Wall Street Journal columnist Daniel Henninger reports that people no longer believe Fauci and other Covidocrats. (DBx: I hope that Mr. Henninger is correct, for this lack of credibility that he reports is as amply deserved as it was amply earned.) Two slices:
From Covid’s start in 2020, public and scientific authorities across the world said: “Trust us. We know what we are doing.” We now see that this unshakable, public-facing certitude was false.
Today, it’s fair to say that no one but the hopelessly credulous believe much of anything Mr. Biden, Jen Psaki, Anthony Fauci or Rochelle Walensky says about Covid and Omicron. The list of doubted authorities worldwide could extend to the horizon.
My purpose is not to discredit public authority or science. We need both. Public authorities in 2020 cleared the regulatory path for Operation Warp Speed, which let private-sector scientists develop protective vaccines. My intention is to re-establish a necessary virtue that looks altogether lost to public life and its scientific representatives: intellectual modesty.
At the center of this collapse of public confidence sits science, which has a lot to answer for. The problem is not the process of scientific discovery as understood for centuries. The problem is “science,” a politicized totem now used routinely to silence legitimate challenge, for example regarding what happened in Wuhan.
Science triumphalism didn’t begin with the National Institutes of Health’s Anthony Fauci. Science as a political weapon originated with the battle over climate policy.
Dr. Anthony Fauci offered some unhinged testimony before the Senate yesterday, and while his calling Kansas Senator Roger Marshall a moron on a hot mic got most of the ink, his exchange with Senator Rand Paul was the real lowlight. There just seems to be something about the limelight that forces Fauci to take leave of his senses.
So what was it this time? Easy. It was when Rand Paul asked him if he thought it “appropriate to use your $420,000 salary to smear scientists who don’t agree with you?” Fauci predictably denied the charge, but just about anyone with an ounce of sense could likely guess he was lying. Alas, there is no need for guesswork. An American Institute for Economic Research Freedom of Information request makes it plain: Fauci absolutely used his government position to smear any number of people with whom he disagrees.
To be clear: We have the emails proving the charge he denied. But don’t take our word for it, you can read them yourself here.
Journalist Rebecca Bodenheimer is among those Progressive parents who, experiencing first-hand how the left’s Covid hysteria and closed-mindedness fueled unwarranted school closures, has had her confidence in Progressivism shaken. (HT my intrepid Mercatus Center colleague Veronique de Rugy) A slice:
I probably should have inferred that becoming a school-reopening advocate would not go over well in my progressive Oakland community, but I didn’t anticipate the social repercussions, or the political identity crisis it would trigger for me. My own experience, as a self-described progressive in ultra-lefty Oakland, is just one example of how people across the political spectrum have become frustrated with Democrats’ position on school reopenings.
Parents who advocated for school reopening were repeatedly demonized on social media as racist and mischaracterized as Trump supporters. Members of the parent group I helped lead were consistently attacked on Twitter and Facebook by two Oakland moms with ties to the teachers union. They labelled advocates’ calls for schools reopening “white supremacy” called us “Karens,” and even bizarrely claimed we had allied ourselves with Marjorie Taylor Greene’s transphobic agenda.
There was no recognition of the fact that we were advocating for our kids, who were floundering in remote learning, or that public schools across the country (in red states) opened in fall 2020 without major outbreaks, as did private schools just miles from our home. Only since last fall, when schools reopened successfully despite the more contagious Delta variant circulating, have Democratic pundits and leaders been talking about school closures as having caused far more harm than benefit.
Some progressive parents now admit they were too afraid of the blowback from their communities to speak up. And they were right to be wary. We paid a price.
But I began to fear that even in-person school in fall 2021 was at risk because of the impossible demands of the teachers union (that schools remain fully remote until there were “near-zero” Covid cases in Oakland) and apathy of the school board and district; even after teachers were prioritized for vaccination, there was no urgency to get kids back to the classroom. My dad offered to help pay for private school, and we applied. In March we were notified that my son was admitted to a private dual-language immersion school, and that we had been granted a 75 percent scholarship. There was still no deal in place between Oakland’s school district and the union to return to in-person school. I had lost all faith in the decision-makers to do what was best for my kid. So I made the only logical decision.
In the longer term, many of us believe the pandemic-related myopia will devastate public education by alienating parents.
The pandemic, and the school-reopening debate in particular, has thrown me into an ideological mid-life crisis, questioning all my prior political assumptions. I’m still attempting to hold onto the progressive label while calling out the policies I see as antithetical to it, but the longer fellow progressives support new school closures and other policies that restrict kids’ lives in order to allay the anxieties of adults, and have been shown to cause far more harm than benefit, the more alienated I feel.
