Martin Kulldorff and Jay Bhattacharya, writing in Newsweek, rightly criticize Anthony Fauci for his cowardly refusal to accept responsibility for the role that he played both in inflicting massive destruction on society, and in stifling legitimate scientific discourse. A slice:
So, the blame game is in full swing. At a recent Senate hearing, Dr. Anthony Fauci did not even attempt to defend his policies. Instead, he insisted that: “Everything that I have said has been in support of the CDC guidelines.”
Dr. Fauci, as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), has worked closely with the two CDC directors, Drs. Robert Redfield and Rochelle Walensky, throughout the pandemic, but he is now laying the responsibility on them. He did the same with his former boss, shortly after Dr. Francis Collins resigned as director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Dr. Collins fiercely defended Fauci throughout the pandemic. In October 2020, the Great Barrington Declaration criticized Fauci’s lockdown strategy, calling for focused protection of high-risk older people while letting children go to school and young adults live near-normal lives. A few days later, Collins—a geneticist with little public health experience—wrote an email to Fauci suggesting a “take down” of the declaration, and characterizing its Harvard, Oxford and Stanford authors as “fringe epidemiologists.” Fauci agreed with his boss, but when asked about the incident at the recent Senate hearing, he responded that it “was an email from Dr. Collins to me.” In other words, Fauci himself was just following orders.
As public health scientists and coauthors of the Great Barrington Declaration, we have been critical of the pandemic strategy championed by Drs. Collins, Redfield and Walensky. As human beings, we can only feel sympathy for the trio as Dr. Fauci seeks to deflect blame onto them. At the Senate hearing, Dr. Fauci did not engage in a substantive public health discussion to defend the pandemic strategy—as one might have expected from its principal architect and salesman. Understandably, politicians, journalists, academics and the public trusted Dr. Fauci. Why should they now shoulder the blame?
Hyperlinks are often forced to do much of the argumentative work in Vermeule’s polemics. In this instance, Vermeule, naturally, cited himself: an Atlantic essay published in March 2020, before there were even vaccines to mandate. In this essay, which purported to explain a “common-good originalism” ostensibly superior to its counterpart that has “outlived its utility,” Vermeule vaunted “a powerful presidency ruling over a powerful bureaucracy, the latter acting through principles of administrative law’s inner morality with a view to promoting solidarity and subsidiarity.”
(DBx: Vermeule’s language – e.g., “administrative law’s inner morality” (!!) – should frighten the bejeezus out of anyone possessing even a modicum of common sense.)
There’s a lesson here, though it’s not just about the ineffectiveness of the most intrusive efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a caution that any benefits the political class promises in return for disrupting our lives may be illusory. We’ll have to fight to regain our liberty and prosperity, and we may never fully regain what we had.
The scientific case for masking children has collapsed. It’s time for the people entrusted with their education to put down the legal weapons and allow what’s left of a normal childhood to resume.
All in less than one week, Israel has repealed restrictions and is backing off vaccine mandates, even as cases and deaths are hitting new highs, and implausibly so in the most vaccinated and boosted country in the world. The UK has backed off too. Same in Denmark, Ireland, Finland, and Norway. Switzerland has joined in, and Sweden has rolled back its plans for an extended vaccine passport in has decided to get rid of them completely. Saskatchewan is ending all restrictions.
We are seeing local governments and universities in the US gradually stepping back. No new cities have joined the brigade for vaccine passports and Denver, CO, is stopping theirs. Poor suffering New York City, assaulted by a new segregation mandate, is reeling from the mandates, and surely a rethinking is coming. How many states now wish they had taken the path of Florida, which is experiencing a remarkable economic boom?
Monmouth University tracks attitudes in the US toward government and media as it pertains to the pandemic response. At this point, every arrow over time slants down to the right. The number of people opposing vaccine passports outnumbers those supporting them by 10 points. A polled 70% say it is time we accept Covid as normal.
It’s beginning to feel like a long-overdue crumbling.
It is surely not a coincidence that all of this accelerated the same week as the trucker convoy formed in Vancouver and made the trek across the entire US/Canada border, in the snow, ending up in Ottawa and gathering many tens of thousands of citizens to protest. The Prime Minister fled the city and went to his bunker, making what looked like hostage videos that denounced the truckers with all the usual epithets.
What’s even more striking is that the media in the US and Europe did not cover the convoy, probably the largest in history and certainly the most important protest in modern times in Canada. The topic never ended up on the front page of either the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. And yet: the effect was hugely powerful. Public opinion in Canada swung 15% to create a solid majority against all restrictions and mandates.
And other governments around the world are paying attention. There is fear in the air. They are backing down, more already in Europe than the US. But even in US blue states, you can see evidence that the basis for restrictions and mandates is falling apart.
