Your editorial “The Trump-Cuomo Covid Bromance” (June 1) gives former President Donald Trump too much credit for accuracy. You write, “Florida had more total deaths than New York, but Florida’s population is older and thus more vulnerable to Covid.” In fact, even using the absurd metric of state pandemic performance favored by Mr. Trump and former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo—total Covid-associated deaths, which are 95% correlated with total state population—Florida outperformed New York. According to the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, Florida had 78,642 total deaths, while New York had 80,568.
These numbers are from the CDC’s count of digitized death certificates, which was always the more accurate CDC death count and is now the CDC’s only death count. The agency also used to publish a separate “data tracker” count that reflected whatever was submitted by states. In that count, New York had fewer total deaths than Florida, but that was only because of Mr. Cuomo’s refusal to include probable deaths, contrary to the reporting instructions.
On the more relevant, age-adjusted metric published by the CDC, New York has the 17th highest cumulative Covid-associated death rate, while Florida is down at 36th. But even using Mr. Trump’s dubious standard, Florida outperformed New York.
The purpose of this systematic review and meta-analysis is to determine the effect of lockdowns, also referred to as ‘Covid restrictions’, ‘social distancing measures’ etc., on COVID-19 mortality based on available empirical evidence. We define lockdowns as the imposition of at least one compulsory, non-pharmaceutical intervention (NPI). We employ a systematic search and screening procedure in which 19,646 studies are identified that could potentially address the purpose of our study. After three levels of screening, 32 studies qualified. Of those, estimates from 22 studies could be converted to standardised measures for inclusion in the metaanalysis.
They are separated into three groups: lockdown stringency index studies, shelter-in-place-order (SIPO) studies, and specific NPI studies. Stringency index studies find that the average lockdown in Europe and the United States in the spring of 2020 only reduced COVID-19 mortality by 3.2 per cent. This translates into approximately 6,000 avoided deaths in Europe and 4,000 in the United States. SIPOs were also relatively ineffective in the spring of 2020, only reducing COVID-19 mortality by 2.0 per cent. This translates into approximately 4,000 avoided deaths in Europe and 3,000 in the United States. Based on specific NPIs, we estimate that the average lockdown in Europe and the United States in the spring of 2020 reduced COVID-19 mortality by 10.7 per cent. This translates into approximately 23,000 avoided deaths in Europe and 16,000 in the United States. In comparison, there are approximately 72,000 flu deaths in Europe and 38,000 flu deaths in the United States each year. When checked for potential biases, our results are robust. Our results are also supported by the natural experiments we have been able to identify. The results of our meta-analysis support the conclusion that lockdowns in the spring of 2020 had a negligible effect on COVID-19 mortality. This result is consistent with the view that voluntary changes in behaviour, such as social distancing, did play an important role in mitigating the pandemic.
Lockdowns taught us many painful lessons. That economies cannot be shuttered for many months without consequence. That needless money printing will fuel inflation. That school closures will have a catastrophic effect on pupils’ education. But perhaps the most painful lesson is that lockdowns were far less effective than many people had been led to believe.
Today we, along with Prof Steve H. Hanke of Johns Hopkins University, are releasing new research which concludes lockdowns were a colossal global policy failure that should never be imposed again. Our systematic meta-analysis of Covid restrictions has found lockdowns saved what translates to an estimated 1,700 to 6,000 lives in England and Wales. By way of context, influenza inflections account for an annual burden of around 20,000 deaths in the two nations.
We used two different approaches to evaluate the effectiveness of lockdowns in Europe and the United States in the spring of 2020. Our results indicate that lockdowns prevented approximately 3.2 to 10.7 per cent (6,000 to 23,000 Covid-19 deaths in Europe and 4,000 to 16,000 deaths in the US). These results are based on all relevant research studies and are robust when accounting for potential biases. They are further supported by results from natural experiments and several existing reviews on the subject, strengthening their validity.
Our findings sit in sharp contrast to two widely cited claims from Imperial College London.
