The New York Times Promotes a COVID Cult of Caution That Requires Vaccinated People To Act As if They're Not

The paper gives short shrift to evidence that vaccines nearly eliminate the risk of infection.


The latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say fully vaccinated Americans do not need to wear face masks or practice physical distancing except when business policy or government regulation requires them to do so. But "despite the new guidelines," The New York Times says in a story about the loosening of that city's COVID-19 restrictions, "many experts still suggest wearing a mask indoors when not eating or drinking. People should maintain social distance when possible. And they should try to choose outdoors over indoors."

Just to be clear: This is the advice that the "many experts" cited by the Times are giving to people who have been fully vaccinated. Although they may have naively assumed those shots protected them against COVID-19, the Times is saying, they should not let down their guard just yet. But that position seems absurdly cautious in light of the evidence showing how remarkably effective the vaccines are.

"People who are vaccinated can do much more with less risk than those who are not," the Times concedes. "But vaccines do not offer 100 percent protection, and only about half of people in the region are fully vaccinated. As a result, some epidemiologists continue to recommend following the golden rules of coronavirus safety."

The fact that the Times describes COVID-19 safeguards as "golden rules," analogous to a timeless ethical principle, suggests that its advice is based on something other than rational, context-dependent concerns about virus transmission. Mask wearing and physical distancing, once presented as temporary responses to the pandemic that would no longer be necessary after the danger had passed, have been transformed into rituals that signify membership in a COVID-19 cult of caution.

As Reason's Robby Soave notes, that cult has strong partisan overtones. "The mask was supposed to be a temporary public health intervention," he writes, "and it's regrettable that for many people these little bands of cloth have become Team Blue's version of the Make America Great Again hat."

That conclusion is hard to deny given the comments of some dedicated mask wearers and the weak scientific basis for urging vaccinated people to act as if they never got their shots. "Vaccines do not offer 100 percent protection," the Times warns. But they come pretty damned close.

A randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial reported in The New England Journal of Medicine found that the Pfizer vaccine "conferred 95% protection against Covid-19 in persons 16 years of age or older." Contrary to a common misunderstanding, that does not mean fully inoculated subjects had a 5 percent chance of getting COVID-19. It means their risk was 95 percent lower than the control group's.

The 43,448 subjects, who were evenly divided between the treatment and control groups, received their second shots 21 days after their first shots. "There were 8 cases of Covid-19 with onset at least 7 days after the second dose among participants assigned to receive [the vaccine] and 162 cases among those assigned to placebo," the researchers reported.

In other words, the risk of confirmed infection was about 0.75 percent in the control group and about 0.037 percent in the treatment group. There were nine cases of "severe Covid-19" among subjects who received the placebo and one among the subjects who received the vaccine, making the risks 0.041 percent and 0.0046 percent, respectively. That's an 89 percent reduction.

Follow-up studies have confirmed that COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective. A study published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found that people 65 or older who had received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine were 94 percent less likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19. A prospective study of nearly 4,000 "essential and frontline workers" in the United States, reported in the same journal, found that receiving the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine was associated with a 90 percent reduction in COVID-19 infections, including asymptomatic as well as symptomatic cases. Among fully vaccinated subjects, there were 0.04 confirmed infections per 1,000 person-days, compared to 1.38 among unvaccinated subjects.

A retrospective Israeli study of 6,710 health care workers who were screened for COVID-19, reported in The Journal of the American Medical Association, yielded similar results. It found that the incidence of symptomatic infection was 0.047 per 1,000 person-days among subjects who had received the Pfizer vaccine, compared to about 1.5 among unvaccinated workers. For asymptomatic infection, the incidence was 0.11 and 0.67 per 1,000 person-days, respectively. In other words, vaccination was associated with a 97 percent reduction in symptomatic infection and an 83 percent reduction in asymptomatic infection.

Even in the rare cases of infection among vaccinated individuals, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky noted last week, they tend to have shorter infections and a lower viral load. That means they are less likely to transmit the virus.

The Times summarizes results like these by saying vaccinated people face "less risk" than unvaccinated people. To call that an understatement would be an understatement.

If anything, the tiny risks of infection measured in these studies would be even smaller now that more Americans are immune to COVID-19 as a result of vaccination or prior infection. Yet the Times, unlike the CDC, is advising fully vaccinated people to continue wearing masks, continue following the six-foot rule, avoid exercising in gyms ("outdoors remains safer"!), and carefully choose restaurants based on factors such as "airflow," "cleaning and other protocols," and "space between tables."

In theory, such continued caution could make sense, depending on one's tastes and preferences. But when your anxiety about minuscule risks makes you even more timid than the notoriously hypervigilant CDC, it might be time to rethink your priorities.

