Today I sent the following to FPS District Administrator Judy Mueller and all members of the Franklin School Board:
One more correspondence to close out the week. It’s an excerpt from a piece by Matt Welch.
His work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN.com, ESPN.com, The Hardball Times, The Columbia Journalism Review, Salon.com, Commentary, LA Weekly, Orange County Register, and many other publications. Welch is a frequent guest on MSNBC, Fox News, Fox Business Network, CNN, public radio, and AM radio stations across America.
Since the Franklin school district seems to hang on every word the CDC utters I believe this excerpt is quite appropriate:
My 13-year-old daughter, like every one of her Brooklyn friends, has been vaccinated against COVID-19. Her public school teachers, who have had access to the vaccine since mid-January, will be required by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio to either show proof of vaccination come September or submit to weekly testing. Our ZIP code’s rate of fully vaccinated humans, 57.9 percent as of July 27, would rank eighth in the country if we were a state.
And yet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Tuesday recommended that my daughter, her classmates, her teachers, and everyone else who sets foot inside her middle school wear masks yet again this coming year.
If the past is in any guide, this latest ratcheting up of classroom-infectiousness fear will encourage public schools to not open but close, particularly in the most restrictive districts.
When the CDC in mid-February shocked epidemiologists (and pleasured teachers unions) by keeping its global outlier of a school social-distancing recommendation at an average of 6 feet between humans, multiple school boards responded by suspending plans to reopen. (That guidance, amid near-universal outcry, was reversed less than six weeks later.)
You will see, in various discussions about this issue, variations of the following argument: Hey, what’s the cost of just a little more masking while we get this unknown delta thing under control? We’re not asking for much, here, just a piece of cloth!
But this accommodationism rests on a faith-based hunch, unsupported by available evidence—that masking vaccinated people in schools will make a damn bit of difference in the spread of COVID-19.
Consider this remarkable little paragraph, published over at the health policy/science site Stat:
An administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told STAT that health experts do not have studies proving that fully vaccinated people are transmitting the virus. Rather, the official said, the updated guidance is based on studies showing that vaccinated people who contract the Delta variant have similarly high levels of virus in their airways, which suggested that they may be infectious to others.
The government’s infectious disease bureaucracy is asking vaccinated people in 46 percent of the country, and 100 percent of its schools, to apply a facial prophylactic to impede the transmission of something it does not know is being spread.
The 161 million U.S. residents who have been vaccinated, and are now being asked to re-mask, are far less likely to contract, transmit, or suffer significantly from the scary new strain.
We still know enough to say that I’m significantly more likely to get into a car crash this year.
You have a one in 2,535 chance of choking to death on food. If you drive more than 1,000 miles a year, you have a one in 366 chance of getting into an automobile accident. The odds of you dying from a lightning strike are higher than the ratio of vaccinated people who have perished while infected with COVID.
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the breakthrough infection rate is as high as one in 2,000. Now imagine a middle or high school with 2,000 combined students, teachers, and staff, the vast majority of which are vaccinated. The CDC school masking guidance would have us believe that everyone in this school needs to wear masks because chances are that one vaccinated person will contract the delta variant, and we just don’t know whether that person might have the ability to spread it to any unvaccinated stragglers in the building. As (CDC Director Rochelle) Walensky said Tuesday, “In those cases, those rare cases that we have breakthrough infections, we felt it important for people to understand that they have the potential to transmit virus to others.”
This is irrational restrictionism, inflicted on a population that has suffered the most from COVID policy while suffering the least from COVID.
For all the ooga-booga about the delta variant, its main innovation is to transmit faster, not pack a deadlier punch. As the CDC points out, “To date, no unexpected patterns have been identified in the case demographics or vaccine characteristics among people with reported vaccine breakthrough infections.” This finding is of particular importance when it comes to schools because the underlying case demographics of COVID are that even the unvaccinated kids rarely get it, spread it, or suffer from it.
As David Wallace-Wells put it in New York magazine July 12: “Over the course of the pandemic, 49,000 Americans under the age of 18 have died of all causes, according to the CDC. Only 331 of those deaths have been from COVID — less than half as many as have died of pneumonia.”
We are masking vaccinated people who will probably not contract COVID, to protect a population that gets it the least and suffers from it less than it suffers from the flu. At what point are we going to admit that this is crazy?
The left-of-center support for these restrictions is reminiscent of the right-of-center apologia for such post-9/11 security theater measures as having airline passengers take off their shoes in the security line. Sure, it might not be the most important precaution, but if we can prevent even one shoe-bomber, the mild inconvenience will be worth it!
But not only is the potential upside greatly exaggerated, the downside is heavily discounted, and inflicted on people with the least political power. My 6-year-old daughter has been wearing masks in school settings now for 20 percent of her life. Young kids rely on facial recognition for all kinds of early childhood development and basic social competence. Most of the developed world has not been masking elementary school children, in recognition of both the limited benefits and developmental costs.
The CDC guidance is yet another product of adults who are incapable of evaluating risk and unwilling to take seriously the downside of treating a generation of physically healthy kids like deadly biohazards.
Keep FPS mask optional this fall.
Have a good weekend.