COVID Zero vs. Normal

What will happen if there’s another pandemic? In Kentucky, a judge issued a restraining order against future COVID-19 Executive Orders; after a referendum last month, the Pennsylvania house voted to end their COVID executive orders (it goes through the PA senate next). Meanwhile, “experts” are still trying to get people concerned about variants, and some workplaces are requiring employees to get vaccinated. COVID Zero policy is continuing in Australia and India is reporting a record high death toll.

In other news:

  • Lionel Shriver on the pointless religion of mask wearing in The Spectator
  • A look at how American scientists failed by Gerard Baker at The Wall Street Journal
  • James Bolt takes us inside Australia’s COVID Zero Policy and extended lockdown at Spiked
  • We need to be taking natural immunity more seriously, according to Marty Makary in The Wall Street Journal

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COVID News

Judge issues preemptive restraining order against Beshear’s future COVID-19 orders

https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/politics/2020/07/09/judge-issues-restraining-order-beshears-future-covid-19-orders/5408750002/

A circuit court judge issued a temporary restraining order Thursday against future executive orders that may be signed by Gov. Andy Beshear related to the COVID-19 emergency, stating that the governor must spell out specific details on why they are needed.

The judge’s ruling came hours before Beshear announced he had signed a new executive order mandating Kentuckians to wear a mask in public for the next 30 days, a reaction to an alarming increase in COVID-19 cases over the past week.

After announcing the new mask mandate at his press conference Thursday afternoon, Beshear lashed out at the judge’s order and the Republican attorney general and commissioner of agriculture who joined the lawsuit, calling it “absolutely irresponsible.”

PA House Votes To Permanently End Gov. Wolf’s COVID-19 Disaster Emergency

http://levittownnow.com/2021/06/09/pa-house-votes-to-permanently-end-gov-wolfs-covid-19-disaster-emergency/

Using the powers that Pennsylvania voters gave to the Legislature during last month’s statewide referendum vote, the Pennsylvania House voted Tuesday evening to permanently end Wolf’s COVID-19 disaster emergency, and the executive powers that come with it, along party lines, 113-90.

Republican lawmakers cheered and gave a standing ovation after it passed, one loudly yelling “freedom.”

If passed by the state Senate, the resolution would take effect immediately. Wolf cannot veto it.

More transmissible, wilier variant makes Covid-19 vaccinations even more crucial, experts say

It’s getting even riskier to remain unvaccinated.

The United States, as a whole, is still in good shape for the summer of reunions and revived activities. But for those who haven’t been immunized against Covid-19, there is a new concern: the emergence of yet another coronavirus variant, one with a nasty combination of features that makes it even more dangerous than the other strains that have caused global alarms.

The variant, known as Delta, was first spotted in India and helped power that country’s recent explosive outbreaks. Also called B.1.617.2, it seems to be the most transmissible version of the coronavirus seen thus far, but also carries some ability to get around the body’s immune protection generated after vaccination or an initial infection. (There’s also some evidence that it is more likely to cause severe disease, though researchers are still trying to confirm that.)

“It’s really like the worst of both worlds,” said epidemiologist Nathan Grubaugh of the Yale School of Public Health.

Houston hospital suspends 178 employees who refused Covid-19 vaccination

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/houston-hospital-suspends-178-employees-who-refused-covid-19-vaccine-n1270261

A Houston hospital has suspended 178 staff members who have refused to abide by its mandate that employees be fully vaccinated by Monday.

Nearly 25,000 of Houston Methodist’s staff members have been fully inoculated against Covid-19 as part of a vaccination requirement announced in April, Houston Methodist’s president, Dr. Marc Boom, said in a statement Tuesday.

But 178 unvaccinated employees who did not get religious or medical exemptions were suspended without pay, including 27 who are only partly vaccinated.

Commentary/Analysis

The strange theatre of mask-wearing

https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/the-strange-theatre-of-mask-wearing

However surreal and dystopian the pandemic landscape seemed at first, no enduring vista feels ‘surreal’ and ‘dystopian’ indefinitely. Citizenries uniformly obliterating their faces with ear-to-ear muzzles has come to seem par for the course. But I’m still amazed by how eagerly a certain segment has embraced masking in public, especially in the US. More perplexingly still, many of these people regard any release from mask mandates as an attempt to take something precious away from them. They recall a certain kind of belligerent animal that gets trapped in a cage, and when you open the door it glooms in a corner and refuses to leave.

Witness the response last week when America’s Centers for Disease Control announced that there’s no need for fully vaccinated individuals to wear masks, other than in a handful of circumstances (e.g. on planes and public transport, where frankly there’s no scientific justification for the vaccinated to mask up, either). Twitter exploded in outrage. How dare you allow us to go shopping without snot continuously drooling from our noses that we can’t even wipe away! We love running and cycling in a state of oxygen deprivation! Are you seriously proposing we go back to interacting with fellow human beings as if they’re anything other than repulsive bipedal pustules that weep disease?

America’s Covid Groupthink Functioned Like China’s Repression

https://www.wsj.com/articles/americas-covid-groupthink-functioned-like-chinas-repression-11623085417

What we eventually learn about the origins of Covid-19 may implicate China’s government in failure and falsehood on a grand scale. But before we get too carried away with the endemic failures of the communist order, we should ponder that the episode has exposed layers of rottenness in critical institutions of American civil society that are similarly damning.

