Some Covid Links

by Don Boudreaux on January 10, 2022

in Country Problems, Current Affairs, Education, Risk and Safety, Seen and Unseen

Writing in The Atlantic, Brown University economist Emily Oster explains that the Covid-19 policies being implemented now by colleges and universities are unjustifiably – even harmfully – extreme. Two slices:

Many universities have announced a pivot to remote learning for at least part of January, among them UCLA, Columbia, Duke, Yale, Stanford, and Michigan State. The list goes on.

This move—in response to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant—feels like a return to March 2020, when virtually all U.S. universities closed for in-person learning, sending students home for spring break and telling them not to come back. At that point, keeping students away from campus was reasonable. Now, however, this decision is a mistake. It reflects an outmoded level of caution. And it represents a failure of universities to protect their students’ interests.
…..
Moving to remote schooling when the conditions on the ground have changed so dramatically is an abdication of universities’ responsibility to educate students and protect all aspects of their health.

College students are in the midst of a mental-health crisis. Surveys show rising anxiety and depression in this population, including suicidal thoughts. One survey reported that 95 percent of college students have experienced at least one mental-health issue during the pandemic. Not all of these problems are driven by remote schooling, of course, but the top issue cited in that survey was loneliness and isolation, and it’s difficult not to make the connection.

Measuring learning losses at the college level is more difficult than at the K–12 level, where they have been substantial. But if you ask virtually any faculty member, they will tell you that while some students do fine and some courses port well to an online format, many do not. Getting through to 50 screens on Zoom is far more challenging than to 50 people sitting in front of you. Students may struggle to focus on even the best lecture in the world if that lecture is on their computer.

Reason‘s Liz Wolfe adds her voice to those who decry the insane excess caution still ‘practiced’ by most colleges and universities. A slice:

“Now that we have vaccines, campus restrictions have taken on an increasingly absurd character — ruining the college experience in a (failed) attempt to control a virus that poses minimal risk to students,” writes Cornell student Matthew Samilow at National Review. “The claim that these restrictions work is designed to be unfalsifiable: If cases are low, the administration says it’s because the restrictions are working; if cases are high, they say it’s because students aren’t following the restrictions enough. Either way, the question of whether the restrictions actually work is never answered.”

Other students share Samilow’s frustrations. Roy Matthews, who graduated from Maine’s Bates College a few months ago, tells Reason, “I was so ready to leave,” calling the required daily nasal-swab tests a “riveting good time.” (If you missed three in a row, he says, you’d be swiftly kicked off campus.)

Among the universities whose ‘leaders’ are mindlessly hysterical over omicron is my law-school alma mater, UVA.

Here’s a brief report on my opposition to George Mason University’s Covid restrictions.

Mikko Packalen decries Canada’s “accidental biosecurity state.” A slice:

The government and media constantly exhort the people to focus their attention and effort on controlling a single disease. Restrictions, mandates, quarantines, and closures are imposed without regard to the enormous health and economic harms that individuals and society incur. Public health even neglected deadlier diseases like cancer and heart disease to pursue zero-Covid.

Covid policies are invented on the fly and change regularly. Testing, quarantine and isolation rules, for example, often change on short notice with little justification offered to support them. The boot of Covid policies is on citizens’ necks at all times and authorities keep moving it.

Covid policies are also opaque despite their all-encompassing and encroaching nature and the draconian fines and penalties that accompany them. The lack of transparency is understandable; the authorities too know how embarrassing many of the rules are. Yet, the policies come with no practical ways to challenge them.

The ad hoc nature of Covid restrictions has also meant that even the measures’ benefits remain uncertain today, almost two years after the pandemic began. Politicians and public health officials justify their policies with data on Covid cases, hospitalizations, and deaths but neglect the data on the harms of those policies.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Luc Montagnier, a Nobel laureate in medicine, and Jed Rubenfeld, a legal scholar, explain that “Omicron makes Biden’s vaccine mandate obsolete.” Two slices:

It would be irrational, legally indefensible and contrary to the public interest for government to mandate vaccines absent any evidence that the vaccines are effective in stopping the spread of the pathogen they target. Yet that’s exactly what’s happening here.

