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Great America

Fauci Is a Deep State Fraud

The pandemic’s guru, unfortunately, behaves as an ordinary creature of the Washington swamp.

I knew for sure that Anthony Fauci is a fraud after listening to him for about 10 seconds—as anyone who listens carefully would have known as well. President Trump had been charging the Chinese government with obscurancy and deception in its handling of the novel coronavirus outbreak. Fauci had dealt intimately with the Chinese on that matter. His National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Centers for Disease Control had partially financed the notorious Wuhan laboratory where Chinese scientists were researching the virus. Fauci knew a lot.

A reporter asked Fauci if he agreed with Trump that the Chinese have not been fully forthcoming about the scope of the pandemic. Fauci answered that although the Chinese had lacked candor in previous years, this time they had turned over “the sequence of the virus.” Spoken like a wily swamp reptile!

His words were factually correct. The Chinese had turned over all they knew about the virus’s “sequence”—namely, its genetic structure. But the reporter and the audience neither knew nor cared about that. They were interested in the Chinese government’s misrepresentations of the virus’s contagion, fatality rate, and so forth. That is what they had dissembled and lied about. 

Fauci’s answer artfully deceived the audience into believing the opposite of the truth. Thus did Fauci help plant a dagger between Trump’s shoulder blades and help his party—the Democrats and the deep state—extort the American people’s compliance to their agendas.

Deep State Doctor

Donald Trump’s decision to accredit Dr. Anthony Fauci as the COVID-19 pandemic’s guru is largely responsible for the extent of the panic that gripped America in the spring and now summer. Fauci is a bona fide graduate of medical school. Many attest to his earlier epidemiological brilliance. But none of the words by which he has helped inflict chaos on America have reflected either medical or epidemiological facts. Fauci has acted as, and has been, a politicized, partisan bureaucrat while pretending to be the disinterested authority of physicians and scientists. 

The pretense that COVID-19 is something like, and hence is to be treated like, the plague is the essence of the scam that the deep state and the Democratic Party are perpetrating on America. Anthony Fauci’s pseudo-medical, pseudo-scientific pretense is the foremost pillar of that lie.

Sowing and maintaining confusion about the severity of cases of  COVID-19 infections—indeed, about the very meaning of the word “case”—has been the heart of that lie. 

Understanding the truth begins with comparing the infection/fatality rate (IFR) of ordinary seasonal flu, 0.01 percent, with that of the bubonic plague or smallpox—around 30 percent—and then realizing that COVID-19’s IFR is roughly that of the flu.

Although Fauci was not the sole author of the confusion, he surely was most influential in spreading it. And it was a lie, because by January Fauci knew that, despite the Chinese government’s indications and media management to the contrary, COVID-19 was what we in the West have since learned from experience: deadly to the very old and otherwise compromised, but milder than most flu strains for just about everyone else. 

That knowledge notwithstanding, Fauci concurred with the mathematical modelers’ dire forecasts of frightful across-the-board mortality rates. He substantiated their (baseless) assumptions of an IFR around 5 percent for everyone by citing as a “case” any sick person who tested positive for the virus or who had a fever, cough, and other respiratory symptoms like those caused by the virus. He then agreed that all such persons who died should have their deaths attributed to the virus. 

In late March, Fauci convinced President Trump that a wave of such deadly “cases” would overwhelm America’s healthcare system unless Americans huddled at home. Trump agreed. (Remember, “15 Days to Slow the Spread?) Thereafter, the lockdowns took on a momentum of their own.

Mindless Momentum 

So mindless of reality was this momentum that it shoved aside the only medical fact that made any difference, namely, the vulnerability of old, fragile people. Hence, Fauci’s CDC, all keen to free up hospital space, advised state and local health systems to transfer all manner of patients into nursing homes and long-term care facilities. 

Thus did Fauci’s CDC become the efficient cause of the holocaust that killed perhaps 60,000 practically captive old folks.

By mid-April however, as the great wave simply was not happening, any number of independent studies were establishing COVID-19’s true, low IFR. Fauci retreated, no longer linking “cases” to deaths, he used the panic he had helped foment and the credit that Trump had naively given him, to finagle Trump into agreeing to a staged plan to end the lockdowns which, upon closer look, was really a plan for perpetuating them regardless of what happened.

