Robert Redfield, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, joined “The Story” Monday to discuss the nationwide rise in coronavirus cases.
The virologist told host Martha MacCallum that it’s “very clear” the U.S. is in the midst of a substantial increase in infection, noting that the delta variant is more infectious than the UK variant, and has the ability to transmit from human to human with “great ease.”
The former CDC director also addressed the possibility of children not going back to school and having another year of remote learning — stating that, even during the first shutdown, the public health interest of students K-12 was “to keep them in face-to-face learning.”
“There’s a variety of negative public health consequences that happened as a consequence of doing virtual learning. I think it’s imperative that we get the kids back to face-to-face learning and do all we can to keep them there.”
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Redfield then took aim at CDC guidance on masking children in school and if there were studies to back up their recommendation, saying the policy should be “grounded in data rather than opinion.”
“There’s very few studies that really are compelling in that setting of the classroom.”
“One of the things that I think that is important in the classroom, for example, is how to identify the silent epidemic. This is why we recommended, in a number of jurisdictions doing this, to do routine testing of the students twice a week to find out who is asymptomatically infected and get them out of the transmission cycle.”
MacCallum then criticized the CDC for not conducting any scientific studies to back up their recommendation of keeping kids in masks, asking Redfield where the data is.
“It’s a fair criticism,” Redfield said in agreement. “I think in the Wall Street Journal they talked about $42 billion of NIH funding and less than 2% was on COVID. These are critical questions. Is routine screening twice a week in a school, is that the way to limit intraschool transmission? Is it wearing masks or not wearing masks? I’m of the point of view this has to be locally decided as opposed to a general mandate. Particularly in the absence of data,” the virologist stated.
“I said before, I believe that masks are better than having received a vaccine that didn’t work in you,” Redfield continued. “That’s not to say I’m convinced that we can make the statement the best way to protect kids in school, as some have advocated, is universal masking.”
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Redfield subsequently lent his thoughts on the origin of the coronavirus.
With public calls intensifying to investigate the Wuhan lab-leak hypothesis once dismissed in China and by many as a conspiracy, Redfield said there is no new evidence to suggest that coronavirus evolved from nature.
“We have seen growing evidence to support that this, in fact, was a consequence of a laboratory leak. So I continue to believe, of the two hypotheses, that the laboratory leak is the most likely origin of this virus.”
“It’s in a way tragic because you would then say this pandemic was caused in a way by science, not necessarily by nature. I think I’m very disheartened when I have seen how the scientific community failed to approach both hypotheses with an open mind. I was very rapidly sidelined, threatened and really,,, sort of outed because I believed, as a virologist, that this virus may have come from the laboratory,” Redfield concluded.