Both mandates—from the Health and Human Services Department for healthcare workers and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for large employers in many other industries—were issued Nov. 5. At that time, the Delta variant represented almost all U.S. Covid-19 cases, and both agencies appropriately considered Delta at length and in detail, finding that the vaccines remained effective against it.

Those findings are now obsolete. As of Jan. 1, Omicron represented more than 95% of U.S. Covid cases, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Because some of Omicron’s 50 mutations are known to evade antibody protection, because more than 30 of those mutations are to the spike protein used as an immunogen by the existing vaccines, and because there have been mass Omicron outbreaks in heavily vaccinated populations, scientists are highly uncertain the existing vaccines can stop it from spreading. As the CDC put it on Dec. 20, “we don’t yet know . . . how well available vaccines and medications work against it.”

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Meantime, it has long been known that vaccinated people with breakthrough infections are highly contagious, and preliminary data from all over the world indicate that this is true of Omicron as well. As CDC Director Rochelle Walensky put it last summer, the viral load in the noses and throats of vaccinated people infected with Delta is “indistinguishable” from that of unvaccinated people, and “what [the vaccines] can’t do anymore is prevent transmission.”

There is some early evidence that boosters may reduce Omicron infections, but the effect appears to wane quickly, and we don’t know if repeated boosters would be an effective response to the surge of Omicron.

Let’s hope that what is observed by the editors of the New York Post continues.

Vinay Prasad writes wisely about testing for Covid-19. A slice:

Testing creates anxiety and anchors our mind. Every day we see a counter of the number of new cases in the United States. There is no counter on the masthead of the New York Times that shows the number of kids who are out of school, missing a hot meal, the victim of child abuse. No counter shows the rates of high school drop outs, the victims of suicide or gun violence. Testing and counting one thing, but not others, creates a salience to one malady in society, and leads us to downplay of others.

It’s a fact that el gato malo isn’t impressed with today’s so-called “fact checkers.”

Prompted by this report, Scott Moore tweets: (HT Jay Bhattacharya)

There was a great observation done in Florida at the end of their summer wave where some schools broke rank & enacted mask mandates while most didnt. There was no difference in case rates between the counties w/ masking schools and the “wild west” schools.

Prompted by this report that Connecticut’s government – in 2022! – is asking nursing homes to accept Covid-positive admissions from hospitals, Phil Magness writes on Facebook:

This is an actual policy decision made earlier this week by the Governor of Connecticut.

He made it after 2 years of direct knowledge about the disasters caused by that same policy the last time it was tried.

His pretext for the order is also identical to the last time – he wants nursing homes to be used as spillover capacity for patients to convalesce, because he thinks there’s an imminent hospital system collapse that never seems to happen.

This is why you should not trust a single thing that lockdowner politicians and their public health advisors tell you about this disease. They are not only adrift themselves – they are actively choosing policies that inflict harm and make the pandemic worse.

From a new paper by Cathrine Axfors and John Ioannidis:

Results Twenty-five seroprevalence surveys representing 14 countries were included. Across all countries, the median IFR in community-dwelling elderly and elderly overall was 2.9% (range 0.2%-6.9%) and 4.9% (range 0.2%-16.8%) without accounting for seroreversion (2.4% and 4.0%, respectively, accounting for 5% monthly seroreversion). Multiple sensitivity analyses yielded similar results. IFR was higher with larger proportions of people >85 years. Younger age strata had low IFR values (median 0.0013%, 0.0088%, 0.021%, 0.042%, 0.14%, and 0.65%, at 0-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, and 60-69 years even without accounting for seroreversion).

Conclusions The IFR of COVID-19 in community-dwelling elderly people is lower than previously reported. Very low IFRs were confirmed in the youngest populations.

(DBx: Given this reality, it is a crime against humanity that many governments continue to keep their populations under lockdown and other restraints – or under the constant threat of such – and that most of the major media continue to fuel Covid hysteria.)

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