While studies are producing good news about immunity, states continue to be divided about issues like vaccine passports. Meanwhile, COVID skepticism and other divisive issues like how the outbreak started are getting a fresh look, and social media sites are reversing topic / opinion bans. Internationally, countries that initially did well against COVID are now struggling with hard choices, as Australia continues lockdowns and Japan debates hosting the Olympics.
In other news:
Zaid Jilani goes over the failure of the media to explore or question the origin of COVID-19 at Persuasion
As news outlets explore the lab-leak possibility, Martin Makary MD, MPH, writes a salute to the Chinese doctors who risked their lives in the early days of the outbreak at MedPage Today
Ron Paul writes about Texas as an example for beating the virus
At AIER, James Bovard talks about the possible long term political and economic effects of lockdowns
A dig into the data around lockdowns, and how they didn’t help, by Ethan Yang at AIER
Immunity to the Coronavirus May Persist for Years, Scientists Find
Immunity to the coronavirus lasts at least a year, possibly a lifetime, improving over time especially after vaccination, according to two new studies. The findings may help put to rest lingering fears that protection against the virus will be short-lived.
Together, the studies suggest that most people who have recovered from Covid-19 and who were later immunized will not need boosters. Vaccinated people who were never infected most likely will need the shots, however, as will a minority who were infected but did not produce a robust immune response.
Both reports looked at people who had been exposed to the coronavirus about a year earlier. Cells that retain a memory of the virus persist in the bone marrow and may churn out antibodies whenever needed, according to one of the studies, published on Monday in the journal Nature.
Alabama governor signs bill banning Covid-19 vaccine passports
(CNN)Alabama Republican Gov. Kay Ivey on Monday signed a bill into law banning the use of so-called vaccine passports in the state.
The law, which went into effect immediately, prohibits any government entity from issuing vaccine passports while blocking businesses from requiring any such documentation.
“I am supportive of a voluntary vaccine and by signing this bill into law, I am only further solidifying that conviction,” Ivey said in a statement after signing the legislation. “I made the choice to get the COVID-19 vaccine and glad for the peace of mind it brings. I encourage any Alabamian who has not gotten their shot to roll up their sleeves, and if you have questions, consult with your health care provider.”
The legislation, which cleared the state Legislature earlier this month, defines vaccine passports broadly as “documentation of an immunization.”
Schools in the state “may continue to require a student to prove vaccination status as a condition of attendance only for the specific vaccines that were already required by the institution as of January 1, 2021, provided that the institutions give an exemption for students with a medical condition or religious belief that is contrary to vaccination,” according to the text of the law.
Alabama is just the latest state to put restrictions on requiring proof that a person has been immunized against Covid-19.
Some health experts argue that such proof of vaccination can be the ticket back to normalcy, saying it could reward people for getting vaccinated by allowing them into a crowded concert or ballgame, as well as offer the vaccinated peace of mind that the person next to them has been immunized, too.
But critics have stressed privacy concerns and characterized vaccine passports as an overreach by authorities.
Facebook no longer treating ‘man-made’ Covid as a crackpot idea
Facebook will no longer take down posts claiming that Covid-19 was man-made or manufactured, a company spokesperson told POLITICO on Wednesday, a move that acknowledges the renewed debate about the virus’ origins.
A narrative in flux: Facebook’s policy tweak arrives as support surges in Washington for a fuller investigation into the origins of Covid-19 after the Wall Street Journal reported that three scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were hospitalized in late 2019 with symptoms consistent with the virus. The findings have reinvigorated the debate about the so-called Wuhan lab-leak theory, once dismissed as a fringe conspiracy theory.
COVID policy skeptics may put ‘rationality and autonomy’ to ‘horrifying ends,’ academics fret
MIT and Wellesley College data scientists have published a paper that undercuts the prevailing media portrayal of skeptics of government COVID-19 policies as ignorant and unscientific, even while warning that their emphasis on “rationality and autonomy” can be put to “horrifying ends.”
Skeptics of government COVID-19 mitigation methods, such as mask mandates, “often reveal themselves to be more sophisticated in their understanding of how scientific knowledge is socially constructed than their ideological adversaries,” the researchers acknowledge
However, their skepticism, based on their own analysis of scientific data and unwillingness to defer to a “paternalistic, condescending elite,” also might embolden the kind of people who attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, they warn.
Based on analysis of half a million “data visualization” tweets and anti-mask Facebook groups from March-September 2020, the paper is drawing attention from COVID policy skeptics for portraying them reasonably well.
In February 2020, Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, asked a provocative question: Was there some relationship between COVID-19 emerging in the Chinese city of Wuhan and the fact that there’s a biochemical lab in the city that specializes in studying coronaviruses? Was it possible that this lab was studying an animal that carried the virus and failed to properly secure it?
