Universities are supposed to be bastions of critical thinking, reason and logic. But the COVID policies they have adopted — which have derailed two years of students’ education and threaten to upend the upcoming spring semester — have exposed them as nonsensical, anti-scientific and often downright cruel.
Students are the lowest-risk population on planet Earth. Over the last six months, the risk of a person in the broader age group (15-24) dying of COVID or dying with COVID (the CDC does not clearly distinguish) was 0.001%. All or nearly all of those deaths were in a very specific subgroup: unvaccinated people with a medical comorbidity. But despite Georgetown’s strict vaccination, masking, testing and quarantine requirements, the university announced late last month that all events, “including meetings with visitors, will need to be held virtually or outdoors.”
At Princeton University, fully vaccinated students are not allowed to leave the county unless they’re on a sports team. They’re also testing all students twice a week, usurping the scarce testing supply from vulnerable communities for low-risk young people.
But despite all evidence, fear of Omicron is driving more harmful policies imposed on society’s lowest-risk people.
One knee-jerk reaction to the more mild Omicron virus has been to push boosters on young people, despite no supporting clinical data and serious concerns of myocarditis complications. That’s exactly why FDA’s expert advisers voted against boosting young people by a 16-2 vote on Sept. 17. (Just yesterday, the FDA ignored their recommendation and approved the Pfizer booster for kids as young as 12.)
Current data actually tip the risk to benefit analysis in favor of not boosting young healthy people. A recent Israeli study in the New England Journal of Medicine noted zero COVID deaths among double-vaccinated people 16-29 years old without a booster. You can’t lower a risk of zero any further with a booster. But the risk of myocarditis in young people is quite real.
A new study published last week by Kaiser Permanente Northwest researchers found that as many as 1 in 1,860 men 18-24 years old developed myocarditis after the second shot.
Schools like Emory, Tulane, Wake Forest and Johns Hopkins, my own university, which are requiring boosters in healthy young people, are venturing into uncharted waters. They are risking health complications in young people for the sake of beating back mild and asymptomatic infections.
In Belize, our guide, Israel, told us that the country was still paralyzed by fear of the virus. Bars and nightclubs have been closed for nearly two years, and a nationwide 9 p.m. curfew remains in effect. Masks are mandatory, even outdoors or in a car with family members. Police issue $250 tickets for mask violations and social gatherings. Schools nationwide, public and private, are still virtual: “They say they’re hoping to start hybrid instruction in August 2022.”
Our elder son and I got sick near the end of the cruise, and within a few days of disembarking my wife also tested positive. The least mask-compliant member of the family was the only one to avoid infection. When friends heard we had Covid, many assumed our symptoms were mild because we’d been vaccinated. That was true of my wife and to a lesser extent our son, but not as much for me. I recovered at home, but I suffered from fever and general weakness for two weeks even after a monoclonal-antibody infusion.
So why would I cruise again? For one thing, I know plenty of people who have contracted Covid while barely leaving home. For another, a cruise is a delight. You’re part of a floating slice of Middle America. At sea, I was reminded of our national flaws: obesity, gluttony and ignorance of other countries. But I also saw our appealing attributes: generosity, kindness and openness.
We also had a chance to see that Covid insanity and tyranny aren’t confined to our shores. We were reminded that anyone can catch the virus.
The analysis in Peggy Noonan’s “‘West Side Story’ and the Decline of the Bijou” (Declarations, Dec. 18) and the letters (Dec. 27 and Jan. 3) about movie theaters is astute, but it omits one additional nail in the coffin: mask mandates. Spending several hours wearing a mask isn’t everyone’s idea of leisure, particularly when you can stay home and stream the movie. Some of us vote with our feet.
Julia Weinberg Rafsky
Quebec Premier François Legault has imposed a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew to battle the spread of COVID-19. Legault has also barred gatherings at private homes. Only caregivers and people who live alone will be able to enter other households. He has also banned inside dining at restaurants.
OSHA’s rule, which it published on November 5, demands that companies with 100 or more employees require them to be vaccinated or wear face masks and undergo weekly virus testing. When Biden announced that policy in September, he presented it as part of the administration’s plan for “vaccinating the unvaccinated.”
MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle called OSHA’s mandate “the ultimate work-around for the Federal govt to require vaccinations.” White House Chief of Staff Ronald Klain retweeted Ruhle’s comment, reinforcing the impression that the rule aims to reduce the overall impact of COVID-19 by pressuring Americans to get vaccinated.
But OSHA has no such authority. Officially, its rule is an “emergency temporary standard” (ETS) that is “necessary” to protect employees from a “grave danger” in the workplace.
That is not the only puzzling distinction drawn by OSHA. According to the government’s data, middle-aged workers who are vaccinated face about the same COVID-19 risk as younger workers who are not vaccinated. According to OSHA, however, COVID-19 poses a “grave danger” to the latter group but not to the former.
