But last week, the CDC abruptly reversed course. While Walensky had up until recently warned of “impending doom” if people did not continue to practice aggressive masking and social distancing, the government’s new position is that the vaccinated can go back to normal. People who are fully vaccinated do not need to worry about getting sick, and are extremely unlikely to contract COVID-19 and spread it to someone else. For them, the pandemic is over.
This wildly good news is, if anything, overdue: For weeks, if not months, it has been evident that the vaccines are incredibly effective and would likely significantly reduce transmission. No one should accuse the CDC of moving too quickly: It waited and waited and waited for a scientific consensus on the vaccines, and then it waited even longer, and now has finally conceded the truth.
Yet the reaction from the Listen-to-the-Experts crowd has ranged from disbelief to terror. Over on Twitter, many progressives have been shocked by the new guidance and have signaled they would ignore it. Gun control activist David Hogg declared that he intends to keep wearing a mask because he doesn’t want to be mistaken for a Republican. On the streets of D.C., I have overheard other people make similar remarks.
“There is no ‘Covid heart.’” (HT my intrepid Mercatus Center colleague Veronique de Rugy). Two slices:
A few weeks later, on Sept. 11, 2020, a study out of Ohio State University showed that 15% of competitive athletes who had recovered from Covid-19 had abnormalities on cardiac magnetic resonance scans. This study, of just 26 athletes, was entirely lacking in controls. What’s more, earlier and contemporary studies had found similar abnormalities among elite athletes without Covid-19. But the news coverage and social media posts continued at a frenzied pace. College sports nearly stopped. And people with mild or even asymptomatic disease sought out cardiac magnetic resonance scans, and some physicians even recommended having them.
We take away two lessons from the Covid-19 myocarditis story. One is that SARS-CoV-2 can sometimes, though rarely, cause heart inflammation — just as many other viruses do. Clinicians, therefore, can appeal to sound medicine; further testing can be decided on an individual basis. Screening low-risk patients with MRI and other fancy tests is neither necessary nor wise.
The broader lesson is that science communication in times of crisis must keep a level head. The public, and decision-makers, need properly controlled studies instead of early sensational reports. In a world where success is measured by clicks, the idea that even mild cases of Covid-19 could pose a new and unprecedented threat to the heart took off. That fear has largely been unsubstantiated, though news of it won’t spread nearly as quickly.
The story of “Covid heart” is not over. Future studies will undoubtedly provide more information. But people who have recovered from Covid-19 have no special reason to worry about their hearts. Instead, we should all worry about the incentives in the modern media world, and why we got so far ahead of ourselves.
I hate to be a Debbie Downer on (yet another) celebratory ‘freedom’ day in the UK, but I’m here to tell you: we are not free. We are, as so many people continue to wilfully ignore, still living under a totalitarian regime that no-one voted for, which has for 14 long months seen our most basic freedoms given and taken away at a whim, all because of a virus that did indeed kill people, but on average at the same age as what the national life expectancy is anyway. That is not hyperbole. It is a fact. The average age of someone who dies from coronavirus is 82.4. Britons have an average life expectancy of 81.1.
Today, we have been given permission to hug the people we love. This is not something we should be grateful for. It should never have been against the rules for two consenting humans to embrace. Inadvisable, perhaps, for someone at high risk of being hospitalised due to Covid, to receive a hug. But their choice alone to make, much like smoking, which is significantly more deadly but nevertheless legal.
I don’t think all this is the result of a carefully orchestrated global conspiracy plot. Rather, that our politicians’ obscenely draconian response to Covid has become a vicious cycle. Governments have so successfully frightened their people into a state of agoraphobic submission, they find themselves unable to put the genie back into the bottle. Behind closed doors, having seen the data which proves the vaccines have already done their job, I very much doubt that Boris Johnson truly believes it necessary to proceed with such economy-ravaging caution. But he has to give his citizens what they want, and what they want these days, overwhelmingly, is caution.
Just look at the US, where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently decreed that people who have been vaccinated no longer need to wear face coverings – an entirely rational move that was met with a bitter left-wing backlash from those who want the mask mandate to stay longer.
Fraser Nelson looks at the data on Sweden, Covid, and lockdowns. Here’s his conclusion:
All this explains why Sweden refuses to lock down and tolerates what is, at the time of writing, Europe’s highest Covid levels. Polls show almost three-quarters of Swedes saying that the health authority’s handling of the crisis was either ‘good’ or ‘very good. When these other points are factored in, it becomes easier to understand why, after all the last year has brought, Swedes still think they will be proved right in the end.
From Newsweek: “Texas Reports Zero COVID Deaths 2 Months After Biden Called its Reopening Plan as ‘Neanderthal Thinking’.” (And note that, as of yesterday – May 17th – Texas’s Covid case count was a mere 28 percent of what it was on March 2nd, the day statewide Covid restrictions were lifted in Texas.)
There are few better windows into the state of the nation’s psyche than what the public is watching on online streaming sites. And as lockdown lifts, and people return to pubs, restaurants and the theatre, currently trending on Amazon Prime is a 2015 docudrama about the notorious Stanford Prison experiment. In 1971, professor Philip Zimbardo recruited a group of university graduates to participate in a mock prison. While pretend guards subjected their “prisoners” to psychological torture, submissive inmates harassed fellow comrades into following the rules.
The experiment went down as a lesson in how easily people can slip into authoritarianism. But there was another revelation that Zimbardo and his contemporaries didn’t know quite what to make of – how effortlessly the participants lost all sense of reality. The most sadistic guard became absorbed in the persona of the captain in Cool Hand Luke. Prisoners soon referred to themselves by their prison numbers rather than their names. Zimbardo himself described a Kafka-eaque feeling of unease about “where our roles ended and our personalities began”.