The first projection, made in March 2020, suggested intervention could save over 400,000 lives in the UK. This heavily relied on the assumptions made in the authors’ modelling exercise. The second claim, based on a before/after comparison in June 2020, suggested that lockdowns averted 3.1 million deaths across 11 countries. This conclusion, however, rested on the unrealistic assumption that lockdowns were the sole determinant of the observed reduction in transmission. The authors failed to account for the voluntary behavioural changes adopted by individuals, such as working remotely or cancelling private gatherings, which undoubtedly contributed to reducing transmission rates.
This last point is important. The choice was never between lockdown and “business as usual”. Had people been presented with the information and the risks, they would have adjusted their behaviour accordingly – yet in many countries they were never trusted to do so. Nonetheless, our meta-study unveils a series of substantial burdens that lockdowns imposed on society, from the economic to the political.
Embracing economic and social freedom requires confidence, resilience and adaptability, and the measures taken during the pandemic were much more psychologically damaging and intrusive than the wartime restrictions. No one was told during the Blitz that they could not see their friends, hug their elderly parents, or have a sexual relationship with someone outside their household. They were not reported to the police if they met with more than six people. In fact, the wartime experience was a time of intense communality when strangers shared bomb shelters and neighbours became extended family. The risk to life was made endurable by those bonds of affection and trust that were manifest in every community.
The interventions of the state during Covid were quite different. They were unprecedentedly inhuman, reaching into the most personal areas of life. Along with the sinister propaganda that reinforced them, and as we now learn, the systematic suppression of dissent – they seemed deliberately designed to be psychologically destabilising: isolate people and then, as the minister said, “scare the wits out of them”. Where the wartime experience had given people more responsibility, the pandemic made them feel helpless.
Just take a look at the latest revelations about the British state’s monitoring of lockdown sceptics during the pandemic. A new blockbuster investigation by the Telegraph and civil-liberties group Big Brother Watch details the shady activities of the Counter-Disinformation Unit (CDU), which is still operating and was set up by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), and the now-closed Rapid Response Unit (RRU), which was run out of the Cabinet Office. They compiled reports about prominent lockdown sceptics including Carl Heneghan, director of the University of Oxford’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, and Molly Kingsley, co-founder of UsForThem, which valiantly campaigned against Covid school closures. The government also employed an artificial-intelligence firm to ‘scour social-media sites’ for wrongthink.
So what did Heneghan, Kingsley et al say that so alarmed these disinfo units? For Heneghan, it was criticising the ‘rule of six’ – one of those nonsensical, back-of-a-fag-packet Covid rules which we’ve all done our best to forget. He also had the gall, as a professor of evidence-based medicine, to write an article questioning the evidence base used to justify the second national lockdown. Among Kingsley’s heresies was to tweet that it was ‘unforgivable to close schools’. This is a sincerely held ethical and moral position – one that I dare say will be vindicated in time. It is not ‘disinformation’. And yet still it was flagged. We saw something similar in a Big Brother Watch report published earlier this year, which found that tabs were kept on David Davis MP because he opposed vaccine passports on civil-liberties grounds. The disinformation cops were not simply monitoring malicious bullshit merchants during the pandemic, they were monitoring opponents of government policy.
Walensky managed to tell Congress the CDC had conducted no RCTs on masks because it was so obvious they worked, and that CDC’s guidance to mask two-year-olds would never change regardless of a gold-standard Cochrane review showing they don’t prevent COVID.
it’s becoming inescapably obvious what a complete goat rodeo of a pseudoscientific sham of suppression and shaping of facts the last 3 years have been and it’s important that we document this so that, if nothing else, people will know better than to blindly “trust the experts” next time.
But nothing is simple. What about negative feedback loops? Examples: human sweat and its cooling condensation or our irises dilating or constricting based on the amount of light coming in. Clouds, which can block the sun or trap its radiation, are rarely mentioned in climate talk.
Why? Because clouds are notoriously difficult to model in climate simulations. Steven Koonin, a New York University professor and author of “Unsettled,” tells me that today’s computing power can typically model the Earth’s atmosphere in grids 60 miles on a side. Pretty coarse. So, Mr. Koonin says, “the properties of clouds in climate models are often adjusted or ‘tuned’ to match observations.” Tuned!