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Some Covid Links

Tweet [1]

Charley Hooper and David Henderson write in Regulation about ivermectin and statistical significance [2]. Two slices:

One existing medication has received considerable attention recently: ivermectin, an antiparasitic that is widely used in the developing world. Many commentators, including several health officials, have dismissed the drug’s usefulness against COVID. Yet, these dismissals seldom cite empirical evidence, or if they do, they don’t detail the findings.

Ivermectin, which is the generic name for the drug, was discovered in 1975 by William Campbell of the Merck Institute for Therapeutic Research and Satoshi Ōmura of Kitasato University, in work that would win them the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Merck first marketed the drug as a veterinary antiparasitic (today it is best known by the brand name Heartgard), with human applications (and the requisite government approvals, under the brand‐​names Stromectol and Mectizan) coming a few years later. In the developing world, the drug has proven so effective at combating parasitic illness that it is on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines. It has been dosed four billion times to patients in Africa and Central and South America.

Ivermectin works through a variety of mechanisms to kill the targeted parasites. Some of those mechanisms have also been found to attack single‐​strand RNA viruses like SARS‐​CoV‑2, which causes COVID. That led scientists to test the medication in vitro, finding that it does in fact kill the virus in cell cultures.

Because ivermectin has been around for decades, can be taken as an oral pill, is safe, and is now off‐​patent and therefore cheap, it would be an ideal drug to give to COVID patients — if it is, in fact, effective in the body and not just in the petri dish. Is it?

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As described above, many medical authorities have claimed the drug does not work against COVID-19. Their reasons for claiming this may have more to do with biases and structural limitations than with the drug itself. Science has taken a back seat to prejudice and process. People are dying because many medical authorities say that therapies such as ivermectin do not work, while the actual clinical results suggest otherwise. These medical authorities should “follow the science” rather than rationalize their reasons not to.

Eric Boehm reports on the astonishing double-standard now used by NYC officials to apply NYC’s private-employer vaccine mandate [3]. Two slices:

Professional basketball players, like noted vaccine-holdout Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets, and Broadway stars will no longer be subject to New York City’s private employee vaccine mandate.

But if you’re not famous enough to get people to pay to watch you play or perform—or lucky enough to work alongside them—then, sorry, the mandate still applies.

That’s the absurd and, frankly, unfair result of New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ announcement on Thursday that carves a new loophole in the city’s increasingly nonsensical private employer vaccine mandate. In a press conference at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, Adams announced a new executive order that will exempt workers at the city’s stadiums, arenas, concert venues, and theaters from the sweeping mandate that required both private and public employees in New York to get vaccinated or lose their jobs, The New York Post reports [4].

The mayor had been under pressure to lift or alter the vaccine mandate ever since his office lifted the city’s indoor mask and vaccine mandates on March 7. For the past few weeks, unvaccinated fans have been welcomed into New York’s arenas and performing arts venues, but city-based athletes like Irving have been unable to play. (He was allowed to watch his teammates play [5], though, which really drove home the absurdity [6] of that arrangement).

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If the rules aren’t going to apply to everyone equally, they ought not to apply to anyone. This is a basic tenet of good governance.

New York City’s private employer mandate—like the similar one that the Supreme Court blocked [7] at the federal level—probably never should have been imposed in the first place. It was and is an unjustified intrusion [8] of government power into the private working arrangements made by employers and employees.

Creating new loopholes and granting special privileges does not change any of that. Irving might finally get to play in front of his hometown fans, but many New Yorkers are still subject to overreaching, nonsensical, ineffective vaccine rules.

Also rightly angered by this NYC double-standard is David Marcus [9]. Two slices:

Owing to the latest wave of Mayor Adams’ magic COVID wand, [10] unvaccinated Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving will be allowed to play home games at Atlantic and Flatbush. The ushers at the Barclays Center, on the other hand, and the guy who pours the beer and the ticket taker, they still have to get the jab or get fired.

