Some Links

by Don Boudreaux on January 10, 2023

in Current Affairs, Environment, FDA, Legal Issues, Media, Regulation, Risk and Safety, Seen and Unseen

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Jenin Younes and Aaron Kheriaty expose “the White House covid censorship machine.” Two slices:

Newly released documents show that the White House has played a major role in censoring Americans on social media. Email exchanges between Rob Flaherty, the White House’s director of digital media, and social-media executives prove the companies put Covid censorship policies in place in response to relentless, coercive pressure from the White House—not voluntarily. The emails emerged Jan. 6 in the discovery phase of Missouri v. Biden, a free-speech case brought by the attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana and four private plaintiffs represented by the New Civil Liberties Alliance.

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Defenders of the government have fallen back on the claim that cooperation by the tech companies was voluntary, from which they conclude that the First Amendment isn’t implicated. The reasoning is dubious, but even if it were valid, the premise has now been proved false.

The Flaherty emails demonstrate that the federal government unlawfully coerced the companies in an effort to ensure that Americans would be exposed only to state-approved information about Covid-19. As a result of that unconstitutional state action, Americans were given the false impression of a scientific “consensus” on critically important issues around Covid-19. A reckoning for the government’s unlawful, deceptive and dangerous conduct is under way in court.

Writing at Bari Weiss’s Free Press, Vinay Prasad explains that “we have a tripledemic. Not of Disease, but of fear.” Two slices:

For the last few weeks, the media has been filled with stories about what The New York Times has described as our latest “viral onslaught.” It’s been dubbed a “tripledemic”—a combination of Covid-19, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which is being blamed for high rates of illness and an excess of hospitalizations, especially among children.

The message is clear: fear winter respiratory viruses, and take every possible precaution you can. It’s time to slap on those N95s once more, avoid crowds, and socialize outdoors if possible.

But the best available evidence contradicts the narrative from the media and many public health officials. The precautions being recommended are essentially unproven—akin to burning an incense stick, or wearing garlic to ward off vampires.

The way to think of the tripledemic is that it’s just another example of what we used to call normal life. And the insistence on never-ending precautions in the face of inevitable exposure to germs is not only medically misguided, it also threatens to stigmatize the most mundane human interactions.

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Second, there is no avoiding respiratory viruses. With extreme, draconian measures, exposure to respiratory viruses can be delayed, but can never be averted. This is in contrast with, say, our ability to avoid contaminated drinking water or sexually transmitted diseases. The difference is that human beings have to breathe every minute of every day. And, as humans are social creatures, most of that breathing will naturally be very close to other human beings.

“The piper must be paid at some point in nature; kids will get sick, and it has nothing to do with a more compromised immune system,” says Dr. Danuta Skowronski from the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control.

This point must be emphasized. It is natural, healthy, and necessary for young children to be exposed to many viruses. In order for children to build immunity to common pathogens—in order for them to develop a normally functioning immune system—theymust have such exposure, which will sometimes make them sick.

The Wall Street Journal‘s Editorial Board rightly decries government-erected obstacles to the development of covid treatments. A slice:

NIH’s resistance to convalescent plasma has perplexed some of the country’s top immunologists, who wrote to the agency last month pointing out its “logically inconsistent” position since it has recommended monoclonal antibodies based on much less evidence. Convalescent plasma “has virtually no contraindications,” “neutralizes the latest variants, adapts to the rapidly-evolving virus, and is desperately needed for immunocompromised patients,” the letter noted.

Jeffrey Tucker reports on Scott Gottlieb’s nefarious role in promoting lockdowns

Laurie Wastell argues that “[t]he demonisation of the unvaccinated tennis star [Novak Djokovic] at last year’s Australian Open was unhinged.” A slice:

It quickly became clear that the treatment of Djokovic had less to do with public health than with his personal beliefs. According to [Alex] Hawke, Djokovic’s decision not to have the vaccine made him a ‘talisman of a community of anti-vaccine sentiment’. In documents filed to the Australian courts, Hawke argued that allowing Djokovic to stay in Australia could ‘lead to an increase in anti-vaccination sentiment’ and even ‘civil unrest’. Notably, the court documents acknowledged that, because of Djokovic’s prior Covid infection, he presented a ‘negligible risk to those around him’.

You did not need to agree with Djokovic’s refusal to get vaccinated – he has strange views on a range of health issues – to see the problem with all this. The response from Australia’s political and media establishment was irrational, authoritarian and completely over the top. At one point, then prime minister Scott Morrison threatened to put Djokovic on ‘the next plane home’. Despite the fact that Djokovic had only made a handful of comments on the Covid vaccine, he was presented in the media as a ringleader of an anti-vax movement. His mere presence on Australian soil was said to be a corrupting influence on the public. Pundits revelled in the shabbiness of the hotel he had been forced to stay in, presenting it as a just punishment for failing to get vaccinated. It was as if Djokovic had become a scapegoat for all the pent-up anger following two years of severe Covid restrictions.

Writing at The Hill a few months ago, Lao-Tzu Allan-Blitz and Jeffrey Klausner explain that “mandatory hospital screenings fuel inaccurate COVID death counts.” (HT Jay Bhattacharya) Two slices:

For the past two and a half years, U.S. hospitals have routinely screened newly admitted patients for SARS-CoV-2 infection. Hospitals report every SARS-CoV-2 positive patient who dies in the hospital as a COVID-19-related death.

In the early phases of the pandemic, that practice made sense. We needed an easy-to-understand measure that was generalizable across all states to monitor the mortality of COVID-19. We strove to avoid undercounting COVID-19 deaths because many individuals who might have died from COVID-19 were never tested for COVID-19 or died at home. But counting every SARS-CoV-2 positive death as a COVID-19-related death no longer provides us meaningful information — and worse — results in several harms.

Death certificates in the United States are notoriously inaccurate, either under or over-reporting the associated mortality of numerous diseases. For diseases such as cancer, a complex system is required to accurately count deaths — a system dependent on state-supported cancer registries and death certificate reviews at the cost of millions of dollars a year. Such a system of verification exists for COVID-19-related deaths only in a few counties across the country. Therefore, it is difficult to determine if the patients who die in the hospital with COVID-19 have died from COVID-19.

Because every newly hospitalized patient is tested for COVID-19 on admission, we can expect that among the total daily deaths, a certain percentage proportional to the level of COVID-19 in the community will be reported as COVID-19-related deaths. If COVID-19 positivity in the community is 5 percent, then at least 5 percent of hospital-based deaths will be counted as COVID-19-related — whether or not COVID-19 contributed to the patient’s illness.

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To test our hypothesis that COVID-19 deaths are being over-reported, we looked at Los Angeles County data. Los Angeles provides a unique scenario because the county verifies the cause of death for each COVID-19-related death reported on a death certificate. According to the Los Angeles County data, 7 people on average died of COVID-19 a day over the seven days preceding August 19, while the New York Times and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which report deaths based on hospital data, reported an average of 12 deaths per day during the same period, a value nearly twice as high as Los Angeles County’s.

Therefore, currently reported COVID-19 deaths are an overestimate. When community COVID-19 positivity increases, deaths increase even if new infections are no longer likely to cause those deaths. By routinely testing every newly hospitalized patient without changing how we count COVID-19 deaths, we will never see a reduction in the number of COVID-19 deaths below the expected proportion based on community positivity.

David Henderson reports on Phil Magness catching an executive of the American Economic Association in a flat-out lie about about the recently finished 2023 annual meeting of that organization.

James Woudhuysen rightly decries “Paul Ehrlich and the madness of climate alarmists.”

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