“Rejoice, it’s Friday, and the CDC now says you no longer have to wear a mask or social distance if you’ve been vaccinated.” Since you can’t really tell if anyone has been vaccinated or not, this essentially means all mask and social distancing requirements are over in this country. Of course they’ve been over for anyone with a functional brain who actually looked at the COVID data for nearly a year now.

But I suppose I should welcome the rest of you back to airplane flights, sporting events, kids in school, movies, concerts, and the rest of the events those of us who don’t live in perpetual fear have been embracing for a year now. I took my first flight back in May of last year, started going back to my gym last May too, and my kids have been attending in-person school since August of last year. They finish a full year of in-person school next week. Thanks to Williamson County, Tennessee schools, teachers, and administrators for making this possible. We’ve done all of this without any major health issues because my immediate family has never been in danger from COVID.

I know this because unlike most of the sheep in this country, I actually looked at the data and made smart decisions for my family based on our individual risk factors. That’s what adults used to do. Now they curl up into the fetal position and beg for the government to save them.

I’m curious whether the “coronabros” out there will ever acknowledge that they’ve been fools for the past year and that their cosmetic theater of double and triple mask wearing as well as social distancing has had virtually zero impact when it comes to the spread of COVID. I hope we’ll eventually get a full accounting of this madness, but I have my doubts because the full accounting, as those of us who are still sane already know, will make left wing “coronabros” look insane.

Which is why I suspect the full story of COVID won’t ever be told. I hope I’m wrong and this will eventually become universally acknowledged as the biggest American social policy failure since Vietnam, but since left wingers tell most of the news, I think that won’t happen.

Before we dive into the mailbag, let me leave you with this fact: “if you’re under fifty years old you, were nearly as likely to be murdered in the past year as you were to die of COVID.” How would you have responded if you’d invited friends out to dinner and they’d refused to go because they were afraid they might get murdered, or die in a traffic accident driving to the restaurant, which was also far more likely? You’d have thought they were insane, right? Or maybe a Mexican drug lord with a hit out on them. Yet we’ve so normalized an inability to process and analyze risk that instead of calling out your friends for idiocy, we’ve turned extreme safetyism into a virtue. It’s madness.

But it appears sanity is returning, at least somewhat. What isn’t returning? Our trust in “experts.” Joe Biden’s head of the CDC told us on March 29th that she was looking at COVID numbers with “impending doom.” So what did she do? Just 45 days after that statement — 45 days! — she announced the CDC was eliminating masking and social distance requirements both indoors and outdoors for anyone who had been vaccinated.

“On March 29th, the CDC director warned the country we faced impending doom over covid. On May 13th the CDC effectively ended all mask & distancing requirements. No one will ever trust “experts” in this country again. They’ve just made it all up for over a year now.” — Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) May 14, 2021

There is no way to square these two statements with any kind of logic or factual data analysis. Our “experts” just made up our COVID response over the past year, picking and choosing data points in a maniacally haphazard manner with no logical thought process to support it other than, perhaps, political expediency.

And now the “blue check brigade” members are so shook by the CDC’s latest directive that they have no idea what to do.

“After this CDC decision the blue check brigade is shook right now.” pic.twitter.com/cfXTLbrTpl — Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) May 14, 2021

Okay, with that in mind, here we go with your mailbag questions.

Bruce writes: “CDC says masks off to an extent. Will businesses (retail, especially airlines, restaurants) follow or will they still require masks in fear of the mask loyalists boycotting them and affecting their bottom line?”

I think most businesses will follow the CDC guidelines fairly rapidly. Because all of these businesses realize that a return to normalcy is good for their bottom lines. My best guess is most of these establishments will keep their mask signs up but stop enforcing the mask requirements. That way, the people who want to wear masks can continue to feel morally superior, but the people who don’t wear masks can make their own choice not to wear a mask. I suspect you’ll see many left wingers continue to wear masks throughout the summer and that we will have a new mask battle this winter over whether we should mask every year for the flu. Seriously, I think that argument is coming, brace yourselves. But in the summer months, as things get hot everywhere, the vast majority of people — and businesses — won’t be enforcing a mask mandate. I suspect the airlines will be the last industry to end their mask requirements. But eventually one of the airlines will get brave enough to end the mandatory requirements, and the other airlines will follow as well. If I were the CEO of Southwest Airlines, which seems to embrace individualism more than some of the other airlines, I’d end the mask mandate on July 4th and make it a big marketing campaign about America reopening.

Jason writes: “Do you think the CDC’s hard turn on masks had anything to do with Biden having one of the worst weeks of a U.S. President ever?”

There’s no doubt that Joe Biden is dealing with a series of simultaneous challenges: 8.1 million jobs are open but no one will go back to work because the Democrats are paying workers the equivalent of $32k a year in increased unemployment benefits not to work; many schools still aren’t open so moms and dads have to parent young kids, and the media has so terrified people of COVID that they won’t take jobs; Israel is under attack from Hamas terrorists after years of peace; there’s a gas shortage in the South; illegal border crossings are up 900% over last year; the murder rate is skyrocketing across the country because of the demonization of police and the defund the police movement; and inflation is also surging. I might have missed some of the issues at play right now, but regardless, it’s not one of the worst weeks of a president ever. Not even close. This would be, for instance, one of the best weeks of Abraham Lincoln’s presidency.

