An End to Mandates, or the New Normal?

The CDC approved being mask-free outdoors, but should they (and other government agencies) be easing up further? After checking the data, there are many people speaking up and saying “yes!”, including multiple leading scientists. And while states are getting ready to open up, there are some employers who may be requiring their employees to show proof of vaccination. Meanwhile, Britain has some very good news about herd immunity—but will it be enough to end lockdowns and mandates?

In other news:

  • At Rational Ground, Jennifer Cabrera posts about the possible legality of vaccine passports.
  • With the death count down, Daniel Hannan eloquently advocates that it’s time for all lockdown measures to end over at Conservative Home.
  • In a Wall Street Journal OpEd, Daniel Halperin and Monica Gandhi look at the evidence that no one should be wearing masks outdoors (vaccinated or not).
  • Leana S. Wen writes an OpEd over at the Washington Post criticizing the behavior (AKA messaging) of our politicians during Biden’s speech this week—why is a room of vaccinated individuals still masking & distancing?
  • Over at Reason, Peter Suderman breaks down Biden’s speech from this week, highlighting all the signs and ways that the Pandemic is going to continue to be used as a political tool in the coming months and years.

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COVID News

Mass. Outdoor Mask Mandate To Be Eased; Bars And Amusement Parks Reopening In May; Road Races To Return

BOSTON (CBS) – Massachusetts is about to enter the final phase of its reopening process. The outdoor mask mandate will be eased this week; bars, amusement parks and outdoor water parks can reopen soon, road races will return and restrictions on all businesses will be lifted on August 1.

Gov. Charlie Baker’s office released these full details Tuesday.

“All this progress toward getting people back to normal has been possible because of everyone’s commitment to stop the spread of COVID, and people lining up and getting a vaccine when it’s their turn,” Baker said.

Effective Friday, April 30:

Face covering guidance will be relaxed for some outdoor settings. Masks will only be required outside in public when it is not possible to socially distance, and other times based on “sector-specific guidance.”

Multiple leading scientists call for an end to ALL Covid restrictions as they hit out at ‘confused and contradictory directions’ and note vaccines cut deaths by 98%

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9507449/Scientists-say-vaccines-cut-deaths-98-call-end-restrictions.html

Leading scientists are calling on the Government to remove all coronavirus restrictions and allow people to ‘take back control of their own lives’ when the ‘roadmap’ to freedom ends in June.

With real-world data showing vaccines reduce the risk of death by 98 per cent and hospitalisations by more than 80 per cent, the experts say Covid-19 is being turned into a ‘mild’ disease in Britain, akin to the flu.

In an open letter to The Mail on Sunday, they criticise ‘confused and contradictory’ messages from Ministers and scientific advisers about the virus, which they say are exaggerating the real threat.

CDC Punishes ‘Superstar’ Scientist For COVID Vaccine Recommendation The CDC Followed 4 Days Later

https://thefederalist.com/2021/04/28/cdc-punishes-superstar-scientist-for-covid-vaccine-recommendation-the-cdc-followed-4-days-later/

The Centers for Disease Control pulled a world-renowned expert off a vaccine safety advisory committee after he publicly disagreed with the agency’s pause of the Johnson and Johnson COVID vaccine.

In an email, the CDC’s Dr. Amanda Cohn said Dr. Martin Kulldorff of Harvard Medical School was being removed for communicating to the public his expert opinion, which differed from what the CDC was saying publicly at the time. Four days later, however, the CDC reinstated the use of the vaccine, effectively adopting Kulldorff’s recommendation after punishing him for publicly communicating it.

Want That Job Offer? A Covid-19 Vaccine Is Now Required.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/want-that-job-offer-a-covid-19-vaccine-is-now-required-11619438580

At the New York restaurant Eleven Madison Park, a recent job posting for a sommelier lists a string of necessary skills, including exceptional wine knowledge and an ability to lift 50 pounds. The last requirement on the list: a Covid-19 vaccination.

