Good Friday Morning, except to the USA Gymnastics group — the coaches and organization, not the athletes. The competitors are amazing and represent the United States well. But I’ve got my questions about the organization this week. They’re out here saying Simone Biles has “mental health” issues, when in reality she’s over here describing vertigo-like symptoms, can’t track the ground, and only through her athleticism avoided serious injury. I’m wondering if the organization that hid Larry Nasser for decades has cleaned up its act.
They haven’t earned trust. And they don’t deserve it right now. Watching this turn into another mental health storyline seems like a waste of resources when Biles has a history of this exact issue. The better bet would be focusing on the organization itself. But that’s the subject for a column coming out the Conservative Institute late Friday. Today, I’m going into the terrible messaging of the CDC. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but my goodness it just keeps getting worse… links to follow.
Where you can find me this week
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Biden continues to ignore warning calls on inflation – The Conservative Institute.
Biden is failing the moment – The Conservative Institute.
Can someone please stop changing Ron “The CDC” Burgundy’s messaging teleprompter?
I had the pleasure this past week of traveling via plane for the first time since 2019. I love airports. One of my favorite things to do is have extra time between flights and get a chance to wander around an airport and get to sight-see a bit. So it was nice to be able to do that again. The Nashville and Charlotte airports had changed a lot since I last used them. BNA is my home airport, and I got a chance to see the new terminal they’ve built, and it was pretty amazing.
What’s also amazing are all the contradictory messages. Pre-pandemic, TSA security was annoying but predictable. Now, I don’t know what the rules are anymore. In the past, you’d go through TSA and take out any laptops, put them in a separate bin, and send your bag through. You’d also take out any keys, wallet, watch, cellphone, etc., before going through the scanner. Annoying, but predictable and all airports were the same.
This time, in Nashville, nothing came out of bags like laptops, kindles, or iPads. You just chucked your suitcases up on the conveyor belt, took stuff out of your pockets and took off your shoes, and went through the scanner. In Charlotte, all laptops, kindles, iPads, and more came out of bags. I was there with other business travelers in both cases. Everyone was guessing what to do until the TSA agent told them.
Perhaps most emblematic of this were the in-flight safety instructions. You wear a mask everywhere in airports and on planes; it’s a federal law. I’m vaccinated and don’t care about masks anymore, but I also want to fly. So whatever, I put on a mask just like I go along with TSA’s security theater. The first flight I took instructed passengers to take oxygen masks, in the event they dropped, place the oxygen mask over your COVID mask, then pull the COVID mask down, and pull the oxygen mask tight to breathe.
The second flight (after sitting on the tarmac for close to 90 minutes, an anecdote of annoyance for another day) told passengers to put the oxygen mask OVER their COVID mask, pull tight, and breathe through the mask. I mentioned this on Twitter, and a guy replied his instructions were to pull your mask off, then put on an oxygen mask to breathe like normal. I’ve flown many times, and those instructions are generally the same. Different instructions for each flight is something new and also symbolic of the more significant things playing out around this pandemic: shifting messages.
I can forgive the airlines for these kinds of things. They’re understaffed and overbooked, trying to return American to a pre-pandemic traveling schedule. They’re doing the best they can with poorly worded guidelines and laws. I don’t get why this messaging issue is endemic with so much of the “official” response in America. Why can’t one single part of the United States government get its messaging right?
It feels like every day I get presented with some new asinine statement by an official regarding the pandemic or COVID-19. It was a “two for the price of one” this week. First, the CDC reversed its guidance that the vaccinated don’t have to wear masks. Getting rid of that mask requirement for the vaccinated was like pulling teeth, despite a wealth of data saying there’s no need for masks. Now, based on unpublished data, they’re demanding people mask up again.
The second was in Biden’s press conference, where he lied and said he wasn’t flip-flopping on masks. Then, later on, the White House was questioned about whether they’d still support things like universal masking or lockdowns. The best the Biden administration had was offering up that they would listen to the CDC on those options. It was a dodge, and on a question like that, the conclusion is simple: they would consider lockdowns if the CDC decided to be for them again.
