It is remarkable how supposedly trustworthy, scientific organizations have flipped on key issues after being proved consistently wrong on said issues from Twitter to scientific journals. For example, The World Health Organization (“WHO”) finally realized that lockdowns were not effective as a primary method of stopping COVID-19 and lockdowns’ severe economic impact (estimated to be almost $100 trillion). The WHO is not alone in changing course on key issues. Media publications to leaders across the world have finally realized that PCR tests alone should not be to say if someone is infectious or not. In Europe’s second wave, projections and models were irrelevant after a week; not much better than your weekly weather forecast.
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Universities can still be a bastion of reason.
Doctors at Stanford University are at the forefront of a global movement of health experts who are criticizing lockdowns to control COVID-19 and say schools and businesses should reopen, but with a focus on protecting the elderly and infirm who are most vulnerable to the virus. Called the Great Barrington Declaration after the western Massachusetts town where it was hatched this month at an economic policy think tank, their statement of purpose is the handiwork of three principal drafters who include Stanford medical professor Dr. Jay Bhattacharya. “As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists, we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies,” the declaration states. “The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk.” Though the arguments are not new, with more than 18,000 medical, science and public health practitioners among its more than 191,000 worldwide online signatories, it represents the largest public break among health experts from their peers’ prevailing support for lockdowns since the pandemic began early this year. But the declaration has drawn fire from other doctors and public health officials who say lifting lockdowns will only invite a new wave of COVID-19 infections and fatalities from the deadly virus. More than 7.6 million people in the United States have contracted the virus, and 213,000 people have died. “Whose grandmother and grandfather and family members are you willing to sacrifice for this stupid idea?” asked Santa Clara County Executive Jeff Smith, whose administration in March led the Bay Area in imposing the first U.S. lockdown in the pandemic and has since been criticized since for its slow pace of reopening.
Do as I say, not as I do.
Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) Superintendent Gregory Hutchings has always been proud to call himself a parent of two children who attend public school. Until recently, his website and Twitter biography both made reference to his children’s enrollment in ACPS. But now, Hutchings has pulled one of his kids from ACPS—which remains all-virtual, to the frustration of many parents—and instead enrolled the child in a private Catholic high school currently following a hybrid model: some distance learning, and some in-person education. “I can confirm that our family made a decision to change my daughter’s school this school year,” said Hutchings in a statement to Theogony, the student newspaper of ACPS’s T.C. Williams High School, which first broke the news. “Decisions like these are very personal family decisions and are not taken lightly. This in no way impacts my absolute lifelong, commitment to public education, to which I remain as personally dedicated as ever.” The superintendent’s office confirmed the statement in an email to Reason. It’s hard to blame Hutchings for trying to do right by his own child. But he is in a position to do right by thousands of other kids who don’t have the same opportunity to simply opt-out of a completely inadequate Zoom education: He could prioritize reopening APCS, which is slated to remain all-virtual for the entire fall semester. One wonders why some in-person learning has been deemed a necessity for some families, but not others. Moreover, Hutchings previously expressed concerns about parents seeking alternative educational arrangements. In a July 23 virtual conversation with parents and teachers detailing the district’s fall plans, Hutchings fretted that in-person learning pods would cause some students to get ahead of their Zoom-based public school counterparts.
COVID-19 is hastening the decline of San Francisco.
Plunging BART and Muni ridership. The weakest online sales tax collections in the state. A 20% drop in apartment rents. Spiking office vacancies. San Francisco’s bleak economic vital signs over the past six months strongly suggest residents are leaving amid record job losses, the entrenchment of remote work, and a coronavirus pandemic that shows no signs of ending. It’s still unclear how many people have left, but moving vans and Medium posts tell the story of an ongoing migration. Weakness in the rental market and virtually flat online spending during shelter-in-place show that residents aren’t just staying home, they’re leaving, experts say. The city’s ability to attract new residents or lure old ones to return will be critical to avoid punching a giant hole in a local budget that has swelled to almost $14 billion. In an increasingly virtual economy where daily goods are delivered not for convenience but out of pandemic-driven necessity, all you have to do is count the Amazon boxes. Between April and June, the nine counties across the Bay Area saw big drops in brick-and-mortar sales taxes as orders to stay home took effect, ranging from a 17% drop in Santa Clara County to a 53% drop in San Francisco, compared to the prior year. But eight of the counties — everywhere but San Francisco — saw major jumps in online sales taxes, as high as 36% for Contra Costa County. San Francisco saw only a 1% increase in the tax collected on online sales. That figure was by far the worst not only in the region, but among California’s 20 largest counties. Los Angeles County saw a 31% increase in online sales taxes, San Diego County saw a 38% jump and Sacramento County saw a 32% spike. “That’s a sign to me that people aren’t here,” said Ted Egan, San Francisco’s chief economist.
