Monica Gandhi and Jeanne Noble, writing in the Wall Street Journal, expose the deceptiveness of the CDC’s recent attempt to stir up fear of Covid’s risk to teenagers. Here are their opening paragraphs:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report last week warning that adolescent hospitalizations due to Covid-19 were on the rise. The media picked up the message and ran with it. But it isn’t true. The CDC misrepresented the data and played down a more important finding that provides further evidence that pandemic-control measures are likely having a serious adverse impact on young people’s mental health.
The CDC truncated its analysis at the precise date—April 24—that would cast an increase in teen hospitalization in the worst possible light. The 10% rise in early March that attracted so many headlines was similar to rises in other age groups and had declined sharply by late April. Adolescent hospitalizations for Covid-19 were back down to 0.6 per 100,000 by late May, before the CDC report was published, and well below the rate of 2.6 for the adult U.S. population. Moreover, Covid cases among children in 2021 have now fallen by 84% and hospitalizations are down by 69% since January, thanks largely to adult vaccination.
Will Mr. Newsom use his powers to liberate citizens from senseless bureaucracy? Golden Staters may need to go to court for such relief. Judges should also seize the next opportunity to clarify that the governor’s emergency authority cannot last forever.
In the opening paper, Richard Wagner notes that public health is an oft-used illustration of market failure and justification for governmental action to solve as a corrective. COVID-19 is just the latest in a continuing series of claims of market failure that are alleged to require solutions by politically selected experts. Although recognizing that COVID-19 presents problems of public health, Wagner argues that solutions are a complex matter of social organization and not a simple matter of selecting the right expert to determine the right solution. Subduing COVID-19 requires expertise provided by the scientific disciplines related to public health, but it requires more than that. To explore how much more, Wagner draws on Michael Polanyi’s notion of a “Republic of Science” to explain that subduing infectious disease is best accomplished not through a closed and limited system but instead through a system of free and open competition among ideas and approaches.
Lockdown measures enacted across the United States in response to the COVID- 19 pandemic have severely curtailed personal and economic liberties. The next two papers explore the origins and consequences of government responses to the pandemic. Phillip Magness and Peter Earle analyze the nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) aimed at mitigating the transmission of COVID-19. Examples of NPIs include closing businesses, canceling events, restricting travel, limiting the size of gatherings, and imposing shelter-in-place mandates. Magness and Earle identify the various political economy dynamics at work in the design, implementation, and persistence of NPIs in the context of COVID. These factors include bias toward government action, political path dependency, and the emergence of public-health experts as an interest group incentivized to perpetuate the status quo. Their analysis has implications both for understanding the response to COVID-19 as well as for learning broader lessons for government responses to future public-health crises.
Now, back to the Nordics. Sweden’s mortality rate is indeed thrice that of Denmark. But Denmark’s in turn is thrice that of Norway and five times higher than Iceland’s. Lockdowns cannot be the explanation for Denmark’s better performance than Sweden’s in light of its own identical disparity with Norway and still greater disparity with Iceland. Moreover, as shown in no fewer than 35 studies collated by the AEIR, globally and among US states Covid mortality is policy invariant, there’s no correlation between key Covid metrics and jurisdictions with severe and soft, mandatory and voluntary social distancing restrictions and guidance. The clear logical inference is that variations are due to factors other than lockdown like Iceland being an isolated island country – a bit like Australia and New Zealand, come to think of it. Danish and US researchers list 16 different factors (including lighter lockdowns) as possible explanations for Sweden’s worse toll among the Nordics. Not all are of equal weight but they are ‘thought-provoking’: average age of Covid deaths, co-morbidities, obesity levels, urbanisation, immigrant populations, crowded working and living conditions, care homes for the elderly (Sweden’s nursing home population is 50 per cent bigger than Denmark’s), cross-facility mobility of healthcare staff, hospital capacity and medicine stocks, climate, seasonality, vitamin D deficiency, etc.
As dark as Orwell’s visions were, not even he foresaw a government telling citizens they must remain locked down because a quick easing of restrictions might breach their human rights.
Yet this is exactly what happened in truth-is-stranger-than-fiction Danistan yesterday.
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton told journalists that harsh restrictions on movement could not be eased until after public servants had ensured it did not violate Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights.
In other words, the government couldn’t be too hasty giving people their freedom, just in case they violated people’s freedom.
Doublethink, thy name is Victoria!