Experts Say Reopen Schools. Unions and Politicians Refuse.

A survey of approximately 175 of pediatricians mostly agreed that it was safe enough for schools to fully reopen. But it doesn’t appear our politicians and bureaucrats want to listen to these experts when they contradict their message.

Meanwhile, mental health professionals are growing increasingly alarmed about the deteriorating mental state of young people. Many of these young people have reported lost economic opportunities, missed traditional milestones, and forfeited relationships at the most critical times of their lives.

Going back on his initial promise of only 100 days, President Joe Biden insisted that Americans may need to wear face masks through the next year.

In other news:

  • Cruise ships were the best predictor of risks of COVID, but we ignored the data in favor of the flawed government models, says our Michael Betrus.
  • Our Megan Mansell writes about life in Florida, where neighboring counties have completely different rules.
  • The Chinese government withheld raw data from WHO investigators that could help determine the pandemic’s origins. 
  • A court in The Hague has told the Dutch government that an overnight curfew to reduce the spread of coronavirus should be lifted, ruling that it breaches the right to free movement. This measure was originally intended to reduce movement among young people, but triggered days of rioting in a number of towns and cities. The Netherlands had not seen a curfew since Nazi occupation during World War II.

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

COVID News

We Asked 175 Pediatric Disease Experts if It Was Safe Enough to Open School

Many of the common preconditions to opening schools — including vaccines for teachers or students, and low rates of infection in the community — are not necessary to safely teach children in person, a consensus of pediatric infectious disease experts said in a new survey.

Instead, the 175 experts — mostly pediatricians focused on public health — largely agreed that it was safe enough for schools to be open to elementary students for full-time and in-person instruction now. Some said that was true even in communities where Covid-19 infections were widespread, as long as basic safety measures were taken. Most important, they said, were universal masking, physical distancing, adequate ventilation and avoidance of large group activities.

‘What’s the Point?’ Young People’s Despair Deepens as Covid-19 Crisis Drags On

Life seemed promising last year to Philaé Lachaux, a 22-year-old business student in France who dreamed of striking out on her own in the live music industry. But the onset of the pandemic, leading to the loss of her part-time job as a waitress, sent her back to live at her family home.

Now, struggling to envision a future after months of restrictions, Ms. Lachaux says that loneliness and despair seep in at night. “I look at the ceiling, I feel a lump in my throat,” she said. “I’ve never had so many suicidal thoughts.”

“The pandemic feels like a big stop in our lives,” she added. “One that puts us so low that I wonder, ‘What’s the point?’”

With curfews, closures and lockdowns in European countries set to drag into the spring or even the summer, mental health professionals are growing increasingly alarmed about the deteriorating mental state of young people, who they say have been among the most badly affected by a world with a foreshortened sense of the future.

Biden tells Americans to wear masks for COVID-19 until at least 2022

https://nypost.com/2021/02/12/biden-tells-americans-to-wear-masks-for-covid-19-until-2022/

President Biden on Thursday stressed the importance of wearing masks until at least 2022 to save lives — despite declaring the US will have enough supply of vaccines by the summer to inoculate 300 million Americans.

The president told reporters during a visit to the National Institutes of Health complex that he would not take his mask off even though he was standing more than 10 feet away from Dr. Anthony Fauci and NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins.

“You know that wearing this mask through the next year here can save lives — a significant number of lives,” Biden said. “And so I apologize if you don’t hear me as clearly as you, maybe you should.”

Commentary/Analysis

Original Sin

On January 20, 2020, the Diamond Princess left Yokohama, Japan at full capacity for a fourteen-day cruise. On January 27, a passenger was diagnosed with COVID-19. By February 4, the cruise itinerary was cancelled. On that day, 10 people positive for COVID-19 were released for medical care, and by February 6, 41 people tested positive. The Diamond Princess began its lengthy quarantine.

On February 11, 2020, the Grand Princess ship sailed out of San Francisco/Oakland to several ports in Mexico. It returned to San Francisco for a next voyage on February 21. A 71-year-old man from California disembarked the February 11 cruise positive with COVID-19 and passed it on to passengers or crew on the February 21 cruise.

The Grand Princess stayed at sea in the Pacific for four days awaiting its fate by the U.S. government. When the ship entered the San Francisco Bay on March 9, it was covered on the news like the Bronco chase. News media painted a picture as if the leper colony from Ben-Hur was porting in. But what was actually discovered? Really nothing.

Indignation in a Polarized State

Florida is both a lockdown and a free state, where crossing invisible lines leads you either to counties governed by arbitrary rules created by power-hungry representatives with no background in disaster mitigation (hopefully no future in it either) or free townships and cities that treat their citizens as fully capable of personal risk mitigation, while providing meaningful community supports for their more vulnerable citizens. Free counties rely on neighborly behavior and an educated public, and the results speak for themselves: counties that mandate masks have had higher case numbers since October.

Those of us in mask-mandating counties often see one another when we venture into the free zones. The city I’m in is no longer even addressing mask mandates on their agenda, considering it a done deal while they refuse to respond to citizens who do not support the tyrannical measures we face. The city is closely bordered by 4 towns, 3 of which have remained open. Having moved not too long ago from an area that has remained free throughout, we are longing for the freedom we unknowingly left behind.

I wonder how many others devote large chunks of their budget to gas expenditures, left to choose between feeling like prisoners in our own homes, with little to do and few places to go, or driving out of town frequently just to bare our faces and breathe freely. To us, it’s worth the expense to be able to decide for ourselves. I also believe that the ability to make informed personal decisions about risk should be preserved for even the most vulnerable among us. Last I checked, you can ride a tiger off a cliff through a flaming hoop without a parachute while smoking a joint in California, so long as you are wearing a mask. Health, right?

