The Failed Experiment of Social Distancing

After a two-month trial, researchers are collecting early outcomes of the Great American Social Distancing Experiment of 2020.

The results, to say the least, ain’t pretty—and the “experts” who initiated this experiment on 330 million well-meaning but unwitting test subjects are starting to admit failure.

“Wait. An experiment?” you may ask. But we have been assured by the credentialed class that keeping a distance of six feet between healthy people for weeks on end was the only tried-and-true way to prevent the deadly spread of the novel coronavirus. No way would the government shutter public schools and colleges for five months, bankrupt small businesses, send tens of millions to the unemployment line, jeopardize the nation’s food supply chain, prevent children from comforting dying parents and grandparents, and subject their fellow countrymen to soul-crushing house arrest for the first time in U.S. history if the so-called “social distancing” guidance hadn’t been carefully vetted over time, you might insist.

Certainly every variable and every side effect of social distancing has been factored into this economy-crashing “mitigation” strategy, right?

Unfortunately, and maddeningly, the answer is no.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former head of the Food and Drug Administration and a lead booster of social distancing, admitted Sunday that the draconian measures aren’t working as the experts promised.

“The concerning thing here is that we’re looking at the prospect that this may be a persistent spread,” Gottlieb said on CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” further noting 20,000 to 30,000 new reported cases per day despite intense lockdown orders in most states.

“While mitigation didn’t fail, I think it’s fair to say that it didn’t work as well as we expected,” he said. “We expected that we would start seeing more significant declines in new cases and deaths around the nation at this point, and we’re just not seeing that.”

In fact, Gottlieb pointed to rising daily COVID-19 cases in 20 states, including heavily locked-down states such as Virginia and Maryland.

But this seems to defy the “science” that governors and lawmakers repeatedly pledge to follow in order to keep people safe from the virus.

After all, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued his first social distancing order on March 17 to “stop the spread of the virus in the Commonwealth,” as he promised. A few weeks later, Northam, a physician, joined Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser to announce a collective shelter-in-place decree after residents failed to obey their original commands.

“What we’re seeing now is the result of how people interacted two or three weeks ago,” Northam scolded on March 30. “What we will see a few weeks from now will be determined by how people behave today and in the following days.”

But five weeks later, the area is reporting a record number of COVID-19 cases. Yes, of course, testing is ramping up, too—but considering the harsh stay-at-home orders, how and why are people still getting infected?

It turns out, as I wrote last month, “social distancing” is untested pseudoscience particularly as it relates to halting the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. On its website, the CDC provides no links to any peer-reviewed social distancing studies that bolster its official guidance.

Both the CDC and the World Health Organization confess uncertainty as to how COVID-19 is spread, further raising doubts about the long term success of social distancing. The agencies claim that respiratory droplets sustained in the air can infect healthy people, but WHO admits it is “assessing ongoing research on the ways that COVID-19 is spread and will continue to share updated findings.” Scientists are also unsure about surface-to-human transmission.

That’s hardly the sort of settled science that justifies the abrupt and costly disruption to the American way of life wrought by social distancing.

The alarming reality is that social distancing never has been tested on a massive scale in the modern age; its current formula was conceived during George W. Bush’s administration and met with much-deserved skepticism.

“People could not believe that the strategy would be effective or even feasible,” one scientist told the New York Times last month. A high school science project—no, I am not joking—added more weight to the concept.

After a five-year review by the Obama Administration, according to the Times, current mitigation strategies to contain a “novel” influenza outbreak in the United States were codified in an April 2017 CDC report. (Yes, you have reason to be suspicious. President Trump’s first CDC director wasn’t appointed until July 2017, which means Obama holdovers were still in charge of the agency at the time.)

The dubious social distancing approach has its critics. A group of scientists in 2006 doubted the effectiveness of school closures, travel restrictions, cancellation of large gatherings, the use of face masks, and individual social distancing to contain flu-like viruses.

“It has been recommended that individuals maintain a distance of 3 feet or more during a pandemic so as to diminish the number of contacts with people who may be infected. The efficacy of this measure is unknown,” the researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center concluded. They further stated that such restrictions would be unworkable in most work environments and public transportations systems.

But two of the authors, like so many have done in the Trump era, changed their tune. Drs. Thomas Inglesby and Jennifer Nuzzo now are outspoken advocates of continued social distancing.

“Staying six feet apart, wearing masks when in public, avoiding large gatherings . . . to the extent we are able to do that over the next couple of months will dictate how we do as states and as a country,” Inglesby told Chuck Todd on Sunday, in direct contradiction of what he wrote 14 years ago. Nuzzo also defends social distancing rules for the foreseeable future. “You cannot go to a pre-COVID-19 state. The virus is still out there, and people will still die,” she warned last month.

(Inglesby and Nuzzo, both now at Johns Hopkins, the entity tracking reported COVID-19 cases and fatalities around the world, refused numerous requests by American Greatness to explain their change of heart.)

The country, we now know, is undergoing an experiment to which we never consented: Further, it is as much a political and social experiment as a public health one. The short term results are not what the experts predicted but their lab rats—the American people—are suffering traumatic side effects that could last for years. And unfortunately, like most experts, instead of conceding they had it all wrong and walking away from the failed experiment, they insist they just need a little more time to make it work.

But this experiment needs to end, immediately. Cases continue to rise despite the lockdowns; hospitals are not overwhelmed, nor were they ever (with a few exceptions). The overall death count is inflated; it appears that COVID-19 is asymptomatic for most people and far less lethal than originally predicted. And the economy is in tatters with more bad news on the horizon.

The history of science, sadly, is littered with bad experiments gone horribly wrong. The Great Social Distancing Experiment of 2020, when it is over, will very likely be toward the top of that list.

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