The essence of this fraud is the pretense that all COVID-19 infections are “cases” requiring sequestration and quarantine, even if they involve persons to whom the virus poses no danger—i.e., nearly all Americans. To keep down the number of “cases” Fauci now preaches, Americans must be willing to accept any number of arbitrary restrictions, not least of which is superintendence by “contact tracers” empowered to allow or disallow anyone from ordinary employment and human contact.

To grasp Fauci’s dishonesty—being anything but ignorant, he knows exactly what he is doing—we need not recall his self-contradictions regarding the wearing of masks or regarding the risks associated with Holy Communion versus sex with strangers. Let us only recall what this board-certified physician has said and done about the drug hydroxychloroquine.

This standard antimalarial drug’s usefulness against COVID-19 was discovered accidentally as physicians around the world found it useful for treating patients, especially in the disease’s early and mid-stages. President Trump praised it. 

The deep state howled. Fauci tried to backstab Trump by pointing out that the drug had not been specifically approved to treat COVID-19. Reporters refused to accept a backhanded put-down. When one asked whether he would take the drug were he infected with COVID-19, Fauci said yes, but qualified that he would do so only as part of an FDA study. Later, as the deep state’s campaign against “Trump’s drug” produced studies obviously biased against it, Fauci happily retreated to saying that the drug was now off the table. 

But by June, as major peer-reviewed studies confirmed hydroxychloroquine’s usefulness, Fauci remained silent. He was doing the best he could for his class. Not for us.

This is not how scientists behave. Much less is it how doctors behave who take seriously the Hippocratic Oath. Fauci, unfortunately, behaves as an ordinary creature of the Washington swamp.

Great America

A Second Wave of Stupidity

The coronavirus panic was starting to ebb after the successful state reopenings of May and enthusiastic public protests of June. Rather than acknowledging this good news story, the same lunatics are clamoring to tighten the screws again.

First we were warned about an exponential increase. Cases were doubling and tripling in as many days. Soon millions would be sick and dying. Then we were warned of rising deaths, even though many of these deaths had other causes.

We were told to flatten the curve. We needed to stay home. We should not wear masks. Then we should wear masks.

The whole experience has been dizzying.

The Testing Solution

The media and experts then began selling tests as the key. Why exactly was unclear, with the vast majority of people having mild symptoms, no cure or vaccine in sight, and no realistic way for our decrepit public health system to do contact tracing. But tests it would be.

We now conduct a lot of tests. “Drive-by” testing has happened in some locales. Private companies, local walk-in clinics, and county health departments are all offering tests. So far, 36 million coronavirus tests have been administered.

Tests are showing a lot more positive cases. In May, Florida was confirming 1,000 or so cases per day. By July 2, the state reported nearly 10,000 new cases in one day. Arizona and Texas showed a similar rise in positive tests.

It appears the Cassandras may have been right. The disease was “exploding.” Red states were warned about reopening too early. Selfish people wanted to go to the beach and bars, and now they are paying the price.

Or Maybe Not?

Rising tests only matter if they indicate the actual, continuing growth of the disease. Is it possible this is not happening?

Yes . . . it’s probable, in fact.

From day one, many people had the coronavirus and didn’t know it. They won’t know for sure until they have an antibody test. Back in April, the Santa Clara antibody population study estimated 54,000 cases, about 2 percent of the California community under study, even when only 1,000 coronavirus cases had been officially confirmed by authorities. At that time, public health authorities were using the more difficult-to-administer “PCR” test to come up with that lower number. PCR tests show active infection.

A similar study in hard-hit New York estimated 20 percent of the city’s population had viral antibodies. The authors reached this estimate for a city of 8 million when the nationally reported cases were less than 1 million.

Most people have not been tested. People with mild symptoms do not run to the doctor for tests, nor do the asymptomatic. Thus, millions of people only minimally impacted by the coronavirus are not ending up on the radar of the health authorities.

