Pushpack Against Vaccine Passports

The Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down Governor Tony Evers’ statewide mask mandate, ruling that he exceeded his authority by issuing the order. 

Across the nation, Republican governors, lawmakers, business groups, and even some public health officials are pushing back against the idea of vaccine passports.

Overseas, France is entering its third national lockdown while a Belgian court has ordered its government to lift all COVID restrictions within 30 days.

  • A new YouGov poll found nearly half of Americans between 18 and 34 are concerned about returning to a normal social life after the pandemic, even though they are the least at risk.
  • Cuomo’s COVID passport leaves too many privacy questions unanswered, says Sam Biddle at The Intercept.
  • A British Medical Journal editorial says vaccine passports create a structural barrier to sustainable development, benefiting only the few at the expense of so many.
  • A new study concludes “Students and teachers at in-person school during 2020 were about 20 times more likely to be infected outside school than in school.”
  • In Newsweek, Rowan Jacobsen lays out the events (and collaborators) that led up to the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s research program on SARS-like viruses.
  • Government money printing may goose GDP, but It will do nothing to fix the losses that millions have suffered from covid restrictions and lockdowns, says Patrick Barron on the Mises Wire.

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COVID News

Wisconsin Supreme Court strikes down governor’s mask mandate

https://apnews.com/article/legislature-madison-wisconsin-coronavirus-pandemic-strikes-9f05a7331f7957721799b23ea381fead

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide mask mandate on Wednesday, stripping the governor of one of his last remaining tools to curb the spread of the coronavirus as the state stands on the precipice of another surge in infections.

The conservative-leaning court ruled 4-3 that Evers violated state law by unilaterally issuing multiple emergency orders to extend the mandate for months. It found that Evers needed legislative approval to issue more orders after the expiration of the initial 60-day mandate he issued in August.

“The question in this case is not whether the governor acted wisely; it is whether he acted lawfully. We conclude he did not,” Justice Brian Hagedorn wrote for the majority.

The decision marks another legal defeat for Evers. The state Supreme Court in May struck down his stay-at-home order, finding that his health secretary lacked the authority to issue such an order. A state appeals court blocked Evers’ attempts to limit capacity in bars, restaurants and other indoor places in October.

Wednesday’s decision comes as COVID-19 cases have been rising in the state. The seven-day daily average has jumped from fewer than 400 cases in mid-March to 470 cases as of Wednesday. State Department of Health Services Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said the state is seeing “warning signs” that another surge in infections is about to begin.

Battle rages over vaccine passports

https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/545670-battle-rages-over-vaccine-passports

Republicans are up in arms over the possibility that businesses and local governments may require vaccine passports for people to get access to certain activities, buildings or events.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has urged his state’s GOP-controlled legislature to pass a law forbidding passes showing proof of coronavirus vaccination, while vowing to take executive action. Congressional Republicans have similarly slammed the passports, framing them as invasive.

The Biden administration has said it will provide guidance on the matter, but signaled the decisions will largely be left up to local governments and business owners.

“We’re going to provide guidance, just as we have through the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention],” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday. “There’s currently an interagency process that is looking at many of the questions around vaccine verification.”

Supporters of the idea say it will help boost businesses — especially in hard-hit industries like travel and entertainment — as COVID-19 restrictions are scaled back and more Americans receive vaccines.

Resistance from health experts and business owners could doom ‘vaccine passports’ even before they launch

WASHINGTON — When it comes to decrying the concept of “vaccine passports,” conservatives have company. The idea’s detractors now include certain business owners, who fear customer backlash and the hassle or danger of enforcing the policy, and even prominent public health advocates, too.

The proof-of-vaccine concept is gaining traction in some circles globally and within the U.S., including among some professional sports teams, a major university, and highly vaccinated countries like Israel. In New York and Hawaii, among other states, governors have pitched the idea as a means of returning to normal life.

But the concept represents a “slippery slope,” said Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association — one that could politicize the vaccine rollout, make health inequities worse, and even lull vaccinated people into a false sense of security.

