At this time last year, most Americans understood that social distancing was a form of punishment.
"It’s not good for man to be alone." That’s one of the very first observations in the book that forms the basis of Western civilization, and we've lived accordingly. Apart from the death penalty, the harshest things we do to criminals in this country include separating them from other people. Prisoners have chosen lethal injection over solitary confinement; that's how badly human beings need to be close to one another.
So when they told us to stay far apart from each other last spring in the name of public health, it was an enormous sacrifice, whether or not we understood it at the time. Because this was a trusting and law-abiding country, we obeyed that order. We barely grumbled about it. We assumed they knew best. "Stay six feet from each other." That was social distancing. It was the law and most of us followed that law.
But where did that law come from? Who did the scientific research that determines six feet was the safest distance apart from other people that you could be? Somebody should have asked that question last spring, but as far as we know, nobody did.
It turns out the research that formed the basis of that law came from a German hygenicist called Carl Flügge. It was Flügge who decided that six-foot separations were necessary to slow the spread of pathogens. The CDC went with Flügge's judgment. What the CDC didn't tell us was that Karl Flügge had been dead for nearly 100 years. His research on social distancing was published in the 19th century, before most Americans had electricity or indoor plumbing. So why is that research still guiding public health policy in this country in 2021? It's a good question, and experts don't seem to have a good answer.
Last year, one of the top aerosol scientists in Australia, a woman called Lidia Morawska, likened social distancing regulations to a cult ritual: "The dogma was born. Like any dogma, it's extremely difficult to change people's minds and change the dogmas." So it was all just faith-based, and it had massive consequences.
Millions of American schoolchildren have not been educated for a year because the CDC turned century-old German theories about tuberculosis into a kind of modern, state-enforced religious faith. It's enough to make you feel sick.
Yes, our authorities are just that mediocre. But the most infuriating part of it all is not that they were wrong, but that they won't admit they were wrong and apologize for it. Dr. Anthony Fauci spent much of last year pretending "six feet apart" was some kind of unquestioned, universally recognized physics principle, like gravity or photosynthesis.
Of course, it sounded so simple. That's why every elevator, airport check-in line, and convience store has "six feet apart" on stickers on the floor. It's not hard, just change every part of your life, every interaction you have with another human being. In the state of Washington, high schools tried their best to comply with Fauci's pronouncements. Here's how one school adapted its band practice to conform to German germ research from the 1890s.
The kids had no choice. The science was settled, we were told.
Or at least, was settled until last week, when the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases found that the law of six feet of social distancing isn't actually real. It's not a law. It was a guess, and it's wrong. Researchers looked at coronavirus case rates in Massachusetts school districts that required six feet of social distancing and compared those with school districts that required only three feet of social distancing (yes, there were some). Researchers found there was no statistically significant difference in coronavirus cases between the two. That wasn't just true for students; it was also true for adult staff members. The study also controlled for coronavirus rates in the surrounding communities. It was not shoddy research. It was real. Here's the conclusion:
"Lower physical distancing policies can be adopted in school settings with masking mandates without negatively impacting student or staff safety."
This has massive implications, mainly for people like Tony Fauci, people who spent the last year assuring everyone that the science is clear. So if you had spent the last year insisting that 19th century German hygiene research was the last word on social distancing and had staked your rapidly diminishing credibility on that fact, wouldn't you apologize now that the fact turns out to be a lie?
But Tony Fauci didn't apologize for the fake science he's imposed on the entire country. He just nodded and kept going.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN 'STATE OF THE UNION': There's this new study from researchers in Massachusetts just out this week. It found no significant difference in coronavirus spreading in schools where there were six feet of distancing versus three feet of distancing. But that six-foot requirement, that's one of the main hurdles to reopening schools ... Does this study suggest to you that three feet is good enough?
FAUCI: It does indeed.
"Yeah, it does. Not a big deal, just kind of kept an entire generation of kids from learning anything. We'll just move forward with the new science."
