New mask guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday has both conservatives and liberals asking, where is the data to back up this decision?
New CDC guidance states masks must be worn in indoor public settings "in areas of substantial or high transmission," regardless of whether individuals are vaccinated or not, citing the possibility for vaccinated people to transmit the delta variant of the coronavirus.
According to their website, when the guidance was released on Tuesday the CDC cited simply "CDC COVID-19 Response Team, unpublished data, 2021."
The citation has officials and scientists urging the CDC to release this unpublished data.
"They're making a claim that people with Delta who are vaccinated and unvaccinated have similar levels of viral load, but nobody knows what that means," Gregg Gonsalves, an associate professor at the Yale School of Public Health told the Washington Post. "It's meaningless unless we see the data."
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky explained that the CDC's reissuing of mask-wearing comes because "in rare occasions, some vaccinated people infected with the delta variant after vaccination may be contagious and pass the virus to others."
Vaccinated people "may be contagious," because "the amount of virus" in those vaccinated that are infected by the delta variant "is pretty similar to the amount of virus in unvaccinated people," said Walensky.
Senator Ted Cruz told Sean Hannity that "the CDC has destroyed their credibility."
"A year and a half ago," Cruz said, "the CDC was one of the most respected scientific organizations in the world. And they allowed themselves to be politicized with Dr. Fauci at the helm of the politicization. And right now their credibility is in tatters because they behave more like an arm of the DNC than an actual serious medical and scientific organization."
The use of unpublished data has local officials, like those New York City, hesitant to reissue widespread mask mandates. Many cities and states across the country share the same concerns.
"While the CDC issued their guidance yesterday at about 3 pm, they have not yet released their scientific reports on the data that underlies their recommendation," said New York City Health and Hospitals President and CEO Mitchell Katz at a press conference with Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday, according to Fox News.
"I think we owe it to New Yorkers to very carefully, as you say, review that information and understand its implications," Katz continued. "Our focus has to be on getting people vaccinated."
"We're assessing the information. What really is important is to assess the research behind it. Which is what our team is doing," de Blasio said when asked why the city is delaying action on mandating masks for vaccinated people. "We've got to make sure we understand the ramifications and what makes sense to do."
The data to support the claim that vaccinated people may spread the delta variant emerged over the last couple of days from over 100 samples from several states and one other country, although the CDC has yet to release this data to the public, according to the Associated Press.
According to a federal official knowledgeable about the research but who was not authorized to be a spokesperson for the government, they told the Washington Post that the data will be "published imminently."
"These data were alarming and recently presented," the official said on Wednesday. "We saw the data and thought it was urgent enough to act — in the context of a steeply rising, preventable fourth surge of covid-19."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was quick to reissue mask mandates on the floor of the House of Representatives, claiming "science, science, science," and Vice President Kamala Harris demanded that reporters mask-up in a meeting with her.
Representative Peter Meijer of Michigan slammed the CDC's lack of transparency, as well as the Capitol attending physician for blindly following CDC's guidance without viewing the underlying data.
"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," said Meijer, noting that the CDC is citing "a third study from India that was based off of delta transmissibility among individuals who had a non-U.S. vaccine," Meijer said.
Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas made the same claim, saying that Indian study that was used didn't even look at people who were vaccinated with American vaccines, which are the only ones Americans are taking right now.
Although many are questioning the lack of data and the CDC itself cannot issue mask mandates, some local officials have already begun to reissue mask wearing at the local level.
"I have stuck with CDC guidance throughout the pandemic and today is no different," Kansas City, Missouri Quinton Lucas said. "I will return Kansas City to a mask mandate indoors based upon national and regional health guidance and discussion with other Kansas City leaders. I will provide further details in the morning."
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