Freedom versus Control

Of all places, the New York Times admits COVID coverage by U.S. national publications has been much more negative than coverage from scientific journals or major international publications.

New York became the first state in the U.S. to formally launch a vaccine passport in the name of safely reopening public venues. On the other hand, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis vowed vaccine passports will never come to his state.

The WHO’s latest report on COVID origins remains insufficient to explain when, where, and how the virus began spreading.

  • It’s too late for health passports to make a difference, but the damage could be immense, says J.D. Tucille in Reason Magazine.
  • Politicians, journalists, and scientists have transferred the disease burden onto the working class. They’ve also dangerously undermined scientific inquiry, says Drs. Martin Kulldorff and Jay Bhattacharya in The Federalist.
  • COVID lockdowns impact minorities & working class hardest, says Mario Loyola in National Review.
  • Dr. John Ioannidis’s review of studies from dozens of countries reveals COVID death rate is about 0.15%.
  • Israel has given at least one shot to nearly 60% of its residents to date.

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COVID News

Bad News Bias

Bruce Sacerdote, an economics professor at Dartmouth College, noticed something last year about the Covid-19 television coverage that he was watching on CNN and PBS. It almost always seemed negative, regardless of what was he seeing in the data or hearing from scientists he knew.

When Covid cases were rising in the U.S., the news coverage emphasized the increase. When cases were falling, the coverage instead focused on those places where cases were rising. And when vaccine research began showing positive results, the coverage downplayed it, as far as Sacerdote could tell.

But he was not sure whether his perception was correct. To check, he began working with two other researchers, building a database of Covid coverage from every major network, CNN, Fox News, Politico, The New York Times and hundreds of other sources, in the U.S. and overseas. The researchers then analyzed it with a social-science technique that classifies language as positive, neutral or negative.

The results showed that Sacerdote’s instinct had been right — and not just because the pandemic has been mostly a grim story.

Pfizer, Moderna vaccines reduce COVID-19 infection risk by 90% after second dose: U.S. study

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-vaccines-idUSKBN2BL246

(Reuters) – COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer Inc with BioNTech SE and Moderna Inc reduced the risk of infection by 80% two weeks or more after the first of two shots, according to data from a real-world U.S. study released on Monday.

The risk of infection fell 90% by two weeks after the second shot, the study of just under 4,000 vaccinated U.S. healthcare personnel and first responders found.

The study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) evaluated the vaccines’ ability to protect against infection, including infections that did not cause symptoms. Previous clinical trials by the companies evaluated their vaccine’s efficacy in preventing illness from COVID-19.

The findings from the real-world use of these messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines confirm the efficacy demonstrated in the large controlled clinical trials conducted before they received emergency use authorizations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The study looked at the effectiveness of the mRNA vaccines among 3,950 participants in six states over a 13-week period from Dec. 14, 2020 to March 13, 2021.

WHO Report Into Covid-19 Origins Leaves Key Questions Unanswered

https://www.wsj.com/articles/who-report-into-covid-19-origins-leaves-key-questions-unanswered-11617027920

A World Health Organization-led team investigating the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic said in a report that data examined during a recent mission to China was insufficient to answer the critical questions of when, where and how the virus began spreading.

The long-awaited report, which has yet to be made public but was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal on Monday, calls for closer examination of Chinese hospital records and blood samples from before the first known cases in December 2019, as well as more extensive testing of farms that supplied wild animals to a market linked to many early cases.

But the 319-page document, shared with WHO member states ahead of its planned publication on Tuesday, also recommends further studies into evidence, often cited by Chinese authorities, that the virus may have circulated in other countries—including the U.S.—in late 2019, and that it has spread via frozen food.

The report presents the findings of the four-week mission completed earlier this year by a WHO-led team of international experts and their Chinese counterparts in Wuhan, the Chinese city that was the site of the first confirmed coronavirus cases.

The team had little power to conduct a thorough, independent investigation during their trip. China initially resisted international pressure for an inquiry, and later imposed strict limitations, secured China veto rights over participants and expanded its scope to encompass other countries.

Show me your papers: New York rolls out vaccine passport program

https://dossier.substack.com/p/show-me-your-papers-new-york-rolls

What was labeled an unhinged conspiracy theory just last year has become a reality today. Unindicted human rights criminal Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced this week that New York has rolled out the nation’s first COVID vaccine passport program with the introduction of the “Excelsior Pass.”

