Biden Administration/CDC “Mission Accomplished” Mask Reversal: Hubris? Incompetence? Toadying to Business?

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Whatever the abrupt and confusingly communicated CDC volte face on masking was about, it certainly wasn’t “following the science”. That is, unless “Follow the science” actually means “Follow what credentialed officials say, irrespective of whether it makes any sense.” At a minimum, Congresscritters need to haul CDC head Rochelle Walensky and Covid talking head in chief Anthony Fauci in to ‘splain their masking and social distancing 180.

As readers have likely heard, the CDC issued new guidelines on Thursday which amount to declaring victory against Covid, with only 35% of Americans fully vaccinated and it not known whether “breakthrough” asymptomatic cases can spread the disease. The CDC thinks it’s now reasonable to operate on a vaccination honor system and have the vaccinated ditch masks and social distancing. This comes after at least two months of fulminating about the necessity of vaccine passports. I guess someone got the memo, as we pointed out early on, that they are non-starters in most US states due to privacy and civil rights laws.

And if anyone was so deluded as to think this change would create an incentive to get vaccinated, they weren’t very imaginative:

Recall that large-scale repeated testing in the UK has established that elementary-school children were 2x as likely as adults to bring Covid into a household, and older children, 7x as likely. These cases would all or nearly all have been asymptomatic. We have no basis for thinking that asymptomatic cases among the vaccinated operate any differently until we have evidence. But in an bureaucratic version of putting fingers in ears and yelling “Nah Nah Nah,” the CDC announced the week prior that it was no longer going to keep tabs on asymptomatic cases.

The CDC’s own rationalization, to the extent it has one, is embarrassingly off point. Per CNN:

A fresh batch of data from a big study of health care workers across the country helped prompt the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to say fully vaccinated people can go without masks in most circumstances, the agency said Friday.

The study found that real-life use of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines provided 94% protection for the front-line workers immunized at the beginning of the vaccine rollout. A single dose provided 82% protection, the CDC-led team reported in the agency’s weekly report, the MMWR.

It was the findings from the new study, on top of earlier studies, that pushed CDC to decide to loosen its advice on who needs to wear a mask and when, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said.

“This report provided the most compelling information to date that COVID-19 vaccines were performing as expected in the real world,” Walensky said in a statement Friday.

This is absurd. What about an irrelevant sample don’t you understand?

First, having a medical professional in the family confers a health and longevity advantage, particularly in lower-income cohorts.

Second, health care workers are by definition working…so this study omits the elderly, the population most at risk from bad Covid outcomes

Third, the majority of heath care professionals are robust and active. Nurses, nursing home workers, ER doctors and surgeons spend a lot of time on their feet.

Finally, health care workers would be super duper masked up at work, often with shields too, using gloves….and with high quality ventilation, and strict hygiene standards! How can drug efficacy in a setting of required mask use tell you anything about efficacy with no masks?!?!

Add to that that the vaccination level population-wide isn’t high enough even if you bought the CDC’s off-point study. From GM:

The Seychelles fully vaccinated 63% of the population (the US is at 47% with one does and 35% fully vaccinated right now), then reopened fully, internally and for tourists.

The result?

Nobody since the beginning of the pandemic had ever had 300/100K per day positives. Not even 200, not even 150, the worst waves have been around 100-120 (at least officially, it certainly did happen in some places where testing was low)). The Seychelles is at 320/100K this week.

Yes, it’s Coronavac + AstraZeneca, not Pfizer+Moderna, but still.

Similar situation in the Maldives — vaccinated 45% of the population, opened up, right now at 215/100K cases a day.

Suppose this stuff never really goes away and continues to kill and cripple (long covid) tens or hundreds of thousands a year in the US. How can we individually or in small communities jury-rig a decently rewarding life under such circumstances?

Nobody has any intention to care about whether you live a decently rewarding life. Nobody has any intention to care about whether you live, period.

This is the most depressing part about the whole COVID story — class warfare moved from the realm of economics towards direct physical extermination. And yet the masses not only did not realize what happened, but are cheering for the fact that the virus is now endemic and the US will not do anything about it beyond vaccination. By extension, the same thing is happening in most of the rest of the world.

The proper reaction was to realize that this is the ruling class telling everyone “you are physically disposable and we will readily end your life if it suits our purposes”, and to act accordingly, but not such awareness developed — the propaganda machine did its job marvelously.

Aside from anti-vaxxers, business owners, and Biden-bubble-dwellers, plenty of Americans are unhappy with this reversal. The National Nurses Union, Nancy Pelosi and Governor Cuomo have rejected it. Down here in the Deep South, so far I see little change in behavior. Our house conservative, John Beech in the oil patch disapproved:

Small sample but of five friends of whom I inquired, ‘What do you think of the new CD guidelines?’ all five said, in a word, stupid. And I tried really hard not to give any indication of my personal leanings but they all mirrored my sentiments. Anyway, I don’t know what our government is thinking will be the overall population-reaction but this makes prospects of our resuming to go out to dinner with friends significantly less likely. After all, a restaurant by its very nature means no masking. Odds of our exposing ourselves to Karen anti-vaxxers and covidiots are nil so the $800-1000 we once spent eating out each month will not be happening again any time soon. I cannot fathom what they were thinking. Nice thing about when Trump was president is had he proclaimed this the entire media apparatus would have rushed to condemn him but with President Biden in command, their reaction is muted. Sigh.

And No Party:

The Biden admin’s incompetence on this point is the final nail in the coffin for me. Forcing us to manage the confusion over masking requirements at the individual/local level is one of the most neoliberal plays I’ve ever seen. Especially for a policy that is impossible to implement no less. It says to me that what meager government assistance we’ve received to day is over – we’re all on our own now when it comes to COVID. There will be no more attempts at a coordinated federal and state response – every actor will decide for themselves how best to proceed, and we’ll be forced to manage the inevitable conflict as best as we can.

If nothing else, this sorry episode conclusively demonstrates Rochelle Walensky’s incompetence, not that that was in any doubt. We had warned as soon as she was designated CDC chief that she looked to be over her head, but she’s proven that faster and more conclusively than critical-minded moi could ever have imagined. A few of too many examples prior to last week: breaking down in tears over vaccine hesitancy, worrying about adequacy of ventilator supplies long after hospitals had worked out all they did for Covid cases was prolong dying, declaring that being vaccinated meant you could not contract Covid.

The flip flop was obvious and badly handled. MSN reported that the CDC had been working on new mask guidance but even its staff found the recommendations to be confusing. But even with something more permissive in the works, and the CDC just having conceded on aerosols, Walensky got in a bizarre and counter-productive dispute with Susan Collins in Senate hearings on Tuesday. I strongly urge you to watch the exchange. For the second part of the response, Walensky goes into Big Lie, and the third, ties herself to the railroad track in front of the guidance that her own agency is about to issue:

Dr. Fauci didn’t come off well in the hearings either. Rand Paul pilloried him for the NIH having funded gain of function research on Fauci’s watch (remember, he’s been director of the Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984) and Fauci simply lied, saying the NIH had never done any such thing, when its own site says otherwise.

What is telling is how utterly inept both Walensky and Fauci were. Having watched way too many hearings with banksters and regulators hauled before Congress, the ritual is simple: get through it and offer as little attack surface as possible. What happens in those hearings counts for just about nothing unless you generate a soundbite for the opposition.

Bernanke was particularly good at looking blandly agreeable and bored, which is actually extremely insulting but impossible to challenge. A government official can act as he’ll take what is said under advisement (as in feign a concession), run out the clock by acting confused, asking for clarification or thumping on talking points, or do a Teflon stonewall: I understand your concerns and we agree to disagree. You do not do what Walensky did, which is give silly point by point responses. You actually address the issues only if you are sure you have the winning hand.

The Thursday announcement had the look of a panicked response to the shellacking in the Senate on Tuesday. CDC watchers confirm that the launch was rushed. For instance, there was no press release. Amber Schmidtke of Georgia Covid Watch (hat tip KLG) provided more color:

On Friday, I sent a message to one of my pandemic besties, another public health professional saying, “this is the hardest day of the pandemic since lockdown.” The previous day CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, told Americans (and by virtue of CDC’s reach, the world) that vaccinated people no longer needed to wear masks and we could go to an honor system of masking in the public. It sent shockwaves through the public health field because of how poorly thought out both the words and roll out of the new policy was. It led to confusion and anxiety. It unintendedly gave cover to those who have been anti-mask, anti-vaccine, anti-pandemic this whole time to push their risk tolerance onto others. It put businesses into disarray, trying to figure out what to do to protect their employees while serving the public. But in addition, it signaled a new chapter in the pandemic with the predictable consequence that schools, businesses and jurisdictions immediately lifted their mask mandates. It may not have been intended, but the CDC Director effectively waved the white flag for the United States on the pandemic…

I’ve been through the clearance process at CDC to publish public-facing material. Every word in public health communication matters. So before submitting an article for peer review to a scientific publication, the agency goes through its own internal peer review process with its science, data, and communications. It doesn’t matter how deep in the laboratory data or statistics you might be, every word you say is scrutinized for how the public will receive that information and possibly misinterpret it. Words are chosen to avoid that misinterpretation, to make it abundantly clear what the CDC is and is not saying….

