New CDC Covid Guidance Caves to Great Barrington, Is Not Science-Based, Finagles the Metrics, and Destroys Masking as a Public Health Measure (Just in Time for the SOTU)

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

On February 25, CDC dropped an enormous number of documents. One was new guidance on Covid-19 that rejiggered the metrics for determining one’s personal risk of Covid, leading to leads like this from AP:

Most Americans live in places where healthy people, including students in schools, can safely take a break from wearing masks under new U.S. guidelines released Friday.

But which document? Just for grins, here’s the complete dump:

Nowhere does CDC say that “COViD-19 Community Levels” is the hub document for many others, so it’s unsurprising that most news coverage of the drop never linked to it, and AP got it wrong. (They linked to “COVID-19 by County,” which CDC calls a “tool,” and is in any case not the hub). Science communcation at its finest from CDC, as we have come to expect.

Since I’d probably stroke out if I did a deep dive and in any case I need to move fast, I’m going to keep my commentary at a high — even simplistic — level, but don’t worry; the high level is sufficiently bad to be very bad, and even the most simple-minded will be able to grasp what’s wrong. If you want to grab a shovel and look for a pony, these are the documents from the drop I will be using:

1) COVID-19 Community Levels (“Community Levels”)

2) People with Certain Medical Conditions (“Medical Conditions”)

3) Transcript for CDC Media Telebriefing: Update on COVID-19 (“Transcript”)

4) “Indicators for Monitoring COVID-19 Community Levels and COVID-19 and Implementing COVID-19 Prevention Strategies” (PDF) “Indicators”)[1]

And in addition:

5) Summary of Guidance Review, from 2021 (“Guidance Review”)

Now let’s consider the morality of the CDC’s new guidance, whether it’s based on science, whether it’s dangerous to the public, and its effect on masking as a public health tool.

CDC Guidance Adopts the Morality of the Great Barrington Declaration

Quoting the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD, or, in the vulgate, “Let ‘er rip!”):

The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk. We call this Focused Protection.

Adopting measures to protect the vulnerable should be the central aim of public health responses to COVID-19… A comprehensive and detailed list of measures, including approaches to multi-generational households, can be implemented, and is well within the scope and capability of public health professionals.

Those who are not vulnerable should immediately be allowed to resume life as normal. Simple hygiene measures, such as hand washing and staying home when sick should be practiced by everyone to reduce the herd immunity threshold.

(Nothing on ventilation, naturally, since GBD is an ideological document, not a medical or scientific one.)

Now, here’s Walensky in “Transcript“:

[WALENSKY:] Now, as the virus continues to circulate in our communities, we must focus our metrics beyond just cases in the community and direct our efforts toward protecting people at high risk for severe illness and preventing COVID 19 from overwhelming our hospitals and our healthcare systems. This new framework moves beyond just looking at cases and test positivity to evaluate factors that reflect the severity of disease, including hospitalizations and hospital capacity, and helps to determine whether the level of COVID 19 and severe disease are low, medium, or high in a community.

I don’t see a difference. Walensky is recommending “Focused Protection.” And from “Community Levels“:

At the same time, we know that some people and communities, such as our oldest citizens, people who are immunocompromised, and people with disabilities, are at higher risk for serious illness and face challenging decisions navigating a world with COVID-19.

In addition to protecting those at highest risk of severe outcomes, focusing on reducing medically significant illness and minimizing strain on the healthcare system reflects our current understanding of SARS-CoV-2 infection, immunity from vaccination and infection, and the tools we have available.

It looks to me like CDC has now gone ahead with “focused protection” by implementing GBD’s handwaving “comprehensive and detailed list of measures.” (This is ironic because the exceptionally nimble and flexible Walensky signed the “John Snow Declaration” opposing GBD in 2021.)

It is perhaps needless to say that GBD caused controversy when released (leaving aside its support for herd immunity, which CDC is certainly treating as if it existed for respiratory viruses and can be achieved). Here two of its several weaknesses from The Conversation. First:

3. The Barrington declaration puts individual preference far above public good. The declaration advocates that, “individual people, based upon their own perception of their risk of dying from COVID-19 and other personal circumstances, personally choose the risks, activities and restrictions they prefer.”

Community Levels” agrees:

More tools than ever before are available to prevent COVID-19 from placing strain on communities and healthcare systems.

Note lack of agency in “available to prevent.” Further:

COVID-19 Community Levels can help communities and individuals make decisions based on their local context and their unique needs. Community vaccination coverage and other local information, like early alerts from surveillance, such as through wastewater or the number of emergency department visits for COVID-19, when available, can also inform decision making for health officials and individuals.

And from “Transcript,” from Greta Massetti of CDC’s COVID 19 Incident Management Team:

[MASSETTI”] And these categories help individuals assess what impacts COVID 19 is having on their community so that they can decide if they need to take extra precautions, including masking based on their location, their health status, and their risk tolerance.