According to reports, the COVID-19 vaccine passport is already ready for use at dozens of venues statewide, including at Madison Square Garden. While advertised as a “voluntary” measure, New York State officials are making it clear that not participating in the program will result in an individual being essentially shut out from society.

“New Yorkers have proven they can follow public health guidance to beat back COVID, and the innovative Excelsior Pass is another tool in our new toolbox to fight the virus while allowing more sectors of the economy to reopen safely and keeping personal information secure,” Gov. Cuomo said in introducing the vaccine passport. “The question of ‘public health or the economy’ has always been a false choice — the answer must be both. As more New Yorkers get vaccinated each day and as key public health metrics continue to regularly reach their lowest rates in months, the first-in-the-nation Excelsior Pass heralds the next step in our thoughtful, science-based reopening.”

Florida Governor to Forbid ‘Vaccine Passports’ With Executive Order

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday that he would issue an executive order forbidding local governments and businesses from requiring so-called “vaccine passports” to show proof that customers have been inoculated against the coronavirus.

He made the announcement on a day when more Floridians would become eligible for vaccination and during a ceremony he convened at the state Capitol to sign into law a bill approved by the Legislature on Friday that would bar COVID-related lawsuits against businesses that have made good-faith efforts to comply with guidelines meant to stop the spread of the virus.

While the governor has previously spoken out against “vaccine passports,” he said he would take the additional step of forbidding businesses from refusing to serve people who can’t prove they have been vaccinated.

Commentary/Analysis

One Of The Lockdowns’ Greatest Casualties Could Be Science

https://thefederalist.com/2021/03/18/one-of-the-lockdowns-greatest-casualties-could-be-science/

The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns have not only been devastating for society, they have had a chilling effect on the scientific community. For science to thrive, opposing ideas must be openly and vigorously discussed, supported, or countered based on scientific merit.

Instead, some politicians, journalists, and (alas) scientists have engaged in vicious slander of dissident scientists, spreading damaging conspiracy theories, even with open calls for censorship in place of debate. In many cases, eminent scientific voices have been effectively silenced, often with gutter tactics. People who oppose lockdowns have been accused of having blood on their hands, their university positions threatened, with many of our colleagues choosing to stay quiet rather than face the mob.

We tell the story here of five prominent scientists who have faced the modern-day inquisition.

Capitalism Is What Will Defeat Covid

https://www.wsj.com/articles/capitalism-is-what-will-defeat-covid-11616192690

Behold the paradox of this pandemic moment: Large corporations are political villains, derided on the left and right. Yet the main, and perhaps only, reason the Covid-19 scourge is easing is vaccines developed by Big Pharma.

Few are more acutely aware of this paradox than Alex Gorsky, CEO of Johnson & Johnson , the healthcare device, pharmaceutical and consumer-goods company best known for products like Band-Aids and Tylenol. Politicians have vilified his industry over prescription-drug prices, and trial lawyers for using talc in its baby powder, which it discontinued in North America in 2020. But now J&J is a household name in the best way for developing its single-shot Covid vaccine, which the Food and Drug Administration approved for emergency use last month. The vaccine is increasing the U.S. supply of shots at a critical time and will enable a billion people world-wide to be vaccinated this year.

J&J’s road to the vaccine—from failure to life-saving success, from investment write-off to breakthrough—is a little-known story about science, business risk and innovation. There are also lessons for those who think capitalism is merely about rapacious profit.

“We would never be in the position where we are today if we had not invested billions of dollars over decades so that we could respond,” Mr. Gorsky, 60, says in an interview the Monday morning after the FDA authorized its Covid vaccine. The U.S. Army veteran had been up since 3:30 a.m., getting in one of his early-morning workouts before meetings. J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine development over the last year has been a sprint, but the process that led to it has been a decades-long marathon.

The Systemic Racism of Lockdowns

https://www.nationalreview.com/2021/03/the-systemic-racism-of-lockdowns/

Progressives have made ending “systemic racism” their most prominent cause. It’s one they believe in fervently, though alas not fervently enough to see how their own policies contribute to the segregation and suffering of poor and minority communities.

The past year has given us another case in point: the grossly regressive and racially disparate impact of heavy-handed lockdown measures.

