Grassley questions changing mask policies, says CDC has ‘poor public relations’

By: - July 28, 2021 2:27 pm

Sen. Chuck Grassley says the CDC has ‘poor public relations’ involving changing mask recommendations. (Photo courtesy of the State of Utah)

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley said Wednesday federal health officials’ changing recommendations on mask-wearing could test their credibility and confuse Iowans and other U.S. residents.

Grassley, R-Iowa, added that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has “poor public relations,” in his view.

Mask-wearing turned into a political controversy during the coronavirus pandemic, with many Republicans suggesting at times masks weren’t needed. 

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley is a Republican from New Hartford, Iowa.

Grassley, who had COVID-19 in November, has supported mask-wearing at other points of the pandemic. In  May, CDC said fully vaccinated people could go without masks in most places.  

On Tuesday, CDC suggested everyone wear masks in schools and indoors in high-risk locations. Several GOP governors, including Iowa’s Kim Reynolds, pushed back. Reynolds said the CDC is sending “mixed messages.”

Grassley agreed that many are having a hard time keeping up with changing protocols.

“You know there’s a reluctance and kind of some negative reaction to what CDC and some schools are saying about (wearing) masks. Because you get these conflicting opinions,” Grassley told Iowa reporters during a weekly call.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease authority, told people early in the pandemic not to wear masks, and later said they should. “He’s been back and forth,” Grassley said. 

Fauci initially told U.S. residents to save masks for doctors and other health professionals because there was a shortage. 

“I’m not really giving you my opinion on masks,” Grassley said after a reporter asked if he supported CDC’s recommendation that people return to mask-wearing indoors in high-risk areas. 

“I’m telling you how the federal government can take some action that will give them some credibility so when they say wear masks, wear masks. And if you don’t have to wear masks, you don’t have to wear masks.”

Changing recommendations

Now, Grassley says, CDC has new recommendations. “You have the CDC coming out yesterday and saying in about half of the counties of the United States, you have to wear a mask, and they don’t tell you why,” Grassley said. 

CDC announced it was changing its recommendation due to a surge in the delta variant of COVID-19 and the prospect that even vaccinated people were spreading it.

Grassley: More data needed

Grassley said he would like CDC to present more data to back up its recommendations. 

“It would be good if they would give this data, that’s so important backing it up, because they don’t have the credibility they ought to have.  I don’t have any reason not to say they’re a credible organization, and that they do use science, but they sure have poor public relations.”

CDC has extensive information on its COVID-19 recommendations online. The main page includes a link called “Science brief: Background rationale and evidence for public health recommendations.”

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Perry Beeman
Perry Beeman

Senior reporter Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.