It certainly looks like the Biden administration is trying to disguise a general vaccine mandate as a workplace safety measure. The Supreme Court will ultimately decide how convincing that disguise is.
Of particular interest was the president’s insistence on continuing to call it a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” a slogan that was unwise in July, untrue by December, and unbelievable at a time when the positive case rate in a 62 percent fully vaccinated country just reached an all-time high.
“Those who are fully vaccinated, especially those with the booster shots…you can still get COVID, but it’s highly unlikely, it’s very unlikely that you’ll become seriously ill,” Biden said, accurately. But then: “This continues to be a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
If the pandemic indeed no longer applies to me, my family, and the vast majority of people I know (about half of whom seem to have contracted COVID over the past month), then I have a couple of follow-up questions, beginning with: Why on earth is my vaccinated 6-year-old, all the vaccinated kids in her class and after-school, and all her vaccinated teachers and supervisory staff, being forced by state law (influenced directly by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) to wear masks all day long? Kids, knock on wood, continue to be by far the least COVID-vulnerable demographic; and kids who are vaccinated even more so. Who, precisely, are we protecting with masking requirements in 100 percent vaccinated environments?
Hospitals & EMS in NYC are more strained now than at any point since spring 2020.
One reason: too many people calling 911 or going to ER with only mild covid symptoms, or just wanting a test.
FDNY is pleading again: Do not seek emergency care unless you face a true emergency.
We should figure out who incited this hysteria and hold him responsible!
What competent epidemiologists knew in March 2020 should now be obvious to all. Covid cannot be suppressed. Lockdowns just postpone infections and prolong the pandemic while causing collateral damage on public health and education.
So, why does such a large percentage of the US population – 41% overall – wrongly believe that vaccines provide more protection than natural immunity?
Well, it’s actually not surprising when you consider how many scientists have denied or downplayed natural immunity to Covid. Recall last year’s John Snow Memorandum, which stated, “there is no evidence for lasting protective immunity to SARS-CoV-2 following natural infection”. (The Memorandum was co-signed by CDC director Rochelle Walensky.)
People can hardly be expected to have accurate beliefs when scientists aren’t giving them accurate information. At this point, a correction is surely in order: ‘We got it wrong: there is evidence for lasting protective immunity following natural infection’.
Most children have either had Covid, been vaccinated or both, so they enjoy superb immunity, but the poor kids will still be sent home for a week and lose yet more learning because Hugo in Year 6 snogged someone on Boxing Day. Or a teacher, almost certainly triple-vaccinated, tests positive and goes off sick even though they’re not at risk of serious illness. In fact, they’re perfectly fine. Meanwhile, more than 110,000 NHS staff – nearly one in 10 – were absent on New Year’s Eve, with almost 50,000 of those said to be sick or self-isolating at home because of Covid.
I hate to ask, but how many of them were actually, you know, ill? The people I know who had omicron over Christmas variously reported a scratchy throat, feeling tired, feeling “fed up because I can’t go out”, feeling “roughly how I feel the day after several pints of Guinness”, or no symptoms whatsoever. Yet each one of them had to self-isolate for seven days.
What happens if it is acceptable not to go to work if you are perfectly fit and healthy, have no signs of any illness but test positive? Economic collapse, obviously – but our public health officials seem to think that’s a small price to pay if it means three people called Mike don’t sneeze in the office.
It’s no surprise to hear reports that some officers in the Covid War are burning their uniforms and fleeing. They were only following orders, you understand. Scientists with an eye on posterity are starting to distance themselves from lockdowns, which will end up killing tens of thousands and blighting many more lives than Covid ever did. “In a year or two, I guarantee there won’t be a single scientist who admits to having supported the closure of schools,” said one.
In his forthcoming book, The Year the World Went Mad: A Scientific Memoir(Sandstone Press, £16.99), Professor Mark Woolhouse, one of the country’s leading epidemiologists, says that the theory outlined by Michael Gove at a No 10 briefing that “everybody is at risk” from the virus was a dreadful error. The lockdowns which followed were “morally wrong and highly damaging”, says Prof Woolhouse. “We did serious harm to our children and young adults who were robbed of their education, jobs and normal existence… We were mesmerised by the once-in-a-century scale of the emergency and succeeded only in making a crisis even worse. In short, we panicked.”
Thanks are due to Prof Woolhouse for articulating what some of us have known in our hearts for a long time. We panicked back then when we should have protected the vulnerable and let the rest get on with their lives. Shamefully, as the pandemic dwindles away, we are still doing the headless-chicken thing. Crazy testing of healthy people on an industrial scale (would we ever have done that for flu?), masks for schoolchildren in class, vaccinating the young who already have superb natural immunity; none of it will do any good, in fact, it will only drag things out. Which might, I’m afraid, suit certain people rather well.