A new study of COVID-19 patients in California reinforces the evidence that the omicron variant, while highly contagious, is much less likely to cause serious symptoms than prior iterations of the coronavirus. Compared to people infected by the delta variant, the researchers found, people infected with omicron were half as likely to be hospitalized, one-quarter as likely to require intensive care, and less than one-tenth as likely to die. When omicron patients were admitted to a hospital, their average stay was 70 percent shorter.
Berkeley epidemiologist Joseph Lewnard and his collaborators examined the records of nearly 70,000 Kaiser Permanente patients in Southern California who tested positive for COVID-19 from November 30 to January 1. During that period, omicron accounted for three-quarters of COVID-19 cases. While 11 of the delta patients received mechanical ventilation, none of the omicron patients did; just one omicron patient died, compared to 14 deaths in the delta group. “During a period with mixed Delta and Omicron variant circulation,” Lewnard and his co-authors report, “SARS-CoV-2 infections with presumed Omicron variant infection were associated with substantially reduced risk of severe clinical endpoints and shorter durations of hospital stay.”
This is not an argument about the benefits of vaccination for the individual— vaccines likely (and evidence shows they) still have great protection against severe disease; instead this is an argument about the effects of vaccination on symptomatic diseases, and (some good portion of) transmission.
Conclusion: you cannot contain the viral spread of omicron by boosting.
The moment we see that, the policy conclusions start to fall into place.
Booster mandates make no sense for young people/ working people/ hospitals/ anywhere. Young people will only be, at best, slightly less likely to spread for a short period of time, but the epidemic waves will eventually over take them. Boosting should happen in populations where it further reduces severe disease and death— aka older & vulnerable people. Focus on that and let college kids off the hook.
Some argue there is still a justification to boost because you can help prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed. Sadly, that argument fails in several ways. First, you have no evidence boosting younger people will slow hospitalizations. A vaccinated younger person already has very low risk of being hospitalized. Boosting may not further lower what is already very low. We simply have no evidence. Event rates are sparse at those ages.
Second, this argument would mean the state could tell people what to eat and how much to exercise, and how much to drink. Food, drink and obesity are drivers of hospitalizations. Instead, we have not accepted these infringements in the past. The justification for vaccine mandates is that it helps curb population spread. The latest vaccine effectiveness figures show that effect is now nearly gone, and transient at best. Ergo, the mandates are unjustified.
Firing nurses and other health care workers for being non-compliant with mandates is now defeating. We are better off having them work. Time to bring them back.
Draconian avoidance of omicron is not tenable. Omicron or a future variant will eventually find us all. It may even be preferable to encounter omicron a few weeks or months after your last vaccine than a year or two later, as the infection may be milder. As I explain in a prior post, wearing an n95 makes no sense.
It is time to face reality.
In a Senate hearing, Rand Paul said plainly to Anthony Fauci what everyone knows and is the most easily documented fact in the US experience of the pandemic: “You are the one responsible, you are the architect — you are the lead architect for the response from the government.”
Fauci very quickly protested: “Senator, first of all, if you look at everything I said, you accuse me of, in a monolithic way, telling people what they need to do. Everything that I’ve said has been in support of the CDC guidelines.”
This is the model that will consume all public discussion of the pandemic response in the future: seeking but never finding anyone to bear responsibility. This is typical for episodes in history that are characterized by mass frenzy and distorted fanaticism. Once the mania is gone, it is hard to find anyone who is willing to accept responsibility for feeding it and acting upon it.
This standard definition was not adopted at the start of the pandemic. Because of this we don’t know how many real cases of COVID-19 we have had or have currently – the numbers recorded include real cases of people with relevant symptoms and a positive PCR test for viral RNA, but also include people with no symptoms of COVID-19 and only a positive PCR test. This has been further complicated by mass population testing in the community and hospitals of those without COVID-19 symptoms, the use of high cycle thresholds in the PCR test, and inevitably large numbers of false positive tests.
This inadequate and inaccurate case definition has also had knock-on effects [in Britain] on the count of COVID-19 hospital admissions each day and current hospital in-patients – with many patients recorded as COVID-19 admissions or in-patients but without COVID-19 disease. Mortality data has also been corrupted by the adoption of a definition of a COVID-19 death as someone who has died within 28 days of a positive PCR test. So someone admitted with severe trauma after a car accident or after a heart attack who tests PCR positive and dies within 28 days is recorded as a COVID-19 death. This definition not only inaccurately attributes a death to COVID-19 but also has corrupted the mortality record for accidents, coronary heart disease and other diseases.