No question that the “individual” is the only decision maker in Massetti’s mind; the community is not mentioned except as a provider of information. On the bright side, there will be plenty of incidents to manage! The Conversation remarks:

If these views were applied to traffic safety, chaos would ensue as we each chose our own speed limit and which side of the road to drive on. Public health matters, and the approach of the declaration to place ideology over facts helps fuel the pandemic.

And The Conversation‘s second point:

5. The declaration offers no details on how it would protect the vulnerable.

Focused Prevention assumes that the vulnerable can be detected, and then focused upon. But for Long Covid[2], that’s not true. From the New York Times, “Many ‘Long Covid’ Patients Had No Symptoms From Their Initial Infection“:

An analysis of electronic medical records in California found that 32 percent started with asymptomatic infections but reported troubling aftereffects weeks and months later.


CDC Guidance Is Not Based In Science

Here is the CDC’s rejiggered formula from “Community Levels“:

CDC looks at the combination of three metrics — new COVID-19 admissions per 100,000 population in the past 7 days, the percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, and total new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in the past 7 days — to determine the COVID-19 community level. New COVID-19 admissions and the percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied represent the current potential for strain on the health system. Data on new cases acts as an early warning indicator of potential increases in health system strain in the event of a COVID-19 surge.

There are two issues. First, no science was evidently performed to arrive at the formula. Second, the formula is, well, stupid.

No science was performed. When the CDC performs science, it produces a document like those in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Science articles follow a structured format similar to that of professional journals, with an Abstract, Methods, Results, and so forth. There are tables and notes supporting the thesis of the paper. Critically, there are named authors with their institutions. A glance at the CDC’s drop for February 25 (and before and after) shows no such document. We do have “Indicators“, whose file name, hilariously, is Scientific-Rationale-summary-COVID-19-Community-Levels.pdf, but it’s a PowerPoint deck (!!). There are no named authors, meaning that no scientist can be held responsible for scientific error, there are no notes, there is no data, there is — despite the wishful title “Overview and Scientific Rationale” on the first page — no science being done.

Interestingly, Walensky commissioned “Guidance Review, “a study on CDC’s scientific communications:

[C]onsumers and the public [huh?] could be more assured of the science-base for guidance if CDC routinely provides scientific briefs, provided a landing spot that listed all recently updated changes or at a minimum, links to appropriate evidentiary support for major new guidance and guidance changes. Additional information on CDC’s website describing the general process by which guidance is developed could also support transparency.

No such transparency here!

The formula is stupid. The message conveyed by the “Low” (Green) level is low risk. To move the community level from Low to Medium (“Yellow”) risk, the load on hospitals must increase. But hospitalization is a lagging indicator. So there will be a window for Covid to spread while infection is increasing, but hospitaliation is not, while the level remains Green. In that window, people will not be encouraged to mask up, no community measures will be taken, and so on. Note again that people can catch Covid, avoid hospitalization, and still come down with Long Covid later. As one primary care doctor remarks:

Personally, I’d stick with case numbers, underestimated though they are, rather than CDC’s new formula. It’s almost as if…. It’s almost as if…. CDC wants you to get sick.

CDC Guidance Produced Headline Numbers that are Wrong and Dangerous

Here is a comparison between CDC’s case data (on the left, which I use in Water Cooler) and CDC’s new rejiggered “Community Levels” (on the right):

Which do you prefer? The one on the right with all that low-risk green? Who wouldn’t? Similar thinking led to headlines like More than 70% of Americans can take off their masks indoors under new CDC guidelines on COVID-19 risk (USA Today), CDC eases masking recommendations for 70% of country, including inside schools (ABC), BREAKING NEWS: CDC to lift mask recommendations for 70% of Americans under revised guidelines that now focus on hospitalization rates rather than cases (Daily Mail), and CDC eases mask guidelines for more than 70% of Americans; NY weighs decision on schools (NBC). As the Times explains:

The new guidelines suggest that 70 percent of Americans can now stop wearing masks, and no longer need to social distance or avoid crowded indoor spaces.

The recommendations no longer rely only on the number of cases in a community to determine the need for restrictions such as mask wearing. Instead, they direct counties to consider three measures to assess risk of the virus: new Covid-related hospital admissions over the previous week and the percentage of hospital beds occupied by Covid patients, as well as new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people over the previous week..

Based on these three factors, counties can calculate whether the risk to their residents is low, medium or high, according to the agency, and only areas of high risk should require everyone to wear a mask.

The difficulty here is that the guidance and the maps will be be used not only by communities but by inviduals to assess their own risk. As “Community Levels” says:

COVID-19 Community Levels can help communities and individuals make decisions based on their local context and their unique needs.

But mere transmission is utterly inadequate to assess personal risk! Why? Co-morbidities. There is a handy list of them in ““Medical Conditions“. As Walensky herself wrote in The Lancet, criticizing GBD:

The Great Barrington Declaration is predicated on the idea that you know who is going to get sick and you can somehow isolate and protect them, but there is absolutely no evidence that we can do this”, she said. She pointed out that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that up to 40% of Americans have some kind of co-morbidity that makes them vulnerable to the ravages of COVID-19. Identifying all these people is not straightforward.

