The lengths to which the federal government is willing to go to push their chosen narrative continue to amaze, especially when dealing with the supposedly sacrosanct realm of science. Enter the CDC, the largely discredited bureaucracy that is fresh off overriding the vote of government health experts on vaccine boosters for those under 65.
With masks continuing to show little to no effect on spread throughout not just the United States, but the entire world, it's no surprise the CDC would keep “studying” the issue until they got the result they wanted. Thus, we got this result being touted this morning.
New @CDCMMWR shows counties w/ school mask requirements had a smaller increase in pediatric #COVID19 case rates than counties w/o school mask requirements. #MaskUp in schools to help control the spread of COVID-19 in children and adolescents. https://t.co/DmzxVJlL4s pic.twitter.com/LKu9WSpxJc
— CDC (@CDCgov) September 24, 2021
When I first saw this, my spidey sense immediately started going off. Notice the massaging being done to the language in this announcement. It doesn't actually say schools with mask mandates show a smaller increase in pediatric COVID-19 case rates. Rather, it says “counties,” and we'll get to why that is in a minute. Further, the CDC absconds from including in their graphic the actual, numerical difference being touted.
For posterity, here's the link to the full study so you can see exactly what it actually covers.
So, what's the real story here? The real story is that the CDC cherry-picked a time period from July 1st-September 4th, meaning that children weren't even in school for the vast majority of the study. In fact, in some of the counties covered, children were only in school for a week or so by the time the study concluded. The study also cherry-picked some counties that already had rising infection rates prior to school beginning, with no control for testing so as to compare counties with similar case trends.
Lets take all the counties from the study and separate them into
(1) Masks mandated & located south of 37th parallel
(2) No mandate & located north of 37th parallel
I mean, it apparently doesn't matter where the schools are located, so (1) should be the clear winner, yes?
— Craig (@TheLawyerCraig) September 24, 2021
How about this one: let's take the *exact* same counties as above, split up the exact same way, but instead let's use the 9/5-11/15 (or Thanksgiving break) as the relevant time period. I'm sure the results will end up exactly the same, right?
— Craig (@TheLawyerCraig) September 24, 2021
It gets worse, though. Even the actual results, forgetting the fact that the study is misleading garbage on its face because of how it was conducted, don't really say what the CDC claims. Rather, the change in infection rates is arguably statistically insignificant.
— Phil Kerpen (@kerpen) September 24, 2021
In short, what we have is a “study” that didn't even cover a period where children were in school — save for a week or so. The “study” is also based on a data set of counties that do not control for prior infection rates, testing capacity, etc. in order to conduct a valid comparison between areas that have school mask mandates and ones that don't. And even still, they came up with a result that shows almost no difference in the real number of cases.
Lastly, just to put a fine point on all this, the CDC's own study admits that it's ecological and should not be used to assign causation in regards to masks and infection rates. They also admit a lack of control regarding several other key variables.
First, this was an ecologic study, and causation cannot be inferred. Second, pediatric COVID-19 case counts and rates included all cases in children and adolescents aged <18 years; later analyses will focus on cases in school-age children and adolescents. Third, county-level teacher vaccination rate and school testing data were not controlled for in the analyses; later analyses will control for these covariates. Finally, because of the small sample size of counties selected for the analysis, the findings might not be generalizable.
Despite those realities, the CDC rushed out to push causation anyway without a second thought. That's just deeply dishonest, and this is the kind of stuff that makes people distrust our scientific institutions. If you are concerned about vaccine hesitancy, you should be speaking firmly against the manipulation of data we are seeing from the federal government to push what ultimately boils down to a political narrative.