POLICY BRIEFING – WEEK IN REVIEW
Many things are still unknown about some of the vaccine candidates currently being tested. Plans from the National Academies, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) and Operation Warp Speed offered different schedules and priorities, and a new timeline released by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have further muddied the waters. Combine this with past tensions between state governors and the federal government relating to multiple aspects of who wields what authority during the pandemic, and it might come as no surprise that governors are seeking to lay a foundation for vaccine rollout before it happens.
What is surprising is that leadership within the National Governors Association from both sides of the aisle are seeking a meeting to discuss logistics of a vaccine campaign with President Trump. The driving force behind this effort was the White House's September solicitation of plans from state health departments for a fully-realized vaccination plan. Unfortunately, the declared deadline for such plans has come and gone.
In the absence of a concrete production timeline, requirements for prioritization of inoculation, or even predicted quantities, state leaders have faced a shifting logistics quagmire in the middle of an unprecedented pandemic and have found themselves unable to comply. Various.20 October 2020.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released interim guidance on the wearing of masks while using public transportation. The upshot: wear one. This should not be seen as surprising, given the safety of masks, and the high likelihood that their use decreases the spread of SARS-CoV-2. Of course, given the political meddling that has affected life at the CDC, we take nothing for granted.
Specifically, the CDC strongly recommends wearing a mask that covers the nose and mouth for all passengers and personnel, and further endorses their use by "conveyance operators" (e.g. bus drivers, pilots) with enforcing compliance and using appropriate means to ensure the safety of all riders. The CDC states that the operators should refuse to allow people to board who refuse to wear masks.
The guidance does allow exemptions for brief periods. Such periods include when eating or drinking, when necessary to comply with legal identification processes, and in extreme circumstances such as being unconscious or being unable to remove a mask on one's own.
The CDC further recommends exemptions for children under two years of age, individuals with written instructions from a licensed medical provider (although we are concerned that this could be abused and misused by some medical professionals), a person who requires the visualization of another's mouth for communication purposes, or if wearing a mask would interfere with one's safety, as per federal occupational guidelines or the operation of a conveyance.
It is encouraging to see the agency firmly stating the efficacy of masks in reducing the spread of the coronavirus. The guidance gives public transportation drivers and operators permission—indeed a mandate—to monitor mask adherence of passengers and to "disembark any person who refuses to comply." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 21 October 2020.