Now, if CDC wanted to really put its billions to work on helping individuals assess their risk, they’d add some overlays for co-morbidities. Ah well, nevertheless,

CDC Guidance Destroys Masking as a Future Public Health Measure

Here are Walensky’s views on masks. Play the audio, it’s worth it:

For those who missed High School English, the “Scarlet Letter,” from American author Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel of that name, is a badge of sin and shame. If you are forced to wear the “Scarlett” letter, you are ostracized from the community. So, if you’ve been wearing a mask to protect yourself and others during a pandemic, that is what Walenksy thinks of you. As Yale Epidemiologist Gregg Gonsalves points out:

I’ve gotta underline that last sentence. It’s a footnote to a table in “Community Levels,” and it’s one of the weirdest, most twisted footnotes I’ve ever seen (and in a previous life I read a lot of footnotes in treatises on tax, because they were so funny). The footnote is here:

High Wear a well-fitting mask1….

And this is its text:

1 At all levels, people can wear a mask based on personal preference, informed by personal level of risk. People with symptoms, a positive test, or exposure to someone with COVID-19 should wear a mask.

“Don’t worry. You can still wear a mask”? Of course you “can” wear a masks, just like I “can” wear a funny hat, or my Goldwater button or (in open carry states), one of my guns. Who on earth wrote this footnote and what were they thinking? (Note of course with “exposure” the reality of asymptomatic transmission has been casually erased.)

If Walensky keeps her job after her “Scarlet Letter” remark, masking is a dead letter in the public health establishment (though mutualist, bottom-up efforts “can” try erase the shame and the ostracism). “Scarlet Letter,” forsooth.


It’s very hard for me to see how this immoral, anti-science, dangerous document managed to get loose and insult millions of Americans. Perhaps because Walensky and her fellow appointees aren’t doing any real science at all. From CNN:

Scientists within the CDC have also grown increasingly frustrated with Walensky’s handling of public health guidance, a CDC scientist told CNN. According to the scientist, Walensky largely crafted the new guidance with the help of a small circle of top advisers, eschewing the traditional process of rigorous scientific vetting by experts at the CDC who would in turn also consult with outside public health partners and experts.

For months, Walensky has met privately with prominent Democratic media consultant Mandy Grunwald to improve her communication skills and continues to do so, according to a person familiar with the previously unreported sessions. On Friday, Walensky will hold the CDC’s first independent media briefing since the summer after deciding abruptly this week that she wanted to take questions “head on,” according to a person familiar with her decision to hold the briefing.

(The “guidance” discussed in this quote is not “Community Levels,” but guidance released two weeks ago.) Certainly the malign presence of a Clintonite goon like Grunwald would go a long way toward explaining the shoddiness and lethality of “Community Levels.”

To be fair, however, “Community Levels” rejiggered metrics are already having a positive effort where it counts. From ABC:

The nation’s capital is now in an area considered low risk under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new metrics, which place less of a focus on positive test results and more on what’s happening in community hospitals. The new system greatly changes the look of the CDC’s risk map and puts more than 70% of the U.S. population in counties where the coronavirus is posing a low or medium threat to hospitals. Healthy people in those risk areas can stop wearing masks indoors, the agency said.

The Capitol is mask-frei, folks! And Scranton Joe’s gonna look good on TV. Covid is over, baby! The State of the Union is strong!


[1] “Indicators” is linked to from “Community Levels” but, oddly, is not listed in the drop.

[2] Some say Walensky has never tweeted about Long Covid:

I don’t think that’s fair:

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Questa Nota

    The Capitol is mask-frei, folks!

    One could be forgiven for wishing that the Capitol were a little more arbeit-frei, given the quality of their, er, alleged work-product.

    1. Tom Stone

      I fervently hope that badass Joe and the Harris set he example by not wearing masks and not allowing their staffs to wear masks.

    1. GramSci

      or, maybe,

      1. Because sales
      2. Go die

      or, concisely, one “Golden Rule”:

      Buy or die!

  2. DJG, Reality Czar

    Observations on this excellent post:

    –But, but, but Lambert Strether, how can you be so authoritarian as to expect freedom-loving Americans to wear masks?
    –Noting this tweet: “the Scarlet Letter of this pandemic is the mask”–@CDCDirector
    Are you ashamed to wear a mask? I’m not. It’s unclear why Director Walensky thinks we should be ashamed, but it does make it easier to understand why @CDCgov is retreating from this safe, effective, lifesaving tool
    –As I have noted, the mask is a cultural / political problem. Americans don’t want to wear masks because masks get in the way of the Smart Mouth and in the way of Testifying. Both of these techniques are highly important in what Americans consider communication to be. (After all, these days, everyone is shooting their mouths off about Putin and testifying that he is the Beast with Seven Horns from Revelations.)
    –Anecdotally, but persuasively, I had a conversation here in my region in Italy that reinforced that reviling the mask is an American cultural problem. At the latteria where I buy delightful cheeses, the commessa (clerk) asked me if I also wanted to buy some of the tasty hand-made crackers that I like (and have bought). “How did you know?” asks I. “You looked at them,” sez the ever-astute Evelin. There was then general discussion (with the owner, too) about how much we watch people’s (Italians’) eyes now that everyone wears a mascherina.
    –At the bancarella where I buy fruit and vegetables, the owner pretty much controls the whole situation with his eyes (wearing a mask). I look or point toward the oranges. “How many?” And he’s a man–wearing a mask doesn’t make him into some nambypamby ruled by fear [!!!].
    –And I am glad that you have pointed out once again that the Great Barrington Declaration isn’t so great. This seemed evident months ago–but look at all those Ph.D.s on the masthead of the web site. It must mean something.

