It would be possible, without a huge amount of effort, to write chapters on how the CDC has persistently endangered the public via favoring political expediency, commercial interest, and sheer laziness over public health. And bear in mind that any single chapter documenting the CDC’s abject dereliction on a critical Covid issue would be sufficient to justify razing the agency. Oh, and Lambert has already done a great deal of this work; Naked Capitalism could easily cobble together a book-length indictment from its archives.
I am entirely serious in the recommendation that the CDC, which now has about 32,000 employees, be shut down and a new body or bodies created in its place. It is imperative that any new Federal public health agencies have no more than 20% of their staffers come from the CDC.
I challenge readers to identify any company or government body with more that 20,000 members that was at CDC-level dysfunction and has been turned around. Even CalPERS at a mere 3000 employees looks irreparable.
We’ll discuss two new entries on the CDC’s rap sheet. The first is that the CDC only now is planning to launch a new “forecasting center”. Mind you, this comes as the agency has repeatedly acted as if Covid is over, as in so harmless if you are vaccinated that Americans collectively should stop thinking about it. From the Associated Press:
The new Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics launched Tuesday. Its leaders say predicting the course of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. has been hampered by data-collection problems.
In contrast, the United Kingdom uses regular population sampling with swab tests and blood draws to get a clearer picture of who’s been infected, said Marc Lipsitch, the new center’s science director. He said similar sampling should be considered in the U.S.
And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention needs to have better access to data from state governments and hospitals, said Caitlin Rivers, the center’s associate director.
CDC has been granted temporary authority for COVID-19 data collection, but the agency broadly relies on voluntary reporting and complex data agreements with states, Rivers said.
I am about ready to break china.
This humble blog has said from the get-go that the CDC’s primary role is to be a data shop, and incoming chief Rochelle Walensky needed to make fixing that a top priority. Given the CDC’s dependence on state public health agencies for many key inputs, Walensky should have sought their public health leaders out immediately, either inviting them to Atlanta or going out to meet them. No such outreach occurred. Had Walensky shown interest in their needs and impediments, and either gotten funding for them in the huge CARES package, or offered CDC resources and templates to shore up their efforts, it would have helped increase accuracy, timeliness and completeness of reporting.
It is particularly frustrating to see the CDC only now take up the obvious idea that the UK implemented in 2020: of large-scale (100,000 each) population-wide testing (I believe swabbing as well as blood tests) every five to six weeks to determine disease prevalence. For instance, these so-called REACT surveys enabled the UK to estimate, based on the rate of decline in antibody levels, that immunity from infection lasted only about six to eight months.
The second fresh outrage is the CDC’s Emily Litella “Never mind” on masks in airplanes and airports.
Now admittedly, the Biden Administration threw the CDC under the bus by saying it would appeal the ruling nixing the mask requirement for airports and airplanes and some other forms of transportation if the CDC wanted to. The CDC instead wimped out and made a limp-wristed statement that it recommended that passengers continue to mask up.
In other words, the CDC is not going to go to court to try to preserve its ability to mandate masking in the future, even though many experts claimed the ruling was a legal train wreck and by implication, would have decent odds of being contested successfully upon appeal.
But like just about everything related to Covid, the CDC and Biden approach has exposed the worst weaknesses of the professional-managerial class, a strong tendency to think that story-telling is the same as analysis and problem-solving, a reluctance to change course (as in the appearance of consistency is more important than being effective), and a belief that the public is a bunch of dumb sheep who are only at most entitled to be told what to do and deserve to be beaten when they don’t comply.
Recall that the CDC and WHO mislead citizens from the get go by presenting masks as unhelpful, when their real reason for that message was that they wanted to preserve procedure masks for health care workers. Ukraine, a poor country, has managed to gin up a world-dazzling propaganda operation. Why was the CDC incapable of conveying simple messages, like during wild type, to make or buy cloth masks, better yet with filters in them? Or when Delta became dominant, that its much greater infectiousness meant that procedure masks were no longer good enough, that double masks or KN/N95s were now necessary?
Now there is a case to be made against the plane mask mandate: it was poorly conceived, and it was never presented as essential to protect airplane and airport personnel. During wild type, mere cloth masks were sufficient. But once Delta struck, passengers should have been required to wear better masks, with the airport/airlines providing them. And airlines should have been required to impose sanctions other than barring passengers from future flights or turning around and having them removed from the plane at the originating airport. For instance, the airlines could have posted gradated punishments for passengers that defied warnings, like ones that took masks off during flights via pretending to be needing to sip some water. They could be handed an airline warning sheet that they would only be assigned a middle seat (or if in first class, the aisle bulkhead seat) on future flights for a year, or would lose a grade of elite status. Similarly, New York City did a vastly better job of messaging the need to wear masks over noses via numerous signs.
But of course, it’s not hard to surmise that the CDC, like the PMC, is done with masks, even though Covid could still mutate into something more lethal that will necessitate aggressive containment measures. Walensky said so when she compared continuing to wear a mask with wearing a scarlet letter, a sign of having committed a mortal sin.
Not only was the transportation rule half-assed content-wise, but it was also procedurally flawed. The judge who slapped it down did have a point in finding the CDC had not gone through a proper rule-making process, with a 60 day comment period. We’ve argued that the since the transportation masking rule was best conceived as worker protection, it would have been better to have been drawn up as an OSHA rule…with the added benefit that OSHA has tons of experience in devising masking rules for various workplace hazards, and would be ideally positioned to devise something suitable. The Biden Administration could have used an executive order as a placeholder while the OSHA rule was being finalized and put through a rulemaking process if needed.
But Team Biden seems to hold OSHA in the same low esteem as it does unions; after all, the sort of workplaces where OSHA rules are important are the nasty blue collar sort. So when OSHA devised what was widely reported as a careful and well thought out set of workplace Covid rules, which included ventilation, the Biden Administration swept that aside in favor of its scientifically unfounded employer vaccine mandate which the courts nixed.
So the CDC acted as if the public should accept masking because it said so, and even when that landed like a flat balloon, failed to counter with a PR campaign to sell masking. And that should have included Biden jawboning elected officials and TV talking heads to mask up. Reader vlade reported that in the Czech Republic, despite general low trust in government, widespread masking on TV broadcasts (and even repainting of billboards to include masks) led to early widespread mask wearing.
But as Lambert and we’ve called out ad nauseum, the CDC instead has conveyed the opposite message, as of last May’s “Mission Accomplished,” that masks were only for the unvaccinated deplorables. And continued elite non-use, no doubt so they can show off their status markers of cosmetic dentistry and surgery, reinforces the idea that only the poors need to mask, and then only so as not to infect their betters.
On the one hand, we can expect that our supposed leaders will pay for all of this with shorter and more miserable lives than they would have had due to Covid health damage. But since that can include cognitive impairment, we’ll also have on average even dumber people in charge.