But this decision didn’t seem to get the same scrutiny. The decision caught not only public health professionals but even the White House off guard. When the CDC rolls out policy changes, its websites are coordinated to reflect the new guidance almost immediately. There are still pages that don’t reflect the new guidance, indicating that this was not a coordinated decision – the rank and file of CDC were not part of this. In the past administration, we saw a number of “rogue” accounts for various federal agencies pop up on social media, trying to speak up for a work force who was afraid to speak out but knew something was wrong. The one for CDC was silent after January 13th 2021, but began tweeting again after the Director’s decision this week. When you have good morale in your organization, this sort of communication is not needed.

An alternate theory on the rushed timing pooh poohs the White House being out of the loop (Biden was ready with his soundbite) and argues that the Administration, already with weak poll ratings, was concerned about the barrage of bad news (lines at gas pumps, and not abating all that soon either), inflation, particularly in food prices, and workers defying the Neoliberal Gods by staying away from McJobs with Covid risk.

The bad headlines out of Israel are unlikely to move the average voter, but they reflect the fact that Biden has so boxed himself in on the foreign policy front that he can’t gin up a good story there. So was mask relief the only seemingly happy story the Biden team could launch pronto?

As to the substance, this change confirms that the Biden Administration is preserving the Trump priorities of favoring business over public health and treating vaccines as a magic bullet. Individuals with contacts confirm that the CDC foot-dragging on aerosols was in large measure driven by a desire to spare businesses and schools the cost of improving ventilation. Notice how quickly the “Covid is over” celebration followed the aerosols climbdown.

Another possible driver is the Republican hissy over the recent weak employment report. Even though various experts have debunked some of the claims made (for instance, EPI pointed out that there’s no evidence of labor shortages since wage gains only put workers bak on the pre-Covid trend line), Biden felt compelled to make an empty “no more dole for you” statement:

This in fact is existing law, and there are all sorts of exceptions, such as not being required to take a night shift position, or drive long distances…or take health risks. OSHA is the final decider on issues like that, and OSHA has yet to issue Covid workplace guidance. Contacts say that CDC footdragging has been a big contributor. The CDC’s newfound belief that employees are not at risk from non-mask-wearing vaccinated pretenders is insane, but it appears the agency is perfectly content to sacrifice restaurant and hospitality industry staffers…because talking points? Because party consensus? Because economy? Whatever the rationale, it’s mean-spirited and destructive.

If I were more mercenary, I’d start a prediction market on when a big US city next goes into lockdown. It’s one way to short our public health incompetence. But I have better things to do than profit from ruin.

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  1. PlutoniumKun

    If a virus could have a motto, Covids would be ‘pull defeat from the jaws of victory’ (Trahere de victoria cladem ab ora according to google translate). I can’t believe that the lessons of last year haven’t been learned. So many countries have leaderships that seem determined to lose their nerve just as they are on the verge of controlling the contagion. Even Taiwan is suffering a major outbreak this week – seemingly because of …. yes, international travel and a quarantine hotel that wasn’t propertly controlled. The UK looks like once again opening up too early, just as the Indian varient gets a grip. And yes, all of Europe is determined to have summer holidays, despite the potential for the Indian or Braziliant varients to put us right back in the mess again.

    I have no idea why Biden is making a mistake like this. Surely its far too early in his presidency to be worried about polling or a couple of weeks of bad news? The long term political consequences of getting a call like this wrong could be catastrophic. Whether its his fault, or his advisors fault, it doesn’t bode well for someone who was supposed to be a steady hand on the tiller.

    1. WobblyTelomeres

      As my mama would always say, “Behind every great idiocy is a pile of money.”

      1. aleph_0

        This is really, really good. Thank your mother for me; I feel like I’ll be using this one in a wide variety of conversations in the future.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      Biden is stupid, selfish, and largely a reactionary. His steadiness brand is largely because he doesn’t demand anything of citizens. His Presidency is failing, if not failed. Even the easiest bit of proposed legislation is being bogged down and made smaller as days go by. It doesn’t help he doesn’t have a vision for infrastructure or appointed a cabinet secretary who knows nothing. Biden doesn’t have activist support. His chief backers don’t want him to be FDR or even a Carter. His foreign policy is a mess because Trump wasn’t an aberration, and Biden and his cronies don’t really grasp that. They have to know it’s failing. America is back didn’t lead to the Chinese praising Biden.

      Biden won’t use sticks against Manchin, so the only real solution for Biden is to be seen as so popular Manchin et al will get on board. It took him over 3 months to even give lip service to the TRIPS waiver, and, yes, even fully hopes it will go away.

      1. larry

        NTG, you may be right about Biden. He does seem to be something of an idiot, and he certainly is neoliberal to his core (if he has one). I predicted when he won that he would, after a few good moves, show his neoliberal chops. And he has, but I didn’t think it would be this quick or this dangerous. Another danger he is creating will come when the next election arrives and he is viewed as being so scarily incompetent that the Republicans could put up a scarecrow and win. Doesn’t he realize this?

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Doesn’t he realize this?

          Joe’s the hero of his own story. When you consider his traits, he can’t see it.

          I think Biden wants to be an FDR, but his main problem is all he knows how to do is his record which is that he’s been a front man for corporate policy who would browbeat leftier politicians into accepting bad policy lest the crumbs get cut too. The Centrists blocking his proposed policies think so little of Biden Manchin would read the Constitution during Biden’s speech. He’ll punch down, but Joe will never punch power. He’s never done it.

          I left out that like most centrists he’s inherently lazy too, awaiting the GOP to provide at least half an answer. If Biden was going to be a successful President, this would be his second term, but he couldn’t critique neoliberalism. So the sitting VP was overlooked for a former Senator who once renamed a post office.

      2. jsn

        Looking at the situation from an institutionalist perspective, the evolution of the US political marketplace from Buckley v Valeo to Citizens United has created a situation in which, perfectly legally, policy is literally bid and sold.

        The result is that any policy that diverts a cash flow is immediately outbid by the owners of the threatened cash flow, I believe yesterday there was a link to an article about the all out push from “debt collectors” to maintain their profits by purchasing legislation (okay, to be fair, legislators, but who do you suppose they’ll rely on to provide the text of proposed legislation?)

        We are stuck. No subsidy or other deformation of the economy to externalize whatever risk, polution, infection, debt servitude, whatever can be changed and as long as the Fed is pumping out free money to those who don’t need it, the bidding for law will be irresistable. There are apparently some individuals in government who understand this or reconciliation wouldn’t have been used for the Biden relief legislation, but that force, whatever it is is completely overwhelmed by the political cash flow sloshing around DC right now. And it’s hard to imagine what it would take for some conception of the “public good” to obtrude back into the policy space.

  2. cocomaan

    Was thinking about George W Bush’s Mission Accomplished this weekend. All Biden is missing is a flight suit. I think I’m getting a thrill up my leg!

    Many took the vaccine to get around the mask mandate. Take masks out of the equation and you can go about your day almost normally.

    The tortured timeline has been pointed out many times, with only 6 weeks between Walensky doing her best Blair Witch Zoom Edition impression (“off script” I’m so scared moment) and giving this new guidance. Gretchen Whitmer, who is a favorite in the D party, was just saying a few weeks back that she would not remove the mask mandate until they hit 70% vaccinations. I think Gov. Wolf in PA said a similar thing.

    Also, CDC says “the vaccinated” can rip off the mask, but the earliest vaccines were being administered in January or so. I think a family member of mine in public health got his in February. We’re now reaching 6 months. Did CDC think ahead for purposes of boosters/next doses? I doubt it. Now you need to tell people whose vaccines are wearing off that they need to put the mask back ON. Good luck with that.

    Finally, tin foil hat time. Doesn’t this bizarre decision create a nice incubation scenario for a new variant, especially one that could jump past mRNA messenger protections? Less than 50% vaccinated, the other 50% running around, everyone naked to the world. It creates a nice primordial soup of protections for the virus to practice on.