The charitable interpretation of the above exchange is that maybe Tony Fauci is finally learning something about science, because despite what they tell you, science is never final or absolute. There is no such thing as "settled science." That's an oxymoron. Real scientists adjust their conclusions based on the evidence, which is always changing. They ignore partisan considerations. But, Tony Fauci didn't. If he had, he would already have known this because the Clinical Infectious Diseases study was not the first to reach this conclusion.
In June of last year, one of the leading scientific journals in the world, The Lancet, came out with a study on social distancing, and it found this: "For the general public, evidence shows that physical distancing of more than 1 m [3.2 feet] is highly effective."
Other medical experts were saying the same thing. Last summer, Dr. Mark Escott, the medical director for the Austin Public Health System, put it this way: "I know that at three feet there's about an 80% reduction of the transmission of the disease."
So, this was not actually new information, it was ignored information. We made policy on the basis of bad information, on the basis of lies justified by 19th century research into tuberculosis. So why are they telling us this now?
Here's one reason: The political balance of the country has changed. With Joe Biden in charge, Fauci's party wants to see the schools reopened because the public wants it. Parents are upset, and they should be. So all of a sudden, they're changing the so-called scientific recommendations. If that seems too cynical to be real, keep in mind they've done it before.
Last summer, dozens of public health experts exempted BLM from coronavirus restrictions, not because science demanded that BLM get a pass, but because they personally supported BLM. The so-called "scientific community" signed a letter that will live forever in infamy, claiming: "The risks of congregating during a global pandemic shouldn't keep people from protesting racism." The scourge of "White supremacy," the letter said, "is a lethal public health issue that predates and contributes to COVID-19.
Oh, so you thought COVID-19 may have escaped from a lab in Wuhan that was in part funded by the U.S. government with the knowledge of Tony Fauci, so maybe Tony Fauci and the government of China might have something to answer for. But now we learn from the scientific community that your racism caused COVID. Well, that makes sense.
In June, Johns Hopkins epidemiologist Jennifer Nuzzo declared: "In this moment, the public health risks of not protesting to demand an end to systemic racism greatly exceed the harms of the virus." Again, it's hard to believe that a so-called scientist could write something like that on paper and not be held accountable for it. This is not the first time we've read this on this show; we should do it every single day as a reminder of just how insane the country can go.
That same month, the New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy praised the BLM riots that broke out after the death of George Floyd. Yes, there was a mandatory stay-at-home order in New Jersey and a public health emergency (of course) that justified it. But Phil Murphy wasn't bothered. He said the rioters were "[t]aking to the streets peacefully to create a better future for our entire New Jersey Family." At the time Murphy wrote that, his official Twitter page contained the command, "WASH YOUR HANDS. STAY AT HOME."
So if they can justify a riot on the basis of public health, what can't they justify? What aren't they justifying? Our leaders and public health experts are clearly guided, some of them anyway, by politics. It's hard to digest that because it's monstrous, but it's clear, and what's also becoming clear is how little these experts actually know about some of the topics they claim to be expert in, even in the absence of any obvious political considerations.
It's just very hard to know what this virus is going to do. Viruses are hard to understand, but no one will admit it. So out of nowhere, news stories pop up that seem to have no explanation. For example, in South Africa, the most affluent country in Africa, epidemiologists were predicting a surge in coronavirus cases this year. Vacationers returning from around the world, and South Africa is still not under a strict lockdown. There was a new strain, remember, of the coronavirus, and there was no vaccine for it for most people in South Africa. It seemed like the perfect place for what Tony Fauci might call a "super-spreader event," a disaster.
But that's not what happened. Since mid-January, coronavirus infections in South Africa have plummeted from more than 20,000 per day to about 1,000 per day. Fewer than 5% of coronavirus tests administered in South Africa are now coming back positive. The question is why? What is going on in South Africa? We don't know, and that's fine, because science is designed to answer questions to which you don't know the answer. The problem is when the people in charge of our public health systems won't admit that they don't know.
