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The CDC and Our Post-Pandemic Regime

The seat of American power appears to reside in Atlanta, Georgia.

The seat of American power appears to reside in Atlanta, Georgia.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), headquartered in The Big Peach and operating under the Department of Health and Human Services, continues to use the Covid-19 pandemic and the American public’s reinvigorated fear of other communicable diseases to spread its tendrils of control into other policy areas. The month-long pause in efforts to transport Afghan evacuees into the United States on the CDC’s recommendation has gone drastically undercovered by the corporate media. Maybe this is by design, given how, as the public health apparatus plays an increasingly assertive role in the administrative state, the story further reveals the influence of the federal agency and public health as a source of legitimacy in the post-Covid American regime.

Flights carrying approximately 1,000 Afghan refugees into the United States have once again resumed after about a month-long pause over the weekend. On Saturday, flights from Ramstein Air Base in Germany to the U.S. resumed and are expected to continue until each of the around 9,000 Afghans still left in Ramstein make their way to America. The reason for the pause wasn’t due to increased vetting of Afghan evacuees spurred on by potential extremist threats. Rather, it came on the recommendation of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after a number of Afghan refugees contracted measles.

The CDC recommended halting flights bringing in Afghan evacuees—part of Operation Allies Welcome, the name given to the massive project of resettling thousands of Afghan refugees across the country—after four cases of measles were detected among Afghan migrants brought into the United States in September. White House press secretary Jen Psaki credited the pause of the importation of Afghan evacuees from military bases in Germany and Qatar to the U.S. to the CDC during a press briefing, adding that the delay was “out of an abundance of caution.” Beyond that, Psaki was not very forthcoming about any other details regarding the outbreak, and corporate media journalists, who championed evacuating and resettling as many Afghan refugees as possible over the course of the U.S. withdrawal, weren’t keen on pressing her for answers either.

However, some answers were provided by Fort McCoy, an army base in Wisconsin that has taken in over 6,000 Afghan evacuees—none of whom have Special Immigrant Visas, but are instead being held on “humanitarian parole,” or some other status. In a statement, the base confirmed that “Operation Allies Welcome identified a single guest… who presented with symptoms consistent with measles” the weekend prior. “Immediately following notification of the suspect case, the guest was placed in isolation and guests at risk of exposure were placed in quarantine. Post-exposure vaccination was also provided to those at risk and contact tracing was completed. Since the identification of the case, no other guests have been diagnosed with measles,” the statement continued.

The Biden administration plans on doubling the total of Afghans living at Fort McCoy to 13,000, according to a CBS News report. As it stands now, well over 50,000 Afghan evacuees are living on U.S. bases in Wisconsin, Texas, New Mexico, Indiana, New Jersey, and Virginia. That number is expected to rise to nearly 100,000 over the next year, as Operation Allies Welcome seeks to resettle the Afghan evacuees in 46 states across the country.

Before the flights, many of which are operated by commercial carriers, could resume, the CDC recommended vaccinating all Afghan evacuees from measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), as well as other diseases, and then institute a 21-day waiting period after the vaccines were administered to begin transporting the jabbed Afghans. 

An Oct. 4 statement from Operation Allies Welcome boasted that nearly 50,000 Afghan evacuees living on U.S. bases have received MMR and varicella (chickenpox) vaccines, and vaccination efforts continue apace at holding places for Afghan refugees abroad. The statement also made it seem as if the Department of Homeland Security was requiring Afghan evacuees to get the Covid-19 vaccine as well. However, a report from CNN the same day claimed that Afghan evacuees were recommended the vaccine and were being tested for Covid-19. Whether or not the Covid-19 testing regime is being implemented as they claim is certainly up for debate, given what has transpired on our southern border.

The American Conservative reached out to the DHS’s Operation Allies Welcome to receive clarification on the specifics of the Covid-19 vaccination and testing efforts among Afghan evacuees, and how they compare to the efforts to give Afghan evacuees the MMR vaccine, but did not receive a response.

This story shouldn’t be reduced to a debate on whether or not the DHS should be mandating vaccines for Afghan evacuees, or made about Covid-19 hypocrisy when it eventually comes out that Operation Allies Welcome’s Covid-19 testing and vaccination regime isn’t what they made it out to be.

Contributing editor to The American Conservative Sohrab Ahmari recently reminded listeners of the “TAC Right Now” podcast of a phrase coined by Harvard Law Professor Adrian Vermeule in the waning days of the Covid-19 pandemic: “It’s not hypocrisy. It’s hierarchy.” These days the maxim has proven to be axiomatic.

Right-wing pundits rail on the double standard promulgated by our country’s elites when it comes to Covid-19, whether it be the maskless celebrities at the Emmys or mayors spotted unmasked during a night on the town. But in doing so, they miss the point. The leaders of our pandemic regime have made it abundantly clear that they care very little about upholding clear and consistent standards. They care about power, and visible displays of that power establish a hierarchy that fits their needs.

The demarcating factors of this hierarchy, between the masked and maskless, the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, the remote worker and pandemic commuter, often mirror various socio-economic strata’s and demographics’ proximity to the Democratic Party.

As the disease underlying the pandemic responses becomes endemic, the CDC and public health establishment’s foremost desire is to prevent being once again relegated to the back burner of American public life. In the last year and a half public health officials have exercised wide-ranging powers in a variety of policy areas.

For a time, when the world knew very little about Covid-19, this seemed to make sense. However, even after scientists were able to answer the most pressing and fundamental questions about the virus (how does it spread, who does it infect, how deadly is it?), those tasked with overseeing other areas of government policy continued to not only be respectful of the public health apparatus, they often solicited their own subservience.

The obsequiousness of these other bureaucrats towards the public health establishment was peculiar. Those familiar with the inner-workings of Washington know that, while these bureaucrats all play a position on the administrative state’s team, bureaucrats from different policy areas compete heavily with one another over funding and jurisdiction (admittedly, as long as they don’t come with any real accountability).

However, the public health apparatus’s increased power in other policy areas has come with the occasional concessions. When a high-ranking political priority for the liberal establishment comes into conflict with public health guidance, public health officials can either defend the priority at hand or stay completely silent.

In the summer of 2020, as hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in the wake of George Floyd’s death, more than 1,000 public health officials assured the public that “opposition to racism” is “vital to the public health, including the epidemic response.” Thus, the public health establishment threw its political clout behind the left and essentially green-lighted the protesting, rioting, and looting because, as the CDC declared in April of this year, racism is a “serious public health threat.”

On other matters of immigration, especially regarding the influx of migrants across our porous southern border, the public health establishment has opted to stay silent, even though the Covid-19 testing and quarantine regime has been quite lax for migrants, some of whom have been released into American communities despite carrying the virus.

Welcome to post-pandemic America, a regime where power is brokered between public health officials and the liberal establishment. What powers are left to the people? It’s too soon to tell, but it seems not much.

about the author

Bradley Devlin is a Staff Reporter for The American Conservative. Previously, he was an Analysis Reporter for the Daily Caller, and has been published in the Daily Wire and the Daily Signal, among other publications that don't include the word "Daily." He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in Political Economy. You can follow Bradley on Twitter @bradleydevlin.

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