    The World’s largest nonconsensual clinical trial has begun! Are you in the treatment group, the placebo, or just one of the nameless rabble? Tune in next week to find out.

    1. lyman alpha blob

      Now you need to tell people whose vaccines are wearing off that they need to put the mask back ON. Good luck with that.

      Sure seems like the rona vaccine only protects against some strains of the virus, doesn’t grant permanent immunity and will likely require boosters, and while it does reduce the spread of the disease and seriousness of the symptoms, nobody really knows the how or the why of it.

      I’m going to go out on a limb here and say the thing we’ve all had hammered into us not to say – in those regards at least, it’s a lot like the flu.

    2. Isotope_C14

      “Doesn’t this bizarre decision create a nice incubation scenario for a new variant, especially one that could jump past mRNA messenger protections?”

      Yes. And I’m sure the wild animals that take up the virus just fine are going to be completely harmless secondary mutation reservoirs. What could go wrong?

      This pandemic is proof positive that our species is worse than a virus, and we can’t even be bothered to protect domestic animals or wildlife.

      On a completely 100% unrelated note, did YouTube disable the autoplay option off? If so, I’m rockfin all the way – cause I don’t need to see the next MSM video that it chooses for you.

  3. zagonostra

    Anyone who has even a vague understanding of the “free rider” problem taught in eco101 would have known that this will not work. If you allow people who have not been vaccinated to have the same privilege (sic) of not wearing a mask, you know you will get many Austin Miller(s). Very predictable.

    The administration has their “human behavior analyst.” They know what will happen. The ascription of motive gets complicated and runs the gamut.

    As for:

    Rand Paul pilloried him for the NIH having funded gain of function research on Fauci’s watch… Fauci simply lied, saying the NIH had never done any such thing

    Who will follow up and dig deeper without getting censored. Right now the only ones who have really gone deep are independent journalist that you’ve never heard of.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I do not want to go down the China origin rabbit hole so I appreciate your restraint. I have run the very confident claims by our little expert panel, and they say they just are not conclusive, including the business about furin cleavage (the evidence presented does not establish that it didn’t jump from bats or via an intermediary species; proving the negative is extremely difficult). The problem as GM points out is that bats live in such tightly packed physical proximity that they spread all sorts of nasties to each other all the time, which means they have developed incredibly powerful immune systems. Ours are weak.

      KLG recalls precisely these sort of discussions over HIV, where supposedly irrefutable evidence that it was manufactured was similarly disproven. And I hate to say, the way this notion keeps coming back despite refutations has an awfully non-organic feel to it.

      1. SteveD

        I find it very helpful not to lump all origin hypotheses together in the same conspiracy theorist grouping. The responsible thinkers are open to all origin hypotheses in the most parsimonious formulation (hat tip Bret Weinstein). Humbly, the notion of ‘proving a negative’ being in play betrays a predisposition to a single hypothesis, while lacking any data to falsify or not falsify it. That is not science.

      2. DJG, Reality Czar

        Yves Smith: Thanks for this. The furin cleavage looked like the kind of outlier that is significance. It is good to know that it may be “normal” evolutionary behavior, which then puts us back at the bats–and the problem of human encroachment and habitat destruction (so the model resembles Ebola).

    2. Tom Collins' Moscow Mule

      Apparently, there are multiple contentious issues that are unresolved aside from the furin cleavage site. For example, “. . . . several characteristics of SARS-CoV-2 taken together are not easily explained by a natural zoonotic origin hypothesis. These include a low rate of evolution in the early phase of transmission; the lack of evidence for recombination events; a high pre-existing binding to human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2); a novel furin cleavage site (FCS) insert; a flat ganglioside-binding domain (GBD) of the spike protein which conflicts with host evasion survival patterns exhibited by other coronaviruses; and high human and mouse peptide mimicry. Initial assumptions against a laboratory origin by contrast have remained unsubstantiated.” See also the conclusion,

      “Should we discount the laboratory origin of COVID-19?”

      Noting carefully that, “But to solve many of these questions does not necessarily require an expensive investigation. It would probably be enough to inspect the lab notebooks of WIV researchers. Much speculation could be ended with the public release of that information. But the WIV has not provided it.”

      “This is puzzling since the Chinese government has a very strong incentive to produce those records. Complete transparency would potentially dispel the gales of blame coming its way; especially on the question of whether Sars-CoV-2 has an engineered or passaged origin.”

      “The Case Is Building That COVID-19 Had a Lab Origin”

      Is the lack of complete transparency, considering both the magnitude and serious nature of the global event, warranted? If so, why? Noting again that,

      “Make all your experimental work performed in the past years as well as your laboratory notebooks available to the WHO inspectors and selected BSL-4, coronavirus experts around the world,” he said. “It’s that simple.”

      “Coronavirus origins: how unseen Wuhan research notes could hold the answers – and why lab-leak rumours refuse to die”

      Why is there an apparent need for secrecy?

  4. Basil Pesto

    credit to Mr Doak iirc for first drawing the Biden/‘Mission Accomplished’ equivalence in comments the other day. Very good.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I need to turn in but yes, I should have given credit. If I am not overbusy when back on the grid will revise the post accordingly when I have confirmed the source.

      1. polecat

        Well, the difference in suit design is that with CoughDropGeorge, he was dressed only in the best mock cod.
        With Pres. JeoHologram, it’s been full-on 24/7 Codswallop … which fits him to a scale.

        Welcome to the Emperor’s New Rotting Fish Emporium – from the heads on down.

  5. CanChemist

    Compare and contrast with Canada – our reopening guidelines were just released by federal public health on Friday.

    I was… very pleasantly surprised. This strikes me as quite conservative and appropriate based on what we know so far especially regarding vaccines and variants. No starting reopening until 70%single / 20% double and no serious reopening until 75% double, and all with low cases. Reinforcement of mask wearing. Right now we are at about 50% single in Canada with low double.

    I suspect the timing was not a coincidence, but an attempt to 1. get out ahead of this US nonsense and 2. get out ahead of provincial nonsense that’s starting to brew (since Ontario in particular just can’t seem to stop winging it about parameters for reopening, which led to our current stay at home order).

    The CDC statements quite frankly amaze me. The US will certainly converge to herd immunity the old fashioned way since covid is so contagious that one’s choices appear to amount to either getting a vaccine or getting covid. But the idea that you’d just throw in the towel at this stage without even trying to mitigate things anymore, in a way that can likely never be reversed, is appalling.

    1. ambrit

      The problem with the “herd immunity” argument is that there is evidence that one can both ‘get vaccinated’ and ‘get Covid.’
      This is looking more and more like a sub-conscious decision to implement Social Darwinism.

      1. CanChemist

        Regarding herd immunity, yes, breakthrough cases are expected, because no vaccine is 100% regardless, plus the issue of the variants. There will most certainly be some fully vaccinated people who also get covid, the question is whether it will still disable / kill them. Evidence so far is that death at least is greatly reduced. Exposure to covid after vaccination is still enormously preferable to without.

        1. ambrit

          I ‘get’ the herd immunity theory, but note that this pathogen might end up like the flu viruses, with yearly ‘booster shots’ tailored to the latest estimated ‘major’ varieties. The various health authorities have a spotty record with the effectiveness of the yearly flu shot’s efficacies.
          I’m really worried about, first, the long term effects of the mRNA vaccines, and, second, the effects of “long covid” on the population. the second effect is what motivated my social darwinism comment.
          We are still in very early days with this pathogen.

          1. CanChemist

            Yes, I fully believe it will be like flu shots, as I’ve stated elsewhere. Sterilizing immunity with a coronavirus vaccine was never really in the cards. In that sense, ‘herd immunity’ will be a dynamic thing, relative to most people antibody status vs circulating strains. I’ve heard from pandemic experts that it could be 5-10 years to reach some sort of equilibrium in the general population.

            I would actually agree that there are a lot of unknowns about these newer vaccines, but right now with the data we have, vaccination still appears to be the lesser of the evils by far. People I respect and know in the scientific community (and not the talking heads) feel that it will be safe long term but of course there’s no data. It’s not a great situation. Personally I’m choosing to vaccinate.

            1. Jason

              People I respect and know in the scientific community (and not the talking heads) feel that it will be safe long term but of course there’s no data.

              People I respect and know in both the medical and scientific community (not many, admittedly – these aren’t my circles) poo-pooed Ivermectin and continue to flippantly dismiss those in their own ranks with differing views on vaccination and how it should be used in relation to what are very different viruses. Polio is not the flu is not coronavirus is not human papillomavirus. Etc.

