By May and June 2021, pediatricians noticed an unprecedented, counterseasonal surge in communicable illnesses, particularly RSV. Hand, foot, and mouth disease came right along with it, tearing through schools and day care centers all summer with unmistakable boils. Strep throat got in on the action too. Instead of dodging diseases, this catch-up wave suggested, children had largely just deferred them.
Some alleged COVID-19 mitigation measures, such as more frequent sanitizing of preschool surfaces, would have actually done more to prevent RSV (which does commonly transmit itself via contact with contaminated surfaces) than to prevent COVID-19 (which does not). Yet kids were slammed by RSV anyway. Isolation turned them into dry immunological kindling.
Writing at National Review, Jim Geraghty rightly criticizes CDC Director Rochelle Walensky for failing publicly, when given the opportunity, to correct U.S. Supreme Court associate justice Sonia Sotomayor’s appallingly egregious misapprehension of the realities of Covid. A slice:
When public-health officials denounce misinformation about the pandemic, what they usually mean is misinformation that comes from the powerless people — Aunt Edna sharing absurd theories on Facebook that if everybody in the ICU took some Vitamin C or colloidal silver then they would be up and feeling great in no time. President Joe Biden can say, “How about making sure that you’re vaccinated, so you do not spread the disease to anyone else,” and no public-health official blinks. Rachel Maddow declares, “The virus stops with every vaccinated person. . . . It cannot use a vaccinated person as a host to get more people,” and no public-health official objects. If you’re prominent and important enough, and you’re on the correct side of the ideological divide, your false statements about Covid-19 don’t count, apparently.
Her CDC website notes that close to 95% of death certificates listing Covid as a cause also mention other causes along with Covid and states:
For deaths with conditions or causes in addition to COVID-19, on average, there were 4.0 additional conditions or causes per death.
On Sunday Dr. Walensky tweeted:
We must protect people with comorbidities from severe #COVID19. I went into medicine – HIV specifically – and public health to protect our most at-risk. CDC is taking steps to protect those at highest risk, incl. those w/ chronic health conditions, disabilities & older adults.
Fair enough, but this recognition that some face great risk from Covid while others face much lower risk has been obvious from the start. In response, a group of accomplished and wise scientists crafted the Great Barrington Declaration in 2020 to promote a ”focused protection” strategy—taking great care to shield those at high risk while allowing the vast majority who are at low risk to continue working, learning and doing all the things that sustain life. This sensible prioritization sounds very much like what Dr. Walensky is suggesting in her Sunday tweet.
And speaking earlier of Justice Sotomayor, Jacob Sullum adds his voice to those who are, shall we say, rather surprised by the Justice’s (mis)understanding of the applicable constitutional rules. Two slices:
On Friday, when the Supreme Court considered whether it should block enforcement of the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for private employers, most of the discussion focused on whether the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has the statutory authority to issue that rule. But the justices and lawyers also touched on a constitutional argument against the mandate, one that hinges on the distinction between state and federal powers.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor claimed not to understand this distinction.
OSHA’s “emergency temporary standard” (ETS), which it published on November 5, demands that companies with 100 or more employees require them to be vaccinated or wear face masks and submit to weekly virus testing. While arguing that OSHA does not have the power to issue such an order, Ohio Solicitor General Benjamin Flowers said “there may be many states, subject to their own state laws, that could impose this [policy] themselves.” Sotomayor said she found that concession puzzling.
“If it’s within the police power to protect the health and welfare of workers,” she said, “you seem to be saying the states can do it, but you’re saying the federal government can’t, even though it’s facing the same crisis in interstate commerce that states are facing within their own borders. I’m not sure I understand the distinction—why the states would have the power but the federal government wouldn’t.”
Flowers noted that “the federal government has no police power”—the general authority to enact legislation aimed at protecting public health, safety, morals, and welfare. While states retain that broad authority under the Constitution, the federal government is limited to specifically enumerated powers. This principle is reflected in the 10th Amendment, which says “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
Sotomayor’s reference to a federal “police power” was not quite as striking as her false claims about the omicron variant’s impact on children. But her exchange with Flowers raised some eyebrows.
