COMPASS: Over 2,000 pages of infrastructure legislation; Mask mandates return to DC

August 2nd, 2021

Good afternoon from Capitol Hill. Despite only three deaths from COVID over the last two weeks, a 1 percent 14-day average positivity rate, a total of eight individuals in the ICU with COVID citywide, and over half the city’s residents vaccinated (including 75 percent of residents age 65 and up), DC Mayor Muriel Bowser has reinstated a mask mandate for everyone in the city.

But, as is so often the case, Bowser took a “rules for thee, not for me” approach, throwing herself a maskless, indoor birthday party hours before the mandate took effect, and officiating and then partying at a maskless indoor wedding on Saturday night. Bowser’s arbitrary handling of the COVID restrictions is a microcosm of the mixed messaging and reversals coming out of the White House and the CDC, immediately amplified by hysterical headlines conjured up by corporate news outlets hungry for clicks. Frankly, it’s a dumpster fire.

In one week, the CDC reversed its long held promise that vaccinated individuals could shed masks, and declared COVID’s delta variant to be as transmissible as the chicken pox. The CDC also managed to throw doubt on the efficacy of the vaccines it has been begging Americans to get by suggesting that vaccinated individuals could still spread COVID — while failing to clarify that this is a miniscule risk.

This is how Dr. Joel Zinberg assessed the situation in City Journal:

But now the CDC, citing a non-peer-reviewed, preprint study, along with unpublished data, claims that breakthrough Delta infections are more transmissible than breakthrough infections from other variants. The study examined breakthrough infections in 100 Indian health-care workers vaccinated with an Indian version of the Astra-Zeneca vaccine (not used in the U.S.). 

Infections with the Delta variant showed higher respiratory viral loads compared with non-Delta infections, leading to increased transmission between health-care workers.

The CDC also cited another preprint study showing that Delta-variant infections make up a higher percentage of breakthrough cases than other variants in Houston. But the study also showed that breakthrough cases were only 6.5 percent of all cases and were far less likely to require hospitalization. Significantly, the study showed that breakthrough cases had lower viral loads, indicating less transmission potential than in unvaccinated patients (though this portion of the study did not distinguish between Delta and non-delta variants).

These small and somewhat contradictory studies seem like a slim reed on which to base a nationwide change in policy. The CDC has not released any other data showing that breakthrough Delta infections present as high a transmission risk as infections of the unvaccinated. Despite the current Delta surge, vaccinated people likely pose a minimal risk to the uninfected.

The CDC acknowledges that even with Delta, only a small percentage of fully vaccinated people will be infected. For a vaccinated person to become infected, they have to encounter an infected person who is actively shedding the virus. A large percentage of the population is immune and unlikely to be infected or shedding; half the U.S. population is vaccinated, and at least another 20 percent to 25 percent more have natural immunity after recovering from Covid-19. Even in areas with high or substantial transmission, the prevalence is low; most of the unvaccinated we meet do not have an active Covid-19 infection. Moreover, even if they are infected, relatively prolonged close contact is needed to create a transmission risk. Finally, the vaccines appear to be about 90 percent effective in limiting transmission.

For more on the delta variant and what we can learn from how it has impacted other countries, particularly the UK, I found this Twitter thread from Steve Deace informative and helpful.

Meanwhile, back on the ranch, the House has adjourned for their August recess. The Senate, is still plugging along on their infrastructure legislation. Over the weekend, they released over 2,700 pages of text. Member offices and staff are furiously attempting to read and understand what’s in the bill before the Senate starts voting on amendments — likely today. On Sunday, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) took to the Senate floor to outline his opposition. President Trump has said of the bill that “no deal is better than a bad deal. Fight for America, not for the special interests.”


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One More Thing…

The Biden administration is once more wielding Big Tech’s outsized power to impose its will on the country (which is why these companies should be broken up!). Gun Owners of America’s Aidan Johnston reports on Big Tech’s new database on gun owners, and CPI’s Phil Reboli discusses it here.