Yu Ying Charter School, a Chinese-English dual language charter, is waiting until April 25 to end the mask mandate. Yu Ying was also enforcing a travel quarantine as recently as last week: Unvaccinated students—a category which includes virtually all the pre-K students—and their immediate family members are forbidden from leaving the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area. If they do leave, they must abide by a 7–10 day quarantine period.
The fact that these policies are far stricter than what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend is not lost on families with kids in these schools.
“Parents are not really allowed in the building for any reason,” says Paul Fraioli, a parent. “Up until a month ago, they wanted to have the objects people touched sanitized.”
The scientific literature in support of masks is remarkably similar to the scientific literature in support of hydroxychloroquine. Both are dominated by poorly designed low-quality studies. Those studies tend to rely heavily on anecdotes and cherrypicked case analyses that just happen to conveniently coincide with periods of time that show trends moving in the way that the proponents of each wish for them to move (while also often omitting periods that show the opposite).
The main difference: the hydroxychlorquine studies are usually dismissed out of hand over the weakness of their evidence by the very same public health authorities and media personalities who use equally bad or worse pro-mask studies to shut down any criticism of mask policies.
And it became clear that school closures had less to do with protecting pupils’ health and more to do with political posturing. After all, we learned fairly early on that Covid posed very little risk to children – and it was clear that shutting schools was harming them. But that didn’t stop some educators and politicians calling for school closures almost continuously for two years.
We now know a lot more about the vaccines and about acquired immunity. Most importantly, we know that while vaccines give good but waning protection from bad outcomes, they do not prevent a person from getting a Covid infection or transmitting the virus to another person. We also know that having had Covid gives you at least as much protection from bad outcomes as the vaccine does.
This is crucial information that must be incorporated into how we view vaccines and how we view each other.
Unfortunately, when I talk to my friends who have been in a so-called “liberal” bubble for the past two years, they are shocked to hear that an unvaccinated person poses as much, or as little, risk to others as we – the triple vaxxed! – do. They just have this feeling that someone who’s unvaccinated is dangerous to them, or to society, in some way.
I understand where their fear and misunderstanding come from. First, of course, is the ocean of hysteria and misinformation they’ve been swimming in for the past two years. Second is the original (and in some places ongoing) vaccine campaign that emphasizes the importance of protecting not just oneself but others. Third is the experience we’ve had with other vaccines that have been able to eradicate or at least very radically reduce the prevalence of serious diseases like polio.
Given all that baggage, I’m finding it very hard to change people’s minds. Yet I persist.
Other than a simple pursuit of scientific data and truth, I believe it’s crucial to disabuse my friends and neighbors of the unfounded biases they harbor against “the unvaccinated” because that is turning into a label used to unnecessarily and unjustly marginalize a whole group of people. Like “the untouchables” or “the undocumented” this type of label contains a pejorative assumption about the members of the group that, in turn, justifies negative treatment of them.
In my world of the liberal coastal elites, the negative treatment of “the unvaccinated” manifests itself mostly in unjust exclusion from the places I used to view as the most inclusive, enlightened and welcoming: performing arts venues, community arts organizations, colleges and universities.
Ruling by decree over an extended period during the pandemic “is part of a broader move to condense power to the executive branch,” said Nick Murray, policy analyst at the conservative Maine Policy Institute, who has studied emergency policies. “You see these things come into play during a crisis and then [remain in place] to give more executive power,” Murray said. “It’s a theme that has devolved into bureaucracy.”
Listen and learn from experts, but never follow them blindly.
‘We’re being driven mad. Nobody is listening to us. They’ve politicised this disease.’ This week, the candid remarks of Zhu Weiping, a senior official at Shanghai’s Centre for Disease Control (CDC), have gone viral in China. Her phone call with a frustrated local was recorded, and her despair resonated with people in the city and the rest of the country who are at their wit’s end with the zero-Covid policy. Shanghai is buckling: the Covid chaos there is the worst China has seen since Wuhan in 2020.
In the last two years, China’s zero-Covid policy has demonstrated the determination and effectiveness of the one-party state. Millions of people can be tested en masse. Positive cases are dragged into state quarantine. New arrivals undergo a marathon isolation period (my mother is on Day 19, having returned to Shanghai last month). But cases and deaths have been kept low. Brutal and strict it might be; the one thing zero Covid hasn’t been is chaotic. That’s all changing now.
Why? Because China’s measures to contain Covid were never designed to deal with a variant as infectious as Omicron. The daily case rate in Shanghai has tripled in a week (17,077 on Tuesday, compared to 5,982 seven days earlier). Every day, the city’s authorities are arranging the Covid-secure transportation of thousands of positive cases (and their contacts) into quarantine centres where they are supposed to serve out their isolation as a group sealed off from the world. Hospitals, gyms, apartment blocks and Shanghai’s World Expo Centre (in another era, a symbol of China’s openness rather than plague) have all been converted into quarantine centres.
Conditions can be appalling. One viral video showed a group of those locked up complaining about the dirtiness of the communal toilets at the Shanghai Expo, the lack of food, medicine and tests. Children have been split up from parents to quarantine separately. People have been spending the night in coaches that are meant to take them to quarantine centres.
Those able to stay at home have an easier time, but many remain confused and panicked. Food is a worry: most are not allowed to leave their homes to shop and online shopping has become competitive. The emergency services are exhausted and prioritise Covid cases, leading to a tragic handful of instances where those with critical illnesses have died at home instead of being seen in time.
It’s because of gross fear mongering that has resulted in a virus being treated like Ebola when nothing could be further from the truth. Health and statistical illiteracy is at the very root of the problem
Alice Su tweets: (HT Dan Klein)
As seen on Weibo: Shanghai residents go to their balconies to sing & protest lack of supplies. A drone appears: “Please comply w covid restrictions. Control your soul’s desire for freedom. Do not open the window or sing.” https://m.weibo.cn/status/4755028135383701…
(DBx: I’ve run out of words to express the sheer anger, dismay, and disbelief that I experience whenever I encounter a mix such as this of Covid derangement and authoritarianism. Much of the world has gone mad, and appears intent on remaining so.)