I have long observed the revolving door between government agencies and the corporate sector. The fox has been guarding the henhouse in many aspects of public life for decades. I’d hoped that the CDC would be different. But over the last three years, I have lost faith in the institution. CDC mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic is a perfect metaphor for what is wrong with our government.
Put simply, the CDC and federal and local governments intend to let millions of people die or become disabled from COVID-19. Governments would rather let that happen than tell the truth about the continued danger of this pandemic. The corporate sector, from the very beginning, has insisted on jumping the gun in the return to “normal.” They have handled the pandemic with the patience of a toddler that just drank three cans of Mountain Dew. And CDC mismanagement has acted as their enabler.
It’s very interesting, because in March 2020, CNBC on-air personality Rick Santelli was widely criticized and forced to apologize for suggesting that infecting everyone in the U.S. with COVID-19 would be better for the markets. Yet, the CDC—with help from the rest of the government and the mass media– has been gradually implementing a version of Santelli’s suggestion for quite some time now. We know more about COVID-19 than before. The more we learn, the more there is to to be concerned about. Yet, as is true with other looming crises Western civilization faces, our governments choose to stick their heads in the sand and pretend that it is going away.
So how and when did the CDC go astray? They did so from the beginning and then got worse over time.
What, no mask?
In March, 2020, the U.S. government began the pandemic with some rather strange logic. In essence, they told us that masks didn’t work. Yet at the same time said that people needed to stop buying masks because our healthcare workers needed them. This tweet from the Surgeon General basically puts it all in a nutshell.
How is that not a contradiction? To the Surgeon Generals’s credit, he did reverse course. He was even engaging in videos teaching people how to make cloth masks without sewing.
In June of that year, Dr. Anthony Fauci admitted in an interview that they deliberately were telling people not to wear masks in order to keep them available for the healthcare workers.
Yes, there was a shortage, but the public’s attempts of masks was not going to have much of any impact. I know this because during the H1N1 pandemic of 2009, I tried to order a case of N95 masks for my co-op house. They didn’t arrive until a year later. The supply company was restricting shipments to the general public so that they could meet medical facilities’ needs. Masks being sold at the quantities individuals were buying them were not going to have that much of a dent in the market.
Furthermore, other countries, particularly the Czech Republic, were seeing some success with cloth mask mandates, with research backing them. The video below went viral a month before the CDC changed its mind “based on new research” and recommended masks.
But counter to what the CDC claimed, the research wasn’t new. Professor Raina MacIntyre in this 2014 video (timed with the Ebola outbreak) touches on research she did on masks, as well previous research (cited at about 5:36 in the video). In a later part of the video (24:40), she criticizes the CDC and WHO and shows drawings mocking the suggestion being made that healthcare workers need not worry about Ebola if they stayed six feet away. This is a rather stunning foreshadowing of the “six foot rule” that we would see pushed at the start of the pandemic. This myth is still canon for many people today in regards to pandemic protection despite being fundamentally misleading.
This failure to act in the early months of the pandemic probably resulted in the deaths of thousands of Americans. I would argue that the world also blew a major opportunity to shut down COVID-19.
Droplets vs airborne
What I didn’t know at the time was that the CDC and WHO were making another dangerous mistake. They insisted that COVID-19 was being spread by droplets, not via aerosols. Remember what Dr. MacIntrye criticized them for taking the same approach to Ebola? This article by Nature goes into excellent detail about the mistake. In a rather convoluted press release on October 5, 2020, the CDC “acknowledged” that COVID spread beyond the six-foot zone. Yet they stubbornly stuck to the six-foot rule. An article in Forbes points out the artificial distinction between droplet and airborne transmission of disease as a whole.
This matters because pathogens that are airborne will linger in the air for hours. They will float around, and spread even in the absence of direct contact between people. And the CDC’s and WHO’s stubborn insistence on droplet theory had significant impacts on policy. When I caught COVID in November 2021, I had to look closely to see what the requirements were for notifying my clients possibly exposed to me. The rules were to notify the clients I’d exposed them only if I was sitting closer to them than six feet for fifteen minutes or more. This seemed more than a little arbitrary.