Mask. Don’t mask. Lockdown. Open up. Rabbit season. Duck season. Fire.
The data is clear.
This isn’t a situation where we’re getting presented with new information. The data is there. We know what’s happening in Israel, India, and the United Kingdom, where the Delta variant has been. Their cases didn’t climb exponentially, things are dying down now, and cases are in freefall (again). The UK, in particular, saw cases and hospitalizations divorce completely, with cases having little bearing on deaths or hospitalizations. Vaccines are leading to better outcomes and eliminating dire consequences.
I think the thing that gets me the most about all this is the reporting around “breakthrough” cases, which is just awful. The CDC only counts a breakthrough case if a person ends up hospitalized or dead from COVID-19. This makes sense because COVID-19 is only a public health threat because it sends many people to the hospital, and it has killed, as of July 29, 2021, nearly 630,000 Americans in the span of a little over a year.
At the peak of the virus in the winter, there were more than 133,000 active hospitalizations, just for COVID-19. Those are beds that aren’t going to people with other diseases. The United States has an incredible healthcare system, but we have to ensure we can treat everything, not just one virus that comes in gigantic winter waves. The US has altogether nearly one million staffed hospital beds. Those are usually around 50-60% full at any given time. COVID-19 has strained our capacity and put care restrictions in place to prevent care for other diseases.
Enter the vaccines. As of July 29, 2021, 164 million Americans have been fully vaccinated, 190 million have had at least one dose. Of that 164 million fully vaccinated, the CDC has found 5,914 breakthrough cases. That is someone who ended in a hospital or died from COVID-19. Right now, in the United States, nearly 30,000 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in this mini-surge. We know somewhere between 98-100% of those cases are from unvaccinated people — remember, these are Delta variant numbers right now.
5,914 breakthrough cases in the vaccinated. That means 0.00004% of people who get vaccinated are ending up hospitalized or dead due to COVID-19. Or, put another way, US vaccines are 99.99996% effective at preventing hospitalization or death from COVID-19. These are not good numbers — these are astonishing numbers. When I call Operation Warp Speed the greatest public health achievement in United States history, this is what I’m pointing to. It’s Donald Trump’s most outstanding achievement (and I’ve made my argument multiple times over why Biden is failing that wonderous program right now).
No mask, no hand sanitizer, no non-pharmaceutical intervention (NPI) like social distancing or lockdowns will touch those numbers. An NPI, like those that I just mentioned, is a marginal policy. These things are meant to help out when you’ve got absolutely nothing left. You can’t stop the virus, and you’re just trying to slow it down so your healthcare system can process all the sickness. That’s what flattening the curve is. You’re not preventing illness, you’re slowing it down to prevent swamping hospitals and healthcare providers.
Vaccines are not a marginal policy — they’re the answer. Vaccines end the threat to the healthcare system ending the need for NPI’s to protect the healthcare system. And when Biden or anyone starts talking about the need to mask up again, he’s undermining the critical vaccination effort. Telling people to go back to NPI’s right now is equivalent to saying vaccines don’t work. It’s an awful and wrong message when the data very clearly states the exact and total opposite.
The CDC is basing its decision for masking on data it claims will get released on Friday, the day after I’m writing this. The public data they’ve included is based on an Indian study of about 100 healthcare workers using India’s vaccine. That study claimed that in rare situations when a breakthrough case occurred, that the viral load in the vaccinated person was similar to an unvaccinated person. Theoretically, this means it’s more possible for a vaccinated person to transmit COVID-19. Note the situation, though: it requires a breakthrough case and only speaks to transmission. And it doesn’t speak at all to people with a US vaccine.
The C.D.C. has not yet published its data, frustrating experts who want to understand the basis for the change of heart on masks. Four scientists familiar with the research said it was compelling and justified the C.D.C.’s advice that the vaccinated wear masks again in public indoor spaces.
