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The CDC Director’s Slippery Response to Criticism of School Mask Mandates Further Undermines Her Agency’s Credibility

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The CDC Director's Slippery Response to Criticism of School Mask Mandates Further Undermines Her Agency's Credibility

Americans should be able to rely on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for honest and accurate information about infectious diseases and strategies for dealing with them. But time and time again during the COVID-19 pandemic, CDC Director Rochelle Walinsky has proven untrustworthy. The most recent example is Walinsky’s slippery response to criticism of a study she has repeatedly cited to justify the CDC’s controversial recommendation that K-12 schools require students to wear face masks as a protection against COVID-19.

That study, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on September 24, looked at “school-related COVID-19 outbreaks” — defined as two or more confirmed cases among students or staff over a 14-day period — in two Arizona counties from July 15. Until August 31. “After adjusting to the potential confounders described,” the researchers reported, “the odds of a school-associated COVID-19 outbreak in schools without a mask-requirement were 3.5 times higher than those in schools requiring an early mask.”

As I noted at the time, the study did not take into account local vaccination rates or the COVID-19 safeguards schools have adopted as well as mask mandates. Failure to consider these variables per se makes it impossible to draw any firm conclusions about the explanation for the difference described by the researchers.

It is plausible that schools with “early mask requirements” tend to be located in neighborhoods with relatively high vaccination rates. It is also plausible that they were more likely to take other precautions, such as improved ventilation and physical distancing. These factors could help explain why schools with mask mandates are not likely to report outbreaks. Because the researchers did not control for these variables, their study cannot tell us what role mask requirements play.

In an article dated December 16, it was published by Atlantic OceanDavid Zweig pointed out these and many other potential issues with the study, including the selection of outbreaks rather than infection rates as an outcome variable, bias in the “close contacts” test, and the fact that some schools were twice as open. Like others during the study period. Overall, the scientists Zweig interviewed said the size of the purported effect was highly implausible and inconsistent with other research on the benefits of masking. Noah Haber, a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University’s Center for Meta-Research Innovation, who co-authored a recent systematic review of research on COVID-19 mitigation measures, described the Arizona study as “so unreliable that it probably shouldn’t have been brought into the public conversation.”

Still, Walinsky joined the study as an affirmation of CDC’s support for “mass concealment” in K-12 schools. during face the nation Two days after the study was published, she said it “showed that places without [mask mandates] In its place the probability of an outbreak of the disease was three and a half times more than in the places where it was already located [mask mandates] in the place. During a press conference at the White House two days later, she said, ‘Judicial authorities that have masks [requirements] Early in the school year… they were three and a half times less likely to have an outbreak” tweet That afternoon, the Arizona data said,Enhancing the benefits of “in” prevention masks #covid19 Disease outbreaks in schools. During another White House briefing on October 13, she reiterated that “schools without a mask requirement were three and a half times more likely to have a COVID-19 outbreak than schools that required a mask.”[d] masks “.

Last week, Walensky took viewers’ questions during a Fox News part. One viewer, Dave Joyce, noted, “I have consistently cited one study in Arizona as justification for mask mandates in schools.” “However, there are reports in Atlantic Ocean This indicates that the study is deeply flawed. Will you follow the science, stop relying on faulty studies, and end the mask mandates for children in schools? “

Despite her heavy reliance on the Arizona study, Walensky did not acknowledge, let alone refute, any of the points made by Zweig or the experts he quoted. Instead she said this:

There has been study after study, not only in this country but in others, that has shown that our multi-layered prevention strategies, including masks in schools, are able to keep our schools open safely. What I would say now is that we have the capacity for vaccines now available for children over the age of five that we encourage parents to vaccinate their children. Most importantly, we want to be able to keep our schools open, and the best way to do that is to use multi-layered prevention strategies, which include not only vaccinating our children and adults, but also continuing to cover up, certainly in the context of a transmissible omicron variant.

Note that Walensky is referring to “multi-layered prevention strategies” rather than specifically hiding mandates. That’s because the research you’re alluding to hasn’t usually attempted to isolate the effect of mask requirements. On the whole, studies have not compared schools with mask mandates to schools without them. As the CDC puts it, studies have shown that “intra-school transmission is typically lower than—or at least similar—levels of community transmission, when prevention strategies are in place.” I did these studies Not View, because of its design Not possible It turns out that this concealment or any other specific guarantee was it is necessary For schools to reopen ‘safely’.

When it first released its guidelines for schools, the CDC’s best attempt at a more rigorous analysis was a large study of Georgia schools published in May, which found no statistically significant evidence that requiring students to wear masks lowered infection rates, even before the spread of infection. Vaccines are widespread. Available. In a preprint study published the same month, Brown University economist Emily Oster and four other researchers analyzed COVID-19 data from Florida, New York and Massachusetts for the 2020-21 academic year. “We found no association with mask mandates,” they reported. But they noted that “all prices [were] Less in the spring, after the teacher’s vaccination [was] Underway.”

In short, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention decided to recommend a “mass masking” of K-12 students without any solid evidence that the policy had a significant impact on the transmission of COVID-19, not to mention that its benefits outweighed the significant burdens it imposes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now trying to confirm its decision retroactively by citing later research that is still far from conclusive.

Which school districts still need to be concealed depend on the judgment of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So does the Biden administration when it argues that deviating from the agency’s advice is not only unwise, but illegal. Both assume that we can rely on the CDC to fairly evaluate the scientific evidence. The agency’s handling of this problem, along with many other missteps, misrepresentations, and poorly justified reversals, shows that we can’t.

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