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  1. Using science and math to counter emotional acts is pointless.

    1. Exactly. As President Biden so pithily put it "We believe in Truth, not just facts."

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    2. Yes, I used science and math to show that Trump actually lost the election. But the beliebers still beliebe.

      1. LOL
        >I flipped a coin 600,000 times go 600,000 heads. I swear the coin has two sides.
        At the same time
        >Raise 250 million to fight for election integrity. I only hired 6 crappy lawyers and funneled the rest of the money toward ???

        1. Actually, I got it wrong. August 12, 2020 at the Iowa State Fair "We choose Truth, not just facts." Some say this was a gaffe, but it seems to be the rallying cry of his administration, just like "poor kids can do as well as white kids."

      2. Aww, still got Trump on your mind? Poor baby.

      3. Did you use English to comprehend the more than dozen lawsuits saying elections were illegally changed last year?

      4. By the way. If you had used math you would have noted the improbability of so many high variance samples happening in the same election. It triggered many of the norms people look for in fraudulent elections around the globe.

        What you actually did is repeat the narrative your perceived betters told you to repeat.

        1. Speaking of betters, has anyone seen Arty since the mute button became a thing?

          This site has become devoid of trolls since then; all for the better, I might add.

          1. He's been having family problems. Apparently found out his wife was cheating on him again.

            1. Open wider, JohnnyAppleseed.

              Several decades older than you, and I will nonetheless be shoving even more progress down your whimpering, bigoted, right-wing throat for a while. You can continue to whine about it all you wish, of course. This is a free country, even for no-count, obsolete clingers.

              1. Who was banging your old lady?

                1. It was a white guy this time. REALLY stung.

                2. "Who was banging your old lady?"
                  The cleaning lady.

              2. >this is a free country
                Until it isn't. Progress can only occur for so long until modernity collapses under its own weight and there's a sudden, violent return to tradition — See Rome c. 46 BC, Spain c. 1492, France c. 1796, Germany c. 1929. What do you think is going to happen to you degenerate perverts when it does? You don't have the aesthetic to win.

            2. Its not cheating if he invites the guys over to his house himself and watches.

              1. sitting in the dark corner just like jerry falwell jr!

          2. Way to go, Quo Usque. You mention He Who Shall Not Be Named, and he appeared.

            1. I know, the Beetlejuice principle. Absolutely true in the medical world, you don't even have to say the [patient] name once and they're back.

  2. rituals that signify membership in a COVID-19 cult of caution

    It is indeed a cult. It's fascinating how many of the same people saying we should "follow the science" and "listen to the CDC" changed their tunes when "science" and the CDC said something different.

    1. >"Let the market decide"
      >"The smallest minority on earth is the individual"
      "Massive megacorps who hate me and promote this bullshit in order to sell more product are people too"

      1. It is a truly bizarre "rebellion-through-abject-obedience" thing.
        Not like the old anti-war, anti-government, anti-censorship days, when we expressed rebellion through, you know, rebelling.

  3. This Halloween I'm going to wear a red MAGA facemask as my costume just to scare absolutely everyone.

    1. Just be sure your insurance is paid up - - - - - -

  4. NYT as authority figure is laughable

    1. Agreed.

  5. It's normal for people to get more religious as they age. The problem is that virtually all institutions of tradition are either gone or seriously dilapidated. This leaves only the institutions run by the Lords of Lies, which promote the interests of the merchant class by driving the masses into indolence and consumption through propaganda. Exploiting this trend, media has decided to create its own cult or scientism and expert worship for the purpose of easily selling more product and propaganda to members of these (to use the technical advertising term) preference groups. Old liberal boomers have fallen victim to the manipulation and become the cult's most rabid disciples.

    1. " It’s normal for people to get more religious as they age. "

      Don't bet on that one any more, clinger.

      Previously, some people -- those with diminished character -- tended to "age into" Republican registration as they acquired jobs, spouses, mortgages, and children. It was economic calculation and self-interest.

      I doubt today's 30-somethings are going to awake one morning and decide, 'you know, I think I will become more intolerant now -- forget my experience with gay friends, Asian classmates, Muslim teachers, Black neighbors, female coworkers . . . as of today, I am a bigot!'

      Similarly, is anyone genuinely going to decide to ditch reason and swallow enough religion to become a superstitious slack-jaw these days?

      Take out the bigotry and superstition and the Republicans have nothing to offer educated, reasoning, skilled, decent Americans residing in educated, modern, successful communities.

      Republicans will continue to lord over the West Virginias, Wyomings, and other can't-keep-up, desolate backwaters . . . but that won't be enough to keep them competitive in national elections or politics.