Despite the media stoking fear, Trump is not infectious. Your immune still works in COVID world.
Ask an infectious disease doctor whether the president still has coronavirus, and you quickly realize that “having” the virus is a concept that exists more among laypeople than doctors. “We try to avoid that question,” says Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center of Health Security. “It becomes much harder to explain to people, well why is the test positive when you’re saying he’s not contagious? It’s because, that far out, it’s not viable virus.” Dr. Sean Conley, the physician to the president, said Saturday that the president was “no longer a transmission risk to others,” and that there was “no longer evidence of actively replicating virus.” But in reporting on the letter, several media outlets noted that Conley didn’t say the president had tested negative for COVID-19, raising concern among some experts. So does the president have coronavirus or not? “It’s not surprising to me that people are having difficulty interpreting the letter,” Adalja tells NPR. “It makes sense to me because I do this all this time.” Adalja, who has treated several dozen coronavirus patients, says he wouldn’t characterize the president as still having coronavirus. “He’s recovered from COVID-19,” Adalja says. There may be “remnants of coronaviral debris” present, but “that does not correlate with, or confer, infectiousness or contagiousness to other people.” “I think it’s hard sometimes, even with my patients, when I explain: ‘Yes, your test is still positive, but no, you’re not contagious anymore,’ ” Adalja added. “That’s sometimes hard to tell patients. That’s sometimes hard to tell family members, it’s hard to tell employers. … So that’s why many of us have gotten away from the testing strategy in mild to moderate patients, because it puts you in this conundrum, and you can’t convince people.”
Earlier this week The Great Barrington Declaration went live garnering over 100,000 signatures at the time of this writing. The declaration, which has now been highlighted by celebrities and intellectuals across the world, called for a “Focused Protection” approach to combating Covid-19. The declaration explains “The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk. We call this Focused Protection.” Such a policy is grounded in the traditional response to pandemics emulated by countries such as Sweden rather than the experimental lockdown approach that has characterized much of the world’s response to Covid-19. It takes a more realistic approach to the pandemic, understanding that there are certain tradeoffs that must be weighed and affirms the necessity of preserving to the best extent possible the normal functioning of society. The original architects of the declaration are three highly respected figures in the field of epidemiology. They are Harvard Professor Dr. Martin Kulldorff, Oxford Professor Dr. Sunetra Gupta, and Stanford Professor Dr. Jay Bhattacharya. The signatories include thousands of public health officials and researchers as well as members of the general public. You can read more about the signatories as well as view the entire declaration on the website. This seems rather strange given that these are Covid-19 discussion forums filled with news and research reports relating to the virus. The declaration was crafted and signed by the world’s leading experts in medicine, particularly epidemiology. It is surely more important than this subreddit post about Lana Del Rey being criticized for wearing a mesh mask. The reasons listed for the declaration’s removal are also unclear. Reddit’s content policy shows no clear guidelines for the removal of content such as the Great Barrington Declaration. The explanation given from the moderators of r/COVID19
Schools aren’t drivers of COVID – not news for those paying attention.
