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Some Covid Links

George Will rightly criticizes the thoughtless pursuit of risk reduction – a thoughtlessness especially prevalent among politicians and government officials, and supercharged over these past two years. Two slices:

In government, every serious mistake is, at bottom, a matter of disproportion. Furthermore, risk assessment is a basic test of rationality, as is weighing the trade-offs when responding to risks. For example:

Anthony S. Fauci, who rarely gives what would be the proper response to many questions he is asked (“That’s none of my business”), has said vaccination requirements for domestic airline passengers should not be imposed “right now” but should be “seriously” considered. Is he aware that burdening the exercise of what the Supreme Court terms a fundamental right of national citizenship — travel — is not a mere public health measure?

The sound you hear today is the clicking of progressivism’s ratchet: X (having a carbon footprint, taking a shower, eating cheeseburgers, whatever) “affects others,” so X should be regulated. When Fauci was asked whether we could ever return to unmasked air travel, he answered, “I don’t think so,” because even in a closed space with excellent air filtration, it is “prudent” to “go that extra step.” Click goes the ratchet.

The phrase “zero tolerance” (of a virus, or violence, or something) is favored by people who are allergic to making judgments and distinctions: i.e., thinking.


Putting masks on 5-year-olds — teaching them that life is more hazardous than it really is, and to regard other human beings as vectors of disease, like biting insects — is not an optional arrow that public health officialdom should feel free to pluck from its quiver. Besides, the idea that health and longevity are values superior to all others is crude biological materialism. Jeffrey H. Anderson of the American Main Street Initiative, writing in the Claremont Review of Books, says doctors naturally “focus on the body in lieu of higher concerns.”

This, however, is transforming risk aversion into a supreme virtue. Anderson says an “impoverished understanding of human existence” is imbedded in the celebration of masking as social solidarity. For progressive celebrators, “the risk of stifling, enervating, or devitalizing human society is not even part of their calculation.”

For some public health obsessives, a virus serves the purpose that carbon serves for the most excitable environmentalists: It is an excuse for the minute supervision of life’s quotidian activities — progressivism’s constant impulse. Remember the jest: Progressives do not care what people do as long as it is mandatory.

There must, however, be limits to prophylactic measures against even clear and present dangers. Otherwise, public health officials will meet no resistance to the primal urge of all government agencies: the urge to maximize their missions.

Want more evidence of Covid Derangement Syndrome – of the inability, sparked by Covid hysteria, to put risks in perspective and to act in proportion? Just look at the photo at the top of this report.

Yale School of Public Health professor of epidemiology Harvey Risch writes, in the Wall Street Journal, that “[b]etween Omicron’s rise, layered immunity, and therapies, it’s safe to treat the virus like the flu.” Three slices:

The time has come for states and the federal government to end their Covid declarations of emergency and the accompanying closures, restrictions, propaganda, distancing requirements, forced masking and vaccine mandates. Covid may circulate at some level forever, but Americans can now protect those vulnerable to it with standard medical procedures. They can treat it as they would the flu. Emergency measures need continuous justification and there isn’t one anymore.


Omicron is mild enough that most people, even many in high-risk categories, can adequately cope with the infection. Omicron infection is no more severe than seasonal flu, and generally less so. In America, many of those vulnerable to Covid are already vaccinated and protected against severe disease.


There is no longer any justification for the federal government and states to maintain their declarations of emergency. The lockdowns, personnel firings, shortages and school disruptions are doing at least as much damage to the population’s health and welfare as the virus. The state of emergency is unjustified now, and it can’t be justified by fears of a hypothetical recurrence of a more severe infection at some unknown point in the future. If the government can grant itself such power, then the limits imposed by the federal and state Constitutions are effectively meaningless.

Americans have sacrificed their rights and livelihoods for two years to protect the general public health. Government officials must now do their part and give Americans their lives back.

The Wall Street Journal‘s Editorial Board spells out key lessons of the Canadian truckers’ protest. A slice:

The truckers should be prosecuted if they break the law, as we argued for Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matters protesters on the left. But as the Omicron virus shows itself to be less lethal and positive test rates fall, the truckers are sending a message to democratic governments that it’s time for the pandemic emergency orders to end.

For two years the truckers were classified as “essential” workers and therefore exempt from vaccine mandates. An estimated 85% of them are vaccinated. Yet Liberal Party Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who heads a minority government, has chosen this moment to order that truckers be vaccinated if they want to cross back into the country from the U.S.

