By Mecca Fowler
Over the course of this pandemic, most of us tried our best to stay safe and not politicize COVID-19. However, it seems our blind trust in institutions has been taken for granted.
The Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are two heads of the same snake. Both operate within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Both have greatly misguided the American public during this pandemic.
When the virus first reached American shores, we were promised “2 weeks to flatten the curve” was all we needed. We were told to stay home, social distance, and not gather or travel outside unless it was absolutely necessary. However, after those two weeks were up, draconian lockdowns and social distancing were still imposed upon us, recommended by these institutions well into the summer of 2020.
These institutions were being overly cautious and pessimistic about the damage COVID-19 would have on America. A year later, this has had irreparable damage on not only their reputation but the state of health of this country.
Yet, although we faced many unintended consequences following their guidance, the public still adhered to their every word.
Infamously, Dr. Fauci and his cohorts at the NIH slow walked discussions about the timeline of a vaccine becoming available.
“Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease researcher, has long warned Americans that, even optimistically, developing a Covid-19 vaccine would take between 12 and 18 months. Even that timeline, Fauci has said, would represent something of a biomedical miracle,” according to Stat News.
In 2020, Fauci and others sowed seeds of distrust in what could be accomplished medically by mass producing COVID-19 vaccines. Even Dr. Rishi Desai, a former intelligence officer for the CDC, weighed in on the previous administration’s ability to roll out the vaccines.
“The fact is that we haven’t seen anything that’s been very complicated, that’s been effectively done by the Trump administration thus far,” he said. “If they turn it around, that would be awesome,” he added.
“Do they have the resources? Absolutely they do. Everyone’s motivated to get this vaccine out there. And so the business community, the FDA, everyone’s motivated to do this. So, there’s no reason they couldn’t do it. But do I think that they will likely bungle it? Absolutely.”
Fast forward to December 14th, when the first COVID-19 vaccines in America were distributed. Then, mass vaccination campaigns started to ramp up, encouraged by the CDC and NIH. Once we hit a certain threshold starting in May, the CDC advised that vaccinated people were safe to take their masks off.
This attracted a lot of skepticism with many vaccinated people voicing not to remove their masks because they were afraid of appearing as an “anti-masker.” Some called the efforts “premature” and cried that unvaccinated people would take advantage of this rule.
Only less than 3 months later, the CDC flip-flopped on their guidance and is now asking the vaccinated to put their masks back on in public.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters, “This pandemic continues to pose a serious threat to the health of all Americans. Today, we have new science related to the delta variant that requires us to update the guidance regarding what you can do when you are fully vaccinated,” according to CNBC.
At this point it seems like the CDC is purposefully changing their advice arbitrarily without any merit in science. By now, they’ve managed to piss off both factions of America, vaccinated and unvaccinated. More so, their reversal in policies is eroding the public’s trust in their ability to manage COVID-19.
It hardly seems rooted in science. We’ve tried mass masking before, but cases of COVID-19 still surged. Further, asking the public to put back on their masks is undermining the supposed efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines.
Still, some experts are backing the CDC’S recommendations. Ali Mokdad, a professor of global health at the University of Washington, said “We know masks work, and they work against every variant that this virus has produced. If we use them, they will save lives, save livelihoods and prevent us from shutting down our economy.”
Opposing experts are sounding the alarm, asking where the data is to support going back to masking. Michigan Representative Peter Meijer also said, “I think a lot of the frustration is coming with just the blanket absorption of CDC guidance that shifted based upon what they’re citing as two unpublished studies that by virtue of being unpublished no one else can look at.”
To recap, we don’t have properly vetted studies showing the efficacy of masks. The CDC also doesn’t provide guidance outlining what will be different this time from the last time we masked up.
To put it plainly, these moves are not based on data, studies, statistics, or anything in the sense of those realms. This shift back into measures we tried in early 2020 abruptly disrupts the lives of Americans who had confided in the CDC’s earlier guidance to get vaccinated.
By now, it’s clear this reversal also makes us question why certain measures were put into practice in the first place. Several polls have shown that America’s trust in our health institutions is evaporating quickly.
According to one academic study, “As states and health systems prepare to deliver severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 vaccines to the American public, a confluence of factors has the potential to interfere with these efforts: misinformation about coronavirus disease 2019, vaccine hesitancy, and the erosion of the American public’s trust in the vaccine regulatory process due to recent and ongoing events. Broad action is needed to address these issues, including improved and consistent communication by the Food and Drug Administration, restoration of the Centers for Disease Control as an independent and science-driven institution, and more aggressive policies to counteract misinformation, particularly on social media platforms.”
Misinformation and vaccine hesitancy are factors on the state of health in this country. However, they shouldn’t take all the blame for mistrust of public health. It’s been incredibly confusing watching the two agencies tasked with keeping Americans healthy and safe fumbling their guidance throughout this pandemic. Even as new variants of COVID-19 pop up their messaging remains inconsistent.
They know how infectious diseases work and how they mutate. They predicted (and are still predicting) certain patterns and behaviors of this disease, yet their guidance has been consistently flawed. It seems the CDC and NIH are more concerned with being reactive to the virus rather than proactive.
Consequently, mistrust in these institutions should not be a surprise, given how they have handled this entire pandemic.
With such distrust amongst the public, how do we repair the health economy of this country? Moving forward on these essential issues has been exceedingly difficult due to a lack of trust and political division.
It’s important to remember that some of this reflects broader trends in American life when considering the many opposing views on public health. Still, these health institutions play a large role on why we got here in the first place.
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