Some Covid Links

by Don Boudreaux on September 18, 2021

in Books, Current Affairs, FDA, Reality Is Not Optional, Risk and Safety, Video

Texas Tech economist – and GMU Econ alum – Ben Powell understandably worries about what we might call ‘long lockdown.’ A slice:

Today the risk of death from COVID-19 for children and most vaccinated adults is no greater than other routine risks we accept in our daily lives without thought. Fewer than 500 American children under 17 have died from the disease since the start of the pandemic, while a few thousand die in car accidents each year. For children and vaccinated adults, the New York Times recently summarized the situation by writing, “For the vast majority of people, the virus resembled a typical flu, rarely causing serious illness.” However, the incentives of health bureaucrats will be to continue to propagandize us by inflating the risk in order to maintain their own authority, prestige, and budgets.

For example, the federal mask mandate on airplanes that was set to expire on Sept. 13 has been extended to Jan. 18, despite the low risk of severe cases for most Americans. Although the Delta variant undoubtedly played a role in that decision, we should be concerned that health bureaucrats will frighten Americans with new variants to get us to continue to accept their “inconveniences” based on false claims of the safety they provide — much as the TSA has done with terrorism over the last 20 years.

Reason‘s Robby Soave reports on yet another officious Covidocratic hypocrite. A slice:

Yet another politician was caught violating her own mask mandate. This time it’s San Francisco Mayor London Breed, who partied maskless at a jazz club on Wednesday despite the city’s requirements.

Reason‘s Matt Welch decries Biden’s cynical – and scientifically uninformed – exploitation of Covid hysteria. A slice:

Even as vaccinations, unavailable to those under 12, have become widespread, and the more infectious delta variant has become the dominant strain, minors are still blessedly underrepresented in COVID death numbers: 146 out of 97,071 since April 1, or 0.15 percent. Kids are 23.1 percent of the United States population, one out of every 4.3 people, and even during the delta/vaccination period, they have accounted for just one out of every 665 COVID deaths. The virus is still unlikely to crack the top 10 causes of pediatric fatalities this year, lagging far behind car crashes, drowning, suffocation, drug overdoses, cancer, malignant neoplasm, and heart disease.

Ah, I can hear some parents retort (literally, in the case of a Washington Post scare story Thursday), “It doesn’t matter how small the numbers are…. Even if the numbers are really small, you still keep thinking it could be yours.” But upper-middle-class neurosis (and the journalism amplifying it) should not drive pandemic policy; rational risk assessment should.

Stacey Rudin asks if you’re ready and willing to again be free.

Nigel Farage, with whom I disagree on many matters, declares that he will not obey any further lockdown commands – a declaration that I applaud enthusiastically and without condition.

Johns Hopkins medical professor Marty Makary, writing in the Washington Post, decries the hesitancy to recognize the reality, enjoyed by those who have had and survived Covid-19, of “powerful” natural immunity from that disease. A slice:

So, the emerging science suggests that natural immunity is as good as or better than vaccine-induced immunity. That’s why it’s so frustrating that the Biden administration has repeatedly argued that immunity conferred by vaccines is preferable to immunity caused by natural infection, as NIH director Francis Collins told Fox News host told Bret Baier a few weeks ago. That rigid adherence to an outdated theory is also reflected in President Biden’s recent announcement that large companies must require their employees to get vaccinated or submit to regular testing, regardless of whether they previously had the virus.

Downplaying the power of natural immunity has had deadly consequences. In January, February and March, we wasted scarce vaccine doses on millions of people who previously had covid. If we had asked Americans who were already protected by natural immunity to step aside in the vaccine line, tens of thousands of lives could have been saved. This is not just in hindsight is 20/20; many of us were vehemently arguing and writing at the time for such a rationing strategy.

My GMU Econ colleague Alex Tabarrok reviewed, in the Wall Street Journal, Scott Gottlieb’s new book, Uncontrolled Spread. A slice:

Dr. Gottlieb is much kinder to his friends and former colleagues at the FDA. My view is that the FDA shares in the failure. The FDA does not have authority over laboratory-developed tests, so in ordinary times a lab can develop a test without seeking FDA approval. But the FDA, using the Covid-19 emergency as a pretext, asserted that any SARS-CoV-2 test needed its approval before it could be deployed. Thus the logic of emergency was inverted. Instead of lifting regulations and giving priority to speed, the FDA increased regulation and slowed test deployment.

(DBx: One general lesson that I draw from facts such as this one is about the unfortunate but largely unalterable reality of government. Government has a nature no less than does any virus. It’s therefore not only pointless, but dangerous because distracting, to make declarations about what interventions government ‘should’ have pursued, and should pursue in the future, to better protect us from contagious pathogens as if government’s nature is amenable to good intentions expressed by persons adequately informed about science. Much of the disagreement among people about Covid policy springs from the different assessments different people make about the amount of knowledge to which government can reasonably be supposed to have access and the ability to process, and about the likelihood that government officials will act in the public interest when acting in this manner runs against these officials’ own interests. If our earthly affairs were governed by a supernatural power akin in both knowledge and motivation to the Christian God, then even I would trust this power with the authority to lock humanity down if and whenever this power deemed such a move to be the best. But of course the state is a power categorically and dramatically inferior on all dimensions to any such supernatural power. While no one directly and expressly denies the truth of the previous sentence, a shockingly large number of people endorse government policies as if the previous sentence were untrue. Among the many surprises of the past 18 months has been the number of people who, pre-Covid, understood that the state is not a godlike institution, but who, once Covid appeared, joined ranks with those who believe that the state is both capable of being, and eager to be, godlike.)

Phil Magness on Facebook:

Suppose a test was developed tomorrow that detected and easily demonstrated whether a person currently has true and robust immunity to covid. Not vaccination, or recovery from previous covid, but actual real-time robust immunity.

Such a test would completely obviate the externality argument for other covid NPIs (which was already flimsy to begin with, but let’s grant it for a moment) for the person with demonstrated immunity, as such a person would have practically no risk of either catching or transmitting the virus.

It is my strong suspicion that the great majority of people who previously pled for and justified those same NPIs on an externality basis would continue to demand their imposition on the demonstrably immune anyway, shifting their appeals over to claims about “fairness” and symbolic solidarity with those who lacked real-time robust immunity. Indeed, we’ve already seen signs of this sort of behavior in the form of the masking revival.

Jay Bhattacharya on Twitter:

A common trope: if we only lock down hard now, we can avoid hard lockdowns in future.

The track record is poor — we always end up locking down now and later, with the public blamed for non-compliance.

Why not just not lock down?

Here’s a new video featuring the great Sunetra Gupta, an epidemiologist at the University of Oxford:

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