National Policy
• Published
August 7, 2021

The C.D.C. is Inconveniencing the Wrong People

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Coronavirus cases are beginning to rise sharply in the United States due to the Delta variant of the virus. The mutation caused a surge in deaths and oxygen demand in India this spring. Due to this increase, the C.D.C. has changed its guidelines on masking and other protocols, particularly for those who have been vaccinated against the virus and for children returning to school. These new guidelines have disappointed many vaccinated Americans while unnecessarily heightening tensions and anger. These new recommendations make little sense in terms of science, logic, and morality, and they place stress and burden on the wrong groups of people.

In late July of 2021, the C.D.C. reversed its May 2021 guidance which states that vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear masks or practice other prevention methods to slow the spread of COVID-19. New guidance, however, suggests that universal masking be practiced in indoor spaces and schools and that all Americans subject themselves to quarantines and testing. The initial guidance offered an escape route for many after restrictions caused social and psychological suffering across the country. “‘If you're fully vaccinated [you] can take your mask off… greet others with a smile,’ [Biden] said, flashing a brief smile himself.” Many saw this May guidance as both a reason to get vaccinated and a reason to return to pre-pandemic normalcy. Many are frustrated as the C.D.C. “pulls the finish line away… when it feels like they finally have the ribbon at the end in sight.” Many state and county authorities are also treating these recommendations as an excuse to require, once again making masks mandatory in their jurisdictions and setting a dangerous precedent. These new demoralizing restrictions obliterate the normalcy that was in sight.

The C.D.C. is placing an unfair burden on those who have done their part to protect themselves and others, and on those who are too young to do either. Science makes it clear that any restrictions on children or vaccinated populations at this stage of the pandemic are being made to protect solely those who have made the conscious decision not to get vaccinated and protect themselves. Even some of our elected officials have made it clear that the vaccinated should not “have to sacrifice to protect someone who doesn’t seem to care...I’m really tired. I’m really done with it”. The C.D.C. cites an increased possibility of transmission for vaccinated individuals experiencing an extremely rare breakthrough infection to justify mask recommendations. For clarity, only 0.08% of vaccinated individuals have tested positive throughout the rollout. Severe outcomes have been even rarer. Across the State of New Jersey, for example, only 49 vaccinated individuals have died of COVID-19. That is a startlingly low number, especially when you consider that people at an increased risk of serious complications from COVID-19 infection make up a significant portion of vaccinated Americans nationwide. The number of vaccinated victims pales in comparison to the 27,000 that have died statewide of the virus. It is more similar to the 42 who died from the 2009 swine flu outbreak in the state. Children with COVID are hospitalized at similar rates to those hospitalized with the seasonal flu. COVID has also proven to be milder for kids while in hospital care than the flu. If COVID offers risks to kids and the vaccinated that pale in comparison to seasonal illnesses that barely interrupt life, why are they being asked to mask again in schools and public places?  At this stage of the pandemic, we must make it clear that responsible adults and innocent children should not need to sacrifice normal life for the safety of the willfully unvaccinated. 

Well-vaccinated nations are well protected against an infectious wave of COVID. Despite vaccinating 90% of its adult population, the United Kingdom experienced a surge in infections beginning in late May. Despite infections reaching 80% of what was reported daily during the devastating January peak, deaths haven’t even crested 10% of the daily total at that peak.

The peak appears to have passed, too, as daily new hospitalizations in England have begun a multi-day sustained dip. Daily admissions reached 20% of the winter peak. These metrics hold despite the July 19th lifting of all legal COVID restrictions in England. The United Kingdom should serve as a ‘Delta Bellwether’ as the United States looks to follow a similar trajectory and reach its peak around mid-August. This news is encouraging, as that estimate would put infections in a downturn before the majority of students return to classrooms. England’s bold demonstration makes it clear that vaccines work, and that infections can decrease without imposing further restrictions on the population. An outbreak in a small Massachusetts town is what prompted the new C.D.C. guidance on masks. However, the outbreak also proves how protected the vaccinated actually are. It looks bad on paper that 74% of the 900 infected were vaccinated. However, only 7 patients were hospitalized, half of whom were unvaccinated, and zero have died. Widespread vaccination detaches large amounts of positive tests from large amounts of sick people, hospitalized people, or dead people. While it might seem risky, it is clear and crucial that healthy children and the nearly 200 million teens and adults protected by safe and effective vaccinations resume their lives without inconvenience.