The research was conducted by people outside the C.D.C., the scientists said, and the agency is working quickly to analyze and publish the results.
So we’ll see on the data. There’s nothing in the overall data, from hospitalizations down, that says this virus is a threat to the vaccinated. Indeed, the CDC’s own internal presentations say that Pfizer’s two-dose regimen is between 93-100% effective against hospitalization of those with Delta. Moderna has similar numbers on hospitalizations, and Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine studies do the same.
The bulk of those who get COVID right now are unvaccinated. And that’s something considering this Delta strain is deemed to have a similar viral profile as chickenpox. Studies out of Israel have already proven that vaccinations slash the transmission rate of COVID-19 by upwards of 80%. UK studies have said similar. That’s the equivalent of reducing chickenpox down below the viral threshold of a cold; it’s utterly astounding.
The point I’m driving at with all this data is this: the messaging makes no sense. These aren’t people leading; they’re panicking every step of the way. And they’re doing that in the middle of a pandemic. They’re not doing this in the face of changing information; they’re panicking and not waiting to get factual information. This masking business is the height of it. Vaccines are the answer, not masks.
Preventing the spread of COVID requires vaccines. Masks are marginal. Vaccines are not. And undermining that message when we’re at a critical point of the vaccination drive is the height of irresponsibility. They’re panicking, and they’re panicking about the behavior of US citizens. Tanner Greer nailed this in the conclusion of his essay, The Myth of Panic:
The people must be trusted with fear, and the governing class must be comfortable with leadership during times of crisis. Fear is an unpleasant emotion— but at times, a useful one. Fear lends urgency to action. Fear forces the afraid to focus on that which matters. This is the great lesson of the 2020 coronavirus: We should have been allowed to fear. Alas, our leaders feared our fear more than they feared our deaths. The world bears the consequences of this stark faith in the myth of panic.
I recommend that entire essay. Masks give people the illusion of physical protection, despite doing very little to protect us, other than protection at the margins. Vaccines protect. We’re undermining the solution to promote a false sense of security while Delta is surging. It’s the incompetence and stupidity all rolled into one.
Because even if it’s true that the vaccinated can transmit this virus more easily, the solution isn’t to mask up. It’s to vaccinate even more people to reduce the number of possible breakthroughs.
All I ask is for our government to be competent at one aspect of this pandemic. We, fortunately, got the solution part right with Operation Warp Speed. But the CDC and Biden administration are failing the messaging front just as badly as they accused the Trump administration of doing. You can laugh at hydroxychloroquine or shining a light on the virus to get rid of it all you want. It is FAR WORSE for a Presidential administration to undermine the vaccination rollout. One is a punchline. The other is rhetoric that undermines the solution.
Biden has already failed this area once by allowing the CDC and FDA to undermine Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine for no reason at all (they changed no labels and offered no warnings; they did nothing and harmed one of the best solutions on the table for nothing).
I get it with airlines and mask orders. I don’t get it with vaccines. And I don’t get how utterly incompetent these bureaucrats are right now. They have literally one job. They can’t do it.
And because they can’t handle this one job in healthcare, no one should ever trust them to run something like socialized/centralized healthcare. Do you want this incompetent morass of political stupidity running your health insurance or running things at your healthcare provider?
I think not.
Because all we’re asking for here is competent messaging. Sarah Palin’s “death panels” ascribe far more intelligence than these elites appear to have right now. We can’t figure out whether to wear a mask or not when you’re trying to put on an oxygen mask in an emergency on an airplane. If the airlines have three different answers to that question, the CDC would have 20, and they’d change it hourly.
Links of the week
Coronavirus deaths: What the Biden Administration Fears – Jim Geraghty
CDC on Breakthrough infections. The internal slides. – Washington Post
RIP, Jackie Mason: King of the politically incorrect comics – John Podhoretz
How the Media Ignore Jew-Haters – Christine Rosen
Twitter Thread(s) of the week
Satire of the week
Thanks for reading!