No Assist for Viral Declare That COVID-19 ‘Lockdowns’ Are Returning This Fall

SciCheck Digest

The U.S. is seeing an uptick in COVID-19 circumstances, so it might be prudent for folks to put on masks when out in public and take a couple of further precautions. However the authorities will not be planning to implement masks mandates or “lockdowns,” regardless of claims from the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.


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In current weeks, COVID-19 circumstances, as estimated from wastewater information, and COVID-19 hospitalizations have been on the rise within the U.S. This comes because the omicron variant EG.5, just lately designated as a “variant of curiosity” by the World Well being Group, turned the newly dominant variant within the nation.

This has led some public well being specialists to recommend that some folks — particularly these at increased danger of extreme COVID-19 — put on masks when out in public, and to be a bit extra cautious about contracting the coronavirus.

In a couple of restricted situations, faculties and corporations have introduced they are going to be requiring masks in the interim.

However opposite to many viral social media posts, there isn’t a indication that any type of government-ordered COVID-19 restrictions are about to start.

In an Aug. 18 episode of “The Alex Jones Present,” the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones claimed sources inside the federal authorities informed him “new lockdowns are coming.”

Particularly, he stated a “excessive stage supervisor” within the Transportation Safety Administration informed him that by mid-September, TSA and airport staff can be required to put on masks because of considerations over “the brand new variant in Canada.” By mid-October, everybody must put on masks on airplanes, he stated. He added that the general public ought to count on by December a return to “full COVID protocols.”

Jones then claimed that he referred to as a supply inside Customs and Border Safety after listening to this, and the supply allegedly informed him to count on “COVID protocols” to start rolling out in mid-September and to “prepare for an entire new rollout of what occurred earlier than.”

The episode was headlined on Jones’ web site InfoWars as “Federal Officers Blow the Whistle on Biden’s Plan for New COVID Lockdowns.”

Jones is greatest recognized for his false declare that the Sandy Hook faculty capturing in 2012 was faux. Final fall, he was ordered to pay almost $1.5 billion in defamatory damages to the households of the victims because of his falsehoods. Jones can be a prolific spreader of COVID-19 misinformation, amongst different subjects.

Clips of Jones’ present started circulating on-line, and doubtful web sites such because the Gateway Pundit, which continuously traffics in misinformation, and others reported on the “information,” serving to to unfold the claims on social media. An related rallying cry, “don’t comply,” briefly trended on X, the platform beforehand often known as Twitter. Others have since repeated the claims.

Whether or not from Jones or not, the rumor that COVID-19 restrictions is likely to be coming again has since been picked up by some politicians.

“If bureaucrats attempt to reinstate any COVID tyranny measures, resist them with a vengeance,” tweeted Republican Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky on Aug. 25. “Don’t comply.” 

No Foundation for Returning COVID-19 Restrictions

A TSA spokesperson denied Jones’ claims, noting that the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention — not TSA — is the federal company answerable for transportation masks necessities. 

“TSA is unaware of such a requirement,” the spokesperson informed us in an e-mail. “There was no TSA assembly on the subject.”

The CDC equally stated the claims had been unfaithful. “These rumors are completely false,” Nick Spinelli, a CDC spokesperson, informed us in an e-mail.

Furthermore, all of the speak of the Biden administration reimposing “lockdowns” will not be even legally possible. “The restrictions that had been put into place on companies, on going to the movie show, on going to the retail mall … all of these had been achieved by states and native governments, not the federal authorities,” Wendy E. Parmet, a public well being legislation knowledgeable at Northeastern College, informed us in a telephone interview.

The federal authorities did advise states on restrictions, together with when to elevate them, and guided People on what they need to and mustn’t do to remain secure. However finally, these had been simply recommendations.

“It’s conspiracy considering and it’s catastrophizing,” Parmet stated of Jones’ claims.

Parmet added that the restrictions within the U.S., which included enterprise closures and limits on gathering sizes, weren’t true lockdowns, akin to these imposed in China. “The ‘lockdown’ terminology is actually a misnomer,” she stated.

Parmet stated that legally, TSA in all probability may impose masks mandates on its staff, however these wouldn’t lengthen to all airport employees or to passengers. That will be a “labor legislation concern,” she stated, and there is likely to be pushback from the union.

The CDC’s capacity to impose a face masks mandate throughout journey has been contested in court docket. (Parmet is certainly one of many public well being and public well being legislation specialists who signed an amicus transient supporting the CDC on this concern.) 

The CDC’s earlier order expired as a result of finish of the general public well being emergency in Might and had already grow to be unenforceable in April 2022 because of a court docket order.

“I believe CDC can be extraordinarily cautious, and I believe that the Biden administration will likely be exceptionally cautious proper now … for each litigation and political causes to go down that route except they really feel it’s completely important,” Parmet stated.

Spinelli famous that the CDC “continues to suggest that each one folks—passengers and transportation employees, alike—are updated on their COVID-19 vaccines earlier than they journey and take steps to guard your self and others.” That may embrace sporting a masks, in the event you so select, when utilizing public transit — however it’s not mandated.

The company presently advises higher-risk folks and their contacts to masks up when an individual’s county-level hospital admission stage is “medium.” When it’s “excessive,” everybody is suggested to put on a high-quality masks or respirator, akin to an N95, and higher-risk persons are suggested to keep away from “non-essential indoor actions in public.” However once more, these are simply suggestions.

