In Britain and beyond, protesters on the left and right are rebelling against virus restrictions, drawing harsh police responses — and questions about the officers’ legitimacy. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel backed away from her initial plan for an ultra-strict Easter lockdown after intense public backlash.
On the other hand, Sweden is finally acknowledged to have a smaller increase in its overall mortality rate than most European countries. Latest data shows COVID cases have dropped significantly for all age groups in Israel.
In other news:
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo arranged privileged access to COVID testing for his family and cronies when testing was widely unavailable to the public.
Routine preventive screening rates declined significantly during the pandemic. Now rates of more advanced cancer diagnoses have risen.
The K-12 school reopening debate reflects our broader failures to support young children during this pandemic, says Dr. Sandro Galea and Nason Maani in Scientific American.
Where’s the science behind the CDC’s 6-Foot social-distance decree? asks Dr. Scott Gottlieb in the Wall Street Journal.
In The Critic, James Jeffrey argues that the tyranny that is engulfing Great Britain is more like that envisioned by Aldous Huxley than by George Orwell.
A new editorial in the British Medical Journal warns the “COVID pandemic has accentuated an erosion in civility in academic discourse, leading to deep divisions being played out in social, mass, and professional media.”
Classroom barriers are expensive and often harm a student’s education experience—to no proven benefit, says David Zweig in New York Magazine.
Herd immunity is likely close at hand. Anthony Fauci inexplicably ignores Americans with natural immunity from previous infections, writes Dr. Marty Makary in the Wall Street Journal.
Cuomo’s Family Is Said to Have Received Special Access to Virus Tests
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration arranged special access to government-run coronavirus testing for members of his family and other influential people as the pandemic descended on New York last year, according to two people with direct knowledge of the matter.
The move to make testing of people closely tied to Mr. Cuomo a priority was carried out by high-ranking state health officials, one of the people said. It mostly happened in March 2020, as the seriousness of the virus was still becoming clear to the broader public and testing was not widely available .
Among those who benefited from the special treatment was the governor’s brother, the CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, and his family, who were tested several times in the pandemic’s early phase, this person said. The governor’s mother, Matilda Cuomo, and at least one of his sisters were also able to take advantage of the state-administered tests, the two people said.
Chris Cuomo announced on March 31 last year that he had tested positive for the virus.
Advanced Cancers Are Emerging, Doctors Warn, Citing Pandemic Drop in Screenings
Yvette Lowery usually gets her annual mammogram around March. But last year, just as the pandemic was gaining a foothold and medical facilities were shutting down, the center where she goes canceled her appointment. No one could tell her when to reschedule.
“They just said keep calling back, keep calling back,” said Ms. Lowery, 59, who lives in Rock Hill, S.C.
In August, Ms. Lowery felt a lump under her arm but still couldn’t get an appointment until October.
Eventually, she received a diagnosis of Stage 2 breast cancer, started chemotherapy in November and had a double mastectomy this month.
“I’ve been seeing a lot of patients at an advanced stage,” said Dr. Kashyap B. Patel, one of Ms. Lowery’s doctors and the chief executive of Carolina Blood and Cancer Care Associates. If her cancer had been detected last May or June, it would have probably been caught before it had spread, Dr. Patel said.
Life in U.S. Religious Congregations Slowly Edges Back Toward Normal
As coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths decline and vaccination rates rise across the United States, life in religious congregations is showing signs of slowly returning to normal. A new Pew Research Center survey finds that Americans are increasingly confident they can safely go to services at a church, temple, mosque or other house of worship. And the percentage who say they actually have attended religious services – in person – in the past month is slightly higher than it was last summer. Still, the situation in U.S. congregations remains far from ordinary, and this promises to be the second consecutive highly atypical Easter season for Christians.
Three-quarters of U.S. adults who normally attend religious services now say they are “very” or “somewhat” confident they can do so safely, without spreading or catching the coronavirus – up 12 percentage points from when this question was last asked in July 2020. Over that period, there also has been a considerable drop in the share who say they think their congregation should be closed to help stop the spread of the virus.
Roughly four-in-ten people who typically attend religious services at least once or twice a month say they actually have done so, in person, during the past month – up 9 points since last summer. And as in-person attendance has trended upward, there has been a corresponding decline in the share of regular religious attenders who recently have watched services streamed online or on television.
Science and Society Are Failing Children in the COVID Era
The long-anticipated CDC guidance on schools was released on February 12. This is the latest event in what has been, up to this point, among the most politically charged and scientifically contested aspects of the COVID-19 response. In its guidance, the agency calls for K–12 schools in particular to reopen as soon as possible, noting that with safety precautions in place such as physical distancing, contact tracing and mask-wearing, many have been able to open safely, and stay open. The report also cites evidence, also referenced in a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association authored by CDC staff, that school attendance in this age range is not a primary driver of community transmission, and that declining infection rates are possible while keeping schools open.
