Writing in the Wall Street Journal, John Tierney warns of Anthony Fauci, Rochelle Walensky, mandarins at the WHO, and other so-called ‘public-health officials’ doubling down on using lockdowns and mandates to deal with future pandemics. Three slices:
Lockdowns and mask mandates were the most radical experiment in the history of public health, but Dr. [Rochelle] Walensky isn’t alone in thinking they failed because they didn’t go far enough. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to the president, recently said there should have been “much, much more stringent restrictions” early in the pandemic. The World Health Organization is revising its official guidance to call for stricter lockdown measures in the next pandemic, and it is even seeking a new treaty that would compel nations to adopt them. The World Economic Forum hails the Covid lockdowns as the model for a “Great Reset” empowering technocrats to dictate policies world-wide.
Yet these oppressive measures were taken against the longstanding advice of public-health experts, who warned that they would lead to catastrophe and were proved right. For all the talk from officials like Dr. Fauci about following “the science,” these leaders ignored decades of research—as well as fresh data from the pandemic—when they set strict Covid regulations. The burden of proof was on them to justify their dangerous experiment, yet they failed to conduct rigorous analyses, preferring to tout badly flawed studies while refusing to confront obvious evidence of the policies’ failure.
U.S. states with more-restrictive policies fared no better, on average, than states with less-restrictive policies.
No one knows exactly how many of those deaths were caused by lockdowns, but the social disruptions, isolation, inactivity and economic havoc clearly exacted a toll. Medical treatments and screenings were delayed, and there were sharp increases in the rates of depression, anxiety, obesity, diabetes, fatal strokes and heart disease, and fatal abuse of alcohol and drugs.
These were the sorts of calamities foreseen long before 2020 by eminent epidemiologists such as Donald Henderson, who directed the successful international effort to eradicate smallpox. In 2006 he and colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh considered an array of proposed measures to deal with a virus as deadly as the 1918 Spanish flu.
But those plans were abruptly discarded in March 2020, when computer modelers in England announced that a lockdown like China’s was the only way to avert doomsday. As Henderson had warned, the computer model’s projections—such as 30 Covid patients for every available bed in intensive-care units—proved to be absurdly wrong. Just as the British planners had predicted, it was impossible to halt the virus. A few isolated places managed to keep out the virus with border closures and draconian lockdowns, but the virus spread quickly once they opened up. China’s hopeless fantasy of “Zero Covid” became a humanitarian nightmare.
It was bad enough that Dr. Fauci, the CDC and the WHO ignored the best scientific advice at the start of this pandemic. It’s sociopathic for them to promote a worse catastrophe for future outbreaks. If a drug company behaved this way, ignoring evidence while marketing an ineffective treatment with fatal side effects, its executives would be facing lawsuits, bankruptcy and probably criminal charges. Dr. Fauci and his fellow public officials can’t easily be sued, but they need to be put out of business long before the next pandemic.
The criticism that the CDC is overly cautious is levelled against it by many people. Overcaution is a real problem, and it would be hard to address in part because the agency was created to focus on disease prevention, thus causing it to discount, or even to ignore altogether, other consequences that likely arise from its single-minded efforts to mitigate disease.
The second problem with the CDC, yet to be mentioned by Walensky, is, in my opinion, even worse. The agency has proven itself to be incurably political, no matter who is in the White House. As all Americans now know, it’s heavily influenced by union representatives. At the extreme, the CDC is even corruptible. It has also been shown to misuse or misrepresent data, and it has turned to junk-science studies to bolster its case for an eviction moratorium, for mask mandates, and for fear in general.
Politics drives many CDC decisions, including one last spring not to collect information on breakthrough Covid cases lest this show declining vaccine efficacy. Its school reopening guidance was written in part by American Federation of Teachers chief Randi Weingarten.
Most egregious was its eviction moratorium. The eviction ban was first imposed under Donald Trump, but the Biden Administration repeatedly extended it based on dubious science that purported to show it reduced the virus spread. The Supreme Court eventually ruled it illegal. The CDC’s usurpation of Congress and states continued with its illegal mask mandate on public transportation, also based on thin science.
The agency’s public guidance is often confusing. But the larger problem is that its recommendations are seemingly arbitrary and don’t acknowledge scientific uncertainty. The agency has also been slow to adjust its guidance. Last spring it was still advising the unvaccinated to wear masks outdoors.
Over the past two months, the number of excess deaths not from Covid dwarfs the number linked to the virus. It comes amid renewed calls for Covid measures such as compulsory face masks in the winter.
But the figures suggest the country is facing a new silent health crisis linked to the pandemic response rather than to the virus itself.
I’ve just come back from three weeks in Sweden where there was a pandemic, but no grade inflation. Nor any university mayhem. That’s because there wasn’t a lockdown and not a single day of enforced school closures below sixth form. The phrase “Covid generation” is being applied to the British young as if a virus had infected their life chances, but the contagion here was political. Panic closed the schools, and we’re still coming to terms with the results.
The “Covid generation” of young people can be found world over. But damage to their life chances depended not on the virus, but on how highly their welfare was prioritised by politicians during the crisis.
This is why it’s so important to get the language right. The pandemic didn’t close schools or cancel exams: lockdown did. This is not a matter of history, or a quest to name the guilty men. Everyone was guessing and huge decisions had to be made quickly on hardly any evidence.
But now, the world is awash with evidence. It has been surveyed in a recent study by the Monash Bioethics Review, which concludes that closing schools was a “moral catastrophe” and that “failing to recognise it as such invites further catastrophe down the road”.
That is the point – and the next crisis may arrive sooner than we think. A nasty flu virus may emerge, a new Covid variant or an entirely new pathogen. There will be calls to lock down again, and teaching unions will likely demand that schools are closed. Such decisions will be taken at a time of panic.
Never forget: they filled skateparks with sand in the name of “science”
Gary Galles always writes wisely. A slice:
Grace Hopper, a pioneering computer scientist and Navy rear admiral once said, “One accurate measurement is worth a thousand expert opinions,” which extended W. Edward Deming’s “Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion.” But rather than relying on accurate measurements, as Thomas Sowell put it in Discrimination and Disparities, public policy is often hamstrung by “overlooking simple but fundamental questions as to whether the numbers on which…analyses are based are in fact measuring what they seem to be measuring, or claim to be measuring,” requiring “much closer scrutiny at a fundamental level.”
That failure is far from minor. In fact, it is at the root of some truly major policy issues.
[L]ook at the case of Tameka Drummer, whose name I found through a quick Google search. She was “sentenced to life in prison without parole as a habitual offender for possessing less than 2 ounces of marijuana.”
If President Biden is concerned about Americans receiving unacceptably long prison sentences for drug convictions, perhaps he should turn his attention to Ms. Drummer and many more Americans imprisoned in the United States because their drugs of choice are illegal rather than focusing on people who are imprisoned in foreign countries.
President Biden could be using his power gain freedom for Ms. Drummer and many others serving long sentences in American prisons on drug charges. Still, instead, his attention is focused on Brittney Griner, whose freedom would require compromises by the US government. Is Ms. Griner’s case more deserving of the president’s sympathy than Ms. Drummer’s?
One big difference is that President Biden could do something now, using his presidential influence, to help people like Ms. Drummer. He has to compromise with a hostile foreign nation to free Ms. Griner.