As of Aug. 12, no counties are listed as “excessive,” and fewer than 3% are “medium.”

Some specialists have criticized tying public well being suggestions to hospital admissions, as it is a lagging indicator, and the warning to take extra precautions might come too late for many individuals.

Customs and Border Safety didn’t reply to an inquiry about Jones’ claims with any data by the point of publication. 

Some Concern from New Variants, However No Expectation of a Return to 2020

Scientists and public well being officers have been watching two newer coronavirus, or SARS-CoV-2, variants: EG.5 and BA.2.86.

EG.5, which the CDC estimates made up a few fifth of all coronavirus circumstances within the U.S. up to now couple of weeks, is a spinoff of XBB.1.9.2, one other omicron variant. On this regard, it doesn’t look like that completely different from its quick predecessors, though it might be a bit extra transmissible and extra readily in a position to evade immunity, which may clarify its present rise. There isn’t proof that the variant causes extra extreme illness.

“Collectively, obtainable proof doesn’t recommend that EG.5 has extra public well being dangers relative to the opposite presently circulating SARS-CoV-2 descendent lineages,” the WHO concluded in an Aug. 9 danger analysis report.

An up to date COVID-19 booster, which targets the XBB.1.5 variant, is anticipated to be obtainable in late September or early October. As a result of EG.5 is kind of just like XBB.1.5, specialists anticipate that the up to date vaccine will present good safety in opposition to this variant.

The opposite variant, BA.2.86, is an omicron descendant, however has many extra mutations that make it significantly completely different. As Jesse Bloom, a computational biologist on the Fred Hutch Most cancers Heart, put it on X, its excessive variety of mutations “makes it an evolutionary soar comparable in measurement to that which initially gave rise to Omicron.”

Solely a small quantity of BA.2.86 circumstances have been recognized within the U.S. or elsewhere, however mutation analyses point out the variant could also be particularly in a position to evade immune defenses. It’s nonetheless too quickly to know whether or not the variant causes extra extreme illness or is extra transmissible, in keeping with the CDC. The variant, nonetheless, has been recognized in lots of nations, suggesting it has some capacity to unfold.

Even when BA.2.86 does transform the subsequent large variant, it could not be the identical as 2020, when the whole world was inclined to the coronavirus, with no type of prior immunity and no vaccine obtainable.

The forthcoming up to date vaccine could also be much less efficient in opposition to BA.2.86 than in opposition to different variants, however the CDC expects it’ll nonetheless work to scale back extreme illness and hospitalization, which is the first aim. This makes it extremely unlikely that the U.S. must impose restrictions just like these early within the pandemic, even when there’s a dangerous COVID-19 surge and public well being officers encourage folks to take further precautions.

“We aren’t returning to March 2020; our immune techniques will nonetheless acknowledge the extremely mutated variant, albeit suboptimally,” epidemiologist Katelyn Jetelina wrote in her Substack concerning the potential dangers of BA.2.86. “This may defend loads of us from extreme illness.”

Editor’s word: SciCheck’s articles offering correct well being data and correcting well being misinformation are made potential by a grant from the Robert Wooden Johnson Basis. The muse has no management over FactCheck.org’s editorial choices, and the views expressed in our articles don’t essentially mirror the views of the muse.

Sources

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“EG.5 Preliminary Threat Analysis.” WHO. 9 Aug 2023.

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King, Michael. “Atlanta-based Morris Brown Faculty says they’re reinstating Covid masks mandates.” CW69 Atlanta. 22 Aug 2023.

Andreeva, Nellie. “Lionsgate Reinstates Masks Mandate In Components Of Santa Monica Workplace Following Covid Outbreak.” Deadline. 21 Aug 2023.

Williamson, Elizabeth. “‘We Instructed the Reality’: Sandy Hook Households Win $1 Billion From Alex Jones.” New York Instances. 12 Oct 2022.

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Massie, Thomas (@RepThomasMassie). “If bureaucrats try to reinstate any COVID tyranny measures, resist them with a vengeance. Do not comply. They are not empowered by the Constitution to make laws that govern your lives, so it is they who will be engaged in disobedience.” X. 25 Aug 2023.

Transportation Safety Administration spokesperson. E mail to FactCheck.org. 22 Aug 2023.

Parmet, Wendy E. Matthews Distinguished College Professor of Legislation and College Director, Heart for Well being Coverage and Legislation, Northeastern College. Cellphone interview with FactCheck.org. 23 Aug 2023.

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“Expired Order: Sporting of face masks whereas on conveyances and at transportation hubs.” CDC. Accessed 25 Aug 2023.

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Tin, Alexander. “New COVID vaccine and booster photographs for this fall to be obtainable by finish of September.” CBS Information. 9 Aug 2023.

Tin, Alexander. “New COVID variants EG.5, FL.1.5.1 and BA.2.86 are spreading. Right here’s what to know.” CBS Information. 22 Aug 2023.

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Bloom, Jesse (@jbloom_lab). “As has been noted already, this variant has lots of amino-acid mutations in spike: 33 relative to its putative ancestor BA.2. It is also very different from XBB.1.5. This makes it an evolutionary jump comparable in size to that which originally gave rise to Omicron.” X. 16 Aug 2023.

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