“We just think the vaccination mandate is a gross violation of our constitutional rights and our bodily autonomy,” Angela McArdle, chair of the Libertarian Party of Los Angeles County, tells Reason. She says she has heard support for the petition across the political spectrum. Some don’t want to be vaccinated or have had bad medical reactions to vaccinations. Others are voluntarily vaccinated but oppose the city forcing mandates and vaccination checks on citizens and businesses.
L.A. residents have been living under heavy COVID restrictions throughout the pandemic. Indoor masking mandates were lifted briefly in the summer of 2021, only to be restored when the delta variant caused infection rates to spike in the fall. They currently remain in place. The county announced Thursday that masking rules might be eased soon if infection numbers continue to drop.
At the time the city instituted the vaccination mandates, nearly 70 percent of L.A.County residents had been fully vaccinated. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said when he was supporting the vaccination mandate that the ordinance would encourage more people to get their shots in order to comply.
At the end of March 2020, I saw an opinion poll result (I wish I could remember where) which indicated 93% of population of the U.K. were in favour of the lockdown that had just been introduced.
I was in the other 7%. In future years, I’ll have to find some way to convey to my kids the nature of that feeling – the strange combination of befuddlement and disappointment that results from watching everybody you know not only going completely mad, but convincing themselves they are being virtuous in doing so. It was like being a lemming, watching its thousands of brethren suddenly getting together and flinging themselves off the nearest cliff into the broiling sea as though it was the most natural and sensible thing to do in all the world. I just couldn’t fathom that anybody might think this bizarre experiment would work – and yet it seemed everybody did. In retrospect, of course, the very unanimity and certainty with which people approached lockdown was itself indicative that something very strange was going on in those heady days of spring 2020. What complex public policy decision in a liberal democracy ever achieves 93% approval in an opinion poll? The truth is, this had nothing to do with reasoned ‘opinion’. It was mass panic.
Thankfully, the national mood is now very different. I don’t believe that things have swung, or ever will swing, to near unanimity against lockdown. But it is now ever more common to encounter the sentiment, ‘Never again.’ People who were zealously in favour of Lockdown 1, Lockdown 2, and Lockdown 3 are now repenting in their droves. The question for us hardened sceptics – the Spartans, the Immortals, the Originals, the Old Guard – is what to do with these prodigal sons and daughters. Do we welcome them with open arms, fatted calf at the ready? Or do we churlishly dismiss them from our doors as accomplices in what will inevitably come to be seen as one of the worst public policy mistakes in history?
The truth of the matter is, we have to think strategically. There must never be another lockdown, in any circumstance. The consequences for our society, our children, our communities, would be too severe. This foolish, inhumane policy must forever be consigned to oblivion. And in order to ensure that it is, we need as broad a coalition of the public as possible. At the time of the first lockdown, I remember thinking that all political differences – left and right, Labour and Conservative, Leave and Remain – were completely irrelevant when set against the division between pro- and anti-lockdown. If you were against lockdowns, you were one of the good guys, whether you were Giorgio Agamben or James Delingpole. And this mode of thinking, I believe, still has to apply, and apply in perpetuity. Whatever one’s background, and whatever one thought in 2020-21, if you would be against the reintroduction of Covid restrictions in the future, you are in the right tent. You can be in the gang and you can sit at the table. We need you.
This will require some gritting of teeth, no doubt. If you, like me, were always against lockdowns, it is galling to say the least to now be told things (“Not all Covid deaths are deaths ‘from’ Covid”, “Not everybody who is hospitalised ‘with’ Covid is being primarily treated for Covid”, etc.) that one has known about since March 2020. It is profoundly irritating to be told “We just have to live with it now” when all you ever wanted was for that to be the case.
The Swedish government has decided to end all covid related restrictions from the 9th of February. Additionally, venues and events will no longer be able to demand proof of vaccination. To top it off, the public health agency is recommending that covid no longer officially be classed as a “threat to public health”. Sweden is the third Nordic country to end covid restrictions, following on the heels of Denmark and Norway.
The decision represents an acceptance of the fact that covid has gone from being a pandemic to an endemic disease. The public health agency estimates that 500,000 Swedes were infected with covid-19 last week (which is twice the number of confirmed cases). At the same time, only 181 people died of/with the disease (possibly more “with” than “of”). That puts the present lethality of covid in the same ballpark as the common cold. As many people have long predicted, covid-19 has become the fifth “common cold” coronavirus disease.
In response to White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki simultaneously blame U.S. lockdowns on Trump while she denies that Biden was ever pro-lockdown, Martin Kulldorff tweets:
Those of us who opposed school closures and other lockdowns in 2020 were falsely accused of being Trumpian. Good that nobody wants to own those policies anymore. Fascinating to watch lockdowners blame each other.