Merry Christmas from the RG Team!

May Reason Prevail in the New Year

Last Friday, the FDA officially issued an emergency use authorization for the Moderna coronavirus vaccine, the second in the U.S. As the vaccine rollout continues, we are seeing more evidence that our response to COVID may be harming more people than the virus itself. In San Francisco, drug overdose fatalities this year outnumbered COVID-19 deaths by a 3 to 1 margin.

In other news:

  • Our Alex Lieske provides a full-throated defense of the Great Barrington Declaration.
  • Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Dr. Scott Atlas laments the media’s politicization of Covid has proved deadly and puts Americans’ freedoms at risk.
  • Writing in The Atlantic, Arthur Brooks encourages us to find connection this holiday season.
  • Columnist Alyssa Alghren reminds the lessons of history: Once power is given, it is never voluntarily returned.
  • Across the pond, the British government tightens its lockdown, citing a new strain of COVID allegedly more contagious. 

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

COVID News

FDA grants authorization to Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine, the second in the U.S.

And now there are two.

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday issued an emergency authorization for a Covid-19 vaccine developed by Moderna, the second such vaccine to be cleared in the United States. Inoculations should begin within days, as was the case following last week’s authorization of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech.

The decision, while widely expected, will help fuel the historic effort to rein in a pandemic that has so far infected an estimated 17 million people and killed more than 300,000 in the United States. Its authorization comes at a time when Covid-19 hospitalizations are hitting record highs, and the number of overall cases continues to soar.

Overdose deaths outnumber COVID-19 deaths more than 3 to 1 in San Francisco

https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/531269-overdose-deaths-outnumber-covid-19-deaths-more-than-3-to-1-in-san

Drug overdose fatalities in San Francisco this year outnumbered COVID-19 deaths by a 3 to 1 margin, as deaths related to the powerful painkiller fentanyl rose.

In 2020 alone, 621 people have died from drug overdoses in San Francisco, while the number of coronavirus fatalities were 173, The Associated Press reported.

According to local reports from the San Francisco Chronicle, the city’s Drug Overdose Prevention and Education (DOPE) Project used Narcan this year 3,000 times from January to November to save people who nearly died due to an overdose of fentanyl or related opioid abuse substances.

DOPE added the numbers likely exclude more accounts of Narcan usage because their records only count self-reports.

Hospitals Retreat From Early Covid Treatment and Return to Basics

https://www.wsj.com/articles/hospitals-retreat-from-early-covid-treatment-and-return-to-basics-11608491436

Doctors are treating a new flood of critically ill coronavirus patients with treatments from before the pandemic, to keep more patients alive and send them home sooner.

Last spring, with less known about the disease, doctors often pre-emptively put patients on ventilators or gave powerful sedatives largely abandoned in recent years. The aim was to save the seriously ill and protect hospital staff from Covid-19.

Now hospital treatment for the most critically ill looks more like it did before the pandemic. Doctors hold off longer before placing patients on ventilators. Patients get less powerful sedatives, with doctors checking more frequently to see if they can halt the drugs entirely and dialing back how much air ventilators push into patients’ lungs with each breath.

“Let us go back to basics,” said Dr. Eduardo Oliveira, executive medical director for critical-care services for AdventHealth Central Florida, which recommends its doctors stick with pre-pandemic guidelines for ventilator use. “The less you deviate from it, the better.”

Advances also include new drugs, most notably steroids, for severely ill patients.

Commentary/Analysis

In defense of The Great Barrington Declaration

As the seasonal wave of coronavirus is hitting its peak and beginning to decline, the sensationalist reporting seems to be hitting a fever pitch. We are living in a time of misinformation, hyper-politicization, and the manipulation of facts to fit preconceived narratives, instead of allowing the facts to lead us to answers. Right now, as the fall seasonal wave of COVID-19 peaks and begins to decline in most places, it is important to address the ground swell of regular people, myself included, who have grown increasingly concerned with the egregious abuse of power by our politicians and the media. This abuse has led to an attempted power grab and narrative control unseen in modern times. We have arrived at a point where if you question the narrative crafted by those in power, despite overwhelming facts to substantiate your claims, you will be attacked, ridiculed, and potentially censored. And even as more evidence and clarity regarding COVID-19 and our response presents itself, supporting any counter-narrative will still lead to increasingly vile and defensive attacks from the privileged elitists leading the charge. 

I am not an investigative journalist, epidemiologist, or infectious disease specialist. But, like many people, I’ve become increasingly troubled by not only our response in the United States and elsewhere, but by the narrative that’s been shaped by the privileged elites in Washington, D.C., and our mainstream media. However, not having a medical background should not preclude me, or anyone else, from being able to look at public data and statistical analysis from non-partisan experts and formulating my own opinions. Uninvited, these bureaucrats have inserted themselves full-force into our families’ lives, so we have every right, and obligation, to check their math. What makes America great is not only our diversity of race, gender, and religion, but our diversity of thought; this is the foundation on which America was built. Attempting to mute any dissenting opinions is a recipe for disaster and a slippery slope we shouldn’t want to navigate.

