Health

Setbacks, Inconsistencies Mount For CDC Under Walensky

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Dylan Housman Healthcare Reporter
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Inconsistencies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and director Rochelle Walensky have continued as the Omicron wave sweeps across the U.S.

Walensky told the public in a Good Morning America interview Wednesday that PCR tests for COVID-19 can stay positive for up to 12 weeks after infection. For that reason, Walensky said, a negative PCR test would not be needed to leave quarantine or isolation under new CDC guidelines. 

“So we would have people in isolation for a very long time if we were relying on PCRs,” Walensky told GMA.

Rapid antigen tests aren’t good indicators of whether someone is actually contagious with COVID-19, Walensky said. “We know it performs really well during that period where you’re initially infected, but the FDA has not at all looked at whether … your positive antigen really does correlate with whether you’re transmissible or not.”

Nearly two years into the pandemic, this is the first time Walensky has told Americans that they could be testing positive on PCR tests due to a COVID-19 infection that dissipated weeks ago, or that someone could test negative on a rapid test and still be contagious.

The episode is another instance of the CDC failing to keep Americans in the loop with the most up-to-date information on the pandemic.

The admission raises questions about the accuracy of the tests which the CDC has been basing its guidance on. (RELATED: Dr. Fauci Explains Why CDC Cut Isolation Period Down After Biden Warned About Winter Of ‘Death’)

Some doctors have warned for months that PCR tests can be oversensitive. But as commentator Yossi Gestetner pointed out, Americans have been forced to stay home, miss events and isolate themselves for almost two years now based on potentially false positives from oversensitive PCRs.

This has become a pattern for public health leadership. This fall, Walensky defended CDC guidance that all children aged two and older wear masks in schools by citing a study from Arizona, which found that schools with mask mandates were 3.5 times less likely to experience COVID-19 outbreaks. (RELATED: Omicron Can Be So Mild, Americans Are Struggling To Distinguish It From A Common Cold)

However, the study was picked apart by medical experts. Not all of the schools included were even open for the duration of the study, it defined an “outbreak” as simply having two cases in an entire school and it didn’t track whether the transmission actually occurred in school. Still, Walensky continued to cite the 3.5 number.

Back in the summer, when breakthrough cases of COVID-19 in vaccinated individuals were incredibly rare, the CDC used questionable data from the now-infamous Provincetown study to reimpose mask guidance on the vaccinated. The study cited was taken from a sample of just 127 vaccinated, infected individuals during a holiday weekend where people were congregating for parties during “bear week,” a celebratory occasion in Provincetown, Massachusetts, for gay men.

During the spring, the CDC misled the public about the frequency of outdoor transmission. The agency said that “less than 10 percent” of COVID-19 transmission was occurring outside. In reality, the true number could be less than one percent, and possibly as low as 0.1%. (RELATED: Amid Omicron Wave, Some Democrats Change Tune On Mandates And Lockdowns)

In May, Walensky defended the Biden administration’s guidance which still recommended the vaccinated wear masks. However, the night before, she had approved a new recommendation that the vaccinated wouldn’t need to mask, which wasn’t made public yet.

In an interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier in July, Walensky said that a federal vaccine mandate was something the Biden administration was “looking into.” That set off a firestorm, and Walensky walked it back almost immediately, tweeting that there would be no nationwide mandate by the federal government.

President Joe Biden announced several months later that there would, in fact, be a federal vaccine mandate for businesses with more than 100 employees. Ever since, Walensky has defended that policy without acknowledging her promise that it wouldn’t happen.