“Sotomayor professed not to be able to understand the distinction between federal authority and state police powers,” National Review‘s Isaac Schorr wrote. “Sotomayor claims not to understand [the] distinction between state and federal power,” Ilya Shapiro, director of the Cato Institute’s Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies, tweeted. “Mind-boggling. Calls OSHA’s regulatory authority…a ‘police power.’ OH SG tries to explain con law 101, eventually Roberts rescues the embarrassing discourse.”
Also dismayed by some associate-justices’ deep ignorance of Covid realities is Jonathan Tobin. Here’s his conclusion:
Misinformation has come from those who dwell in the fever swamps of the far right and the far left. But some of the worst of the fallacies about the pandemic have come from public-health officials and their dutiful enablers in the mainstream media.
Bent on scaring people into compliance with arbitrary rules that have changed continuously as they’ve reacted to a crisis for which they were unprepared, the experts have often encouraged the kind of exaggerations and mistakes that the three Supreme Court liberals repeated.
The high-court hearing wasn’t just fodder for a fact check that earned liberal judges scorn. It should be a wake-up call for the rest of us to understand that the real problem here isn’t a disease. It’s the way those who ought to know better have gone along with fearmongering intended to quash opposition to the most heavy-handed COVID regulations regardless of the truth.
Based on Friday’s Supreme Court oral argument, it seems that sanity will prevail and the justices will block the federal private-sector vaccine mandate, an “emergency” standard the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced in November. Just as the Court blocked the Centers for Disease Control’s eviction moratorium last summer, six justices are now clearly troubled by a claim of sweeping regulatory authority based on flimsy statutory text.
To put a finer point on it, federal lawmaking powers are constitutionally enumerated—and thus limited to those listed in Article I, Section 8—while states enjoy a broader “police power” to regulate on behalf of public health, safety, welfare and morals. To hold that a state vaccine mandate can be constitutional, as the Supreme Court did in the 1905 case of Jacobson v. Massachusetts, doesn’t begin to answer the question of whether a federal agency has statutory authority to impose one. And to hold that federal regulation of workplace conditions is constitutional doesn’t begin to answer the question of whether and how OSHA can address viral threats that aren’t specific to the workplace.
A former Canadian Mountie writes sensibly about Covid and Covid hysteria. (HT a former Canadian, David Henderson) A slice:
So back to my Covid journey. I was skeptical of the pandemic from the start but decided to wait and see what evidence would surface of this dangerous pandemic. So I sat back and quietly observed. At that time, and still at the time I’m writing this, I was the admin NCO on the watch. I was in the unique position of seeing every file that came through PRIME in the 46 hour window I was at work each week. Naturally, this included all sudden death files. Pay attention now, have another sip of your latte if you have to. Since the pandemic began, until now, I was in a position to see every single sudden death file that came through our detachment area. What did I notice in this position? Nothing. No upwards trend whatsoever. Funny enough, I didn’t see people dropping dead in my neighbourhood either.
This was a very stark contrast to what I saw in media. A non-stop chorus on TV, radio, and internet, of case counts, hospitalizations and deaths. At no time in my life had I seen anything like it. A complete disconnect between my observed reality and that which was portrayed by my government and the government subsidized mainstream media. And they were reporting deaths in care homes. Care homes? When did the media ever report deaths in care homes unless it was some sort of instance of gross negligence? It’s called end of life care for a reason. People go to care homes at the end of their life. Death is the natural consequence, and this fact used to be understood as common sense.
When the statistics started showing that the vast majority of anyone dying from Covid, either had one or more co-morbidities, or was older than the average life expectancy, my skepticism of the pandemic narrative only grew. Then in the summer of 2020, I got Covid. For a few days I was really tired and shivered a lot. Then it was over. I survived the “deadly” disease like the vast majority of anyone else who caught it. To be honest, I’ve had worse Flus, and worse hangovers.
The argument for masking children, or obliging them to be vaccinated against a pathogen that is less likely to kill them than many others in normal circulation, should have stopped at the level of logic rather than continuing into a debate over its ethical and political implications. Neither masks nor vaccines can reliably prevent children from passing Sars-CoV-2 onto others, and I worry for the unvaccinated grandparent in a multi-generational household who believes themselves to be protected because their grandchild is attending school with an unpleasant (and environmentally unfriendly) piece of material on their face. I remain convinced that many people (including my cousins in India) have lost their lives labouring under this misapprehension.
