‘We Can’t Expect Them To Tell Us How To Live’: NYT Writer Questions ‘Follow The Science’ Guidance

David Leonhardt, a writer for The New York Times (NYT), questioned some of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidance in a Friday article amid a rollback of several coronavirus restrictions across the country.

Leonhardt opens his piece by noting how the CDC warns against medium-rare hamburgers because they were “undercooked” and therefore could pose a threat. He also notes how eating raw cookie dough is ill-advised among, other apparently common things.

“If you happen to be somebody who engages in any of these risky activities, I have some bad news for you this morning: You apparently do not believe in following the science,” Leonhardt wrote.

Leonhardt said the “instinct” to follow the science “is both understandable and profoundly decent” especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, “but it has led to a widespread misunderstanding.”

“Many people have come to believe that expert opinion is a unitary, omniscient force. That’s the assumption behind the phrases ‘follow the science’ and ‘what the science says.’ It imagines science almost as a god -Science- who could solve our dilemmas if we only listened.”

Leonhardt said individuals are forced to make trade-offs about science, pointing to COVID-19 restrictions as an example.

“Covid restrictions – mask mandates, extended quarantines, restrictions on gatherings, school closure during outbreaks – can both slow the virus’s spread and have harmful side effects. These restrictions can reduce serious Covid illness and death among the immunocompromised, elderly and unvaccinated. They can also lead to mental-health problems, lost learning for children, child-care hardships for lower-income families, and isolation and frustration that have fueled suicides, drug overdoses and violent crime.”

Leonhardt noted how the CDC sometimes can “miss the big picture,” pointing to the CDC’s reluctance to urge mask use and slowness “to admit that outdoor masking has little benefit.”

“As you think about your own Covid views, I encourage you to remember that C.D.C. officials and other scientists cannot make these dilemmas go away,” Leonhardt wrote. “They can provide deep expertise and vital perspective. They are also fallible and have their own biases.”

Democratic-led states, like New Jersey, New York, Delaware, and Connecticut, lifted their mask requirements recently, but President Joe Bidevoiced disagreement with the decisions.

“It’s hard to say whether they’re wrong, here’s the science saying now that masks work, masks make a difference,” Biden said. “And there’s a relationship, I think there’s only one governor drawing back immediately and most of them are somewhere in the end of February, March, April. They’re set[ting] a time limit and I assume it has something to do with whether the Omicron variant continues to dive in fewer and fewer cases.”

“I committed that I would follow the science,” Biden continued. “And the science as put forward by the CDC and the federal people and I think it’s probably premature but it’s a tough call.”

The CDC recommends individuals wear a mask indoors regardless of their vaccination status.

COLUMN BY

BRIANNA LYMAN

Reporter. Follow Brianna on Twitter

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