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Washington Post columnist Leana Wen is certainly not in the camp of those who wisely warned early on of the dangers of lockdowns and covid hysteria, but even she reports that counts of today’s covid deaths and hospitalizations are exaggerated, perhaps wildly so. Two slices:

Two infectious-disease experts I spoke with believe that the number of deaths attributed to covid is far greater than the actual number of people dying from covid. Robin Dretler, an attending physician at Emory Decatur Hospital and the former president of Georgia’s chapter of Infectious Diseases Society of America, estimates that at his hospital, 90 percent of patients diagnosed with covid are actually in the hospital for some other illness.


Another infectious-disease physician, Shira Doron, has been researching how to more accurately attribute severe illness due to covid. After evaluating medical records of covid patients, she and her colleagues found that use of the steroid dexamethasone, a standard treatment for covid patients with low oxygen levels, was a good proxy measure for hospitalizations due to the coronavirus. If someone who tested positive didn’t receive dexamethasone during their inpatient stay, they were probably in the hospital for a different cause.

Doron’s work was instrumental to Massachusetts changing its hospitalization reporting a year ago to include both total hospitalizations with covid and those that received dexamethasone. In recent months, only about 30 percent of total hospitalizations with covid were primarily attributed to the virus.

This tracks with Doron’s experience at her hospital, Tufts Medical Center, where she also serves as hospital epidemiologist. Earlier in the pandemic, a large proportion of covid-positive hospitalizations were due to covid. But as more people developed some immunity through vaccination or infection, fewer patients were hospitalized because of it. During some days, she said, the proportion of those hospitalized because of covid were as low as 10 percent of the total number reported.

Leslie Bienen and Margery Smelkinson talk with UnHerd‘s Freddie Sayers about the “scientific case against facemasks.” Here’s a slice from the accompanying essay:

This winter season, the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and Atlantic, among other outlets, have all published articles on the same theme. According to their advice, we should re-don masks to prevent seasonal spread of influenza, RSV, Covid-19 and run-of-the-mill colds. This seems poised to become a yearly occurrence, as with the accompanying post-holiday mandates in some schools, colleges, and elsewhere that these articles actively encourage.

However, while these articles are full of quotations from health officials and disease experts, glaringly absent is high-quality data to support claims that masking reduces spread of circulating seasonal viruses.

The reason for this omission may be that, three years into the pandemic, there are no rigorous studies showing masks to be an effective method of viral infection control. In fact the highest-quality scientific studies, randomised controlled trials (RCTs), show the opposite: that masks make little to no difference in controlling spread of influenza, SARS-CoV-2, or RSV.

In May 2020, the CDC summarised data from 14 RCTs as failing to show a significant benefit of masks in reducing transmission of influenza. An analysisof nine trials conducted by Cochrane, an organisation that conducts large reviews of health-care interventions, reached similar conclusions in November 2020. Studies of masking to prevent common colds and RSV also had negative results.

Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson decries the fact that, in Britain, “up to 100 times more may have been spent on preventing each Covid death than on preventing each non-Covid death.” A slice:

Why were sums which the Government and its scientific advisers should have done as a matter of course never attempted? In an excellent recent column on the catastrophic legacy of lockdown, my colleague Fraser Nelson highlighted the dud Sage “scenarios” which prolonged restrictions into the spring of 2021 without any cost-benefit analysis. As he points out, the standard “way of judging public health questions is a ‘quality of life years lost’ study: factoring in age and health impacts of the problem and the solution”.

By happy coincidence, I had an email on that very subject from a Natural Sciences contemporary at Cambridge. Alison wrote to say she was infuriated by

“the official failure to address whether the horrible impacts of the UK’s reaction to Covid had all been ‘worth it’?” By what British yardstick, she wondered, “can we judge the improved health outcomes delivered by this unimaginably vast expenditure?”

I reckon you could call it the Three Hundred and Seventy Billion Pound Question. (That’s the amount of money the Government is estimated to have blown on Covid, creating a debt it will take generations to pay back.)


Just think, a few of those billions thrown at Covid would have bought all the vital, state-of-the-art machines demanded by the Catch Up With Cancer campaign. Not to mention creating thousands more hospital beds and training doctors, nurses and midwives for a collapsing health service which endangers the British people. So, ladies and gentlemen, the Three Hundred and Seventy Billion Pound Question. Was it “worth it”? Is Alison’s maths correct? Could we ever justify lockdown again? Over to you.

Scott Atlas is now podcasting.

The Wall Street Journal‘s Editorial Board remembers the historian Paul Johnson, who has died at the age of 94. A slice:

Though he was British, his writing often concerned the United States, which he called a “marvelous” country, as he told these pages in 2011; “a working multiracial democracy” and “the greatest of all human adventures.” That view is unfashionable now on the American left and even the so-called nationalist conservative right, most of whose denizens could benefit from reading Johnson’s “A History of the American People,” which invites readers in with this subversive opening note:

“I have not bowed to current academic nostrums about nomenclature or accepted the flyblown philacteries of Political Correctness. So I do not acknowledge the existence of hyphenated Americans, or Native Americans or any other qualified kind. They are all Americans to me: black, white, red, brown, yellow, thrown together by fate in that swirling maelstrom of history which has produced the most remarkable people the world has ever seen.”

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Eugene Scalia warns of “the FTC’s breathtaking power grab over noncompete agreements.” A slice:

The Federal Trade Commission’s ban on noncompete agreements may be the most audacious federal rule ever proposed. If finalized, it would outlaw terms in 30 million contracts and pre-empt laws in virtually every state. It would also, by the FTC’s own account, reduce capital investment, worker training and possibly job growth, while increasing the wage gap. The commission says the rule would deliver a meager 2.3% wage increase for hourly workers, versus a 9.4% increase for CEOs.

Robert Graboyes has some fun with ChatGPT.

George Will reports on the continuing infantilization of “education,” this time at a Virginia “school” (which is just a few miles from my home). Two slices:

TJHS [Thomas Jefferson High School] has long had a national reputation for excellence. Recently, however, it has earned an alarming reputation for extremism in pursuit of “equity,” understood as equality of outcomes among racial or ethnic groups. Fairfax’s progressive presumption is that disparities are the results of “systemic” or other unfairness.

TJHS and other Fairfax secondary schools recently chose not to disclose to students and their parents the fact that the students — at TJHS, 230 of them, mostly Asian Americans — had won National Merit Commendation awards. The National Merit Scholarship Corp.’s letter to TJHS said: “Please present the letters of commendation as soon as possible since it is the students’ only notification.” One parent says a TJHS administrator told her that announcing the commendations would hurt the feelings of students not commended. Many commendations were eventually announced too late to mention in college applications.


The Fairfax school district paid $455,000 to a California consulting firm that says its aim is “equal outcomes for every student, without exception.” Tonight’s homework assignment, dear reader, is to write an essay explaining what that can possibly mean in practice, and to consider how Fairfax schools might apply it to, say, school track meets.