The head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control admitted Wednesday that her agency’s problems, magnified during its mishandling of the COVID pandemic, can only be remediated by what she called an ‘ambitious’ overhaul.- Sponsored –
Dr. Gail Walensky, former professor at Harvard Medical School and the one-time chief of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital said Wednesday that missteps during the most recent pandemic and the slow response to the spread of the disease known as “Monkeypox” have persuaded her significant changes are necessary.
CDC critics have long argued its COVID recommendations were often useless or counterproductive to stopping the virus from spreading. Sometimes both. One oft-cited example is its development of a test to detect the disease that failed to work after it was made available, potentially providing an inaccurate picture of the novel coronavirus’s spread.
The agency’s new focus, she wrote in an agency-wide email, would be on becoming “more nimble and responsive to needs that arise in health emergencies,” Statnews.com reported, while making it a priority to gather data “that can be used to rapidly dispense public health guidance, rather than craft scientific papers.”
Yet it is the issuance of exactly that kind of public health guidance, agency critics say, that led to confusion during the COVID pandemic, potentially making the situation worse by creating a false sense of security that left people feeling they were protecting themselves by utilizing measures that were ineffective in stopping the spread or preventing exposure to the virus. One of those, the social distancing guideline setting out the need for people to remain at least six feet apart from one another is now known to have been issued based on no scientific testing whatsoever. It was, people now feel comfortable acknowledging, a made-up number that did not come from, as it was popular to say at the time, “following the science.”
In her email, Walensky told the agency’s 11,000 employees, “For 75 years, CDC and public health have been preparing for Covid-19, and in our big moment, our performance did not reliably meet expectations.” Her new goal, she wrote, is to create “a new, public health action-oriented culture at CDC that emphasizes accountability, collaboration, communication, and timeliness.”
She has a long way to go. Jason Schwartz, a health policy researcher at the Yale School of Public Health told CBS News “We saw during COVID that CDC’s structures, frankly, weren’t designed to take in information, digest it and disseminate it to the public at the speed necessary.”
What the agency did do was assist in the politicization of the disease, confuse the public, and fight all efforts to be held accountable for its mistakes on Capitol Hill. Writing in the Washington Examiner, Zachary Faria – who acknowledged Walensky was not at the CDC when the pandemic began – nonetheless added to the confusion by misstating the president’s intentions regarding vaccine mandates.
“She confused the public repeatedly, saying that President Joe Biden was considering a vaccination mandate before backtracking to say that there ‘Will be no federal mandate.’ Not even two months later, Biden did indeed put a vaccine mandate in place,” Faria wrote.
The CDC director also helped inflame the public’s anxiety by appearing at congressional hearings wearing two masks despite having received several doses of the vaccine. Such displays of caution on her part conflicted with the messages public health experts were sending to the American people who, seeing things with their own eyes, saw that even they were not sure what they were telling everyone was correct.
“Worst of all was how Walensky and the CDC justified restrictions on children, who have never been at serious risk from COVID,” Faria wrote, explaining her repeated change in position about social distancing in schools and the need to vaccinate teachers and students helped keep schools closed for an unacceptable period.
“If your culture is not aligned entirely with what your mission is, it doesn’t matter how good the strategy is. It doesn’t matter what your org charts are. It is all about the workforce culture,” Jay Varma, who spent 20 years at CDC before becoming director of the Cornell Center for Pandemic Prevention and Response at Weill Cornell Medicine told Statnews.com.
“It’s an agency run by geeks. It’s run by doctors and Ph.D.’s,” Varma said. “What are doctors and scientists notoriously bad at? Managing. They’re really good at hypothesis-driven research and analyzing information and making predictions about what might happen. What they’re really bad at is managing people in an effective way.”
Walensky will need time to make the changes – but it is time the country may now have. The CDC has been slow to respond to the emergence of Monkeypox, an infectious viral disease occurring in humans and other animals marked by fever, swollen lymph nodes and a rash that forms blisters that eventually crust over. The fact that is spreading disproportionately “among men who have sex with men and their sexual networks,” as CNN recently put it, has heightened concerns that political sensitivities are being allowed to interfere with the steps needed to prevent it from spreading into the at-large population.