A Pandemic of Misinformation

https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-pandemic-of-misinformation-11608570640

America has been paralyzed by death and fear for nearly a year, and the politicization of the pandemic has made things worse by adding misinformation and vitriol to the mix. With vaccines finally being administered, we should be entering a joyous phase. Instead we endure still more inflammatory rhetoric and media distortion.

Americans need to understand three realities. First, all 50 states independently directed and implemented their own pandemic policies. In every case, governors and local officials were responsible for on-the-ground choices—every business limit, school closing, shelter-in-place order and mask requirement. No policy on any of these issues was set by the federal government, except those involving federal property and employees.

Don’t Isolate Yourself This Holiday Season

https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2020/12/happiness-advice-holiday-haters/617404/

The polls before the 2020 election were an inaccurate predictor of the vote—some wildly so. Many polls badly underestimated the number of people intending to vote for Donald Trump. One explanation is the “shy voter” hypothesis: People were reluctant to tell pollsters their true voting intentions, because they feared opprobrium for their support of Trump.

This is not a new phenomenon, and, indeed, academic research shows that “shy voters” can render polls highly inaccurate. And this may well be the case for “shy holiday-haters,” few of whom admit they dislike the holiday season but—I believe—are lurking all around us.

Amid the cheer of this time of year, there are always rumblings of holiday discontent: the crass materialism; the Christmas decorations in stores going up right after Halloween; the abomination known as “pumpkin spice.” And yet, few Americans are willing to own up to these views in polls. In 2013, the Pew Research Center reported that “roughly one-in-twenty Americans (4%) say there is nothing about Christmas or the holidays they look forward to, except perhaps the end of the season.” And as respondents told Gallup a few years later, Thanksgiving and Christmas are two of the three “happiest days” of the year (the third being Independence Day).

Ahlgren: Panic, power and the pandemic

We have lost our minds. We have said goodbye to any semblance of rationality or assessment of data and said hello to illogical alarmism. A virus we should have been diligent and cautious about has turned into a virus we should fear, give up our liberty for, and fundamentally alter our lives to avoid.

Consider this scene: I’m taking the elevator down to the parking garage in my building. The elevator stops halfway down, the doors open, and a young man in his mid-20s starts to walk toward the opening elevator doors but stops dead in his tracks when he sees me. We’re both wearing masks as required by our overlords. I look at him and tell him I don’t mind if he gets on the elevator with me. He declines and tells me he’ll catch the next one.

This isn’t the first time this has happened. More and more people are declining to share an elevator with one other person for 20 seconds while they’re distanced and masked. It’s now the norm to see someone in an elevator and ask permission to join them.

Research

All-Cause Excess Mortality and COVID-19–Related Mortality Among US Adults Aged 25-44 Years, March-July 2020

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2774445

Discussion:

The COVID-19 pandemic was associated with increases in all-cause mortality among US adults aged 25 to 44 years from March through July of 2020. In 3 HHS regions, COVID-19 deaths were similar to or exceeded unintentional opioid overdoses that occurred during several corresponding months of 2018.

Only 38% of all-cause excess deaths in adults aged 25 to 44 years recorded during the pandemic were attributed directly to COVID-19. Although the remaining excess deaths are unexplained, inadequate testing in this otherwise healthy demographic likely contributed. These results suggest that COVID-19–related mortality may have been underdetected in this population.

Charts and Graphics

Daily New Cases Per 1M in California and Georgia

Twelve-Month Provisional Drug Overdose Deaths for All Drugs: June 2019 to May 2020

“Increase in Fatal Drug Overdoses Across the United States Driven by Synthetic OpioidsBefore and During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” https://emergency.cdc.gov/han/2020/pdf/CDC-HAN-00438.pdf 

International News

Boris Johnson Tightens U.K. Lockdown, Citing Fast-Spreading Version of Virus

LONDON — Alarmed by a fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Boris Johnson abruptly reversed course on Saturday and imposed a wholesale lockdown on London and most of England’s southeast, banning Christmas-season gatherings beyond individual households.

The decision, which Mr. Johnson announced after an emergency meeting of his cabinet, came after the government got new evidence of a variant first detected several weeks ago in  southeast England, which the prime minister asserted was as much as 70 percent more transmissible than previous versions.

The new measures, which take effect on Sunday, are designed, in effect, to cut off the capital and its surrounding counties from the rest of England. They are the most severe measures the British government has taken since it imposed a lockdown on the country back in March, and reflect a fear that the new variant could supercharge the transmission of the virus as winter takes hold.