The CDC has changed its COVID risk formula. The results are stunning

On February 25, the CDC made his expected announcement that it was updating its framework to monitor and contain COVID-19.

“We are in a stronger place today as a nation with more tools to protect ourselves in our communities against COVID-19, such as vaccinations, boosters, wider access to testing, availability of masks quality, accessibility to new treatments, and improved ventilation,” said CDC Director Rochelle Paula Walensky.

Most of the media headlines focused on the CDC’s relaxed mask guidelines, which recommended that most Americans could ditch masks. However, how the CDC arrived at this conclusion has received little scrutiny.

As many people have probably noticed, the CDC has changed its mask guidelines, even though COVID cases and COVID mortality remain high. As of March 1, daily new cases stood at around 60,000 based on its 7-day moving average, which is significantly higher than last summer and virtually the same as a year ago. Meanwhile, around 1,600 Americans continue to die each day from COVID-19, according to government dataa figure that is, again, exponentially higher than last summer and similar to a year earlier.

Walensky explained the health agency’s reasoning during its call with reporters.

“With widespread population immunity, the overall risk of severe disease is now generally lower,” said Walensky, according to the transcript. “Now, as the virus continues to circulate in our communities, we must focus our actions beyond just cases in the community and direct our efforts towards protecting those at high risk of serious illness and preventing COVID-19 from spreading. overwhelm our hospitals and health systems. .”

There are two takeaways here.

The first is that Walensky’s call for directing efforts “to protect those at high risk of serious illness” sounds a bit like the targeted protection strategy many public health experts and epidemiologists have been advocating from the start, some of them have been labeled ‘fringe’ scientists by senior government infectious disease bureaucrats.

Second, it is worth considering how Walensky came to this conclusion. During the call, CDC’s Dr. Greta Massetti noted that “70% of Americans are in areas with low or moderate community levels of COVID-19.”

A few days earlier, however, CDC data showed that the vast majority of US counties were suffering from high transmission (see below). Then, almost overnight, most of the United States suddenly fell into the low or medium category.

Massetti explains that the CDC simply changed the formula it used to measure community transmission, or “updated measurements within that framework,” as she puts it.

“A community’s COVID-19 level is determined by a combination of three pieces of information,” Massetti explained, “new COVID-19 hospitalizations, current hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients or hospital capacity and new cases of COVID-19. ”

By simply changing its formula to include hospitalizations and hospital capacity, the CDC moved the vast majority of the United States from a state of high community transmission to low or moderate. The red color is also noticeably absent.

Many people are probably not mad that the CDC changed its COVID risk formula. The changes will likely allow most Americans to return to life in a somewhat normal way, without having to show vaccination passports to eat in a restaurant or wear a mask to go to yoga class or run to the grocery store.

Many surveys to show that this is more and more what Americans want.

A recent Yahoo! News/YouGov Poll showed that 46% of respondents believe Americans should “learn to live with” the virus and “get back to normal”, while only 43% said “we need to do more to vaccinate, wear masks and test “.

A rung overview survey showed an even stronger tendency to end restrictions, with 55% of voters saying COVID should be “treated like an endemic disease that will never completely go away,” compared to just 38% of voters who said COVID should be treated as a public issue. health emergency. »

Meanwhile, a survey by Monmouth University found that 70 percent of Americans agreed with this statement: “It’s time we accepted that COVID is here to stay and we just have to live on.” The same poll also showed steep declines in support for vaccination mandates, social distancing and mask mandates.

New York Times Nate Cohn writer observed something important on recent polls and the American mood.

“The [polling] the results are particularly striking at a time when coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and even deaths are near record highs,” Cohn wrote in February. “Indeed, the same polls showed that public concern about the virus increased during the Omicron wave. But in a telling indication of public attitudes towards the pandemic, greater concern about the virus has not translated into greater support for measures to stop its spread.

The CDC’s sudden and drastic change in its COVID risk formula appears to be a response to this change in mood.

Many will argue that this is not how “science” is supposed to work, and they would be right. But pandemic policies have never been ‘scientific’ because science can never tell us what we should or must do.

“[T]there is no scientific duty,” observed economist Ludwig von Mises, echoing a famous argument by philosopher David Hume. “Science is competent to establish what is.”

Pandemic policies were created by public health officials and politicians. And public choice theory — a field of economics pioneered by Nobel Prize-winning economist James M. Buchanan — tells us that these people make incentive-based decisions, just like everyone else.

As I explained earlier, at the start of the pandemic, the incentive for most public officials was clear: take all necessary precautions to avoid being blamed for COVID deaths – regardless of effectiveness or political damage.

“It is important to remember that politics, above all, is about self-preservation. And imposing government restrictions that don’t work and cause serious harm is a better political strategy for most politicians than telling people to act responsibly, wash their hands, maintain a safe distance and stay safe. avoid touching your face. wrote in 2020. “So if you’re wondering why our world has started to look like a Joseph Heller or Kafka novel where orders and actions seem arbitrary, senseless, and counter-intuitive, look at public choice theory.”

Social distancing and masking are no more effective today than they were two years ago. Nor are they less effective. The basic science of non-pharmaceutical interventions remains the same, even if certain contextual factors of the pandemic have changed (new variants, presence of vaccines, etc.).

The main change is the appetite for non-pharmaceutical interventions. Americans are fed up with them, and that’s probably what most prompted the CDC to change its COVID risk formula, which practically overnight moved the vast majority of the country from a state of community transmission. high to low or moderate community transmission – even though cases and mortality remain high.

The creepy color of red has now completely disappeared from CDC graphics. And all but a handful of Democrats at Tuesday’s State of the Union address appeared with bare faces indoors in a crowded Capitol building.

To understand why and how it happened, do not turn to science. Look at public choice theory.

Jonathan Miltimore is the editor of FEE.org. His writings/reports have been the subject of articles in TIME magazine, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, Forbes, Fox News, and the Tribune of the Stars.

Originally posted on FEE.org. Republished with permission.