The Biden administration's handling of the Delta surge has left Americans confused and frustrated, fueling media overreaction and political manipulation.
Why it matters: The past year and a half have left Americans cynical about the government's COVID response, and — in many cases — misinformed or uninformed. We're getting fog and reversals when steady, clear-eyed, factual information is needed more than ever.
The past five days were a mess. On Tuesday, the CDC updated its guidance to say vaccinated people in hot spots should wear masks in indoor, public settings — without an easy, definitive way to know if you're in a hot spot.
- This was a reversal from the CDC's announcement on May 13 — 75 days earlier — that fully vaccinated people could shed masks in most indoor settings, which President Biden called "a great day for America in our long battle with the coronavirus."
- On Thursday, the Washington Post obtained a CDC deck that included the eye-opening line: "Delta variant is as transmissible as: - Chicken Pox."
- Yesterday, a CDC report showed the reversal was driven partly by a cluster of COVID cases in Provincetown, Mass., on Cape Cod, in which three-quarters of the infected people were fully vaccinated. Only a few people were hospitalized, and no deaths were reported.
- The resulting lead headline of today's print New York Times: "IMMUNIZED PEOPLE CAN SPREAD VIRUS, THE C.D.C. REPORT." The online version adds the vital qualifier: "Though Rarely."
The alarmist coverage irritated the White House. A senior Biden administration official told CNN's Oliver Darcy: "The media's coverage doesn't match the moment ... It has been hyperbolic and frankly irresponsible in a way that hardens vaccine hesitancy."
- Ben Wakana of the White House COVID Response Team tweeted: "VACCINATED PEOPLE DO NOT TRANSMIT THE VIRUS AT THE SAME RATE AS UNVACCINATED PEOPLE AND IF YOU FAIL TO INCLUDE THAT CONTEXT YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG."
Between the lines: Administration officials are awkwardly dancing around the fact that they've run out of politically palatable ways to try to convince people to get their shot.
- Delta is getting out of control, and becoming angry or coercive with the unvaccinated could go badly.
The bottom line: If you're vaccinated, sure, be more careful — but don't stress out. If you're unvaccinated and you can get a shot, go get it.