When does science cease to be science? When one stops relying on the citing of objective evidence and starts gnashing their teeth at any questioning of a specific theory. In regards to masks, we crossed that Rubicon long ago.
Gov. Ron DeSantis is pushing the issue to its breaking point, requesting that the CDC has its mitigation requirements for cruise ships slapped down. Those requirements include having 95% of passengers vaccinated and mask-wearing. This is part of Florida's larger battle against so-called vaccine passports.
The judge in the case is apparently not going to let the CDC skate by. He asked the federal bureaucracy to provide actual evidence for its claims about mask efficacy.
“Where does this mask efficacy theory come from?” U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday of Tampa asked the @CDCgov.
Does a federal judge think masks don't work?
— Jamal Thalji (@jthalji) June 11, 2021
For those not familiar with Florida politics, the Tampa Bay Times and the Miami Herald are two of the most wretchedly left-wing papers in the state. The latter recently produced a fluff piece on conspiratorial nutjob Rebekah Jones that was so ridiculous and misleading that even some Democrats couldn't go along with it.
Given that, it's not surprising that this reporter from the Tampa Bay Times is setting his hair on fire over a judge daring to ask for (gasp!) evidence to support a specific requirement. Still, that doesn't mean it any less dumb. Science is not a religion, and nothing should be above questioning. If the CDC can't provide objective data, they shouldn't be allowed to throw their weight around the way they have, and even if they have objective data on an issue, how broad their power is remains a very serious question.
The judge in the case pressed the federal government heavily on that, leading to this remarkable exchange.
When pressed on what level of transmission would require agency action, Powell said the agency has broad authority from Congress to prevent the interstate and international transmission of disease, and there's a need for “enforceable public health measures.” Legally, the agency has the power to try to reduce transmission to zero, even if that may not be practical in the coronavirus' immediate future, she said.
Percival, for the state of Florida, pounced on that statement.
If that's true, “it's unclear what they cannot do,” he said. “They can bar your doors. … That is an astronomical power.”
Florida's counsel has it right. By the CDC's telling, they can literally violate everyone's rights from here unto eternity by pressing for zero transmission — when that's impossible. When asked for specifics to back up their vast guidelines, they kept shooting blanks.
“Where does this mask efficacy theory come from?” Merryday said. “We've had masking and social distancing for a long time and we had a pandemic in the middle of it.”
Powell responded that neither masks nor social distancing are cure-alls, but that they reduced the number of people who died.
“What you can do is make the best scientific decision you can with the evidence available. That's the CDC's job,” she said. “We don't expect the risk to be zero, there will be risk on every ship. … But we're still in the midst of a still-deadly pandemic.”
What's never mentioned to the judge is what “evidence” is available that the CDC is going by. The reason they can't provide that is 1) because their own studies show mask mandates are statistically useless (the judge points that out) and 2) because they have no affirmative evidence that masks reduce the spread of COVID-19. If they did, they'd be announcing it from the rooftops. That they aren't is dispositive on its own.
Besides, as I've written many times before, the case for mandatory masking just isn't there. We have far too much data at this point that shows no correlation between masks and rates of infection in communities. That can be seen by simply comparing different parts of the country that had different rules regarding masks. Further, the latest study also shows mandatory masking to have been pointless.
In short, the CDC was absolutely embarrassed in this hearing, and it's pathetic that the media, instead of noting that, are running cover and clutching their pearls that a judge would dare ask basic questions. Honestly, that's kind of scary. Do we really want to live in a country where objective data is ignored in the face of tyrannical dictates from the powers that be? I think not.