Everyone, well almost everyone, is excited the masks are no longer required for airline travel. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/florida-court-overturns-cdc-travel-mask-mandate-unlawful-rcna24853. In my locale, probably 90% of folks have already ditched the masks, many during the last year as they’ve tired of restrictions. Please don’t misunderstand our excitement, however. People do want to contribute to the cause; they just don’t see the purpose of such measures any longer. Even folks we know who remained religious mask wearers for almost two years can at times now be seen wandering about face uncovered.
Any new COVID issue should always require examination to determine if there is more here than meets the eye. Below, I try to determine if we are learning the right lessons and if we have missed hidden agendas. At the end of this post, I include a wonderful interview of Stanford Dr. Jay Bhattacharya and I examine the numbers because there is always something they can tell us about where we are and where we are headed.
Masks are still present at doctor’s offices and certain locales around the country. You may even have to wear the mask if traveling to one of the NYC airports; New York is still masked and apparently never doubtful of government policy. There are still a few other areas where the COVID restrictions have not been lifted or worked their way back into the lives of ordinary folks. However, Philadelphia which imposed a mask mandate two weeks ago has already backed off that position:
The city’s Board of Health voted to rescind the mandate, which went into effect Monday, citing leveling numbers of cases and decreasing hospitalizations, Philadelphia mayor’s office said in a statement Thursday.
The Philly mandate was adopted on April 11 and rescinded April 22. Wow. Not even for two weeks. The plummeting COVID death numbers (see below) must have helped Philly to see the light, but the CDC retains its political blinders. Of course, the real game is simply about retaining the power, the power to set the agenda without opposition in the future. Do whatever you can to get away with now, so you can use it as precedent in the future.
As mentioned in last week’s post, federal employees who have worked from home the last two years, must come back to the office (at least once per week) now. If not vaccinated, you are required to get tested before going into the office, despite the fact that vax’d and the unvax’d are developing COVID at the same rate, and despite the fact the meaning of vax’d is now completely garbled as well.
Airline Mask Ruling
My initial take on the airline ruling was: why did it take so long? Were the courts afraid to rule against restrictive mandates last year or the year before? One would think at this date the Biden Administration might get on-board with the new airline mask ruling. They can finally distance themselves from an increasingly unpopular policy while at the same time blaming courts for tying their hands. In other words, they do nothing more and still appease both sides.
Interestingly enough, there appears to be actual disagreement among the one-channel media on the politically expedient position for the administration to adopt. For once, we have no one-channel propaganda message within 24 hours. For once, the media is rubbing two brain cells together. How about this time we just follow the facts and get on the side of the actual science for once? Maybe that’s still a bit too much to ask for these days. So let’s see what media outlets are saying about the administration’s options. This gentleman from CNN tells us the ruling is very dangerous:
He says before the judge’s ruling, the CDC chose wisely to extend the mandate two more weeks:
In those two weeks, CDC experts will continue to monitor “the potential impact the rise of cases has on severe disease, including hospitalizations and deaths, and health care system capacity” to determine if indeed the new target of May 3 (just a few days before Mother’s Day) will be safe, or if, once again, the numbers dictate the need for another delay.
The CDC has had more than 100 weeks to determine the impact, so why do they ask for two more weeks now? The following seems to be the brunt of his argument, basically that we should “listen to the experts”:
In the normal course of human affairs, the CDC’s extension shouldn’t have been a controversial decision. If, for example, a new blizzard is forecast just as we cleaned up from the last one, public opinion doesn’t rally around the notion of ignoring experts’ advice. We listen, accept the judgment knowing it has a chance to be wrong — and then get out the snow shovels.
But what should we do when the experts don’t tell the truth? What should we do when the experts are divided in their opinions? These days, everyone has favorites; they follow their own experts and complain about all the rest. What do you do when the experts advice defies your own common sense? Are we to rally around the flag in all these instances? This uncertainty is essentially the problem. The problem is not a divided public; it is our lack of clear political leadership and a censored debate (egged on by political leadership) which clouds the issue.
