Cases Drop, Lockdowns and Panic Continue

New COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths all dropped this week. Regardless, politicians and bureaucrats have not ceased with the fearmongering. Meanwhile, the CDC has lent its full support for “double-masking.”

In other news:

  • Our Emily Burns explains how lockdowns are a form of systemic racism given their disproportionate negative effects on minority communities. 
  • We’ve known for months that young children are less susceptible to serious infection and less likely to transmit the coronavirus. Let’s act like it, says Derek Thompson at The Atlantic.
  • A recent German study shows that masks are harming schoolchildren physically, psychologically, and behaviorally, revealing 24 distinct health issues associated with wearing masks.
  • Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Senator Ron Johnson condemns YouTube for censoring testimony from physicians on early treatments for COVID patients.

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Additionally, we just released an update on how COVID-19 is playing out on university campuses.

COVID News

Americans Must Tighten Up, or Double Up, Their Masks, C.D.C. Says

Federal health officials on Wednesday urged Americans to keep their masks on and take steps to make them fit more snugly — or even to layer a cloth covering over a surgical mask — saying that new research had shown that masks greatly reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

Recent laboratory experiments found that viral transmission could be reduced by 96.5 percent if Americans wore snug surgical masks or a cloth-and-surgical-mask combination. In announcing the findings, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pleaded with Americans to wear a “well-fitting mask.”

“With cases, hospitalizations and deaths still very high, now is not the time to roll back mask requirements,” she said. “The bottom line is this: Masks work, and they work when they have a good fit and are worn correctly.”

Masking is now mandatory on federal property and on domestic and international transportation. Studies conducted in households in Beijing, hair salons in Missouri and aboard an aircraft carrier in Guam have proved that “any mask is better than none,” said Dr. John T. Brooks, the chief medical officer for Covid response at the C.D.C. and lead author of the agency’s new research on masking.

The Pandemic Is in Tenuous Retreat

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2021/02/covid-19-deaths-are-finally-decline/617936/

If the U.S. Covid-19 epidemic were a marathon, the country might have made it to Mile 20. It’s been through a lot, and already, there are signs things are getting better. But there are building leg cramps that could make this last push, which isn’t actually all that short, really painful.

The two existing vaccines are reaching more people, and soon, the country will likely have a third, from Johnson & Johnson, that’s just one dose and comes with easier transport and storage requirements. Cases and hospitalizations have fallen precipitously since their peaks last month, and now deaths — which are a lagging indicator — have turned downward as well. That will ease the burden on health systems and offer a reprieve from what had for months been worsening infection and death data.

While the numbers are going in the right direction, they are still at once unimaginably high levels. Even on the best days, more than 1,300 people die of Covid-19 in the U.S., and many more than that die on many days, according to the Covid Tracking Project. The country just logged fewer than 100,000 new confirmed infections in a single day for the first time since early November; some days in January had more than 200,000 cases.

Officers at dorms, outdoor exercise ban: UC Berkeley extends dorm lockdown with stricter mandates

https://www.sfgate.com/education/article/Police-dorms-outdoor-exercise-UC-Berkeley-lockdown-15937294.php

New measures are being implemented in a dorm lockdown as UC Berkeley continues to grapple with a spike of COVID-19 cases on campus.

First reported by the Daily Californian, the self-sequester mandate for UC Berkeley students living in the dormitories, originally intended to end Monday, has been extended for another week, with stricter security measures in place, including third-party security and student “campus security” officers affiliated with university police.

“We don’t wish for residents to be alarmed by this increased UCPD presence, but we must ensure the health of our community,” an email sent out to students reads. The email also notes that more university staff will be monitoring dorms, in addition to campus security officers.

One university police officer, a Berkeley spokeswoman told SFGATE, is posted outside the Foothill and Stern buildings — which are being used for quarantining students with COVID-19.

Commentary/Analysis

Lockdowns: Systemic Racism in Action

Lockdown-dependent public health policies to handle COVID-19 represent the most racist public policy since Jim Crow.

The systemic racism that infects public health is exacerbating health outcomes during the pandemic, but not in the way that is getting traction in the media. Because public health officials simply expect minorities will fare worse, they chalk up higher death rates to past injustices. It is not ever seriously considered that our current public health response to the crisis may be directly responsible for the asymmetrical distribution of infection and death across communities and races.

Upon closer inspection, though, the unequal disease burden amongst races appears to have far more to do with lockdowns that privilege the rich–and predominantly white and Asian people–over other races and classes.

If the problem were a long-standing one of past “systemic racism” rather than a direct result of our lockdown-dependent public “health” policy, we would expect to see higher mortality rates amongst infected individuals of disadvantaged races, i.e. the same number of people infected, but the disadvantaged group is dying at a higher rate. If, on the other hand, the unequal disease burden being borne by minorities is instead due to current public health policies, we would expect to see minorities being infected at higher rates and, as a result, dying at proportionally higher rates.

The Truth About Kids, School, and COVID-19

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/01/just-open-schools-already/617849/

Federal health officials at the CDC this week called for children to return to American classrooms as soon as possible. In an essay in the Journal of the American Medical Association, they wrote that the “preponderance of available evidence” from the fall semester had reassured the agency that with adequate masking, distancing, and ventilation, the benefits of opening schools outweigh the risks of keeping kids at home for months.

The CDC’s judgment comes at a particularly fraught moment in the debate about kids, schools, and COVID-19. Parents are exhausted. Student suicides are surging. Teachers’ unions are facing national opprobrium for their reluctance to return to in-person instruction. And schools are already making noise about staying closed until 2022.

Into this maelstrom, the CDC seems to be shouting: Enough! To which, I would add: What took you so long?

