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Some Covid Links

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Marc Siegel explains that among today’s health hazards is excessive anxiety over Covid. A slice:

In New York City, I often see people walking down the sidewalk, masks hanging low over their chins, looking fearful and dodging one another. The health benefit from these wary rituals is minimal to nonexistent, and they illustrate the toll that fear of Covid-19 has taken on mental health.

A new global study published in the Lancet examines 48 data sources in an attempt to quantify that toll. The authors report a world-wide increase of more than 129 million cases of major depression and anxiety disorders compared with pre-pandemic figures. They attribute this to the “combined effects of the spread of the virus, lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, decreased public transport, school and business closures, and decreased social interactions, among other factors.”

Maxim Lott dives deeply into the evidence on long Covid and discovers that, while real, it poses no out-of-the-ordinary risk. A slice:

The media headlines I’ve seen mislead people about the likelihood of Covid causing brain loss / impairment. Headlines about “long Covid” also mislead by failing to consider the nocebo effect seriously enough.

I’m glad I’d barely heard of “long Covid” back when I had Covid in September 2020. It would have sucked to be worrying extra about that, when the odds of any problem sticking around are so slim.

But everyone should judge for themselves how much they care about the small risk that “long Covid” poses.

I’ll add that one study found that the risk of “long” symptoms is 1.5x that of the flu. Goes to show that we’ve always been taking risks with our health; we’re just more conscious of these risks now, because of the novelty of Covid.

Jay Bhattacharya tweets, about this study:

In Kaiser study vax effectiveness vs. infection drops to ~45% after 5 months, while vax effectiveness vs. hospitalization remains high (87%+) after 5 months.

Team Sweden tweets (HT Martin Kulldorff):

I was living in Colombia when it deployed one of the world’s strictest lockdowns.

After a few weeks residents of the poorest barios (where I had volunteered) began saying “I’d rather die of the virus than starvation”

At that point I knew public health had gone off the rails.

Laura Dodsworth explains that “[t]he truth is, lockdowns don’t work and cause great harm.” A slice:

I put it to [Prof. Simon] Wood that, in circular and fallacious reasoning, the modelling is being used to measure the success of lockdown by deaths ‘saved’ against those predicted by the unsubstantiated and flawed simulated forecasts of the modelling. He agreed: “the post hoc justification for the measures using modelling often looks like bending the model to the conclusion you want to achieve.”

There is a growing body of evidence that light interventions and voluntary behaviour changes – ie not lockdowns – are sufficient to reduce the R. Real world examples support this, namely Sweden, South Dakota and Florida. Conversely, as economist Professor David Paton reported, early and strict lockdowns did not always work. Czechia’s did not stop subsequent surges of the virus and further lockdowns. Czechia currently has the sixth highest death rate per million in the world. Peru, another country which enforced very strict and early lockdown, has the worst death rate in the world.

While I have never been – and am unlikely to become – a fan of First Things, I believe that there is much in this essay, titled “Safetyism,” by R.R. Reno that is worthwhile. Three slices:

Which brings me back to Vision Zero. It is not put forward as a philosophical statement; it is a slogan, meant to keep street engineers and city planners focused on traffic safety. But the Vision Zero rhetoric has a way of taking over. No breast cancer death is inevitable! No football brain injury is acceptable! No AIDS death is tolerable! What may seem high-minded—­promoting health and safety—is in truth dangerous. A single-minded defense of bodily life can quickly become an enemy of living.


Safetyism is reinforced by the punitive, take-no-­prisoners consensus that attacks anyone who raises doubts about the necessity or efficacy of the extreme measures of the last eighteen months. And there’s no question that safetyism does spiritual damage. A socially reinforced preoccupation with bodily life can disorder our priorities just as surely as does social messaging that makes sex the supreme good. In truth, our disordered fears can be even more damaging than our disordered desires. And that includes fears of ­illness, suffering, and death.


Over the last eighteen months, the barrage of public health messaging about the perils of COVID coursed down the same deep riverbed carved by the doomsday rhetoric we’ve been hearing for years: warnings about climate apocalypse, rampant racism, and other social evils. In September, the Wall Street Journal reported that as many Americans have died of COVID as perished during the Spanish Flu pandemic (675,000)! This breathless report ignored the fact that the population of the United States is more than three times greater today than it was in 1919, when the Spanish flu took its toll. And it did not notice that a century ago there were no incentives and few resources to support today’s zealous recording of COVID deaths, which in all likelihood means that the death toll of the Spanish Flu was four or five times greater than that of the current pandemic.

But facts don’t seem to matter. Today’s journalists and editors are imbued with the conviction that they have a moral duty to accentuate peril and danger in order to motivate ever more vigilant efforts to promote health and safety. This pseudo-philanthropy—saving lives!—intensifies the role of fear in our collective ­psyche, deepening the damage of safetyism. We’ve put masks on children for two years, convincing ourselves that, even if they are ineffective, it’s a harmless measure. But it is not harmless to tell children, in effect, “The world you are entering is a very dangerous place.”

“Zero-Covid has transformed Melbourne into a RoboCop-style dystopia.” A slice:

Democracy has crumbled under zero Covid, with parliaments shut for months under health orders. The twitching curtain brigade, encouraged by government campaigns urging them to inform on their neighbours, watch for rule-breakers and use special hotlines to summon the police. Melbourne police were recently ordered to patrol playgrounds until a public outcry forced a U-turn. In a park near me, children on scooters flee as a police car pulls up. It’s like a scene from RoboCop.

Masks are mandatory outdoors even if walking on a windswept beach or a deserted street. Those caught disobeying may be fined, handcuffed, forcibly masked and arrested if they refuse to comply. In another Orwellian twist, health orders banning protests are issued by bureaucrats reporting to the very leaders the protesters are demonstrating against. Protest organisers, including a pregnant woman, have been arrested in their homes and hit with conspiracy charges. Religious worship, even in small groups outdoors, has been banned.

Getting into Australia has been near-impossible. Getting out requires a North Korea-style exit permit. Border closures have separated families and caused untold hardship. Babies have died, unable to access urgent medical attention at the nearest hospital across a locked state border. Thousands of holiday-makers who were travelling when border closures were imposed have been made homeless, some having to sleep in cars or live for months in refugee-style campsites, unable to return home even if they are double vaccinated. Some have been prevented from visiting dying relatives in other cities. Yet state leaders have held firm, only lifting interstate bans for celebrities and sports stars.

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