CDC Has Three Recommendations on the Masking of Children. None of Them Match.

And the Governor’s Executive Order will outlive the Virginia law that directs schools to adhere to CDC guidance, even if they think they can figure out what it James C. Sherlock

Many quote the “science” that favors their opinions.

Virginia law requires:

…each school board to provide such in-person instruction in a manner in which it adheres, to the maximum extent practicable, to any currently applicable mitigation strategies for early childhood care and education programs and elementary and secondary schools to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 that have been provided by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A little-noted provision of that law is that it expires on August 1 of this year. It will not pass again. The debate will continue after that date, but so will the executive order.

Regardless, I thought it would be useful to go to the source, CDC, and see if its science-based “currently applicable mitigation strategies” match its politically influenced  guidance.

I cannot certify that they do. The CDC offers at least three different recommendations for protecting children from COVID.

None of them match. And there is strong evidence that the CDC changed its school masking recommendations under National Education Association pressure.

Three CDC recommendations.

1.  CDC has updated guidance on COVID-19 prevention in K-12 schools six times since July 1 of last year. The latest recommendation on masks for children in school came in August.

In that update, CDC famously recommended universal indoor masking by all* students (ages 2 years and older), staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. The asterisk is for ADA exceptions. That recommendation was published in August 2021.

2.  For another take, see the recommendation on CDC’s Guide to Masks page updated Jan. 21, 2022. It recommends all people two and over who are not vaccinated wear masks. It further recommends a scientific test for considering wearing one even if you are vaccinated:

If you are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines, to maximize protection and prevent possibly spreading COVID-19 to others, wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.

The Guide to Masks says you live in an “area of substantial or high transmission” if your county has 50 or more new cases per 100,000 people over the past week or an 8% positivity rate or higher. That makes scientific sense. That page offers special considerations for children but makes no mention of K-12 settings.  

OK, let’s say the Guide to Masks authors forgot to mention the schools issue.

3.  But, perhaps most importantly for this discussion, the CDC recommendation in its Science Brief: Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in K-12 Schools and Early Care and Education Programs, updated December 2021, is once again that all people two and over who are not vaccinated wear masks.

The authors cited the studies for that recommendation.

Clearly, someone at CDC spotted the disconnect in the science brief and stuck in an otherwise unexplained sentence:  

In K-12 settings, CDC recommends universal indoor masking regardless of vaccination status.

I would  like to see that approval draft to see at what level that rather sudden sentence was inserted, but that is just me. No study was cited for that recommendation. No data. It was just added on to otherwise-scientific statements.

You and I have no idea why they took that leap.

CDC did not share its rationale, much less study findings. Some may wish to assume it was a decision made to avoid blame if something should occur that is unexplained by current data.

But perhaps that is unfair.

Awaiting further guidance to reconcile the differences. Perhaps CDC can explain. It should. No one else can, though some here will undoubtedly try.

What to do? What, exactly, are we — and our school boards — to make of that unexplained transition, other than CDC’s general guidance to K-12 schools is different than its scientific guidance?

Did the Virginia school boards that have mandated masks know that information? Did they consider letting parents of vaccinated kids decide if they should wear masks?

In CDC’s defense, it did not mandate masks in school. Or anywhere else. It does not have the authority to do that.  The President can mandate them on federal property and interstate transportation, but that is pretty much it.

Some school boards have taken one of CDC’s three recommendations and turned it into mandates with no exception for vaccinated children. They claim they are required to do so by the state law quoted above.

Some judge will have to decide.

Perhaps she will consider the email evidence from a FOIA request by Americans for Public Trust that shows that the NEA successfully lobbied the CDC for that guidance.

The largest teachers union in the United States influenced federal health officials to include rules for universal masking in school buildings, according to newly published emails obtained by a government watchdog group.

The union, the National Education Association, swayed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after the CDC announced on May 13 that vaccinated people could stop wearing masks. The union told the agency in an email that it was prepared to issue a statement criticizing the decision and calling for guidance that masks should be worn specifically in schools, prompting a White House staffer to intervene. The CDC released updated masking guidelines for schools the following day, saying schools should maintain universal masking requirements and “physical distancing should be maximized to the greatest extent possible.”

Look, I grant that CDC has a hard job in this and that it is not a professional communications organization.

But no one can offer a scientific reason as opposed to a political opinion (see the NEA) why schools should not follow CDC’s science on child masking.

Otherwise, see you in August.

Updated Jan 25, 2022 at 8:07 AM

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23 responses to “CDC Has Three Recommendations on the Masking of Children. None of Them Match.”

  1. Your linked page in 3 also says under SARS-CoV-2 transmission in schools among students, families, teachers, and school staff: “The evidence to date suggests that staff-to-student and student-to-student transmission are not the primary means of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 among infected children. Several studies have also concluded that students are not the primary sources of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 among adults in school setting.”

