Report: CDC exaggerated risk of outdoor virus transmission

President Joe Biden arrives to lay a wreath and observes a moment of silence on Wednesday, April 14, 2021, at Arlington, National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. (Official White House photo by Cameron Smith)

Parks and playgrounds have been shuttered while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend that masks be worn outdoors in many situations, even by people who are vaccinated.

But “the science” upon which those guidelines are based apparently is far from reality, according to a New York Times report.

The CDC has estimated that the risk of COVID-19 transmission while outdoors is about 10%. But the true figure may be less than 1% — and possibly even less than 0.1%.

If it is 0.1%, that means the CDC’s estimate was 100 times too high.

The Times reported the 10% figure is based “partly on a misclassification” of some virus transmission from a study. Some of the settings classified as outdoor, such as construction sites, actually were a mix of both outdoor and indoor.

On Tuesday, CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky was confronted by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, regarding the Times report. The senator noted it was another example of conflicting and confusing guidance, along with recommendations related to school reopenings and summer camps.

Walensky explained that the 10% benchmark was derived from a study published in the Journal of Infectious Disease in November that synthesized various studies.

A CDC official told the Times there are limited data on outdoor transmission.

“The data we do have supports the hypothesis that the risk of outdoor transmission is low. Ten percent is a conservative estimate from a recent systematic review of peer-reviewed papers,” the official said.

“CDC cannot provide the specific risk level for every activity in every community and errs on the side of protection when it comes to recommending steps to protect health,” the official said. “It is important for people and communities to consider their own situations and risks and to take appropriate steps to protect their health.”

Now you tell us

Constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley noted Tuesday the outdoor risk “has been a major source of disagreement with many contesting mandatory mask rules for those walking or working or recreating outside.”

Cities such as Chicago closed parks and New York City shuttered playgrounds used by the lowest-risk population. And states closed parks and trails, Turley noted, “that could have been key areas of release for people during lock downs.”

Trillions have been spent on the pandemic, the George Washington University professor pointed out, yet there “appears to have been little time or money spent on the basis for this key component of the mandatory policies supported by the CDC and mandated by many states.”

“I can understand the reliance on an article in the prestigious Journal of Infectious Diseases,” he said. “I cannot understand the failure to closely examine its basis since it appears to have been the primary basis for the policy.

“Hundreds of millions of Americans were impacted as well as the economy,” Turley continued. “Yet, CDC is only now noting that the article appears to have been fundamentally flawed in its underlying assumptions and calculations.”

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