It’s time to ignore the lockdown fanatics and open for business

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/02/14/time-ignore-lockdown-fanatics-open-business/

From a standing start last April to the first vaccinations in January, the UK has achieved the near-impossible: instigating a process that normally takes 10 years. What a coup for Kate Bingham and her vaccine task force, working so strategically alongside the business and health departments.

Remarkably, the Government has met its 15 million target ahead of schedule. By contrast just over 17 million people have been vaccinated right across the European Union. Amid growing global demand for vaccines, we must maintain our impressive head start, adapting to the next phases of the rollout.

I am deputy chair of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) whose report this week on the vaccine programme reveals the three main supply and planning issues threatening our early achievements. These include changes to the priority list, such as the need to vaccinate teachers and other front-line workers. Among other potential game-changers are the arrival of new variants and the possible need for an annual vaccination programme.

The vaccine is the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel and everyone is celebrating its success. But what does this progress mean for our future?

The government must ensure that all England’s schools reopen fully by March 8 at the latest. Rumours of a phased return are a nightmare for the many teachers condemned to continue the demanding hybrid version of virtual and face-to-face learning. As infections fall, we need an exit route for the entire economy.

Lifting restrictions too quickly could trigger a surge in hospital cases. But over-caution could be equally dangerous, destroying livelihoods and creating an epidemic of mental illness.

The first four priority groups vaccinated comprise our most vulnerable people, with over 80 per cent of deaths so far drawn from their ranks. Now these groups are protected, we can focus on the damage inflicted elsewhere. Lockdown fanatics need to consider the genuine hardship and financial ruin so many of my constituents are experiencing. Some face losing their homes and life savings.

We Need to Safely Reopen Public Schools

https://medium.com/age-of-awareness/we-need-to-safely-reopen-public-schools-55099f2c6184

I would not be Mayor today if it weren’t for San Francisco’s public schools. I grew up in public housing that was literally deteriorating — it was common for the heat not to work or to go days without hot water. My neighborhood was the living embodiment of our government’s disinvestment in low-income neighborhoods and our residents. But I had a community that cared for me, and while I wasn’t always an easy student for my teachers, they saw potential in me and provided the support I needed.

This last year has been a challenge unlike any we’ve faced before and has upended almost everything. Throughout it all, our educators have been going above and beyond to try to teach over video conference. But there is only so much you can do when you’re facing a screen of black windows because students aren’t turning on their cameras. We often talk about how hard it is for students and parents, but this is also an unbelievable challenge for our teachers. I’ve heard directly from so many who are tired, frustrated, and just want to get back to working with kids directly.

Research

Comprehensive analysis of T cell immunodominance and immunoprevalence of SARS-CoV-2 epitopes in COVID-19 case

https://www.cell.com/cell-reports-medicine/fulltext/S2666-3791(21)00015-X#%20

Summary:

T cells are involved in control of SARS-CoV-2 infection. To establish the patterns of immunodominance of different SARS-CoV-2 antigens and precisely measure virus-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, we study epitope-specific T cell responses of 99 convalescent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases. The SARS-CoV-2 proteome is probed using 1,925 peptides spanning the entire genome, ensuring an unbiased coverage of human leukocyte antigen (HLA) alleles for class II responses. For HLA class I, we study an additional 5,600 predicted binding epitopes for 28 prominent HLA class I alleles, accounting for wide global coverage. We identify several hundred HLA-restricted SARS-CoV-2-derived epitopes. Distinct patterns of immunodominance are observed, which differ for CD4+ T cells, CD8+ T cells, and antibodies. The class I and class II epitopes are combined into epitope megapools to facilitate identification and quantification of SARS-CoV-2-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T cells.

Charts and Graphics

International News

China Refuses to Give WHO Raw Data on Early Covid-19 Cases

https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-refuses-to-give-who-raw-data-on-early-covid-19-cases-11613150580

BEIJING—Chinese authorities refused to provide World Health Organization investigators with raw, personalized data on early Covid-19 cases that could help them determine how and when the coronavirus first began to spread in China, according to WHO investigators who described heated exchanges over the lack of detail.

The Chinese authorities turned down requests to provide such data on 174 cases of Covid-19 that they have identified from the early phase of the outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019. The investigators are part of a WHO team that this week completed a monthlong mission in China aimed at determining the origins of the pandemic.

Chinese officials and scientists provided their own extensive summaries and analysis of data on the cases, said the WHO team members. They also supplied aggregated data and analysis on retrospective searches through medical records in the months before the Wuhan outbreak was identified, saying that they had found no evidence of the virus.

But the WHO team wasn’t allowed to view the raw underlying data on those retrospective studies, which could allow them to conduct their own analysis on how early and how extensively the virus began to spread in China, the team members said. Member states typically provide such data—anonymized, but disaggregated so investigators can see all other relevant details on each case—as part of WHO investigations, said team members.

Covid: Dutch crisis as court orders end to Covid curfew

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-56084466

A court in The Hague has told the Dutch government that an overnight curfew to reduce the spread of coronavirus should be lifted, ruling that it breaches the right to free movement.

The court said the 21:00 to 04:30 curfew was imposed by an emergency law when there was no “acute emergency”.

Later, a higher court ruled that the curfew could stay in place pending an appeal on Friday.

The curfew, imposed in January, led to rioting in several Dutch cities.

Police were patrolling streets near the Dutch parliament on Tuesday evening but no unrest has been reported so far.

The earlier court ruling – which said the curfew should be lifted immediately – was a victory for campaign group Viruswaarheid (Virus Truth) and a major upset for the government.

The government quickly asked for the decision to be suspended until an appeal was heard at the end of the week. An appeals court later granted that suspension.

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