News: Quick Takes

Senate leader Berger challenges federal COVID mask guidance ‘whiplash’

Carolina Journal photo by Maya Reagan
Carolina Journal photo by Maya Reagan

Senate leader Phil Berger is drawing attention to his concerns about the latest federal health guidance on COVID-19 and masks.

“We should be relieved, not panicked,” Berger’s office declares in the headline of a Thursday news release.

“Fewer North Carolinians died from COVID during the entire month of July than on a single given day in January,” according to the release from Berger, a Rockingham County Republican. “That’s because vaccines work, and most of the people at highest risk of death got the vaccine.”

“That’s cause for relief,” the release adds. “But all we’re getting from public health authorities are shifting rules and perpetual panic.”

The document contains no direct quotes from Berger, though it reads at times like an opinion column.

“The CDC offers more consistent guidance on consuming raw cookie dough than on masks,” the release continues. “That’s a problem and here’s why: If the CDC erodes its credibility on masks, then it risks eroding its credibility on the far more important message of vaccines.”

Berger attracted attention this week when his campaign fundraising team sent an email comparing the CDC’s mask guidance to its suggestions for cookie dough consumption.

The Senate leader’s latest news release points to “truths that the public deserves to hear.”

First, North Carolina’s COVID-19 death toll for this entire month is smaller than the death count on nine particular days in January.

Second, 80% of North Carolinians who are 65 and older have been fully vaccinated. “That’s a much better result than we saw with previous vaccines to address public health crises,” according to Berger’s office.

“Getting a vaccine is the single most effective measure to counter COVID,” the release argues. “Masks provide much, much less protection than vaccines.”

“The whiplash on mask ‘guidance’ from the CDC may have the perverse effect of discouraging vaccination,” Berger’s release said.

Berger reminds readers that President Biden has said fully vaccinated people “no longer need to wear a mask.”

“Two months later, the CDC is saying the opposite,” according to Berger’s release. “That erodes credibility, and risks undermining and distracting from the far more important message on vaccines.”

The release highlights flip-flops from national health experts. “Public health ‘authorities’ are keeping us in a perpetual state of panic and constantly undermining their own advice,” according to Berger’s release. “Where does this end? If the goal is ‘no COVID,’ then it may never end. Maybe that’s the point, but that’s not a tenable state of affairs.”

Berger goes on to criticize “shaming and nonsense political attacks.” “That’s probably the only strategy that will be less effective than the whiplash we’re getting right now.”

“Here’s what authorities should do: Encourage and promote vaccination; give people accurate and consistent information about spread, viral load, and fatalities; and understand that the likely reaction to the current fear-mongering is resistance.”