy.
In addition, there is absolutely no significant difference in health policy outcomes between states with mask mandates and those without them. Dr. Wen surely knows this, but she is ignoring the data anyway.
Last week the CDC updated its policy tracker for public mask mandates noting whether or not a county had a mask mandate in place on a given day. From there we can map the "official" COVID-19 cases per 100K. Here's the Omicron wave. Mask mandates do not work. pic.twitter.com/XN79ZsZ6rz
— Justin Hart (@justin_hart) April 12, 2022
“There was a time and is a place for pandemic restrictions,” Dr. Wen claimed in February. “But when they were put in, it was always with the understanding that they would be removed as soon as we can.”
“And in this case, circumstances have changed,” she continued. “Case counts are declining. Also, the science has changed. We know that vaccines protect very well against Omicron, which is the dominant variant, everyone five and older have widespread access to vaccines.”
“And we also know about one-way masking, the idea that even if other people around you are not wearing masks, if you wear a high-quality mask that also protects you the wearer too,” she claimed with no basis in scientific reality.
“So in this case, I’m not saying… and I don’t think really anyone is saying that [note: I am] that no one should ever wear masks, but rather that the responsibility should shift from a government mandate imposed from the state or the local district or the school rather it should shift to an individual responsibility by the family who can still decide that their child can wear a mask if needed,” she said.
Remarkably, Dr. Wen also said that states should stop looking at Covid ‘case’ counts.
“You know, take New Jersey, for instance, their new case average is just over 4,000,” the CNN host asked. “Is that an acceptable number to do this…?”
“I don’t think we should be looking at case counts at all at this point, especially when we’re dealing with a milder variant and when so many people were exposed to Omicron and therefore have at least some level of protection, either through vaccination or immunity,” she said.
“And I actually believe that we should be starting to with the first restriction removed should actually be the restriction on children,” she added. “Because while for adults, you could say, well, what’s the harm of adults masking when they go into a grocery store? There actually is a harm that we should be discussing of children continuing to mask.”
“That doesn’t mean that masking doesn’t have its place for children,” she added, wrongly. “When there are very high rates of hospitalization. If we get a new variant in the future that children are particularly susceptible to, we may want to bring masks back, but we should also be intellectually honest and say that masking has had a cost, especially for the youngest learners in people with English as a second language, children with learning disabilities, there has been a cost to the them. So the risk benefit calculation has really changed.”
I wonder why the public is confused, Dr. Wen. Could it be that you can’t even get your own story straight?
The Wall Street Journal published a study that shows Covid transmission is only insignificantly impaired by masks worn by the general public.
— Nate Poon (@natepoon) January 6, 2022
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a Pfizer board member and former FDA Chief, finally admitted that cloth masks don’t work.
“Cloth masks aren’t going to provide a lot of protection, that’s the bottom line,” he said. “This is an airborne illness. We now understand that. And a cloth mask is not going to protect you from a virus that spreads through airborne transmission. It could protect better through droplet transmission, something like the flu, but not this coronavirus.”
When confronted with the data that the cloth masks don’t work, Dr. Leana Wen, argued that people be forced to wear surgical masks.
— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) December 21, 2021
“Leana Wen, public health professor at George Washington University and an emergency physician, has urged the public to wear high-quality masks and described cloth masks as, ‘little more than facial decorations’,” the Hill reported. “She said cloth masks should not be considered an acceptable form of face covering and that the U.S. should require and distribute medical-grade surgical masks.”
When Dr. Wen’s sage advice was exposed as bogus, however, she moved on without missing a beat to the argument it’s now time for everyone to wear N95 masks.
It’s well past time for the CDC to update their mask guidance to recommend N95, KN95, or KF94 masks. Covid is airborne. Omicron is extremely contagious. The federal government should recommend the highest quality masks, and make them available free of charge. @CNNSitRoom pic.twitter.com/bT8pUbCtYm
— Leana Wen, M.D. (@DrLeanaWen) January 12, 2022
Except N95 masks aren’t meant to be worn by the general public for hours a day. Even if we lived in an alternate reality where children were at significant risk from Covid (they’re not — especially from Omicron), the CDC Director Rochelle Walensky last January admitted as such.
Walensky explained why the general public should not wear N95 masks for extended periods of time.
“They’re very hard to breathe in when you wear them properly,” Walensky said. “They’re very hard to tolerate when you wear them for long periods of time.”
Doctors and nurses have turmed to social media to show Americans that N95 masks are not appropriate for the general public, particularly for children.
This is what correctly wearing an N95 for 8 hours does to you.
Anyone who wants to do this to children is a monster. pic.twitter.com/2LPjkeaOau
— The Robber Baron (@Robber_Baron_) January 13, 2022
So, to recap: Dr. Leana Wen is upset that a mask policy that has no proven public health benefits is ending; she has contradicted the policy by stating that the masks the general public are nothing but “facial decorations,” she has doubled down by calling for medical grade masks that failed to stop the spread in places like Japan; she knows that masking can be harmful, especially for children, but wants them to be worn on flights anyway despite a “variant” that is not causing a significant spike in hospitalizations. She wonders why the American public is confused.
But don’t be confused, the science has not changed: There was no significant evidence to back up public masking prior to Covid-19 and there remains no significant evidence today.
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OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion.