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Los Angeles: The Mask Mandate Lives
The "Science"? The CDC Said So
Critical thinking begins with a simple question: “Why?”
Asking “Why did the apple fall from the tree?” is the famous fable of how Sir Isaac Newton developed his theories on gravity.
When asked “Why is Los Angeles Count resuming the mask mandate?”, however, the answer given by county Public Health Director was the antithesis of critical thinking.
The county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer says the decision is based on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's opinion that mask-wearing on transit remains an essential step to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Here's what Ferrer said Thursday in announcing the resumption of the rules.
"They are experts," Ferrer told reporters during an online briefing. "They made a determination that at this point having that requirement in place is necessary for the public's health, and that resonates with us."
The CDC said the mandate was a good idea. That is good enough for the Los Angeles County public health department.
What About The Data?
Not only does LA consider the word of the CDC authoritative (that alone should call into question Ms Ferrer's thought processes), but that word is strong enough to overrule the evidence at hand.
While cases have risen recently in Los Angeles County…
…the hospitalizations are declining.
The mortality rate is also declining.
Perhaps the strongest evidence of a rising risk from COVID-19 is a rising test positivity rate — more people who get tested test positive.
This is happening despite a declining testing rate.
In sum, the data does not indicate a nascent public health crisis demanding a public health response. Bear in mind that this data is promulgated by the same Los Angeles County public health department that chooses to disregard it merely because the CDC said so.
Mask Mandate Wrong Response
Even if one considers the data to support the thesis of a rising public health crisis, the clinical research on universal masking is crystal clear: it does no good. It was pointless for the ten days of its resurrection in Philadelphia and it is pointless in Los Angeles.
The clinical research has never supported universal masking and mask mandates as a public health mitigation, either for COVID-19 or for any other infectious respiratory disease.
Yet all of this actual science is rendered meaningless by the word of the CDC, because “they are the experts.”
Which begs the question: what is Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer, since she apparently is not an expert?
Even CDC Opinions Are Opinion, Not Fact
There is a subtle point that deserves emphasis here: expert opinion is still opinion and not fact. This is true even for the lofty pronouncements of the CDC.
Who says so? Clinical researchers—i.e., “experts”.
In a 2018 meta-analysis of clinical practice guidelines published in the BMJ, the relative merit of “expert opinion” was clearly weighted below direct empirical data.
Several depictions of the evidence pyramid consider EO as a level of evidence and place it at the bottom of the pyramid as a unique category, or combined with preclinical studies and case reports, implying low validity.
Straight away, the scientific appraisal of the CDC opinion on universal masking places it below the empirical data of the Los Angeles County public health department, as well as the multiple Randomized Controlled Trials which have to a one failed to demonstrate any disease containment efficacy for a mask mandate.
Even if one concedes that the CDC bureaucrats are “the experts”, the proper evaluation of their opinions does not include relying on that opinion to disregard direct empirical data and relevant published clinical research.
Moreover, to be even somewhat dispositive, expert opinion has to be based on some level of evidence, even if it is indirect evidence. The 2018 BMJ study concluded that such expert opinion truly should be described not as opinion but rather as “indirect evidence.”
This study has demonstrated that most of the time EO is not an opinion; rather, it is indirect evidence or very low-quality evidence.
The inference here is unmistakable: a pronouncement by “experts” that draws on a compendium of evidence may be regarded as a summation of indirect evidence, and therefore itself is indirect evidence. A pronouncement that is divorced from even indirect evidence is merely opinion, and should be given the least evidentiary weight, or disregarded altogether.
Given the flawed research citations used by the CDC to justify their stance on universal masking, the opinions of the CDC are absolutely mere opinion, and properly deserve the least evidentiary weight. The evidence-free opinions of the CDC are just opinion, not fact, and should be evaluated accordingly.
Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer has turned the evidence pyramid completely upside down to push a countywide mask mandate.
Follow The Data
An observation I made in the early stages of the pandemic still applies today: the way to handle any crisis begins by following the data.
Between complacency and panic there is a middle ground called "concern". That is where people should keep their heads over coronavirus. People should be concerned and people should be prepared. People should not ignore this disease nor should they regard every sneeze and sniffle as indication of the disease.
Follow the data. Keeping abreast of the data will help ensure you are responding to what is actually happening, not what you think might happen, or what the WHO and CDC fear might happen.
Don't let news headlines tell you how serious coronavirus is. Let the data do that—that is its job.
Whether the crisis is large or small, whether one considers COVID-19 to be severe or mild, reasoned rational responses begin with an assessment and understanding of the data in hand. Only by looking at the data can one be sure of responding to the actual situation, and not some imagined scenario that in fact is not happening.
The CDC especially has failed to hew to this simple guideline, ignoring data and even basic science to promote an ideologically driven manufactured scenario that bears little resemblance to the empirically established dimensions of the pandemic. They have lied about the disease itself and the Big Pharma inoculations put forward as the only solution to the pandemic. At every turn, they have doubled down on Faucist foolishness and fantasy at the expense of actual science.
Despite this, the Los Angeles County Public Health Director would rather pay attention to the unscientific arbitrary opinions of this self-same anti-science, anti-reason CDC. She has chosen to follow the lowest quality of evidence while instead of the highest quality evidence, the data generated by her own department.
In every situation, the most reliable course of action is always the same: follow the data. Disregard the ideology, and ignore the opinions of the “experts”, and focus on the data—on the empirical depiction of what actually is happening. That is reasoning; that is critical thinking.
That is what the CDC and the Los Angeles County Public Health Department refuse to do.