    So I must be dense, but how does that equate to universal K-12 masking?

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      CDC has a political opinion and a scientific opinion that conflict. It stands firmly behind both.

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        Funny, so does everyone.

        1. Not everyone.

          I do not stand firmly behind any of the CDC’s opinions.

    2. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      See my update above that cites evidence that the CDC changed its school masking recommendations under pressure from the NEA.

  2. Rather than ‘vaccine’ status, considering that children are more at risk from the vaccine (or bicycle accidents) than they are from Omicron, and that the vaccines are not effective against the transmission or infection of the SARS CoV 2 virus, how about using ANTIBODY tests to establish immunity? Most of us should have a robust natural immunity in short order!

  3. I didn’t check every one of the studies listed on the CDC page, but a lot of them have the publication date–and none of them are after omicron.

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      It will take time to gather and assess omicron data. CDC has exhibited far too much haste in publishing guidelines. It has gotten them, and us, in trouble. We are all at risk when a major health science organization loses credibility. I am afraid that CDC has sacrificed its reputation to haste and political pressure.

    2. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Yesterday on Twitter VA Democrats were touting another recent study, but it too was pre Covid-O. Apparently in schools with strict masking, 43 cases per 100K and in schools without 75 cases per 100K, or some such. The claim was, see? 60 percent fewer!! Uh, in both situations 99,900+ of that 100,000 never got a positive test, masks or not. I read the study differently than them…(but the goal for them is zero infections, impossible, but only that will shut them up.)

      1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
        James C. Sherlock

        My update above cites evidence that the CDC changed its school masking recommendations under pressure from the NEA.

  4. energyNOW_Fan Avatar

    Another thing CDC recently said schools should cancel band and sports in areas of high transmission. To my knowledge schools are not doing that, however adult community bands in NoVA are largely taking a break until the numbers come down closer to Fall levels. I personally theorize it is the human voice spreading the COVID, but concert bands get lumped in with choirs as high risk.

  5. GoDominionEnergy Avatar

    Yeah, Its my choice… and lets ban abortions

  6. GoDominionEnergy Avatar

    Its my choice… Ban Abortions!

  7. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Updated that many times in a year and a half, eh?

    It would have been a whole lot easier if when they opened the box, they had kept the directions.

    “Do it my way. Any fool can read the instructions.”

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      six months

    2. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      I had forgotten that the CDC changed its mask recommendation under pressure from the NEA. I have added the evidence of that to the column. Thanks.

  8. Virginia Project Avatar
    Virginia Project

    none of them match yet they still manage to all be wrong

    masks don’t work and never did and we had plenty of evidence to show this before COVID was ever engineered by CCP military biowarfare specialists paid by Anthony Fauci with US tax dollars

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Brother Sherlock, a question: Now that the bill deadline has passed, has anybody put in a bill to actually grant authority to a governor over any of these questions? A bill to mandate the COV2 vaccines for school attendance? To clearly mandate masks, rather than to make vague reference to unclear and changing CDC advice? My guess is even the Democrats now posturing haven’t actually backed up their virtue signals with legislation….I’ll look too.

      Responding to “Project,” it is clear and solidly proven that the real masks, worn properly, greatly reduce the chance of infection despite real exposures. I often refer to my daughter the NP, who tells me she accepts that, but her employer expects her to provide it — for her job, she can’t get one from them.

      1. Virginia Project Avatar
        Virginia Project

        there is literally zero basis to believe mask policy can work, we just tried it everywhere and it worked nowhere under any conditions no matter how much compliance there was

        enough already

      2. James C. Sherlock Avatar
        James C. Sherlock

        HOUSE BILL NO. 1038 (Scott, P.A. and Cordoza) takes a step in that direction. It denies a Governor the authority to mandate masking. The gist of it is:

        “However, no such order or regulation shall require (i) the wearing of masks or other face coverings or (ii) businesses to require customers to wear masks or other face coverings while on the premises of the business.”

        The object of the bill is clearly that the Governor will need to go to the GA for such a requirement. That approaches is my own position. I recommend that a Governor be given that authority for only 30 days in a declared emergency unless the General Assembly physically cannot meet before the end of 30 days.

      3. James C. Sherlock Avatar
        James C. Sherlock

        Northam declared a COVID state of emergency on Jan. 10. The duration of the order was 30 days. So Gov. Youngkin issued his order during that state of emergency. May not matter, but a fun fact nonetheless.

  9. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Since masks don’t work, save money. The next time you need surgery, just tell ’em to skip the mask, scrubs, and gloves. Hell, bound to be an old wet-finger dentist in your area. You save money twice a year and start immediately.

  10. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    Meanwhile anti-maskers have taken to publicly heckling students who speak in favor of mask mandates at school board meetings. Showing their true nature…

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