In his rush to reöpen the economy, Mayor Bill de Blasio has risked telegraphing mixed messages to the public about the dangers of the Delta variant. NYC Mayor's Office (YouTube/Fair Use)

de Blasio a beach bum in face of growing concerns about Delta variant, as costly five-layer face coverings may explain delayed response to new CDC indoor mask guidance

An internal CDC presentation was leaked, and it purports to show the Nation’s top health ministry scrambling after data showed the Delta variant can spread amongst the vaccinated.

By Progress New York Staff

Updated 31 Jul 2021 19:45 Mayor Bill de Blasio (WFP-New York City) played beach volleyball on Friday, as New Yorkers were left confused by conflicting Government announcements that the best way to deal with the highly-transmissible Delta variant, which was responsible for 86 per cent. of the most recent COVID-19 cases in New York City, was more vaccinations, even though the Government announced that a large number of vaccinated individuals in Massachusetts became infected with the Coronavirus.

An alarming internal slide presentation shared within the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, and obtained by the Washington Post revealed that the Nation’s top health ministry was underestimating the threat of the Delta variant, the dominant strain of the Coronavirus that is now wreaking havoc in the U.S. after reportedly leaving a large wake of disability and death in India, the U.K., and Israel. The Post report, published Thursday evening, noted that the presentation was based on unpublished data that showed vaccinated individuals infected with the Delta variant “may be able to transmit the virus as easily as those who are unvaccinated.”

The Post report, and an ABC News report that was released hours earlier, claimed that research about breakthrough infections, including a large cluster traced to Cape Cod, Mass., reportedly influenced the CDC to partially revert to an indoor mask mandate for individuals, regardless of vaccination status, in hot spots. Health ministers have identified 882 individuals as tied to the Cape Cod outbreak, as of Thursday. Of the Massachusetts residents amongst that group, 74 per cent. were fully-immunised, according to the ABC News report.

Despite the release of the CDC presentation, corporate-owned media have continued to discount the risks of the Delta variant. A New York Times report by a skeptic of the Coronavirus pandemic, Apoorva Mandavilli, continued to improbably assert that cases of vaccine escape were “rare,” despite growing data, including from Israel, that reported otherwise. But Government leaders and the media class have yet to confront the CDC’s decision in May to end the mask mandates for vaccinated individuals based on the idea that vaccinations would halt transmission, as noted by the ABC News report.

The CDC released information about the Cape Cod vaccine escape cases on Friday.

Regarding the integrity of Government pandemic data, news reports raise questions — some of them familiar.

As Mayor de Blasio continued to promote large social gatherings, like concerts, other Government leaders around the Nation were scrambling to deal with another growing wave of Coronavirus infections that is now being estimated to be larger than shown by Government data. CDC models predict from 200,000 to 1,2 million infections for the week ending 21 Aug., but Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former Trump administration commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, predicted that up to 1 million infections were now taking place daily due to the spread of the Delta variant, according to a report published by CNBC, the cable financial news network. Last Sunday, in an appearance on the CBS news magazine, Face The Nation, Dr. Gottlieb recommended more expensive, five-layer masks, known as KN95 or N95, adding that, “that’s going to afford you a lot more protection.” Dr. Gottlieb now serves on the Board of Directors of Pfizer Inc., the pharmaceutical maker of one of the COVID-19 vaccines.

During the first year of the pandemic, the de Blasio administration faced accusations that he couldn’t supply public housing authority employees with face-masks until media attention caused him political embarrassment. He also faced turf battles he could not control between Agency heads over the possession of then-scarce face masks. Those fights were over relatively inexpensive surgical masks. Were the de Blasio administration to face expectations to supply City staff and vulnerable communities with more expensive KN95 or N95 masks, he would certainly face procurement and logistics challenges. For this report, the press office supporting Mayor de Blasio did not answer an interview request about his management of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Adding to other bad omens, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC’s director, claimed that new research would show that the viral load of vaccinated individuals was “pretty similar” to the viral load of unvaccinated individuals, according to the ABC News report. The evolution of the Delta variant has appeared to invalidate past public health communication by the Government, and this has led to skepticism, particularly since the Government has not been forthcoming about the rate at which breakthrough infections amongst vaccinated individuals were leading to hospitalisations, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, said for the Post report.

