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Do You Trust the CDC? COVID-19 Confusion!

The CDC just flip-flopped on face coverings. Do you trust the CDC to protect you? Are such U-turns creating COVID-19 confusion? Has the CDC bungled things?
Do You Trust the CDC? COVID-19 Confusion!
Novel Chinese Coronavirus blood test Concept. Nurse holding test tube with blood for 2019-nCoV analyzing.

There was a time when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (now the CDC) was admired as the most trustworthy and advanced public health organization in the world. The mission: “As the nation’s health protection agency, CDC saves lives and protects people from health, safety, and security threats.” But the CDC has bungled the management of coronavirus and created COVID-19 confusion. Do you trust the CDC to get us out of this mess?

Testing for the Virus: Covid-19 Confusion from Day One!

By mid-January, there were numerous reports of a puzzling virus causing serious illness in China. Our intelligence-gathering agencies were warning that this virus could pose a serious threat.

The CDC initially downplayed the risk to Americans, according to a report in the Washington Post (April 3, 2020). But scientists there began working on a test for COVID-19 even though they thought the “threat was remote.”

Within three weeks, though, the virus was in the U.S. An early test kit from the CDC was sent to New York City for analysis on Feb. 8, 2020. It didn’t work.

When the assistant commissioner in the NYC health department was told the bad news, the Washington Post described her reaction:

“‘Oh, S—,’ she replied. ‘What are we going to do now?'”

At the most critical time to be testing people for the coronavirus, there was COVID-19 confusion. The defective CDC test created chaos. Critical time was lost while the nation waited for an adequate supply of accurate test kits.

COVID-19 Confusion – “Just Like the Flu”

The CDC’s inability to develop an accurate SARS-CoV-2 test was not the only stumbling block. There is another reason people were beginning to wonder if they could trust the CDC. The surveillance network that the CDC was creating for the coronavirus testing relied upon the existing flu monitoring system.

Instead of rolling out a fast and effective COVID-19 test in a widespread manner, the CDC used a limited network of laboratories.

There was also the message that lots of people die from influenza

“CDC estimates that influenza has resulted in between 9 million – 45 million illnesses, between 140,000 – 810,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 – 61,000 deaths annually since 2010.”

Politicians used these numbers to downplay the significance of the coronavirus. Heck, if as many as 800,000 people are hospitalized and more than 60,000 people die of the flu each year, we should be able to handle COVID-19, right?

The problem is that the CDC’s estimates are just that, estimates.

The people at the CDC extrapolate from relatively small numbers:

“The model uses a ratio of deaths-to-hospitalizations in order to estimate the total influenza-associated deaths from the estimated number of influenza-associated hospitalizations.”

In other words, the CDC has created models and estimates that may or may not reflect actual numbers from influenza. We are not in a position to question the CDC’s calculations. But we do have some observations.

During a really bad flu epidemic, some hospitals may have to set up tents outside to handle the triage of flu patients. But we have never heard of severe shortages of equipment like ventilators even during the worst flu year. And we have never heard of temporary morgues in refrigerator trucks parked outside hospitals.

As of today, there are under 400,000 coronavirus cases in the U.S. and around 11,000 deaths. That is horrific. Our hospitals are overwhelmed and our health care workers are on the brink of collapse.

If the CDC is right about influenza hospitalizations and deaths, we should see this kind of collapse almost every year. That’s because their model predicts twice as many people are  hospitalized from the flu and six times as many die from influenza annually as we are experiencing right now from COVID-19. And right now our hospitals are collapsing!

That clearly doesn’t happen even during the worst flu years. In our opinion, comparing the flu to this pandemic creates COVID-19 confusion. Can we trust the CDC model of flu deaths? We have our doubts.

What About the CDC Guidelines?

Do you trust the CDC to provide accurate health recommendations? Our number one public health organization has been very confident in its pronouncements over the last two months. By now, you are very familiar with them. 

They include things like:

• “The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.
•  “Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
• “Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.”

Droplets! No mention of aerosols. No mention of face masks to prevent COVID-19.

In fact, the CDC goes on to state:

“If you are NOT sick: You do not need to wear a facemask unless you are caring for someone who is sick (and they are not able to wear a facemask).”

The Surgeon General, America’s Top Doc, went so far as to Tweet:

“STOP BUYING MASKS!” “THEY ARE NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus”

A U-Turn on Facemasks Equals More COVID-19 Confusion:

By now you have heard that the CDC has done an about-face on facemasks. Three months after SARS-CoV-2 started spreading in China and many weeks after it was making people very sick in the U.S., the CDC issued this new recommendation:

“Use of Cloth Face Coverings to Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19”

Some people might suggest that the horses are out of the barn. We have believed for a very long time that face coverings are essential to help slow the spread of influenza as well as COVID-19. We did not trust the CDC when it said:

“You do not need to wear a facemask…”

Here is just one article we wrote a couple of years ago:

How Can You Avoid the Flu This Season?

