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The CDC Is Making the Question 'To Mask or Not to Mask' Much More Complicated Than It Is

AP Photo/Susan Walsh, Pool

The CDC and the rest of the public health bureaucrats have created a complete mess of messaging about COVID-19 for months now, and masking is no exception. By asserting that fully vaccinated individuals needed to continue masking and social distancing, they decreased confidence in a very effective vaccine. They further impaired public trust with a pause in the Johnson and Johnson jab. Then, despite a combination of high vaccination rates in high-risk populations and millions of recovered patients, the CDC put out absurd guidelines for summer camps, and Dr. Anthony Fauci said we might be back to normal by next Mother’s Day.

Meanwhile, the legacy media appeared to get fed up with the nonsensical messaging and started to do journalism. The New York Post broke the story on the teachers’ unions’ undue influence on the CDC’s school reopening guidelines. Then, The New York Times tattled on the CDC and shredded CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky for saying that outdoor transmission accounts for less than 10% of all infections. It is under 1%, possibly less than 0.1%, according to the data. Even ABC News reported that all the places the CDC told us to avoid, like restaurants, bars, and gyms, were not major transmission vectors.

Then, a Tucker Carlson Tonight segment amplified an article about the role of the NIH in funding gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) took that information and beat Dr. Fauci like a drum during Senate testimony. Then, like a miracle, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky announced that the fully vaccinated do not need to wear masks indoors or outdoors, except in especially crowded conditions.

Cue panic and dismay. The legacy media was beside themselves. Hyper-partisan Jill Filipovic called for vaccine passports immediately, asserting that she would decide what you have a right to do and claiming that it is only Republicans who are not getting vaccinated. MSNBC’s Rachael Maddow told viewers she would have to rewire herself not to view unmasked individuals as threats. Dr. Fauci tried to speak to those who view him as a COVID oracle of sorts and encouraged the vaccinated to shed the masks outside, assuring them it was safe. Then Walensky popped up, saying children under 12 still need to mask. This morning, Mika Brzezinski told Morning Joe viewers to follow the science and mask when they are around unvaccinated individuals.

Despite the confusion, several major retailers, including Target, Walmart, and Starbucks, announced they would no longer be enforcing mask mandates for vaccinated individuals. Of course, they have no actual mechanism for confirming vaccination. This outcry—and the public statements from large companies—caused the CDC’s Walensky to come out and clarify further, or muddy it all up, depending on your point of view:

After the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week announced a big change to mask mandates, confusion reigned. But Dr. Rochelle Walensky sought to clear that up on Sunday, saying the CDC’s new COVID-19 guidance on mask-wearing is not “permissions for widespread removal” of face coverings.

“The guidance that we released on Thursday is about individuals and what individuals are at risk of doing if they are not vaccinated,” Walensky said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week.” She added that decisions on mask mandates need to be made at the “community level.”

Can we all get real for a moment? Having lived in a state with no mask mandate during the pandemic and following the science closely the entire time, I would say this about the best science on the issue:

Considering all of the scientific data above, why is there still a debate about masking? According to the CDC, 84.6% of citizens 65 or older have had at least one dose of the vaccine. Almost 50% of those 18 and over are fully vaccinated. Approximately 32 million have a documented positive test and have recovered. Using the CDC’s estimate that one in 4.3 cases has been identified, that means close to 140,000,000 Americans could be walking around with recovered immunity. Taken together, that is an awful lot of barriers to infection walking around, even if the CDC is not explicit about it.

Masks are a sign of virtue in some regions of the country that serve as a proxy for political divisions. In areas free from mandates, that is less the case. It is nearly impossible to articulate how much this dithering has reduced confidence in the public health bureaucracy. We didn’t ask for the permission the CDC director seems to think she has the authority to give, and we have not been paying the significant price President Biden talks about for quite some time. All of them should take a long, hard look in the mirror and consider how allowing an issue as simple as whether or not to wear a mask became so politicized and how it might put all Americans at risk in the event of another health emergency.