This history of the CDC’s mask guidance isn’t a brief topic to cover at this point. But if you can rewind your mind back to May, there was a brief moment when the CDC surprised everyone by announcing that masks were no longer required outdoors or even indoors in many cases. This change of course was breaking news at the time.
But within a day of that announcement there was a lot of pushback from epidemiologists and from nervous progressives and elected officials. And it turns out there was some serious pushback happening behind the scenes as well.
Today Fox News reports that the National Education Association was upset with the new guidance because it seemed to make it tougher on teacher’s unions to demand mask wearing in schools. They threatened to release a statement critical of the CDC. A draft of the statement was sent to Erika Dinkel-Smith, the White House director of labor engagement:
“We appreciate the developing nature of the science and its implications for guidance, but releasing the guidance without accompanying school-related updates creates confusion and fuels the internal politicization of this basic health and safety issue,” the draft statement read. “CDC has consistently said, and studies support, that mitigation measures, including to protect the most vulnerable, remain necessary in schools and institutions of higher education – particularly because no elementary or middle school students, and few high school students, have been vaccinated.”
“This will also make it hard for school boards and leaders of institutions of higher education to do the right thing by maintaining mitigation measures,” it continued. “We need CDC clarification right away.”
Dinkel-Smith then asked when CDC Director Rochelle Walensky could talk with the NEA’s president. The email noted that the NEA was not happy about questions they were getting from the media about the new mask guidance.
“Would you know when Dr. Wolensky would be able to call NEA-Pres. Becky Pringle?” Dinkel-Smith wrote in the email. “They’ve gotten significant incoming and are getting targeted for a response from the media. I’ve gotten them to hold on their statement calling for clarification.”
Who knew that part of the CDC’s mission was to protect the NEA from awkward questions from the media. But under the Biden administration the NEA apparently has a direct line to the CDC director, one that paid off. Later that day they released a revised statement which thanked the CDC for clarifying their position. The next day, May 15, the CDC released an update saying that K-12 schools should still consider prioritizing masks.
This isn’t the only case where teacher’s unions have been involved in CDC guidance. The NY Post has previously reported that unions pressured the agency about reopening schools in February:
Emails show a call between Walensky and Weingarten — the former boss of New York City’s United Federation of Teachers — was arranged for Feb 7.
The lobbying paid off. In at least two instances, language “suggestions” offered by the union were adopted nearly verbatim into the final text of the CDC document.
I don’t think this is how the agency responsible for setting guidelines based strictly on the best science is supposed to work. If you’re wondering why fewer Americans believe the CDC guidance these days, this kind of partisan interference is probably a good place to start.