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Some Covid Links

Here’s Steve Cuozzo on NYC restaurant-critics’ uninformed shrieking against government allowing people to dine indoors at restaurants. (HT Manny Klausner) A slice:

Why are critics so hostile to indoor dining? Remember that New York City, with all its restaurant restrictions and closures, has seen 27,000 COVID deaths to date while the whole state of Florida has suffered only about 3,000 more despite having nearly three times the Big Apple’s population and looser dining regulations.

Journalists united against indoor dining might be genuinely motivated by health fears. But there’s more than a whiff of woke about it. Remember, Mayor de Blasio declared last summer that indoor dining signifies “entitlement,” even though most of the low-paid restaurant workers are anything but entitled, and “restaurants” include many more cheap pizza, burger and dumpling joints than fine-dining locations.

I applaud these Brits who yesterday, in defiance of lockdown orders, went out and about as free people do to enjoy glorious weather. Some even risked death by not wearing a mask outdoors!

I applaud also the recent federal-court ruling against the CDC’s unconstitutional effort to issue a nationwide ban on tenant evictions. As Christian Britschgi reports:

In a surprise decision Thursday, a federal court has struck down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) controversial ban on evictions as unconstitutional.

The federal government’s power to regulate interstate commerce “does not include the power to impose the challenged eviction moratorium,” wrote Judge J. Campbell Barker for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas in his opinion yesterday. “Although the COVID-19 pandemic persists, so does the Constitution.”

This ruling comes in response to a lawsuit brought by the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) and the Southeastern Legal Foundation on behalf of several Texas landlords who’ve been prevented from evicting non-paying tenants because of the CDC’s order.

Normally I refuse to link to essays written by writers who are anonymous, but this essay is so good that I here break my rule; this essay nicely exposes the tyranny that is inherent in the worldview of technocrats such as Neil Ferguson. A slice:

Having decided to defer to ‘experts’ in making policy, there is then a second political decision as to which data counts. The choice to rely on computer modelling – and to treat it as if it were impartial, apolitical expertise – is itself a political choice. Different methods would have produced different outcomes. Suppose, for instance, that the response had been based on the knowledge provided by historians who have studied previous epidemics. The Government and public would have been told that non-medical interventions do no good, that even such an intuitive measure as closing borders between affected and unaffected regions only delays spread by a few weeks, and that one of the biggest dangers is public panic. Suppose the discussion was driven by virologists. The focus might have been on rapidly testing promising drugs and fast-tracking these into use with Covid patients. In this scenario, Remdesivir might have been confirmed effective back in March (say), instead of only in autumn, and lives might have been saved. Or suppose a decision had been taken early on to test virus transmission and impacts of interventions on small but substantial communities of volunteers from among the low-risk population. One would, within a month of the outbreak, have clear evidence on whether (for example) masks or distancing or Vitamin D have any effect. If the ‘experts’ were people working in sociology of health, likely they would have recommended avoidance of compulsion and encouragement of community support. The response might then have been more like Venezuela’s or Kerala’s. It’s also worth noting here that had scientists, including modellers, been consulted earlier, NHS beds per capita might be nearer to those of Sweden and Belarus, who never feared their health systems being overwhelmed. Ferguson suggests a novel pandemic was the Government’s number one priority risk, yet neither the current nor the previous Governments ensured there were enough ICU beds to handle a pandemic on the scale of the 1918 flu. If the central focus was preparedness, this failing would be at the centre of the public debate – and lockdowns could also cost lives if they incentivise future Governments to keep under-resourcing healthcare without accepting resultant risks.

Australian Steve Waterson writes insightfully about Covid and the deranged response to it. A slice:

As various countries assemble their annual mortality rates, the figures suggest we should be relieved, celebrating the fact this pandemic was nowhere near as lethal as some had feared.

Here in Australia, this week’s data from the Bureau of Statistics, covering January 1st to November 24th, 2020, registers 126,974 deaths, against an average of 127,872 over the past five years. Interestingly, influenza and pneumonia deaths in that 2020 period numbered 1952, against the five-year average of 3097.

Should we attribute that decline to the use of masks and social distancing, as we are encouraged to do; or is it faintly possible the missing 1000 people who would normally have died of flu and pneumonia are the ones who succumbed to COVID when it first arrived? Did the virus simply tip those teetering on the verge of death into an earlier quarter?

We, of course, cut ourselves off from the world, so perhaps our figures are artificially low. So let’s consider the “nightmare scenario” playing out in Britain.

Last month the UK’s Office of National Statistics added its provisional 2020 figures to a series that goes back almost 200 years. It shows a rate of 1043.5 deaths per 100,000 population, ahead of 2019’s number of 925.

I would describe that rise with the COVID-appropriate word “unprecedented”, except the rate has been higher before, most recently in 2008, when I don’t believe the world shut down. Oh yes, and it was higher in every single year before 2008, right back to 1838, when the records begin.

Dan Hannan justifiably complains about the British government moving yet again the goalposts for ending lockdown tyranny. A slice:

Think back to the debate we had during most of 2020. Broadly speaking, there were two camps. There were those who believed that we had no choice but to learn to live with an endemic virus. A lockdown, on this reading, might be justified as a short-term measure to buy time and build up healthcare capacity; but, once that had happened, the costs would become hard to justify. On the other hand, there were those who placed their faith in pharma, and were prepared to put the country into cryogenic stasis until a vaccine was available.

I was in the first camp, and was painfully conscious of being in the minority. The second camp won the day and, in fairness, the vaccine came much earlier than expected. But now, having got their way, the wait-for-the-vacciners are reluctant to follow through. By the time we have vaccinated the over-50s – something that the government aims to do by late April, but which might happen sooner – we will have covered the groups that account for 80 per cent of Covid hospitalisations and 99 per cent of deaths. Had the disease had that level of lethality last March, there would have been no question of a lockdown.