Mother superior jumped the gun
But it wasn’t just the CDC and the WHO cutting corners. Some people think that being a member of the Chamber of Commerce or holding an MBA qualifies them to set public health policy. And some governments and even public health departments seem more than willing to oblige these self-styled “experts.” This happened even in ultra-liberal Madison, Wisconsin.
In early May, 2020, the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down Gov. Evers’s COVID stay-at-home orders. At that time, Public Health of Madison and Dane County declared that they would stick to Evers’s “Badger Bounce Back Plan.” This provided specific benchmarks for the lifting of COVID restrictions. As a healthcare provider, I was getting regular emails from Public Health of Madison and Dane County. I remember a strange email from Public Health near the end of May 2020 talking about implementing the next phase of the reopening plan. The strange thing about this is that they were proceeding even while acknowledging that some transmission statistics were going *up* and edging towards the “red.” This would require stricter COVID standards, yet they wanted to loosen them?.
I wasn’t the only one who noticed this. Several Madison alders also raised concerns. Concerns were raised again in a follow-up letter on June 29,.. This follow-up letter also revealed that the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce was involved in changes to the “scientifically developed” reopening plan.
As it turned out, Dane County ended up reinstating the mask mandate on July 13, 2020, because, guess what? The spread of COVID was up again.
These kinds of shenanigans have occurred all over the country all throughout the pandemic. If it has happened in Madison, it has happened everywhere. Lots of people won’t pass up the opportunity to put their thumb on the scale. Not if means more dollars for themselves. And the CDC mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic has given them plenty of cover.
Suddenly, the vaccines make everything all right?
On May 13, 2021, the CDC announced that people could stop wearing masks as long as they were vaccinated. I went into detail about my reaction to the CDC’s decision here. Asked how public establishments were supposed to know whether people were vaccinated, Dr. Fauci said this: “You’re gonna be depending on people being honest enough to say whether they are vaccinated or not.” This was at a time when widespread misinformation about COVID-19 was rampant on the Internet. Did he really think that anti-maskers would suddenly mask voluntarily, especially since many were also opposed to the vaccine? The naivete at the highest levels of public health have been stunning.
Furthermore, Dr. Fauci previously said that herd immunity would only be achievable if 70-85% of the population was vaccinated. But when the CDC made the announcement that vaccinated people didn’t need masks, only 35.8% of Americans were vaccinated.
Later on, it was revealed that the CDC quietly stopped tracking “breakthrough” cases, or cases that occurred in vaccinated people even a few weeks before this announcement.
The problem is that the vaccine trials that reported 95% effectiveness just a few months before did not place any restrictions on whether the study participants would be allowed to isolate or wear masks. Ethically, of course, keeping a study participant from wearing a mask would be highly unethical. But now they were using these studies to justify the removal of masks.
This loosening of mask restricts was also happening at a point when the Delta variant was growing and spreading overseas. This variant was reportedly 40-80% more contagious than the original virus, and it was also more deadly. Yet the CDC was saying, “Take your masks off. Be happy. Enjoy the weather.”
So any reasonably intelligent person could guess what would happen next. Cases surged. It took less than two months after CDC suspended its vaccinations for the Los Angeles Public Health Department to bring masks back to the table. By the end of July 2021, the CDC itself did an about-face. They once again recommended masking in public indoor spaces where COVID-19 was again surging.
From Delta Airlines to Omicron Airlines
By November 2021, the Omicron variant was beginning to supplant the Delta variant. Cases began to surge to unprecedented numbers. Yet near the height of the Omicron surge the CDC suddenly decided to loosen restrictions yet again. They decide to reduce the isolation period for people diagnosed with COVID-19 from ten days to five days.