“Not wanting to reproduce the kind of anti-gay stigma seen during the early AIDS crisis, some argue that articulating which group is at highest risk for monkeypox infection might be dangerous,” CNN said, probably unaware that this was an almost exact description of how the CDC and other public health agencies failed in their reaction to COVID even before it reached the pandemic level.
Against the advice of many who suggested the primary objective should be the isolation of those at high risk for fatal outcomes following exposure to COVID, the CDC and others attempted to isolate and immunize the nation. This led to economic and social lockdowns from which it will take years, perhaps decades before America can recover. It can be said the CDC’s bad advice, politicization and lack of readiness cost the nation hundreds of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars.
For nearly two years the CDC and other public health agencies and administrators made pronouncements that infected the American way of life at every level, often without debate or examination. Efforts to call their dictates into question were ridiculed, even suppressed, at great cost to the nation. It’s helpful that Walensky wants to reform her agency, but the best reforms come only after we know what happened to cause the problems.
Somehow, Walensky and other public health policymakers want to skip over that critical phase. No one wants to acknowledge their mistakes in public, especially if people died because of them. Nonetheless, they should not be allowed to hide behind the banner of reform now without being held accountable. America deserves an explanation, post-COVID, of how things were allowed to get as bad as they did. Not just an explanation of where the disease came from and whether it was produced in some far-off biological research facility and somehow got away but why the response to the infection was met with so much inconsistent advice coming from the government agencies employing the well-paid, well-funded experts who were supposed to know it all.
They didn’t, and we deserve to know why.
The COVID bureaucracy preaches lies, censors anyone who challenges the lies, and eventually admits the same truths they previously denounced.
The COVID bureaucracy has spent two years now preaching lies, censoring anyone who challenges the lies, and eventually coming around to admit the same truths they previously denounced.
In the case of masks and vaccines, the flip-flop was even more elaborate: They insisted masks didn’t work (when they were scarce) and that the vaccine was suspicious (under Trump), only to spin around and tout both. And now that neither works effectively against the omicron variant, the narrative is falling apart again.
Over the weekend, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky appeared on numerous news shows and bluntly admitted some big truths that critics of COVID mania have been saying all along. Another admission of hers from August resurfaced on social media, after months of the media memory-holing it.
It’s about time the COVID bureaucrats come clean — and Walensky’s comments don’t cover the half of it — but we’re old enough to remember what the same group of bullies was saying not too long ago.
“Our vaccines are working exceptionally well … but what they can’t do anymore is prevent transmission,” Walensky told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in August, in a clip that made the rounds anew over the weekend.
But that’s not the narrative we’ve been inundated with for the past year. USA Today ran a “fact-check” with the headline “Vaccines protect against contracting, spreading COVID-19” in November 2021, quoting health “experts” who insisted that getting the jab makes people “much less likely to be infected therefore much less likely to spread the virus.”
President Joe Biden went even further, claiming in July, “You’re not going to get COVID if you have these vaccinations.” In October, he said, “We’re making sure health care workers are vaccinated because if you seek care at a health care facility, you should have the certainty that the people providing that care are protected from COVID and cannot spread it to you.”
He continued to parrot the claim just last month, implying that vaccinated people couldn’t spread COVID when he asked, “How about making sure that you’re vaccinated so you do not spread the disease to anybody else?”
In a “Good Morning America” appearance, Walensky admitted that “the overwhelming number of deaths, over 75 percent, occurred in people who had at least four comorbidities.” That’s what we’ve been saying all along: that response efforts should focus on protecting vulnerable populations (i.e., not sending COVID-positive patients into nursing homes) and maintaining normal activities for populations that are at low risk (i.e., not shutting down schools for semesters on end).
But it was Walensky herself who confessed last February that the CDC’s guidelines for reopening schools were influenced by the vehemently anti-in-person-learning teachers unions, which Walensky admitted resulted in “direct changes to the guidance.” Emails uncovered in September further showed that the CDC had changed its school masking policy under pressure from the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union.