The CNN article continues, saying airline travel is a microcosm of community life (and so we need to mask in this very important setting), but schools, public sporting events, and grocery stores are also microcosms, and the masks have come off in all those places without much additional harm (see more in the numbers section). Even Congress has dropped the restrictions. There isn’t much to this gentleman’s case other than listen to the experts that he deems the best.
Matthew Yglesias, another liberal journalist (formerly of Vox), writing for Bloomberg, another liberal, one-channel media outlet offers an alternative opinion, saying the administration should take the money and run:
This article makes the following interesting point:
The basic problem is that the rule itself was issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is a scientific agency — and a conservative one at that. CDC guidelines suggest, for example, that nobody should eat rare steak or runny eggs, and that a woman should not have more than one alcoholic drink a day. The science behind those calls may be sound. But they are sharply at odds with the habits and values of huge numbers of Americans. Fortunately, they do not have the force of law. Alcohol regulations are made by state legislatures, which ideally will be guided but not controlled by science as they make laws about public health.
I am impressed a liberal journalist is siding with freedom for Americans to make their own choices, whether good or bad. This is the essential argument from my perspective as well. We generally know what is best for own unique situations, better than the government and its experts. Yglesias also makes the point the ruling is an opening to avoid a politically embarrassing defeat:
The U.S. Senate took a vote last month to overturn the mandate and it passed 57-40, with a number of Democrats breaking ranks to join a unanimous Republican caucus. If it came to the floor of the House for a vote, it would likely pass there, too. However, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is under no particular rush to hold a vote that will divide her caucus and result in an embarrassing defeat for an administration she supports.
So the judge — a Trump appointee who is surely no fan of Biden, Pelosi or their party — may have succeeded in getting an awkward topic off the agenda. For that, Democrats ought to be grateful.
The Biden Administration said (who knows who actually said it and who is actually in charge there?) they would leave the decision to the CDC; the CDC then decided the mandate is necessary. Maybe they might need this power again in the future? Dr. Fauci, of course, also lined up on the side of the CDC retaining this power, saying courts have no business regulating health issues. But this is a silly stance from a silly political actor. If courts can’t rule on such issues, then they have no business regulating any issue. Courts rule on issues in virtually every arena of American life. Maybe they should have never ruled on Roe v. Wade? Doesn’t that case have something to do with public health and doctors and science and all that sort of stuff? Forget what Dr. Fauci says yet again.
Of course, the cynic in me asks: what does this administration actually know, or better yet, what has it done correctly the last year plus?
What kind of a upside down world is it when we are afraid to define the term woman because of potential blowback from our own political allies? Judge-Kentaji-Brown-Jackson-What’s-a-Woman?
I revisit my liberal debating partner’s and my discussion of the importance of mask wearing (and mandates in general) last year. His responses are in black and mine are in blue italics. Again, it is always good to see the other side of the argument so as not to demonize those you disagree with. My friend started it off:
Not getting a COVID shot or not wearing a mask has the potential to harm someone else. Should you then be liable if you pass the infection to someone? Don’t I have the same freedom as you?
If I get in my car and drive on the interstate, I have the potential to harm you and others. Should I just not drive any longer because of that potential risk?
You have the right to take all the precautions you want to protect yourself, but you have no right to impose your views on me, nor the right to determine my medical treatment.
You say nobody has the right to impose their views/morals on you and somehow that seems to be a one-way street? What I understand you saying is I can’t impose my views on you, which is fine, but for some reason you feel you can/should impose your views/morality on me, which isn’t fine to me.
It is good point and I didn’t address it well in our prior discussion. My not doing something which you believe should protect me from COVID is not an imposition on you. The crux is this: if you are vaccinated, wear a mask, and take the appropriate precautions for yourself, why do I need to do more to protect you? Everyone’s situation is not the same. These precautions you want all to abide by might be counter-productive for me or for others. The same solution does not work for all.
