There is an excellent piece in Salon by the Chief-Leader's Bob Hennelly explaining how the CDC didn't listen to union warnings when they took off the mask mandate in May. Hennelly starts right off attacking the Biden administration on COVID and then gets to the details.
From the very start of the COVID-19 pandemic during the Trump administration, our national response has been fractured. Tragically, that dysfunctional response has continued under President Biden, who pledged during his campaign to defeat the virus by making decisions guided by sound public health science and not an economic calculus that was the hallmark of the Trump tenure.
In May, with Biden in for four months, the CDC executed a Bushesque "Mission Accomplished" move in the war on COVID. The nation's premiere health agency inexplicably lifted the universal mask mandate for vaccinated Americans in public indoor settings, even as tens of millions of Americans were not vaccinated and living in counties where below 40 percent of the eligible population had their shots.
The unions that represent nurses and healthcare personnel, as well as essential workers in the food processing and distribution sectors, went ballistic fearing for the safety of its members. But because the corporate news media avoids labor stories you most likely missed it.
The unions warned that the CDC was relying on an honor system which would put their members at risk and would set the stage for the proliferation of an even more contagious variant that would hit hardest the communities of color with the lowest level of vaccine acceptance.
Both things happened and the results, though still unfolding, have been catastrophic.
In their drive to "return to normal" and "get the economy back on track," our national policy makers opened the door wider to the ultra-contagious delta variant. As the variant started to get traction, President Biden described our pandemic as a "pandemic of the unvaccinated," which ignored the possibility that Delta could set the stage for yet another variant that could be more effective at undermining the efficacy of the existing vaccines.
Nurses sound the alarm
In a May 17 tweet, the New York State Nurses Association, which represents 40,000 Registered Nurses, issued a warning: "The rushed CDC mask guidance is a rollback on patients' & workers' protections across the country. The path to stop the virus is more than the vaccine alone. This guidance will push communities to remove their masks sooner than recommended—risking lives."
Key among their concerns: In the neighborhoods of color hardest hit by the coronavirus, where a large portion of the essential workforce resides, the rate of vaccination is well below the 50-percent threshold found in whiter, more affluent areas.
Charlene Obernauer, the executive director of the New York Committee on Occupational Safety and Health, said her group had heard from unions representing grocery-store workers that were pressing their employers to stick with the mask mandate.
"We would support the unions that are calling for the mask mandate to stay in place," Obernauer said during a phone interview. "There is still a disparity in terms of the rates of vaccination between white communities and communities of color."
"We are calling on all those businesses who employ Local 338 members to continue to encourage mask-wearing in their stores and following safe practices in their establishments," texted Nikki Kateman, the political and communications director of Local 338 Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union in New York. "Out of respect to the health, safety and sacrifices of our members, we strongly encourage everyone to mask up at places like the grocery store and pharmacy.
The unions were totally right. There are many more details that I encourage everyone to read and here is Hennelly's conclusion:
As we approach the last half of the second year of this scourge, nearly 650,000 Americans have died. Another 37 million have been infected with COVID-19; in a nation with 330 million people, the number of infected is more than 10 percent of the population. The pandemic is likely to leave several million Americans dealing with long term health issues.
Maintaining the universal mask mandate would have meant less virus transmission, reduced the chance of spawning new variants and shown essential workers the protection they and their families deserved.
I really hope that printing this criticism of the Biden administration puts to bed the notion that I am on "team blue" and am a cheerleader for Biden on COVID or other issues just because he is a Democrat. Please, let's dispense with the Democrat v Republican comments. Jonathan Halabi described the COVID political situation quite well in a comment earlier today:
Florida's anti-safety measures compare poorly to New York's half-measures.
But we are still seeing half-measures in New York.
Which means that there are two groups - the nut jobs who think COVID is just like the flu, and that being required to wear a mask is an assault on freedom - and the Democratic politicians who want to take some measures, but not too many, and who want to open things, including schools, as quickly as they can while conveniently cherrypicking data - two groups who are imperiling our safety.
The New York Times and I-stay-at-home-You-go-to-school reporter Eliza Shapiro fall in that second category. Some of the anonymous posters here fall in the first. Yuck.