Dr. Rochelle Walensky didn’t know any better. As the newly appointed Director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) she didn’t realize that politics comes before science. So, she did that rare thing in Washington – she told the truth.
In an article published January 26th in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), three researchers from the CDC found “little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission” of the coronavirus. The CDC researchers looked at more than 90,000 students in 11 North Carolina districts and found that only 32 students and staff members were infected in school, while 773 got infected during the same period out of school. The science was clear; reopening schools was safe for children and teachers.
Then Dr. Walensky made her big mistake. On February 3rd, she announced these findings to the press. She made it clear that the science supported reopening schools. In her statement she said, “Vaccination of teachers is not a prerequisite for safe reopening of schools.” This was a direct refutation of the demands being made by teachers unions before they would return to the classrooms. When asked about her statement, White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded Dr. Walensky was speaking “in her personal capacity” and not as the director of the CDC.
In other words, Dr. Walensky hadn’t cleared her statement with the White House. Even though she was their newly appointed scientist to lead the nation’s largest organization for disease prevention, she was not considered the final authority on disease and safety.
Since that day she has learned her lesson. If she wants to keep her job, she must toe the line with the White House. Science must take a backseat to politics, despite all the Biden administration claims they would “follow the science.”
On February 12th, Dr. Walensky held another press conference to clarify the CDC position on reopening schools. In her new statement she said, “We strongly encourage states to prioritize teachers and other school staff to get vaccinated. If we want our children to receive in-person instruction, we must ensure the teachers and school staff are healthy, and protected from getting Covid-19 in places outside of schools where they might be at higher risk.”
Then she added insult to injury when she said, “I want to reassure you that our operational strategy is science based, with the goal of protecting students, teachers, and staff, and their families while getting back to the classroom safely.”
Anyone who is shocked by this turn of events hasn’t been paying attention. President Biden made it clear before he was elected that he was a big fan of the teachers unions. His wife, Jill, is a member of the NEA, the nation’s largest teachers union. The president can only be accused of keeping his promise to the teachers unions, while ignoring his promise to “follow the science.”
The clear winners in this battle are the teachers unions. The clear losers are all the children who can’t return to the classrooms and their agonizing parents. Former N. J. Governor Chris Christie, writing in The Wall Street Journal, says, “The CDC is being used as a political tool, flip-flopping on the science under pressure from the national unions and their Biden administration allies. This betrayal of our children and their families must end. The long-term mental health effects and educational deficits created by continuing this policy will be devastating. It’s time to put our children’s interests first in this pandemic.”
Dr. Walensky has learned a hard lesson; unless you follow the White House political agenda you can be replaced. As a nation we have also learned some hard lessons; for the next four years the CDC has lost all credibility and “follow the science” means whatever the Biden administration says it means.