MediaBuzz host Howard Kurtz discusses the latest scandals surrounding CNN host Chris Cuomo and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
I hate to say it, but the CDC has frittered away much of its credibility.
And so its latest guidance on masks, already caught in the partisan crossfire, is likely to be widely ignored.
President Biden generally gets high marks for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. But his widely reported decision to require vaccinations for federal employees and contractors is certain to spark a fiery debate over public health versus civil liberties.
I hate to say it, but with growing media and public anger against the unvaccinated, that debate is going to turn ugly.
What Biden declared as a summer of jobs, back when things were looking good heading into Independence Day, is now turning into a summer of sorrow. Once the vaccination program hit a wall, we’ve watched the number of new daily COVID-19 cases climb from 10,000 to 30,000 to 50,000 to over 63,000 on Tuesday. And the frustration at the roughly 100 million holdouts in this country is boiling over.
As I’ve said repeatedly, there are varied reasons why many Americans are resistant, especially in minority communities. But there’s no denying that getting the shots, like mask-wearing, long ago became embroiled in polarizing politics, with vax levels significantly lower on the right.
That’s why CNN’s Chris Cuomo is now fine calling it the Trump vaccine, in the hopes that such branding will encourage some of the former president’s followers.
The messages from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been so muddled for so long that it’s almost become irrelevant to the national conversation. The agency doesn’t have an Anthony Fauci who, whatever you think of his views, expresses them crisply and clearly in a blizzard of television interviews.
When the pandemic finally eased, Rochelle Walensky and her team clung for way too long to the guidance that people should wear masks outside, vaccinated or not. First, this undercut the supposed incentive to get the shot. Second, everyone instinctively knew that the great outdoors, unless you’re packed into a crowd, is the safest place to be. Third, nobody much listened to the CDC.
Now that the agency has shifted gears again, I’m not crying flip-flop. Circumstances change and scientists have to adapt. But once again its communication is awful, and the message so vague that most people will just blow it off.
Why do vaccinated people have to wear masks outside? Supposedly to make it harder for them to pass on the virus to the unvaccinated. But that feels like a punishment to those who did their duty and are now being asked to inconvenience themselves for those who haven’t.
Who exactly is affected? Those living in “high transmission areas,” but the agency doesn’t define those. There’s a color-shaded map, and that’s it. Of course people are going to be confused.
As The New York Times notes, “the parts of the country that would benefit most from a new crackdown on COVID-19 — including more frequent mask wearing — are also the places least likely to follow CDC guidance. Many of these communities have been rejecting the advice of medical experts for months, on both masks and vaccines. Another CDC announcement won’t change that.”
But here’s the most troubling impact of all: We are in the midst of a national effort to get shots into more people’s arms. How many people won’t bother if they’re being told they have to wear a mask anyway? That undercuts the chief selling point, that if you’re vaccinated you can return to a semblance of a normal life.
As for the vaccine mandates — which I predicted were coming — I’m conflicted. If the nation’s health is at stake, why shouldn’t anyone who has the privilege of working for the feds have to get the shot? The free beer and lottery tickets — New York City will now hand out $100 payments for first doses — isn’t working. Those who feel strongly about it will still have the option of regularly submitting negative COVID tests.
The backlash that is starting to build could wind up hurting the overall effort. On the other hand, having to get the shots to fly, go to a concert or ballgame — or keep your job – might be just the push that many of the skeptics need.
Top Republicans such as Mitch McConnell are solidly behind the vaccination program. The question is whether they will back the latest Biden move – or play to the base of voters who just don’t want the vaccine.