The more-contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus led the CDC to issue a directive yesterday that both vaccinated and unvaccinated people should wear masks indoors in higher-contagion areas. It’s not going over well.
The first reaction was on Capitol Hill where the Capitol Police posted a statement saying visitors and staff members must mask up. “Any person who fails to either comply or leave the premises after being asked to do so would be subject to an arrest for Unlawful Entry.” Members are constitutionally exempt from arrest; staff are not. But Republicans were outspoken about their objections.
A new paper by Doug Badger and Bob Moffit for Heritage about “COVID-19 and Federalism” helps explain why the American people have growing skepticism about government mandates and responses to the pandemic.
I sent a summary of the paper on Wednesday, but let’s just focus, for obvious reasons, on the latest CDC “guidance.”
This is the latest in a LONG string of “mixed mask messages” that Badger and Moffit write about in their paper. A few examples:
- January 2020: Masks not recommended. CDC.
- February 2020: “They are not effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus.” Surgeon General.
- March 2020: Masks aren’t needed. Fauci.
- April, 2020: CDC urges the general public to wear masks; many states follow with mandates.
- September 2020: Masks are “the most powerful public health tool.” CDC director.
Shedding the mask was a strong selling point for the vaccines. In a March 2021 MSNBC interview, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said that vaccinated people “don’t carry the virus, don’t get sick.” She later retracted the statement.
CDC is promising to release today the scientific evidence behind its latest mask edict, likely showing that the virus can be present in upper respiratory systems of even those who have been vaccinated. But whatever evidence they produce, the skepticism will continue.
From the latest Badger/Moffit paper:
“The effectiveness of masks to prevent COVID-19 transmission is not supported by a review of the professional literature. There has been just one controlled study that tested whether masks protect uninfected people against COVID-19. The Danish study, conducted during the spring of 2020, included 6,000 participants. The control group did not wear masks; the experimental group did. All were instructed to spend at least three hours daily outside the home and observe social distancing guidelines. Participants were tested for COVID-19 over a one-month period. The study found no statistically significant difference in infection rates between those who wore masks and those who did not.
“The Annals of Internal Medicine originally posted the study, which concluded that masks do not protect uninfected people against COVID-19 on November 18, 2020, two days before the CDC announced that masks do offer such protection. The agency’s science brief did not mention the study.”
“Mask mandates have not withstood waves of infection either in the U.S. or in other countries that have imposed them,” Badger wrote in another Heritage paper, showing that “97 of the 100 counties with the most confirmed cases had mask mandates.”
“This pattern of clinging to policies and guidances long after they have been shown to be misguided is a central characteristic of the government’s public health communications regime,” Badger and Moffit write.
Chris Holt at American Action Forum has a good roundup of the latest mask and vaccine announcements. But here’s the bottom line: The CDC has a credibility problem, and it is spreading to a greater distrust of government. If a new lockdown comes in mid-August, which is being considered, Americans are likely to respond quite differently than they did last year.