As the U.S. job market heats up, positions operating machines in Louisville, Ky., working in offices in Houston and waiting on diners in Manhattan now require that candidates be vaccinated—or be willing to get their Covid-19 shot within 30 days of hire.

These mandates are in their early stages, making it tough to determine how many U.S. employers now require vaccines. Companies largely have been reluctant to require shots, at first because vaccines were scarce, and more recently because bosses feared blowback from their employees, employment attorneys and human-resources executives say.

Commentary/Analysis

COVID-19 Passports: Existing U.S. vaccination requirements, HIPAA, the ADA, & the EEOC

Entities that institute COVID-19 Passports will likely be found to have acted illegally, if taken to court. The amount of exemption, reasonable accommodation, and individual protection found in current privacy and discrimination laws is an extremely high bar. COVID-19 Passports, as presented thus far, would fail to clear that bar.  

Existing U.S. domestic vaccination requirements

Virtually all existing U.S vaccination requirements for schools, U.S. citizenship, the military, and health care workers contain exemptions for medical reasons or reasons of religion or conscience. Additionally, a vaccine being distributed under an FDA Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) very likely cannot be added to these lists of required vaccines.

Daniel Hannan: The pandemic, in Britain, is over. But are we ready to cry freedom?

Would anyone, coming fresh to our current situation, propose a lockdown? The vulnerable have been shielded: around 95 per cent of people over 50, along with healthcare and care home workers, have had what turns out to be a highly effective vaccine. The inoculation programme is now reaching healthy people in their early forties – people for whom, in most cases, the virus would manifest as a cold. As I write, the latest daily death count is six. Not six per million. Six.

It is true that no vaccine is a 100 per cent effective. A return to sports matches, music festivals and crowded 747s will lead to an uptick in fatalities – just as it will lead to an uptick in colds and traffic accidents. But the epidemic, in Britain, is over. Deaths are lower than usual for the time of year, and 96.5 per cent of deaths are caused by something other than Covid-19.

The trouble is that lifting restrictions is an altogether tougher proposition than not imposing them in the first place. People tend to anchor to the status quo. Governments are reluctant to relinquish the powers they assumed on a supposedly contingent basis. Just as with post-war rationing, bureaucrats fear chaos if controls are lifted, and struggle to understand the (admittedly counter-intuitive) notion of spontaneous order. Freedoms, as always, need to be prised from the cold grip of the administrative state.

Take Off Your Mask and Go Outside

https://www.wsj.com/articles/take-off-your-mask-and-go-outside-11619631659

You don’t need to wear a mask outdoors.

That applies whether you’re vaccinated against Covid-19 or not, regardless of your age, and despite the other qualifications in the Centers for Disease Control’s latest guidance, released Tuesday. The only exception is in a packed setting in which social distancing is impossible, such as a political rally or a sports arena filled to capacity.

The three main Covid mitigation strategies are distancing, masks and ventilation. Accumulating evidence indicates how difficult it is to contract the virus outdoors, which is as ventilated as it gets. One modeling study estimated that ventilation outside, even with only a gentle breeze, is well over 100 times as effective as in an office, and more than 1,000-fold better than in most homes.

Opinion: With masks and distancing, Biden’s speech sent the wrong message about the power of our vaccines

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/04/29/with-masks-distancing-bidens-speech-sent-wrong-message-about-power-our-vaccines/

With his speech before a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night, President Biden missed his biggest opportunity to reduce vaccine hesitancy.

The problem wasn’t the content of his speech — it was the setting.

The 200 attendees entered the 1,600-person-capacity House chamber spaced apart and wearing masks. Some appeared to be double-masked. They were asked not to make physical contact, though some still fist-bumped or shook hands. There were markers indicating which seats could be occupied, with numerous empty spaces in between. As the president spoke, the vice president and speaker of the House sat behind him, both clad in masks.

If I didn’t know better, I would have thought this was six months ago, before Americans had access to safe, highly effective vaccines.

Biden Is Using the Pandemic as an Excuse for Permanent Expansions of Government Power

President Joe Biden isn’t letting a crisis go to waste. 