China’s officials may well be culpable of a combination of incompetence, recklessness and deceit. But in an authoritarian regime, they might not have had much individual agency in the matter. In this country, scientists, bureaucrats, journalists and executives of Big Tech companies suppressed the story not out of fear of imprisonment or death, but of their own volition, out of ideological or even venal motives. You may well ask: Whose culpability is greater?

Australia’s forever lockdown

Melbourne’s fourth lockdown was supposed to finish last Thursday. After a week of restrictions, Melburnians were supposed to have their freedoms restored. But on Thursday, the state of Victoria, which is home to 6.6million people, recorded nine new cases of community transmission.

This brought the total number of Covid cases in Victoria’s cluster to 54. Instead of relaxing restrictions, the Victoria state government extended the lockdown for another week at least. So far it has not said what thresholds need to be met for the lockdown to be lifted.

Many politicians and commentators in the UK have praised Australia’s approach to Covid. They argue that the UK should follow Australian states’ lead, and lock down hard and early with each new outbreak. It seems they want the UK to follow Australia’s Zero Covid strategy.

The Power of Natural Immunity

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-power-of-natural-immunity-11623171303

The news about the U.S. Covid pandemic is even better than you’ve heard. Some 80% to 85% of American adults are immune to the virus: More than 64% have received at least one vaccine dose and, of those who haven’t, roughly half have natural immunity from prior infection. There’s ample scientific evidence that natural immunity is effective and durable, and public-health leaders should pay it heed.

Only around 10% of Americans have had confirmed positive Covid tests, but four to six times as many have likely had the infection. A February study in Nature used antibody screenings in late summer 2020 to estimate there had been seven times as many actual cases as confirmed cases. A similar study, by the University of Albany and New York State Department of Health, revealed that by the end of March 2020—the first month of New York’s pandemic—23% of the city’s population had antibodies. That share necessarily increased as the pandemic spread.

Research

Necessity of COVID-19 vaccination in previously infected individuals

https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.06.01.21258176v2

ABSTRACT

Background The purpose of this study was to evaluate the necessity of COVID-19 vaccination in persons previously infected with SARS-CoV-2.

Methods Employees of the Cleveland Clinic Health System working in Ohio on Dec 16, 2020, the day COVID-19 vaccination was started, were included. Any subject who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 at least 42 days earlier was considered previously infected. One was considered vaccinated 14 days after receipt of the second dose of a SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccine. The cumulative incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection over the next five months, among previously infected subjects who received the vaccine, was compared with those of previously infected subjects who remained unvaccinated, previously uninfected subjects who received the vaccine, and previously uninfected subjects who remained unvaccinated.

Results Among the 52238 included employees, 1359 (53%) of 2579 previously infected subjects remained unvaccinated, compared with 22777 (41%) of 49659 not previously infected. The cumulative incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection remained almost zero among previously infected unvaccinated subjects, previously infected subjects who were vaccinated, and previously uninfected subjects who were vaccinated, compared with a steady increase in cumulative incidence among previously uninfected subjects who remained unvaccinated. Not one of the 1359 previously infected subjects who remained unvaccinated had a SARS-CoV-2 infection over the duration of the study. In a Cox proportional hazards regression model, after adjusting for the phase of the epidemic, vaccination was associated with a significantly lower risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection among those not previously infected (HR 0.031, 95% CI 0.015 to 0.061) but not among those previously infected (HR 0.313, 95% CI 0 to Infinity).

Conclusions Individuals who have had SARS-CoV-2 infection are unlikely to benefit from COVID-19 vaccination, and vaccines can be safely prioritized to those who have not been infected before.

Summary Cumulative incidence of COVID-19 was examined among 52238 employees in an American healthcare system. COVID-19 did not occur in anyone over the five months of the study among 2579 individuals previously infected with COVID-19, including 1359 who did not take the vaccine.

Charts and Graphics

International News

Two Australian states on COVID-19 alert after infected woman’s interstate travel

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/victoria-new-south-wales-queensland-covid-19-interstate-travel-14984800

SYDNEY: Two Australian states are on COVID-19 alert after an infected woman and her husband travelled from Victoria – which is currently in lockdown – through New South Wales and into Queensland, visiting dozens of sites on the  way.

Authorities in New South Wales and Queensland are rushing to trace close contacts and locate virus hotspots. The couple may face criminal charges for breaching COVID-19 border restrictions.

The 44-year-old woman tested positive for COVID-19 once in Queensland, authorities said late on Wednesday (Jun 9), and her husband has since tested positive.

India reports more than 6,000 daily Covid deaths — highest ever in the world

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/06/10/india-covid-crisis-more-than-6000-deaths-recorded-in-24-hours.html

India’s daily reported death toll from the coronavirus crisis reached a record high on Thursday, with more than 6,000 people succumbing to the disease.

That surpassed a record number of daily fatalities reported by the United States this year.

India’s health ministry data showed 6,148 Covid-related deaths were recorded over a 24-hour period, as daily reported cases remained below 100,000 for the third consecutive day.

The fatalities rose after one of India’s poorest states, Bihar, revised its total Covid-19 related death toll on Wednesday from about 5,400 to more than 9,400, accounting for people who died at home or in private hospitals, Reuters reported.

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