Dissident Experts Speak Out

Holding nothing back, Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a co-author of the Great Barrington Declaration, said the COVID lockdowns were the “biggest public health mistake we’ve ever made.

In a recent speech before Stanford College Republicans, Dr. Scott Atlas warned the coronavirus pandemic exposed profound issues in America that now threaten the very principles of freedom and order that we Americans often take for granted.

A recent study from Massachusetts concludes there is no substantial difference in COVID cases among students or staff with three feet versus six feet of distance.

Meanwhile, Maryland is the latest state to re-open and lift its COVID restrictions. Daily COVID cases nationwide continue their downward spiral.

In other news:

  • I advised people to take common-sense precautions against this common enemy. But I did not order South Dakotans to shelter in place, says South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem.
  • America’s Founders saw no need for emergency exceptions to personal liberty, reminds Steve Dewey in AIER.
  • When the next pandemic hits, we must make sure that scientists can put forward arguments without threats of professional deplatforming, so that those who depart from the public consensus may assist in the common enterprise of safeguarding public health, says Noah Carl in Quillette
  • There’s a reason no government has done a cost-benefit analysis on the lockdowns: The policy would surely fail, says Philippe Lemoine in the Wall Street Journal.
  • According to new real-world data from Israel, Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine is highly effective in preventing not only symptomatic COVID, but also asymptomatic disease.

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COVID News

Whitmer signs Michigan COVID-19 recovery into law, vetoes bill to remove her pandemic power

https://www.thecentersquare.com/michigan/whitmer-signs-michigan-covid-19-recovery-into-law-vetoes-bill-to-remove-her-pandemic-power/article_48696a3e-8114-11eb-94aa-f7fce856af44.html

(The Center Square) – On Tuesday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed into law at least $2.5 billion of the GOP’s COVID-19 recovery plan, but vetoed curbs on her pandemic powers.

The package includes a $2.25/hour wage increase for direct care workers, $283 million in federal emergency rental assistance, up to $110 million in federal funding for vaccine administration, and up to $555 million in federal funding for COVID-19 testing and tracing.

Whitmer welcomed the relief dollars but called on the legislature to allocate the remaining $2 billion of federal money.

“However, the reality is that there is more work to be done and there are still billions of dollars in federal funding that we need to get out the door to help businesses and families across the state,” Whitmer said in a statement. “The bills I received were not negotiated with me or my administration, and I continue to call on the legislature to ensure that we work together to ensure we maximize every penny that is available.”

Whitmer vetoed HB 4049, which includes $840.7 million of school district funding tied to the state Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) being prohibited from closing schools to in-person instruction or banning school sports under a COVID-19 epidemic order.

Arizona Gov. Ducey lifts capacity limits businesses, restaurants, gyms and water parks

https://www.abc15.com/news/state/gov-doug-ducey-lifts-some-restrictions-in-arizona-businesses-restaurants-can-reopen-at-100-occupancy

PHOENIX — Restaurants, gyms, movie theaters, bowling alleys, water parks and bars that serve food for dine-in can immediately open at 100% capacity, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced Friday, lifting one of the state’s mitigation strategies amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

However, businesses will have to enforce social distancing, mask requirements, increased cleanings, and continue to follow the CDC-recommended guidelines.

“Today’s announcement is a measured approach; we are not in the clear yet. We need to continue practicing personal responsibility. Wear a mask. Social distance. Stay home when you’re sick and wash your hands frequently,” Gov. Ducey said in a prepared statement.

The executive order also prevents mayors and local jurisdictions from issuing “extreme” orders that would shut down businesses, the Governor’s Office said in a news release announcing the executive order.

Jay Bhattacharya, Stanford Doctor, Calls Lockdowns the ‘Biggest Public Health Mistake We’ve Ever Made’

https://www.newsweek.com/stanford-doctor-calls-lockdowns-biggest-public-health-mistake-weve-ever-made-1574540

Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a professor at Stanford University Medical School, recently said that COVID-19 lockdowns are the “biggest public health mistake we’ve ever made…The harm to people is catastrophic.”

