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Will Summer Camp Guidance Be CDC's Next Surrender to Rationality?
As was the case with masks, CDC policy out of step with science
The Center for Disease Control’s major easing of its mask-use recommendations was a welcome development, giving Americans hope that logic can triumph over the CDC’s bureaucratic inertia and its Covid-era tendency to push the most severe restrictions on human activity at every turn.
Next, let’s hope this outbreak of rationality proves contagious within the CDC, and brings a major overhaul of the agency’s absurd guidelines for summer camps.
CDC Trapped in March 2020 Mindset
In April, the CDC published guidance for operating youth camps that was the latest eye-rolling example of CDC maximalism that conflicts with what we’ve learned about Covid-19.
Before we examine the CDC guidance, let’s review some of the key things that we now know about Covid-19 that we didn’t in March 2020:
Covid-19 presents little risk at all to children. According to CDC data, only 295 children age 0-17 have died with Covid-19. Compare that to the CDC’s estimation that 600 died of the flu during the 2017-18 season.
Outdoor transmission pretty much never happens. An Irish study of more than 232,000 Covid-19 cases found only 0.1% of cases were transmitted outside.
Surface transmission isn’t a material source of spread. The CDC has declared the risk of contracting the virus by touching surfaces or objects is low, and that rather than cleaning with disinfectant, “soap and water is enough to reduce risk” (unless there’s a known or suspected Covid-19 case in a community setting).
Vaccines are abundantly available. According to the CDC’s vaccination data, 60.5% of U.S. adults have have received at least one vaccine dose, and 48.4% are fully vaccinated. Gone are the days when finding the vaccine was a challenge; today, anyone who wants the vaccine can readily find it.
Covid-19 cases and deaths are in a free fall. The 7-day averages for cases and deaths have respectively fallen 89% and 83% from their peaks. On Sunday, the entire state of Texas reported not a single death from the virus. Today, San Francisco General Hospital has no Covid-19 patients for the first time since March 2020.
With that knowledge in mind, here are some key ingredients in the CDC’s recipe for dystopian summer fun:
Two-layer masks should be worn at all times—indoors and out—except for eating, drinking and swimming
Don’t allow close-contact games and sports
Avoid sharing of objects such as toys, games and art supplies
Separate children on buses by skipping rows
Divide children into “cohorts” and then keep them away from other cohorts
Children should stay three feet away from kids in their cohort and six feet away from those outside their cohort; campers and staff should stay six feet from each other, as should fellow staff members
While eating and drinking, stay six feet away from everybody—even your own cohort
Who exactly are these draconian, fun-killing guidelines meant to protect? The children aren’t in any meaningful danger—the number of children who typically drown in a given year is more than double the number of child Covid deaths we’ve observed in 15 months.
Meanwhile, against a backdrop of rapidly-vanishing Covid-19 infections across the country, camp staff will have had more than ample opportunity to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 before the first kids arrive.
We’re told to “follow the science,” but what is the CDC following? The agency’s guidelines read like they were written during the early dark ages of the Covid outbreak, when the peril was still filled with overwhelming mystery, and “erring on the side of caution” still had a trace of credibility.
As Columbia University pediatric immunologist Mark Gorelik told New York Magazine, “We know that the risk of outdoor infection is very low. We know risks of children becoming seriously ill or even ill at all is vanishingly small. And most of the vulnerable population is already vaccinated. I am supportive of effective measures to restrain the spread of illness. However, the CDC’s recommendations cross the line into excess and are, frankly, senseless. Children cannot be running around outside in 90-degree weather wearing a mask. Period.”