      1. Who was banging your old lady?

        1. Anyone who walked down the street.

      2. Let's get a few things out of the way. I'm not a "Republican", I don't care if I'm "bigoted", and frankly, am not particularly religious. I hold generally reactionary antidemocratic views with a preference for institutions of tradition and hierarchy operating at local levels as well as a general disdain for modernity.

        Now, you Reverend are a loyal disciple of consumerism and neoliberal corporatism. That is your religion. You get your talking points, beliefs, and worldview from your TV and corporations with rainbow logos. Sounds pretty religious to me. Now wear two masks, take your booster, and shut up.

        1. It would appear that the Reverend does not possess the capacity to understand nuance. I hit my 30s not too long ago and finally admitted that "conservatism", as it manifests today, is actually closer to the classical liberalism I have always espoused. Certainly more so than the modern Progressive movement.

          1. I think his head would explode if he knew the age and background of many of us here. I was on the left up until a few years ago. People like him have no clue of what they accomplish. They are the inverted Faustian spirit: "Part of that power which still produceth ill, whilst ever scheming good."

      3. "I doubt today’s 30-somethings are going to awake one morning and decide, ‘you know, I think I will become more intolerant now"

        Agree, they won't. Because they aren't inconsistent, random cartoon characters like your 2-dimensional mental images (and you, mentally reduced as you appear).

        Instead, they wake up to the reality of leftist bigots like you, who do their worst to promote a thriving ground for self-righteous, unreflected fascism that thinks it is 'on the correct side of history and can do as it pleases'. Those that become aware include all sorts of minorities and white guilt abolitionists, as their rage redirects because they realize the left has sold them a narrative of perpetual victimhood that was never meant to really help anyone.

        You are an obsolete clown and tryhard. When I read your comments and how they contain thoughts about 'die' (for the GOP) and continuous references to age, is it possible that you somehow know that you're approaching dusk? Considering what you are, wouldn't it be ironic if it were cancer? 😀

    2. The oldies (I have observed) are ill-served by a lifetime of listening to the Big 3 networks and respecting the "big" newspapers like the NYT, WaPo, LA Times, ChiTrib, etc.

      For all the small biases that could always be observed, they at least competed to get "scoops" and tell the truth, especially if they got it first. That's gone. They uniformly employ members and ex-members (and, presumably, shadow members) of the intelligence community and kowtow to inexperienced, indoctrinated twenty-somethings in their own newsrooms.

      Yet for many old people I know, this change has gone unremarked. Really pretty sad, with an effect that is a almost like cognitive elder abuse.

  6. What you learned is what you ancestors knew, most humans are basically emotional meatbags and they are not rational.

    1. This is why institutions of tradition used to exist in order to mitigate this. Hierarchy, family, and community all act as stabilizing forces.

      1. Actually, the hierarchy stuff is there just to perpetuate the hierarchy. You know, the overlords and bandit kings and such.

        1. Better than the morasses of society whose will changes with the winds. Kings only rule so long as they can maintain control. Their blood and their will to power dictates whether their rule perpetuates, and it must exceed the collective will to power of the filth of society comprised of people whose modus operandi is barely discernible from yeast.

          1. Dude. That is some seriously dark shit. I mean, I can dig it, but holy balls is that a dim view of humans.

            1. Yep, he's growing on me. I still think he needs to watch out for the FBI trying to lure him into acting.

    2. "Kay : A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it."

  7. Let me continue the wail in the wilderness - please stop writing about anything the New York Times says. It will be pure bullshit. I doubt the damn date at the top of the page.

    1. Bingo. There no use arguing with or debating flat earthers. Just take the cdc at their word and take your mask off.

      1. Hard to take off what you never put on
        (heard that from a friend)

  8. It only takes a year to imprint so strongly a mask-wearer identity?

    1. They haven't got the UtM hormone therapy protocols figured out quite yet.

  9. Time Magazine published a similarly deranged editorial this week as well. These clowns apparently never want this shitshow to end.

  10. What... the actual...fuck.

    Cambodia condemned images published by U.S. media group VICE featuring newly colourised photographs of the Khmer Rouge "killing fields" victims, saying the images were an insult to the dead because some mugshots had been altered to add smiles.

    VICE removed the article and photos later on Sunday, saying they did not meet its editorial standards and it was investigating.

    The artist behind the work, Matt Loughrey, declined to comment.

    In the article published on Friday, Loughrey said his project to colourise images from the notorious Tuol Sleng prison, or S-21, aimed to humanise the 14,000 Cambodians executed and tortured there.

    1. Artistically speaking, the distinction between adding smiles and colorizing dimples is a bit of a gray area.

    2. Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it -

      Let us remember that socialists kill citizens without limit or reason.

