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Some Covid Links

It’s impossible to choose satisfactorily which selections to highlight from John Tierney’s latest essay – titled “Keeping Fear Alive” – on Covid hysteria; the entire piece is outstandingly good. Here are two slices:

Throughout the pandemic, American political and public-health leaders have been following Rahm Emanuel’s classic dictum for power-seeking officials: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” Now they’ve adopted a corollary: you never want a crisis to end.

So they are prolonging the national misery instead of easing it, which could be done with a few simple strategies. Explain to the public that the virus will never disappear but is no longer a mortal threat to the vast majority of Americans. Encourage the minority still at risk to get vaccinated by honestly discussing who is in jeopardy and what scientists have learned about infections. Promote treatments proven to prevent infection and speed recovery while avoiding unproven treatments and mandates that cause collateral damage and generate mistrust. Above all, make it clear to Americans that we finally have reason to celebrate: what once seemed an unprecedented danger is now just one of many pathogens that we know how to live with.

But the nation’s crisismongers aren’t about to relinquish their hold over the public, so they’ve set new goals that are as unachievable as they are unnecessary and harmful. Making vaccines available to every American adult is no longer sufficient; now the crisis cannot end until the entire population has been vaccinated. Instead of focusing efforts on vaccinating the vulnerable, officials obsess on compelling universal obedience, even if that means squandering vaccines on people who already have acquired natural immunity or are at minimal risk of serious illness.


The CDC continues to undermine its credibility by claiming strong evidence for the efficacy of lockdowns and mask mandates. Dozens of studies have found that lockdowns are ineffective, and one recent analysis of trends in the United States and other countries found that lockdown policies are associated with an increase in excess deaths. The evidence offered by the CDC for mask mandates is weak, as Jeffrey H. Anderson has documented, and the most rigorous research—from more than a dozen randomized clinical trials—suggests that masks are ineffective (and possibly counterproductive) at stopping viral spread. One recent study, which tracked Covid case growth across the United States, concluded that “mask mandates and use are not associated with slower state-level Covid-19 spread during Covid-19 growth surges.”

Alberto Mingardi supplements Art Carden’s reading list for a pandemic. A slice:

Experts’ reasoning and models were often flawed, not only because experts were hubristic, but because they were deterministic. They reduced the pandemic situation to a certain number of parameters, some of them scrupulously monitored, and provided speculation based upon them. Certainly experts responded to incentives: for example, they were incentivized to produce very dramatic projections, as it is way better to be proven wrong on the date of the end of the world (the people will be relieved it didn’t happen and won’t mind) than to miss it. But I think an important takeaway is that lethality and the growth rate of the contagion can’t be taken as a given, as they depend on the environment it is taking place in and can adapt and adjust in different circumstances.

Robert Freudenthal unearths forgotten principles of risk assessment.

Hidden immunity: Why booster jabs may not be needed after all“. Two slices:

But several studies have come out in the last few months that suggest we might not need to be too worried after all. Antibodies are not the only indicator of immunity.

In May, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine, who studied 77 recovering Covid patients found that while antibodies declined over time, bone marrow plasma cells, capable of producing antibodies against the virus, remained stable.


Similarly, researchers from The Rockefeller University, New York, recently found that recovered Covid patients still have immunity a year after infection, including antibodies that were “exceptionally resistant” to variants.

“The data suggest that immunity in convalescent individuals will be very long lasting and that convalescent individuals who receive available mRNA vaccines will produce antibodies and memory B-cells that should be protective against circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants,” the researchers concluded.

The problem with only looking at antibodies is it gives a false picture of the level of protection. The body is efficient, and will not continue to produce high-levels of antibodies when they are no longer needed.

Dystopian tyranny continues unabated in Australia. Two slices:

At the end of last year, Australia was lauded for its success in containing Covid-19. The country’s borders had been quickly closed; interstate travel restricted and resources diverted to tracking down cases. In the deluge of praise that followed, outlets like the Washington Post ran gushing features on the country’s ‘pandemic success story’ ‘putting faith in science’; America’s top doctor Anthony Fauci hailed it as the ‘epitome of success.’

But eight months on and a different picture emerges.

Even worse was Dr Kerry Chant, the New South Wales Chief Health Officer, who implied that Australians should not to talk to one another outside. She said at a press conference: ‘We need to limit our movements. We need to consider whenever we leave our house that anyone with us, anyone we come into contact with, could convey the virus. So, while it is in human nature to engage in conversation with others, to be friendly, unfortunately, this is not the time to do that.’

Telegraph‘s editors rightly decry the deranged and dangerous pursuit of zero-Covid. A slice:

Australia and New Zealand have often been described as two of the great success stories of the pandemic. Both have pursued a strategy of elimination, closing their borders and cracking down on cases through a ruthless policy of lockdowns. Both have kept their Covid death figures low by international comparison.

But as much of the rest of the developed world has used vaccination to find a new equilibrium with the virus as a manageable illness, Australia and New Zealand have remained stuck in a damaging cycle of lockdowns as they have sought to crush outbreaks of any size.

Mikko Packalen writes wisely, in the Toronto Sun, about Covid and the public’s (mis)perception of the risks that it poses. (HT Martin Kulldorff) A slice:

For precautions, such as requiring children to wear masks, lead the public to mistakenly conclude that schools are an important driver of Covid spread.

Research about Covid risk perceptions has shown that people have a very hard time understanding the risks posed by the virus.

People vastly overestimate the hospitalization and mortality risks and vastly underestimate the impact of age on these risks (the mortality risk posed by an infection with the virus is more than a thousand times higher for older people than it is for young people.)

The excess Covid fears are understandable. Since March 2020 it has been difficult to find information about the actual risks posed by the virus.

The media’s reluctance to grapple with this issue is evident in the fact that the leading newspapers first wrote about excess Covid fears only this spring, many months after the studies covered in those articles were published in July and December of 2020.

People have thus had to rely on other ways of forming perceptions about Covid risks. A paper recently published in Royal Society Open Science shows that people assess Covid risks partly based on the policies that they see implemented around them.

Jacob Sullum exposes the simplemindedness of New York Times‘s health and science reporter Apoorva Mandavilli. A slice:

But Mandavilli completely overlooks other factors that help explain why so many Americans are disinclined to accept the government’s guidance as gospel. Public health advice is not simply a function of science. It incorporates cost-benefit analyses and value judgments on which well-informed people of good faith can honestly differ. Whether “universal masking” in schools makes sense, for instance, depends not only on the uncertain evidence that it prevents outbreaks but on the weight one assigns to the burdens that policy imposes. It also depends on what level of risk is deemed tolerable.

In this case and others, it often seems that public health agencies are working backward, settling on a policy and then searching for evidence to back it up. Anyone who delves into the studies that the CDC cites to justify its recommendation that everyone 2 or older wear face masks in schools and other public settings, regardless of their vaccination status, can see that science is just one element of the agency’s deliberative process.

Jay Bhattacharya is now on Twitter.