              The vaccine for human papillomavirus is one of the only vaccines that provides complete sterilizing immunity. The polio vaccine doesn’t. The flu and coronavirus vaccines never will. Obviously.

              Max Planck, where are you?

        2. IM Doc

          Unfortunately – the concept of “herd immunity” applies to some viral infections and not to others.

          The fact that this “herd immunity” concept for coronaviruses is being whipped around in our media and spoken from the rooftops by our medical leaders is just sinful. The misinformation is causing people to make all kinds of false assumptions about their own health and the health of our communities and thereby do things that are at best counterproductive. It really is quite startling.

          Measles is an example of a virus that read the chapter about herd immunity, influenza clearly has not. To wit, having a profoundly infectious virus like influenza kill millions a year and require yearly vaccinations is NOT an example of herd immunity.

          Respiratory viruses as a rule do not follow that credo. Coronaviruses most certainly do not.

          We have 4 others in wide endemic circulation in humanity that sicken billions every year.

          The “flu” pandemic of the 1890s – the Great Russian Flu – was almost assuredly caused by Coronavirus OC43 – one of those 4. And yet – now 120 years after its release into the landscape – it kills 2000-10000 people globally every year – and is responsible for all degrees of flu and cold like illness for billions. This is NOT an example of herd immunity. You do not hear similar case studies about infections like measles.

          What happens is these viral infections are birthed when just the right mutations cause them to be able to jump to humanity. They almost all start with a pandemic. Some of them abort immediately or after a season for at times inexplicable reasons at times very obvious reasons ( MERS and SARS1 are examples). If still viable (and COVID19 appears to be winning the viability test) , the viral genome and our own immune systems do a years long “hot war” and then we settle in for a “cold war” for eternity. It has all happened before many times – and it will all happen again. There is simply no other way. It is the price of admission on this planet. It happens to humans and animals alike.

          How the vaccines will play in this “hot war” is absolutely an open question at this time. This type of vaccine intervention has never been attempted in all of human history during the “hot war” phase of the process.

          The fact that our media and our global medical leaders have not communicated these basic medical facts to the populace in any kind of appropriate and understandable way is a disgrace for the ages. These simple facts were known to us for a very long time – this was taught to me in medical school decades ago – and nothing has changed except our own hubris and ridiculous expectations.

          I would love to be able to read the exposes and head-shaking reports about this era that will be available to my children when they are 70. I am certain it will be quite entertaining.

          1. curlydan

            thanks, IM Doc for your detailed perspective. I was just thinking yesterday that it’s not a case of not getting COVID-19, but more of a case of when I get COVID-19, how well will my immune system be prepared for it. Right now, since I’ve vaccinated recently, I’m guessing I’m fairly prepared. In 6 months, who knows? Can my immune system’s memory be good enough to make up for lack of antibodies?

            I think asymptomatic infections are way under-reported (or not reported at all thanks to the CDC), and knocking the masks off everyone will cause the virus to pop up asymptomatically more and more.

          2. Darius

            This virus is avoidable. It is airborne. Prolonged exposure to high concentrations are required to contract the virus. Adequate ventilation or air filtration, along with avoiding indoor crowds or close contact appear to be enough to avoid catching the virus. This is solvable. Our leaders are choosing not to solve it.

            1. IM Doc

              I would like you to direct me to any information from any source regarding any global pandemic contagion in the history of mankind that has been “solvable” in the manner in which you are suggesting.

              There is but one solution – learn and understand how it is transmitted and educate the populace in methods to mitigate their risk as best they can. You never know, tools may in the future be determined that can help – the vaccines may be one such tool – but we are way too early to even begin to know that. Other than that – the war between the virus and our communal immune system must play itself out.

              Unfortunately, that is the only way. That has been a rule of living on this planet from time immemorial. I know that we feel we are indispensable – and we can figure any and everything out. Unfortunately that is just not the way this process works.

              Really and truly – if you can find a single case where mankind has “solved” a global pandemic in the way you are suggesting – I will be all ears.

              There will likely be some time when we have achieved the ability to “solve” this problem – and this may be the time – but at this point – there is absolutely no way to know that and so far things are not looking so rosy.

            2. Lambert Strether

              > This virus is avoidable. It is airborne. Prolonged exposure to high concentrations are required to contract the virus. Adequate ventilation or air filtration, along with avoiding indoor crowds or close contact appear to be enough to avoid catching the virus. This is solvable. Our leaders are choosing not to solve it.

              I think you and IM Doc are talking at cross purposes re: “Solvable.”

              Given a correct theory of tranmission, I would argue that Covid is “solvable” in the sense that puerperal fever (wash hands) or cholera (remove pump handle) are “solvable.”

              The risk is not zero, but I can personally and with understanding take measures to minimize it. If given the proper measures against airborne, the risk is somewhere between crossing the street (look both ways) and sex with a condom (never use baby oil) then I would regard Covid as “solved.”

              (Now, the costs of “solving” aren’t zero. I regard a CO2 meter as important.)

          3. Cuibono

            “How the vaccines will play in this “hot war” is absolutely an open question at this time. This type of vaccine intervention has never been attempted in all of human history during the “hot war” phase of the process.”

            An interesting point.

          4. Basil Pesto

            A sprawling and detailed, Tooze-like (or Hilberg-like) history of how various major countries reacted to the pandemic (in its first year or beyond) would be a fascinating read, purely for the compare and contrast exercise it would necessarily provoke. I wish it was in my capability to write/work on such a thing.

              1. Basil Pesto

                Maybe a supplementary podcast or audiobook, going country-by-country. But with a tome like that, I think you would want ironclad footnoting from as many strong primary sources as possible to strengthen your thesis (whatever that may be – I wouldn’t want to put the cart before the horse – but my starting point with such a project would, I think, be “C19 has demonstrated the particular weaknesses of particular states/modes of social organisation” per PlutoniumKun)

            1. Roland

              Doesn’t it just boil down into two categories?

              1. What PRC did, which worked.

              2. All the other ways that were tried by everybody else, which didn’t work.

              Of course the divers failures, from Bolsonaro to Boris, from Modi to Macron, from Trump to Trudeau, would make good stories, since “every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

      2. Nikkikat

        My husband said the same thing. They seem to be culling the herd. Get rid of the old and sick. This decision by the CDC was poor politics. Biden needed some kind of win.
        As noted above, it only took business interest complaining that people wouldn’t work for Biden to run out and tell everyone they had to take a job offer.

        1. ambrit

          I’ll note that the “Public Health” responses to any pathogen highlight the aims and interests of the ruling elites, which are not to be confused with the Public Good.
          Our Emperors are nudists.

        2. Lambert Strether

          Yes, it’s wonderfully clarifying to see Biden openly serving the interests of bourgeiosie (and petty bourgeois, who go by the name “suburban Republicans”). Turns out it’s not only outright billionaires who act that way. Who knew?

    2. tegnost

      1. get out ahead of this US nonsense

      I think the US establishment has dunning kreuger, evidenced by this example combined with mexico banning roundup, while at home depot in US it’s prominently marketed in the main aisle….. We’re the alcoholic who hasn’t figured out that everyone else is onto their bullying and shenanigans.

    3. jrkrideau

      Ontario in particular just can’t seem to stop winging it
      Doug is in far over his head. I think he in a total panic and just flailing about, I don’t have a lot of confidence in political team either.

  6. Michael Berger

    I am not sure how to feel about saying this. Perhaps I have largely gone numb after five decades of watching everything get worse…

    I have largely given up on trying to reason with anyone about anything anymore. I cannot even overcome my self-control towards engaging with total strangers who are wrong on the internet.

    The Western system, regardless of its local flavor as manifested at the nation-level, is too far along on the path forged by incompetence and corruption. Nothing short of a coordinated (and most importantly, sustained) refusal by millions, if not billions, to lie down and die will change its course – and I just do not sense that has a significant probability.

    1. albrt

      Agreed. We are on the way to a significant population cull worldwide. At 58 I might be dead before it happens, but I’m not counting on it.

      Some of the advanced authoritarian systems seem to have an advantage over our idiocracy, but I’m not sure the advantage will hold up given the fact that there are just far too many people.

      Just glad I don’t have kids.

  7. ProNewerDeal

    Thanks for this article Yves

    The No Party quote “..Forcing us to manage the confusion over masking requirements at the individual/local level is one of the most neoliberal plays I’ve ever seen.”