    Even though we know that bearing slight inconvenience of the mask (and, admittedly, masks of all sorts are much more a part of Italian culture) would help others, many Americans aren’t willing to do so.

    And yet we are constantly having those “national conversations” on the “fraying of the American fabric.”

    I wonder why.

    1. lambert strether

      Did you see the poll? 56% of Americans want indoor masks mandates to continue, after a relentless propaganda campaign against them.

      Not so surprisimg after a million deaths, I would think, but what do I know?

      1. Jan

        1/ If 56% want to see indoor masking continue , then why do we see only 10% MAX of people actually wearing masks indoors in my old age skewed part of the country? Maybe ppl want to have others wear a mask but dont want to wear one themselves?
        2/ Who ran the 56% poll? Where? Do they have an agenda?
        3/ If masking helps you, then wear an N95 and mind your own business. Problem solved?

        1. david anthony

          Because you live in an area where masking is unpopular. The majority of Americans have always supported indoor masking and probably always will. We know this because every single poll has said as such since the pandemic began.

          No, just having those concerned wearing masks is less effective than everyone wearing masks. You endanger others. Also, you’re okay with immunocompromised people basically spending their lives under house arrest? That’s not a society. It’s disturbing.

          1. chloe

            I know somebody who works in a Pennsylvania DMV & they’ve had about 75% of the public wearing masks voluntarily since the holidays, a lot of n95s too. There’s been no mask mandate in PA since June 2021.

        2. Darius

          Peer pressure. The highest authorities of the land are saying ditch the mask. People aren’t going to feel comfortable wearing it if no one else is. It would take a sustained public campaign to get people en masse to think masking is the thing to do, even if their personal preference is that everyone wear it. Instead, we get the opposite. This isn’t going to save the Democrats in the midterms. In fact, quite the reverse. The midterms are going to be a dumpster fire for the party that decided not to get in front of the pandemic.

        3. Lambert Strether Post author

          > wear an N95 and mind your own business

          First, breathing is everybody’s business; it’s a social relation..

          Second, could we try to be a little less crude about putting all the burden of protection on those least capable of doing it?

          Third, when the anti-maskers stop melting down on airplanes, harassing sales clerks, and demanding that others remove their masks, I’ll be much more inclined to regard comments such as this as being made in good faith. Have a blessed day!

      2. Thomas C. Wren

        Those who can look beyond mainstream media headlines and CDC doubletalk see a different story.

        We see the mandates dropping like flies on the heels of parents throughout the USA filing notices of claim against the surety bonds of public officials.

        There are dozens of examples just like this.

      1. ambrit

        As in; “…one may smile and smile and be a Public Health Official?” Yea, verily, certies, tis even more appropriate that one of the interlocutors therein be a ghost.

      2. anon y'mouse

        everything is for sale, so selling is also easier (and selling is often lying).

        also, my friend’s theory about the belly-exposure by the underclasses of high powered people feeling that they must be smiled at all of the time (if i have to act ingratiatingly towards you regardless of how i feel—emotional labor—you must be my superior).

        have you ever heard someone go off about “my server didn’t seem happy and it is THEIR JOB to be happy while serving me?” and that attitude isn’t only to be found among the upper crust who have lots of money to spend.

  3. Jason Boxman

    This is “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job” level incompetence from someone that ostensible was chosen for her specific competence.

    1. SteveD

      Chosen for her ‘specific competence’ or chosen for her Identity and Credential (with ‘Credential’ being an abysmal proxy for competence)?

      1. Darius

        Walensky takes her orders from Jeff Zients, the Bain Capital goon in charge of COVID policy in the White House. In a textbook example of failing up, Zients is set to take over from Klain as White House Chief of Staff.

        1. BeliTsari

          Zeke Emanuel too? I’m guessing, someone did the math and they realize, they’ll simply disappear PASC & any chronic, debilitating, inflammatory disorders that occur after 5 days of acute infection will be considered psychosomatic malingering by uppity 1099 essentials. “Oh, you neglected to buy health insurance for your icky stroke, renal failure or heart attack? That’s a pity, contractor. Where IS my BRUNCH?” Exactly, what we envisioned, as “our” party introduces us to our future? Biden told the truth, just that once!