“We don’t have evidence that this disease originated there,” Cotton said of the lab, “but because of China’s duplicity and dishonesty from the beginning, we need to at least ask the question to see what the evidence says, and China right now is not giving evidence on that question at all.”
Cotton’s comments were nuanced: He wasn’t certain that the virus that causes COVID-19 had leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, but he considered it to be a possibility, and he was troubled that the Chinese government was failing to offer the transparency necessary to prove it one way or another.
Pinning down the origins of COVID-19 would require a few things that are unlikely to ever happen: 1) Cooperation from the Chinese Communist Party, 2) Lab records and original samples from the Wuhan Virology Institute, or 3) True witness protection and global immunity for lab workers and their extended families. They may have been the first people in the world infected with COVID-19. Will we ever get this information? I’m not holding my breath.
Anyone who has worked in a lab knows that lab accidents happen, even at top academic centers. Lab work is often conducted by junior people, supervision is usually variable, and experiments can run into late hours of the night. But to me, what’s inexplicable is that five miles from one of the few labs in the world manipulating animal coronaviruses, many Chinese physicians were detained, silenced, and reprimanded in the early days of the outbreak.
Let me present what is known about these doctors. You can interpret the data points on your own. As a preface, I must say that as I chronicled their stories, I was immensely moved by the bravery of these three doctors to uphold a sacred principle of medicine — to put the patient first. These doctors not only did that, they also risked their own lives for the greater good.
The pro-lockdown “experts” were shocked. If a state as big as Texas joined Florida and succeeded in thumbing its nose at “the science” – which told us that for the first time in history healthy people should be forced to stay in their houses and wear oxygen-restricting face masks – then the lockdown narrative would begin falling apart.
President Biden famously attacked the decision as “Neanderthal thinking.” Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa warned that, with this order, Abbott would “kill Texans.” Incoming CDC Director Rochelle Walensky tearfully told us about her feelings of “impending doom.”
When the poster child for Covid lockdowns Dr. Fauci was asked several weeks later why cases and deaths continued to evaporate in Texas, he answered simply, “I’m not sure.” That moment may have been a look at the man behind the proverbial curtain, who projected his power so confidently until confronted with reality.
Now a new study appearing as a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, highlighted recently in Reason Magazine, has found “no evidence that the reopening affected the rate of new COVID-19 cases in the five-week period following the reopening. …State-level COVID-19 mortality rates were unaffected by the March 10 reopening.”
In other words, not only did the doom and gloom predicted by the lockdown fanatics fail to materialize, but the steady, seasonal downward trend of the virus toward extinction continued regardless of government action. As we have repeated for a year on the Liberty Report, the virus was going to virus regardless of anything we did about it. And Texas proved it.
Will the Pandemic Promote Political Power in Perpetuity?
It’s like we created another industry in our state. The amount of money is staggering,” Andrew Schaufele, director of Maryland’s Bureau of Revenue Estimates, happily declared last week. The Biden stimulus plan is deluging governments across America with hundreds of billions of dollars of extra revenue that will allow politicians to stretch their power in ways that vex citizens long after the pandemic is over.
One year ago writing for AIER, I asked, “Will the Political Class Be Held Liable For What They’ve Done?” Lockdowns at that point had already destroyed more than ten million jobs without thwarting the virus – a debacle that “should be a permanent black mark against the political class and the experts who sanctified each and every sacrifice.” No such luck. The article warned that “sovereign immunity… almost guarantees that no politician will face any personal liability for their shutdown dictates.”
The political class is coming out of the pandemic with far more power and prerogatives. Biden’s stimulus windfalls for lockdown governors is like giving $100,000 bounties to drunk drivers who crashed their cars. Government employees have been the ultimate privileged class during Covid-19, collecting full paychecks almost everywhere while many of them stayed home and did little or no work.
Lockdowns Need to Be Intellectually Discredited Once and For All
On May 19, 2021 the LA Times published a column that is representative of the basic arguments for endorsing lockdowns going forward titled “The evidence is clear — COVID lockdowns saved lives without harming economies.”
The column proclaims in large italic font,
“Lockdown should be considered as an effective public health intervention to halt epidemic progression.”
The piece certainly puts forward a case that may be somewhat plausible on its face but after further investigation might be able to pass as scholarly malpractice. The column lays out two major points. The first being that lockdowns played an important role in reducing caseloads. The second point is that the economic damage of lockdowns was relatively inconsequential as the voluntary actions of individuals were largely responsible for the economic downturn.