    So what can we USians do on the INDIVIDUAL level? My best guess
    1 Get the J&J vaccine

    2 Continue as many elements of the I-MASK+ Prevention protocol as possible given workplace/family/health access/etc limitations, including daily vitamins D3/C/Quercetin/Zinc, weekly Ivermectin, N95 mask in Indoor Public buildings; at least until we reach a treshhold like the Germany standard of a 7-day daily average of under 1 new (or at least 5?)/100K officially tested new COVID cases in my county & state. For reference, the USA is now at 10.3/100K daily cases.

    3 Practice good health maintenance activities (good practice anyways at all times) to the extent possible, via nutrition/vegetables, exercise, sleeping ~7+ hours, & stress management. (Fugazi macro US national policy decisions like this CDC mask flip-flop definitely make the last item of stress management more challenging).

    I am open to suggestions. Sadly I don’t see insightful advice coming from the USG “Experts” currently in power.

    1. Lupana

      I like your ideas but have one question…Why the J and J vaccine? I’ve been all over the place on the different vaccines and had written this one off due to blood clots so I’m just wondering why this one..

      1. Phillip Allen

        I held off being vaccinated for weeks until I could get the J&J injection. I ruled out the mRNA options from the beginning, since I did not want to be part of that particular mass experiment. There is more of a track record with adenovirus-vectored vaccine technology – at least enough to be willing to waive my uncertainties. I’d rather have had access to a Cuban, Russian or Chinese vaccine, but this is America, so no.

        1. Lupana

          I had waited for the J and J too but then the issue with the blood clots came up and I understand it’s a small risk but when they say we don’t know what causes them and are not sure how to treat it, that makes me uneasy.

      1. ProNewerDeal

        Click that I-MASK Prevention Protocol pdf link for more details re Ivermectin

  8. Tom Stone

    The casual dishonesty and overt malignancy being demonstrated by our leadership is not reassuring.
    I see a lot of things coming to a head by the end of June, it’s going to be an interesting summer.

  9. John Beech

    2022 campaign adverts will write themselves . . .

    Open with grainy B&W images of 1973 gas lines and interpose 2021 gas lines images while voice over drones on in ominous tones, what’s next?

    Similar tone political advert with dark and ominous images (low color levels) perhaps showing the curve of infections and deaths spiking (I’m giving it until mid-July for the CDC and the Biden administration to wave the white flag over this latest but maybe summer heat and whatnot drags it into October/November) but regardless of the exact timeline, I have ZERO doubt we once again see forced shutdowns of gymnasiums, hair salons, bars, and such.

    Meanwhile, inflation is on a tear, liberals won’t get medicare for All, you can forget $15/hr, and with rising prices for goods like bread, milk, and hamburger meat dissipating the left’s feel good, then the minute rates rise (by even 10 basis points), Wall Street’s punters are going to become bears. So add to it, political commercials yakking up the good times before President Biden took power (this despite the fact it matters not one bit which politician is the frontman for the band).

    Thus, come 2022 elections (remember, the season starts anew in January), I predict the House slips away, the Senate will too (McConnell really knows how to play the long game) and all hell breaks loose. Me? I’m thinking perhaps Trump is being wiser than I thought and will once again find himself in power after the 2024 elections.

    Folks, I voted for the guy twice, not because I don’t recognize a con-man but because the alternatives were less palatable. Democrats won fair and square (maybe not so fair but I concede they won), and my point is, they are squandering their win . . . as they did in 2012. For those unfamiliar with me, I’ve voted Republican since 1980 and switched registration to Democrat to support Sanders when the circus arrived in FL (and went and voted in person during the primaries to back up my actions, which involved personal risk). Didn’t matter as the machine selected Biden/Harris. I voted for Trump again. Will history repeat, has Bernie got another run left in him? I doubt it, but who knows?

    Sad state of affairs when I’d sooner vote for Maggie (my pooch) because at least she stays on a problem (hunting vermin of whatever sort) and won’t speak out of turn for the cameras. Sigh.

  10. Mikel

    It’s actually like the entire establishment is all saying:
    “Screw science and more research, we’re all pharma salesmen now!”

  11. Watt4Bob

    Not the least nasty result of this behavior is the boost it gives the idiots.

    What can be said to the folks who view this as proof that the whole Covid pandemic thing is just an immense anti-Trump charade?

    The biggest idiots that I find myself enduring, are right now all triumphant, and “I told you so!”

  12. petal

    Walensky is a dumpster fire-more (and quicker) than I ever imagined she’d be. As a former MGHer, it’s embarrassing. How did she get this job again? And who else was in the running? Gah.

    1. Kurtismayfield

      She is a product of her class.. when you live in the Chestnut Hill bubble it’s hard to see anything else. Just like the Washington DC bubble. They all believe they can manage the negative consequences that have very little effect on their PMC lives (but do have an effect on the rest of us).

  13. William Hunter Duncan

    The weird thing is, the Biden Admin threw the Dem Governors under the proverbial bus. In Mn, our governor Walz has held on to war time-like powers for more than a year, clear that he would not relinquish them until we hit 70-80% vaccinated in the State. Then I heard on Thursday, when we are at like 45% vaccinated, he was relaxing the State mask mandate Friday, and I was pretty sure I heard wrong. But there he was, acting like he never…

    This is why I figured Biden and team were a greater threat to America than Trump, they are so very, very assured of their superiority, but are at least as incompetent as Trump’s kleptocrats. Biden just dumped about 90% of his political capital on this, and has nothing now for a fight for more Covid spending on Infrastructure or Family. So it looks like a few million people will be cast into the streets when they yank unemployment and eviction moratoriums, at the same time rents are going up because all this building we organized before the pandemic when it was all about a housing crisis, now being built, building cost inflation has skyrocketed.

    Really, the neoliberal project was to wipe out the middle class and more or less disappear working people with Automation, AI and debt, so a pandemic is just one more tool in that arsenal?

    I don’t think Biden and team realize how tragic this decision was. This sets up the Dems to lose the House and Senate Bigtime, Biden a lamer duck for 2years than he already is, his policy then likely tripling down on neoliberal.

    1. cocomaan

      Biden just dumped about 90% of his political capital on this, and has nothing now for a fight for more Covid spending on Infrastructure or Family. So it looks like a few million people will be cast into the streets when they yank unemployment and eviction moratoriums, at the same time rents are going up because all this building we organized before the pandemic when it was all about a housing crisis, now being built, building cost inflation has skyrocketed.

      This is an underrated point. Much of Biden’s infrastructure plan is about changes to the healthcare system because of the pandemic, things like increasing funds toward home health aide type jobs. The guidance just shot that right in the foot.

      My guess is that those eviction moratoriums are going to be mighty scary. He wants to open the economy as fast as possible to get people employed again.

      1. William Hunter Duncan

        “Open the economy as fast as possible” pretty much depends upon people willing to put themselves and the people they love at risk. Biden in predictable neoliberal fashion is assuming neoliberals dictate and the world will have “no other alternative” but to follow. Covid may still have the power to shove that in his face, after which his political capital will be at about negative-190%, and much of the Democratic leadership would go down with that ship – and hopefully most of what passes for Woke with it…

    2. kareninca

      The Biden voters that I know best were looking for Nurturing Mommy. They are still telling me that even now the danger is due to Bad Trumpers. Cognitive dissonance is a powerful force.

      1. William Hunter Duncan

        It is like a nervous tic, this deflecting every and all negative news as if it is the legacy of Trump only. I predicted after the election the media and Liberal Dems would make Biden’s first 100 days about Trump, and that tendency shows no sign of abating. Opposites indeed attract and these LDs are like moths transfixed by theTrump garbage barge fire.

        It might be Nurturing Mommy they say they want but what they really want is Kali to take her eight arms and swords to the Bad Trumpers.

  14. The Rev Kev

    When this all blows up in Biden and the CDC’s faces in a coupla months time, their integrity will be publicly worth zilch. Even if the Biden admin stated that people had to go back into lockdown, people would not comply at all. But the truth is that I do not believe that the government will even consider another lockdown. Like Boris in the UK, they would rather see the bodies stacked high than damage the economy by doing another one. And that has been the story of this virus since over a year ago. The determination to keep the economy open no matter what the cost. And we have all seen government organizations, Governors, leaders, celebrities, doctors all sign up with sacrificing people so that their portfolio does not suffer. Decades ago, Ronnie Reagan said that government was the problem. This pandemic has proven that to be true – but not in the way that he thought it was.

    1. antidlc

      Like Boris in the UK, they would rather see the bodies stacked high than damage the economy by doing another one. And that has been the story of this virus since over a year ago. The determination to keep the economy open no matter what the cost. And we have all seen government organizations, Governors, leaders, celebrities, doctors all sign up with sacrificing people so that their portfolio does not suffer.

