Opening… or Four More Weeks of Variant

Preliminary research shows that vaccination is effective against the Delta variant. Other news this week includes who is opening up and who isn’t; while most places in the US are either open or have an approaching date where mandates end/expire, some places (Chile, Britain) are extending their lockdown restrictions. COVID risk is low in children and teens — a study takes a look at what risk factors characterize the few who do have more severe reactions.

In other news:

  • Jay Bhattacharya speaks out against lockdowns on The Telegraph’s “Planet Normal” Podcast
  • What does the data suggest about vaccinating kids? A close look by Martin Makaryon MedPage Today
  • Philip Holloway on a legal case challenging Florida’s mask mandates in Townhall
  • Peter Navarro on the lab-leak cover up in The Washington Times
  • A look at the effects of our closed border with Canada by Russell Berman in The Atlantic

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COVID News

Vaccines highly effective against hospitalisation from Delta variant

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/vaccines-highly-effective-against-hospitalisation-from-delta-variant

The analysis suggests:

  • the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 96% effective against hospitalisation after 2 doses
  • the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is 92% effective against hospitalisation after 2 doses

These are comparable with vaccine effectiveness against hospitalisation from the Alpha variant.

Further work remains underway to establish the level of protection against mortality from the Delta variant. However, as with other variants, this is expected to be high.

Michigan only Midwest state with COVID-19 restrictions

https://www.thecentersquare.com/michigan/michigan-only-midwest-state-with-covid-19-restrictions/article_2f90dff8-cd2f-11eb-922c-2334f289352b.html

(The Center Square) – Out of the 12 Midwest states, Michigan is the only one with COVID-19 restrictions, and they won’t be lifted for another 16 days, the AARP says.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer picked July 1 to end most broad-ranging COVID-19 orders, including dropping the mask mandate for unvaccinated Michiganders.

State health officials and Whitmer’s office didn’t respond to why dropping restrictions July 1 is safer than June 20.

That’s likely not surprising to Michiganders who’ve watched their state government enact unprecedented and the most severe COVID-19 restrictions in the Midwest. Whitmer banned stores larger than 50,000 square feet from selling paint, advertising for “nonessential” goods, and home improvement supplies. Operating a motorboat could bring criminal charges, as could traveling to a secondary home.

New Hampshire’s state of emergency ends

https://www.thecentersquare.com/new_hampshire/new-hampshires-state-of-emergency-ends/article_2238db18-cab8-11eb-aa02-e711c731b172.html

(The Center Square) – Gov. Chris Sununu is ending New Hampshire’s state of emergency on Friday, citing a decline of COVID-19 infections and rising numbers of vaccinated people.

The emergency order and any remaining COVID-19 restrictions, which have been in effect for more than a year, will expire at midnight as the state moves beyond the pandemic. 

Speaking at a press briefing on Thursday, Sununu said after a long and difficult year of battling the virus the state is finally seeing “the light at the end of the tunnel.”

“Every day our cases are dropping, every day we’re vaccinating more and more people, and we have fewer people hospitalized,” he said. “While we know Covid will be around for some time, the state of emergency is no longer necessary to manage the remaining pieces of the pandemic.” 

A standing public health order, allowing health providers and the Department of Health and Human Services to coordinate efforts, will remain in effect, Sununu said.

Denmark to scrap face masks from Monday

https://www.thelocal.dk/20210610/danish-parties-agree-to-scrap-face-masks-from-monday/

Denmark’s government has struck a deal with all but one of the parties in parliament to on Monday end the requirement to wear a face mask in all areas apart from on public transport.

Under the agreement, struck after 3am following marathon all-night negotiations, the requirement to wear a face mask will be scrapped completely from October 1st.

The coronavirus health pass or coronapas will also begin to be phased out from Monday, when those visiting public libraries and participating in activities run by clubs and voluntary organisations will no longer be required to show one.