The most important metric for judging the success of any policy is cost-benefit analysis. So let’s look first at the benefits of heavy-handed lockdown measures in California versus the much lighter approach taken in Florida, particularly since the summer of 2020.

The following two graphs give CDC’s comparison of daily mortality rate and cumulative mortality rate:

Get Ready To Show Your Vaccine Passport Everywhere

Originally touted as an innovative means of reducing the reach and duration of pandemic restrictions, health passports have moved beyond speculation to reality with the recent debut of several versions of such credentials. But after a year of lockdowns, travel restrictions, and surveillance justified on public health grounds, it’s likely that, rather than live up their liberating promise, health passports will become just another bureaucratic hurdle for people trying to go about their lives. For better or worse, though, the new credentials look destined to be part of the post-COVID-19 world.

“The Biden administration and private companies are working to develop a standard way of handling credentials — often referred to as ‘vaccine passports’ — that would allow Americans to prove they have been vaccinated against the novel coronavirus as businesses try to reopen,” The Washington Post reported over the weekend.

The federal government is something of a johnny-come-lately to a phenomenon already in motion.

Research

Reconciling estimates of global spread and infection fatality rates of COVID‐19: an overview of systematic evaluations

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/eci.13554

Abstract

Background: Estimates of community spread and infection fatality rate (IFR) of COVID‐19 have varied across studies. Efforts to synthesize the evidence reach seemingly discrepant conclusions.

Methods: Systematic evaluations of seroprevalence studies that had no restrictions based on country and which estimated either total number of people infected and/or aggregate IFRs were identified. Information was extracted and compared on eligibility criteria, searches, amount of evidence included, corrections/adjustments of seroprevalence and death counts, quantitative syntheses and handling of heterogeneity, main estimates, and global representativeness.

Results: Six systematic evaluations were eligible. Each combined data from 10‐338 studies (9‐50 countries), because of different eligibility criteria. Two evaluations had some overt flaws in data, violations of stated eligibility criteria, and biased eligibility criteria (e.g. excluding studies with few deaths) that consistently inflated IFR estimates. Perusal of quantitative synthesis methods also exhibited several challenges and biases. Global representativeness was low with 78‐100% of the evidence coming from Europe or the Americas; the two most problematic evaluations considered only 1 study from other continents. Allowing for these caveats, 4 evaluations largely agreed in their main final estimates for global spread of the pandemic and the other two evaluations would also agree after correcting overt flaws and biases.

Conclusions: All systematic evaluations of seroprevalence data converge that SARS‐CoV‐2 infection is widely spread globally. Acknowledging residual uncertainties, the available evidence suggests average global IFR of ~0.15% and ~1.5‐2.0 billion infections by February 2021 with substantial differences in IFR and in infection spread across continents, countries, and locations.

Charts and Graphics

International News

How Israel Delivered the World’s Fastest Vaccine Rollout

https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-israel-delivered-the-worlds-fastest-vaccine-rollout-11616080968

TEL AVIV—In the world’s fastest coronavirus vaccine rollout to date, Israel has given at least one shot to nearly 60% of its residents, a feat propelled by an ample supply of doses and an uncommon healthcare system that combines competition with tax-funded universal coverage.

Israel, a small, wealthy nation with a young population, was uniquely qualified to confront the pandemic: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had secured enough vaccine stocks by paying more, as well as by offering access to Israelis’ personal health data to gauge the vaccine’s effectiveness. Its healthcare system had the means to quickly deliver the shots into the arms of Israelis.

The country’s four health-management organizations used centralized data-keeping, technology and the cradle-to-grave ties between Israelis and their doctors to speed up the vaccination drive, targeting residents nationwide with text messages, emails and phone calls. The efficiencies of Israel’s HMOs have been honed by years of competing for patients—and for the tax revenue gained by adding each new member—as they try to outdo each other in quality and availability of care.

“It’s really a unique structure,” said economist Moshe Bar Siman Tov, who oversaw Israel’s coronavirus response last year. “I’m not sure it’s possible to duplicate it. It’s a mixture of socialist fundamentals and entrepreneurial spirit.”

Israel’s bars and restaurants reopened last week to vaccinated people, prompting street parties in Tel Aviv, and the country is now looking ahead to a broader economic rebound.