  4. Samuel Conner

    I’m guessing that over a period of generations we’ll reach something resembling ‘herd immunity’ through, not ‘natural infection,’ but rather ‘natural selection’.

    Of course, for that to be really effective, the selective pressure needs to be exerted during and before child-bearing years. Perhaps the virus will mutate to accommodate this agenda.

    Eugenics is back, perhaps.

    1. anon y'mouse

      could be. didn’t repeated exposure to the Plague in England give descendants of those areas superior suppression of HIV?

      i guess whatever it takes to reach that Progress, in cremation urns, is acceptable to the upper classes.

      this whole virus seems like a perfect way to clear out the workers who won’t be needed in the automated future.

  5. Silent Bob

    Silly me. I thought the Scarlett Letter of this Pandemic was choosing to skip experimental vaccines with catastrophic side effects that have demonstrably failed, pushed by criminal organizations with zero legal liability. What next? They knew the drug-that-cannot-be-named worked all along?

  6. Paulindurham

    I don’t see what everyone’s problem is. The CDC has done their job, promote Big Pharmas vaccines that haven’t worked, and help enrich all involved.

    It was obvious to me from the first comments from IM Doc that this was all about the vaccines. They (CDC) has been consistent, until it has become obvious that we can’t eradicate this virus.

    They remain consistent Pro Pharma with still no basic health advice like make yourself more healthy with diet, exercise, or raise you Vit D & Zinc levels. Pharma can’t make any money off that advice.

    1. Arizona Slim

      I have been compiling a collection of my favorite IM Doc comments. Yves, Lambert, and the rest of the NC crew, would you like me to send it to you? It might be worthy of a standalone post.

      1. John Zelnicker

        Slim – I would love to see that.

        Would you be kind enough to send it to me at banjo23 [at] comcast [dot] net?

        Thanks very much.

  7. antidlc

    All 535 members of Congress invited to Biden’s State of the Union address, but masks required

    Anyone attending the address will still have to follow COVID safety protocols.

    Per the memo, anyone attending the address in person will be required to present a negative PCR test, wear a K/N95 mask, and fill out a health attestation form. Social distancing will still be required. Boosters are “strongly recommended.” Members will also not be permitted to bring guests, as is usually customary in the pre-COVID era.

    The memo also noted: “failure to follow guidelines or removal of the mask in the House Chamber will result in the attendee’s removal from the event and/or fines.”

    1. Jeff

      It would be more effective if everyone in attendance was also required to provide a top 10 list of political donors from the last 24 months as well as their stock portfolio performance summary over that same period of time.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > All 535 members of Congress invited to Biden’s State of the Union address, but masks required

      Perhaps I was too cynical. Generally, I’m not cynical enough.

  8. antidlc

    Walensky: “So we get to live our lives normally if we don’t have to wear the mask.”

    Oh, right. The pandemic just goes away because we all take off our masks.

    I do not have the words to describe how evil these people are. “Diabolical” doesn’t cut it.


    1. Anthony G Stegman

      Rather than them being diabolical, they are simply clueless. Cluelessness is endemic across our society.

      1. redleg

        I vehemently disagree. What they are doing is intentional, not because they are missing something or somehow ignorant.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > What they are doing is intentional

          At one time I would not have agreed. Now I do. Listen to the Walensky’s “Scarlet Letter” video if you have not. That is what she and (the dominant factions) her class genuinely believe.

          There’s no plot… But there are shared beliefs that emerge in consistent policy.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            As in . . . . not a deliberate plan to give everybody covid over and over and over again?
            Merely a natural class-based desire that everyone just naturally gets covid over and over and over again?

            If that is what is meant, I suspect the Global Overclass still has its deliberate goal of Jackpotting 7 billion people over the next century through various means such as runamok covid permissiveness. It could be that all the visible faces of public authority are put there and kept there because their true belief happens to facilitate the Overclass Jackpot Agenda.

            They like the way Walensky thinks because she thinks the way they like.

            Perhaps the covid cautious should try flipping the script on Scarlet Letters and position the mask as a badge of cultural insurgency and lower class hatred for the upper class. Perhaps the faces of various Covid Zombie Leaders could be put in masks with the circle-slash symbol over them. Circle-Slash Walensky, etc. Wear our hatred and rejection on our face.

  9. marym

    I suppose it would vary according to general mask usage in different areas, but I wonder if people who haven’t worn masks and haven’t gotten sick ever consider that it was in any way due to other people wearing masks.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > I wonder if people who haven’t worn masks and haven’t gotten sick ever consider that it was in any way due to other people wearing masks.

      Ha ha! Of course not.

      1. gepay

        And where are the studies that show it was wearing masks that stopped people like me who is over 70 and never wore a mask – still shook hands – still received hugs – from getting covid? Or that separated out the probable reason of people who were actually sick were much more likely to stay home during the past 2 years. I think keeping my vitamin D levels up and supplementing with Zinc along with my normal aware nutrition much more likely in protecting me than people wearing masks. Masking children below age 5 is surely a form of child abuse. Mask mandates were not about health but markers of compliance to authority. What about the 40 years of studies before 2020 that showed there was no benefit from wearing masks in protecting one from upper respiratory virus infection?