And it was the coalition of power-hungry lockdown advocates and fawning media who put disgraced former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on a pedestal, despite his decision to force COVID-positive patients into nursing homes, causing thousands of unnecessary deaths among the most vulnerable.
This coalition also worked with the CDC to push months of lockdowns, business closures, mask mandates, travel restrictions, and now vaccine mandates on Americans, despite the fact that the average healthy American is at low risk of dying from COVID.
“How many of the 836,000 deaths in the U.S. linked to COVID are from COVID or how many are with COVID?” Fox News’s Bret Baier asked Walensky on Sunday. “Those data will be forthcoming,” Walensky promised, acknowledging the distinction Baier pointed out.
But a bureaucracy that was intent on maximizing COVID panic (and death counts) to undermine Trump and stir the popularity of tyrannical policies wasn’t so keen on admitting this distinction in the past.
In Washington state, for example, a May 2020 report found that the state’s health department was “overreporting COVID-19 cases by up to 13 percent by counting anyone who ‘tests positive for COVID-19 and subsequently dies’ as a coronavirus death.” A subsequent investigation found that Washington health officials appeared to be doing it again in December of the same year.
In Colorado, gunshot victims were also counted among COVID death tallies if the victims had “tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 30 days.” And local authorities in Florida counted a man who died in a motorcycle crash as a COVID victim in July 2020. But that didn’t stop media outlets and bureaucrats like Dr. Anthony Fauci from using inflated death tolls to stoke fear and panic as justification for more restrictions and mandates.
What COVID factoid — that anti-lockdowners have been insisting all along — will Walensky and the CDC admit next? Who knows.
But it’s safe to say there won’t be any apologies or honest acknowledgments of error. There weren’t with masks, the ineffectiveness of lockdowns, vaccines, the lab leak theory, or schools, after all. Instead, you can expect them to use half-truths and flat-out lies to try convincing you they’ve never been wrong — all evidence to the contrary.
We have not just lost our minds, but given them up voluntarily.
It was never just a mask, it has always been a way of thinking. “Mask” is just shorthand.
I got dumped from my volunteer work at the Hawaiian Humane Society for choosing not to wear a mask outside while walking their dogs. Neither science, the CDC, nor the state requires a mask outdoors, and I’m fully vaccinated. Some staff bot saw my naked face and informed me of their “policy.” I asked why they had such a nonsensical policy, and her only answer was “it is our policy.” The conversation ended like an ever-growing percentage of conversations in America now end, with her saying, “Do I need to call security?” I didn’t enjoy it, but I think she did.
I was left with no good to do this week, and a simple, real Covid-19 question. Why are fully vaccinated people treated the same as the unvaccinated? Everyone on the plane wears a mask and goes through the same mock social distancing. Everyone at a restaurant, office, concert, etc., does the same. The answer is at the heart of whether public policy in America will shift and allow us to crawl back into our lives.
The biggest reason for treating vaxxed and unvaxxed people the same miserable way is the claim that vaccinated people can still get Covid enough to pass it on. Funny thing is you can actually “get” the measles even after being vaccinated. The vax is actually only 97 percent effective, similar to the Covid ones. But nobody talks about measles or demands we wear a mask to prevent their spread. We simply accept and deal with the risk.
The next question is really, really hard to find an answer to. How many vaccinated people actually get Covid, the so-called “breakthrough” cases?
That exact number is critical because it is the pivot point for the risk vs. gain decision our society needs to make. If we cannot make a wise choice we will be struggling with and fighting over the restrictions on our lives and livelihoods forever. If we assume we’ll never have full vaccination and that breakthrough cases are a non-zero number and likely always will be then we need to make an informed decision about risk. So is it a non-zero number like, duh, “smoking causes cancer,” or a non-zero number like “very few people die from meteor strikes (or from the measles)?”
The current public policy decisions on risk are haphazard. All 50 states have different rules, many large cities, too, and each and every company. There are different rules if you take a bus or want to go dancing. One grocery store demands masks, another does not. It makes no sense. It becomes not a considered decision but an example of lack of public policy leadership. Into that leadership void enters superstition, pseudoscience, politics, voodoo, and most of all, fear.