Several U.S. states have started to ease their COVID-19 restrictions over the past few weeks.

Bhattacharya, who made the comments during an interview with the Daily Clout, co-authored the Great Barrington Declaration, a petition that calls for the end of COVID-19 lockdowns, claiming that they are “producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health.”

As of Monday, the Great Barrington Declaration has received signatures from over 13,000 medical and public health scientists, more than 41,000 medical practitioners and at least 754,399 “concerned citizens.”

Maryland COVID reopening: State to lift limits at restaurants, stores; large venues to allow 50% capacity

https://www.capitalgazette.com/coronavirus/bs-md-hogan-coronavirus-update-20210309-eqevuamwdba7dg34pzsy5trwea-story.html

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced that he’s easing many coronavirus restrictions in the state beginning at 5 p.m. Friday, including lifting capacity limits at restaurants and opening up large indoor and outdoor venues to 50% capacity, while keeping in effect the state’s mask mandate.

Statewide orders currently limit bars and restaurants to operating at no more than 50% capacity both indoors and outdoors, although some counties in the state imposed stricter local limits.

The Republican governor on Tuesday afternoon said state rules soon will allow bars and restaurants to welcome as many customers as they like, as long as patrons remain seated and socially distanced. People will not be permitted to crowd around the bar.

Commentary/Analysis

Gov. Kristi Noem: COVID and South Dakota one year later — what guided our approach from Day One

https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/covid-south-dakota-one-year-approach-day-one-kristi-noem

On March 10, 2020, South Dakota diagnosed our first cases of COVID-19. Tragically, that day also marked our first death in what would be a long fight against the virus.

When that day came, we were prepared. Our Department of Health had been monitoring the situation since January and had stood up our Emergency Operation Center a month before the virus reached our state. I was briefed frequently by our health experts, and I passed the science, facts, and data of the virus onto my constituents, just like every governor did.

But in some ways, I took these conversations a step further. I met with lawyers and constitutional experts to better understand the authorities that I had – and those that I did not have. I asked business owners what the impact of various policy decisions would be on their livelihoods.

And then I made the decision that South Dakota would not shut down our state. I advised people to take common-sense precautions against this common enemy. But I did not order South Dakotans to shelter in place. I never mandated masks. And South Dakota was the only state in America to never order a single business or church to close.

Covid-19 Lockdowns Violate the US Constitution

The extensive and continued Covid-19 restrictions on human activity throughout the United States over the past year is not only contrary to an honest examination of public health data and economic impact, but it also violates our freedoms outlined in the US Constitution. This is a vital issue that has been almost entirely ignored by the media. 

During a December 4, 2020 virtual event of the Bastiat Society of Washington, DC, attorneys Robert Barnes of Barnes Law LLP and Patrick Wright of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy spoke on the heavy use of government emergency decrees in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic. Mr. Barnes made the case that the ongoing emergency decrees imposed on Americans are both unprecedented in American history and a violation of our constitutional rights. Mr. Wright focused more specifically on the current court challenges to various state emergency decrees, most notably those in Michigan imposed by Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Mr. Wright’s court updates will be covered in a subsequent article.

Mr. Barnes provided the following historical references in making his case against the imposition of emergency public health lockdowns:

America’s Founders saw no need for emergency exceptions to personal liberty. In the 12 years from 1775, when American colonists began contemplating a declaration of independence from Britain with a bill of rights, until 1787 when the new Constitution of the United States was signed, the 13 British colonies turned American states suffered no less than seven epidemics. These epidemics, comprised of smallpox and influenza, had mortality rates as high as thirty percent — the highest in American history.

Lockdown Scepticism Was Never a ‘Fringe’ Viewpoint

Whether or not lockdowns are justifiable on public-health grounds, they certainly represent the greatest infringement on civil liberties in modern history. In the UK, lockdowns have contributed to the largest economic contraction in more than 300 years, as well as countless bankruptcies, and a dramatic rise in public borrowing.