Why Young Adults Are the Most Frightened of COVID, Even Though They Are the Least at Risk

https://fee.org/articles/why-young-adults-are-the-most-frightened-of-covid-even-though-they-are-the-least-at-risk/

Nearly 3 million Americans are being vaccinated against COVID-19 each day, but the “return to normal” may not be as close as many hope.

A new survey shows many Americans have concerns about interacting with others once the pandemic is over.

“A YouGov poll of more than 4,000 people finds that two in five (39%) Americans say they are very or fairly nervous about the idea of interacting with people socially again,” writes YouGov data journalist Jamie Ballard.

While the high percentage of Americans expressing angst about socializing after the pandemic comes as a surprise, the breakdown along age groups is even more surprising.

“Among 18-to 24-year-olds, 50% say they are nervous about it. A similar number of 25-to 34-year-olds (47%) feel the same way,” Ballard writes

In other words, nearly half of Americans between 18 and 34 are concerned about returning to a normal social life after the pandemic. In contrast, just 31 percent of those over 55 responded that they are nervous about interacting with people again.

The contrast is noteworthy because it’s widely understood that young people are far less likely to be hospitalized or die from COVID. But how less likely?

Commentary/Analysis

GDP Hides the Damage from the Covid-19 Lockdowns

https://mises.org/wire/gdp-hides-damage-covid-19-lockdowns

Do not believe government pronouncements that the economy is rebounding from very minimal damage caused by unprecedented covid-19-inspired closures of businesses. Government will use its favorite statistic of the health of the economy to justify its actions—gross domestic product (GDP).

GDP is supposed to represent the total of spending on final goods and services in the economy. It is a Keynesian term that elevates a concept called “aggregate demand” as most important. Not production and especially not savings. In fact Keynesians fear savings most of all. Now, you and I know that we can become wealthier only by saving some of our income and investing it wisely for the future. But Keynesians invented a concept called “the paradox of thrift,” whereby they claim that the economy enters a death spiral from reductions in spending caused by an increase in savings. Individually, savers may be better off, they say, but collectively the economy suffers. For example, the new auto that we savers do not buy, rather keeping our old one in good repair for a few more years, denies the automakers and all who work for them the money they need to continue production. Layoffs and plant closings ensue. The reduction in aggregate demand ripples outward, bankrupting more and more support businesses and their employees. This is the simplistic Keynesian view of savings.

Covid-19 vaccine passports will harm sustainable development

Where you are born can predict how freely you will be able to travel for opportunity, education, and leisure. Being a citizen of certain countries grants people access to nearly the entire globe, whereas others face challenges just to legally leave the  borders of the country they live in, even during times of conflict. The differential freedom of movement has been reinforced by inequitable trade policies, loan agreements, and increasingly due to the effects of climate change, reinforcing the economic and political dominance of Europe and North America and now China, while limiting the sustainable development of emerging economies. It was in this context where covid-19 rapidly emerged and led to further sustained limitations on local, domestic, and international movement across high income and low-and-middle income countries.  

Encouragingly nearly 500 million doses of vaccines that are highly effective at decreasing the risks of severe covid-19, including hospitalization and attributable deaths, have already been administered globally. This has reignited the potential for the use of vaccine passports as a means of shaping future freedom of movement.

Humans, Not Animals, Likely Took the COVID Virus to Wuhan, Contrary to China’s Claims

https://www.newsweek.com/humans-not-animals-likely-took-covid-virus-wuhan-contrary-chinas-claims-1578861

By the time three of the scientists investigating the origins of SARS-CoV-2 in the Chinese city of Wuhan convened on March 10 for a virtual press conference, more than a year had passed since the World Health Organization asked Beijing for permission to admit them. During this time, as more than 2.6 million people died of COVID-19 and millions more suffered lasting effects of the illness, the mystery of the coronavirus’ origins has loomed.

There is broad agreement that the coronavirus is part of a lineage of viruses found in horseshoe bats in South China. The mystery centers on how the virus came to cause an outbreak in Wuhan, a thousand miles away, without leaving any trace of its journey.

That is essentially the question Peter Daszak, an expert on disease zoology and a member of the WHO team, attempted to address in the press conference. Daszak, who is head of EcoHealth Alliance, a non-profit that funded research into bat coronaviruses in China and elsewhere, is a vocal critic of the notion that the pandemic’s origin involved some kind of laboratory accident; instead, he favors natural zoonosis as an explanation, which holds that the pandemic jumped from animals to people without human intervention.

