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VICTOR JOECKS: The CDC’s counterproductive mask guidance

So when does President Joe Biden accuse the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of killing people by enabling vaccine hesitancy?

The sales pitch for the coronavirus vaccines is straightforward. Get a vaccine, and you can be done. You can be done worrying about dying from the coronavirus. You can be done with capacity limits and social distancing. You can be done wearing a mask.

In mid-May, CDC officials said that fully vaccinated individuals didn’t need to wear a mask in most settings. Gov. Steve Sisolak adopted those recommendations for Nevada, and many people stopped masking up in public places.

On Tuesday, agency experts reversed themselves. They want vaccinated people in high-transmission areas, which currently includes Clark County, to wear masks indoors. The agency also recommended that all teachers, students and school staff don masks. According to the center’s July 9 guidelines, vaccinated teachers and students didn’t need to wear masks unless required by local officials.

“The CDC urges vaccinated people to mask up” isn’t much of a sales pitch.

Most obviously, the new guidance makes it seem as if vaccinated individuals face a worrisome personal risk from breakthrough infections. That isn’t the case. According to CDC data, more than 97 percent of those hospitalized from the coronavirus are unvaccinated. This is powerful evidence that vaccines work. Indeed, it’s possible the threat of the delta variant is behind Nevada’s recent increase in daily vaccinations.

Public health messaging shouldn’t cause people to think twice about the effectiveness of vaccines.

Imposing new restrictions on vaccinated people also undercuts an important incentive to get vaccinated — the ability to go back to normal. In Clark County, less than 42 percent of people in their 20s have been vaccinated. From 10 to 19, just 27 percent have been.

These age groups don’t face substantial health risks from the virus. Out of 867,000 Nevadans in those age ranges, 103,000 have tested positive for the coronavirus and 38 have died. For comparison, in those 70 and older, 3,600 people have died out of the 24,000 people who’ve tested positive. Little wonder than that more than 83 percent of people in the older age range have initiated their vaccines.

Teens and young adults need a different inducement than older Nevadans. A return to normalcy, which includes no masks, is one possibility. It’s a mistake to eliminate that reason.

The CDC claimed the new guidance is needed because the more contagious delta variant can cause vaccinated individuals to pass on the virus.

But pass it on to whom? Vaccinated individuals remain at vanishingly low risk. Unvaccinated individuals have had months to be vaccinated but have chosen not to. That’s on them. Children under 12 aren’t eligible for the vaccine. But they’re in the lowest risk category of all. Since the start of last year, twice as many children have died from pneumonia as the coronavirus.

This month, Biden accused Facebook of killing people for allowing information to be posted that he claimed led to people refusing vaccinations. By that ridiculous standard, he should level the same accusation against his CDC. Instead the White House is defending these guidelines.

Unfortunately, Sisolak went along with this sham. Starting Friday, he will require masks in much of Nevada. What a shame his actions signal that vaccines don’t work.

Contact Victor Joecks at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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