Why the Sudden CDC Turnabout On Covid Restrictions?
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Why the Sudden CDC Turnabout On Covid Restrictions?
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
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Twenty years ago, I had some vague sense that there was a Centers for Disease Control that performed traditional public-health functions. It tracked diseases. It made health recommendations. It served as a clearinghouse for data and information on a subject that has been crucial to modern life for the better part of a century. It helped guard the general health of the country and assisted people with authoritative advice. 

That was the idea. Then last year happened. The CDC – budget of $12 billion with 15,000 employees – suddenly assumed an outsized role due to the arrival of the respiratory virus SARS-CoV-2 (the US was largely spared the 1.0 version). It was no longer about disease as such. The bureaucracy that people had previously found innocuous became the decisive voice regarding a range of issues that affect your own freedoms. 

The CDC would adjudicate everything. Where can you go? How many people can you have in your home? Can your business operate? Can you go to church? Can you get medical care? Most conspicuously, the CDC was put in charge of whether and to what extent you need an extra piece of clothing to cover your mouth and nose. Indoors or out. 

The restrictions were slated to last two weeks. Instead, in many states, they lasted a full 14 months, not just in the US but all over the world minus only a few brave countries that defied the World Health Organization that not only supported lockdowns but now promises to do so again. 

The Trump administration was determined to repeal the very restrictions it had backed in the Spring of 2020 but ran out of time. Disease panic and political impositions, cheered by big media and big tech, were too entrenched. The Biden administration backed all the restrictions with new zeal from Inauguration Day forward, especially because the open states had voted against him. 

Thus did it come as a real shock to many when, seemingly out of the blue, the CDC announced on May 14, 2021, that people can mostly return to normal without masks provided they are vaccinated. Even the unvaccinated have been partially liberated – they can go maskless outside. All this was revealed a mere 45 days after the CDC head Rochelle Walensky admitted feelings of “impending doom” while Dr. Fauci himself said even the vaccinated needed to mask up still. 

Suddenly, it was mostly gone. The vaccinated were free to live normally. As for the unvaccinated, they have to stay masked and afraid. Not a word about natural immunity, which has been known to be effective for the better part of a full year. It’s a status that pertains to as many or more people than who have been vaccinated, but public officials have spoken almost nothing about it. 

The CDC’s own cartoons designed to explain what is and isn’t safe changed over two weeks. In the latest version, no one vaccinated needs a mask to do anything, but just one week earlier the little vaccinated face was still instructed to wear a mask at indoor gatherings. 

Two weeks before that, on April 2, the same CDC webpage did not even distinguish between activities that can be done by the vaccinated vs. unvaccinated. All Americans were instructed to be very afraid, no matter their immunity profile. 

Now there is a strict demarcation, a medical caste system in place. But there is a major problem. The new system relies entirely on self-reporting. How many of the unvaccinated who want to go to a basketball game will admit their unclean status? Very few. Lacking an enforcement mechanism, the system is toothless, prompting many of the most fervent coronaphobes among us to demand proof in the form of vaccine passports. 

Look, you don’t have to be an anti-government cynic to start to wonder about any of this. To be sure, you could say that the science has changed. Most of the vulnerable population has been vaccinated. Therefore, they say, we can now open up. 

Trouble is that the empirical record of open states is the same or better than those who keep intense restrictions. More than three dozen studies have shown no relationship between Covid restrictions and better disease outcomes – a devastating point that undermines the whole basis of the hell that has been visited upon the world for the last year and two months. 

Hang on, it gets weirder. CDC head Walensky went on national television to address the peculiar incidences of people who have had the Covid vaccine who nonetheless contract the disease and then die after. How can we account for this? She made a very sensible point. There is a huge difference between dying with Covid and dying of Covid. A positive test alone does not establish the cause of death. 

I’m all in. Only one problem. This distinction between of and with doesn’t just suddenly apply to those people who get ill after vaccination. If the point is valid, it also applies to all the claims of Covid deaths for the last year and more. Many of us have pointed this out many times, raising the dangers of misclassifying death in ways that make the pandemic even worse than it really is. We’ve been shouted down for the better part of a year as if the point is obviously invalid. Now we have the CDC director making that very point. 

Dr. Fauci himself was asked about the abrupt shift, and of course he too invoked “evolving science,” citing papers in the New England Journal of Medicine showing that the vaccine is effective against the variants and so therefore the vaccinated can go on with their lives. 

Good. But what about natural immunities that one acquires following infection that are even more effective, robust, and often safer than vaccines? Back in December, the New York Times did a roundup of this question. The conclusion is that natural immunity is indeed broad and lasting, perhaps more so than the vaccine (the study proving this only demonstrated 8 months because...they were only 8 months of data to study). 

But, according to the article in the NYT, for those who are vulnerable, the aged and those with serious underlying immune complications, getting Covid is more dangerous than getting the vaccine. That sounds intuitively correct but what about everyone else? This is where the round up utterly fails. Perhaps as many as 150 million Americans have gotten Covid and recovered and now have robust immunities. Science is also finding more preexisting immunity than anyone thought to be there a year ago. 

Why keep pushing vaccines on them, even on children, even to the point of forcing them and nudging them with threats of passports and so on?

The CDC’s site even now reads like a vaccine ad that puts down natural immunity as somehow primitive by comparison. “COVID-19 vaccination will help protect you by creating an antibody (immune system) response without having to experience sickness” -– except that most people fully expect to experience symptoms after the vaccine, which is absolutely fine, but let’s not kid ourselves. The immune needs training either way. 

This has been the gigantic missing piece from the Covid puzzle all along. I noticed it in February 2020, at the dawn of the disease panic. Where was the rationality, the science, the experience, the knowledge, the awareness of respiratory viruses and how they behave? The entire ethos from these weeks was: let’s forget about what we know and instead make things up as we go along, and, until the new science comes along, along with a new high-tech vaccine technology, let us destroy freedom and the rule of law. 

In some ways, the CDC is caught in its own ill-logic. Despite the opening, the CDC says that students – the unvaccinated for whom Covid-19 barely qualifies as a disease at all and has near-zero fatality risk – have to continue to wear masks. Thus does the exploitation continue. 

Okay, I’m going to take for granted that there was not some new scientific revelation that caused the CDC suddenly to shift to a pro-normalcy position, exempting the vaccine immune from complying with federal edict regarding how close they are allowed to stand to others and what clothing they should wear. 

If not science, what caused the change? The announcement came after the worst week for the Biden administration. It came like a torrent: bad employment numbers, retail spending flattening, inflation galloping in many sectors, a border crisis, rockets and explosions in the Middle East, and, above all else, a week of shocking gas shortages all over the Eastern seaboard. 

If there would be one good time to declare the Covid-19 pandemic to be over, and call for a return to normal life, this would be it, politically speaking. It’s easy to see how this cacophony of bad news could inspire a “wag the dog” scenario. And thus is the problem with feeding science and disease mitigation through the meat grinder of politics. It causes a loss of trust. It will take generations to restore after this disaster to which the world has been subjected. 

Jeffrey Tucker is author of Liberty or Lockdown (AIER, 2020).

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