CDC’s Pandemic Failures From the Top

At Wall Street Journal Opinion Paul Gigot interviews Marty Makary about the state of covid in the US and how CDC keeps making mistakes.  A transcript of the video is provided below in italics with my bolds.  Further on there are excerpts from the Federal court ruling CDC’s transportation mask mandate unconstitutional.

Gigot:  Under fire for its handling of the Covid19 pandemic, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky announced plans this week to revamp the embattled agency saying in an email quote it is time to step back and strategically position CDC to support the future of public health. Since the pandemic began more than two years ago, the agency has come under increasing criticism for its response, from initial delays developing a coronavirus test, to the agency’s often unclear guidanceon masking, isolation and quarantine and now booster shots.

Let’s bring in Dr. Marty Makary. He’s a professor at the John Hopkins Schools of Medicine and a Fox News contributor. Welcome Doctor. Look, what do you make of this plan to revamp the CDC. It’s hard for me to recall an agency that was supposed to meet a crisis, I mean this agency was designed for that. And yet their reputation is in tatters. What do they need to do?

Makary: Well many of the problems are structural, but they have 21,000 employees and an $11 billion budget. It’s not the fault of the 21,000 employees that they ignored natural immunity. It’s not a structural problem that the CDC closed schools. That was a leadership problem. These are bad decisions: not spacing out the two doses and focusing of the first dose; not warning the country of the pandemic, and limiting testing in such a way that we couldn’t really follow this thing early on. These are problems of leadership. Not problems with the structure.

And I think there’s an attempt now to say: Hey, we’re going to something to fix the problem, even though it’s not the direct fix.

Gigot: OK, so you mean they’re going to try to rearrange the bureaucratic furniture. But I thought that the CDC of all agencies was supposed to (pardon the cliche): Follow the Science. Are you saying that they let politics supersede the Science?

Makary:  Well right now that is the growing perception among medical professionals. If you look at the way the CDC rules their own expert advisory committee. You know the CDC was designed to help us eradicate and take care of cholera and malaria and polio and smallpox. What they’re doing now is getting involved in evictions. They’re adjudicating on every aspect of American life including how kids wear a cloth mask in school.

They fund studies which are so highly flawed they would not be peer reviewed in any respected journal. But they published them in their own journal called MMWR. And then cite their own flawed research. So this has become a farce. And in the medical community many of us have been saying: This is not the scientific process and ignoring natural immunity was a big deal. For this head of the CDC to ignore natural immunity is like the head of NASA believe the earth is flat.

Gigot:  OK, so what about this new variant that’s spreading. You have a big breakout in Washington DC. A super spreader event at the Gridiron dinner involved a lot of politicians. Should we be more concerned about this new variant than we’ve been led to believe?

Makary:  We should think of it as a bad flu season. It’s going around. It’s more ubiquitous than influenza. Now the infection fatality rate in an analysis publish about two weeks ago and Financial Times showed that it is now officially lower than that of influenza in a typical flu season. So we shouldn’t be alarmed by should recognize this as an infection that is ubiquitous, inevitable in most people. And those who avoided BA1 are probably getting the more contagious BA2.

It is definitely going up. We’re seeing cases go up in the Northeast primarily, somewhat in Florida. But if you’re following cases using the CDC’s numbers like you were following a stock price on a ticker, you’re not going to see those increases because most people are using home testing. The key is we are not seeing a surge in hospitalization. That should always be the ultimate indicator of how we’re doing.

Gigot:   OK. There’s been controversy as well over the second booster shot and whether to get it. CDC was leaning in the direction for certain that individuals above a certain age and immuno compromised to get it. What do you think of that decision?

Makary:   Well, it was not based on any compelling data. We finally got the data after the FDA authorized th second booster. It was published Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. Not very convincing. It showed that if you boost an entire population with a second booster, the added benefit is a very slight: 1 in 42,000 people in the population have risk reduction in severe illness not hospitalizations, but those who develop real symptoms. That’s why the editor of the New England Journal has said before the committee, he doesn’t see compelling data. This FDA bypassed their own experts to ream through this authorization.

