Surprising choice of @ashishkjha [Ashish K. Jha] as @JoeBiden‘s new Covid coordinator. Not only was he wrong promoting lockdowns, school closures and vaccine passports, he mischaracterized and bullied other scientists by calling them “clowns”. A clown would do a better job as Covid coordinator.
Once these earning losses take hold, they lead to lower life expectancies. This connection was highlighted most prominently in a paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that analyzed data on school shutdowns early in the pandemic. The authors found that missed instruction in the United States could be associated with an estimated 13.8 million years of life lost.
What makes these outcomes even more tragic is that they were experienced by children who, as was known early on, never had a significant risk of dying from COVID-19. As of the first week of March 2022, out of the nearly 950,000 Covid-19 deaths, only 865 were children under the age of 18. That amounts to about 433 children annually. This is comparable to a bad flu season in the US. For example, the CDC estimates that the actual number of flu deaths for children in the 2017-18 flu season was about 600.
Moreover, the school closings and lockdowns have led to a noticeable loss in children’s mental health. This was apparent early in the pandemic. In a CDC report released in November 2020, researchers reported that the proportion of mental health-related visits from April to October 2020 for children aged 5-11 and 12-17 years had increased by approximately 24 percent and 31 percent, respectively in comparison to 2019 data. In a follow-up CDC report, researchers found that emergency department visits due to suspected suicide attempts were 51 percent higher among girls aged 12-17 years during early 2021 in comparison to the same period in 2019; among boys aged 12-17 years, suspected suicide attempt emergency department visits increased 4 percent.
However, after we released the ILI paper on the preprint server, the paper got picked up by a brilliant team of data journalists at the Economist and went viral. As the paper went viral, the onslaught reputational and professional threats I’d feared began to materialize.
Colleagues said I risked being “responsible for the deaths of millions” (a crime on par with genocide, if the comment is taken literally), that I had blood on my hands, that I was “disrupting the public health message,” that I was “not an epidemiologist,” and more. The verbal stones came from all sides, from people who were once colleagues and friends to members of the scientific community I’d never heard of before saying I killed thousands.
By creating a research environment hostile to evidence of a lower-severity pandemic, the science people read on the news to inform their beliefs and actions of overestimated Covid risk. That science was not the result of a fair competition of ideas won by evidence and logic, but a silencing of ideas by federal officials coordinating devastating takedowns of competing views, by biased social/mass-media amplification of one theory, and by a norm of private and public hostilities enforcing a particular theory of Covid-19.
Throughout 2020, I witnessed how social media platforms and mass-media became tools to manufacture the consent of the public to agree with a powerful clique of epidemiologists. These epidemiologists claimed their science was uncontested and protected their scientific theories from contest by public broadcasting of sanctions against fellow scientists. Shame, criticism, ridicule, disapproval, and other checks on deviance from norms and values of publishing work in agreement with this clique of epidemiologists, or from experts they approve of.
Such informal social control on scientific findings has no place in any reasonable ideal of science in a society. If we allow scientists to take down other scientists through personal attacks, if we fail to disentangle a complex of close associations between scientists and the mass media they use to manufacture belief in their own theories, then what we call “science” would be battle over belief mediated not through the peaceful and cooperative ideals of evidence and reason, but by the savage violence of cultural warfare. It becomes a barbaric media battle to achieve scientific dominance by ridiculing dissidents and suppressing dissent through informal social control.
That Anthony Fauci mischaracterized the @gbdeclaration as akin to “AIDS denialism” shows his fundamental misunderstanding of the idea of focused protection of the vulnerable, his blindness to lockdown harms, and his ignorance of the basic principles of public health.