Former Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Director Dr. Robert Redfield responded to pushback from Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum about the lack of solid data behind the agency's push to require masks in schools by calling it "fair criticism."
The Monday afternoon "The Story" segment saw MacCallum kick off the topic with a clip of Johns Hopkins surgeon Dr. Marty Makary - who, as Townhall's Katie Pavlich reported, co-wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed arguing that the science behind masking children is inconclusive - criticizing the guideline as "pretty stern and with zero data."
"There’s only one inconclusive study out there on masks and kids and no study funded by the NIH's $42 billion a year budget," Makary said in the clip. "Yet we had a very vigorous recommendation that all kids k-12 should be wearing a mask regardless of their vaccination status."
Asked why his former agency hasn't "spent the money on that study," Redfield called the question "really important."
"These policies should be grounded in data as opposed to opinion," Redfield told MacCallum. "I think [Makary] raises a very important part. There’s been very few studies that really are compelling in that setting of the classroom. We did a number of studies when I was there just in fixed settings and recognized that if you aerosolized virus through a mask, and then the recipient had a mask - and these were all dummies - in rooms that were ventilated to different degrees, you could have an impact on the amount of virus that went from one room to another. But that's not to say in a real-life scenario that that's efficacious in the classroom."
"When you look at what the CDC has recommended now, they are basically saying everybody should be masked, right?" MacCallum asked. "We talk about the fact that there has been no study that would back that up. And so the question is, you did some studies then but you did them with dummies - where have they been ever since then? What has been going on the past nine, ten months? Why don't we have data rather than as you say just opinion that's leading this push with our schools?"
"I think it’s a fair criticism, a fair criticism," Redfield responded. "You heard that 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 real 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."
Citing a "paucity of data," Redfield recommended other methods of curbing virus spread in the classroom, such as frequent testing, improved ventilation, and parents not sending children with symptoms to school.
"So do you think the current CDC rule, that all kids should wear masks, you're saying that the current CDC is wrong on this issue?" MacCallum asked.
"I’m saying that I haven’t been able to review data that supports that recommendation," said Redfield, who suggested last year that face masks could be more protective than a potential vaccine.