So what are the chances of a fully vaccinated person getting a breakthrough infection? It turns out this pivotal question is not clearly answerable, but we act as if it is, with consequences for our lives, mental health, education, commerce, and more. Even for our stray dogs.
I started with Google and “What are the chances of getting COVID after being fully vaccinated?” expecting the answer in 0.0039 seconds, like when you ask what year some historical event happened. Nope. AARPsays “less than one percent of fully vaccinated individuals have been hospitalized with, or have died from, COVID.” That’s a small number but does not fully address the question.
Over to NPR, which reports, “On rare occasions, some vaccinated people infected with the delta variant after vaccination may be contagious and spread the virus to others.” What does rare occasions mean? This is supposed to be, you know, science, so we finally get some numbers from the CDC: Out of 159 million fully vaccinated people, the CDC documented 5,914 cases of fully vaccinated people who were hospitalized or died from Covid-19, and 75 percent of them were over age 65. That means only 0.0000037 percent of vaxxed people were hospitalized or died, most of them elderly. That is a very small number. It is a lot less than one percent and a lot less than rare. Chances of dying in a car wreck are many tens of thousands of times higher and yet we drive on.
However, it still does not answer the question of how dangerous the vaxxed but unmasked are in terms of transmitting the virus. No one really knows. Recent scare headlines calling for reinstated restrictions and vax mandates are based on a single outbreak, 469 cases, in one city in Massachusetts, that appears to show (at variance with existing studies) 75 percent of those infected had been vaccinated and oddly, almost all of those people (87 percent) were male. Most of the infected were asymptomatic or experienced mild symptoms. No deaths.
What is believed is the a) Delta variant of Covid makes a b) temporary home inside a vaccinated man’s nose or upper respiratory area, c) outside the immune system. It waits there to be d) blown out and then be e) received by an f) unvaccinated person. So, all these things have to work out for it to matter. It is not simply a chore of toting up how many vaccinated people tested positive and then hitting the panic button. As one doctor put it, “We really need to shift toward a goal of preventing serious disease and disability and medical consequences, and not worry about every virus detected in somebody’s nose.”
Bottom Line 1: We need to stop the obsessive, simplistic, and misleading counting of positive tests and focus on real world consequences.
Requiring everyone wear masks again based on one outbreak may seem as if it can’t hurt, but it does. Organizations waste time and credibility enforcing measures that have limited if any impact (consider how many masks are so old, dirty, improperly worn, etc., to be fully useless.) To simply dismiss the reality of numbers with a blithe “well you can’t be too careful” only works if you imagine Covid restrictions have no secondary or tertiary effects.
Economies have been devastated. Education has disappeared for large numbers of kids. Despair grows menacingly. Suicide attempts by teen girls increased 26 percent during summer 2020 and 50 percent during winter of 2021. We are killing children to save them.
Economic inequality got a booster shot. The power of government has grown alarmingly. The ability to shape how we live, shop, work, and eat has been handed randomly to a near-endless range of actors, from the president to governors empowered with “emergency edicts” to clerks ever-anxious to call security not on shoplifters but on an exposed nose.
Americans’ irrational fears were created by politicians and the media, and have become a profit center. The New York Times for months ran columns saying Trump’s vaccine was another government syphilisexperiment. The vice president refused to take the shot during the campaign. Biden took it, then went right on masking as if it didn’t work.
It was a very successful campaign to propagate uncertainty for a political purpose. It is all their fault vaccine acceptance now varies by political party, where we live, and how much education we have. It’s a form of blowback—the information operation worked too well.
So we won’t concede the reality kids are unlikely to get sick and should go to school. That the vast majority of deaths occur among the elderly with comorbidities, not the general population. That ill-fitting masks and wiping down groceries with Clorox are theater. That the debate has become a political argument instead of an evidence-based one. That everybody agrees the CDC has lost credibility until one side needs it for some partisan purpose. That previously healthcare decisions started with the premise of “first, do no harm,” while today there is no conversation allowed about the balance of benefits and damages. That we simply tally the collateral damage while the virus remains unaffected.
