Some Covid Links

by Don Boudreaux on December 18, 2021

in Country Problems, Current Affairs, Risk and Safety

Phil Magness just got hold of some e-mails from and to U.S. government officials:

New email dump showing Anthony Fauci and Francis Collins coordinating a propaganda campaign to attack the Great Barrington declaration last October. More coming soon so here’s a teaser…

(DBx: Was Collins so ignorant of health sciences that he called Jay Bhattacharya, Sunetra Gupta, and Martin Kulldorff “fringe epidemiologists,” or was he lying? There’s no good third alternative, and neither of these two alternatives is reassuring.)

In his latest op-ed, Jay Bhattacharya explains that “[w]e cannot stop the spread of COVID, but we can end the pandemic: Protect the old and vulnerable, forget lockdowns – and learn to live with the virus.” A slice:

In October 2020, I wrote the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD) along with Prof. Sunetra Gupta of Oxford University and Prof. Martin Kulldorff of Harvard University.

The centerpiece of the declaration is a call for increased focused protection of the vulnerable older population, who are more than a thousand times more likely to die from COVID infection than the young.

We can protect the vulnerable without harming the rest of the population.

As I stated above, we do not have any technology that can stop viral spread.

While excellent vaccines protect the vaccinated versus hospitalization or death if infected, they provide only temporary and marginal protection versus infection and disease transmission after the second dose.

The same is likely true for booster shots, which use the same technology as the initial doses.

What about lockdowns?

It is now abundantly clear that they have failed to contain the virus while wreaking enormous collateral damage worldwide.

Martin Kulldorff tweets:

If you are pro-vaccine, you should be against vaccine mandates.

Also from Martin Kulldorff is this new essay titled “Vaccines Save Lives.” Two slices:

While anyone can get infected, there is more than a thousand-fold difference in mortality risk between the old and the young. In 2020, public health officials and the public discourse focused on lockdowns, such as school closures, business closures, travel restrictions and working from home mandates, while there was very little effort to better protect high-risk older people.

We are now making the same mistake again. Instead of intensifying efforts to vaccinate more of our older citizens, most of whom are retired, the public discourse is focused on vaccinating children and vaccine mandates for students and working age adults, many of whom already have natural immunity after Covid recovery.

Earlier this year, I was censored by Twitter for writing that “Thinking that everyone must be vaccinated is as scientifically flawed as thinking that nobody should. COVID vaccines are important for older high-risk people, and their care-takers. Those with prior natural infection do not need it. Nor children.”


Vaccine fanatics and vaccine skeptics have one thing in common. Together, they have contributed to a level of vaccine hesitancy never seen before in the United States. What the latter failed to accomplish over several decades, the vaccine fanatics have achieved in less than a year. How? Here are some examples:

We have known about natural immunity since at least the Athenian Plague in 430 BC, and studies show that the Covid recovered have stronger immunity than the vaccinated. People know this, and by mandating vaccines for those that are already immune, public health officials are undermining trust with the result that people are skeptical of other vaccine recommendations.

For older people, who are at high risk of dying from Covid, the benefit of the vaccine greatly outweighs the small risks of a serious adverse event, so it is a no-brainer to be vaccinated.

The same is not true for children. Their Covid mortality risk is miniscule and less than the already low risk from the annual influenza, so the vaccine benefit for healthy children is very small. It will take a few years until we know the Covid vaccine risk profile, and until then, we do not know whether there is more benefit or harm in vaccinating children. When government officials ignore these important issues, trust in vaccines declines among everyone.

el gato malo decries the damage done to children by lockdowns and other Covid restrictions. A slice:

the social pressures and strictures brought to bear around covid have been surreal. they have fallen hardest upon the children. we uprooted their lives, masked and muzzled them all day, prevented basic non-verbal communication, impeded learning, closed their schools, ended their activities, broke up their social networks, and ground their lives to halt.

this alone would have been more than many could bear. but on top of that, we piled guilt, recrimination, and stigma atop it. we made the kids out to be careless killers of grandma and rendered becoming ill with a respiratory virus a grievous moral failing.

we have done staggering emotional damage to them and it’s really starting to show.

and it keeps getting worse. vaccinating kids has become the new flashpoint and the new socialization horror. and no, it’s not “science” is nonsense.

Reason‘s Robby Soave reports that “the study that convinced the CDC to support mask mandates in schools is junk science.” A slice:

On September 28, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky shared the results of a new study that appeared to confirm the need for mask mandates in schools. The study was conducted in Arizona over the summer, and published by the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report: It found that schools in counties without mask mandates had 3.5 times more outbreaks than schools in counties with mask mandates.

The significance of that finding should have raised eyebrows, according to The Atlantic‘s David Zweig. “A number of the experts interviewed for this article said the size of the effect should have caused everyone involved in preparing, publishing, and publicizing the paper to tap the brakes,” he wrote in a new article that explores the study’s significant flaws. “Instead, they hit the gas.”