The Canadian left is sneering at the truckers and their supporters, suggesting they’re nothing more than right-wing Trumpians. Mr. Trudeau has smeared them as “a few people shouting and waving swastikas.” But the push-back against Covid-19 overreach has gone global. In January police fired water cannons at an estimated 50,000 European protesters in Brussels registering their exhaustion with restrictions and mandates. Since December protesters have gone to the streets elsewhere in Europe and in New Zealand and Australia.

Reason‘s Jacob Sullum reports on the CDC’s stubborn (and unscientific) insistence on continuing universal masking in schools despite increasing resistance by even many blue-state governments to this advice. A slice:

That awareness extends to Northern Virginia, an area where support for COVID-19 mitigation measures has been especially strong. In a letter he sent to the superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools on Monday, state Sen. J. Chapman Petersen (D–Fairfax), one of the legislators who supported the amendment approved yesterday, expresses his dismay at the district’s continued obeisance to the CDC.

“To the best of my knowledge,” Petersen writes, “no scientific basis has ever been offered for Forced Masking; rather parents are asked to assume that this policy ‘saves lives.’ After a year the data on student masking is easily found and it is overwhelming: the forced masking of school children has no correlation with community health.”

Petersen questions the school district’s argument that the mask mandate should be maintained because it is “popular” with parents. “By wearing a mask in a public setting,” he writes, “the wearer is able to communicate a political message, e.g. ‘I Care About Others’ or ‘I Voted for Biden’ or even ‘I’m Vaccinated.’ The ability to communicate a political message is the essence of our First Amendment, but coercing others into adopting that statement, especially a student in a public school, is the exact opposite.”

For two years, Petersen says, “we have seen the lives of our children disrupted and destroyed by a pandemic that posed little, or no, threat to them physically. Too many decisions involving children have been dictated by political expediency. As a parent, I’ve had enough.”

The Editorial Board of the New York Post rightly criticizes New York governor Kathy Hochul for keeping that state’s schoolchildren masked. A slice:

Gov. Kathy Hochul dropping the mask mandates for businesses makes her continued refusal to do the same for schoolchildren all the more outrageous.

Especially when she made a big deal of consulting with teacher unions and other groups the unions largely control before announcing she’s not budging.

The other blue-state govs who’ve had the common sense to announce expiration dates for school-mask mandates must not fear their teacher unions quite as much.

Nope: Hochul insists on making New York children suffer for no good reason. She hides behind Centers for Disease Control recommendations on school masking (which is also dictated by teacher unions via the Biden White House) but ignores the similar CDC cautions on adult masking.

She claims she needs more data, when all the data show kids are safe and masks make no appreciable difference.

Reason‘s Matt Welch calls Randi Weingarten “COVID’s most evil official.” Two slices:

There will very soon come a time in this miserably long pandemic where the only sizable group left wearing masks by order of the government will be the cohort threatened the least by COVID-19 — school-aged kids. And for this anti-science, anti-education, anti-childhood-development outrage we have one person above all to blame: American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.


Weingarten’s influence may be on the wane, but it’s still evident in two places that matter: big-city school districts (which may well continue masking even after the state mandates go away) and the CDC itself. Director Rochelle Walensky, who has been successfully bullied by Weingarten in the past, insisted yet again this week that “now is not the moment” to remove mask mandates on kids as young as 2.

For those of you who doubt that the Covidocracy is Orwellian and (thus) speaks Newspeak, check out Oceania’s Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s explanation that “mandates are the way to avoid further restrictions.”

K. Lloyd Billingsley is understandably unimpressed with ScienceMan Fauci.

Carla Sands tweets (HT Jay Bhattacharya):

Vaccine passports don’t belong in a free country.

Just as “teachers'” use of Covid as an excuse not to do their jobs is helping to expose government “education” (so called) as the sham that it is, so too – let us hope – people will realize that the poor performance of Britain’s NHS during Covid (even relative to its poor performance pre-Covid!) will expose government-provided health care as a calamity.