This does not mean that lockdowns were the wrong policy, since they might have been necessary to prevent the National Health Service from being overwhelmed with COVID-19 critical-care patients. (And such measures are justified, proponents argue, on the grounds that they prevent infected individuals from harming others by inadvertently transmitting a deadly disease.) But as I will argue below, there’s plenty of evidence that supports those on the other side of this issue, notwithstanding the efforts of politicians, experts, and social-media companies to paint such dissent as marginal or even dangerous.

The Lockdowns Weren’t Worth It

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-lockdowns-werent-worth-it-11615485413

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced last week that his state is ending its mask mandate and business capacity limits. While Democrats and many public-health officials denounced the move, ample data now exist to demonstrate that the benefits of stringent measures aren’t worth the costs.

This wasn’t always the case. A year ago I publicly advocated lockdowns because they seemed prudent given how little was known at the time about the virus and its effects. But locking society down has become the default option of governments all over the world, regardless of cost.

More than a year after the pandemic began, vaccination is under way in both Europe and the U.S. Yet stringent restrictions are still in place on both sides of the Atlantic. Germany, Ireland and the U.K. are still in lockdown, while France is two months into a 6 p.m. curfew that the French government says will last for at least four more weeks. In many U.S. states, in-person schooling is still rare.

This time last year we had no idea how difficult it would be to control the virus. Given how fast it had been spreading, people made the reasonable assumption that most of the population would be infected in a few weeks unless we somehow reduced transmission. Projections by the Imperial College Covid-19 Response Team in London projected that more than two million Americans could die in a few months. A lockdown would cut transmission, and while it couldn’t prevent all infections, it would keep hospitals from being overwhelmed. It would “flatten the curve.”

The Problem With the CDC’s Six-Foot Rule for Schools

https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/03/the-problem-with-the-cdcs-six-foot-rule-for-schools.html

At the end of last month, Jeffrey Riley, the Massachusetts commissioner of education, announced that his goal was “to bring all elementary-school students back to in-person learning five days a week this April.” The state would achieve this, he noted, by allowing children to be three feet apart. It was a stark rejection to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which conspicuously maintained its recommendation of six feet of distancing in its revised school guidelines released in February.

For most schools, the difference between three feet and six feet determines whether children can attend school full time or not. Requiring six feet between each student and staff member means classes must operate at reduced capacity, leading to so-called hybrid schedules where kids are only in the building part time.

The Massachusetts edict didn’t stop with just ignoring the CDC’s distancing guidelines. Riley also said schools should reopen fully in person or in a robust hybrid model “regardless of community prevalence.” The CDC’s school guidance, by contrast, hinges on varying levels of community prevalence as benchmarks for whether and how schools can open.

Scott Atlas: The Last Word

https://stanfordreview.org/scott-atlas-the-last-word/

It is always a great pleasure, and an important part of my job, to speak to students. It is essential for students to hear ideas from many sources, especially ideas they may not agree with.  That is a key part of learning how to think critically – and critical thinking is the most important lesson to learn in college, in my opinion.

The coronavirus pandemic has been a great tragedy, there can be no doubt about that. But it has also exposed profound issues in America that now threaten the very principles of freedom and order that we Americans often take for granted.

First, I have been shocked at the enormous power of the government, to unilaterally decree, to simply close businesses and schools by edict, restrict personal movement, mandate behavior, and eliminate our most basic freedoms, without any end and little accountability.

Second, I remain surprised at the acceptance by the American people of draconian rules, restrictions, and unprecedented mandates, even those that are arbitrary, destructive, and wholly unscientific.

This crisis has also exposed what we all have known existed, but we have tolerated for years: the overt bias of the media, the lack of diverse viewpoints on campuses, the absence of neutrality in big tech controlling social media, and now more visibly than ever, the intrusion of politics into science. Ultimately, the freedom to seek and state the truth is at risk here in the United States.

