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Some Covid Links

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In this new paper, Jonas Herby, Lars Jonung, and Steve Hanke review the record of Covid-19 lockdowns [2]. Here’s the abstract:

This systematic review and meta-analysis are designed to determine whether there is empirical evidence to support the belief that “lockdowns” reduce COVID-19 mortality. Lockdowns are defined as the imposition of at least one compulsory, non-pharmaceutical intervention (NPI). NPIs are any government mandate that directly restrict peoples’ possibilities, such as policies that limit internal movement, close schools and businesses, and ban international travel. This study employed a systematic search and screening procedure in which 18,590 studies are identified that could potentially address the belief posed. After three levels of screening, 34 studies ultimately qualified. Of those 34 eligible studies, 24 qualified for inclusion in the meta-analysis. They were separated into three groups: lockdown stringency index studies, shelter-in-place- order (SIPO) studies, and specific NPI studies. An analysis of each of these three groups support the conclusion that lockdowns have had little to no effect on COVID-19 mortality. More specifically, stringency index studies find that lockdowns in Europe and the United States only reduced COVID-19 mortality by 0.2% on average. SIPOs were also ineffective, only reducing COVID-19 mortality by 2.9% on average. Specific NPI studies also find no broad-based evidence of noticeable effects on COVID-19 mortality.

While this meta-analysis concludes that lockdowns have had little to no public health effects, they have imposed enormous economic and social costs where they have been adopted. In consequence, lockdown policies are ill-founded and should be rejected as a pandemic policy instrument.

Here’s Joakim Book writing on the above-mentioned new paper [3].

Jacob Sullum asks: “Why can’t the CDC admit there is no solid evidence to support ‘universal masking’ in schools?” [4] A slice:

The usual way to address these problems is by conducting randomized, controlled trials. But no such studies of masking in schools have been conducted—a pretty striking omission for an intervention that affects millions of children across the country. Even for masking in general, there is a dearth [5] of such evidence. While laboratory studies [6] provide compelling evidence that masks—especially N95 respirators—can reduce virus transmission, it remains unclear what impact they have in real-world settings, where masks may not be clean, may not fit properly, and may not be worn correctly

That uncertainty is compounded when mask requirements are imposed on children as young as 2, which may help explain why the purported benefits of school mask mandates have been so hard to verify. A preprint study [7] based on data from Florida for the 2020–21 school year, for example, found no association between mask policies and case rates. Smelkinson et al. cite other data from Tennessee [8], Florida [9], North Dakota [10], and the U.K. [11] that likewise are not consistent with the assumption that school mask mandates reduce virus transmission. [Vinay] Prasad notes that data from Spain [12] also do not support that belief.

Jeffrey Tucker deplores the despicable treatment accorded Martin Kulldorff by LinkedIn [13].

Raymond March reports on continuing government blunders during omicron [14].

Vinay Prasad decries the Covid “weathervanes.” [15] Two slices:

You might think Covid-19 policy divides into people you agree with and people you don’t, but often there are persuasive pundits who change your mind, or alternatively people with whom you are in partial agreement.

Instead, I think a key distinction is people who have their own opinions (some are right, and some are wrong) and those who blow in whatever direction the wind is blowing. The weathervanes. I believe that Covid-19 weathervane pundits are a real problem. Without a doubt, people on the wrong side of policy issues— the pro-school closure, pro-masking toddlers, ignore vax-induced myocarditis, pro-lockdown, Zero-Covid zealots—harm other human beings, but weathervanes do too. Weathervanes stifle debate. They prevent dialog and halt progress.

What is a weathervane? You will recognize them— they are frequently on TV news giving updates on the pandemic. These are people in biomedicine, who may even have fancy titles and lofty ranks, and they are good at averaging what people think, and offering that point of view. Their method is simple: read the mainstream news outlets, closely follow academic Twitter, and average the opinion of people they see. Of course, they are averaging the last few days, so they are always a lagging indicator of sentiment among the media and elites.

Weathervanes often have similar characteristics. First, they self-identify as ‘science communicators’ and less often as ‘scientists.’ Some have published papers, but these are often unoriginal and plodding. Rarely, in their scientific work have they held a position or stance against others in their own field or discipline. Almost never has their work taken place on a controversial issue, in the midst of a scientific debate.
…..
Weathervanes fill the nightly news, the talk shows, the op-ed columns. They write op-eds averaging other op-eds. Perhaps less than 4 in 10 op-eds are written by someone who has an original opinion, and 6 in 10 are weathervaning the other 4. It is like a daisy chain of electronics. You have 2 refrigerators, 3 computers, 2 TVs, 15 lights, a drier, and an air conditioner running off 4 daisy-chained surge protectors plugged into an old crusty socket. Is it any wonder the lights keep going off?

Weathervanes are often defensive. Since they don’t operate under principles or reason from data, they fear rigorous questioning. They try to evade or deflect questions. They portray others with original opinions as holding ‘extreme’ views— even if the truth is one extreme or the other. This portrayal helps them preserve their reputation as someone who knows what they are talking about. Confrontation is the last thing they want.

The truth is, weathervanes torpedo real dialogue and debate. It would be better to hear dueling pairs of debaters. Folks with strong, divergent opinions. News outlets are scared to hold these debates. Even universities are scared. Instead, we all want weathervanes. They make us feel better. Fewer angry emails to the sponsor. But the public and other scientists are deprived of a real full-throated debate on the issues.

“Sweden has now stopped recommending covid vaccination for all but high risk children from 5-11 because ‘we don’t see any clear benefit to vaccinating them'” – so reports el gato malo [16].

Andrew Lawton tweets [17]: (HT Jay Bhattacharya [18])

[Canadian trucker] Convoy critics point to high vaccination rates as evidence the truckers and their supporters are a fringe minority. The fact that 90% of Canadians have been vaccinated and we’re still in lockdown with myriad restrictions is why people – including the vaccinated – are protesting.

And the truck convoy will soon head to Washington, DC [19].

Martin Kulldorff tweets [20]:

Two weeks to flatten the curve became two years to flatten the working class.

Here’s an unsurprising headline in today’s Telegraph: “[British] Government nudge unit ‘used grossly unethical tactics to scare public into Covid compliance’.” [21] A slice:

The letter added: “Government scientists deploying fear, shame and scapegoating to change minds is an ethically dubious practice that in some respects resembles the tactics used by totalitarian regimes such as China, where the state inflicts pain on a subset of its population in an attempt to eliminate beliefs and behaviour they perceive to be deviant.”

The Government’s “nudge unit” was established in the Cabinet Office in 2010 [22] and is designed to apply behavioural science principles to public policy.

It has been used to encourage the public to pay their taxes, turn up in court and donate their organs when they die.

It is officially known as the “behavioural insights team”, but little is known about how it actually operates.

Naomi Firsht explains that “Macron’s divisive Covid strategy has categorically failed.” [23] A slice:

Meanwhile, French parents must be tearing their hair out as current Covid regulations mean that if one schoolchild tests positive for Covid, the entire class is sent home and not allowed to return without a negative test. This has led to queues out the door of pharmacies providing Covid testing. On Tuesday morning, the French education minister said that 4 per cent of French classrooms were shut due to Covid [24].