However, the levels of community transmission used as benchmarks have drawn criticism, not least because they seem to not reflect the latest evidence on what is achievable with safeguards, and by implication suggest almost all schools in the U.S. should remain in remote or hybrid forms for the immediate future, in spite of the evidence.
Where’s the Science Behind CDC’s 6-Foot Social-Distance Decree?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance on Friday about how far apart children ought to be while in school. The old standard of 6 feet has been replaced by a 3-foot minimum, which will make it much more feasible for many schools to reopen for full-time instruction in person.
The adjustment applies only to schools, not society more broadly, and only when prevalence is low and schools are taking other measures, such as keeping kids in social “pods.” The preconditions may preclude the guidance from having its full intended effect. The World Health Organization has allowed 1 meter of distance (around 39 inches) both in and out of school. China, France, Denmark and Hong Kong, among others, went with this spacing. If the CDC’s guidance were applied universally—to include work and retail—that one adjustment could restore substantially more commercial activity.
More distance is always better when it comes to contagion. But the 6-foot directive might have been the single costliest measure CDC has recommended, which have been largely followed over the past year. So what science went into making—and, more important, sustaining—the recommendation?
Having the jackboot of George Orwell’s 1984 stamping on one’s face would be preferable in a way. At least it would involve a sort of honesty from the oppressor about the oppression. Unlike the current pervasive underhand attrition that is sapping our democratic life blood, taking with it individual liberty, energy, creativity and love, steering us closer toward Aldous Huxley’s very un-brave “Brave New World”.
Orwell’s brutal dystopian depiction published in 1949 can be seen as a reply and an update, as Orwell saw it, to the warnings of Huxley’s earlier dystopian vision published in 1932. Huxley depicted a scientific dictatorship in which a passive population was subdued through scientific and psychological engineering while kept consistently useful to the ruling class.
Orwell saw the risk of dictatorial rule with a much more violent face, and who could blame him in the wake of the slaughter of World War II and the rise of brutal ideologies and practices of fascism and communism.
Society deserves academic discourse that is civil, cool, unbiased, and objective
The covid-19 pandemic has accentuated an erosion in civility in academic discourse, leading to deep divisions being played out in social, mass, and professional media.1234 Personal attacks have increased substantially, alongside accusations impugning the integrity and motivations of fellow researchers and clinicians.1234 Such division is especially evident in non-academic routes of communication such as declarations, letters, petitions, and personal views. Many of the worst examples are occurring in public forums.
This is potentially harmful to public trust in scientists and healthcareprofessionals. It suppresses dispassionate and constructive academic exchange, which undermines the academic freedom so vital to higher education.5 The concept of academic freedom is contested,5 but in 2009 a leading UK university defined some important principles6 including the freedom of individuals to express their interests in teaching, scholarship, and research and the right to contribute to social change through free expression of opinion on matters of public interest. These privileges come with a responsibility to respect the freedoms of others. Some leading scientists have been subjected to such ferocious personal attacks that they have stopped their research activities.
Putting Students Behind Plexiglass Isn’t Making Them Any Safer
Bank tellers, pawn brokers, movie ticket clerks: for the past few generations, these were the people associated with spending their days behind Plexiglass. Since the fall, there’s been an unlikely and unfortunate addition to this list: children.
The debacle over the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s continued recommendation of six feet of distancing in schools took a new turn today, when the agency finally updated its guidance, saying students can sit three feet apart. (The guidance carves out exceptions, though, so the debate will surely continue.) But for many New York students, a change to three feet — which typically would allow for something like normal classroom density — still may not get them any closer to full-time school.
A little-known stipulation from the New York State Department of Health requires the use of barriers if students are closer than six feet apart. (The barriers are in schools in other states as well.) Not only do barriers dramatically degrade the experience for students, making an already hindered connection with their mask-obscured peers and teachers worse, but for many districts the barriers requirement may be as great of a hurdle to getting kids back to school as the six-foot rule has been. Any district that can’t afford barriers, or that chooses not to purchase them, will have to operate, at best, on a hybrid model with half-full classrooms.
Anthony Fauci has been saying that the country needs to vaccinate 70% to 85% of the population to reach herd immunity from Covid-19. But he inexplicably ignores natural immunity. If you account for previous infections, herd immunity is likely close at hand.