Vaccine passports: the end of liberty as we know it

https://www.spiked-online.com/2021/03/31/vaccine-passports-the-end-of-liberty-as-we-know-it/

Mission creep is defined as ‘the tendency for a task… to become unintentionally wider in scope than its initial objectives’.

The government’s initial mission, when introducing Covid-19 restrictions across the UK, was to save lives and to ensure that the NHS was not overwhelmed. Now, it is considering introducing a new system of control which would entirely reprogramme our society – requiring us to show a health ID just to order a pint, despite the ever-decreasing risk that Covid poses. How did this idea, which could come straight out of an episode of Black Mirror, progress this far?

Any restrictions on human rights should be borne out of absolute necessity and must be proportionate to the issue at hand. But vaccine passports are a total affront to privacy. They run the risk of creating a discriminatory, two-tiered society – and we don’t even need them. As one journalist put it, they are the answer to a problem that doesn’t exist.

Research

The Incidence and Magnitude of the Health Costs of In-person Schooling during the COVID-19 Pandemic

https://www.nber.org/papers/w28619

The health costs of in-person schooling during the pandemic, if any, fall primarily on the families of students, largely due to the fact that students significantly outnumber teachers. Data from North Carolina, Wisconsin, Australia, England, and Israel covering almost 80 million person-days in school help assess the magnitude of the fatality risks of in-person schooling (with mitigation protocols), accounting for the age and living arrangements of students and teachers. The risks of in-person schooling to teachers are comparable to the risks of commuting by automobile. Valued at a VSL of $10 million, the average daily fatality cost ranges from $0.01 for an unvaccinated young teacher living alone to as much as $29 for an elderly and unvaccinated teacher living with an elderly and unvaccinated spouse. COVID-19 risk avoidance may also be more amenable to Bayesian updating and selective protection than automobile fatalities are. The results suggest that economic behaviors can sometimes invert epidemiological patterns when it comes to the spread of infectious diseases in human populations.

Charts and Graphics

International News

France’s Macron Orders New Nationwide Lockdown

https://www.wsj.com/articles/frances-macron-under-fire-for-pandemic-strategy-weighs-tougher-lockdown-11617202598

PARIS—French President Emmanuel Macron announced a national lockdown Wednesday, shuttering schools and nonessential businesses, amid mounting public frustration over his government’s handling of the pandemic.

Speaking from the Élysée Palace on national television, Mr. Macron said new measures were needed after his strategy of relying on targeted restrictions failed to tame the pandemic. France’s sluggish vaccine campaign has left the country vulnerable to more contagious coronavirus variants, which have sent cases soaring and filled the country’s intensive-care units with Covid-19 patients.

“It would be false to say that things will get better on their own,” Mr. Macron said. “Then we would place ourselves in a sensitive situation where the entire country could be overloaded.”

Mr. Macron said restrictions that currently apply only to Paris and other hard-hit areas would be extended across the country for four weeks, starting Saturday evening. Schools will shut for three weeks beginning Monday, Mr. Macron said, with spring break being shifted to coincide with the last two weeks of the shutdown. Unlike a year ago at the start of the pandemic, the public won’t be required to fill out a form to leave the house during France’s third nationwide lockdown.

Belgium must lift ‘all Covid-19 measures’ within 30 days, Brussels court rules

The Belgian State has been ordered to lift “all coronavirus measures” within 30 days, as the legal basis for them is insufficient, a Brussels court ruled on Wednesday.

The League for Human Rights had filed the lawsuit several weeks ago and challenged Belgium’s system of implementing the measures using Ministerial Decrees, which means it is done without any input from parliament.

The judge gave the Belgian State 30 days to provide a sound legal basis, or face a penalty of €5,000 per day that this period is exceeded, with a maximum limit of €200,000, reports Le Soir.

The current coronavirus measures are based on the Civil Safety Act of 2007, which enable the State to react quickly in “exceptional circumstances,” but the judge has now ruled that these laws cannot serve as a basis for the Ministerial Decrees.

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