Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky appeared to get personal during testimony before a Senate committee on Tuesday after Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) questioned her agency’s credibility for being overly cautious regarding COVID-19 guidance for summer camps and schools.
In a video clip posted online by CQ Roll Call correspondent Emily Kopp, Walensky invoked her own son in her testy response to Collins, saying that this year, despite the fact that he wanted to go to summer camp, she decided not to let him go because COVID-19 infections were rising again and are actually higher now than at the same time last year.
Walensky gets personal responding to criticism from Sen. Collins, who said CDC has lost its credibility because of overly cautious guidance on returning to school and camp. pic.twitter.com/KnfjJGO6mE
— Emily Kopp (@emilyakopp) May 11, 2021
“With regard to camp, I have a 16-year-old,” Walensky began. “Every year he comes home from camp and he writes the number of days until he returns to camp the next year. This year, it got to zero and I told him he wasn’t going.
“I want our kids back in camp. We now have 38,000 new infections, on average, per day. Last May 11, it was 24,000,” Walensky continued. “We sent a lot of kids home and camps were closed. The camp guidance is intended to get our kids to camp and allow them to stay there.”
(Video: Fox News)
According to the CDC’s most recent guidance for kids in summer camp, the agency recommends they be masked at nearly all times with the exception of when they are swimming, eating, or drinking — even outside.
But that seems excessive according to infection rate data that was detailed in a piece published in The New York Times morning newsletter on Tuesday. Reporter David Leonhardt took issue with the CDC’s prior claim that people have a 10 percent risk of being infected by the novel coronavirus while outdoors, but there is no evidence to support that.
“It appears to be based partly on a misclassification of some Covid transmission that actually took place in enclosed spaces,” Leonhardt writes. “An even bigger issue is the extreme caution of C.D.C. officials, who picked a benchmark — 10 percent — so high that nobody could reasonably dispute it.”
In reality, Leonhardt noted, “multiple epidemiologists” have told him that the true risk to contracting the disease outdoors is closer to 1 percent and may actually be as low as 0.1 percent.
“Saying that less than 10 percent of Covid transmission occurs outdoors is akin to saying that sharks attack fewer than 20,000 swimmers a year. (The actual worldwide number is around 150.) It’s both true and deceiving,” he added.
Fox News’s “The Five” picked up on all of this Tuesday afternoon, with co-host Dana Perino noting the exchange between Collins and Walensky as well as Leonhardt’s piece pushing back on the CDC’s 10-percent claim, all of which form the latest basis for Americans’ rising distrust of the agency.
“When you have The New York Times and the CDC saying ‘we have lost confidence in you, people don’t trust what you say’ … that is epic that you have such a failure at the CDC,” Perino noted.
“It’s not just the communications standpoint of which has been abysmal,” the former press secretary for President George W. Bush and Wyoming native continued. “Something fundamentally is happening there where they are not actually following the science, and they’re not communicating that to the public.
“That’s very dangerous. This pandemic was extremely serious,” Perino continued, going on to recommend that an independent panel be formed to look at and identify all of the problems and issues the CDC has experienced in keeping the American public informed and get them addressed before the next pandemic, in order to renew trust in the agency.
“There will be a next time,” she added.