On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published, without fanfare, a new acknowledgement of what many researchers had previously warned: The virus that causes COVID-19 is spread through the air, in an aerosol. This is significant, as the agency had previously warned Americans only that the virus could be spread through large drops; the recognition that spread occurs through smaller particles better explains why indoor infections can happen at ranges far over 6 feet, and puts an emphasis on good ventilation, not just social distancing, as a potential mitigator.
After the discovery of this new acknowledgement by CNN on Sunday, the CDC has now reversed itself again, pulling the statement from its website and claiming it was published in “error.”
The reasons why are at the moment a mystery, but immediately follow the public revelations that Trump-appointed officials have been publicly issuing new guidelines over the objections of agency scientists.
Last week, The New York Times reported that CDC scientists objected to confusing new guidelines that suggested even those in contact with known COVID-19 cases did not need to themselves be tested unless they were showing symptoms themselves—a statement at complete odds with the now-global recognition of the importance of asymptomatic carriers in the pandemic’s spread. The Times report identified CDC director Robert Redfield and coronavirus “task force” experts, rather than CDC scientists, as “coordinating” the change without consulting agency scientists.
The change was widely suspected of being politically motivated, an attempt to follow through on Donald Trump’s own repeated complaints that “too much” testing was being done in the United States, resulting in the discovery of too many cases. It now appears the White House “task force” took steps to indeed reduce testing, and did so by ignoring the CDC scientists normally responsible for such guidelines.
The new reversal-then-re-reversal of another set of agency “guidelines,” also one with profound implications for how Americans should conduct themselves during a pandemic that has claimed 200,000 American lives, looks to be another scandal in the making. Whatever process is now resulting in the transformation of CDC scientific guidelines into a political battleground is having critical and likely life-endangering effects on actual Americans. CNN reports that the now-retracted guidelines suggested that air purifiers were among the tools that could reduce airborne transmission, and that the CDC also removed language warning that “people who are infected but do not show symptoms can spread the virus to others.”
Add another required congressional investigation to the mounting pile; it appears that Trump-appointed officials inside the Department of Health and Human Services and on the White House coronavirus “task force” are actively taking steps to undermine CDC scientific research and integrity, in the last weeks before the election, seemingly for the sole purpose of downplaying pandemic threats and goosing economic “reopening” when Trump and his allies need it the very most.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.