The United Kingdom’s national response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (covid-19) pandemic has been widely reported as being primarily led by modelling based on work, using an individual based model (IBMIC) from Imperial College London,although other models have been considered. In this paper, we maintain the distinction between epidemiological “model” (IBMIC) and software implementation as “code” (CovidSim). The key paper (Report 9: Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce covid-19 mortality and healthcare demand) investigated several scenarios using IBMIC with the best parameterisation available at the time.2 Contrary to popular perception, the lockdown, which was then implemented, was not specifically modelled in this work. As the pandemic has progressed, the parameterisation has been continually improved as new data become available. The main conclusions of Report 9 were not especially surprising. Mortality from covid-19 is around 1%, so an epidemic in a susceptible population of 70 million people would cause many hundreds of thousands of deaths. In early March 2020, the case doubling time in the UK might have been around three days, meaning that within a week cases of covid-19 could go from accounting for a minority of available intensive care unit (ICU) beds to exceeding capacity. Furthermore, with a disease onset delay of more than a week and limited or delayed testing and reporting in place, there would be little measurable warning of the surge in ICU bed demand. One table in Report 9, however, shows that closing schools reduces the reproduction number of covid-19 but with the unexpected effect of increasing the total number of deaths. In this paper, we reproduce the main results from Report 9 and explain why, in the framework of the IBMIC model, these counterintuitive results were obtained. We chose not to re-parameterise the model as we wanted to replicate the information available to policymakers at the time, specifically highlighting policies for which suppressing the outbreak and saving lives were conflicting choices.
Our media needs to update their priors.
Lockdowns are typically portrayed as prudent precautions against Covid-19, but they are surely the most risky experiment ever conducted on the public. From the start, researchers have warned that lockdowns could prove far deadlier than the coronavirus. People who lose their jobs or businesses are more prone to fatal drug overdoses and suicide, and evidence already exists that many more will die from cancer, heart disease, pneumonia, and tuberculosis and other diseases because the lockdown prevented their ailments from being diagnosed early and treated properly. Yet politicians and public-health officials conducting this unprecedented experiment have paid little attention to these risks. In their initial rush to lock down society, they insisted that there was no time for such analysis—and besides, these were just temporary measures to “flatten the curve” so as not to overwhelm hospitals. But since that danger passed, the lockdown enforcers have found one reason after another to persevere with closures, bans, quarantines, curfews, and other mandates. Anthony Fauci, the White House advisor, recently said that even if a vaccine arrives soon, he does not expect a return to normality before late next year. He and politicians like New York governor Andrew Cuomo and British prime minister Boris Johnson profess to be following “the science,” but no ethical scientist would conduct such a risky experiment without carefully considering the dangers and monitoring the results. After doing so, a group of leading researchers this week called for an end to the experiment. In a joint statement, the Great Barrington Declaration, they predicted that continued lockdowns will lead to “excess mortality in years to come” and warned of “irreparable damage, with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed.” While the economic and social costs have been enormous, it’s not clear that the lockdowns have brought significant health benefits beyond what was achieved by people’s voluntary social distancing and other actions. Some researchers have credited lockdowns with slowing the pandemic, but they’ve relied on mathematical models with assumptions about people’s behavior and the virus’s tendency to spread—the kinds of models and assumptions that previously produced wild overestimates of how many people would die during the pandemic. Other researchers have sought more direct evidence, looking at mortality patterns. They have detected little impact.
An model fails again but causes the UK’s second lockdown.
More evidence that the US lockdowns didn’t stop COVID.
Sweden for the win!
Because a virus attacks based on who you vote for.
The WHO sees the light!
The World Health Organisation has backflipped on its original COVID-19 stance after calling for world leaders to stop locking down their countries and economies. Dr. David Nabarro from the WHO appealed to world leaders yesterday, telling them to stop “using lockdowns as your primary control method” of the coronavirus. He also claimed that the only thing lockdowns achieved was poverty – with no mention of the potential lives saved. “Lockdowns just have one consequence that you must never ever belittle, and that is making poor people an awful lot poorer,” he said. “We in the World Health Organisation do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of this virus,” Dr Nabarro told The Spectator. “The only time we believe a lockdown is justified is to buy you time to reorganise, regroup, rebalance your resources, protect your health workers who are exhausted, but by and large, we’d rather not do it.” Dr Nabarro’s main criticism of lockdowns involved the global impact, explaining how poorer economies that had been indirectly affected. “Just look at what’s happened to the tourism industry in the Caribbean, for example, or in the Pacific because people aren’t taking their holidays,” he said. “Look what’s happened to smallholder farmers all over the world. … Look what’s happening to poverty levels. It seems that we may well have a doubling of world poverty by next year. We may well have at least a doubling of child malnutrition.” Melbourne’s lockdown has been hailed as one of the strictest and longest in the world. In Spain’s lockdown in March, people weren’t allowed to leave the house unless it was to walk their pet. In China, authorities welded doors shut to stop people from leaving their homes. The WHO thinks these steps were largely unnecessary. Instead, Dr Nabarro is advocating for a new approach to containing the virus.
