The breaking news today is Buzzfeed’s FOIA request for Fauci’s emails — showing masks don’t work, lockdowns should only be for those 60+, and so much more.
The US has now vaccinated half of the adult population but we’re still debating what mitigation strategies worked (or didn’t), and what constitutes herd immunity. Slowly, mandates are being rolled back (even for kids) and vaccine passports are being banned. In South America, Peru now has the highest known death toll. Over in Australia, they’re still trying to figure out how to reopen their borders (bit by bit). In the UK, they are finally reporting a day with zero COVID deaths.
In other news:
Medical consent is a necessary part of the conversation that has been missing — more from Megan Mansell at Rational Ground.
The second part of Emily Burns series, Un-masking children is up at Rational Ground, and it takes an in-depth look at the data around the risk to kids, teachers, and spreading COVID.
What data do we have on masks working? A closer look from Michael Betrus at Rational Ground.
Liz Wolfe goes over the science on why plexiglass barriers are worse than useless at Reason.
In a Washington Post Opinion piece, Megan McArdle talks about how consensus doesn’t always mean good science.
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The woman’s email arrived in Anthony Fauci’s inbox on Feb. 28, 2020, with a one-word subject line: “URGENT.”
The coronavirus crisis was still in its early stages, and Fauci, the US government’s top infectious disease scientist, was already under tremendous pressure, both because of the health threat facing the country and the political climate fostered by the Trump administration.
“I understand Vice President Pence has ordered you to not inform the public about Coronavirus without approval. This is quite terrifying, especially since Trump has already shown his desire to spread false or incomplete information about this public health crisis,” the woman wrote.
She had tracked down Fauci’s email, which is not easily accessible on government websites, because she had a pressing question: “I’m planning to fly domestically TOMORROW [REDACTED]. Is it safe??”
Of course, Fauci had urgent matters of his own to attend to, but he replied to the stranger anyway the next day. “There is much misinformation,” he wrote back. “I actually have not been muzzled at all by the Vice President. And BTW, it is safe to fly domestically [REDACTED].”
More than 3,200 pages of emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by BuzzFeed News — covering the period from January to June 2020 — provide a rare glimpse into how Fauci approached his job during the biggest health crisis of the last century, showing him dealing directly with the public, health officials, reporters, and even celebrities. (The Washington Post also received more than 800 pages of emails and published a story about them on Monday.)
Half of U.S. Adults Are Fully Vaccinated Against Covid-19
Half of U.S. adults are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, federal officials said Tuesday, a sign of the nation’s progress in fighting the pandemic.
More than 129 million people in the U.S. 18 years and older have been vaccinated, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Health authorities want to vaccinate as many people as possible in the U.S.—children and adults—in order to drive down infections and deaths and fully move past the pandemic.
Inoculation of half of adults indicates the country’s vaccination campaign has left behind the supply constraints and other problems that marred its start. It comes as Covid-19 cases and deaths drop, which infectious-disease specialists attribute partly to immunizations.
Kids and Covid-19: Latest on Masks, Social Distancing, Summer Camps
Just over half of adults in the U.S. were fully vaccinated against Covid-19, but for children, the vaccination drive has a long way to go. As of late May, 4.8 million Americans under the age of 18 had received at least one shot of the Pfizer – BioNTech vaccine approved for anyone age 12 and up, while far fewer—about 1.7 million—had completed a full course. A vaccine for children under 12 isn’t expected until late in the year or early 2022. With the U.S. economy opening up as we head into summer, here is what you need to know about masking and social distancing for children, based on government guidance and the opinions of doctors.
Do my children still have to wear a face mask and socially distance if they are vaccinated?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance for fully vaccinated people on May 13, saying that people who have had all their shots don’t need to wear masks and physically distance anymore in most settings. That includes anyone age 12 and up who is fully vaccinated. But that guidance doesn’t apply to schools, where the CDC recommends “universal masking” by both students and staff, and elementary-school children are supposed to maintain a physical distance of at least 3 feet whenever possible.
Do children who aren’t vaccinated have to wear face masks and socially distance?
The majority of children aren’t fully vaccinated yet, and younger kids likely won’t start getting shots until at least the end of the year, so public-health guidelines for unvaccinated people still apply to them. That means that all children under the age of 12 are advised by government scientists to still wear a mask when around people other than their immediate family, both indoors and outdoors, and physically distance from strangers. The American Academy of Pediatrics similarly recommends that any child who isn’t fully vaccinated continue to wear a mask in any situation, indoors or outdoors, where they may be around unvaccinated people.
UK vaccine passport plans to be scrapped – The Telegraph
Britain plans to drop COVID-19 passports as a legal requirement for large events, The Daily Telegraph reported on Sunday.
The UK officials working on the review into COVID-19 status certificates believe there is no chance the law will be changed to mandate their use within the UK, the report added.
A government spokesman said in an emailed statement to Reuters that the COVID-19 vaccine certification review is still in process and no decision has yet been made.
There has been mounting concern over the prospect of vaccine certificates voiced by the UK’s Conservative Party, as well as opposition lawmakers and civil rights groups. In April, Prime Minister Boris Johnson also signaled the ethical issues posed by COVID-19 vaccine certification.