      And GM’s comment:

      Nobody has any intention to care about whether you live a decently rewarding life. Nobody has any intention to care about whether you live, period.

      I think some of us had come to this conclusion, but to actually see it in writing is profoundly depressing.

      1. polecat

        ‘Hey all you dirty, useless lowlymokestanis – Listen Up! This is how its gonna work ..

        We’ll Build Back Better …. Without YOU!

        So Do What Your Told!’

        The Schwabian Cloud Lords, with the help of our requisite stable of .gov sycophants, corporate sellouts, media toadies, facile x-perts, and other useful idiots ….

    1. flora

      adding: there was a link here to Taibbi article about various cons. One con noted was The Big Store. I’m thinking about that con a lot these days. The billionaires certainly got enormously richer almost overnight in March 2020 and almost everyone else got a lot poorer over the course of 2020. / ;)

        1. flora

          Here’s Taibbi’s article referenced above. Check out the graphic at the end of the article, it has nifty icons for many types of rackets and cons.

          Introducing Racket of the Week

          A lot of ostensibly complicated Wall Street ripoffs were just jargonized versions of simple street cons, many of which were detailed in the Lustig book and others like it. The mortgage securities game had a lot in common with the “Big Store” scam popularized in The Sting, as well as the “Thai Gems” hustle. Both involved long lines of characters who were supposed to be strangers or arm’s-length actors, but in fact all knew each other and/or were pushing the customer toward a catastrophic investment. (my emphasis)

  15. anon y'mouse

    The proper reaction was to realize that this is the ruling class telling everyone “you are physically disposable and we will readily end your life if it suits our purposes”, and to act accordingly, but not such awareness developed — the propaganda machine did its job marvelously.

    for some of us, this exact quote was obvious one year ago.

    everything that has followed since is the Establishment “getting in front of the (bad) news”.

    i texted my mother in law something like this very statement back in Feb2020. as a consequence, she was masking it up and limiting her exposure before faulty “lockdowns” even occurred.

    it’s odd that it has taken some so long to notice what was obvious to anyone who has spent their life “serving” the public. the very fact that they took what was known at the time and made sure to do the least to contain it and the most to spread it told the story. the very fact that Vietnam was able to get a grip on this thing, but we weren’t told the story.
    not only that, but their ineffective and poorly carried out measures damaged the bottom tier of the economy while enriching the top yet again. a lose/lose for us and a double win for them!

    everything that can happen will be gamed for this very effect: “i win, you lose”.

  16. Mikey Joe

    This CDC mask announcement should have waited at least until the school year ends. It is confusing for children to see adults wear masks in some stores but not others. My kids are wondering why they wear their masks in school but not in other places.

    1. kareninca

      Tell your kids that adults are mostly idiots at best; they should be informed of that anyway.

      1. Mikey Joe

        My son’s (and children in general) constantly amaze me with their direct, honest and logical questions on numerous topics.

      2. Basil Pesto

        As a former victim of the misplaced surety of grown-ups, I remind my nieces and nephews of this whenever possible, albeit on non-covid subjects.

  17. fumo

    My opinion on this is sufficiently heterodox here that I won’t share it in detail lest people get upset, but I see this as likely a conscious first stage set-up to some sort of official vaccine credentialing. Once a broad public consensus is reached that, and I’ll use the euphemism ‘the vaccine hesitant’ to be polite, is significantly composed of liars who will misrepresent their vaccine status for purely selfish reasons, that will make the next steps more politically palatable.

    1. anon y'mouse

      i didn’t realize that not wanting to put something with possibly unknown future side effects into my body, and not thinking it is acceptable to bar others like me from engaging in normal society (you know, like shopping for food in a store, or working to earn money for food) was “lying purely for selfish reasons”.

      sounds like the passport will be relished by some as a punishment to those of use who want to exercise our freedom of choice over what substances to integrate into our anatomy, as far as we are able to do so.

      1. fumo

        If you aren’t planning on lying about your vaccination status to avoid mask wearing indoors, this comment was not aimed even in your general direction. Please forgive any inadvertent ambiguity.

        There’s a lot of demographic overlap between the “vaccine hesitant” and militant anti-maskers. There will be millions of ‘Austin Millers’*, which will soon be obvious. And many, like Austin, won’t be shy about it on social media. And this all will play directly into the hands of those who want official vaccination proofs mandatory for certain inherently high-risk indoor situations.

        *see top of page

  18. sam

    Let’s not forget that this is a case of one idiocy replacing another. The former “all masks, all the time” requirements in many jurisdictions were themselves political, identitarian and not at all founded in science, given the lack of evidence of outdoor transmission. When Trump was in power, he wanted to make COVID disappear and the opposition wanted to make it the greatest public health catastrophe in human history. Now that COVID hysteria has served its political purpose, Biden wants to wish it gone, just like Trump, which must be very confusing to the true believers who’ve been dutifully masking up when alone in their cars or out walking the dog.

    I for one will continue wearing a mask whenever I enter a store, office or other indoor public space, particularly since my red state is less than 30% vaccinated and likely to stay that way.

    1. flora

      I know my immunity status so I don’t worry about other peoples’ immunity status. Their status is their business, not mine. I continue wearing masks when shopping, etc, because it’s sensible, imo. I stopped wearing masks oudoors months ago when out on walks.

      1. Danny

        don’t worry about other peoples’ immunity status

        Exactly!! It’s your own damn business and if COVID makes you too scared to live your life, then continue to hide behind a mask or stay out of public. It’s that easy.

        With a February J&J shot – it’s been over a month since I last wore a mask – inside or outside.

      2. antidlc

        I take a mask with me when out on walks for one reason: I could slip and fall and have to depend upon an unmasked person to come to my aid.

        1. flora

          Like you, I carry a mask in my pocket when outdoors. I don’t wear it unless I think it’s needed. :)

      3. Katiebird

        I wear my mask on walks for the same reason I started wearing them 2 years ago — allergies. Masks make a huge difference.

  19. athingtoconsider

    If you choose not to be vaccinated, continue to wear a mask and practice all mitigation strategies to protect yourself from the virus. Dr. Rochelle Walensky [bold added]

    I think an important point missing from the conversation is that a mask CANNOT reliably protect others but ONLY the wearer from aerosols. Karl Denninger makes a strong argument for this and also says that this has been known* for 40 years.

    Worse, by insisting on mask types that give an illusion of protecting others from aerosols, the ability of the mask to protect the wearer him/herself is compromised*, a lose-lose – neither the wearer nor others are reliably protected.

    *Basically, when one exhales, air pressure breaks the mask-to-face seal and aerosols jet out from under the mask. (This is why glasses fog up when wearing a mask.) Moreover, the seal may remain broken for a time while the wearer inhales. The practical solution is a mask with a one-way, unfiltered exhaust valve to relieve air pressure under the mask but this, of course, provides no protection for others.

    1. Lambert Strether

      > Basically, when one exhales, air pressure breaks the mask-to-face seal and aerosols jet out from under the mask

      If the mask is a shit mask, yes. Otherwise, not. See e.g. Tricia Greenhalgh, “Face coverings for the public: Laying straw men to rest,” British Medical Journal:

      The current question we need to address is a different one: whether covering the face protects other people from droplets emitted by the wearer—a measure known as source control. Source control works in a different way to wearer‐protection—by blocking large droplets as they are emitted in coughing, sneezing, and talking and before they become aerosolised.10, 12-14 Large droplets (and indeed a proportion of aerosols) are blocked—not perfectly, but significantly—by cotton home‐made coverings.10, 15-18

      Face coverings that protect the wearer work by blocking tiny aerosolised particles. For this reason, medical‐grade masks need to meet stringent filtration standards, about which much has been written (see for example19). In contrast, source control face coverings can potentially be very effective even if they only block the larger droplet particles. Studies of the efficacy of masks in protecting the wearer are therefore irrelevant to the question of source control.

      I wear KN-95 masks. There is no “jetting,” as you aver.

      1. athingtoconsider

        I wear KN-95 masks. There is no “jetting,” as you aver. Lambert

        Otoh, I’ve been reading Amazon reviews of their highest rated KN-95 masks that mention “glasses fog” and the results are decidedly mixed with some reporting no fogging, some reporting reduced fogging and some reporting unacceptable fogging.

      2. Basil Pesto

        It’s worth keeping in mind, there have been various studies which use high speed photography with special technical aids to show dispersion from the mouth with and without facemasks. This is not the one with excellent, clear photos that I can recall from last year that I just looked for, but it’s pretty good, from Forbes. Much will depend on ventilation where you’re exhaling, of course, but it seems clear to me that even a sub-par, poorly fitted mask is better than no mask at all, in the sense that risk is appreciably (but not optimally) reduced.