This time, it was Delta Airline’s turn to put their thumb on the scale. Suspiciously, a letter from Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian advocating just that was sent just six days prior to the policy change. Even in looking at the CDC’s explanation outlined on Snopes.com, their justification for the policy change was weak. The CDC merely said that the “majority” of transmission of COVID occurred in a five day window. Which means that a minority or cases—maybe up to 49%–are still infectious even beyond that five-day window of time. Sara Nelson, the head of the Association of Flight Attendants argued against the decision. saying “Flight Attendants should not be expected to return to work until they test negative and do not exhibit symptoms,” Nelson continued. “We do not know if 10 days represents that ‘magic number,’ but we do not see the justification for reducing the number of days at this time.”
Delta Airline’s action, of course, sounds a lot like the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce using their “business acumen” to make public health decisions. Some people are not going to stay in their lane if there is money to be made.
It should be noted that parts of the mass media seemed to be spinning a narrative that the Omicron variant would be COVID-19’s last hurrah. One result of this the bizarre nonsensical headline below:
Don’t trust the party in power to protect us in election years
When COVID case rates were at record levels, CDC director Rochelle Walensky said something rather strange and alarming. On January 7, 2022, she said the following: “The overwhelming number of [COVID] deaths, over 75%, occurred in people who had at least four comorbidities. So really, these are people who were unwell to begin with. And yes, really encouraging news in the context of Omicron.”
What she was saying was that if people with other health problems were dying of COVID, that wasn’t so bad. As if people with health problems have less of a right to live. A large coalition of disability advocacy groups sent a letter to Walensky expressing extreme concern about her statement. This prompted Walensky to meet with leaders of the disability community. But this has not appeared to result in any policy changes.
Even when the number of new COVID cases was still at a alarmingly high 200,000 new cases per day in the U.S., a number of Democratic Party governors decided it was time to put an end to mask mandates. Of the ten states that put an end to indoor mask mandates between February 7 and 10, nine had Democratic governors and seven of those states had a gubernatorial election scheduled later that year.
A scarlet leader?
Later that month, Walensky put her foot in her mouth again when she said “I just know people are tired. The scarlet letter of this pandemic is the mask. It may be painless, it may be easy, but its inconvenient, it’s annoying and it reminds us that we’re in the middle of a pandemic.” The head of the Center for Disease Control was saying this in regards to a disease that had killed over a million Americans. She was calling a measure that was protecting people and saving lives a “scarlet letter.” Clearly she didn’t understand Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter.” She put wearing a mask—a measure that saves people’s lives–in the same category as a work of fiction. A book where a big letter “A” is used by the town fathers to shame a woman for adultery. That just shows how out of touch Walensky was and still is.
Finally, the lifting of this “scarlet letter” and other aspects of CDC mismanagement has made many disabled people become prisoners in their own homes. “Back to normal” translates to increased isolation for immunocompromised people and other people for whom COVID is far more deadly. It was less dangerous for such people prior to the pandemic. The lack of public protective measures like mask mandates make it many times more dangerous for people with disabilities.
Lies, damned lies, and statistics
The pattern of the the COVID-19 pandemic always seemed to be to 1) jump the gun on loosening restricts, 2) watch the infection statistics go up, and 3) reimpose restrictions. Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat.
You would think that public health officials would endeavor to bring the infection statistics down by keeping restrictions in place until they were no longer necessary. You would be mistaken. They decided it would be more effective to artificially deflate the numbers. They sought to change the statistics by changing the way statistics are gathered and reported.
In February 2022, the CDC announced that they were changing the way they would report COVID-19 statistics. Overnight, many of the counties reporting having “Substantial Transmission” and “High Transmission began suddenly reporting “low transmission.”
I managed to capture the Orwellian nature of this statistical switcheroo. Between April 12 and 14, 2022, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services abruptly adopted the CDC’s new guidelines. I capture both the 12th and 14th via screenshot. The contrast between the two charts is stunning. The older chart had a lot more information on it. You can see how pointing the cursor to Dane County revealed a wealth of information—the number of cases, the seven-day rate relative to population. Between the 12th and the 14th the chart suddenly changed from a mixture of yellow and various shades of red to…green. The entire state turned green. And as for the wealth of statistics previously available when I pointed my cursor to the county? They ALL disappeared except for one word: “Low.” That’s all they want you to know now.
