Reminder: Lockdowns Still Don’t Work

On Monday, President Trump announced he will lift COVID travel restrictions for foreign citizens entering the U.S. from Brazil and most Europe — but the incoming Biden administration says it will leave the ban intact. 

As of January 15th, Texas leads the way in the total number of vaccine doses administered.

In other news:

  • NPR reports the pandemic response worsened the mental health crisis in children. When schools and doctors’ offices were forced to close last spring, it also cut children off from the trained teachers and therapists who understand their needs.
  • Our Michael Betrus argues that the burden of proof is on lockdown states to prove their policies are more effective than those of non-lockdown states.
  • Reason writer Jacob Sullum reminds us California, despite taking a much more restrictive approach than Texas, has seen much bigger increases in cases and deaths this fall and winter.
  • “It’s over,” declares Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A quarter of the Israeli population has received the first shot and there are many clear signs the vaccine is working. Furthermore, the number of seriously ill over 60 has dropped drastically.

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

COVID News

Trump Orders Lifting of Virus Travel Ban, but Biden Aides Vow to Block Move

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Monday ordered an end to the ban on travelers from Europe and Brazil that had been aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus to the United States, a move quickly rejected by aides to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., who said Mr. Biden will maintain the ban when he takes office on Wednesday.

In a proclamation issued late Monday, Mr. Trump said that the travel restrictions, which apply to noncitizens trying to come to the United States after spending time in those areas, would no longer be needed on Jan. 26, the date on which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will start requiring all passengers from abroad to present proof of a negative coronavirus test before boarding a flight.

‘I’ve Tried Everything’: Pandemic Worsens Child Mental Health Crisis

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/01/18/953581851/ive-tried-everything-pandemic-has-cut-options-for-kids-with-mental-illness

A bag of Doritos, that’s all Princess wanted.

Her mom calls her Princess, but her real name is Lindsey. She’s 17 and lives with her mom, Sandra, a nurse, outside of Atlanta. On May 17, 2020, a Sunday, Lindsey decided she didn’t want breakfast; she wanted Doritos. So she left home and walked to Family Dollar, taking her pants off on the way, while her mom followed on the phone with police.

Lindsey has autism (NPR isn’t using last names to protect her privacy). It can be hard for her to communicate and navigate social situations. She thrives on routine, and gets special help at school. Or got help, before the coronavirus pandemic closed schools and forced tens of millions of children home. Sandra says that’s when their living hell started.

Commentary/Analysis

The burden of proof

Lockdowns are back in full force as we enter the 11th month of “15 days to stop the spread.” New York City has closed schools and even outdoor dining. Pennsylvanians are required to wear masks in their homes. Californians are to wear masks between bites of food (except Governor Newsom, of course) and ordered to stay at home in the bay area. Schools in many states have committed to only offering remote learning for the foreseeable future, with over 40 million kids continuing to lose a year-plus of education.

Amidst the rising “cases,” are the lockdowns a proportionate response? Recall that governors locked down because the March 2020 Imperial College model predicted we’d be in a worst-case ten-fold shortfall of ICU capacity at our peak and a best-case three-fold shortfall. That never happened; we never got remotely close. Still, we’re locked down and really never fully reopened anywhere.

Would a National Lockdown Have Saved the U.S. From COVID-19?

The United States has seen more COVID-19 deaths per capita than all but 10 countries. In a one-year retrospective on the pandemic, The New York Times blames the lack of “a unified national strategy,” which it says led to a “fractured” response.

At bottom, that critique—like federal COVID-19 adviser Anthony Fauci’s complaint that “the states are very often given a considerable amount of leeway in doing things the way they want”—is an objection to the American system of government. Under the Constitution, the federal government is limited to specifically enumerated powers, which do not include a general authority to protect the public from communicable diseases. That responsibility lies primarily with the states, which retain a broad “police power” that goes far beyond the authority vested in the president or Congress.

COVID and the Illusion of Control

Human beings, and especially our politicians, have a need to feel in control. Tough-guy governors preen about their control measures: lockdowns, closures, hyper-testing, contact tracing, and arbitrary micromanagement of citizens’ lives, families, and businesses. But the evidence that any of these measures have a meaningful effect on the coronavirus’s rise and fall in a given area is extremely sparse, while the lockdown-caused pain, suffering, and death is layered on top of the far lesser harms of the virus. The most draconian control measures have often come after the virus is already in decline in an area, at the moment of maximum political pain. And judging from the pandemic response in Europe, our leaders may be ineducable, repeating the same mistakes in the fall that they made in the spring. That is what makes this year’s fall and winter seasons uniquely dangerous.

Research

Increased infections, but not viral burden, with a new SARS-CoV-2 variant

https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.01.13.21249721v1

ABSTRACT:

Background: A new variant of SARS-CoV-2, B.1.1.7/VOC202012/01, was identified in the UK in December-2020. Direct estimates of its potential to enhance transmission are limited.

Methods: Nose and throat swabs from 28-September-2020 to 2-January-2021 in the UK’s nationally representative surveillance study were tested by RT-PCR for three genes (N, S and ORF1ab). Those positive only on ORF1ab+N, S-gene target failures (SGTF), are compatible with B.1.1.7/VOC202012/01. We investigated cycle threshold (Ct) values (a proxy for viral load), percentage of positives, population positivity and growth rates in SGTF vs non-SGTF positives.

Results: 15,166(0.98%) of 1,553,687 swabs were PCR-positive, 8,545(56%) with three genes detected and 3,531(23%) SGTF. SGTF comprised an increasing, and triple-gene positives a decreasing, percentage of infections from late-November in most UK regions/countries, e.g. from 15% to 38% to 81% over 1.5 months in London. SGTF Ct values correspondingly declined substantially to similar levels to triple-gene positives. Population-level SGTF positivity remained low (<0.25%) in all regions/countries until late-November, when marked increases with and without self-reported symptoms occurred in southern England (to 1.5-3%), despite stable rates of non-SGTF cases. SGTF positivity rates increased on average 6% more rapidly than rates of non-SGTF positives (95% CI 4-9%) supporting addition rather than replacement with B.1.1.7/VOC202012/01. Excess growth rates for SGTF vs non-SGTF positives were similar in those up to high school age (5% (1-8%)) and older individuals (6% (4-9%)).

Conclusions: Direct population-representative estimates show that the B.1.1.7/VOC202012/01 SARS-CoV-2 variant leads to higher infection rates, but does not seem particularly adapted to any age group.

Charts and Graphics

South Dakota Positive Cases – 3/10/20 to 1/14/21

International News

Top official: Israel in ‘final stages’ of COVID, showing world an exit strategy

https://www.timesofisrael.com/top-official-israel-in-final-stages-of-covid-showing-world-an-exit-strategy/

Israel is in the “final stages” of the coronavirus pandemic, a senior health official said Friday after data showed the country was seeing clear results of its massive vaccination drive.

“We are in the final stages of the coronavirus. Israel, with the scale of its vaccine drive, is showing the world that there is an exit strategy,” Ronni Gamzu, who was Israel’s COVID czar and has since returned to his job as director of Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, told Channel 12 news.

His assessment appears to be shared by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was recorded earlier this week telling a closed-door meeting that “It’s over.”

Lockdown ‘killed two people for every three who died of coronavirus’ at peak of outbreak