The new C.D.C. guidance will have a negligible effect on COVID, and instead will raise stress and anxiety, burden our children, and erode confidence in our vaccines. The guidance, many point out, “isn't likely to crush community spread”. These recommendations will exacerbate the massive trade offs of COVID restrictions, and won’t even lead to a more manageable situation. Part of the reason that new rules won’t have a positive impact on the public health situation is because these C.D.C. recommendations are based in shaky, rushed, and absent science, which is far too undeveloped to be influencing public policy. “They’re making these decisions on the basis of extremely weak and unreliable data, and at the same time not doing the necessary work to reduce uncertainty among the population”. It is frightening how much of a negative effect rushed science can have, and how quickly authorities will use faulty data as an excuse to restrict populations even with a year and a half of pain still fresh in our minds. The C.D.C. made a morally bankrupt decision when they recommended all children and teachers, regardless of vaccination status or local transmission rate, mask up in schools. “The benefits of masks in preventing serious illness or death from COVID-19 among children are infinitesimally small. At the same time they are disruptive to learning and communicating in classrooms. They may be partially effective in shielding adults from COVID, but since when is it ethical to burden children for the benefit of adults?” It is very clear that these decisions are indirectly selfish- made dictatorially by the C.D.C. on behalf of the unvaccinated, at the expense of young children, with little science or morality to back it up. These school recommendations also prove how contradictory, hypocritical, and anti-logic the C.D.C. is acting with these decrees. Coronavirus vaccines are widely available for all teachers, relatives, and students over the age of 12. Despite this, while universal indoor masking is only recommended in counties with excessive COVID transmission, C.D.C. guidelines recommend universal masking by all students and teachers inside schools, regardless of local transmission rates. There is a lapse in consistency in these guidelines that hurts children even more without making any logical sense. 

New guidelines and concessions made by the C.D.C. erode confidence in our safe and effective vaccines when trust in them is desperately needed. “We again face the prospect of elevated, unjustified vaccine hesitancy… the CDC's new masking guidelines are baseless. The double- minded agency is catering to Americans with the lowest risk tolerance and undermining its messaging about vaccine safety and efficacy as a result.” While erring on the easy side of extreme caution, the C.D.C. has inadvertently cast a message to many that vaccines no longer work, which isn’t the case. It is also clear that new guidelines revoke what was a precious incentive- vaccinated Americans could live their lives without masks, distancing, getting tested, or isolating. This is making many vaccinated people feel duped, while affirming skeptics that they shouldn’t bother getting the shot if they can’t do anything differently. “If people find they cannot do anything differently after a vaccine, they will not see the benefit in getting vaccinated.” Criticism of the agency suggests that new guidance will discourage and delay critical populations from getting vaccinated, and lead to a heightened surge that causes unnecessary pain among the unvaccinated. The C.D.C. made a mistake by issuing these new recommendations. They will have a negligible effect on transmission while making many vaccinated Americans worried, and the rest frustrated, while turning many away from getting vaccinated. That is the opposite trade-off you want to make. 

The C.D.C. has made many illogical and painful guidelines over the past year and a half, but none could have a potentially worse effect than their late July 2021 guidance on masking. Made without proper evaluation of the science prior to implementation, these new rules bring a plethora of negative effects with zero positives. They affirm that it is the job of children and the vaccinated to make the unvaccinated feel safe. They erode confidence in our shots when confidence is what we desperately need, and place an unfair and illogical burden on children’s development and education which doesn't even line up with other C.D.C. rules issued concurrently. It is clear that Delta will pass without much fanfare, and that the vaccinated are protected. The C.D.C. has abused their influence, and acted on a whim without proper morals, logic, or science. We cannot let this happen again.

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