    2. anon y'mouse

      the great psyop of our country is that everything that occurs is due to one’s intelligence, hard work and overall superiority, regardless of how many other factors and other people’s actions went into making it.

      just look at the “i earned that” attitude of our bazillionaires. it is the attitude that we are inculcated with from birth.

  10. Todd

    The latest guidance reminds me of this quote or misquote.

    There go the people. I must follow them, for I am their leader. -Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin

  11. Iseeyoudock

    The great casualty in all of this mask drama is that science was supplanted by politics.

    Lots of evidence, early, that two types of masks promoted were essentially ineffective, with only n95 or better having efficacy. Yet effective mask guidance was not recommended.

    They were recommending droplet level protection for an airborne pathogen. For years. Let that sink in.

    They knew better. All the prevaricating messaging guidance in the world can’t cover that fact. Shame on the policy makers for their dishonesty.

    1. Basil Pesto

      Lots of evidence, early, that two types of masks promoted were essentially ineffective, with only n95 or better having efficacy.

      not quite; they still function as source control.

      I have mentioned this before in the past year but it seems like the mask mandate in Melbourne/Victoria played a decisive role in eliminating the virus here in 2020. The lockdown alone was not denting case numbers but once the mask mandate was introduced, they started to go down. Mask compliance was broadly excellent; certainly better then than at any point since. I doubt any civilians were wearing N95s/P2s, and most were wearing cloth or surgical (myself included). Cases eventually went to zero, and I know of no other plausible explanation other than the combination of lockdown and mask mandate.

      This was with Wild Type, though, and it became apparent with Delta that inferior masks were going to be insufficient. Compliance with good masking dwindled as the vaccine was being deployed at the same time as we were onboarding the virus, and the “vax and done” mindset prevailed.

  12. antidlc

    Check this out:

    Original Title:IMPACT COVID Positioning Strategy Memo -Taking the Win over Covid-19
    Democrat candidates running for office should take credit for ending the Covid-19 crisis, an internal memo circulated by left-leaning political strategists advises.

    Some of their “advice” sounds a lot like the latest from the CDC.

    It’s listed as a memo put out by Impact Research.

    Is this true? Did Impact Research produce this memo?

    So what is Impact Research? Go to their website:

    First thing on the website: Proud Pollsters for President Joe Biden

    1. ChrisPacific

      It seems very much in line with the usual Dem strategy. I had been thinking that the pandemic has obviously reached the point where it can’t be solved by the feeble range of policies and actions that Biden and the Dems are willing to entertain seriously. This new release strikes me as evidence they’re returning to their core competency: dressing failure up as success.

      (And yes, I know it’s from Walensky and the CDC, not the Dems, but as the CNN link suggests the distinction is becoming increasingly invisible).

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Taking the Win over Covid-19

      Thanks for finding this. I saw an image of this memo go by on the Twitter, but couldn’t find it again, or I would have incorporated it. Now we have the source!

  13. Maritimer

    The Conversation is cited as a source in that item. It should be noted that the Conversation in an article dated November 2021 received $6,664,271 from, guess who?, the Gates Foundation:

    All those academics who will censor and blackball any academics who get out of line, see Mark Crispin Miller or Julie Ponesse for example, must chortle with glee when the Gates loot shows up at the Conversation.

    And the disclosure for the article never mentions Gates loot.

      1. anon y'mouse

        don’t the upper moneyed classes always bet on both sides in every war, even if they prefer one particular side “win”?

  14. Tom Stone

    It always amazes me how cheaply you can buy someone like Wolensky.
    She knows she’s condemning many thousands to death or lifelong disability, and for what?
    A title,a little TV Time and a little $.
    That’s it, her annual gross isn’t anywhere near enough to buy a 1,200 Sq Ft home in Sebastopol.

    1. Rainlover

      She knows she’s condemning many thousands to death or lifelong disability, and for what?

      Not to mention indefinite home detention. I’m really at a loss to know how to approach my life now. I already avoid group events of all types and friends that I know are exposed to thousands every day by their school children. I mask up everywhere and take the vitamins, etc. So good, so far, but I’d really like to get out of jail someday.

  15. Anthony G Stegman

    With all that is going on in the world these days perhaps we should stop worrying about Covid and learn to love the Bomb.

    1. Samuel Conner

      “How I learned to stop worrying and love asphyxia (and myocarditis, and Lewey dementia, and …)”

  16. Celia

    Disclaimer: Stockholder in Pfizer

    Haven’t used my car since “2 weeks to flatten the curve”…

    But thanks to World War IlI, now I’m ready to drive again. Do not worry though, I am triple-vaxxed and I will still be wearing masks and doing curbside pickup only.