Having said that, there’s no logical way for the CDC to have gone from predicting impending COVID doom at the end of March to suddenly ending the mask mandate and social distancing requirements in early May. I think what’s happening is the CDC is chasing public opinion. People are over COVID. The crowds at indoor sporting events and airports provide clear evidence of this. And the White House polling is showing that too. Much of being president is being on the right side of public opinion when it comes to big issues. And the White House is worried the public is sweeping past their fear porn. The White House, I think, has done a poor job of messaging on the vaccine over the past couple of months. What’s the point of getting the vaccine if you still have to wear a mask and socially distance? There isn’t really any point, especially not for people under the age of fifty who have virtually no risk from COVID. With the rates of vaccination plummeting across the country, the White House needs new messaging — get the vaccine and you can return to normal life! The problem with this messaging, however, is plenty of people like me, who haven’t gotten the vaccine yet, have returned to normal life already. Heck, I returned to normal life a year ago.

As I’ve written before, I was scheduled to get the vaccine on the day they pulled the single shot vaccine off the market, and I haven’t gotten around to getting it since. That’s because I don’t see the vaccine as changing my life in any way. If I were elderly, like my parents and my in-laws, whom I encouraged to get the vaccine, then I could see a benefit to signing up for the vaccine. But I’m under more risk of being murdered or dying in a traffic accident, or, probably, given my health and lack of obesity, of dying of the seasonal flu, than I am from COVID. Absent vaccine passports, which are already being shot down as illegal in most Southern states, including Tennessee and Florida where I own homes, how are you going to be able to determine who has been vaccinated and who hasn’t? There’s no mechanism that I can think of that will be widely embraced. I think COVID is effectively over, honestly. Sure, there will still be some political battles to come, but I think the general public is over it. Once states like California open back up in the next few weeks, masks will become the left wing version of the MAGA hat. They’ll just be political fashion statements.

Andrew writes: “Can our major institutions ever regain the public’s trust? Millennials and older generations have lived through the Great Recession, where financial institutions were disastrously wrong, and now the COVID pandemic, where medical and government institutions did not perform well.”

The biggest problem I see is we don’t have very many institutions that cross political lines right now. There’s trust in organizations, but it’s bifurcated based on political beliefs. For instance, liberals, in general, trust the New York Times and conservatives, in general, trust Fox News. But almost no liberal trusts Fox News and almost no conservative trusts the New York Times. So no matter what the institution is, trust is filtered through the political prism. And I’m not sure how we rectify this. The scientific community used to be immune from politics, but COVID has thrust science squarely into the political realm too. What has happened, at least for discerning readers of data, is there’s been an artificially enforced COVID consensus in the scientific community. The reality is science, especially when dealing with a new virus, is very unclear on many issues and arguments are messy and conflict-laden until we get to scientific truth. Vigorous disagreement is the heart of the scientific method itself.

You have to toss out many hypotheses before you can reach scientific truth. But our politicians, especially our left wing ones, have demanded a consistent scientific consensus on things that aren’t proven to work — lockdowns, for instance — even when there is strong evidence that was the wrong choice. We mandated artificial agreement even when the data didn’t support it because we believed consensus was safer than a lack of consensus. Much of this on the left wing can be considered a reflective rejection of Donald Trump. But now that Trump isn’t president, you’re seeing much of this left-wing opposition crumble. That’s why I’ve always believed an interesting thought experiment would be this: what if Trump had been a loud proponent of wearing masks back in March? What if he’d started wearing masks everywhere, even when the “experts” weren’t recommending it, and he’d also simultaneously ordered all schools closed for the rest of the year in mid-March of last year, just as the COVID outbreak began? Would liberals have still coalesced in support of masks? Would school unions have supported Trump? Would left wingers have demanded that schools be opened back up?

In other words, how much of our national division isn’t about the policies themselves or even the logic behind them but is really simply about making symbolic shows of distrust with the people you don’t support? Which is why masks are such a fascinating and symbolic subplot here. What if Trump had embraced them, contrary to what Dr. Fauci said? Remember, initially we were all told masks wouldn’t protect us and that we shouldn’t wear them. Would liberals still have embraced masks to the same degree over the past year? In other words, once Trump said he was for it, contrary to what the experts initially said back in March, would liberals have rejected masks, no matter what, in the months ahead? We’ll never know, but my best guess is they wouldn’t have embraced masks anywhere near as much. So to circle back to your question, are our institutions really disfavored, or are people so desperate to disagree that our institutions are merely symbols of that disunion as opposed to the cause of the disunion itself? I think our institutions are more reflective of society’s division than the cause of it.

As always, thank you for reading OutKick, and I hope you guys have fantastic weekends.

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