The Peoples CDC, a nonprofit organization critical of CDC mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic, continues to publish charts that are based on the old way of measuring the pandemic. Notice how they don’t look all that much different from what we saw at the “height” of the pandemic.
Truthfully, the data gathering has always had holes in it. And the number of holes increased with home testing. Encouraging “home testing” may have been a necessary when Omicron infection numbers overwhelmed health systems. It was a good way to encourage people to test themselves for COVID without having to go to doctor. But then, this also meant that a lot of COVID cases did not get reported. CNN reported that only 7% of positive COVID-19 cases were being reported. This meant that the actual number of cases were 14.5 times as high as the reported numbers.
But COVID is no longer dangerous, right?
The CDC has been justifying these changes in data reporting and policy by saying that the vaccine reduces the incidence and severity of COVID-19.
While there is some indication that vaccinations have helped, the number of “breakthrough infections,” that is, cases of COVID among people already vaccinated, indicates that a vaccine helps, but is not a magic bullet. Indeed, the more you catch it, the more likely you are to catch it again.
A study published in November 2022 showed that “The risk of death, hospitalization and serious health issues from COVID-19 jumps significantly with reinfection compared with a first bout with the virus, regardless of vaccination status”. Yes, regardless of vaccination status.“
We are often told that once we catch something, our immune system will fight it off. But even before COVID, we knew of viruses where the virus would simply become dormant and then come back another time. Chicken pox comes back as shingles. Polio came back as post-polio syndrome. And HIV—well, that in its very design weakens immune systems. COVID-19 is the same way. Any COVID-19 infection, if it doesn’t kill you, can damage your immune system permanently.
People whose cases of COVID were like the flu or milder may not realize that even these cases can result in Long COVID. And Long COVID can manifest in a variety of ways. This chart shows how the risk of even one Long COVID symptom is as high as one in ten. It also breaks down the types of Long COVID symptoms.
And the minimization continues
It’s very interesting to watch how our mass media and politicians act even as the risk COVID-19 continues unabated. President Biden had a “Let them eat cake” moment when he unilaterally declared that the COVID pandemic was over. The CDC also removed its recommendations for masking in healthcare facilities. This means it is no longer safe for many disabled people to even see their own doctor.
As we begin the fourth year of this pandemic, we are seeing some bizarre articles. “New” studies declaring that “mask mandates don’t work” without stopping to consider all the times people wore masks incorrectly or refused to comply in the first place. NPR published a bizarre study that said that people who continued to wear masks were less confident in their physical appearance than those who didn’t. NPR, let me correct that for you—what you’re really saying is that people who aren’t wearing masks are more narcissistic, correct? Fixed. (I’m not going grace NPR’s pseudo-journalism with a link, but feel free to search the NPR website if you’d like.)
Why have even supposedly liberal publications now gotten on the bandwagon to discredit those of us who continue to take precautions against COVID? The answer is quite simple. We remind the world that the COVID-19 pandemic is continuing. And it’s an inconvenient truth. They don’t want us to remind the world that nothing has changed. Two hundred to three hundred people per day still die of COVID-19 in the United States.
The fact is that there is a lot more that can be done to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Masks aren’t always even necessary. Many experts have pointed out that this is the time to upgrade air quality and air filtration in buildings. They feel like COVID points to the need for better indoor air quality. In a similar way, a 19th century cholera outbreak in London demonstrated the need for a modern sewage system.
COVID protection for me but not for thee
If COVID-19 wasn’t a problem, the elite would not be taking extraordinary protections against COVID-19 at the World Economic Forum. Rochelle Walensky and White House COVID-19 Coordinator Ashish Jha wouldn’t be sending their children to private schools that have top-notch air filtration.
Perhaps Rochelle Walensky was partially correct in referring to the mask as a “scarlet letter.” Because people wearing masks is a reminder of the shameful COVID management policy that she and other governments have been carrying out.
Let’s keep wearing those “scarlet letters” on our faces, then. For ourselves. For those otherwise not able to be in public places. And to remind everyone just how shameful the CDC mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic has been.