All of this should prompt some pretty tough questions for public health experts in this country, One of those questions is: How effective is this coronavirus vaccine? How necessary is it to take the vaccine? Don't dismiss those questions from anti-vaxxers, don't kick people off social media for asking them. Answer the questions, especially now that the administration would like you to take this vaccine. As Joe Biden told you last week, you can't celebrate the Fourth of July if you don't.
But it turns out there are things we don't know about the effects of this vaccine (and all vaccines, by the way, it's always a trade-off). In this specific case, Germany, France, Italy and Spain, have just suspended the distribution of AstraZeneca's vaccine becaue it could be linked to deadly blood clots. A month ago, The New York Times reported that the FDA and the CDC were looking into reports that Moderna and Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine could be causing blood clots as well. The paper reported that one 56-year-old physician called Gregory Michael developed a severe case of a blood disorder. The number of platelets in his blood dropped three days after taking the vaccine. Without those platelets, his blood couldn't clot, and he died of a brain hemorrhage after two weeks in the hospital.
Should this scare you? We don't know, but the rest of us deserve an answer. Instead, our leaders are acting as if the science were totally settled and you're not allowed to ask questions. When you look at the vaccination rates in certain states, it's pretty clear that some people are not taking the vaccine on purpose. If you want them to take the vaccine, don't issue more commands. Calm their fears, by rationally explaining the benefits and the risks of taking the vaccine. That's how you deal with adults.
Instead, they're telling you that if you want to see your grandparents ever again, you'll shut up and take the shot. They just lecture us like they're our parents, which they are absolutely not. "If you do what we say, you can visit your grandparents. You can have dinner together with a friend or family member." The patronizing never stops. As Joe Biden has told us, it's possible that you can cook a hot dog in your own backyard in July if you're obedient.
They tell you this is all about protecting the elderly and flattening the curve. (Yes, the party of Andrew Cuomo wants you to know that actually keeping senior citizens alive is highly important.) The question is, what happens if you are an older person and you don't obey? A 65-year-old woman in Galveston, Texas, found out on March 11. One day earlier, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott lifted that state's mask mandate. The woman, apparently believing news reports that it was a free country, walked into a Bank of America branch. To keep her safe. Texas police officers violently attacked her.
To be clear, she wasn't trying to rob the bank. She didn't pass the teller a note saying she had a bomb or a firearm. She simply wasn't wearing a mask in a state where there is no mask mandate. She was under the impression she could go into a Bank of America branch in full compliance with state law without being thrown to the ground. Texas could be in trouble.
To be fair, if that woman had read more CNN articles, she'd know that actually she had it coming. CNN tweeted out a piece Monday, for example, called "Why you should wear a face mask even if your state doesn't require it." Why? Well, according to CNN, face masks, "are a sign of respect." (No mention of respecting people who don't wear face masks. They're not worthy of respect.) Wearing a face mask will "help the US [sic] return to normal". (Because it is totally normal to shield your face from the people around you. That's not weird. It's always been this way.)
The science on decency is settled. Now, wearing your mask is a sign of respect, and if you don't do it, you'll be beaten in public for your own good. As our media will tell you, it's not just banks that mandate this new sign of respect. Over at NBC News, a similar piece is now advising readers on how they ought to behave at the gym -- unless they, too, want to get thrown to the ground by police.
"Instead of taking your mask off to drink [from a water bottle], slip the straw under the chin of your mask ... If you need to shower at the gym, shower as quickly as possible and only remove your mask when your face and head is going to get wet."
So NBC News is now telling you how long you're allowed to shower and how you're allowed to drink your water with your mask on. But whatever you do, don't for a moment think they're making this up as they go along. This is science. Don't dare question the competence of the people who told you never to wear a mask just a year ago. That would be disrespectful to our public health experts, and you know what happens to people who show disrespect to our public health experts.
This article is adapted from Tucker Carlson's opening commentary on the March 15, 2021 edition of "Tucker Carlson Tonight."