Jay Bhattacharya and Martin Kulldorff – who, along with Sunetra Gupta, wrote the great Great Barrington Declaration – decry Francis Collins’s and Anthony Fauci’s attack on traditional public health. A slice:
Unbeknownst to us, our call [in the Great Barrington Declaration] for a more focused pandemic strategy posed a political problem for Dr. Francis Collins and Dr. Anthony Fauci. The former is a geneticist who, until last week, was the director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH); the latter is an immunologist who directs the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). They are the biggest funders of medical and infectious disease research worldwide.
Collins and Fauci played critical roles in designing and advocating for the pandemic lockdown strategy adopted by the United States and many other countries. In emails written four days after the Great Barrington Declaration and disclosed recently after a FOIA request, it was revealed that the two conspired to undermine the Declaration. Rather than engaging in scientific discourse, they authorized “a quick and devastating published takedown” of this proposal, which they characterized as by “three fringe epidemiologists” from Harvard, Oxford, and Stanford.
Across the pond, they were joined by their close colleague, Dr. Jeremy Farrar, the head of the Wellcome Trust, one of the world’s biggest non-governmental funders of medical research. He worked with Dominic Cummings, the political strategist of UK prime minister Boris Johnson. Together, they orchestrated “an aggressive press campaign against those behind the Great Barrington Declaration and others opposed to blanket COVID-19 restrictions.”
Ignoring the call for focused protection of the vulnerable, Collins and Fauci purposely mischaracterized the GBDl as a “let-it-rip” “herd immunity strategy,” even though focused protection is the very opposite of a let-it-rip strategy. It is more appropriate to call the lockdown strategy that has been followed a “let-it-rip” strategy. Without focused protection, every age group will eventually be exposed in equal proportion, albeit at a prolonged “let-it-drip” pace compared to a do-nothing strategy.
When journalists started asking us why we wanted to “let the virus rip,” we were puzzled. Those words are not in the GBD, and they are contrary to the central idea of focused protection. It is unclear whether Collins and Fauci ever read the GBD, whether they deliberately mischaracterized it, or whether their understanding of epidemiology and public health is more limited than we had thought. In any case, it was a lie.
We were also puzzled by the mischaracterization of the GBD as a “herd immunity strategy.” Herd immunity is a scientifically proven phenomenon, as fundamental in infectious disease epidemiology as gravity is in physics. Every COVID strategy leads to herd immunity, and the pandemic ends when a sufficient number of people have immunity through either COVID-recovery or a vaccine. It makes as much sense to claim that an epidemiologist is advocating for a “herd immunity strategy” as it does to claim that a pilot is advocating a “gravity strategy” when landing an airplane. The issue is how to land the plane safely, and whatever strategy the pilot uses, gravity ensures that the plane will eventually return to earth.
The fundamental goal of the GBD is to get through this terrible pandemic with the least harm to the public’s health. Health, of course, is broader than just COVID. Any reasonable evaluation of lockdowns should consider their collateral damage to patients with cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, other infectious diseases, as well as mental health, and much else. Based on long-standing principles of public health, the GBD and focused protection of the high-risk population is a middle ground between devastating lockdowns and a do-nothing let-it rip strategy.
Amazingly, Collins refers to the authors of the Declaration as “three fringe epidemiologists”, despite the fact that they held positions at Harvard, Stanford and Oxford respectively. (If even Harvard professors are considered “fringe”, there isn’t much hope for the rest of us…)
The use of “fringe” is particularly egregious when you consider that lockdowns represent a radical departure from the pre-Covid science. As Fauci himself stated on the 24th January last year : “historically when you shut things down it doesn’t have a major effect”.
The idea that the GBD [Great Barrington Declaration] letter killed off debate & attempts at consensus is … remarkable.
This is not a case where there were two groups of people of equal good faith. GBD called for constructive debate. The other side just worked to silence any debate & opposition at all.
The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged our understanding of what counts as an emergency and when the special powers it triggers shouldno longer apply. Emergency powers are supposed to give governors the ability to respond quickly to unexpected circumstances. But at some point after the initial crisis has passed, doesn’t an emergency transform into an issue that can be dealt with via the normal channels of government?
“If you were to use medical terminology, you’d say it goes from being an acute issue to a chronic one,” says Meryl Justin Chertoff, executive director of the Project on State and Local Government Policy and Law at Georgetown Law School. “When does it stop being a disaster in the sense that we need decisive executive action, and when does it start becoming something that requires the more deliberative steps of legislative action, or at least consultation between the governor and legislature?”
Many state legislatures grappled with that issue in 2021, as more than 300 measures to limit governors’ unilateral emergency powers were proposed in 45 states. Such measures have been approved in at least a dozen states—including Pennsylvania, where lawmakers and the state’s voters approved a pair of constitutional amendments restricting emergency powers. Those laws, in turn, have sparked opposition from governors’ offices and from the public health community, which overwhelmingly backed 2020’s harsh lockdowns.
