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CDC Director Scrambles to Defend Flip-Flop on Mask Guidance

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky has made a complete mess of her response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

After reversing course on the issue of whether vaccinated Americans should continue to wear masks, she is now making some dubious excuses for the flip-flop.

For months, the CDC was ignoring science by encouraging people to wear masks in settings where they were unnecessary. It wasn’t until April 27 that the agency conceded that fully vaccinated people did not need to wear masks outside, according to NBC News.

In the same guidance, the CDC recommended that unvaccinated people still needed to wear a mask outside when with other unvaccinated people. In addition, vaccinated people were told to wear a mask in almost all indoor public settings.

These recommendations were anti-scientific, as many conservatives pointed out at the time. Outdoor transmission of the virus has been extremely low, as has transmission of the virus to and from fully vaccinated people.

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On April 28, The Daily Wire editor emeritus Ben Shapiro argued that vaccinated people should be allowed to unmask in all settings.

“I was pro-masking throughout the pandemic,” he tweeted. “Once you’re vaccinated, you should get back to your regular life. The mask has now become, for far too many people, a religious icon. Which is their prerogative. But stop pretending this is allegiance to data. It isn’t.”

On Thursday, Walensky and the CDC released updated guidelines that said vaccinated people no longer needed to wear masks or practice social distancing in “most settings, whether outdoors or indoors.”

The abrupt reversal left many wondering what, if anything, had changed in the interim.

CNN reported on April 15 that just 5,800 out of 77 million fully vaccinated Americans had caught the virus after vaccination. That means only 0.0075 percent of vaccinated people even got the virus.

Of those people, just 396 required hospitalizations, and 74 died. Those numbers represent 0.00051 percent and 0.000096 percent, respectively, of the 77 million vaccinated Americans.

In other words, we knew at least a full month ago that the risk from COVID-19 for vaccinated people was extremely minor.

However, when Walensky was asked about the issue on Sunday, she claimed that the science had “evolved” since the CDC’s April 27 recommendations.

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She appeared on ABC’s “This Week,” where co-host Martha Raddatz pressed her on the rapid reversal.

“It was just Tuesday when you sat before a Senate committee, and you were adamant then that masking and social distancing should remain in place,” Raddatz said.

“But The Washington Post is reporting you had already approved the decision to change the guidance,” she said. “When it was finally announced on Thursday, it came as a huge surprise and left some administration officials, doctors, businesses off-guard.

“So, why so suddenly, and why did you not tell the Senate panel what you had decided?”

“I am — you know, the guide — first of all, let’s celebrate this moment,” Walensky responded. “We’re at a place in this pandemic, cases have been coming down more than a third just in the last two weeks. We have vaccine now across this country widely available for anyone who wants it.”

She then claimed changes had taken place to warrant the move.

“And we now have science that has really just evolved even in the last two weeks that demonstrates that these vaccines are safe, they are effective, they are working in the population, just as they did in the clinical trials, that they are working against our variants that we have here circulating in the United States, and that if you were to develop an infection, while — even if you got vaccinated, that you can’t transmit that infection to other people,” the CDC director said.

“Some of that science was really evolving as late as last Thursday. And one of the published — one of the papers, the largest paper, was published from the CDC just the day before yesterday.

“So we were actively reviewing that science during the past week. We were making decisions and moving — moving, and our subject matter experts while working just as I was testifying in front of Congress. And those — that what was happening.”

This is a stretch. The CDC surely knew how effective the vaccines were on April 15, and that has not changed. The only change was a sudden 180-degree turn in the agency’s recommendations on masking.

Are the CDC's mask recommendations political?

The suggestion that the science somehow drastically changed in those 16 days is absurd. It could not be more obvious that the mask-wearing recommendations are politically motivated.

Some have suggested that mask mandates maintain a sense of panic that allows the Biden administration to continue to push its radical spending plans. Others have argued it is simply a power trip for the CDC.

At any rate, the CDC’s reversal on mask requirements came after two weeks that saw inflation surge and unemployment remain high. President Joe Biden needed a win, and the CDC gave it to him.

That’s how you get a man who just two weeks ago suggested that mask-wearing for vaccinated people is “patriotic” suddenly changing his tune.

“I think it’s a great milestone, a great day,” Biden said of the new recommendations. “It’s been made possible by the extraordinary success we’ve had in vaccinating so many Americans so quickly.”

Biden inherited a vaccine, a rollout plan and an economy on the verge of a huge comeback. He has largely failed in his role as president so far, and he is now pretending that facts we knew months ago are a result of his leadership.

The Biden administration has been a disaster, and Americans should not be fooled by the claim that the lifting of mask mandates is somehow a triumph for the current president.

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Grant is a graduate of Virginia Tech with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He has five years of writing experience with various outlets and enjoys covering politics and sports.
Grant is a graduate of Virginia Tech with a bachelor's degree in journalism. He has five years of writing experience with various outlets and enjoys covering politics and sports.