Furthermore, the proof is in the pudding; preventive measures taken have, in fact, proven not so effective. The experts failure to provide strong empirical evidence is a salient reason for dissent from what is otherwise a public willing to listen and adhere to sensible measures.
Finally, freedom is the final essential element that some have forgotten or simply discounted:
Why can’t we just unite behind a common effort? he finally asked. He compared today’s situation to Americans united behind the WWII effort eighty years ago.
It’s another good question; however, the answer is that the American people did unite against COVID. The problem is it didn’t suit certain political needs to acknowledge that unification. It was better politics to divide us into camps: vax’d/unvax’d, mask/unmasked, so politicians could attack the unmasked and unvax’d, including many who might have legitimate reasons for remaining unvax’d and unmasked. Politicians saw opportunities to score points by telling us we were really divided after all and that the problem is the entirely the other side’s fault, you know.
Virtually every Americans was on board fighting COVID at some point. The problem was with our leadership. Many jumped off the train because we didn’t like being lied to. Plus, our political leaders broke their own rules as well; they provided lousy examples. They couldn’t expect us to follow rules they wouldn’t follow themselves. We were willing to do what made sense, but we were smart enough not to blindly follow corrupt leaders who we recognized did not have our best interests at heart.
The fact is most people were indeed vax’d. Most people also wore masks for a good while. A few troglodytes like me resisted masking, but I figure we took risk on ourselves; we didn’t increase yours. If you were vax’d and masked yourself, why did you need more from me and others? Furthermore, I just couldn’t get behind something that I believed had no value. It’s against my nature. Had the masks and the vaccines proven more effective, if we faced a threat on the same scale as smallpox, I (and many others) would have taken a different stance. Careful examination of facts prevented us from taking such a stance.
Today, we have a government who has hidden the truth, outright lied to us, has censored debate on COVID (and many more topics), pitted one group of Americans against another, and has condemned ordinary Americans for the government’s own failures. Our political leaders along with our political media and social media have divided the country for their own political expediencies. Everyday Americans overwhelmingly united behind the common cause of defeating COVID as we did for WWII or after 9/11; it is a failing of our leadership who did not want us to unite, a leadership who used COVID as an opportunity to attack their political opponents and consolidate their own power. This is why we appear so divided on the issues.
So what is your view: the mask mandate is good or not? Do you agree with me the mask mandate was worthless, counter-productive actually? Maybe you believe in mask wearing but will allow others their freedom of choice? For some, it doesn’t matter what you think unless you line up behind the experts they subscribe to. People too often want to believe they are good and others are bad. That’s human nature. The internet, social media especially, has only exacerbated that tendency. Still, we need to account for opinions and views different than our own and be willing to give some ground when the facts dictate it.
Who Else Said Masks are Not Needed?
Many people take their guidance from folks they trust. They discount the credentials or trustworthiness of those telling them the opposite.
A source many go to for advice is the CDC (perhaps more so two years ago than today). This was the CDC’s take in 2009 following the last big outbreak, the H1N1 (Swine) flu:
Information on the effectiveness of facemasks and respirators for decreasing the risk of influenza infection in community settings is extremely limited. Thus, it is difficult to assess their potential effectiveness in decreasing the risk of 2009 influenza A (H1N1) virus transmission in these settings. In the absence of clear scientific data, the interim recommendations below have been developed on the basis of public health judgment, the historical use of facemasks and respirators in other settings for preventing transmission of influenza and other respiratory viruses, and on current information on the spread and severity of the 2009 influenza A (H1N1) virus.
In community and home settings, the use of facemasks and respirators generally are not recommended. However, for certain circumstances as described in Table 1, a facemask or respirator may be considered, specifically for persons at increased risk of severe illness from influenza.
