Unfortunately, the picture sold to the public continues to be badly distorted, with consequences that someday will have to be honestly assessed. While the U.S. government now quietly estimates that 146 million Americans had been infected with Covid as of Oct. 2, media outlets are currently trumpeting America’s 50 millionth “confirmed” case as the latest milestone. This cockamamie measure can only appeal to editors because it makes it sound like the virus can still be stopped before it reaches most people.
Its bastard offspring, the case fatality rate, also continues to pop up in the media, with Bloomberg News last week bizarrely trying to outdo China’s Covid chief by forcing on its readers a claim that “the global death rate stands at over 1.9%.”
This needlessly terrorizing estimate is biased twice over, because it ignores infected people who aren’t tested, and because those who seek testing tend to be the sickest and oldest. Oxford University’s Our World in Data, perhaps because its website is frequently consulted by media types, takes pains for the especially thick of head: “There is a straightforward question that most people would like answered. If someone is infected with COVID-19, how likely is that person to die? The key point is that the case fatality rate (CFR)—the most commonly discussed measure—is not the answer to the question.”
What also remains discouraging is the public sector’s perhaps unavoidable but never-ending policy chaos. From the virus’s arrival on our shores, politicians decided it wouldn’t be good for their careers to be seen conceding that it would eventually infect most of the population, even though all understood perfectly well (don’t kid yourself about Dr. Fauci and company) that it was almost inevitable.
A large and continuing exercise in hand waving has been needed to pretend that we were striving to suppress case numbers indiscriminately, though no evidence has suggested that such suppression is achievable except in the very short term at an unsustainable cost.
The experts in the USA pushed this issue further. Against the advice of the World Health Organization and UNICEF, our expert bodies (AAP & CDC) advocated for cloth masking (an ineffective mask per Bangladesh RCT) in kids as young as 2. This decision defied all pre-pandemic guidance, all available evidence, and basic common sense. To date, this recommendation continues, and this policy has led to mandatory masking of toddlers in many daycare settings for hours on end.
But the mere fact that punishing thousands of teenagers for not being vaccinated was even on the table is disconcerting. Indeed, throughout the pandemic, the enforcers of COVID-19 restrictions have had few qualms about making children miserable—even though the under-18 crowd has little to fear from the disease. Young people are the cohort safest from COVID-19, whether or not they are vaccinated; vaccinated seniors are at significantly greater risk than unvaccinated teenagers. Despite this reality, children and teenagers in the U.S. face the most stringent and brutally uncompromising pandemic prevention policies of all, especially at public schools.
It’s one thing to encourage teenagers to get vaccinated: It’s quite another to threaten them with further setbacks to their social lives and educational careers if they do not comply. Healthy young people have very little to fear from COVID-19, but two years of social isolation, school closures, and virtual learning are undoubtedly having a profoundly negative effect. Elementary and middle school test scores—particularly among minority students—are plummeting; and according to the surgeon general, more young people are experiencing depressive episodes than ever before.
Despite no new public information that would suggest there is anything novel to fear from the omicron variant of COVID-19—which seems to be producing mild cases in vaccinated individuals—many municipalities are regressing into full-blown panic and reimposing mitigation measures. Case in point: Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom reinstated California’s mask mandate, beginning December 15 and lasting until January 15.
Jon Sanders decries Covidocratic tyranny. Two slices:
Government leaders have tipped their hands. Covid-19 has given them access to powers that they are loath to lose. Alarmingly, people in the world’s freest societies (using the prepandemic 2019 “Freedom in the World” report by Freedom House) — notably in North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand — have allowed totalitarian restrictions so long as they were euphemized as safety measures. Without the gloss, they include house arrest, dehumanizing dress codes, movement papers for work, shopping, and travel, and apartheid.
Just the knowledge of the Omicron variant prompted the European Commission to urge for the European Union to impose mandatory vaccination. Many European nations have announced new crackdowns on the unvaccinated, from lockdowns to fines, excused by fears of the Omicron variant.
The free press, a quaint term in the U.S. that now applies to organizations openly promoting a police state, welcomes these developments. A recent CNN headline declared “Making Covid-19 vaccines mandatory was once unthinkable. But European countries are showing it can work.” Which is like saying China is showing that making human-rights activists “disappear” can work to bring about near-universal acclamation for communism. It’s amazing what “can work” when a government can erase your livelihood if you don’t comply.
Plan B supporters will be quick to say that the Government didn’t have a week to wait it out. With the Omicron variant estimated to be doubling every two to three days, action needed to be taken immediately. These are clashes that are bound to arise but made more difficult to weigh up when no formal assessment has been done.
Made more difficult, too, by Johnson’s decision to usher in rules such as vaccine passports that have no proven track-record of success. Scotland’s experiment with showing your health status to access parts of public life didn’t stop the spread of the virus. It did, however, create more burdens on business and rules for consumers.
The return of restrictions – and Johnson’s refusal to rule out more – does not bode well for future economic recovery. But treating the economy as an after-thought is making the situation far worse.
Please don’t call the MPs who voted against vaccine passports ‘Tory rebels’. In my book, those upstanding men and women are the true Conservatives. Rather, it is those who pushed through this repellently un-British measure, with the help of the Labour Party, who are the traitors to our philosophy.
That stirring creed of liberty that trusts grown-ups to make the best decisions for their own families and does not seek to ostracise people for refusing to provide proof of a medical treatment to go to the theatre or the footie. All I can say is, thank God there are people in Parliament who are prepared to take arms against this sea of senselessness, this tsunami of pseudo-scientific scaremongering.
From head boy of the old school, Sir Graham Brady, to 28-year-old blonde bombshell of the Red Wall Dehenna Davison, via former Royal Air Force engineer Steve Baker (more sense than the entire Cabinet combined) through that lioness Esther McVey, keenly compassionate Sir Charles Walker and Miriam Cates (both rightly devastated by the collateral damage of lockdown) to fearless, principled Nus Ghani and the swashbuckling Sir Desmond Swayne… These are my heroes – and all the rest who dug in their heels on the slippery slope to authoritarianism.
Last night, I went to London for dinner. Was I worried about omicron swarming through the capital? No, I was worried about the freedom to make my own risk assessment being taken away. I was worried that my children’s hopeful young adult lives are about to be blighted again after a reader, friendly with the wife of a boffin who sits on Sage, emailed to warn me that lockdown is “pencilled in for January 5”, once we get through “this politically sensitive period”. (How unbearably grim if so.)
I was fretting that yet more children would be murdered or abused in their homes during the Work From Home order. I have been heart-flutteringly, not-sleeping anxious that we would see a repeat of this time last year, with that deadening sadness millions of us experienced when we knew for sure that we would not be reunited with mothers, fathers, grandparents, children and siblings. The season of Ho! Ho! Ho! turns into Oh No! NO!, should hospitals happen to run short of beds. Is this perpetual, sickening uncertainty really how it’s going to be every winter – the Ghost of Christmas Lost rattling its lonely chains?
“The pandemicists must be stopped.” A slice:
No realistic public health goal underpins this diagnostic mania, of course. People who test positive for Corona are sent home to suffer in untreated silence by themselves. Endlessly testing, tracing, sequencing, panicking and closing is, however, a goal in itself for people like Emily Gurley and all the other pandemicists [Emily] Anthes gleefully quotes, from Eric Topol to Trevor Bedford to Ezekiel J. Emanuel. All of them want the Corona Circus to play on, and after it ends they hope for a sequel sometime soon. Never before have they enjoyed such personal and professional prominence.
Depression has many causes. The lockdowns, by promoting loneliness, isolation, and fear, have intensified those causes, harming the lives of so many.