CDC ended mask requirements in healthcare...and almost nobody noticed

Townhall Media

The CDC dropped masking requirements for health care settings, and the move was largely ignored by the news media and public health officials. It got a modest amount of coverage, mostly days after the announcement, but the dramatic change in guidance was met with little fanfare.

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And that is how the CDC wanted it, apparently. They dropped the news late last Friday. Not yesterday, but a week ago Friday.

I have followed COVID news pretty closely, and my Twitter feed is filled with COVID-related accounts because I was involved in anti-lockdown activism back in 2020. Today was the first time I even heard of the rather shocking news. It’s a huge shift in policy–not only did their policy stance shift, but they also specifically referred to the benefits of infection-acquired immunity in the same sentence as vaccines. This explicit acknowledgment of a fact that they disputed for years is in itself quite noteworthy.

The agency quietly issued the updates as part of an overhaul to its infection control guidance for health workers published late Friday afternoon. It marks a major departure from the agency’s previous recommendation for universal masking.

“Updates were made to reflect the high levels of vaccine-and infection-induced immunity and the availability of effective treatments and prevention tools,” the CDC’s new guidance says.

Now, the CDC says facilities in regions without high transmission can “choose not to require” all doctors, patients, and visitors to mask. Transmission is different from the community levels CDC uses to guide non-health care settings.

Community transmission refers to measures of the presence and spread of SARS-CoV-2, CDC said.

So why the relative silence? Why did the CDC not shout from the rooftops the great news that the Science™ has once again allowed human beings to begin interacting as human beings in situations that are about as stressful for many people as they can possibly get?

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A few reasons, some openly expressed and many that are not.

First and most obvious a lot of doctors, hospitals, and nursing facilities are gun-shy. Some are genuinely worried for their patients or themselves, believing that the risk/reward balance doesn’t justify the change in policy. With the exception of high risk patients this strikes me as a bad assessment, but I can respect it. While there are a huge number of people who are irrationally scared of COVID, which is demonstrably far less dangerous than some flu viruses (e.g. the 1918 flu was vastly more dangerous), I believe that doctors should have wide discretion in making assessments for themselves and the recommendations they make for patients.

After all, how can I oppose the dangerous suppression of supposed “COVID misinformation” by the government and social media platforms while bashing doctors whose opinion strikes me as absurd? Somebody is wrong about what is or is not reasonable, but that is and should be open to discussion and a variety of opinions.

But a large number of people are not-so-legitmately worried that a change in the guidance will make the medical establishment and the CDC look bad. They have reason to worry, too, because the medical establishment and the CDC do look bad because they have behaved very badly indeed. They did exactly the opposite of what they should have–give people information they need, free of hysteria, with full disclosure of the uncertainties, and without any massaging of the truth. A good doctor is direct, even blunt, while respecting the patient and his own assessment of what values he holds dear.

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Certainly any doctor who denies a patient who is very well aware that he is dying soon the choice of saying goodbye to his family is a ghoul. If they are more worried about liability, or so power-mad as to override a patient’s dying wishes,  they should have been drummed out of the profession. Instead they were celebrated as heroes. That is insane to me.

The CDC stoked hysteria, jerked the country around on recommendations, knowingly lied to people in order to “simplify the message” and just generally botched communicating with the public. They declared certainty about things when they were actually spitballing, and generally used the COVID crisis as an opportunity to bully people. The social and economic costs were literally incalculable.

There are other reasons for being so quiet about the change. Not to put too fine a point on it, COVID has been very good for expanding government power. Executives such as the president and governors have been able to evade normal limits on their power by grabbing emergency authority. COVID has been a great excuse to spend vast sums of money without oversight or obeying normal procedures, and it has been wonderful for the censorship business. By declaring dissent as “misinformation” instead of disagreement the government has insisted on a crackdown on any criticism of their policies.

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Lots of states will simply ignore the CDC because giving up the power of pushing people around is not acceptable. It’s not the masks they worry about, but losing the “emergency” is a threat to their power.

Governor Gavin Newsom just signed a law that gives the state power to punish medical professionals who disagree with government policy, or even just have a different perspective on risk/benefit calculations. That is chilling. (I intend to write about this law in particular later).

So the CDC was in a bind, and rather than being honest, straightforward, and even declaring a modest victory in suppressing the pandemic, they punted. They changed the guidance, but very very quietly. They clearly spread the word to the media that they didn’t want much coverage, and they got what they wanted. Near silence.

Still the COVID fanatics are unhappy. Any loosening of the rules or deviation in the message threatens their power.

The public has rightly concluded that nobody has the magic ability to suppress a highly contagious airborne virus and that promises to do so are lies. So they have decided to get on with their lives, just as we have to with other diseases. It’s not that we are indifferent to the risk of getting COVID, or even of getting a bad case, but that there is nothing we can do about it if we want to live a decent life. If all those folks who have shouted their vaccine are getting COVID then obviously the promises and the reality are different.

COVID is nasty, and particularly so for seriously at risk people. So are lots of diseases. Getting sick sucks, and dying from any disease is not a pleasant possibility. But walking out the front door carries some risk. Eating at a salad bar is risky. Stairs and bathtubs can kill you. Being born, it turns out, carries with it a 100% risk of mortality at some point. If you have a complaint about that, the only person to discuss it with is God.

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Treating the COVID outbreak as an existential threat to humanity was always gaslighting. Treating this virus as if we were on the edge of living an episode of The Walking Dead was not about health care but about seizing control. It worked for a long time, but people are done with it. President Biden said the quiet part out loud and the Establishment freaked.

So the White House walked it back. But it was still essentially accurate. That in itself was shocking–Joe Biden telling a truth.

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