Use of N95 respirators or facemasks generally is not recommended for workers in non-healthcare occupational settings for general work activities. For specific work activities that involve contact with people who have ILI, such as escorting a person with ILI, interviewing a person with ILI, providing assistance to an individual with ILI, the following are recommended:
In 2009, the only instances the CDC recommend face masks is for the individual who is ill or in poor health, not for kids in school, not for those of us shopping or going to the gym, the movies, or out to eat, NOT FOR THOSE WHO ARE NOT YET INFECTED AND IN GOOD HEALTH:
the ill person should be asked to follow good cough etiquette and hand hygiene and to wear a facemask, if able, and one is available
And, I would add, stay home and don’t infect others.
As well as the CDC, folks from all sides of the political aisle have cast doubts on masks:
- Dr. Scott Atlas of Stanford University, also a member of President Trump’s coronavirus task force along with Dr. Fauci said the following in an interview: “There is no good science on general population, widespread, in all circumstances, mask wearing.” https://video.foxnews.com/v/6180319589001#sp=show-clips.
- Dr. Ezekial Immanuel, former Biden medical advisor (and architect of Obamacare, by the way) said you really need to wear an N-95; cloth and paper masks are not effective https://www.breitbart.com/clips/2021/08/11/ezekiel-emanuel-simple-cloth-masks-are-not-good-enough/.
- Dr. Michael Osterholm, another former Biden health advisor, agrees with Dr. Immanuel. He said you are doing no better than putting a screen door on a submarine. https://mnfan.org/2021/08/18/mn-dr-osterholm-cloth-face-coverings-arent-enough-to-combat-covid-only-n-95/.
- Dr. Jay Bhattachayra of Stanford University, who I link to in an interview below also discusses masks and provides common sense reasons to doubt mask mandates.
- Even the greatest of all doctors, Dr. Fauci is contradicted by himself on candid emails as was shown when copies of his private emails were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. https://nypost.com/2021/06/03/fauci-emails-show-his-flip-flopping-on-wearing-masks-to-fight-covid/
I like to also quote Evergreen Medical Clinic, in Evergreen, Oregon who posted an epic criticism of masks in January 2021; it was immediately removed by social media, but then the Facebook medical team knows more about medicine than hayseed doctors from the boonies of Oregon. I saved the original post in any case (see my full post for the complete commentary from the Evergreen docs: https://seek-the-truth.com/2021/08/29/to-mask-or-not-to-mask-that-is-the-question/) Here is a short snippet from that post; it highlights their concerns with recent masking studies:
All studies are not equal. The gold standard of medical evidence comes from randomly controlled studies. Recent observational studies that were used to support mask mandates were poorly designed for confounding factors, carried out in medical environments, and then, impressions were extrapolated to the general public. Studies that evaluated the viral exposure of mice in a cage covered with mask material vs. caged mice without a mask cover does not seem to translate well to a world of humans who use their hands. In contrast, a recent Danish mask study of the general public that was performed in a prospective, randomized fashion did not endorse the current majority narrative and was vigorously criticized and suppressed by some.
Logic argues against mask effectiveness. The size differential between viral particle or droplet size expelled from the human respiratory tract compared to the filter size of surgical or cloth masks is substantial. If you read the fine print on most consumer masks, one will likely read a statement such as this; “not intended for medical purposes and has not been tested to reduce the transmission of disease”.
Some Other Stuff
Dr. Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford was a co-author of the Great Barrington Declaration and has been a sensible, mostly apolitical voice, throughout the COVID pandemic. He is interviewed by Reason magazine. He is cogent, easy to understand, and hard to contradict. The interview is more than hour, but is quite interesting and provides numerous insights. I highly recommend it to obtain the reasoned approach to COVID.
One of the more interesting back-and-forth conversations this past week was between Fox News Peter Doocy and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki:
DOOCY: “You continue to recommend that people wear masks. Why is it that we can sit here in the White House Briefing Room with no masks, but people can’t sit in an airplane cabin with no masks?”
