Jay Bhattacharya is interviewed by Jimmy Licon. Two slices from Bhattacharya’s responses:
There are so many mistakes that public health officials and policy makers have made in dealing with the Covid pandemic. There are many candidates to choose among for the single worst — e.g., using deception and panic as deliberate tools in public health communication, moralizing and stigmatizing an infectious disease so that people feel ashamed to contract it, and the censoring and smearing scientists to silence dissent, and many others.
If I have to pick among the mistakes, though, I think the single biggest one is that public health officials ignored the fact that that there are many public health problems and priorities beyond Covid that are also matters of life and death. It was public health malpractice to put those priorities to one side for a year and counting to address a single problem — Covid risk. The collateral damage from this catastrophic decision on the health and well-being of the world population, especially the poor, will continue for years to come.
There should be no doubt at this point in the epidemic that public health officials and epidemiologists do not have sufficient expertise to make the sorts of decisions and recommendations that they have made during the epidemic. It is clear, for instance, that many of them cannot perform the most elementary sorts of cost-benefit analyses that come naturally to economists and to many other people. With lockdowns, for instance, many public health officials (including especially Dr. Fauci) seem utterly blind to their costs.
The idea that counting the costs of the lockdowns is somehow immoral, which took hold in the early days of the epidemic, was itself immoral since so many of those costs involve the lives of the poor killed by the lockdowns themselves.
In truth, Government policy [in the U.K.] is now being driven by nothing more sophisticated than a deranged dogma.
It is dogma of the worst sort, for it is shaped by political cowardice and burnished by discredited scientific advisers who no longer seem capable of reviewing the evidence in front of them.
It may well be that some people suffer from the disease caused by this particular virus for extended periods, or are left with specific sequelae (‘Long Covid’). However, late effects have been described for other respiratory viruses as well, the influenza viruses in particular. Furthermore, many a former Covid-19 patient who does not feel fully recovered or who falls victim to some other disease will now conceivably be tempted to blame this on the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It may also be possible that the mere knowledge of having had Covid-19 – or simply having tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 – can make some people feel unwell. Be that as it may, there is as yet no scientifically valid study which would demonstrate any specific long-term consequences of infection with this virus.
Now, it is of course true that having reached a certain age, one has a remaining life expectancy which is higher than at birth: in Germany, for example, you may expect to live 16 more years at the age of 70, 9 more at 80, 4 more at 90, and 2 more at 100. Life insurance companies base their premiums on this kind of calculation. In a number of recently published academic articles, this remaining life expectancy of the living has simply been transferred to those who had died ‘of and with corona’, the resulting claim being that these people had lost around 12 years of their lives. In other words, they would have lived, on average, to well over 90 years if they had not been struck down by the virus. This claim is not really plausible in itself. Moreover, following this line of reasoning, we could just as well demonstrate that red socks (or whichever random variable you care to choose) were life-threatening, and demand that the government mobilise all possible means in order to prevent people from wearing them.
On the basis of their age distribution and their multimorbidity (the virtually universal presence of other serious diseases), we can assume that the cohort of people who died with a positive test for SARS-CoV-2 is part of the normal and inevitable mortality of the general population and cannot significantly alter the total amount of that mortality.
The fact that a certain excess mortality is now being reported for some – though not all – countries for the year 2020 deserves closer analysis; it cannot unquestioningly be attributed to the coronavirus. A comparison with the average of previous years may already be misleading in countries with an increasing population and/or progressive ageing, such as the USA, since such factors inevitably lead to a continuous rise in the number of deaths.
Were workers more likely to be infected by COVID-19 in their workplace, or outside it? While both economic models of the pandemic and public health policy recommendations often presume that the workplace is less safe, this paper seeks an answer both in micro data and economic theory. The available data from schools, hospitals, nursing homes, food processing plants, hair stylists, and airlines show employers adopting mitigation protocols in the spring of 2020. Coincident with the adoption, infection rates in workplaces typically dropped from well above household rates to well below. When this occurs, the sign of the disease externality from participating in large organizations changes from negative to positive, even while individuals continue to have an incentive to avoid large organizations due to the prevention costs they impose on members. Rational cooperative prevention sometimes results in infectious-disease patterns that are opposite of predictions from classical epidemiology.
It has been a long year since the pandemic began. If you’ve spent these months fretting over the coronavirus and suffering the negative externalities of government lockdowns, it’s time to sit back and enjoy the good news that is finally pouring in.
There is a light at the end of this tunnel, and you can begin to bask in it now, if only you are willing to listen to science and ignore the doomers, gloomers, and anti-vaccine activists in the Biden administration.