        1. athingtoconsider

          The thing is, we’ve known for a long time how to make masks that DO reliably protect from aerosols such as toxic paint fumes and very fine particulate matter (including viruses) but those masks have one-way, unfiltered exhaust valves and thus make no pretense at all of protecting others from the breath of the wearer.

          So we can have reliable protection of the wearers or we can have, at least to some degree, hygiene theater wrt masks and aerosols.

          Additionally, there’s the potential problem of aerosol discharges from the other end of the body, aka “farts”, which completely by-pass a facial mask.

  20. kareninca

    I just ordered a zinc oxide treated mask and some sorbitol nose spray, since I’m feeling the most worried I have since the pandemic started. I’m not in a hurry to be vaccinated, especially after finding out what percentage of Fauci’s employees have been vaccinated, per a recent clip which has only been posted on the usual disagreeable sites. Also my husband has been sick since his Moderna shot three weeks ago; fever and aches. He is always sick, so it may well not be the vaccine, but the bottom line is that someone has to take care of the dog and his dad and so I can’t be sick with side effects; those who urge vaccines don’t get that someone may not have the leisure to take time off with side effects.

    This does mean that the fancy mask is now on sale; that’s something, haha.

    1. Judith

      Fyi. I received the Moderna vaccine 3.5 weeks ago and I am still dealing with side effects. Mostly fatigue now so I do have a sense of slowly recovering. It does make me question what these vaccines are actually doing to us. I hope your husband starts feeling better.

      1. kareninca

        I’m very sorry about the side effects you are having, both for your sake and my husband’s. That is the thing about these vaccines – people have “side effects” and they mostly don’t question what is happening inside of them to cause those side effects. “It’s just side effects.”

  21. Jeremy Grimm

    The US Postal Service has been targeted for privatization. Has the CDC been targeted for destruction by players from the same Neoliberal team crafting the failure of the US Postal Service? The pattern, duration, and extent of the incompetence advertised by the CDC’s actions grows difficult for me to believe as a reflection of simple stupidity and incompetence. It might be nice if Big Pharma could privatize the functions the CDC once performed.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      My comment is unclear — It might be nice for Big Pharma if it could privatize the functions the CDC once performed. It will be disaster for us, a greater disaster than losing the US Postal Service.

  22. Pat

    I will continue to wear masks indoors and out. Selfishly it is because my allergies have been better over the course of the last year. AND because it is sensible under the circumstances that Covid is still a problem even if our “leaders” would like to pretend otherwise.
    I will probably get the J&J vaccine sometime in the next weeks, I was hoping some of the other vaccines in the pipeline might come into the system and I would decide between them and the J&J, but not happening.

    Crystal ball time, if what I think is going to happen does we will once again have a chance at a single payer/national health system despite our betters desire to bleed the populace. Between long Covid (which will continue to grow as a factor) AND unintended effects of large population use of experimental vaccine delivery systems we will be facing a significant portion of our population having ongoing health issues which the public will be demanding the government pay to treat. The immunization given the pharmaceutical companies and the continued governmental policy failures may prompt people to reject the idea that they are responsible for providing private medical, insurance and pharma profits because of their situation.

    Either way, there are short AND long term consequences for these decisions that will not be pretty.

  23. juno mas

    Another “saved my life” moment from NC, Yves, and the Commentariat. Don’t think I’m letting my guard down any time soon.

  24. Half Bankrupt

    If I were more mercenary, I’d start a prediction market on when a big US city next goes into lockdown. It’s one way to short our public health incompetence.

    Less mercenary approach: over/under guesses on how many metro areas with surge numbers by July 1?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I think too soon. Here in Alabama of all places people are still wearing masks.

      But high confidence of big problems by Oct.

    2. neo-realist

      Earlier this month, the Governor of Oregon extended a state of emergency until June 28 due to a fourth wave of the virus driving increased cases and hospitalizations. Portland’s not big, but it is within one of the 36 counties that will endure the shutdown. Have also read that due to a slower rollout of the vaccines to the younger demographics, they are comprising the lion share of the people being hospitalized from covid-19.

  25. antidlc

    As readers have likely heard, the CDC issued new guidelines on Thursday which amount to declaring victory against Covid, with only 35% of Americans fully vaccinated and it not known whether “breakthrough” asymptomatic cases can spread the disease.

    We have no basis for thinking that asymptomatic cases among the vaccinated operate any differently until we have evidence.

    In case anyone missed it:

    DR. FAUCI: Well, what’s happened, there’s been an accumulation of data on showing in the real-world effectiveness of the vaccines. It is even better than in the clinical trials, well over 90% protecting you against disease, number one. Number two, a number of papers have come out in the past couple of weeks showing that the vaccine protects even against the variants that are circulating. And thirdly, we’re seeing that it is very unlikely that a vaccinated person, even if there’s a breakthrough infection, would transmit it to someone else. So, the accumulation of all of those scientific facts, information and evidence brought the CDC to make that decision to say now when you’re vaccinated, you don’t need to wear a mask, not only outdoors, but you don’t need to wear it indoors.

    JOHN DICKERSON: So, on that third point, let me ask you this. If I have no symptoms and I have been vaccinated, but I- but I am infected, what’s the difference between that? And if I have no symptoms and I’m infected but have not been vaccinated?

    DR. FAUCI: Good question, JOHN. And what the- what the issue is, is that the level of virus in your nasal pharynx, which is correlated with whether or not you were going to transmit it to someone else, is considerably lower. So even though there are breakthrough infections with vaccinated people, almost always the people are asymptomatic, and the level of virus is so low, it makes it extremely unlikely, not impossible, but very, very low likelihood that they are going to transmit it. Whereas when people who are getting infected, who were without symptoms, who are not vaccinated, generally the titer or the level of virus, relatively speaking, is higher than in the vaccinated individuals.

    Where is his proof for these statements?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      See my reply to Jeff W. It is impossible for them to have gathered relevant data. It would require very frequent testing of the vaccinated (more frequent than weekly, which is generally the gold standard in medical orgs), which we are not doing. Among other things, we wouldn’t want to spook the horses by suggesting the vaccines might not be perfect.

    2. IM Doc

      This is the same guy who just 6 months ago was stating emphatically that remdesevir was a game changer.

      A silver bullet.

      Please refer to this week’s Annals of Internal Medicine to see how that all turned out. Cliffs Notes version – not a silver bullet. No effect on mortality whatsoever and minimal change in length of stay. And all for 10000 bucks a whack.

      Oh by the way who owns the patents for remdesevir? Why of course the NIH.

  26. Jeff W

    We have no basis for thinking that asymptomatic cases among the vaccinated operate any differently until we have evidence.

    Monica Gandhi, specialist in infectious diseases at UCSF/San Francisco General Hospital points to “very low viral loads” in vaccinees with asymptomatic COVID.

    Along the same lines, Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease expert also at UCSF, says “The more evidence we get, it appears it’s very unlikely for a vaccinated person to transfer the virus to someone else”—so, apparently, he’s seen some evidence, which unfortunately, isn’t cited in the article in which he’s quoted—“The vaccines are especially effective at preventing asymptomatic disease, which Chin-Hong said is where most of the transmission appears.”

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Sorry, this is nonsense. He has no idea, I guarantee.

      The level of viral load depends on when the test was made relative to infection onset. Viral loads peak 1-3 days after infection and are high for a 1-3 days after that. That is when someone is most likely to pass the disease to another person because that is when they have the highest viral load

      So unless UCSF was testing the vaccinated daily every day since they were vaccinated and caught when they got an asymptomatic infection and when the viral load peaked, they have NO FUCKING IDEA. This is a garbage in, garbage out statement. They don’t have that sort of data for non-vaccinated asymptomtic cases either, which is why the US continues to act as if they aren’t contagious either, when UK data demonstrates they are.

      We have had MDs tell of of asymptomatic cases in family bubbles where pretty much everyone was vaccinated and pretty much everyone also tested positive, which strongly suggests transmission within the household. This is happening on a widespread basis in families getting ready for international travel.

      1. TheAnswerIs42

        The first tip off should have been the nonsensical statement that “the vaccines are especially effective at preventing asymptomatic disease.” Aside from the fact that they can’t know about asymptomatic cases because they aren’t testing widely (as you rightly point out)–it is also completely upside down from what the clinical data said, which is that it is effective at preventing severe disease (hospitalizations and deaths). They weren’t even testing for mild or asymptomatic cases, and indeed, cannot completely account for whether some symptoms were side effects masking mild cases or mild cases masking side effects..