Matthew Lynn, writing in the Telegraph, warns of the dangers of “long lockdown.” A slice:

The “bubble-isolation mentality”, in short, is very much still here. It has blended into an already egocentric “me culture” that insists that life should revolve around the individual employee and their personal needs, rather than the needs of the customer, the company or the public. It has been hijacked by overmighty HR departments, and resurgent trade unions, to engineer a permanent cut in working hours under the cover of “well-being”. And it has been used by oligopolistic corporations as a way of reducing services and fobbing customers off with wretched service with the catch-all “because of Covid” excuse.

Long Lockdown is taking an increasing toll on the economy. We have only just struggled back to our 2019 level of output, except with far higher inflation (5.4 per cent compared with 1.79 per cent), far higher levels of public debt (97 per cent of GDP against 85 per cent) and far higher levels of state spending (52 per cent of GDP compared with 38 per cent). We have lower productivity, declining standards of service, and poorer education. For as long as we remain in this semi-Lockdown purgatory, we cannot truly say that we have defeated the virus.

National Review‘s John O’Sullivan writes eloquently and wisely about Covid and the political divisions it exposed and continues to fuel. Two slices:

My surprise may surprise you by now, but as historians such as Niall Ferguson have noted, major epidemics had swept the country in 1918, 1957, and 1968 without evoking anything like the same anxieties; without producing anything like the same lockdowns, social distancing, or mask mandates; and without costing anything like the same amounts of public money. A survivor of the 1950s epidemic told Niall Ferguson, “We took the Asian flu in our stride.” (And without accusations of racism among epidemiologists either.) The Covid pandemic was taking us in its stride, concentrating all our anxieties on a single risk, persuading us that we could sensibly forget all other medical treatments, neglect all non-medical matters, and remain sedated and jobless at home.

Not everyone enjoyed that. Half the nation at the time wanted to take Covid-19 in its stride and get past it. My visit to Fort Worth introduced me to crowds of tourists, unmasked and forgetful of social distancing, roaming the old Stockyard district, eating, drinking, rubbernecking, and avidly reading its historical plaques that boasted of where “famous gamblers like Luke Short, Bat Masterson, and Wyatt Earp, and outlaws Sam Bass, Eugene Bunch, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are known to have stayed.” Not the usual civic boosterism, and a far cry from the deserted silent cities of the East Coast, New York and Washington, but oddly evocative of an earlier America that did not stay home and shrink from risks.

There were, as so often, two Americas: one embraced Covid as a lifestyle, the other resisted it as a lifestyle. But both were governed by forces that had a professional interest in painting the bleakest picture of what Covid might do: the media and public-health officials. Until the good news of the vaccines arrived, their joint power was largely employed to exaggerate risks and downplay benefits, feeding the public’s risk-aversion still further. America’s mainstream and social media then took a national mood of panic and shaped it along partisan lines so that Democratic politicians, like New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo, became prudent stewards of public health, while Republicans, like Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis, were depicted as little better than reckless mass murderers. In the pages of the very best newspapers, medical and economic disputes about how best to respond to the overall Covid crisis were forcibly merged with partisan divisions between red and blue states to produce an artificial ideological narrative: conservatives were the party of death, progressives of life — which didn’t seem to be reflected in the vacationing crowds of Fort Worth or the silent streets of Washington.


Its last skirmishes have been over mask-wearing and mask mandates, and they illustrate the oddly deep attachment that sections of American society have developed to the symbols and methods of “the war on Covid.” Even now partisans of mandating masks are resisting the instructions of those mayors and governors who have decided, either from principle or electoral self-interest, that its time is up. Some visibly lust to bring masks back when Covid statistics get worse. Neither Democrats nor the media seem to have entirely abandoned their desire to mask America permanently. Yet as a method for combating Covid the mask is the one least justified by scientific evidence — as the distinguished statistician, Jeffrey H. Anderson, laid out persuasively in a recent issue of the Claremont Review of Books (from which I have drawn much of what follows). At the same time, the case for the mask is passionately asserted — and asserted on some grounds that ignore its possible usefulness against Covid transition.


My own conclusion is tentative but gloomy: Mask wearing for reasons unconnected with protection against Covid is something of a paradox: the mark of an identity that seeks to conceal its individual self within a comforting collective anonymity. It shows hostility, even aggression, towards those who insist on revealing the face on the grounds that they are selfish, indifferent to others’ welfare, and proud. And it is self-righteously happy to impose its tastes on everyone else. In short, masks are emblematic, literally so, of the politicization of everything, including identity itself, that is the Left’s main instinctual drive today.