All these issues result in uncertainty about the true impact of COVID-19 and all will exaggerate its apparent impact. Throughout the pandemic there has been further exaggeration as a result of modelling rather than principally relying on real world data (even if it is imperfect). Modellers have produced regular worst case scenarios, that rarely if ever have come to pass, and there has been insufficient scrutiny of the underlying assumptions built into their models. Worse still, the Chairman of the SAGE modelling group has recently admitted on Twitter that their scenarios are developed to support policy rather than the other way around – as Fraser Nelson put it, an example of policy-based evidence-making.
It is abundantly clear that this fundamental principle of Public Health has not been followed during the management of the pandemic.
This COVID-19 pandemic has been handled in a totally different way to the usual way we manage infectious disease outbreaks and pandemics. All the fundamental Public Health principles considered above have been violated.
Why has this happened? At least some of the major U.K. (if not Scottish) PH ‘officials’ driving the pandemic response have some relevant PH Specialist training and there are PH Specialist voices on SAGE, the new U.K. Health Security Agency and PH Scotland. Perhaps they lost perspective in the face of a global pandemic or were not strong enough to change direction with a relentless and hostile media on their heels.
Whatever the reason, in my view what has happened amounts to a betrayal of the Specialty of Public Health and all the principles and values it used to stand for; and a betrayal of the Public’s Health, in other words the health of the population. The excess non-Covid deaths we have seen so far, I fear, is just the beginning. What mystifies me is why my former colleagues and the U.K. professional body charged with developing and maintaining standards in the PH Specialty, namely the Faculty of Public Health, have been so quiet thorough the whole of this pandemic.
Reasoned voices seem to be to the fore now, while the shriller fearmongers of the cursed Covid era are on the backfoot. That might be one reason why their commentary is becoming ever-more frenzied – they sense that the clout and celebrity they enjoyed during the Covid terror is slowly slipping away. Leading alarmist Deepti Gurdasani is now accusing even the Guardian and the BBC, possibly the least lockdown-sceptical institutions in the land, of being sources of misinformation, all because they’re saying that maybe, just maybe, the worst is behind us. This is typical of Covid authoritarians – they don’t merely criticise those they disagree with; they accuse them of deliberately intending to deceive the populace, which, according to the dictionary, is one of the meanings of the word ‘misinformation’.
And yet… Without wanting to make any further contribution to the gloom that continues to grip too many in the political and media sets, we need to get real about how difficult the journey back to normality is likely to be. It will be a rocky ride. Liberty, public trust, social solidarity and freedom of thought have been ravaged to such an extraordinary degree over the past two years that their restoration is not going to be a simple or easy task. The technical accomplishment of weakening Covid-19 and holding at bay its most pernicious impacts on human health is one thing (and a great thing). Repairing the political freedoms and social bonds that were so violently undercut by lockdown is another thing entirely. It is naive to think ‘normality’ will magically re-emerge, intact, in rude health, simply because we have scored a scientific victory over Covid’s fatality rate. No, if you want to live normally again, you’re going to have to fight for it.
Just as we must assess the damage Covid-19 did to human health, so we must examine the impact restrictions had on society and freedom. One of the worst decisions made by governments across Europe was to deploy the politics of fear to try to dragoon their citizens into abiding by Covid rules and regulations. As sociologist and SAGE adviser Robert Dingwall said back in May 2020, officialdom ‘effectively terrorised’ the public into believing Covid would kill them if they broke the rules. We created a ‘climate of fear’, he said. The consequence of terrorising the public, rather than galvanising us to pull together to combat the spread of Covid and assist the vulnerable, became clear very early on. Snitching abounded. Neighbours told on neighbours. Venturing outside came to be viewed as dangerous anti-social behaviour. Police forces went wild, clearing people out of parks for no good reason and even sending drones to spy on dog-walkers in scenic country spots.
But there’s something worse here than all the cowardice. And that’s all those who look at the latest Downing Street party saga and still maintain that the biggest problem we face is not the rules, but the rule-breakers. Astonishingly, many cling on to the view that Johnson’s biggest crime was attending a party, not forbidding the entire nation from doing the same. The Guardian complains that ‘Downing Street was treating the lockdown rules that Mr Johnson had set with contempt’. This is perfectly true. But the rules were worthy of contempt. The problem, as Tom Slater notes on spiked, is that both Johnson and the rules held people in contempt.
If the party is over for Boris and Carrie, then the game should also be up for the media lockdown lovers who never challenged the inhumane restrictions and only ever demanded the government go further in shutting down society. We need to do more than berate the prime minister for what has happened to British society over the past couple of years: we must hold the entire political and media class to account for their role in bringing about and maintaining lockdown, whether they attended rule-breaking parties or not.
The only winners from the mass testing are the testing companies.