Johns Hopkins professor says ‘ignore the CDC’ — ‘natural immunity works’
A professor at the renowned Johns Hopkins School of Medicine advised Americans recently to “ignore” guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention due to the public health agency’s puzzling refusal to recognize natural immunity from previous infection.
What are the details?
Dr. Marty Makary, who also serves as a professor at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, suggested during a Tuesday appearance on “The Vince Coglianese Show” that 150 million Americans, or “half the country,” likely already have natural immunity to COVID-19 due to having been infected with the virus and then recovering.
Yet despite that staggering figure, Makary lamented the fact that the CDC, in concert with Biden administration officials, have neglected to recognize the reality of the situation. Instead, previously infected individuals who decline being vaccinated are routinely “demonized” by health officials who insist that virtually all Americans must be vaccinated before normal life can resume.
Dissent versus Consent
“I’ve always believed that credentials don’t matter in science. If you have a good idea, you can have no credentials, and if the evidence supports your positions, then you’re right.” Dr. Jay Bhattacharya at 42:50 in Governor DeSantis’ Roundtable, 04/13/2021
It was never about reality.
Had it been about the scientific process, it would have begun with minimum viable particle size under pressure, which for COVID-19-size particulates is .06 microns. We’d have noted that this particle is under .3 microns, placing it firmly within the radically-behaving particulate range, noting that multiple virions can compose a single particle cluster and still fall well under that threshold.
It would have then become about respiratory emission particle size ranges, and we would have observed that around 90% of exhaled particulates fall within the radically-behaving particulate airborne particulate range.
Why does this matter? We heard “DROPLET” nonstop for 6 months before anyone began acknowledging airborne pathogenic spread, without ever correcting course on our nation’s personal protective equipment (PPE) recommendations, especially the use of random face masks as source control.
Un-masking Children: Part 2 of 4. Understanding Relative Risk
In order for people to make data-driven decisions with respect to COVID-19, they must be given the best data available, and it must be presented relative to other risks they incur on a daily basis. The CDC has utterly–and possibly deliberately–failed to do this.
The result is that people–especially younger people, under 50–wildly over-estimate their risk from COVID-19. Children are at significantly lower risk of death from COVID-19 than from flu. Of the 65,000 deaths last year for people under 25, only 252 were from COVID-19–about half the number of a standard flu season. There were, potentially, an additional 30–about the number of people each year who die from lightning strikes–due to COVID-19-related Multi-system Inflammatory Syndrome, deaths which many clinicians believe could have been avoided, had parents not been frightened of bringing their children into the hospital and exposing themselves and their children to COVID-19.
Yes despite these very small numbers, parents of children with “co-morbidities” across the country are afraid to send their kids to school. All of the risk factors for COVID-19 are also risk factors for fatal influenza, yet not only do these parents not keep their children home during flu season, it would be illegal for them to do so. The lower death rates for children from COVID-19 vs. flu tell us that these risk factors are even less of a concern for COVID-19, not more.
Why don’t face masks work?
California issued a statewide mask mandate in June 2020. Rhode Island issued its mandate back in May 2020, as did neighboring Connecticut in April 2020. What else do these states have in common? They were among leaders in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths long after implementing their mandates. Were they infected by nearby states? New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Oregon, and many counties in Nevada and Arizona also had mask mandates.
Florida did not have a statewide mask mandate. Nor did Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming, Iowa, Missouri, or Oklahoma. Other states like North Dakota, Arizona, and Indiana issued short-term mask mandates. These states fared no worse and in most cases fared far better than states with mask mandates. Why would this be, if face masks work?
Viral particles that spread in the air vary in size. A micron, or micrometer, is represented by the symbol μm. A micron is defined as one-millionth of a meter, a little more than 1/25,000th of an inch. A large droplet is defined as 5 μm or larger. You can’t see a 5-μm droplet. Many people visualize a droplet housing a virus as something you can see, like something you’d sneeze out. Certainly droplets can be sneezed out, but that’s not where real transmission happens. You can easily block those, and if they become airborne, they drop to the nearest surface in seconds.
Plexiglass Barriers Are Everywhere, but They’re Probably Useless
Eateries have adapted to COVID in countless ways. Hostesses take our temperatures upon entry. We scan QR codes instead of reading paper menus. We are served by masked waiters. In some cities, unsightly plexiglass barriers have appeared between tables and bar seats.
Restaurants should be given broad latitude to adapt how they see fit, to best protect their workers and return a degree of confidence to their customers. But some of these adaptations verge on hygiene theater. When those plexiglass barriers are used in classrooms, they “might be making things worse by blocking ventilation,” to quote Zeynep Tufekci, who then points to a new study in Science.
Beware of ‘expert’ consensus. The covid-19 lab leak theory shows why.
People who believe the coronavirus was manufactured in a lab haven’t been allowed to say so on Facebook since February — until Wednesday, that is, when Facebook announced it was lifting the ban.