Another hidden lockdown cost that has lasting societal impact.
We have all had cause to feel gloomy over these long months of what feels like an endless lockdown. So it wasn’t surprising when the Office for National Statistics reported a near doubling of rates of depression since the pandemic began. While I am sceptical of the much-repeated claim that, each year, one in four of us experiences a mental-health problem, it is very clear that, right now, many of us feel down or worried as a consequence of the lockdown. This year the theme for World Mental Health Day is ‘mental health for all’. The notion that we ‘all’ have a mental-health problem is nothing new. Indeed, there have been relentless ‘awareness’ campaigns over recent years, insisting that we all need to talk to each other more about our problems. Take Prince William and Kate Middleton’s backing for Public Health England’s Every Mind Matters campaign. These awareness-raising initiatives may sound nice and unobjectionable. But they have contributed to an expanding definition of what counts as mental illness and encouraged the myth that we are all vulnerable and unable to cope with life. The long-running crisis in mental-health services, however, is very real. Cuts to adult mental-health beds and overstretched youth services have left a growing number of people, with sometimes serious mental-health problems, waiting months to be seen. But this is very different to the more generalised mental-health crisis, one that supposedly affects us all, which has been talked up in recent years. What’s strange is that a mental-health lobby that has spent years redefining mental illness to include more and more people, and spent years discussing the potential social causes of this supposed ‘crisis’, is strangely hesitant to criticise lockdown. This is despite the fact that lockdown forces us into circumstances pretty much guaranteed to increase anxiety, depression and debilitating mental illnesses
Another “two weeks” promise? The first lockdown in Spain was over three months.
The Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has said he hopes to bring the coronavirus outbreak in the capital under control within the next two weeks, as he defended the government’s decision to declare a state of emergency to keep the Madrid region in partial lockdown. Sánchez’s Socialist-led coalition invoked emergency powers on Friday after the Madrid regional government failed to respond to an ultimatum and a court struck down the central government’s original lockdown order. “We have always put public health and saving lives above any other consideration and we’ve asked regional governments to do the same,” he told reporters during a visit to Portugal on Saturday. “We hope that, over the coming fortnight when the state of emergency is in effect, we’ll be able to contain the pandemic in Madrid and flatten the curve. We will keep on offering a hand to the Madrid regional government so we can work together, but the situation demanded a response and we couldn’t just sit on our hands.” On Sunday, the regional government of Navarra, which has recorded 675.3 cases per 100,000 people over the past two weeks, ordered all bars and restaurants to reduce their capacity to 30% and to close at 10pm. It also said that no more than six people should meet. The regional president, María Chivite, said the next two weeks would be critical, adding: “If we don’t reach our goal, we’ll be facing an even tougher scenario.” The Catalan regional government said it would ask employers to allow people to work remotely and universities to return to online classes for a fortnight. “Without establishing measures, we could reach the situation in Madrid in two or three weeks,” the regional health minister, Josep Maria Argimon, told RAC1 radio. Under the limited confinement in place in Madrid and eight satellite towns, people are allowed to enter or exit the affected areas only on work, school or medical grounds or for other pressing reasons. Public and private gatherings are limited to six people, and bars and restaurants must operate at 50% of their interior capacity and close by 11pm. The lockdown applies to towns and cities of more than 100,000 people where there are more than 500 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, where more than 10% of tests during the previous fortnight came back positive and where 35% or more of intensive care unit beds are occupied by Covid patients.