With Its Calls to Mask Kids, the CDC Sends a Tragic Message
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
With Its Calls to Mask Kids, the CDC Sends a Tragic Message
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
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In the middle of March 2020 – dark times, never to be forgotten – most governors made a fateful error. In the midst of a disease panic, leading to political panic, fueled by media pressure, and pushed by a scientific elite voracious to try out a new experiment on the human population, governments decided to scrap basic rights and liberties to control a virus. 

The virus did its thing anyway, and we are now left with the carnage one would expect from a draconian shutdown of normal life functioning. 

Politicians are unskilled at admitting error. After all, the dominant message throughout their career is usually that they know better than you how to manage life on earth. Why else would they be in charge? A recognition of a massive blunder, followed by an apology, conflicts with that message. Plus admitting error means taking responsibility for the enormous collateral damage of lockdowns. That they cannot do. 

Some governors got fed up early and dialed it back, without much explanation. Others took more time. Only one, Ron DeSantis of Florida, openly acknowledged the enormous error. Most of the rest have cited vaccines and improved case conditions as the reason for scrapping stringencies such as capacity limits, crowd limits, and mandatory masking. 

The major problem from early on in this pandemic has been how to undo the calamity while saving face. There never was an exit plan. Emancipating people from tyranny introduces a risk that people will start asking fundamental questions about why any of this needed to happen. Thus does one need to craft an excuse extremely carefully. 

This is especially true of the Centers for Disease Control, which has been responsible for a messaging mess from the very beginning. There are people there who believe in the “eliminationist” strategy, which implicitly discounts the efficacy of both natural immunity and vaccines, on grounds that total suppression is better. It is because of them and others in this camp that Dr. Fauci and so many others continued to mask up even after being vaccinated. Anything to keep the panic alive. 

But pressured by an angry and confused public – what’s the point of immunity if we still can’t be normal? – the CDC on May 13, 2021, suddenly reversed course. It’s easy to see why in retrospect. Too many states had already eliminated the mask mandate without severe consequences. Cases and deaths kept declining, even more dramatically without masks than with them. The CDC had to act to save face. 

How did the CDC do this without embarrassment? In allowing people to remove masks, they carefully distinguished between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated – clean and unclean, touchable and untouchable. Outdoors or indoors, the masks can go for those who took the jab. Everyone else – don’t talk about natural immunity – must stay masked. 

The next day, even Dr. Fauci was speaking confidently about the ability of the jabbed to live a normal life. It was an amazing switch, coming only a month or two after we had been told to double mask and never risk travelling or being in indoor public settings. 

An odd feature of this new directive of course was that we have no national proof of vaccination. Most states will not go there. Such passports have been banned in state after state given the threat to privacy and the basic principle of universal rights. The CDC’s announcement, then, almost immediately led to a national demasking. Not in all places but most. The entire country began to decompress from its year-long hell. 

But there was a huge problem with the excuse for all of this. There is no vaccine for children, whose risk of severe outcomes from Covid is close to zero. Nor is there evidence that children commonly spread the disease to adults. There simply is no case for their masking. Still, that’s what they did for the better part of a year. Kids were denied the ability to look at each other’s faces. They were being denied a normal life, in ways that I feel sure will shock future historians. 

So given the CDC’s directive, can the kids take off their masks? Recall the excuse for demasking: the vaccine. Such is not available for children nor is it obvious why there should be. Still, given that, and in order to stay consistent with the CDC’s thinking on this, they ended up in a preposterous place. Adults in the community went mask free while the children were still forced to mask up, all so the “adults” at the CDC could remain consistent with their directive. 

Two days following the new CDC mask guideline, the agency announced the following: “CDC recommends schools continue to use the current COVID-19 prevention strategies for the 2020-2021 school year…. If prevention strategies are strictly adhered to, K–12 schools can safely open for in-person instruction and remain open.” Further from Dr. Fauci: “The children do [need masks] when they’re out there playing with their friends, particularly in an indoor situation, they do.”

That announcement was a bridge too far. School board meetings had already come to be dominated by parents furious at the masking requirement. Those parents and kids were featured on evening news shows like Tucker Carlson Tonight. Also, many governors cried bullocks. Texas’s governor issued an executive order banning masks in school – a direct poke in the eye to the medical bureaucracy. Iowa did the same. Moves along those lines are afoot in Arkansas, Florida, and South Carolina. 

If your kids are still masked up in school, along with all the attendant frustrations and confusions, you can thank the CDC – not its scientific reasoning but rather its political positioning. Only the vaccinated can take off the mask. There are no vaccines for children. Quod erat demonstrandum. 

On a personal note – and I do wonder if you agree – I’ve felt a sense of heartbreak for a full year, whenever I am shopping or out and about and see young children masked up. What message are they getting from this protocol? That people are pathogens, their breath is potentially poisonous, the world is a terrifying and dangerous place, that their very presence in the world is a health threat to everyone. 

I just cannot imagine what it would be like to be a young child having lived through the last year. Kids are robust and recover from awful things but I do wonder what kind of lifelong trauma this past year introduced to their lives. 

The CDC’s directives on masking kids is a paradigmatic example of cruelty wrought upon the most vulnerable by virtue of intellectual pretension, political maneuvering, and a face-saving unwillingness to admit past error. Those who would sacrifice the well-being of kids to save their own pride have no business purporting to guard public health. 


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

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