The most emphatic endorsement of focused protection as a strategy for dealing with COVID-19 is the Great Barrington Declaration, a public statement co-authored by Sunetra Gupta, Jay Bhattacharya and Martin Kulldorff. As an explainer on the website notes, the Declaration’s strategy is based on two key observations. First, the group of people to whom COVID-19 poses a serious risk is small and relatively well-defined: the elderly and those with certain pre-existing health conditions. (There is more than a thousandfold difference in mortality between the oldest and the youngest.) Second, lockdowns come with enormous costs – not only to the economy, but also to health, education and civil liberties. (And these are not spread evenly across occupation and income groups.) It follows, the authors argue, that we should focus our protective efforts on high-risk groups.
All the measures the authors have proposed strike me as sensible – and they would have been far less costly than the blanket lockdowns we ended up with. For elderly people living at home, they suggest offering home delivery of groceries and other essentials, as well as free N95 masks; and making tests available for friends and family who want to visit. For elderly people living in care homes, they suggest frequent testing of staff, as well as testing of all new residents. (Staff at one care home on the Isle of Wight even lived on site for several weeks to avoid catching COVID-19 – something the Government could have supported on a larger scale via financial incentives.) For elderly people still in the workforce, they suggest working from home where possible, or taking paid sabbaticals. And for elderly people living in multi-generational households, they suggest asking such people to live with an older friend or sibling, or providing them with free hotel rooms.
Assuming that lockdowns would protect care home residents may have been one of the biggest mistakes of the pandemic. According to data from the ONS, nearly half of those who died during the first wave in England and Wales were care home residents. While some have argued the only way to prevent COVID-19 getting into care homes is by suppressing community transmission, there is evidence that a degree of focused protection can be achieved. The Isle of Wight care home that I mentioned above had zero positive cases during the first wave. And it is far from the only one with this record.
The widespread suspension of normal NHS diagnostic tests and surgery during the pandemic as hospitals prioritised Covid care has left the service in England with a record 4.59 million people waiting for hospital treatment.
Here’s Dan Wootten on Boris Johnson. A slice:
But what cannot be forgotten or erased is Boris’ Damascene conversion from a self-declared libertarian leader to the biggest proponent of the nanny state in a generation.
His inability to shake off doomsday scientific advisers, who would have us all caged till the end of the time to keep us from catching a cold, and realise we are at the end of this pandemic is now an egregious act of self-harm.
In the past 12 months, dramatic shifts in mainstream attitudes to public health have moved us closer to this reality. The rights of the individual to assess risk and prioritise the quality of their own life has not only been forgotten — it has been scoffed at and derided, as though it never existed in the first place. The precedent set by the smallest step towards this broken philosophy is incredibly dangerous. Over the next few weeks, we must all ask ourselves what kind of world we want our children to grow up in. Do we grant them ownership of their bodies — indeed, their self, their soul, their identities? Or do we bequeath that ownership to the state? Some may argue that vaccine passports are the first step towards eradicating a disease. Rather, they are the first step towards the eradication of basic human rights.
(DBx: I’ve one quibble with the above: Vaccine passports aren’t the first step towards the eradication of basic human rights. Many such steps were taken long before 2020 dawned. But such passports are indeed the latest, and an especially egregious, step towards the further eradication of basic human rights.)
These “vaccine passports” make no sense except as mechanisms of domestic control. This is an observation which floats free of any question about the efficacy of the vaccines themselves. It is not anti-vaxxer, to be sceptical about any specific vaccine. This is not a point that should require clarification, but in the mixed-up, muddled-up, world of Covid, apparently it does.
Anybody who wishes to take a vaccine should be free to do so. Anyone who refuses, similarly, should be free to do so. But any question of “choice” has, “Trolley Problem” style, been drained from the situation. This Government has introduced mechanisms of coercion which make the claim that anyone is “free” to make a choice about this issue laughable. That coercion sometimes presents as obstacles of a practical sort; but also, as forms of linguistic chicanery, such that Mr Gove is able with straight face to refer to “freedom passes”.
If you are required to show a vaccine passport to attend a concert, perform in that concert, drink a pint, pull a pint, buy a pint of milk, book a cottage, then the sinister deep state mechanisms of coercion have been fully implemented and you really have no “choice”.
Profs. Jay Bhattacharya and Martin Kulldorff write about California’s calamitous response to Covid. (Note that the publication date listed for this essay – March 12th, 2021 – is obviously mistaken. It appears that this piece was published on April 2nd, 2021.) Two slices:
The Florida policy has drawn sharp criticism from Fauci, who said it “opened up too quickly” in July. However, the infection control results to date look remarkably similar to California’s, and in some ways better. Through March 28, 9.5 percent of Floridians have been identified as COVID cases. Once we account for the fact that Florida has one of the oldest populations in the country and California has one of the youngest, the death rates with COVID through March 28 are lower in Florida than in California. In fact, the COVID death rate for the under-65 population and the over-65 population are both lower in Florida than in California.
Some think of lockdowns as the only possible way to protect the population from exposure to COVID risk. In reality, the lockdowns in California and elsewhere have served to protect only a portion of the population—the rich.
That California and Florida have had similar COVID outcomes despite disparate policies would matter less if the lockdowns were costless. However, this is very far from the case. The harms of the lockdowns are manifold and devastating wherever they have been implemented, including plummeting childhood vaccination, worsened cardiovascular disease outcomes, less cancer screening early in the epidemic, and deteriorating mental health, to name a few. According to a CDC estimate, one in four young adults in the United States seriously considered suicide, as reported this past June. For children, the cessation of in-person schooling since spring 2020 has led to severe learning losses, with adverse consequences projected throughout affected students’ life spans.