    I awoke to a text from my anti-science brother in law telling me to suck his unvaccinated balls, and that usually means something terrible has happened. I ran over to my window and chills ran down my spine. Swarms of righteously-vaccinated citizens were running frantically through the streets, desperately looking for Safety™ and validation as the unvaccinated ruffians now had free reign over the city. Storefronts were no longer protected by teenagers demanding QR codes and suddenly no building was safe. I began sobbing and vomiting violently into my masks. I had a lot of vaccinated-only things to do today, but fascism has taken over my city.


    My friends were in trouble. I hadn’t even had my morning vaccines or Remdesivir’d my penis, but I had to move fast. I kissed my Fauci (MBUH) poster (on the lips), put on my hazmat, and ran towards downtown. It was complete chaos in the streets. An angry mob had assembled outside of Starbucks demanding to be QR coded before they ordered their dingleberry frappuccinos and wrote things on their laptops. A hysterical woman stopped me in distress; “PLEASE SIR, PLEASE SCAN MY PHONE! TELL ME I’M A GOOD CITIZEN!” she pleaded. I wanted to help, but I had to find Karl. Her chilling screams for validation will haunt me for the rest of my life.

    I rounded the corner towards City Hall and it was worse than I feared. Hundreds of disgusting plague rats – celebrating fascism and tauntingly walking in and out of stores as brave pfollowers of the science cowered in fear. “LAMBERT! OVER HERE!!” Karl shouted from an alleyway. I scurried over to him, holding my breath as I burrowed my way through the maskless counter-protesters. Karl’s masks were badly shredded and he held up a positive antigen test. I scampered back in terror. “Karl. No.”

    I knew I had to get him boosted and stick things up his nose right away. I threw him over my shoulder and charged through the crowd. Suddenly, Neil Young thundered through the afternoon sky. The unvaxxed heathens scattered like the pathetic rats they are as an army of Soyota Tacomas seized the city. A brave, quadruple masked convoy man took Karl and drove him back to his house, where he can stew in sickness without treatment until he needs hospitalization. Phew.

    There I lay in the bed of the Tacoma, gazing up at the afternoon sky. One of the clouds resembled our Prophet, Dr. Anthony Stephen Fauci (MBUH), and I felt his holy embrace. We will defeat fascism and nazis and other things that make the pandemic continue. Not in my city. I won’t stand for it. I won’t rest until everyone in my community is vaccinated and QR-coded. We’re gonna fight this legally.

    Just wanted to raise awareness. Don’t let your cities turn into QR-codeless shitholes. Vaccines are safe and effective.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Vaccines are safe and effective

      A vax-only policy is not. But this post isn’t about vax, as the headline suggests. so I’m curious why you concluded with that remark.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Vaccines are safe-ish and effective-ish at meeting the narrow goal of keeping you less sick than otherwise ( in most cases) if/when you get covid. As long as they aren’t sold for anything beyond that, they aren’t a tool of misleadment. But since they were sold for covid-stampout and no-mask-freedom tomorrow as a reward for wearing masks today, then they have been a powerful weapon of misleadment in the foul hands of the misleaderators.

  17. ChrisRUEcon

    It’s an absolute family-blogging mess … what’s the over under on the next surge/peak? #FlipTheScript priors suggest mid-April to mid-May … the masks became optional in the Chicago mezzurbs’ schools today. Most chose not to wear. Hoping for the best, but at this point, the words “will not end well” are all I got.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > the words “will not end well” are all I got.

      Things will end well if we’re lucky. But I don’t see a reason to believe there won’t be another wave, especially when we are systematically gutting all the protections from the current one (and insulting and degrading the very people who take mutualist measures of mitigation).

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Its enough to drive the mutualist co-mitigators to take the horrible very nasty very not-nice position that all the no-mask freedom people and all the ” free at last free at last” PMC leaders and followers all live just long enough to collect their Herman Cain awards.

        Realistically speaking, mutual co-mitigators will have to be like the early Christians in the time of Peak Roman Empire, enduring the insults and degradations and persecutions coming our way from the Covid Zombie Mainstreamers of all flavors.

  18. Tom Stone

    Every time I have thought or said that “No one could possibly be THAT STUPID”
    I have been wrong.
    No exceptions.
    And I am 68 years old.

  19. Gumnut

    I have a background in physics, chemistry and high-tech engineering, so I have fair feeling for small stuff.

    Never believed that masks where 99.9% condom level safe (human behaviour, face-shape misfit, etc.), but I was on board that lowering particle transmission probability from lung/URT/mouth to environment would result in less virus floating around a potentially infectious person.

    Now to a favourite topic around here, droplets and aerosols. If droplets were transmission vehicle, then masks (medical or N95) would of course do something. But given that we know it’s aerosols, question is how small aerosols are compored to pore size. Depends in humidity & temperature of course, but we are definitely slipping under chicken-bigger-than-chicken-wire-holes level.

    Then there is the question – even if mean aerosol particle is too big for filter poresize, what is the minimum aerosol particle size a virus needs to hitch a ride?

    Given that the virus is clearly smaller than the N95 pore size, can it hit he filter one side and move onto particle loitering/having formed from humidity on the other side?