Presumably this has something to do with the wavering elite consensus on lab leaks. This consensus was never as monolithic as proponents claimed, nor as stifling as opponents now aver. But it did produce a Facebook ban and a lot of journalism dismissing the hypothesis as a well-debunked conspiracy theory with racist roots.
In one light, this is a happy scientific ending. Over time, with study, natural transmission looked less likely, and a lab accident somewhat more so. As the evidence changed, a previously hard-and-fast consensus became more open to other possibilities, as should be the case for any good scientific theory.
Changes in the incidence of invasive disease due to Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, and Neisseria meningitidis during the COVID-19 pandemic in 26 countries and territories in the Invasive Respiratory Infection Surveillance Initiative: a prospective analysis of surveillance data
Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, and Neisseria meningitidis, which are typically transmitted via respiratory droplets, are leading causes of invasive diseases, including bacteraemic pneumonia and meningitis, and of secondary infections subsequent to post-viral respiratory disease. The aim of this study was to investigate the incidence of invasive disease due to these pathogens during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this prospective analysis of surveillance data, laboratories in 26 countries and territories across six continents submitted data on cases of invasive disease due to S pneumoniae, H influenzae, and N meningitidis from Jan 1, 2018, to May, 31, 2020, as part of the Invasive Respiratory Infection Surveillance (IRIS) Initiative. Numbers of weekly cases in 2020 were compared with corresponding data for 2018 and 2019. Data for invasive disease due to Streptococcus agalactiae, a non-respiratory pathogen, were collected from nine laboratories for comparison. The stringency of COVID-19 containment measures was quantified using the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker. Changes in population movements were assessed using Google COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports. Interrupted time-series modelling quantified changes in the incidence of invasive disease due to S pneumoniae, H influenzae, and N meningitidis in 2020 relative to when containment measures were imposed.
27 laboratories from 26 countries and territories submitted data to the IRIS Initiative for S pneumoniae (62 434 total cases), 24 laboratories from 24 countries submitted data for H influenzae (7796 total cases), and 21 laboratories from 21 countries submitted data for N meningitidis (5877 total cases). All countries and territories had experienced a significant and sustained reduction in invasive diseases due to S pneumoniae, H influenzae, and N meningitidis in early 2020 (Jan 1 to May 31, 2020), coinciding with the introduction of COVID-19 containment measures in each country. By contrast, no significant changes in the incidence of invasive S agalactiae infections were observed. Similar trends were observed across most countries and territories despite differing stringency in COVID-19 control policies. The incidence of reported S pneumoniae infections decreased by 68% at 4 weeks (incidence rate ratio 0·32 [95% CI 0·27–0·37]) and 82% at 8 weeks (0·18 [0·14–0·23]) following the week in which significant changes in population movements were recorded.
The introduction of COVID-19 containment policies and public information campaigns likely reduced transmission of S pneumoniae, H influenzae, and N meningitidis, leading to a significant reduction in life-threatening invasive diseases in many countries worldwide.
Wellcome Trust (UK), Robert Koch Institute (Germany), Federal Ministry of Health (Germany), Pfizer, Merck, Health Protection Surveillance Centre (Ireland), SpID-Net project (Ireland), European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (European Union), Horizon 2020 (European Commission), Ministry of Health (Poland), National Programme of Antibiotic Protection (Poland), Ministry of Science and Higher Education (Poland), Agencia de Salut Pública de Catalunya (Spain), Sant Joan de Deu Foundation (Spain), Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation (Sweden), Swedish Research Council (Sweden), Region Stockholm (Sweden), Federal Office of Public Health of Switzerland (Switzerland), and French Public Health Agency (France).
Charts and Graphics
Covid Updates: Peru Says Its Death Toll Is Triple the Official Number
Peru says that its Covid-19 death toll is almost three times as high as it had officially counted until now, making it one of the hardest-hit nations relative to its population.
In a report released on Monday that combined deaths from multiple databases and reclassified fatalities, the government said that 180,764 people had died from Covid-19 through May 22, almost triple the official death toll of about 68,000. The new figure would mean that more people have died in Peru relative to its population than in Hungary and the Czech Republic, the countries with the highest official death tolls per person, according to a New York Times database.
The report landed at a precarious moment for Peru’s government, just days before the second round of a closely watched presidential election.
Peru has struggled to contain the coronavirus since the pandemic began, and its official death toll before the revised estimate was already the ninth highest per capita in the world. As early as last June, far more deaths were occurring there than would be expected in a normal year, and the gap — a figure known as excess deaths — was much larger than the number of deaths officially attributed to Covid-19, according to New York Times data. That was a warning sign to experts that Covid deaths were being undercounted.
International student arrivals to quarantine at Parafield Airport facility under new SA plan
The United Kingdom announced no new deaths Tuesday from covid-19, within 28 days of a positive test for the first time since March 2020, as that nation maintains one of the world’s highest vaccination rates. Infections in the U.K. are rising, however, and health officials warned that the crisis is not over.
In the United States, deaths have fallen by about 10 percent in the past week. New deaths worldwide have also decreased in recent weeks, although the number of new cases has increased slightly.