From August 1st, a valid coronapas will no longer be needed in theaters, concert venues, indoor sports activities, and a wide range of other venues, from September 1st, you will no longer need to show one in restaurants, the hairdresser or the gym, and on October 1st the pass will be phased out completely. 

Fears that restrictions could be in place until spring

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2021/06/12/fears-restrictions-could-place-spring/

Britain will have a six-week window to open up in the summer or risk keeping Covid-19 restrictions in place until the spring, ministers fear.

Boris Johnson on Saturday gave his clearest signal yet he is planning to delay a full return to normality for another month, as he said he wanted to give Covid-19 vaccines “extra legs” in “the race between the vaccines in the lockdowns”.

But government advisers have told ministers they will face a ticking clock before it becomes too late to lift the remaining restrictions in September.

On Saturday night a senior minister said there were fears the planned delay would leave a “very short window to open up”, with further postponements leading to an eventual re-opening in the spring, when transmission occurs less easily and winter strains on the NHS have eased.

The minister said: “I am very worried the people who want to keep us shut down now want us to keep us shut down permanently and are aiming for ‘zero Covid’.

Appeals court rules Alachua County mask mandate is “presumptively unconstitutional”

Governmental mask mandates in the 32 counties in the First District of Florida must now be presumed to be unconstitutional after yesterday’s ruling by the First District Court of Appeals (1st DCA) on a lawsuit brought by business owner Justin Green against Alachua County.

The lawsuit was originally filed on May 8, 2020, only days after Robert “Hutch” Hutchinson, then-Chair of the Alachua County Commission, instituted a county-wide mask mandate. Eighth Judicial Circuit Judge Donna Keim denied a request for an emergency injunction on May 21, and Jeff Childers, Green’s attorney, appealed to the 1st DCA. 

Oral arguments in the case were presented on November 23, 2020, and Childers has been waiting since then for a ruling. On May 21, 2021, after Alachua County’s mask mandate expired, Childers assumed the lawsuit was moot and filed a “Suggestion of Mootness” with the 1st DCA.

Commentary/Analysis

Philip Holloway joins Andrew Wilkow to talk about the Florida appellate court decision that mask mandates are “presumptively unconstitutional”

You can listen over at Rational Ground: https://rationalground.com/philip-holloway-joins-andrew-wilkow-to-talk-about-the-florida-appellate-court-decision-that-mask-mandates-are-presumptively-unconstitutional/

Lockdowns are ‘the single biggest public health mistake in history’, says top scientist

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/06/10/lockdowns-single-biggest-public-health-mistake-history-says/

Lockdowns will be seen as the “single biggest public health mistake” in history, a Stanford University professor has warned.

Jay Bhattacharya, a professor of medicine, told The Telegraph’s Planet Normal podcast, which you can listen to using the audio player above, that there have been “enormous collateral consequences” of keeping people inside and isolating them from their loved-ones during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The epidemiologist believes many scientists have clung onto the perceived effectiveness of lockdowns, and they “remain attached” to the idea despite the “failure of this strategy”.

“I do think that future historians will look back on this and say this was the single biggest public health mistake, possibly of all history, in terms of the scope of the harm that it’s caused,” said Prof Bhattacharya.

“Every single poor person on the face of the earth has faced some harm, sometimes catastrophic harm, from this lockdown policy.

Think Twice Before Giving the COVID Vax to Healthy Kids

https://www.medpagetoday.com/opinion/marty-makary/93029

The case to vaccinate kids is there, but it’s not compelling right now. The Delta variant (B.1.617.2) could change the calculus depending on forthcoming data from the U.K., Singapore, and India where the variant may be demonstrating more contagious and virulent properties in younger people. By now we should all know that it is important to have humility in dealing with this virus. An increase in cases in the U.K. over the last few days is concerning and should be something we follow closely.

