Yesterday’s NBC News interview featured President Joe Biden saying that it was difficult to tell whether the governors are wrong. He spoke about Democratic governors who had recently removed face masks from schools and businesses. It’s hard to call, even though I think it is premature.
What makes it so difficult? Biden spoke with Lester Holt on NBC and suggested that decisions like these depend partially on the “omicron variant continuing to dive.” Biden also spoke out about the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of COVID-19 vaccinations for children under 5. He stated that children become more secure each day. The more you have protection, the less masks are required.
Biden does not know the date it is no longer “premature to cease forcing masks onto adults and children at schools and daycare centers. The administration will not say what threshold must be crossed before those steps would be prudent, and the two criteria Biden mentioned—daily new cases and vaccination rates—are of dubious relevance now that Americans, including those who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19, have the tools to protect themselves, regardless of whether everyone else is required to wear a mask.
Since mid-December through mid-January the number of new cases has dropped precipitously in America. According to The, yesterday’s average seven-day duration. New York TimesDatabase, which was below 175,000 at the peak of January 17, down 78 per cent from its peak. The number of hospitalizations has dropped 42 percent in the past year. This includes patients admitted to hospitals for testing positive. Since February 1, the 7-day mean of daily deaths has fallen. Another indicator is also falling.
Important information as the Biden Administration searches unsuccessfully for an “offramp”: While the dominant Omicron variant is highly contagious it tends to produce less severe symptoms that earlier coronaviruses. Additionally, vaccination offers additional protection. After I received COVID-19 last year, my symptoms were mild for the first few days. Common colds can be worse for me. Omicron has mild side effects so my symptoms may have been similar if I hadn’t been triple vaccinated. However, I am grateful that I received any additional protection.
Millions of Americans are familiar with similar situations, making mask mandates difficult to sell in this pandemic. The coronavirus is less common in Americans with milder infections.
How about the vaccination rate? Nearly two-thirds have had two doses. The rates of vaccination are particularly high for older people who face greater risks. Biden seems to be focusing on the vaccination rate for children (12-17 years old) and 24% for 5-11 year-olds (22-41).
This is the key! makes no sense because children are extremely unlikely to suffer life-threatening COVID-19 symptoms even if they are not vaccinated. Based on data from before vaccines became available, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that there was a 0.002 percent chance of an infection fatality in children under 18. “A (pre-vaccine!) analysis from Germany shows that if a child is infected with COVID—with or without preexisting conditions—there is an 8 in 100,000 chance of going to the intensive care unit,” University of California, San Francisco, epidemiologist Vinay Prasad notes. The risk of dying is estimated at 3 out 1 million. No deaths have been reported for the older age groups. These risks are shockingly low.
Biden however suggests school mask mandates should be kept in place until vaccine rates for 5- to 17-year-olds reaches some unknown threshold. This goal cannot also be met for children younger than 5 who are still awaiting approval of vaccines. About 22 percent of Americans are under 18 years old. They account for 0.09% of Americans who have been affected by COVID-19, according to the CDC. Biden still hopes for a day when children are better protected.
President Trump’s focus on child safety is clearly misleading. Teachers and others who could be infected by COVID-19 might also become ill. Vaccination is their best defense against severe symptoms. Immunocompromised individuals (or children with immunocompromism) can also protect themselves from infection, by using well-fitting, high-quality masks that fit perfectly, regardless of what the rest are doing.
“At the point of pandemic,” New York Times columnist David Leonhardt writes, “there is a strong argument that a targeted approach—lifting restrictions while taking specific measures to protect the vulnerable—can maximize public health.” The debate about whether “a targeted approach” is better than “broad restrictions” has been ongoing throughout the pandemic. Since 2002, Lockdown critics have claimed that mandates that are population-wide could not justify the cost of the public health paymentoff. Instead they argue that “protect” is more important.[ing]The vulnerable.” It is now more compelling than ever to argue for vaccines, high-quality treatments and protective masks.
Holt was told by Biden that he had committed to following the science. The science is often different from the science provided by the CDC. The agency is still insisting on “universal masking” in K–12 schools and day care centers, which applies to children as young as 2, despite the lack of evidence that its benefits outweigh its costs and despite the dissent from a growing number of blue-state governors. The evidence against general mask-wearing by adults is also exaggerated regularly by the CDC.
It could be a sign that the CDC is no longer relevant. Holt wondered. Biden didn’t have a satisfactory answer. Neither does the CDC.