Psaki: “Well Peter, I’m not a doctor. You’re not a doctor, that I’m aware of.” pic.twitter.com/jFmlQErgJx
It is a perfectly reasonable question. What does it matter that most of us are not doctors? Doctors are not the only ones who should have opinions about mask policies. This affects us all. Besides, how about the wide array of doctors I quoted that say mask policies don’t make sense?
Steve Deace reminds us that all have still not benefited from rulings. The court system is haphazard in that our military members are still being forced to be vaccinated against their will.
Dr. John Campbell highlighted Denmark which will actually eliminate COVID vaccines from their national strategy in May. Denmark is not saying vaccines are worthless, but they are saying the strategy does not make sense given the current environment and the many limitations of the vaccines. Kudos to them for standing up for science and what is best for their citizens.
On one hand, the numbers are good, very good. COVID deaths have fallen 13 straight weeks and are ever-so-close to the lowest levels during the two plus years since COVID arrived. Fewer and fewer are dying from COVID in 2022, yet on the other hand, Americans life expectancy has declined. During 2020, the first year of the pandemic, life expectancy dropped 1.5 years. The average age of death for COVID is still in the late 70s, so it is unlikely that COVID itself is responsible for this decrease in life expectancy. Instead, this a clear indication that COVID policy has been counter productive.
Policies which have hurt the young and healthy at the expense of protecting older more vulnerable Americans are the real problem here. When need to come to grip with excess deaths from COVID policies. We will likely hear more about the negative impact of policy in the future.
The week before Easter saw the biggest one-week drop in COVID deaths since the decline began in late January (26%). Last week, the decline was another 10% as deaths fell to 358 per day as of Saturday, April 23. COVID cases have actually risen during the last four weeks from 28,000 per day on April 2 to more than 53,000 per day by Thursday, April 28, yet the death rate has still continued to inch down (see the charts below).
As of Thursday, April 28 the death number had fallen to 283 per day, just shy of the record low of 248 per day set July 7, 2021. In fact, only for a very short two week period last summer was the death rate ever below 300 per day. We are around 300 now and going lower still.
Some states do not report COVID numbers daily, so after adjustments in the coming days, today’s total is probably about 10% higher, at or just above 300 per day (numbers take about a week to settle out). In any case, the downward trend continues for the 13th straight week, down close to 90% from its peak. Cases have risen but are not out-of-control as they were with the earlier Omicron waves, and despite the increase in cases, deaths are not rising. Cases will likely flatten during the next couple weeks and deaths will continue to remain low and may hit new record lows next month.
COVID today kills fewer people than Alzheimer’s does; it has fallen to our seventh leading cause of death. It may soon fall below diabetes as well. So why the continued alarm still coming from certain quarters? Numbers could certainly rise again at some point and some will always be ready to sound the alarm, but for now we are out of the worst of it.
- COVID deaths in 2021: January 1 through April 28 – 223K (day 118) = 1,890 per day.
- COVID deaths in 2022: January 1 through April 28 – 169.5K (day 118) = 1,436 per day.
- 7-day moving average of COVID deaths per day April 28, 2021: 715
- 7-day moving average of COVID deaths per day April 28 2022: 283
- 7-day moving average of COVID cases per day April 28, 2021: 56,000
- 7-day moving average of COVID cases per day April 28, 2022: 53,000
So far, we have seen a 24% decrease in deaths over 2021. We are ever-so-close to the lowest levels in more than two years and there is no upward pressure coming from anything on the horizon. 2022, the year of natural immunity, is certainly retaining its promise. Even the peerless Dr. Fauci himself, said the pandemic has ended as well (before he quickly qualified this careless and candid thought).
|Date||7-day Death |
|Weekly % Change||Total % Change |
from Peak (1/29/22)
**tally will adjust upward (up to 10%) during the next week
|Date||7-day Cases |
|Weekly% Change||Total % Change|
from Peak (1/15/22)
For more on COVID, see the following page: https://seek-the-truth.com/category/covid/