Bottom Line 2: If we are to heal as a society there is only one answer, at some point we must simply ask what works and do that.
But we lack the political leadership to say what’s true, so we’re going back to “let’s just argue about masks and mandates.” Meanwhile the virus continues to find unvaccinated hosts. The economy won’t snap back. Biden is facing a mini civil war over required vaccinations and restarting lockdowns but has no plan. Things will hit the fan in September as Hot Vax Summer sputters, when every school district does something different, and federal unemployment supplements run out.
People have grown weary of being afraid and grown weary of being subject to the paranoid demands of safety fetishists. Many did what they were told to do—get vaxxed—only to find themselves stuck inside the same dysfunctional loop of mask/unmask. We are killing ourselves. Somehow that must be factored into our Covid response.
Bottom Line 3: We can’t resolve the pandemic until we end the panic and the politics. Can Biden do that?
It was July 29, and the rent was coming due for tenants all over the country. That is, until it wasn’t. Pressed by the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, the Biden White House turned to the CDC to extend the eviction moratorium to October 3 of this year.
The White House maintains that this is not an extension of existing nationwide policy but a new, “targeted” moratorium. Housing groups aren’t buying it, irate with what they see as government overreach and a rebranding of the same policies that saw many landlords go months without collecting enough rent to break even on managed properties. One of those groups, the Alabama Association of Realtors, is challenging the order in court.
The CDC’s latest program, instead of being a blanket nationwide moratorium, uses a region’s COVID-19 infection status as the deciding factor for whether it qualifies. With this adjustment, the administration is attempting to disconnect the “new” moratorium from the past one, which came under intense legal scrutiny.
The former moratorium survived until July 31 only because Justice Kavanaugh thought a premature death for the policy would not “allow for additional and more orderly distribution of the congressionally appropriated rental assistance funds.” He wrote that the only way a moratorium could pass muster thereafter was if there were “clear and specific congressional authorization (via new legislation).”
Pundits and activists on the right and left have predicted the Biden administration may find it exceedingly difficult to argue this moratorium’s new and unique aspects relative to the last.
According to Luke Wake of the Pacific Legal Foundation, defenders of the most recent moratorium “are relying on the very same flawed statutory authority that they have since pronouncing the eviction moratorium last September. The only difference being that instead of a blanket, nationwide moratorium, they would only cover 90 percent of the country. But because they rely on the same supposed authority, their actions are still unlawful.” All Our Opinion in Your Inbox
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Individuals familiar with the plaintiffs’ strategy agreed with Wake, telling National Review that there’s little in the new order to meaningfully differentiate it from its predecessor. The sources pointed out that the new order retains the five eligibility requirements included in the initial moratorium, adding just the one, COVID-dependent, additional requirement.
Legal reaction to the CDC’s pronouncement is moving swiftly, explained Wake:
Now that the Government has renewed the moratorium order in apparent defiance of Kavanaugh’s warning, the Alabama Realtors have sought again to lift the stay in their case so that landlords can begin evicting. The Government was ordered [by the DC Circuit] to respond by the end of [Friday] to that emergency petition. If it’s granted, then that’s a big deal for landlords. If it’s denied, then we can assume they will immediately appeal to the DC Circuit and might very well be before the Supreme Court again quickly.
Kavanaugh granted grace to the CDC, stipulating any extensions would require legislative action. By circumventing him now, the Biden White House risks the Supreme Court’s wrath. Sources were confident that the CDC would not find Kavanaugh nearly as deferential to the government attorneys should they find themselves before him in court again.
Those familiar with the suit expect that sometime early this week, perhaps even Monday, D.C. District Court judge Dabney Friedrich will make a ruling, with a high probability that it lands in favor of the Alabama Realtors. It would then be on the government to appeal the case to higher courts.
Monday, August 9, had both sides’ attorneys before Judge Friedrich answering her questions and pleading their cases. She chose not to rule immediately, instead taking the case under consideration.
Wake estimated the Fifth Circuit would get to his firm’s case (Chambless) around October. A delay, but he figures the CDC will extend the rent moratorium during the winter months, meaning Chambless may be before the Supreme Court by year’s end.