These are not novel or fringe arguments but talking points that have been parroted throughout the pandemic. The column itself rightly notes that there has and will continue to be a heated debate about the efficacy of lockdown policies for the foreseeable future. Although Covid-19 lockdowns are behind us, the precedent has been set for lockdowns to be a new shiny tool to be used against future pandemics. This horrifying reality is exactly why lockdowns as an idea must not be forgotten. They must be thoroughly discredited, starting with this column.
Just 2% of SARS-CoV-2−positive individuals carry 90% of the virus circulating in communities
We analyzed data from saliva-based COVID-19 screening deployed on the University of Colorado Boulder campus. Our dataset is unique in that all SARS-CoV-2−positive individuals reported no symptoms at the time of saliva collection, and therefore were infected but asymptomatic or presymptomatic. We found that 1) the distribution of viral loads observed in our asymptomatic college population was indistinguishable from what has been reported in hospitalized populations; 2) regardless of symptomatic status, approximately 50% of individuals who test positive for SARS-CoV-2 seem to be in noninfectious phases of the infection; and 3) just 2% of infected individuals carry 90% of the virions circulating within communities, serving as viral “supercarriers” and likely also superspreaders.
We analyze data from the fall 2020 pandemic response efforts at the University of Colorado Boulder, where more than 72,500 saliva samples were tested for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) using qRT-PCR. All samples were collected from individuals who reported no symptoms associated with COVID-19 on the day of collection. From these, 1,405 positive cases were identified. The distribution of viral loads within these asymptomatic individuals was indistinguishable from what has been previously observed in symptomatic individuals. Regardless of symptomatic status, ∼50% of individuals who test positive for SARS-CoV-2 seem to be in noninfectious phases of the disease, based on having low viral loads in a range from which live virus has rarely been isolated. We find that, at any given time, just 2% of individuals carry 90% of the virions circulating within communities, serving as viral “supercarriers” and possibly also superspreaders.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is a novel coronavirus that emerged into the human population in late 2019 (1), presumably from animal reservoirs (2, 3). During the ensuing world-wide pandemic, already more than 3 million lives have been lost due to the virus. Spread of SARS-CoV-2 has thus far been extremely difficult to contain. One key reason for this is that both presymptomatic and asymptomatic infected individuals can transmit the virus to others (4⇓⇓⇓⇓⇓⇓⇓⇓–13). Further, it is becoming clear that certain individuals play a key role in seeding superspreading events (14⇓⇓–17). Here, we analyzed data from a large university surveillance program. Viral loads were measured in saliva, which has proven to be an accessible and reliable biospecimen in which to identify carriers of this respiratory pathogen, and the most likely medium for SARS-CoV-2 transmission (18⇓–20). Our dataset is unique in that all SARS-CoV-2−positive individuals reported no symptoms at the time of saliva collection, and therefore were infected but asymptomatic or presymptomatic. We find that the distribution of SARS-CoV-2 viral loads on our campus is indistinguishable from what has previously been observed in symptomatic and hospitalized individuals. Strikingly, these datasets demonstrate dramatic differences in viral levels between individuals, with a very small minority of the infected individuals harboring the vast majority of the infectious virions.
Charts and Graphics
Masks, social restrictions return to Australia’s Melbourne after fresh outbreak
Australia’s second largest city Melbourne reinstated COVID-19 restrictions on Tuesday as authorities scrambled to find the missing link in a fresh outbreak, prompting New Zealand to pause a “travel bubble” with the state of Victoria.
Amid worries the cluster, which has grown to nine cases in two days, could spark a major outbreak, Victoria imposed social restrictions and made face masks mandatory in hotels, restaurants, and other indoor venues from 6 p.m. (0800 GMT) on Tuesday until June 4.
The latest outbreak ends Victoria’s run of zero cases for nearly three months and saw New Zealand suspend quarantine-free travel with the state and the neighbouring state of South Australia impose travel restrictions.
Japanese Business Leaders Add to Chorus Against Holding Olympics
TOKYO—Opposition to the Tokyo Olympics opening in two months has deepened in Japan and spread to some prominent business leaders despite organizers highlighting recent warm-up events as evidence that the Games can safely go ahead.
On Sunday, Masayoshi Son, the chief executive of technology investment company SoftBank Group Corp. , painted a scenario in which arriving athletes and officials triggered a new wave of infections with virus variants, leading to deaths, more emergency shutdowns and further shrinkage of Japan’s economy.
Canceling the Games might bring financial losses, but by holding them, Mr. Son wrote on Twitter, “I think we’re going to lose something much bigger.”
Hiroshi Mikitani, the chief executive of e-commerce company Rakuten Group Inc., said in a recent interview with CNN that the Olympics were a “suicide mission.”