'Mind-boggling negligence': How the feds consistently got COVID wrong

From masks and distancing to vaccines and therapeutics, federal pronouncements and actions have confidently rebuffed contrary evidence before sometimes — quietly — coming around.

Updated: August 20, 2022 - 11:14pm

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    Before her rebranding as a champion of loosening COVID-19 restrictions, former Planned Parenthood CEO Leana Wen chided President Biden for issuing an employer vaccine mandate rather than putting people under house arrest for exercising bodily autonomy.

    "You have the option to not get vaccinated if you want, but then you can't go out in public," the George Washington University public health professor and former Baltimore health commissioner told CNN in September, comparing forgone vaccination to drunk driving. 

    "The vaccinated should not have to pay the price for the so-called choices of the unvaccinated anymore," she said, echoing the establishment view that COVID vaccines afforded full protection against infection and transmission.

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    Not only was that wrong from the start, but federal officials made the assertion based on "hope" rather than evidence, Trump White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx testified in June.

    Even as the Delta variant tore through vaccinated Americans in summer 2021, prompting CDC Director Rochelle Walensky to recommend masking regardless of vaccination status, President Biden claimed for months against all evidence that vaccination was a silver bullet. The Omicron offensive would soon remove all doubt.

    Critics argue that the CDC, the feds broadly and the U.S. public health establishment have erred repeatedly in their assertions related to COVID, ignoring global research clarifying the risk profile of the virus, the tradeoffs of masking, the safety and efficacy of vaccines, and the economic, social and educational toll of strict mitigation measures.

    It took the White House until March to acknowledge aerosols were the primary method of transmission for COVID, while the CDC's SARS-CoV-2 transmission page still insists it's "respiratory fluids," unchanged from May 2021.

    When Walensky coauthored a Journal of the American Medical Association "viewpoint" that warned vaccine "disinformation" was still spreading, she curiously declined to define it, suggesting the CDC was wary of making more questionable factual assertions even as the feds pressured Big Tech to censor dissenting voices.

    The agency issued its ultimate walk-back in revised COVID guidance this month, removing distinctions between vaccinated and unvaccinated groups — the only credible legal basis for vaccine mandates — and recognizing that natural immunity by itself confers protection, as White House COVID adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci's own scientists have documented.

    The revision resembled the anti-lockdown Great Barrington Declaration, whose three "fringe epidemiologists" were the target of an attempted "takedown" by then-National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins.

    "It's clear that there are some profound questions that we need to ask about the harmful effects" of COVID mandates and interventions, former Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-N.Y.), the first female physician elected to Congress, told "Just the News Not Noise."

    She speculated the CDC might be "trying to get ahead" of litigation by formerly deplatformed journalist Alex Berenson, noting the agency recently removed some claims about mRNA vaccines, which have an unexpectedly high association with heart inflammation in young men.

    "As early as Feb 2021, we had reports from Israel that young men were experiencing [post-vaccination] myocarditis" at a "deeply concerning" rate as high as 1 in every 3,000 — a safety signal that Walensky claimed didn't exist, University of California San Francisco epidemiologist Vinay Prasad wrote in his analysis of a new Thai myocarditis study.

    It is "mind-boggling negligence" that U.S. agencies "have to rely on a Thailand preprint for the first prospective study of cardiac biomarkers," Prasad said.

    While the 44% lost-pregnancy rate in Pfizer's vaccine trial is "a set of data that remains fully to be interpreted," Hayworth emphasized the "overwhelming majority" of pregnant women aren't threatened by the virus "at all." The lodestar of medicine is "never intervene where you don't need to."

    Even the "socialist" actor Tim Robbins is demanding his union end its vaccine mandate, Hayworth noted. "We are holding back Americans from not just jobs but from their livelihoods, from the dignity of work, from the social interaction, for no scientific reason."

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    The CDC also eliminated testing and quarantine for asymptomatic COVID-19 infectees and close contacts, as well as the six-foot rule, an American creation without a clear basis that kept scores of children out of school classrooms each day in so-called hybrid learning setups.

    Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb questioned the rule's scientific basis and dubbed it "probably ... the single-costliest mitigation tactic" during the pandemic. In Sweden, which neither closed schools nor masked its children, primary school students suffered "no learning loss" related to COVID, and poor children were not "especially affected," according to a new International Journal of Educational Research study.

    While nearly all American school districts have jettisoned mask mandates for now, two majority-black districts are starting the year masked, according to Yahoo News: suburban D.C.'s Prince George's County "until further notice" and Philadelphia for 10 days.

    The CDC has never rejected the cloth masks commonly worn by schoolchildren, claiming they offer "some protection" while encouraging the public for the first time this year to wear higher-quality masks. A randomized controlled trial in Bangladesh found cloth masks have an "imprecise zero" effect.

    Italian researchers found masked children had the highest concentrations of carbon dioxide among all masked groups, and Japanese researchers found "several pathogenic microbes" on masks and "significantly increased" fungi on those worn for long periods.

    Economist Jeffrey Tucker, whose Brownstone Institute compiles research that challenges common COVID mitigation practices, told Just the News he's not expecting a formal mea culpa from the CDC.

    "They have only walked away from a few matters such as natural immunity and vaccinated infection and spread," he said. "Even then, it's not explicit." As late as January, Walensky portrayed vaccinated transmission as a new feature of viral variants, rather than admit vaccines were leaky from the start.

    The feds have not formally disavowed plexiglass barriers that may worsen spread, school and playground closures and unvaccinated scapegoating campaigns, or acknowledged "heterogeneity of risk, difference between infection and medically significant illness, [or] repurposed therapeutics that have worked all over the world," he said. 

    The FDA conflated horse and human dosages of ivermectin to scare people away from a long-tested therapeutic whose efficacy against COVID, not its safety profile, is the subject of ongoing debate. Doctors, including the Republican nominee for Minnesota governor, have also faced medical license investigations for recommending repurposed therapeutics or questioning COVID recommendations.

    Yale University epidemiologist Harvey Risch argues the feds have conflated hospitalized and outpatient groups to portray ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine as ineffective and dangerous. A recent study in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology found only two COVID positives among 121 Indian healthcare workers given preemptive, ongoing hydroxychloroquine in 2020.