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The COVID-19 Pandemic Should End Science as an Institution. We Need Full Public Hearings

AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File

Recently, I wrote about some burgeoning academics who were fretting that some Americans, primarily those who do their homework and follow COVID-19 research findings, correctly view science as a process rather than an institution. From the academics’ commentary, it is clear they belong to the “science is settled” crowd and believe membership in a bureaucracy or research institution grants some unimpeachable authority. It is astonishing that anyone can cling to this belief after the last 16 months.

However, it appears that Natasha Korecki and Sarah Owermohle writing for Politico seem to have the same perspective. They wrote an entire think piece bemoaning the scrutiny into Dr. Anthony Fauci, the patron saint of COVID-19, following the disclosure of his e-mails during the pandemic. Their screed is full of misdirection and assumptions and it positions the well-deserved criticism and skepticism of the octogenarian bureaucrat as a solely right-wing phenomenon. As an example:

And a round of conservatives, cherry-picking individual emails out of more than 3,000, argued that Fauci, who leads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, had privately supported a theory that the virus leaked from a Chinese lab and lied about masks in an effort to amass political power. Neither was true. Fauci has said he thinks it’s more likely that the virus spread from animal to human but would not rule out a lab leak, and while he initially downplayed the need for masks, it was, he said, out of fear that medical professionals would lose access to them if the public began panic purchasing.

This paragraph is some astounding hyperbole. Of course, in a vast data dump, there would be communications of more interest and less interest. Of particular interest were those emails discussing issues that many of us have been censored or suppressed for talking about. The issue of masks has been debated across the political spectrum, as has the origin of COVID-19.

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On masks, Dr. Fauci absolutely changed his position and provided the reason the authors asserted. What is of far more interest to those of us who questioned or opposed mask mandates was the rationale Fauci gave to tell someone they did not need to wear one. It was the scientific conclusion that many have been arguing for months that several studies and conventional wisdom on personal protective equipment support. The virus particles are small enough to permeate the mask, and uninfected people wearing them are not likely to prevent an infection.

As far as the origin of the virus, it was far more interesting that Fauci himself circulated the 2015 study of gain-of-function research that people pointed to early in the COVID-19 pandemic. There was obviously concern about the work done in that study and the authors’ declaration that they had received permission from the NIH to continue their research during the gain-of-function pause. Even more interesting was the effusive praise from Dr. Peter Daszak for Dr. Fauci in combatting the lab-leak theory, given Daszak’s funding and involvement in the Wuhan lab. Obvious questions arise, especially given the early observations from Dr. Kristian Anderson, Ph.D., on the possibility of engineered elements in the COVID-19 virus.

No one said Dr. Fauci lied under oath about the origins of COVID-19. It is simply another issue on which he has flip-flopped, depending on how he gauges the political winds. The assertion is that when Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) questioned him on the NIH funding of gain-of-function research, using the same 2015 study mentioned in the e-mails, Fauci denied that the NIH had ever funded that research at the Wuhan lab. This assertion is contradicted by the funding in the acknowledgment in the study and the continued funding provided to Daszak’s EcoAlliance, which is accounted for as going to that lab.

To highlight their concern that maybe the public was becoming skeptical of Fauci, the authors did not consult a doctor, medical professor, or researcher. They quoted a veteran of the Obama and Clinton administrations, Karen Kornbluh, who works on internet freedom issues. That’s pretty ironic given the amount of censorship related to COVID-19:

“Targeting Fauci erodes trust in scientific institutions and makes them seem partisan – just as universities are increasingly seen as partisan, the media, the bureaucracy. These strategies don’t have an easy response. You try to ignore them when they’re not that widespread and even if you eventually refute them it can seem he said-she said. The best strategy — which the White House and Fauci seem to be taking — is to push ahead with an alternate positive narrative and action — in this case around vaccinations.”

The erosion of trust in government bureaucrats who manage other people conducting research has been months-long in coming to a head. The silencing of world-renowned researchers and medical professionals who opposed the COVID-19 narrative was shocking enough for those who understand the scientific method. Only those opinions that might restore freedom, like outpatient therapeutics, alternative mitigation strategies, and realistic risk assessments, got censored. It is difficult not to view that slant as political.

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Declining confidence is also fueled by the legacy media shifting its tone when opinion-makers felt the public growing weary of COVID-19 restrictions. There were important stories about the misrepresentation of risk for outdoor spread, the overstated risk of transmission in places like gyms and restaurants, and the collaboration with the teachers’ unions on school guidance. Quite honestly, telling the public that they needed to continue to wear masks when they are vaccinated or recovered, only to suggest that children need to mask at outdoor camps, pretty much torpedoed any credibility the NIH and CDC had left. Continuing to ignore natural immunity to COVID-19 is not helping.

Hysterically, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain commented for the article:

Nearly seven years ago, during the heart of the Ebola crisis, the Obama administration’s internal motto for handling challenging stretches was “PTFOTV”: Put Tony Fauci on TV. No one had more credibility with the public or was a better spokesperson, said Ron Klain, who acted as Ebola czar under Obama and now serves as Biden’s chief of staff.

Ebola never materialized into a real health emergency in this country. Fauci was also at the forefront of the H1N1 pandemic, about which Ron Klain said:

In a Pandemic and Biosecurity Policy Summit hosted in May, 2019, Klain – who was not involved directly in the H1N1 response but was a White House staffer at the time – said “a bunch of really talented” people were working on it, but “did every possible thing wrong.”

“Sixty million Americans got H1N1 in that period of time and it’s just purely a fortuity that this isn’t one of the great mass casualty events in American history,” Klain said. “It had nothing to do with us doing anything right, it just had to do with luck.”