Returning to the discussion of the COVID-19 risk to kids (ages 0 to 12 years) right now, it’s worth aggregating the best available data to date. In reviewing the medical literature and news reports, and in talking to pediatricians across the country, I am not aware of a single healthy child in the U.S. who has died of COVID-19 to date. To investigate further, my research team at Johns Hopkins partnered with FAIR health to study pediatric COVID-19 deaths using approximately half of the nation’s health insurance data. We found that 100% of pediatric COVID-19 deaths were in children with a pre-existing condition, solidifying the case to vaccinate any child with a comorbidity.

Given that the risk of a healthy child dying is between zero and infinitesimally rare, it’s understandable that many parents are appropriately asking, why vaccinate healthy kids at all?

Epic Judicial Smackdown!

https://townhall.com/columnists/philipholloway/2021/06/14/epic-judicial-smackdown-n2590924

Mask Mandates are presumptively unconstitutional. At least in Florida. In a strongly worded opinion, Florida’s First District Court of Appeal reversed a lower court which had originally ruled in favor of Alachua County’s coronavirus mask mandate. As Judge Tanenbaum noted, starting in May 2020, Alachua citizen Justin Green “found himself under the yoke of a mask mandate, accomplished through a series of emergency orders from the chair of the board of county commissioners.” Green decided to do what many wish they had done and took the county to court by seeking an injunction against the mask mandate from Judge Dona Keim.

As you have figured out by now, Green won at the court of appeals because the court recognized that – at least in Florida – a citizen has a privacy right that includes the right “to be let alone by government.” Judge Tanenbaum and the 1st District Court of Appeals sent the case back down to Judge Keim to reconsider the injunction in light of this privacy right as described by the Court of Appeals ruling. What Judge Keim may ultimately do – or whether Alachua County asks the Florida Supreme Court to take up the case is anyone’s guess. If nothing else, this ruling is remarkable because it is best described as an epic judicial smackdown.

To understand why this is such a smackdown, you need to know that Judge Keim mistakenly ruled originally that Mr. Green’s privacy right in going naked-faced around town was no greater than the “right of his fellow citizens not to become infected.” The opinion is silent on what evidence Judge Keim may have considered in reaching the conclusion that face coverings work to prevent infection. It’s also important to note that there was never any allegation that Green was ever infected himself with anything. Reading between the lines it sure looks like Judge Keim is making some assumptions on this point – maybe we will learn more at the next hearing.

Tony Fauci’s cover-up leaves blood on his hands

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2021/jun/10/tony-faucis-coverup-and-blood-his-hands/

Last year Dr. Anthony Fauci pushed back hard disputing me, Sen. Tom Cotton and Fox’s Maria Bartiromo, who first asserted COVID-19 most likely came from a bioweapons lab in Wuhan, China. We now know from his recently released emails his pushback was part of a broader cover-up of his likely role in creating the pandemic.

If the virus came from the Wuhan lab — which it almost certainly did — if the virus has been weaponized using so-called gain-of-function tools — which it almost surely has — and if those experiments were paid for by Fauci’s NIH — which they certainly were — then Dr. Fauci is the American godfather of the pandemic.

COVID-19 has killed more than half a million Americans and more than 3.6 million victims worldwide. This deadly virus first appeared within infectious distance of a wet market and China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology.

After testing thousands of possibilities, scientists have found no “direct progenitor” — an animal from which the virus jumped naturally to humans. We can therefore rule out the wet market, leaving the Wuhan bioweapons lab as the likely origin.

Why Canada Won’t Open Its Doors

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2021/06/canadian-border-crisis/619154/

If you ask Roger Dow, what’s happening at the border is “monstrous”—a prolonged disaster that gets worse by the day. “It is a crisis,” he told me by phone last week. Dow is the CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, and he wasn’t talking about the thousands of migrants surging illegally across the southern border with Mexico or the unaccompanied children detained in overcrowded shelters. Dow was talking about the 5,500-mile northern divide between the United States and Canada—and the “crisis” there is that hardly anyone can get across at all.

