Dr. Leana Wen, a CNN medical analyst and opinion columnist for the Washington Post, was criticized after she asked "those that don't agree" that people who have received the COVID-19 vaccination can return to pre-pandemic normal to offer some alternative solutions.
"For those who don’t agree that the vaccinated can return to pre-pandemic normal, I ask: What should we all do? Perpetual masking? Forever not dining out, avoiding large weddings & indoor gatherings, etc? Virtually everything has risk, and zero covid is not a viable strategy," she wrote.
Doctors, political commentators, journalists and more from either side of the debate criticized Wen for her comments.
Podcast host and CNN opinion columnist Jeff Yang suggested masking for children who are unvaccinated and under the age of five. "I don’t get why you’re so squarely in the "Covid is over" camp now. We’re still at 2000 deaths per day," he said.
Raven Baxter, a molecular biologist and STEM educator, pointed to the effects of long COVID.
"This tweet gives the impression that there is no way she’s been researching, treating or interacting with #LongCOVID patients who have been vaccinated before infection. If she knew and cared about their stories she wouldn’t question this," Baxter said.
Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., said Wen was "peddling fake science and immoral solutions" for the last year.
"Don’t act surprised that you lost some people in your about-face back to partial reality, and quit pretending that vaccination is the ticket back," he said.
Dr. David Gorski, managing editor of Science-Based Medicine, said Wen's suggestions were "a combination of a straw man characterization of public health combined with a false dichotomy combined with a worst case fallacy" and called Wen's critical thinking abilities into question.
A Texas congressional candidate, Jenny Garcia Sharon, appeared to reference Wen's past comments that said the opposite.
"No amount of scrubbing CNN will destroy the many receipts obtained from those that fed the fear destroying lives," she said.
NBC News correspondent Matt McClure replied to Wen's suggestions by saying that it wasn't an all or nothing issue.
"The premise should not be 'a complete return to 'normal' vs. locking yourself in a hermetically-sealed chamber forever.' IMO, it should be ‘how do we learn to live with it AND protect the vulnerable?’" He wrote. Wen responded to McClure by saying she was arguing for the same thing.
A public health professor said Wen was leaning into a new "public health paradigm," which she said "learns from politics the narrative of dichotomy & dogma."
"Good health is not just the absence of covid. We have to weigh tradeoffs. Every intervention has risks and benefits," Wen also responded.
Several Democrats have started to change their tune on mask mandates. Rep. Sean Maloney, D-N.Y., said Tuesday that he was "completely over mask mandates."