There is now ample observational data to suggest that mask mandates do not work, and the few formal trials that have been conducted show no credible effect. The failure of the modelling exercises conducted by Sage and their satellites in predicting cases and deaths allows us to reject the role of such non-pharmaceutical interventions in driving the dynamics of spread.
Ultimately, the argument for imposing restrictions upon children should die within the logical core we all share as international participants in the culture of enlightenment (lest anyone see it as a European construct): there is no rational case for them. Banning singing lessons on the basis of the simplistic notion that singing causes the virus to spread further is as much a failure of critical thinking as it is of the moral and socio-political imagination.
Moreover, far from winding down, Project Fear is becoming institutionalised, as Public Health England’s replacement, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), is fashioned into a propaganda arm, pumping out worst-case scenario modelling to complement Sage. The basic elements that need to be in place to live with Covid – like an advanced bulk vaccine manufacturing industry, and a robust variant preparedness plan – are being held back by civil service red tape. Again, the question is: why? The answer: a combination of state incompetence and middle-class vested interests.
Well, she was just following the science! And given that the official high priests of science, the keepers and protectors of its Truths, proclaim the enormous benefits and lack-of-risks of vaccines to any and all persons over five years old – and proclaim also the untold damage that each and every unvaccinated person inflicts on society as a whole – how can this teacher not have taken it upon herself to vaccinate the young man? Not to have done so would have rendered her an enemy of humanity. (HT Charles Oliver)
I don’t recall hearing of Peter Yim until yesterday, so I don’t know what he’s about. But I agree with much in this essay of his, and I agree strongly with its overall theme – which is that the marriage between science and the state, while likely to be very good for the state, poses a serious threat to both science and society. A slice:
Some acknowledge all of the above mendacity of the federal medical authorities and more but do not denounce those same authorities. The lies are defended as noble lies, lies for some greater good. Nonsense. These deceptions are fundamental violations of medical ethics and of the principles of democracy. In democracy, there is no presumption that the state has the best interests of the people at heart. Rather, democracy only functions properly when the people are fully informed. Or, in the words of JFK: “[a] nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.”
There is a final element of informed consent often overlooked, and that is the specific relationship between a treating clinician and a patient. It is a personal relationship based on mutual respect where the deference to the clinician’s knowledge is tempered with respect for the patient’s preference, understanding and priorities.
A reasonable risk for a doctor may be unacceptable for a patient. With diseases such as Covid, where risk profiles differ enormously between population demographics the decision to take any treatment must be made on an individual basis. By removing an individual’s ability to make healthcare decisions for themselves, we are removing that fundamental element of healthcare practice. Sadly, this seems reflective of our society’s present lack of belief in the value of the individual.
Yet Moderna’s CEO has already suggested annual boosters, with no supporting clinical data. While his shareholders love that news, many experts do not. Dr. Vinay Prasad of the University of California this week nicely summarized the problem with using efficacy as the ultimate metric to evaluate a vaccine. In a recent Kaiser Southern California study, the efficacy of two doses of the mRNA vaccines went to essentially zero at 6 months, despite a lot of data showing that these same vaccines provide strong protection against hospitalization in younger people.
Yet as many of us predicted, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officially changed the lexicon from “Did you get a booster?” to “Are you up to date?” COVID vaccines are not software.
Booster recommendations are nuanced and need to be tailored to each person’s age and health situation. They should be medically precise. That’s the art of medicine.
To date, the clinical benefit of boosters has not been reported in younger people or people with natural immunity from prior infection. In fact, young healthy people have a strong immune system and develop strong immunity from the primary vaccine series. A large Israeli population study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the risk of COVID death in a fully vaccinated, non-boosted person under age 30 was zero. A booster cannot lower that risk further. A recent German population study found that no healthy child 5 to 17 years old died of COVID over a 15-month period when the vast majority were unvaccinated.
Many of us have been alarmed by the CDC and Food and Drug Administration pushing boosters for young people, despite zero clinical data to support this recommendation and concerns of unintended harm from myocarditis, which can affect as many as one in 1,860 young men, ages 18 to 24.