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Some Covid Links

Joel Zinberg justifiably calls the TSA’s decision to extend mask mandates for commercial-airline passengers “silly.” A slice:

When asked why airports and airlines should maintain mask mandates even if the cities in which they’re located have abandoned them, White House press secretary Jen Psaki answered that air travelers aren’t “static.” People traveling from a high COVID-19 zone could arrive at low-level COVID-19 areas, still posing a transmission risk. That sounds like an argument for banning travel rather than a justification for masks on planes.

The rationale in the new CDC guidelines for recommending masks in the minority of communities that are classified as medium or high level was to alleviate the strain on medical resources in those communities, not limit the spread to other communities. Even if the new rating guidelines roughly correlate with transmission risk, that would, at most, suggest prescribing mask wearing for people on flights originating in cities with medium or high levels instead of maintaining them for all flights — which, as noted above, is a very small group of communities.

The need for and efficacy of masks on airplanes has never been especially clear. Air quality on board an aircraft is much better than most other indoor environments. Half of the onboard air supplied is fresh air from outside and the other half is passed through High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters that are more than 99.9 percent effective at removing viruses. Cabin air is refreshed 20-30 times an hour, 10 times more than in most office buildings, and the air flow is from top to bottom, not along the length of the aircraft.

Even prior to the onset of the Omicron surge, a systematic review concluded that it is unclear if masks prevent in-flight transmission of COVID since most studies are of low quality and “did not provide clear data on the masking of passengers and crew.” The rationale for in-flight masking is even less compelling now since Omicron has spread easily despite mask mandates.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Rebecca Sugar is ashamed of herself for complying with a mask requirement. Here’s her conclusion:

I had refused masks before, forgoing a night at the opera and entrance into a store. When it was easy, I was all in. But in a moment of decision when convenience and conviction collided, I chose the former. Shame on me and on everyone who feels as I do and acts as I did. We are the reason that mask mandates still exist.

Steve Templeton decries the practice of analogizing the effort to minimize damage from Covid to war.

Reason‘s Eric Boehm describes New York City’s private-employer vaccine mandate as “not just an overreaching policy; it’s now a completely nonsensical and ineffective one.” Two slices:

A week after New York City supposedly lifted its vaccine mandate, unvaccinated basketball superstar Kyrie Irving is still not allowed to take the court for the Brooklyn Nets.

He’s allowed to be in the arena with thousands of other people, to join his teammates in the locker room, and to visit bars, restaurants, and clubs in the city. None of those activities require showing proof of vaccination anymore. But the city regards him as a COVID risk if he sets foot on the court, thanks to an ongoing mandate that all employees for private businesses must be vaccinated.


Irvine is hardly the only worker negatively affected by these confusing and contradictory rules. An unvaccinated New Yorker, under the current rules, could legally visit any bar in the city that would have him—but would be banned from mixing cocktails or pouring beer in the same venue. A performer could watch any show on Broadway, sitting amid hundreds of other people, but would not be allowed to sing, dance, act, or even get paid to clean up an empty theater after everyone has gone home. Because that’s a public health risk, obviously.

New York City’s private employer mandate—like the similar one that the Supreme Court blocked at the federal level—should never have been imposed in the first place. It was and is an unjustified intrusion of government power into the private working arrangements made by employers and employees.

Gabrielle Bauer decries the Covid-hysteria-fueled loss of sense and civility. Two slices:

For the first many decades of my life I don’t recall anyone calling me a selfish idiot, much less a sociopath or a mouth-breathing Trumptard. All that changed when Covid rolled in and I expressed, ever so gingerly, a few concerns about the lockdown policies. Here’s a sampling of what the keyboard warriors threw back at me:

  • Enjoy your sociopathy.
  • Go lick a pole and catch the virus.
  • Have fun choking on your own fluids in the ICU.
  • Name three loved ones that you’re ready to sacrifice to Covid. Do it now, coward.
  • You went to Harvard? Yeah, right, and I’m God. Last I checked, Harvard doesn’t accept troglodytes.

From the earliest days of the pandemic, something deep inside me—in my soul, if you will—recoiled from the political and public response to the virus. Nothing about it felt right or strong or true. This was not just an epidemiological crisis, but a societal one, so why were we listening exclusively to some select epidemiologists? Where were the mental health experts? The child development specialists? The historians? The economists? And why were our political leaders encouraging fear rather than calm?


To everyone who dumped on me for questioning the shutdown of civilization and calling out the damage it inflicted on the young and the poor: you can take your shaming, your scientific posturing, your insufferable moralizing, and stuff it. Every day, new research knocks more air out of your smug pronouncements.

