Thinking Citizen Blog — “Cheers and Fears Compete as States Relax Mask Rules” (NYT Headlines)
Thinking Citizen Blog — Thursday is Health, Health Care, and Global Health Policy Day
Today’s Topic: “Cheers and Fears Compete as States Relax Mask Rules” (NYT Headlines)
Are you for easing mask rules? Where? When? For what reasons? Using what quantitative metrics? Are these decisions driven by science? by economics? by politics? by all three? Passions run high within the medical community, within the scientific community and within the general public. The tendency is to tar anyone who disagrees with you as anti-science, stupid, or just misguided. To me this whole time is like living in an alternative universe. My head spins trying to make sense of this and I just move on to something else. How about you? Today a few excerpts from the lead article on the front page of the print edition of the New York Times. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
“WARY WHITE HOUSE CAUGHT IN MIDDLE,” “GOVERNORS IN LIBERAL STATES SHIFT TACTICS” — YOU MIGHT CALL IT A STAMPEDE TO THE EXITS
1. “New York’s governor said on Wednesday that she was ending the state’s indoor masking rules. The governor of Massachusetts announced that face coverings would soon become optional in schools. And by day’s end, the governors of Illinois, Rhode Island and Washington said that they, too, would loosen coronavirus rules.”
2.The moves, which came rapid fire, one after another, mean that many of the Covid-19 restrictions that have divided Americans will soon be eliminated in places where politicians have long championed sweeping virus precautions. But as the Omicron variant loosens its grip, and as polling shows Americans exhausted withe the pandemic, leaders in liberal-leaning states are shifting to a new approach, moving toward an engage-at-your-own-risk stance that many conservative areas embraced a year ago.”
3. “Numbers are coming down, and it is time to adapt,” said Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York, a Democrat who said she was letting expire state requirement that that businesses seek proof of vaccination or require masks at all times in indoor public spaces.”
THE CDC LAGS THE STATES — WILL THE CDC JOIN THE STAMPEDE? SHOULD THEY? (below NY Governor Katherine Hochul)
1. “The White House has been meeting with outside health experts to plan a pandemic exit strategy and a transition to a “new normal,” but the behind-the-scenes effort is crashing into a very public reality: A string of blue-state governors have gotten ahead of President Biden by suddenly abandoning their mask mandates”
2. “Two of the administration’s top doctors — Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser for the pandemic, and Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, both expressed qualified optimism on Wednesday about the direction of the pandemic. If cases continue to fall and no new variants arise, the country “could be heading toward what we would consider more normality,” Dr. Fauci said in an interview.
3. “But Dr. Fauci cautioned that the situation “is still unpredictable,” and said any transition out of the current crisis would be gradual. And Dr. Walensky said pointedly that while her agency is working on new guidance for the states, it is too soon for all Americans to take off their masks in indoor public places.”
NB: “Our hospitalizations are still high, our death rates are still high,” she said during a news briefing by the White House Covid response team. “So, as we work toward that and as we are encouraged by the current trends, we are not there yet.”
LISTENING TO SCIENTISTS, FOLLOWING THE DATA, DEATHS ARE A LAGGING INDICATOR (below is Governor J.B. Pritzker of Illinois)
1. “Asked about the moves (that is the actions by Governors), Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said the president was committed to fulfilling his campaign promise to listen to scientists and follow the data.” But the scientists are divided and the data does not speak for itself.
2. “The seven-day average of new cases was about 253,000 on Wednesday, down from an average 800,000 in mid-January, according to a New York Times database. Hospitalizations are also declining, although deaths, a lagging indicator, continue to rise.”
3. “Mr. Biden must be careful to avoid a “mission accomplished” moment. In June of last year, with cases dropping, his advisers began predicting a “summer of joy,” and Mr. Biden himself declared on July 4 that the United States was “closer than ever to declaring our independence from a deadly virus.” Then the Delta variant surged across the country. In late fall, the emergence of the even more contagious Omicron variant also caught the administration off guard.”
NB: “It has to acknowledge that we are entering a new phase of virus transmission in our communities, being forever mindful that we were in exactly the same place one year ago today, where cases were decreasing from a January peak, vaccines were flowing,” he said. “And look what that got us.” So, we’ve seen this movie before. So does the lesson speak for itself? Or not?
FOOTNOTE — WHAT DOES THE COLOR-CODED MAP OF THE COUNTRY LOOK LIKE?
“A color-coded map on the agency’s website shows the entire country in red; 99 percent of all counties are in a high transmission zone — a point Dr. Walensky underscored on Wednesday.” So what’s your prediction? What would you do if you were Biden? What map shows best the rationale for your decision? What statistical series justifies your decision?
For the last four years of posts organized by theme:
Please share the most interesting thing you learned in the last week related to health, health care or health care policy — the ethics, economics, politics, history…. Or the coolest, most important thing you learned in your life related to health are or health care policy that the rest of us may have missed. Or just some random health-related fact that blew you away.
This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your mind something really important you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than you otherwise would about something that matters.