Fifteen months after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S.-Canada border remains closed to all but essential travel, cutting off families, would-be tourists, and billions of dollars in commerce. Travel from the U.S. to Canada is down more than 80 percent since before the pandemic. Both countries have imposed strict limits on who can cross the border, but Canada’s restrictions are tighter, and its enforcement is far more severe. Travelers who fly into Canada must land at one of four airports and then pay to spend the first three nights of a 14-day mandatory quarantine at a designated “stopover” hotel, at a cost the U.S. government says could exceed $1,600. There are no exceptions, even for fully vaccinated people or Canadian citizens. The restrictions have essentially forced Canada’s lone Major League Baseball team, the Toronto Blue Jays, and its lone NBA team, the Toronto Raptors, into exile in the U.S.

Research

Clinical characteristics and risk factors for death among hospitalised children and adolescents with COVID-19 in Brazil: an analysis of a nationwide database

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanchi/article/PIIS2352-4642(21)00134-6/fulltext

Summary

Background

COVID-19 is usually less severe and has lower case fatality in children than in adults. We aimed to characterise the clinical features of children and adolescents hospitalised with laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection and to evaluate the risk factors for COVID-19-related death in this population.

Methods

We did an analysis of all patients younger than 20 years who had quantitative RT-PCR-confirmed COVID-19 and were registered in the Influenza Epidemiological Surveillance Information System (SIVEP-Gripe, a nationwide surveillance database of patients admitted to hospital with severe acute respiratory disease in Brazil), between Feb 16, 2020, and Jan 9, 2021. The primary outcome was time to recovery (discharge) or in-hospital death, evaluated by competing risks analysis using the cumulative incidence function.

Findings

Of the 82 055 patients younger than 20 years reported to SIVEP-Gripe during the study period, 11 613 (14·2%) had available data showing laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection and were included in the sample. Among these patients, 886 (7·6%) died in hospital (at a median 6 days [IQR 3–15] after hospital admission), 10 041 (86·5%) patients were discharged from the hospital, 369 (3·2%) were in hospital at the time of analysis, and 317 (2·7%) were missing information on outcome. The estimated probability of death was 4·8% during the first 10 days after hospital admission, 6·7% during the first 20 days, and 8·1% at the end of follow-up. Probability of discharge was 54·1% during the first 10 days, 78·4% during the first 20 days, and 92·0% at the end of follow-up. Our competing risks multivariate survival analysis showed that risk of death was increased in infants younger than 2 years (hazard ratio 2·36 [95% CI 1·94–2·88]) or adolescents aged 12–19 years (2·23 [1·84–2·71]) relative to children aged 2–11 years; those of Indigenous ethnicity (3·36 [2·15–5·24]) relative to those of White ethnicity; those living in the Northeast region (2·06 [1·68–2·52]) or North region (1·55 [1·22–1·98]) relative to those in the Southeast region; and those with one (2·96 [2·52–3·47]), two (4·96 [3·80–6·48]), or three or more (7·28 [4·56–11·6]) pre-existing medical conditions relative to those with none.

Interpretation

Death from COVID-19 was associated with age, Indigenous ethnicity, poor geopolitical region, and pre-existing medical conditions. Disparities in health care, poverty, and comorbidities can contribute to magnifying the burden of COVID-19 in more vulnerable and socioeconomically disadvantaged children and adolescents in Brazil.

Charts and Graphics

International News

Chile faces setback to reopening as coronavirus cases soar

https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/chile-faces-setback-reopening-coronavirus-cases-soar-2021-06-14/

SANTIAGO, June 14 (Reuters) – Chilean health authorities said on Monday they would extend a COVID-19 emergency through September to allow the government to impose restrictions, a setback in a country that has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world.

The announcement comes as cases have soared in Chile to some of their highest levels since the pandemic began, despite 61% of citizens receiving at least one vaccine dose and 48% being fully vaccinated.

Authorities last week locked down the capital Santiago – the country’s economic engine – to ease the burden on hospitals, most of which are at or near capacity.

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