      The Killing Fields (Khmer: វាលពិឃាត, Khmer pronunciation: [ʋiəl pikʰiət]) are a number of sites in Cambodia where collectively more than a million people were killed and buried by the Khmer Rouge regime (the Communist Party of Kampuchea) during its rule of the country from 1975 to 1979,

      That would be the same followers of Marx that now include BLM.

  11. Worse than the Newspeak in 1984? Whatever culture and policies generated Newspeak. Again, there were no policies commanding children to turn in their parents for talking in their sleep. There were no policies to make parents proud of their children turning them in for such.

    Similarly, universal masks are more oppressive than a two-tiered mask system, but the system that convinces people to excoriate and excommunicate their peers for their own religious pseudocaution and the willingness of the pseudocautious to go along with it is far more insidious and corrosive than the actual mandates. From a libertarian perspective, the message from the beginning should've been *at most* "If you think you or someone you come into contact with is at risk, wear a mask." The tapdancing on landmines of when mask mandates were 'sensible' and when they weren't is far more idiotically superfluous and dangerous and any success only encourages more similar tapdancing in the future.

    1. You make the common mistake that masks have been shown to have a positive effect on virus transmission. That is not the case.

  12. What?

    Even my local starbucks has a sign saying vaccinated people don't have to wear masks.

  13. There is science, and there is political science.

    To the Old Gray Hag, it's all science.

  14. NY Yankees?

  15. The comments about the CDC and masks at Ars Technica are motherfucking priceless. The commentariat there runs hard left, and the site gave them the ability to memory-hole heretics, so they mostly reinforce each other.

    "This is BAD science. Icky science. Nobody should follow this science!" Followed by no-shit paragraphs of virtue signalling about how they wear masks in the shower and Karen everybody and just...holy fuck.

    The crazy is not confined to one political side or the other. Those folks are nucking futs.

    1. There's some decent Ars Technica folks but many are eco freaks when it suites them and also speak lean towards being highschool/college not wise but believe they are types. Also off topic Ars Technica drain my iphone the worst of any website about 1% every minute something with their coding is nuts.

  16. There is definitely a strain, among New Yorkers, of people who will grasp even the slightest rationale for continued panic and unnecessary prophylaxis in the face of COVID. "You're not 100% immune," they shriek, as they continue to double-mask despite being fully vaccinated.

    The scene on the street is far different. Full restaurants, maskless gyms, etc. These shrieking Cassandras are shouting themselves into irrelevancy, thankfully.

    1. Yes. The bagel crowd.

    2. Wasnt cassandra the insane woman that was actually right about everything but nobody ever believed her because she was crazy?

      Is this the new fascism/literally?

      1. Cursed to not be believed, I think. In the legend, anyway.

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  18. Gotta keep 'em scared, so they obey more readily.

  19. " vax prevents infection..."

    Yeah,for a couple MONTHS.



  20. In a world where we could trust that only those who've actually taken the vaccine go maskless this article would be more honest.

    That we don't live in such a world (and Sullum surely knows there is a correlation between being anti-vax and anti-mask) continuing to wear a mask is a matter of courtesy.

    It. Is. Just. Not. That. Big. Of. A. Deal.

    1. fuck off, frances

  21. I live in Taiwan where there have been 13 deaths total from Covid. Even before the recent outbreak no one whined about masks.

    Meanwhile hundreds of Americans a day are still dying and Americans continue to whine.

    1. "Meanwhile hundreds of Americans a day are still dying and Americans continue to whine."

      Uh, no.

      1. Hundreds of Americans aren't dying each day? Americans aren't still whining about masks (which they never stopped doing)?

        1. Just odd that TX has none with no masks, ain't it?

  22. "The New York Times Promotes a COVID Cult of Caution That Requires Vaccinated People To Act As if They're Not"


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  24. This is fucking exhausting. I don't know when it became a libertarian thing to assume all science is automatically a success and it means we have no responsibilities.

    Are you afraid that people have woken up from all the small government bullshit because they got free money?

    Sorry catastrophes happen. Maybe you should revise your worldview?

    Maybe? Ever consider it? Not you writers, you get paid to peddle this horse manure.

    1. Tony, while I might not agree with you often, I generally at least understand your comments. This one you might want to clarify.

  25. And the CDC promotes a covid cult that requires we pretend vaccines are the only way to acquire immunity.

  26. This is misleading since NYT has quite a variety of views. E.g. The Morning daily newsletter from David Leonhardt more aligns with your viewpoint. I guess it's more dramatic to say "NYT ..promotes...cult" though.

  27. Several decades older than you, and I will nonetheless be shoving even more progress down your whimpering, bigoted, right-wing throat for a while. You can continue to whine ,about it all you wish, of course. This is a free country, even for no-count, obsolete clingers.

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