Research

What the CDC School Reopening Strategy Means for Superintendents

https://abcsciencecollaborative.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/ABC_Reopening-Strategy_Input_Final.pdf

Executive Summary:

As communities plan safe delivery of in-person instruction in K-12 schools, it is essential to decide when and under what conditions to help protect students, teachers, and sta and slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. It is critical for schools to open as safely and as soon as possible, and remain open, to achieve the benefits of in-person learning and key support services. To enable schools to open safely and remain open, it is important to adopt and consistently implement actions to slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2 both in schools and in the community. This means that all community members, students, families, teachers, and school staff should take actions to protect themselves andothers where they live, work, learn, and play. In short, success in preventing the introduction and subsequenttransmission of SARS-CoV-2 in schools is connected to and facilitated by preventing transmission in the broadercommunity.

This operational strategy presents recommendations based on the best-available evidence at the time of release. As science and data on COVID-19 continue to evolve, guidance and recommendations will be updated to reflect new evidence.

The Case Against Lockdowns

Summary

A year ago, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit most of the world, there was arguably a good case for lockdowns. The initial growth of the epidemic implied a high basic reproduction number, which in turn meant that unless transmission was reduced the virus would quickly sweep through most of the population because incidence would continue to grow exponentially until the herd immunity threshold was reached, overwhelming hospitals and resulting in the deaths of millions of people in a few weeks. Lockdowns and other stringent restrictions seemed like a plausible way of reducing transmission to “flatten the curve” and prevent that scenario from materializing.

Many people continue to reason along those lines, but since then we have learned that, whatever the precise effect that lockdowns and other stringent restrictions have, it is not so large that it can easily be picked up in the data, as it would surely be if restrictions had the very large effect that pro-lockdown advocates claim. In particular, it is not the case that the alternative to lockdowns is herd immunity (at least in the short run), because in practice incidence never grows exponentially for very long even in the absence of stringent restrictions. While it is plausible that, without stringent restrictions, incidence would start falling a bit sooner and it would fall a bit faster, but the data show very clearly that it always starts falling long before the herd immunity threshold is reached with or without a lockdown.

Charts and Graphics

3 Feet Versus 6 Feet Social Distancing – No Difference in Cases at School

International News

Pandemic blamed for falling birth rates across much of Europe

https://www.ft.com/content/bc825399-345c-47b8-82e7-6473a1c9a861

It is not just that many more people are dying as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. In several countries, considerably fewer are being born.

France’s national statistics institute was one of the first to publish figures for the number of children born in January — nine months after the country was stuck in its first Covid-19 lockdown — and the provisional data show a startling decline: there were 53,900 births in the month, 13 per cent down on the figure for January 2020. 

For France, a country that has traditionally had the highest fertility rate in the 27-member EU, it marked the biggest fall in births since the abrupt end of the baby boom in the 1970s.

Births had also fallen 7 per cent in the previous month compared with the same period a year earlier, leaving the total number of babies born in France last year, 735,000, at the lowest level since the end of the second world war.

“There are a lot of fantasies that when couples find themselves at home they will have more children. But that is something of an idyllic vision,” said Anne Solaz of Ined, France’s National Institute of Demographic Studies. “In fact there are some who find it hard being together all the time.” 

Covid-19 Vaccine From Pfizer-BioNTech Was 97% Effective at Preventing Illness in Israel

https://www.wsj.com/articles/covid-19-vaccine-from-pfizer-biontech-was-97-effective-at-preventing-illness-in-israel-11615479851

A new analysis from Israel found that maximum protection from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE ’s Covid-19 vaccine kicked in at least two weeks after people received the second dose, and it held up even against a more transmissible variant.

The Israeli analysis of real-world use of the vaccine, released Thursday, also showed that the shot was highly effective at preventing infections that don’t cause symptoms, a sign that it could be helping to limit spread of the virus. And the data indicated two doses were more protective than one.

The shot’s performance in Israel, which has vaccinated more of its population per capita than any other country, suggests the kind of impact that inoculations could have.

“This clearly demonstrates the power of the Covid-19 vaccine to fight this virus and encourages us to continue even more intensively with our vaccination campaign,” said Professor Yeheskel Levy, director of Israel’s Ministry of Health.

The findings, which Pfizer said were the most comprehensive real-world Covid-19 vaccine evidence to date, were based on an analysis of people vaccinated from Jan. 17 through March 6, and compared how many of them developed Covid-19 versus the rate in unvaccinated people.