You have to hand it to Hizzoner. His exemption to the workplace vaccine mandate for super-rich athletes and entertainers [11] at least codifies what we have known all along: COVID rules are for the dirty masses, not important people.

Now that the mayor in his merciful benevolence is allowing pre-K students to learn mask free, the workplace vaccine mandate [12] is the last big COVID restriction to remain in place. But why? New Yorkers are now free to roam inside and out around their millions of neighbors except when they go to work?

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The mayor insists he wants Gotham to swing again, that we are social creatures and New York needs its swagger back. Well, if that is what he wants, a good way to get there is to allow people to actually go to their jobs and to allow employers to stop being the vaccine police.

Technically, I suppose, this exemption should apply to our city’s political leadership, since clowns are entertainers, but people with actual jobs, who make the city run and rattle deserve to be out from under the yoke of vaccine mandates, as well. It’s over, Mayor Adams. New Yorkers want our lives back, it’s what we elected you to do.

But, writes Steve Cuozzo, NYC mayor Eric Adams deserves praise for ending the scare-mongering daily Covid briefings [13]. A slice:

While Mayor Eric Adams undergoes deserved scrutiny over his every act and pronouncement, he deserves only praise for something he actually doesn’t do — namely, he holds none of his predecessor’s tedious, morale-sapping and fear-stoking daily COVID briefings before TV cameras.

This is an unheralded, momentous stroke. Even when Mayor Bill de Blasio was forced by the facts to share upbeat news, the mere act of making coronavirus the No. 1 item on the daily news agenda conferred on the data an urgency out of all proportion to need or reality.

There’s plenty to criticize in Adams’ continued imposition of the private-employer vaccine mandate while dropping it for athletes and entertainers [14]. But his big-picture strategy to demote COVID to just one challenge among many comes in the nick of time.

What a relief not to be lectured every morning by our mayor, flanked by health officials and bearing scary charts, warning, “It’s not over yet,” long after most enlightened citizens had gotten on with their lives despite being aware of (ever-declining) risk. Adams lets us wake up to a city once again full of promise rather than cursed by biological fate.

If de Blasio still controlled the mic, we’d hear only of the Omicron subvariant [15] and its (dubious) potential to fill emergency rooms and deplete our supply of ventilators.

When I was a kid growing up in the 1950s, polio — then the most-feared viral disease in the United States and particularly dangerous to children — paralyzed tens of thousands of kids every year in a nation with less than half today’s population.

Can you imagine how different it might have been had elected officials held daily radio or TV briefings, replete with warnings about “not letting down our guard?”

The New York Post‘s Editorial Board sensibly calls for an immediate end to airline mask mandates [16]. A slice:

Mandating masks on airplanes stopped making any sense long ago; let’s hope the airline CEOs hit the right altitude [17] Wednesday in asking President Joe Biden to end the policy.

The chiefs of American, Delta, United Airlines and several others wrote, “Now is the time for the administration to sunset federal transportation travel restrictions.” Amen.

The federal mask mandate for public transportation is set to expire April 18 after Team Biden extended it another 30 days last month — for no good reason. COVID transmission has always been miniscule on commercial planes, whose ventilation systems mix outdoor air with air recycled through HEPA filters and limit airflow between rows.

This was clear by October 2020, when an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association noted: “The risk of contracting COVID-19 during air travel is low. Despite substantial numbers of travelers, the number of suspected and confirmed cases of in-flight COVID-19 transmission between passengers around the world appears small.”

Also from the New York Post‘s Editorial Board is this justified lament about the damage inflicted by Covid restrictions on children [18].

Economist John Gibson reports on New Zealanders’ government-induced confusion about Covid vaccines [19].

The city [of Washington, DC] spent $2.5 million in federal relief funds to hire more parking cops, according to new reporting from the Associated Press [20].”

In response to this new interview [21], Jay Bhattacharya tweets [22]:

This is an explosive interview between @danwootton [23] and Sky News & ITV former executive Mark Sherman, who admits that the UK government effectively ordered the media to propagandize the public about lockdowns, to promote covid panic, & deplatform dissenting voices.

