U.S. states rely heavily on COVID-19 data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but the agency isn’t publishing large amounts of the data it collects.
The New York Times reported that the CDC has been leaving out important data about the effectiveness of boosters in adults under 65 years of age, and that it had only recently provided wastewater data that could help localities predict a surge in coronavirus cases. From The Times:
When the C.D.C. published the first significant data on the effectiveness of boosters in adults younger than 65 two weeks ago, it left out the numbers for a huge portion of that population: 18- to 49-year-olds, the group least likely to benefit from extra shots, because the first two doses already left them well-protected.
The agency recently debuted a dashboard of wastewater data on its website that will be updated daily and might provide early signals of an oncoming surge of Covid cases. Some states and localities had been sharing wastewater information with the agency since the start of the pandemic, but it had never before released those findings.
The Times added that this far into the pandemic, the CDC “has published only a tiny fraction of the data it has collected, several people familiar with the data said.”
CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund told The Times that the agency has been posting data slowly “because basically, at the end of the day, it’s not yet ready for prime time.” She added that the CDC’s “priority when gathering any data is to ensure that it’s accurate and actionable.”
Nordlund also said the agency worried data could be misinterpreted.
The CDC continues to suggest children need to be masked at school, even though studies have shown masks have limited efficacy in a population already largely unaffected by the virus and that the damage to childhood development far outweigh any benefits of mask wearing.
When presented with this information, however, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told lawmakers the agency wouldn’t update its mask guidance for children, The Daily Wire reported.
Walensky made the comments to lawmakers in closed-door House Energy and Commerce Committee meeting, audio of which was leaked to Reason.
“The CDC provides guidance,” Walensky told lawmakers in the recording. “Our guidance currently is that masking should happen in all schools right now.”
The audio also reveals that Walensky “faced criticism—from members in both parties—that the CDC’s guidance is confusing and out of step with human behavior at this stage of the pandemic,” Reason’s Robby Soave reported.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), grilled Walensky about the science behind school masking, and brought up how the Arizona study regularly cited by the CDC as supporting continued masks for children was thoroughly critiqued in an article for The Atlantic.
“What we see in the U.S. is an outlier as it relates to the mask mandate for our children to go to school,” McMorris Rodgers told Walensky in the audio, according to Reason. “[The World Health Organization and UNICEF] have both recommended against masking for kids under the age of five because it’s going to do more harm than good. For children ages 6 to 11, they think that we should be considering other factors like learning and social development. My question today, my one question, is Dr. Walensky, will you commit to update your guidance by Friday to allow children in person without the burden of masks?”
Walensky refused to make the commitment, though she did acknowledge the “limitations” of the Arizona study and other studies the CDC has used to continue pushing masks in schools.
“They all have limitations, and that’s important to recognize because we are not randomizing schools,” she said. “We have to control for whether there are windows, ventilation, and other activities happening outside of these schools. So all of these studies have limitations. But they are for the most part uniformly pointing to that when there’s a lot of disease out there, the masks are preventing that disease and preventing that transmission and because of that we are able to keep our schools open.”
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