Data from the California Department of Public Health, released earlier this month, show that while only 8.7% of the state’s population has ever tested positive for Covid-19, at least 38.5% of the population has antibodies against the novel coronavirus. Those numbers are from Jan. 30 to Feb. 20. Adjusting for cases between now and then, and accounting for the amount of time it takes for the body to make antibodies, we can estimate that as many as half of Californians have natural immunity today.
The same report found that 45% of people in Los Angeles had Covid-19 antibodies. Again, the number can only be higher today. Between “half and two-thirds of our population has antibodies in it now,” due to Covid exposure or vaccination, Mayor Eric Garcetti said Sunday on “Face the Nation.” That would explain why cases in Los Angeles are down 95% in the past 11 weeks and the positivity rate among those tested is now 1.7%.
Undercounting or removing the many Americans with natural immunity from any tally of herd immunity is a scientific error of omission. When people wonder why President Biden talks about limiting Fourth of July gatherings, it’s because his most prominent medical adviser has dismissed the contribution of natural immunity, artificially extending the timeline.
Scientific Analyses and Papers on Lockdown Effectiveness
Here collated are the papers of shame – the lockdown ideology is destroying our societal health, selling the lie of saving lives. Lockdowns cost net suffering and lives – by a huge margin. Here we gather together the evidence.
THIRTY+ LOCKDOWN LACK OF EFFICACY PAPERS & ANALYSES:
It’s now officially 2 weeks since blue check media, experts, & politicians absolutely lost their minds about Texas removing their mask mandate. Nonetheless, COVID cases are down -29% in the two weeks since.
Defying warnings from health experts, Iowa and North Dakota dropped mask mandates months ago. Since ending the mandates, covid cases have declined 45% in IA and 35% in ND. Neighboring state, Minnesota, kept their mask mandate. COVID cases are on the rise there.
As Europe’s Lockdowns Drag On, Police and Protesters Clash
LONDON — In Bristol, an English college town where the pubs are usually packed with students, there were fiery clashes between the police and protesters. In Kassel, a German city known for its ambitious contemporary art festival, the police unleashed pepper spray and water cannons on anti-lockdown marchers.
A year after European leaders ordered people into their homes to curb a deadly pandemic, thousands are pouring into streets and squares. Often, they are met by batons and shields, raising questions about the tactics and role of the police in societies where personal liberties have already given way to public health concerns.
From Spain and Denmark to Austria and Romania, frustrated people are lashing out at the restrictions on their daily lives. With much of Europe facing a third wave of coronavirus infections that could keep these stifling lockdowns in place weeks or even months longer, analysts warn that tensions on the streets are likely to escalate.
In Britain, where the rapid pace of vaccinations has raised hopes for a faster opening of the economy than the government is willing to countenance, frustration over recent police conduct has swelled into a national debate over the legitimacy of the police — one that carries distant echoes of the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States.
After backlash, contrite Merkel ditches stricter Easter lockdown
BERLIN (Reuters) – A contrite Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday ditched a short-lived plan for an extended Easter holiday to try to break a third COVID-19 wave, apologising to lockdown-weary Germans after the hastily conceived measure drew widespread criticism.
The measure would have meant all stores, including essential ones, closing for an extra day on April 1.
It triggered a backlash, with businesses lamenting more shutdowns and medical experts saying it was not tough enough to prevent the exponential spread of more infectious variants of the virus.
“The idea of an Easter shutdown was drafted with the best of intentions. We urgently need to stop and reverse the third wave,” Merkel told reporters on Wednesday.
But it was not possible to implement the measures so quickly, Merkel said, apologising for the added uncertainty that it had caused Germans.
“This mistake is mine alone,” she said. “I ask all citizens for forgiveness.”
Sweden saw lower 2020 death spike than much of Europe – data
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Sweden, which has shunned the strict lockdowns that have choked much of the global economy, emerged from 2020 with a smaller increase in its overall mortality rate than most European countries, an analysis of official data sources showed.
Infectious disease experts cautioned that the results could not be interpreted as evidence that lockdowns were unnecessary but acknowledged they may indicate Sweden’s overall stance on fighting the pandemic had merits worth studying.
In the past week, Germany and France have extended lockdowns amid rising coronavirus cases and high death tolls, moves that economists say will further delay economic recovery.
While many Europeans have accepted lockdowns as a last resort given the failure to get the pandemic under control with other methods, the moves have in recent months prompted street protests in London, Amsterdam and elsewhere.
Sweden, meanwhile, has mostly relied on voluntary measures focused on social distancing, good hygiene and targeted rules that have kept schools, restaurants and shops largely open – an approach that has sharply polarised Swedes but spared the economy from much of the hit suffered elsewhere in Europe.