News Release

What’s Wrong with the CDC’s Decision to Drop Mask Mandate

The Centers for Disease Control has released new guidelines that enable 70 percent of American adults to forgo wearing masks indoors and social distancing. The New York Times and Washington Post reported that the CDC’s guidelines allow counties to independently calculate risk of the virus to their residents by considering hospitalization and case data rather than the number of cases alone. Unvaccinated people at any risk classification are still encouraged to wear masks. Masking is now only recommended in schools in counties at “high” risk.

This news comes less than three weeks after the agency’s chief, Rochelle Walensky, warned against lifting mask mandates too soon. But now the CDC has pivoted to say that it is shifting focus “to preventing the most severe outcomes and minimizing healthcare strain,” instead of focusing on preventing cases. The CDC was sharply criticized last year when it lifted mask restrictions just before the Delta variant surged across the US. 

Disability advocates have decried the shift. Progressive doctors are also concerned. Andrew Goldstein, a primary care physician and assistant professor of medicine at NYU, said: “While most Americans actually support mask mandates to protect themselves and others, the CDC’s new guidance contorts data and public health reasoning to provide a nonsensical justification for the elite and corporate policy preference of ending masking. This is utterly irresponsible and inappropriate from the leadership of the CDC, who should have led with evidence and a commitment to public health, but instead are supporting a path to even more inequitable, preventable death and suffering.”

ANDREW GOLDSTEIN, MD, andrew.d.goldstein@gmail.com, @AndrewMakeTweet.
Goldstein founded Progressive Doctors and On Call for Democracy. 

BEATRICE ADLER-BOLTON, bea.bolton@gmail.com, @realLandsEnd.
Adler-Bolton is a blind/low vision and chronically ill disability justice advocate. She is the co-host of the Death Panel podcast. 

Adler-Bolton says that the new guidelines and risk levels fail to take the health of vulnerable people into account. “We should be honest,” Adler-Bolton says, that “a lot of what anti-mask sentiment is boiling down to is a rejection of social rights [economic participation, which predicates inclusion] for the medically vulnerable… One-way masking, which puts the burden of pandemic protections on vulnerable individuals alone, is a rolling back of social rights.” The vulnerable are carrying a double burden, both asked to exclude themselves from society and to bear the cost of buying PPE. She added: “As we saw the last time mask mandates were rolled back too soon, variants are hastened by sudden mass shifts in behavior, putting not just the medically vulnerable / kids <5 but the whole population at risk of long term complications of infection.”