Minnesota unmasked: Walz announces end to mandates after CDC catches up to the science

After yesterday’s reversal by the CDC, some questioned why their “conservative” refusal to follow science on vaccinations mattered. Tim Walz gave the answer to that question today, announcing the end of mask mandates in Minnesota two months earlier than projected. The only reason they remained in effect this long, Walz explained, was because the state followed the CDC’s guidance:

Gov. Tim Walz will end the state’s mask mandate on Friday after federal health officials recommended that fully vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks in most situations.

Businesses will be free to make their own decisions about whether to ask customers or employees to mask up, but Walz said that the time has come to discontinue the mask mandate that has stood since July 25.

“We know that masks were a critical tool in the early stage and still remain today in slowing or stopping the transmission of the coronavirus,” Walz said.

Minnesota health officials will still encourage mask wearing among those who are not fully vaccinated, but that guidance will not have the legal force of a mandate.

Not everyone in the Walz administration welcomed the science:

“I have really mixed feelings about this,” said Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm. “We are the fourth-highest state in the country for case growth.” …

“We don’t have nearly enough people vaccinated to keep this virus suppressed,” Malcolm said. “It will come back if we don’t continue to build up more vaccinations.”

Yes — and masks won’t really prevent that in the long run either without vaccinations. Masking made sense for people before vaccines and therapies existed for dealing with COVID-19, and while vaccinations were tough to acquire. Neither of those conditions apply any more; vaccinations are easily found and are all but guaranteed to prevent acute infections, and to prevent death when the rare cases occur. To put it in terms of other infections, the vaccines are much more reliable than flu shots to prevent spread, hospitalizations, and death.

That’s why the science matters. And as the New York Times’ David Leonhardt reports today, the CDC has been ignoring that science for months in favor of political manipulation, which caused states and localities to place the burden for transmission on people who won’t be vectors for the disease at all:

For months, research about Covid-19 has pointed to two encouraging patterns. First, the underlying virus that causes Covid rarely spreads outdoors. Second — and even more important — fully vaccinated people are at virtually no risk of serious disease and only a minuscule risk of spreading the virus to others.

But the C.D.C., which has long been a cautious agency, has been unwilling to highlight these facts. It has instead focused on tiny risks — risks that are smaller than those from, say, taking a car trip. The C.D.C.’s intricate list of recommended Covid behavior has baffled many Americans and frightened others, making the guidance less helpful than it might have been.

Yesterday, the agency effectively acknowledged it had fallen behind the scientific evidence: Even though that evidence has not changed in months, the C.D.C. overhauled its guidelines. It said fully vaccinated people could stop wearing masks in most settings, including crowded indoor gatherings.

The change sends a message: Vaccination means the end of the Covid crisis, for individuals and ultimately for society.

It also means mask mandates have outlived their usefulness. Businesses can still choose to require them, people can choose to wear them, but the state won’t enforce it as a civic requirement any longer. The burden for transmission will shift, as it should have a couple of months ago at the earliest, to those who remain unvaccinated. The rest of us can get back to normal, since we are no longer a risk, either to ourselves or society.

Here’s the full presser with Walz, courtesy of my friend Scott W. Johnson at Power Line. Scott’s not impressed with Walz’ belated embrace of the science or Malcolm’s skepticism of it:

Query when “the science” changed. Oh, happy day. … War is over if you want it, but Malcolm soldiers on.