Before the CDC created COVID-19 confusion with its most recent flip-flop, we asked this question:

Should You Be Wearing a Face Mask? Why Not?
Public health officials have told us wearing face masks are unnecessary. Were they wrong? Could wearing a face mask help you avoid catching COVID-19?

You can read the article at this link.

DIY Face Coverings vs. N95 Masks?

First things first! All our valiant health care workers MUST get priority when it comes to face masks. It is tragic that there are not enough of these masks to go around for these health professionals. The idea that they have to reuse these face masks or try to disinfect them is outrageous.

But we are also of the belief that all people should have access to highly effective disposable face masks. Just look at any video from China, South Korea or Japan and what do you see? Virtually everyone in the photographs or videos is wearing a face mask.

If organizations like the CDC had been advocating for such masks for citizens to avoid the flu, it is highly likely that the public would be far more accepting of this low-key approach. Manufacturers would have filled the need long ago and we would not be suffering such shortages today.

We are glad that the CDC has finally recognized that face coverings are important. Do-it-yourself cloth masks are better than nothing.

We worry, though, that they won’t be as effective as face masks designed to prevent transmission of aerosolized viral particles of COVID-19. The CDC suggests that cloth coverings should “fit snugly but comfortably.” Good advice, but not as easy as the CDC suggests with a DIY cloth covering.

Many of our readers agreed with us that the CDC was slow in recommending face coverings.

Verna offered this comment:

“I have been shocked and dismayed at the notion that masks were not necessary. Early and into mid-March, I tried to convince people/friends/family that masks were important to wear in public. I gave them the same explanation that you have presented in your article “Should You Be Wearing a Face Mask? Why Not?

“Most of their responses were that that is not what was being recommended by the CDC or health care authorities. Seriously, what is wrong with people, especially the health authorities who are now back-pedaling on the issue? Too little, too late.

“Everything described in your article is common sense.”

Eileen offered a little historical perspective on face masks vs. the flu:

“During the 2017-2018 flu season I was admitted to the hospital with the flu for 5 days. Prior to being admitted I had been sick for almost a week.

“When I arrived the ER was packed and no rooms were available so we all had a long wait to be seen. The first thing they did was to put a mask (regular cotton/paper mask) on every patient the minute they walked in the door. So if it worked for ‘just the flu’ I don’t think it would hurt for this COVID-19 virus if you use common sense. Everyone who came in my room was masked and I continued to wear a mask my entire stay.”

Patricia calls out the nation’s top doctor:

“Last night, the Surgeon General was on TV showing us how to make a face mask at home for our personal use. How quickly things change once the political story takes a turn.”

B.E. offers another concern besides face masks:

“I am 67 years of age and I don’t go into any store without a mask. I admit that it did feel awkward, but the sense of safety outweighed questioning looks.

“And what about gloves, especially to cover my hands that touch carts at the supermarket? I don’t know who or how many have touched the handle before me. Yes, some stores have workers standing at the ready to wipe down the carts when returned. But you can’t be too safe. Stay well and be safe!”

Speaking of Gloves:

We have seen nothing from the CDC about wearing disposable gloves.

Instead, we get this:

• “Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
• “Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.”

Good advice. But we wish the CDC would say something about disposable gloves too. Even though they have been in short supply, people could benefit by using such gloves when going to the grocery or pharmacy. Wearing gloves is also is a good reminder to avoid touching your face.

If health professionals are using disposable gloves and face masks, why not vulnerable people? Over 100 million Americans have hypertension. Millions more have asthma or COPD or some other condition that makes them especially susceptible to bad outcomes from COVID-19. Why isn’t the CDC recommending maximum protection for these folks and anyone who might spread the virus?

Do We Trust the CDC? Not as Much As Before:

We feel the CDC has let us all down over the last few months. There are conflicting statements. As a result, a lot of people do not trust the CDC. This organization has seemingly not kept up with the latest scientific research.

For example, the recommendation to stay six feet away from people may not be adequate. You can read the most recent research on this topic in this article:

Is 6 Feet of Separation Sufficient to Prevent COVID-19?
Should you wear some sort of face mask if you go out in public? How far should you stand away from others to prevent COVID-19 exposure? Data vs. old advice.

There is tremendous COVID-19 confusion. Are you confused? Please share your thoughts or your story in the comment section below. Do you still trust the CDC? We would like to understand your perspective.

Do you think the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – the CDC – is living up to its mandate?

“As the nation’s health protection agency, CDC saves lives and protects people from health, safety, and security threats.”

If you think our concerns are justified and this article was worthwhile, please send it along to friends and family. We have tried to make that easy by providing icons at the top of this page to connect with email, Facebook and Twitter. Thank you for supporting our work by spreading the word.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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