  27. TheodoreBallgamePhD

    So using a select sample (front line healthcare workers) is bad, but using an even smaller select sample (the population of Seychelles) is somehow higher order statistics?

    Do you think basing our public policy not on the fact that once you’re vaccinated, you’re exceptionally unlikely to get or pass the disease, but instead on what happened in a country population 98,000, is the right way to go? This seems like highest order whataboutism.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      This is one of the most thick-headed comments I have ever read. Do you not understand that the study of healthcare workers is UTTERLY IRRELEVANT? Health care workers are not only fully masked at work, they often wear gloves, shields, and other PPE. Results on a population that is masked and practicing other non-pharmaceutical interventions tells you absolutely nothing about an unmasked population!

      As for the Seychelles, it is directly on point. This is a highly vaccinated population and they stopped social distancing and masking. This is a real world experiment of what the CDC is setting in motion and it is a train wreck.

      You are also wrong in your claims re sample sized. From the study published May 14:

      . Because of the small sample size, analyses could not be stratified by COVID-19 vaccine type…

      As of March 18, 2021, 623 case-patients and 1,220 controls had been enrolled. The median ages of case-patients and controls were 38 years (range = 19–69 years) and 37 years (range = 19–76 years), respectively (Table 1). The majority of HCP (60% of case-patients and 64% of controls) worked in occupational categories with substantial anticipated direct patient contact and were aged 19–49 years (75% and 76%, respectively), female (84% and 82%, respectively), and non-Hispanic White (64% and 70%, respectively). Underlying conditions associated with increased risk for severe COVID-19 were reported by 77% of case-patients and 75% of controls. Case-patients were significantly more likely than controls to have fever (40% versus 23%, p<0.001), cough (56% versus 22%, p<0.001), or shortness of breath (26% versus 7%, p<0.001); 5% of case-patients and 14% of controls reported only mild symptoms (sore throat, headache, runny nose, or congestion; p<0.001); 17% of controls reported no symptoms. Only 12 (2%) case-patients and 10 (1%) controls had severe illness requiring hospitalization, and no deaths occurred in either group.

      The CDC press release misleadingly said the sample was drawn from a HCP population of 500,000. The wording was clearly designed to obscure the actual sample size. You fell for it.

      Better trolls, please.

    2. GM

      So the issue here is that the curve going up or down after a mass vaccination campaign is a function of two things:

      1. The vaccination itself

      2. NPIs and changes in people’s behavior

      The effect of NPIs is, however, very difficult to measure on its own, which means that the effect of either of those factors on the observables (cases and deaths) cannot be disambiguated.

      How much the vaccine protects can only be measured if you know how many people were exposed, or if you have a matched control group. Right now there are all sorts of (at least previously) highly respected people loudly touting how in the UK or in the US a very small number of vaccinated people caught the virus, so the efficiency of the vaccine is measured as that small number divided by the very large number of vaccinated people. But this is a schoolboy statistical error that those people know very well not to commit, and the fact that they are so blatantly breaking the rules of proper reasoning is a clear indication that their cheerleading is driven by non-scientific considerations.

      You need to know how many people were exposed, which, however, is usually impossible. This is why you have a control group during trials and vaccine efficiency is measured during trials.

      On the other hand, breakthrough infections are an indisputable observable and that puts a hard upper bound of vaccine efficiency. It can be lower, but not higher than that.

      Similarly, seeing a massive wave in the unvaccinated after vaccinating 60%+ of the population places an indisputable lower bound to the Herd Immunity Threshold — by definition it is way above that because transmission not only did not stop once it was reached but was rampant.

      That’s why the Seychelles, Maldives, Bahrain, and Chile matter a lot more than the UK and the US. And Chile has 17M people, Bahrain has 1.5M, the Maldives have 600K.

  28. TheAnswerIs42

    As readers have likely heard, the CDC issued new guidelines on Thursday which amount to declaring victory against Covid, with only 35% of Americans fully vaccinated and it not known whether “breakthrough” asymptomatic cases can spread the disease.

    Oh, it’s far worse than that. The CDC has also just quietly decided it wasn’t going to count or study “breakthrough” cases that don’t result in hospitalization or death. So, not only will we have to worry about the unknown number of asymptomatic breakthrough cases that go undetected altogether due to under-testing, but we will also have to worry about the identified asymptomatic cases roaming around without masks, because the CDC won’t be counting or monitoring them. The CDC has chosen to study and learn about the contagiousness of (among other things) breakthrough cases that self-isolate by definition (ie, those that are too sick or too dead to roam around in public. SMDH.

    From the CDC website:

    As of May 1, 2021, CDC transitioned from monitoring all reported vaccine breakthrough cases to focus on identifying and investigating only hospitalized or fatal cases due to any cause. This shift will help maximize the quality of the data collected on cases of greatest clinical and public health importance.

    Previous case counts, which were last updated on April 26, 2021, are available for reference only and will not be updated moving forward.

    1. Lambert Strether

      > As of May 1, 2021, CDC transitioned from monitoring all reported vaccine breakthrough cases

      I believe we did note this, though I am too lazy to find the link. I love the wording:

      As of May 1, 2021, CDC transitioned from monitoring all reported vaccine breakthrough cases…

      So bureaucratic.

  29. Jeremy Grimm

    On re-reading:
    “The Contract Research Organization and the Commercialization of Scientific Research”, Philip Mirowski and Robert Van Horn, August 2005, I was struck by this passage near the end of the paper:
    “Suppose that through the efforts of researchers like those cited throughout this paper, the extent of the transformations of pharmaceutical science become much more widely known. It would not be unusual if such familiarity were to breed contempt for most of the claims of clinical medical research: not just the advertisements and the dubious presentations at scientific ‘meetings’ by academics under contract, but also for the medical journals themselves, and the assertions made by medical researchers when they speak publicly on behalf of the community of scientists. Observers might come to regard all scientific clinical data as corrupt, and not out of ignorance or irrationality, but rather with some justification.” p. 34
    link for paper:

  30. dw

    i actually suspect they made the worse decision for business that they could ever have made. while they lifted mask mandates for only those who were vaccinated, there doesnt appear to be a way for business to verify that. and since (thankfully) Congress didnt provide them a get out of jail card for those who get the virus, whether employees or customers. that actually make since makes business have to be cautious (sort of ) or they maybe sued. with the waiver, customers and employees have slight confidence that business wont go soft on their mask mandates, soon. but given that a major part of the problem to hire employees is a safe work environment (as the early experiences with companies lack of safety protocols for covid show). i suspect thats the biggest part of why those needing a job, arent in any hurry to work, not the scam that business wants it to be, higher unemployment payments. after all if we were really thinking that was the case, business would have to admit they arent paying much at all, as unemployment doesnt cover living expenses. also would make one wonder why it is that all but a very few have high pay and the majority do not. if your an executive, its because you are so valuable (even those who cause massive losses at companies…like say Boeing), while the rest, executives push for as low pay as they can get away. and it seems both parties buy this scam

    1. flora

      <…there doesnt appear to be a way for business to verify that.

      Because doing so would violate the US HIPAA law.

  31. LAS

    I just did an analysis of which groups are behind on getting vaccinated compared to the overall population. It’s the poor (Black, Latinx, recent immigrants) who were systemically left behind by barriers to access imposed when vaccines were in short supply, and the oldest of the elderly who are delicate, live alone, can’t get out to get the shot or dare not get the shot due to health. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly says rural communities as well have less often gotten the vaccine. Well, surprise, surprise. These are the very people nearly always left out of decision-making. These people will be offered the cheaper and recently perceived to be less safe J&J vaccine and/or bear the worst of the remaining covid-19 pandemic risk (as they have all along).

    Whereas most elite decision-makers have gotten vaccinated and are no longer themselves in peril.

    Now, among state and business elites there is discussion on reducing mass vaccination sites b/c there’s not enough volumn to operate cost-effectively (leaving things to pharmacies and PCPs). They are also plainly keen to get people to go back into work and the usual economic activities. Many are being pushed, cajoled, and ultimately punished until they do go back to work. Otherwise, major economic assets and systems will tank. I fear a bitter reassertion of harsh reality.

    Keep in mind that public health is an arm of the federal, state and/or local governments. Most public health practioners are captive to the prevailing culture of power and capitalism. They certainly do worry about people’s health more so than most people do, but ultimately they are government captive. Most all their solutions pander to prevailing cultural elite priorities. They talk the equity game but in the end they just durably recreate inequity after inequity.

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