    Considering action potentials (driving forces pushing stuff from high to low concentrations to maximise entropy), a sick person will increase the concentration in exhaled virus behind the mask up to the level where mask is either saturated (if ab/adsorbent to virus) or transport of virus beyond mask results in some steady state concentration behind mask. I would presume that is a matter of minutes at most. As a mental experiment: assume virus producing individual, 100% virus-catching mask = an ever increasing concentration of virus behind mask, that gets released in one very concentrated cloud once mask is removed (the restaurant mask theatre version) or the concentration gets high enough to force transport virus beyond mask, which above mask saturation = steady state concentration behind mask is equal what comes out of human subject without mask.

    I get all the studies of 2 ppl with N95 breathing aerosols at each other, but why have we 2 years into this with no shortage of infectious subjects around not measured exhaled virus concentration of a real sick person with and without a N95 mask on? Ok, ok, viable virus concentration/number measurements are not trivial (PCR only detects fragments = does not answer how many are viable), but I am sure for a few $£€ you could get a person to sit and breath long enough to make amount of virus measurable without PCR.

  20. ProNewerDeal

    If any NC Biomedical Pros (epidimiologist, physician, biologist, etc) were the CDC head and actually empowered to prioritize Public Health over Facilitating Quarterly Oligarch BigCapitalist Profits (I know suspend disbelief for a moment)…

    what SHOULD the metrics be to where it is safe to NOT wear N95-type masks in indoor public buildings?

    IIRC blogger mikethemadbiologist in 2020 before vaccines were available in the USA stated that the German standard of COVID high prevalence (in 7-day average of cases/100K people) was 7/100K for public indoor settings generally, with a more strict 1/100K for the more dangerous category of bar/restaurant/gym/church/sports/concert.

    Or perhaps due to whatever reason (statistically insufficient number of Covid tests administered, etc) you prefer another metric and have its treshhold.

    I assume the general indoor 7/100K general and 1/100K dangerous indoor threshholds are still prudent, unless I here a Biomedical Pro I trust to be both knowledgable AND an ethnical non-Corrupted Capatalist Puppet explain otherwise.

    BTW if so I would guesstimate literally no or perhaps a handful of the ~3000 US counties are even under the 7/100K treshhold currently. My county, supposedly at Low Covid risk the new Fugazi Walensky metric, is at 15/100K.

  21. ProNewerDeal

    BTW, are the Neoliberal Private Insurer-Gatekeeped “free” N95 masks and at-home Covid tests “program” operational?

    I had been meaning to investigate and “apply” to get some of these N95s and tests. Now with the Flip-Floppin Covid policy Biden regime it is unclear if this “free” program still is operational currently. I have some KN95s but could use more, & no tests. I am thinking it is wise to stock up now in case Murica gets a Denmark-like Omicron BA.2 wave in a few weeks.

    Honestly this Biden 6 week Flip Flop from “free” N95s to No Indoor Masking Now is on par with some of the most extreme absurd Trump Flip Flops.

  22. diptherio

    If your hospital is only at “medium risk” then pretend like everything’s fine? So they’re trying to crash the hospital system, then? What’s next? “If your vehicle has a low or medium chance of collision, feel free to remove your seatbelt.” Do they even hear what they’re saying?

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      doesn’t this apply to…like…heroin and stuff, too?
      when reducto ad absurbamed sufficiently, this is approaching ayn rand territory.
      “do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law”?
      did they not consult a focus group?

  23. chloe

    I have been complaining about the AP error, and I sent them a complaint but have not heard back.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Would they vote for a one-issue political party-movement devoted to that very concept? The control and eradication of covid?

      I would vote for such a party if someone could get it running.

  24. Retaj

    USF Associate Professor of Epidemiology attempted to analyze how the CDC is calculating its new map in this twitter thread.

    The gist of the thread is that patients in rural areas go to regional hospitals, so in these cases the risk level organizes by region. A map of estimated groups is here; although he could not confirm without more data from the CDC.

  25. Iseeyoudock

    It is the electrostatic charge on the n95 that makes up for the pore discrepancy. 2/2 “electret” material.

    Nice PNAS article about semisolid phase dispersion has apparently been rendered inaccessible without a cookie

    So too a Cochran review without a cookie. Albeit mixed virii.

    Only RCT P = 0.38

    Perhaps there was some reduction in the environmental innoculum during the initial phases of the pandemic due to masking, however, every iteration of evolution showed improved aerosol efficiency, with r naught as a proxy for efficiency, from about 2 to 7 with delta and then around ten plus for omicron.

    Good review.

    To be quite fair , I think that droplet vs aerosol is a continuum, and not the stark dichotomy as presented. Still, mechanistically, without the advantage of adequate mask type, what was promoted as being protective was nothing more than a PR effort. Multiple citations of flawed cohort and observational studies as foundation for policy.

    Meanwhile, evidence based tyranny reigned with regard to therapeutics. If there wasn’t a randomized prospective double blinded multi center study to support a therapy, out of luck. It’s not on the menu.

    The contrast could not be more stark.

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