Research from around the world has, since the beginning of the pandemic, indicated that people under 18, and especially younger kids, are less susceptible to infection, less likely to experience severe symptoms, and far less likely to be hospitalized or die. But the million-dollar question for school openings was always about transmission. The reasonable fear was that schools might open and let a bunch of bright-eyed, asymptomatic, virus-shedding kids roam the hallways and unleash a pathogenic terror that would infect teachers and their families.

YouTube Cancels the U.S. Senate

https://www.wsj.com/articles/youtube-cancels-the-u-s-senate-11612288061

Google’s YouTube has ratcheted up censorship to a new level by removing two videos from a U.S. Senate committee. They were from a Dec. 8 Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing on early treatment of Covid-19. One was a 30-minute summary; the other was the opening statement of critical-care specialist Pierre Kory.

Dr. Kory is part of a world-renowned group of physicians who developed a groundbreaking use of corticosteroids to treat hospitalized Covid patients. His testimony at a May Senate hearing helped doctors rethink treatment protocols and saved lives.

At the December hearing, he presented evidence regarding the use of ivermectin, a cheap and widely available drug that treats tropical diseases caused by parasites, for prevention and early treatment of Covid-19. He described a just-published study from Argentina in which about 800 health-care workers received ivermectin and 400 didn’t. Not one of the 800 contracted Covid-19; 58% of the 400 did.

Dr. Kory asked the National Institutes of Health to review his group’s manuscript outlining dozens of successful trials and to consider updating its Aug. 27 guidance in which it recommended “against the use of ivermectin for the treatment of Covid-19, except in a clinical trial.” On Dec. 10, Sen. Rand Paul and I sent a letter to the NIH requesting that it review Dr. Kory’s evidence.

Lockdowns Come from a Place of Privilege

https://fee.org/articles/lockdowns-come-from-a-place-of-privilege/

The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns are making life quite difficult for a lot of people, and some of the hardest hit are the poor and marginalized. There are immigrants who have been laid off from their jobs and single mothers who can’t access childcare. There are elderly people who can’t get the support they need and people with mental illnesses who are struggling with the lack of routine.

One of the biggest challenges for people on the margins is that, all too often, they are invisible to society at large. Issues like poverty, addiction, mental illness and domestic abuse don’t often make the news, so it’s easy to forget that these hardships are an ever-present reality for millions of people.

Champions of the lockdowns tend to be especially oblivious to these hardships, and their preoccupation with case numbers and COVID deaths has caused them to blithely dismiss people’s concerns. Some have even castigated protesters for raising their concerns, brushing them off with the callous retort, “it’s not all about you.”

Research

Corona children studies “Co-Ki”: First results of a Germany-wide registry on mouth and nose covering (mask) in children

https://www.researchsquare.com/article/rs-124394/v1

Abstract

Background: Narratives about complaints in children and adolescents caused by wearing a mask are accumulating. There is, to date, no registry for side effects of masks.

Methods: At the University of Witten/Herdecke an online registry has been set up where parents, doctors, pedagogues and others can enter their observations. On 20.10.2020, 363 doctors were asked to make entries and to make parents and teachers aware of the registry.

Results: By 26.10.2020 the registry had been used by 20,353 people. In this publication we report the results from the parents, who entered data on a total of 25,930 children. The average wearing time of the mask was 270 minutes per day. Impairments caused by wearing the mask were reported by 68% of the parents. These included irritability (60%), headache (53%), difficulty concentrating (50%), less happiness (49%), reluctance to go to school/kindergarten (44%), malaise (42%) impaired learning (38%) and drowsiness or fatigue (37%).

Discussion: This world’s first registry for recording the effects of wearing masks in children is dedicated to a new research question. Bias with respect to preferential documentation of children who are particularly severely affected or who are fundamentally critical of protective measures cannot be dismissed. The frequency of the registry’s use and the spectrum of symptoms registryed indicate the importance of the topic and call for representative surveys, randomized controlled trials with various masks and a renewed risk-benefit assessment for the vulnerable group of children: adults need to collecticely reflect the circumstances under which they would be willing to take a residual risk upon themselves in favor of enabling children to have a higher quality of life without having to wear a mask.

Delayed diagnosis and treatment are expected to increase the numbers of deaths up to year 5 after diagnosis by 7·9–9·6% for breast cancer, 15·3–16·6% for colorectal cancer, 4·8–5·3% for lung cancer, and 5·8–6·0% for oesophageal cancer.

Charts and Graphics

Daily reported Covid-19 Cases in U.S.

Total COVID deaths per million in US states up to 1st February 2021

Toby Young: “If you look at the number of Covid deaths per million in the U.S. up to February 1st, the average in those seven states that didn’t lock down is lower than the average in the 43 states that did.”

Infections and Deaths in South Africa 

South Africa COVID cases are plummeting despite very few lockdown restrictions. No effect of the so-called South African variant. Also vaccination has not started.

International News

Covid travel restrictions: Canada suspends flights to Caribbean and Mexico

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-55863882

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced a new agreement with airlines to suspend travel to the Caribbean and Mexico due to Covid-19.

The country’s main airlines, including Air Canada and WestJet, will end service immediately and organise return travel for those currently abroad.

The government will also mandate new testing and three-day quarantine periods upon arrival in Canada.

It comes amid reports of many Canadians travelling internationally this winter.

“New variants of Covid-19 pose a real challenge to Canada,” said Mr Trudeau on Friday. “That’s why we need to take extra measures.”

He announced Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing and Air Transat have all agreed to suspend their flights to those popular so-called “sun destinations” until 30 April.

All visitors must take a mandatory Covid PCR test when they arrive at the airport – in addition to the pre-boarding test that is already required – and stay at government-approved hotels at their own cost for up to three days as they await the results.