You told me that without lockdowns, Covid would have wiped out a third of the world, much as the Black Death decimated Europe in the 14th century. Instead, a Johns Hopkins meta-analysis concluded that lockdowns in Europe and the US reduced Covid-19 mortality by an average of 0.2%.

What’s more, long before this study we had good evidence that anything less than a China-style door-welding lockdown wouldn’t do much good. In a 2006 paper, the WHO Writing Group affirmed that “mandatory case reporting and isolating patients during the influenza pandemic of 1918 did not stop virus transmission and were impractical.”

You told me that social interaction is a want, not a need. Well, yes. So is good food. In truth, social isolation kills. As reported in a September 2020 review article published in Cell, loneliness “may be the most potent threat to survival and longevity.” The article explains how social isolation lowers cognitive development, weakens the immune system, and puts people at risk of substance use disorders. And it’s not like we didn’t know this before Covid: in 2017, research by Brigham Young University professor Julianne Holt-Lunstad determined that social isolation accelerates mortality as much as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. Her findings splashed the pages of news outlets around the world.

You told me we need not worry about the effects of Covid restrictions on children because kids are resilient—and besides, they had it much worse in the great wars. Meanwhile, the UK saw a 77% increase in pediatric referrals for such issues as self-harm and suicidal thoughts during a 6-month period in 2021, in relation to a similar stretch in 2019. And if that doesn’t shake you up, a World Bank analysis estimated that, in low-income countries, the economic contraction ensuing from lockdown policies led 1.76 children to lose their lives for every Covid fatality averted.

You told me that vaccinated people don’t carry the virus, taking your cue from CDC director Rachel Walensky’s proclamation in early 2021, and we all know how well that aged.

You told me I had no business questioning what infectious disease experts were telling us to do. (I’m paraphrasing here. What you actually said was: “How about staying in your lane and shutting the eff up?”) I got my vindication from Dr. Stefanos Kales, another from Harvard Medical School, who warned of the “dangers of turning over public policy and public health recommendations to people who have had their careers exclusively focused on infectious disease” in a recent CNBC interview. “Public health is a balance,” he said. Indeed it is.

Martin Kulldorff tweets

Hong Kong now reports higher Covid mortality than any other 1M+ country at any time during the pandemic.

… thus prompting Raffi to tweet: (HT Jay Bhattacharya)

Here’s a proposal: if you, in your capacity as an “expert”, at any point in the past two years supported blunt restrictions on *all* human beings regardless of health or risk or age or vulnerability, you can stop talking now and preserve whatever dignity you may have left.

The straw man is really wreaking havoc in China, as this Wall Street Journal report documents. A slice:

The 5,154 new symptomatic and asymptomatic infections found Monday are the highest since early 2020, when the epidemic first erupted in China. About 4,000 were from Jilin province, according to National Health Commission data published Tuesday.

The majority of infections were in Jilin City and the nearby provincial capital of Changchun, where residents had already been placed under “closed management.” Nonessential businesses must shut and people stay home, with one household member allowed out every other day to buy food and other necessities, while all residents undergo multiple rounds of testing.

Since the first case was detected in Jilin on March 1, new infections in the province had hovered about 100 a day. But numbers surged Saturday, and China’s vice-premier in charge of its anti-Covid strategy, Sun Chunlan, arrived the next day to spearhead the campaign to halt the outbreak.

Ms. Sun told authorities to speed up screening by using both nucleic acid and rapid antigen tests, state news agency Xinhua reported.

Seven hospitals were ordered to empty their wards and turn all efforts to treating symptomatic Covid-19 patients. The province is also building five makeshift treatment facilities to house and observe asymptomatic cases, bringing the available bed count to almost 30 000, according to data provided by the Jilin provincial government during a press briefing Tuesday.

(DBx: Keep in mind these facts: The newly detected infections in China are of Omicron. Omicron is far less dangerous than earlier Covid variants. China – the ‘government’ of which has resorted literally to welding shut household doors to prevent people from leaving home – has tyrannically long pursued a policy of zero Covid. Covid continues to pose serious risks overwhelmingly only to the very elderly. Jilin City’s population is 3.6 million. And yet, if this WSJ report is accurate, some hospitals are commanded to ignore all other illnesses and injuries in order exclusively to treat symptomatic Covid patients.

You tell me if you think I exaggerate when I insist on the reality of Covid Derangement Syndrome.

I submit that those of you who worry that the Chinese state has of late been unleashing its genius, cunning, and power to turn China into the globe’s mighty economic hegemon can stop worrying.)