BuzzFeed ignores the science in CDC appeal

April 22, 2022

By John Ransom

In the latest article from BuzzFeed explaining the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s decision to appeal a judge’s order to end mask mandates on airplanes, BuzzFeed ignored science in favor of politics.

In this, the article displays the central weakness of progressive explanatory journalism. It doesn’t want to explain, it wants to espouse. 

BuzzFeed did a workmanlike job explaining the reasons the CDC appealed the decision to end the mask mandate using quotes from the CDC. 

“It is CDC’s continuing assessment that at this time an order requiring masking in the indoor transportation corridor remains necessary for the public health,” the agency said in a statement on Wednesday, according to BuzzFeed. 

“CDC will continue to monitor public health conditions to determine whether such an order remains necessary,” the statement added. “CDC believes this is a lawful order, well within CDC’s legal authority to protect public health.”

But then the article broke down, implying that the judge in the case was politically biased in making her decision to overturn the air travel mask mandate, because the judge was appointed by former President Donald Trump, and her husband worked in the Trump administration.   

“[U.S. District Court Judge Kathryn Kimball] Mizelle, a Trump appointee whose husband worked in the former president’s administration, said the CDC had exceeded its statutory powers and violated administrative law in issuing the mandate to wear a face mask in airports, transit hubs, and public transportation,” BuzzFeed wrote. 

That a U.S. district judge was appointed by a president and happened to have a spouse who worked in that administration probably describes the situation for many federal judges, whether they were appointed by former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama or Millard Fillmore.  

The bigger mistake in BuzzFeed’s coverage of the CDC appeal, however, was in its failure to mention the alternate scientific view when it comes to the science of masking on airplanes. 

You probably haven’t noticed that there is an alternate scientific view, because progressive explainers, like BuzzFeed, typically fail to mention it. 

A study by the Department of Defense showed that because of the HEPA air system filters used by commercial airlines, and the fact that half or more of the air was fresh air from outside, the air in airplanes is typically cleaner than that of an operating room, reported the USA Today in October 2020. 

“The study found the risk of aerosol dispersion – transmission of the virus through the air – was reduced 99.7% thanks to high air exchange rates, HEPA-filtered recirculation and downward ventilation found on modern jets,” USA Today reported. 

The study said that on most planes, the air is completely fresh every three minutes.

The finding are at odds with what the CDC is still arguing. 

“CDC’s number one priority is protecting the public health of our nation,” the agency said in the statement as reported by BuzzFeed.

“As we have said before, wearing masks is most beneficial in crowded or poorly ventilated locations, such as the transportation corridor,” the CDC added. 

It would not have hurt BuzzFeed’s reputation one bit to include some balance in the article and point out that there’s a disagreement on that last point made by the CDC. 

As a self-described leader in progressive journalism, BuzzFeed says that it focuses on breaking news stories explaining in the language of the Internet everything “from new memes to new forms of digital deception.” 

And as we see in this example, digital deception can be as much about what you don’t say as it is about what you do say. 


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