Separately, a new study revealed that vaccines alone can’t stop dangerous new strains, like the Delta variant. However, Government officials, from President Joseph Biden (D) to Mayor de Blasio, have continued to insist that the only response to the Coronavirus pandemic remains vaccines, even though last year Mayor de Blasio went on the record to support the use of face masks based on a study from Singapore that was published by the CDC, according to a CNBC report. Though the science has not changed about masks, it appears, though, that Mayor de Blasio’s political analysis of the pandemic has. Last year, Mayor de Blasio could accuse the Trump administration of “malpractise” for failing to provide Local Governments with pandemic resources ; now, he can’t do the same to the Biden administration, because the political bossism that governs Democratic Party relationships prevents Mayor de Blasio from embarrassing President Biden.

With the Delta variant outbreak forming a new wave of infections across the Nation, the de Blasio administration has been deëmphasising testing, disbanding the test-and-trace corps, and publishing data that appeared to lack confidence, according to a bombshell Times report earlier in July reässessing Mayor de Blasio’s preparedness. For weeks prior to the bombshell Times report, Progress New York questioned the integrity of City health ministry data about variants, as well as whether the sources of testing, including home tests, were being proportionately represented in weekly variant sequencing studies.

For his part, Dr. Gottlieb has also questioned whether at-home tests were being accurately counted by Government health ministers, and he explained that the number of hospitalisations, particularly by young people, helped him predict the larger number of daily infections that must be taking place. A skew in the ratio presumably predicts that the number of cases may be being undercounted. On Monday, Progress New York published charts, which showed that throughout the Coronavirus pandemic in New York City, the ratio of Total Cases (confirmed and probable) to Hospitalisations was confined to a narrow band — except for very recently. A similar pattern was observed of U.K. data. The skew in the data was brought to the attention of Progress New York by a critic of Government pandemic data, Cynthia Walker.

Dr. Gottlieb noticed that the imbalance in the ratio of Total Cases to Hospitalisations may mean that Total Cases were being under-counted.

Throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, the ratio of Total Cases (confirmed and probable) to Hospitalisations was confined to a narrow band — except for very recently. Visualisation of the data shows that the ratio is way off. (Data was collected on 01 août 2021.)
The same upward spike in the ratio of Cases to Hospitalisations was observed in the U.K., where the spike has been correcting itself due to an increase in hospitalisations. (Data was collected on 01 août 2021.)

Rising hospitalisations are a lagging indicator to new outbreaks of COVID-19 cases, but thoughout the pandemic, there were never spikes this large. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio has been reporting hospitalisations that appear to be a larger percentage of cases, suggesting that the number of cases are being under-counted. His tally, posted on Twitter, contravenes City health ministry data, as reflected in the graph of New York City data.

Politicians scramble to contain the Delta variant, and the business response is office closures.

In the days before the leaking of the new Cape Cod data, leading Democrats tried to blame the out-of-control Delta variant outbreaks on unvaccinated individuals, instead of Government failure. “The problem is, as the President has said, the CDC director said, this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Mayor de Blasio said during his 23 July interview on the Brian Lehrer Show, according to a transcript.

In response to uneven changes in public health policy by different levels of Government, confidence by the business community has been decidedly mixed. In the face of the Delta variant outbreak in New York City, some of the top bankers on Wall Street last week reportedly opposed any effort to institute an indoor mask mandate, according to an editorial published in the New York Post. Other large employers in New York City weren’t waiting for a new indoor mask mandate, resulting in Twitter, Facebook, Google, and the Times, taking matters into their own hands by closing their offices or postponing the return of their workforce.

Elsewhere, Disney announced it would require face coverings at its theme parks by all individuals, regardless of vaccination status. Broadway theatres and major retailers, like Walmart, also embraced universal mask requirements, according to reports. In the face of so much private sector unease, Mayor de Blasio began asking private employers to adopt vaccine requirements.

As Mayor de Blasio slouches to his promised new mask mandate announcement on Monday, New Yorkers will soon discover if he is going to heed the warnings of Dr. Gottlieb — or side with Wall Street bankers. Even with Total Cases having already crossed above 1,500, according to City daily data, in this Delta variant wave, life for Mayor de Blasio was looking great. He turned our worries about the pandemic into a day at the beach.

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