Sue Juliens tweets [24]: (HT Jay Bhattacharya [25])

It’s hard not to think that the choice to use fear to gain compliance with covid restrictions has caused more iatrogenic harm than it has limited spread. By many, many factors more.

An anonymous pharmaceutical-company executive, writing under the pseudonym George Santayana, laments what I call “Covid Derangement Syndrome” – namely, the monomaniacal effort to reduce at all costs exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus [26]. Two slices:

When COVID-19 emerged as a significant new human disease, it was inevitable that lots of people would get ill and that some, unfortunately, would die. Chris Whitty [in Britain] said as much at the beginning. Given these facts, what should have been the public health response? Simply put, it should have been to minimise the impact of COVID-19 on the health and wellbeing of the population. An aim that while recognising the seriousness of COVID-19, doesn’t make it a special case but instead something to be managed within the broader context of overall public health. By considering this broader context and recognising that there are other health needs within the population, attention would focus on achieving the ‘biggest bang for the buck’ and in protecting those most vulnerable. We’d anticipate beefing up of necessary medical support and, for the longer-term, investing in the development of new treatments, including vaccinations. There would be advice and guidance, but government would most likely be promoting a ‘keep calm and carry on’ approach, especially once it became clear that the disease was not significant to a large segment of the population. As we learned more about COVID-19, so our approaches would evolve and become more refined.

Broadly speaking, this sort of thinking is what sits behind proposals like the Great Barrington Declaration [27] and other focused protection initiatives. Ironically, such approaches have been criticised for being ‘discriminatory’ because they would have resulted in vulnerable people shouldering the burden of restrictions. But judging by the discussions about care homes I heard, it’s difficult to see how much more burdensome they could have been. But this is an aside.

The trouble is that strategies which focus on minimising the impacts of COVID-19 are balanced and mean accepting that some people will inevitably die of COVID-19. It is this point that makes them politically extremely challenging. Something I suspect that the newly minted public health experts at No.10 armed with a whiteboard and a few marker pens probably realised fairly soon into the pandemic. And so, whipped on by a generally scientifically illiterate media crying ‘for something to be done’, an opposition poised to jump on any misstep and supported by dubious computer modelling and highly vocal computer modellers predicting corpses piling up in the street, the Government altered the original public health aim from ‘trying to minimise the impact of COVID-19’ to ‘trying to minimise the impact of COVID-19′. A goal that is politically much easier to state and build policy around.

Although superficially similar (and of course one way of minimising the impact of COVID-19 is to minimise the amount of the disease), these two aims are profoundly different because by making the goal the minimisation of COVID-19 elevates COVID-19 to a unique position amongst diseases and disorders. It places COVID-19 and its reduction/elimination above everything else. In effect we turn a new coronavirus infection into Space Plague; a disease unknown to man against which any measures are justified as long as they might reduce the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths. Almost everything that has happened during the pandemic flows from this apparently simple change in public health focus.

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Lockdowns, masks, screening, social distancing, self-isolation, school and business closures, travel restrictions, vaccinations of healthy youngsters etc., etc. – all are valid whatever the cost or collateral damage as long as they might reduce COVID-19. It’s this COVID-19 monomania that also justifies the use of dubious psychological fear tactics to ensure compliance and is why we came to obsess over COVID-19 screening results and deaths in isolation from all other diseases or causes of injury and death. It’s how we ended up with a disease whose only symptom might be two lines on a testing stick, but which then demands that healthy people suffer days of self-imposed, isolated existence.

All medicine is about the balance of benefit and risk. There’s a good reason why ‘first do no harm’ is part of the medical mantra as it recognises that medical intervention has the real potential to make things worse rather than better. Non-pharmaceutical interventions shouldn’t be immune from this kind of thinking – why should they be? Why shouldn’t we look at the mental, physical, and financial misery caused by things like lockdown and weigh these up against the perceived COVID-19 benefits? This isn’t putting money over lives, it’s recognising that non-COVID-19 suffering is as equally important as COVID-19 suffering.