And it’s very odd. They gave Pfizer more than they applied for. Pfizer asked to authorize for people over 65, and it was granted for everyone over 50. And while they put this through in supersonic speed they are still sitting on covaxin and novavax, (traditional vaccines) and covaxin has better coverage against variants. And we’re going to get the omicron specific vaccine data reading out is a few weeks. Many people have been saying, wait for that, then get the second booster and an omicron specific vaccine.

Gigot:   Suppose I am over 60 years old and I’ve had two shots and then a booster, and then came down with Covid, one of these breakthrough cases. A lot of people I know have had exactly that pattern. Do you need a booster in those circumstances?

Makary:   No, there’s no compelling reason, and boosters do have rare but real side effects. We’ve seen reports of ringing in the ears, and you can’t keep pumping boosters in people every 3 to 6 months in perpetuity because we are seeing that protection only lasts a matter of weeks. That was the study in the New England Journal. It really was sustained for about six weeks and the time followed. So no, natural immunity and hybrid immunity is very powerful and for now there’s no scientific data to support getting a booster after having convalescent infection.

Gigot:   Thanks Dr. Makary, appreciate it.

Federal Court Overturns CDC’s Transportation Mask Mandate

The Mask Mandate Is Illegal: Quotes from the District Court Judgment

Excerpts from Brownstone Institute report in italics below with my bolds

Within the past two years, the CDC has found within § 264(a) the power to shut down the cruise ship industry, stop landlords from evicting tenants who have not paid their rent, and require that persons using public conveyances wear masks. Courts have concluded that the first two of these measures exceeded the CDC’s statutory authority under §264. …

No court has yet ruled on the legality of the third. At first blush, it appears more closely related to the powers granted in§ 264(a) than either the sail order or the eviction moratorium. But after rigorous statutory analysis, the Court concludes that§ 264(a) does not authorize the CDC to issue the Mask Mandate….

As the list of actions suggest, the federal government’s use of the quarantine power has been traditionally limited to localized disease elimination measures applied to individuals and objects suspected of carrying disease…. Though the government once conceded that § 264(a) merely “consolidates and codifies” this history, see id., it now finds a power that extends far beyond it to population-wide preventative measures like near-universal mask requirements that apply even in settings with little nexus to interstate disease spread, like city buses and Ubers. Such a definition reverses the import of history as well as the roles of the States and the federal government….

The opposite of conditional release is “detention” or “quarantine.” Anyone who refuses to comply with the condition of mask wearing is – in a sense – detained or partially quarantined by exclusion from a conveyance or transportation hub under authority of the Mask Mandate. They are forcibly removed from their airplane seats, denied boarding at the bus steps, and turned away at the train station doors-all on the suspicion that they will spread a disease. Indeed, the Mask Mandate enlists local governments, airport employees, flight attendants, and even ride-sharing drivers to enforce these removal measures.

The CDC issued the mandate in February 2021, almost two weeks after the President called for a mandate, eleven months after the President had declared COVID-19 a national emergency, and almost thirteen months since the Secretary of Health and Human Services had declared a public health emergency. This history suggests that the CDC itself did not find the passage of time particularly serious….

Although a closer question than the failure to properly invoke the good cause exception, the Mask Mandate fails this reasoned-explanation standard. Beyond the primary decision to impose a mask requirement, the Mask Mandate provides little or no explanation for the CDC’s choices. Specifically, the CDC omits explanation for rejecting alternatives and for its system of exceptions. And there are many, such that the overall efficiency of masking on airplanes or other conveyances could reasonably be questioned.

In sum, irrespective of whether the CDC made a good or accurate decision, it needed to explain why it acted as it did. Since the CDC did not explain its decision to compromise the effectiveness of its Mandate by including exceptions or its decision to limit those exceptions, the Court cannot conclude that the CDC “articulated a ‘rational connection between the facts found and the choices made.”

[T]he Mandate exceeded the CDC’s statutory authority, improperly invoked the good cause exception to notice and comment rulemaking, and failed to adequately explain its decisions. Because “our system does not permit agencies to act unlawfully even in pursuit of desirable ends,” the Court declares unlawful and vacates the Mask Mandate.


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