His administration is using the pandemic as an excuse to push a list of preexisting Democratic policy priorities, few of which have much to do with COVID-19, and some of which were initially pitched as temporary measures. 

But in last night’s address to a joint Congress, Biden made clear that he wants to extend some these policies, turning COVID-era emergency measures into permanent expansions of federal power, using the virus as an excuse. For Biden, the pandemic has become a catchall justification for a wide array of big-government programs that he and the Democratic Party already wanted to pursue. 

Research

Vaccine side-effects and SARS-CoV-2 infection after vaccination in users of the COVID Symptom Study app in the UK: a prospective observational study

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(21)00224-3/fulltext

Background

The Pfizer-BioNTech (BNT162b2) and the Oxford-AstraZeneca (ChAdOx1 nCoV-19) COVID-19 vaccines have shown excellent safety and efficacy in phase 3 trials. We aimed to investigate the safety and effectiveness of these vaccines in a UK community setting.

Methods

In this prospective observational study, we examined the proportion and probability of self-reported systemic and local side-effects within 8 days of vaccination in individuals using the COVID Symptom Study app who received one or two doses of the BNT162b2 vaccine or one dose of the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine. We also compared infection rates in a subset of vaccinated individuals subsequently tested for SARS-CoV-2 with PCR or lateral flow tests with infection rates in unvaccinated controls. All analyses were adjusted by age (≤55 years vs >55 years), sex, health-care worker status (binary variable), obesity (BMI <30 kg/m2 vs ≥30 kg/m2), and comorbidities (binary variable, with or without comorbidities).

Findings

Between Dec 8, and March 10, 2021, 627 383 individuals reported being vaccinated with 655 590 doses: 282 103 received one dose of BNT162b2, of whom 28 207 received a second dose, and 345 280 received one dose of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19. Systemic side-effects were reported by 13·5% (38 155 of 282 103) of individuals after the first dose of BNT162b2, by 22·0% (6216 of 28 207) after the second dose of BNT162b2, and by 33·7% (116 473 of 345 280) after the first dose of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19. Local side-effects were reported by 71·9% (150 023 of 208 767) of individuals after the first dose of BNT162b2, by 68·5% (9025 of 13 179) after the second dose of BNT162b2, and by 58·7% (104 282 of 177 655) after the first dose of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19. Systemic side-effects were more common (1·6 times after the first dose of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 and 2·9 times after the first dose of BNT162b2) among individuals with previous SARS-CoV-2 infection than among those without known past infection. Local effects were similarly higher in individuals previously infected than in those without known past infection (1·4 times after the first dose of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 and 1·2 times after the first dose of BNT162b2). 3106 of 103 622 vaccinated individuals and 50 340 of 464 356 unvaccinated controls tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 infection. Significant reductions in infection risk were seen starting at 12 days after the first dose, reaching 60% (95% CI 49–68) for ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 and 69% (66–72) for BNT162b2 at 21–44 days and 72% (63–79) for BNT162b2 after 45–59 days.

Interpretation

Systemic and local side-effects after BNT162b2 and ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccination occur at frequencies lower than reported in phase 3 trials. Both vaccines decrease the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection after 12 days.

Charts and Graphics

International News

Latest findings on vaccine rollout put Government’s lockdown modelling to shame

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/04/28/latest-findings-britains-vaccine-rollout-put-governments-lockdown/

The findings, said Matt Hancock, were “terrific”. And the Health Secretary had several reasons to be cheerful.

For a start, the real world data to which he alluded showed that a single dose of Covid vaccine can slash transmission by up to half. Until now, scientific modelling on Britain’s route out of lockdown has been missing this crucial part of the jigsaw.

So the study from Public Health England, showing that even if vaccinated people are unlucky enough to get Covid they are still far less likely to pass it on, was a major shot in the arm.

Speaking of which, Mr Hancock may also have been cheered by the news that the rollout of Britain’s vaccine programme was about to include him, along with other 42-year-olds.

The good news didn’t stop there.

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