Sen. Johnson rips new CDC mask guidance
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson took aim at the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations Tuesday night in a brief statement that, in a single paragraph, vastly overstated the direct effects of the federal agencies and vastly understated the efficacy of wearing masks.
Incorrectly, describing the CDC’s guidance as a mandate, Johnson urged that health officials stop issuing recommendations for preventing the spread of COVID-19, arguing that it is “[t]ime to let Americans, not federal agencies, make decisions for themselves and for their children. Time to reclaim liberty and end this state of fear.”
The lack of mandate was demonstrated in the Republican Senator’s home state where the Evers Administration’s Department of Health Services took no immediate action nor issued its own new guidance for implementing any new recommendations that may have arisen. Later in the evening, the Dept. of Health Services told NBC15 News that the agency supported the CDC’s guidance and would be adopting it.
In Dane Co., the local health agency did issue a statement, but, like the federal government, it only included a recommendation that people wear masks.
One area where the CDC can mandate masks is on public transportation. It had already had those restrictions in place prior to Tuesday.
Beyond questioning if the U.S. government should have issued the guidance, Johnson questioned the use of masks altogether.
The eight-sentence statement began with two rhetorical questions, the first asking if masks work and the second if they do more harm than good.
In support of his second argument, the Senator offered a link to an article on the website for the Dana Foundation, that cited multiple studies about whether masks were hindering children’s social development by hiding the social queues people learn to pick up on other people’s faces- but the article appeared to reach an opposite conclusion than Johnson was advancing. In the article, author Kayt Sukel wrote:
“Despite ongoing concerns about masks and emotional learning, all of the scientists interviewed for this piece were adamant that the risks of not wearing a mask—and potentially being infected with Covid-19 and suffering from long-term health consequences as a result—far outweigh risks related to the loss of face-relayed social information.”
Beyond a cost-benefit relationship Sukel references, multiple studies, ranging from systematic reviews, ecological studies and laboratory studies, have shown the effectiveness on masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, according to a list compiled by Poynter.
Johnson also blasted what he called the moving goalposts by federal agencies when implementing public policies. One of the original goals he cited was to “flatten the curve,” i.e. preventing COVID-19 from spreading so quickly that hospitals would reach capacity and be unable to treat more patients. Johnson argued that since then, the federal agencies have changed their goals, adding “I’m not even sure what the new goal is.”
Johnson’s full statement:
Do masks even work? Do they do more harm than good — particularly to children who have a low risk of serious disease or death from Covid? Remember, the initial goal of public policy was to flatten the curve so we wouldn’t overwhelm hospitals. At some point, federal agencies moved the goal posts. The initial goal was achievable. I’m not even sure what the new goal is. Time to let Americans, not federal agencies, make decisions for themselves and their children. Time to reclaim liberty and end this state of fear.
clarification: This story has been updated to add a comment by the Wisconsin Dept. of Health Services.
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