That governors have fought legislative attempts to curtail their power is not surprising. But some of the loudest opposition to emergency-power reforms has come from the public health establishment.
In state after state, public health officials have lined up to defend arbitrary and aggressive pandemic rulemaking against the constraints of the democratic process. In doing so, they’ve defended both Democratic and Republican administrations, showing a bias toward unilateral power rather than any particular political party.
“Schools can become superspreaders and in September, it will happen,” warned former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, insisting that “dramatic action” was necessary to keep the virus out of classrooms, especially in New York City. Many in the media looked to Cuomo as a leader in fighting the pandemic — in 2020, he received an Emmy for his “masterful” briefings — but he was completely wrong. Of nearly 708,000 COVID tests conducted in New York City schools in the fall semester, a mere 5,340 came back positive — a minuscule positivity rate of just three-fourths of 1 percent. (Cuomo was later stripped of his Emmy, though not because his pandemic predictions.)
It wasn’t only in America that COVID crystal balls proved faulty. Health officials in the United Kingdom forecast a dreadful autumn and anticipated 7,000 or more hospital admissions daily by October. It never happened. As the year ended, hospitalization rates remained far below the sages’ doomsday scenarios.
Lockdowns also cost lives. This is the underreported collateral damage from Covid. In an October study for the Reason Foundation, my colleagues and I found that in the U.S., excess deaths (fatalities above historical norms) from homicide, suicide, overdose or accident had amounted to some 82,000 between March 2020 and August 2021. During that period, the murder rate roughly doubled, and overdose deaths rose more than 50%. Accidental deaths are also elevated; after all, more fatal accidents happen at home than in the office. Meanwhile, supply-chain disruptions, fear of hospitals, and delayed diagnoses collectively led to an additional 86,000 excess deaths from cancer, heart and lung disease and stroke. In 15 weeks, through Dec. 18, these excess deaths—none from Covid—have risen by another 56,000.
Every death is a tragedy. Yet we all die eventually, so it is sensible to examine death from a cost-benefit perspective. We keep hearing the mantra “follow the science.” True scientific method involves airing opinions and vetting hypotheses, not stifling debate. Beyond the hard sciences, it also involves asking tough cost-benefit questions while anticipating unintended consequences.
As the pool of remaining unvaccinated people who could be convinced to vaccinate dwindles away, expect the Covidian zealots to redirect their persecution onto the much larger group of people who willingly got vaccinated but who – for a variety of perfectly valid reasons – are choosing to decline an endless succession of boosters.
From the outset, the younger generation has had to bear a heavy burden for curbing Covid despite being almost entirely immune to its worst effects. Have they not suffered enough to be spared the misery of mask-wearing, even if ministers say it is a temporary measure until January 26? These cut-off dates have the habit of being extended and teaching unions are already demanding “urgent steps’”, though what these might be, short of closing the schools again, is hard to fathom.
Why? We’ve known for a long time that Covid threatens children the least, so we can’t be that worried about how it affects their health. My suspicion is that the teaching unions have insisted upon this as a novel method of keeping the little blighters quiet. I once worked in a primary school (a mean lot of seven-year-olds, playtime was like Lord of the Flies) and if the government had sanctioned gagging children, I would gladly have done it.
But it is cruel, wickedly – and injurious to mental health. Given the fuss made about teachers wearing niqabs, on the grounds that a hidden face undermines teaching, it’s hypocritical, too.
The mandate is obviously designed to protect teachers and parents (most of whom have now had three jabs), but why wait so late to impose it, when omicron already seems embedded in the population? And why is the requirement scheduled to end on January 26? Perhaps Covid is planning to go skiing.
The justification – always – is that in order to preserve our freedom we must give up a bit more freedom: one last heave! As the restrictions become ever more specific, and sillier, the promise that if we follow them to the letter then one day Covid will be gone entices millions to obey, sometimes even to throw more nonsense into the mix. I witnessed a grown man rise from a table, where he’d eaten maskless with his family, leave the restaurant and then put on a mask to walk about in the open air. By reinforcing hysteria, Covid restrictions only build the case for more Covid restrictions.
The mind is boggled and the soul is suffocated to encounter the magnitude of stupidity that infuses this tweet from one Dr. Jorge Rodriguez – which I share here as evidence of the sort of appalling ignorance that now confronts humanity:
It’s not just that I think schools shouldn’t be open until the end of January, I don’t think *anything* should be open until the end of January. We should be paid to stay home and provided food for three weeks and we should try an *actual* lockdown to combat the #Omicron surge.
In response to this display by this Dr. Rodriguez of such a remarkable piece of idiocy, Josh Barro tweets:
“We should be paid to stay home and provided food” Who will do the providing, Doctor? Can you contextualize that system for us?