Fauci defends terrible new CDC guidance for masking little kids at summer camp

Philip Klein notes that Fauci couldn’t stop himself from laughing here while half-heartedly spinning the new rules, which have been attacked even by experts as absurdly onerous. He knows they’re garbage so he’s keen to reassure Savannah Guthrie that they’re constantly being updated and relaxed as more data is gathered. Just be patient! The CDC might acknowledge they’re ridiculous soon enough!

But a health bureaucrat is still a bureaucrat. Forced to choose between dissenting on the science and standing by an agency he works with, he opted to present a united front.

Better that Americans receive unanimous bad advice from their expert class than a confusing array of opinions, I guess. Watch, then read on.

The risk of kids, especially young kids, starting a new outbreak by infecting each other outdoors at a moment when community spread is low and more than 100 million Americans are fully vaccinated is negligible. But the CDC is taking no chances, as Robby Soave describes here. They want everyone aged two or older in masks at all times except when eating or swimming, kids divided into “cohorts” that keep six feet of distance between each other at all times, no close-contact sports, and limited sharing of physical objects (even though the CDC said awhile ago that there’s little risk of the virus spreading on surfaces). Bear in mind that camp staff are already eligible for vaccination everywhere in the U.S. and kids aged 12 and older will be eligible for Pfizer’s vaccine as soon as next week, so any parents worried about their teen or tween getting infected have the option of fully protecting them by the time camp starts.

Meanwhile, younger kids don’t seem to transmit the virus readily and are at little risk of serious complications if they’re infected. So why do we need five-year-olds running around in masks on a sweltering summer day? Who are the new rules protecting?

Even scientists don’t know:

New York magazine, normally a reliable source of liberal conventional wisdom, is mortified by the hypercaution exhibited in the CDC summer-camp rules:

Mark Gorelik, a pediatric immunologist at Columbia University and an expert on MIS-C, the rare COVID-19-related inflammatory syndrome, said, “We know that the risk of outdoor infection is very low. We know risks of children becoming seriously ill or even ill at all is vanishingly small. And most of the vulnerable population is already vaccinated. I am supportive of effective measures to restrain the spread of illness. However, the CDC’s recommendations cross the line into excess and are, frankly, senseless. Children cannot be running around outside in 90-degree weather wearing a mask. Period.

An infectious-disease scientist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci’s agency, spoke with me about the CDC guidance on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. “With staff and parents vaccinated, there is no reason to continue incredibly strict mitigation efforts or put severe limitations on activities,” they said. “Charitably,” the scientist, who has an expertise in respiratory viruses, continued, “masking kids at camp outdoors is simply virtue signaling. Requiring kids to continuously wear masks at camps, even while outside playing in the heat, when it provides little additional protection is unfair and cruel to our children. Considering that children are at incredibly low risk for developing severe illness, the minimal benefits of mask wearing do not outweigh the substantial costs of discouraging children to be active and their overall health.”…

Dr. Christakis said, “We’ve consistently deprioritized the essential needs of human childhood. Keeping kids out of school, enforcing social distance on them.” We have to learn to tolerate some level of risk, he said. It’s clear that children’s well-being is not the priority in these guidelines, he said, and “we have to try as best we can to give children their lives back.” Mark Gorelik, the pediatric immunologist, said, “Irrational recommendations will do no good, could in this case do harm, and really discredit federal agencies.”

Even an epidemiologist at the CDC (speaking anonymously, of course) marveled at the idea of trying to keep young kids masked and three feet apart at all times during summer camp. There are various ways to reduce risk, after all, short of ridiculous, unenforceable restrictions like that. Camps could require everyone 12 and up to be immunized before the first day. Or they could require that everyone, including young children, be tested within 48 hours before reporting for orientation and then impose a quarantine “bubble” around the camp in which no one — or only vaccinated adults — goes in or out. So why is the CDC inviting ridicule and further weakening public trust in the agency by floating rules that even doctors can’t help rolling their eyes at?

Could be simple institutional culture at work. They’ve been hypercautious throughout the pandemic and they ain’t about to change now. But I wonder if this study from last summer of a camp in Georgia spooked the agency and tempted them into going overboard. In that case, an outbreak among kids attending the camp led to 260 children being infected, including a majority of kids aged six to 10 who were tested. That’s alarming, but that study comes from the pre-vax era; the fear that infected children will bring the virus home with them and ignite major community outbreaks that overwhelm senior citizens has now faded. And there was no “bubble” approach taken at that camp to prevent infection as far as I can tell. We shouldn’t need heavy restrictions this summer to keep kids safe. If we’re really in the bottom of the sixth inning of the pandemic, kids are still stuck in, say, the top of the third due to rules like this and blue-state timidity in reopening schools. Let’s ease off a little, for cripes sake.