His article demonstrates quite convincingly that the study’s results are suspect:

But the Arizona study at the center of the CDC’s back-to-school blitz turns out to have been profoundly misleading. “You can’t learn anything about the effects of school mask mandates from this study,” Jonathan Ketcham, a public-health economist at Arizona State University, told me. His view echoed the assessment of eight other experts who reviewed the research, and with whom I spoke for this article. Masks may well help prevent the spread of COVID, some of these experts told me, and there may well be contexts in which they should be required in schools. But the data being touted by the CDC—which showed a dramatic more-than-tripling of risk for unmasked students—ought to be excluded from this debate. The Arizona study’s lead authors stand by their work, and so does the CDC. But the critics were forthright in their harsh assessments. Noah Haber, an interdisciplinary scientist and a co-author of a systematic review of COVID-19 mitigation policies, called the research “so unreliable that it probably should not have been entered into the public discourse.”

It turns out that there were numerous problems with the study. Many of the schools that comprise its data set weren’t even open at the time the study was completed; it counted outbreaks instead of cases; it did not control for vaccination status; it included schools that didn’t fit the criteria. For these and other reasons, Zweig argues that the study ought to be ignored entirely: Masking in schools may or may not be a good idea, but this study doesn’t help answer the question. Any public official—including and especially Walensky—who purports to follow the science should toss this one in the trash.

Indiana School of Medicine professor Steve Templeton offers a manual for post-pandemic germophobia therapy. Two slices:

Back in March of 2020, I was completely dismayed by the tsunami of mass panic and irrational behavior in my community and around the world, triggered by the looming pandemic threat. I spent a lot of time engaging with others on social media, trying to calm the irrational terror that would ultimately lead to prolonged, disastrous and ineffective shutdowns and the end of life as everyone knew it.

Yes, the news was bad, and the predictions worse, but already it seemed there was no way the virus could be stopped in the wider population, and that draconian measures had the potential to cause tremendous collateral damage without clear benefits. Schools were closing, even with early reports that children were not susceptible to severe disease. Community groups were shutting their doors at a time they were most needed. People were avoiding their relatives, especially the elderly.


There isn’t one single person or even a small group of people that can be blamed for the disastrous pandemic response. Politicians aren’t powerful enough and government agencies aren’t competent enough to operate as cabals of sophisticated supervillains, even if their ham-handed tyranny seems orchestrated and purposeful to some.

Instead, the root problem behind the disastrous pandemic response in many developed countries is a cultural one, a culture that places safety as one of its highest virtues, and risk as its lowest vice. Certainly, there are a large number of opportunists that have taken advantage of the pandemic to position themselves as heroes of their own movie, to gain political power, or just to make a buck. But those people aren’t the cause of the disease, merely a symptom of its severity. Our safety culture fully enabled their destructive behavior, and that’s where the real problem lies.

In their landmark book, The Coddling of the American Mind, Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff coined the term “safetyism”, to describe a cultural shift that has placed the avoidance of cognitive dissonance above the pursuit of truth, a shift that has been painfully evident in American universities in the last two decades. In their book, they layer anecdotes with studies detailing how this shift has poisoned the well of academic discovery, and has left universities and college graduates completely incapable of functioning in a pluralistic world full of nuance and uncertainty.

The reckless Neil Ferguson is again – now, of course, because of omicron – predicting calamity unless Brits are once more locked down. (DBx: Why does anyone take this guy seriously? Why has anyone ever taken this guy seriously?)

Noah Carl calmly responds to someone still advocating the absurd goal of zero Covid. Two slices:

I am not aware of any evidence that a “substantial percentage” of middled-aged people experience “serious” health damage. Some surely do, and that is regrettable, but the numbers certainly don’t justify “emergency governance measures”, particularly since such measures have proven to have at best only a small impact on the epidemic’s trajectory. (I will get to China’s “successful” lockdown later.) Moreover, “emergency governance measures” themselves can lead to morbidity further down the line by causing social isolation or by disrupting healthcare provision.

If [Curtis] Yarvin is referring to “long Covid” in the quotation above, the latest evidence suggests that its frequency has been massively exaggerated. It was initially believed to affect about one in every ten people who catch the virus. Yet a recent analysis by the UK’s Office for National Statistics, based on a large random sample, found that only 2.5% of people still report symptoms after 12 weeks. However, even that number may be an overestimate, since it assumes that every participant reported their symptoms accurately.


Yarvin’s right that restricting the powers of government doesn’t necessarily produce better governance. But it’s going to take a lot more than that to convince me that handing governments the power to track our movements is a good idea. Even if it could have helped during the pandemic (which I doubt), there’s the real possibility it would be misused in the future. As economic historian Robert Higgs has noted, government powers seem to accrue via a “ratchet effect” whereby they’re very hard to get rid of once you’ve got them.

The Telegraph‘s Camilla Tominey decries “middle class lockdown zealots.” A slice:

The hypocrisy of middle class lockdown zealots has always known no bounds – but the latest variant has once again brought out the worst in this already smug bunch. For a sizeable chunk of the privileged population, omicron has given them the chance to do what they wanted anyway: have an extended Christmas break.

Now they’re “working” from the moral high ground of their spacious homes, merrily cancelling pub and restaurant bookings, while preparing for a Christmas of comfort and joy with their families.

And all the while, they’re convincing themselves that they’re doing the “right” thing and that it’s the rest of the country who are the irresponsible and selfish ones.

Britain’s SAGE is inviting the straw man to return to that country.

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