The disease has been spreading because of this group. They spread the disease unknowingly, as do those to whom they spread it. For the same reasons, the spread of the disease is probably slowing, as people already infected are no longer able to transmit the disease further. They are a cul de sac for further disease spread. Fatalities are going down as well, as the most vulnerable have already been “harvested,” in the grim terminology of the epidemiologists.

All of these factors combine to produce greater and greater “herd immunity.” Herd immunity is probably the only way to resolve this situation in the absence of a vaccine or a realistic mitigation strategy. Ironically, herd immunity is impeded by the masking and social distancing measures so in vogue.

The Florida Situation

Now testing is up significantly, including in Florida. Tests are cheaper and more widely available. After exposure to those with confirmed cases, people are getting tested in an abundance of caution. Sometimes, employers are requiring them as well.

When Florida began to reopen in early May, the state was reporting 8,000 to 20,000 tests per day. Positive percentages ranged from 8-10 percent. In June and July, the daily testing numbers increased to a range of 34,000 to 78,000 tests per day. During the week of June 24, 10-17 percent were positive among the greater than 400,000 people tested.

Thus, more tests are showing more cases and a higher percentage of positive cases. The media’s reactions were predictable. The Palm Beach Post said cases were exploding. The New York Times called it America’s “Pandemic Playground.” Breathless articles reported that, for now, the number testing positive was younger, but that soon many of them would be in the hospital, and the elderly would be clobbered by a second wave.

This seems unlikely. We already have extensive data that young people are barely affected by this virus. In spite of the “surge of cases,” over half of COVID-19 deaths are among people over 75. A few anecdotal stories of people having a hard time get the media spotlight, but the death and hospitalization data show it is significantly concentrated among older folks, including many over their average life expectancy and with major comorbidities.

Even now, in spite of recent news about rising cases and fears of a second wave, daily death numbers are down and remain down from their April 28 high in Florida. Nationwide, coronavirus deaths dropped from a weekly high of over 19,000 in April to around 4,300 for the week of July 1.

Nonetheless, local authorities have lost their nerve on reopening. Local governments in Tampa, Sarasota, and Orlando ordered mandatory indoor masking. The governor shut down bars and nightclubs again. Talk of a “second shutdown” is becoming frighteningly common. It seems unlikely Disney will reopen as planned in mid-July.

Bad Data Combines PCR and Antibody Tests

The news of rising case numbers is highly misleading. The data will continue to show rising numbers because Florida’s rise in reported “tests” includes the results of antibody tests. The CDC also combines antibody and PCR tests, confounding the national data.

Antibody tests show those who had the coronavirus a long time ago, may have never known they had it, and are long past the time they can spread it. Because antibody test results are retrospective, the percentage of positive antibody tests will always be rising.

It’s not clear how many of all the tests reported in Florida are merely antibody tests, but it appears at least 500,000 of the 2 million tests reported on Florida’s “dashboard” were. (While total tests are confusingly combined in the state’s case reporting data, two large groups of antibody tests are broken out in reports of private and government-administered antibody testing.) In other words, Florida is doing 3-5 times more testing than a few months ago, and much of the rise in testing is antibody testing. This guaranteed to show a rise in cases.

Consistent with the earlier Santa Clara study, Florida’s first report of statewide antibody testing showed 4.4 percent of Floridians tested had antibodies. If this is representative—and it was certainly a large sample of more than 120,000 people—this would amount to 900,000 people statewide, a much higher number than today’s 175,000 official case count.

The War to Close Down the Economy

States have been reopening for about two months now. The economic results certainly have been impressive, and deaths are not accelerating. The new metric of “rising cases” seems custom-designed to keep the bad news coming, even though it includes long-since-resolved or asymptomatic cases.

Obviously, there are many people with an agenda. During the Black Lives Matter protests in June, we saw the ruling class’ bold willingness to ignore what they said five minutes ago. Protests against lockdowns were the end of the world, as was a day at the beach, or going to church. But the BLM protests were not a problem because they were supposedly for a good cause. 

This should cause a permanent rise in skepticism and wariness of the media, the public health authorities, and the ruling class. The recent good news on hydroxychloroquine further reminds us that the whole point of hyping the coronavirus, the riots, and much else was to spread fear and despair, hurt the country, and impair President Trump’s reelection chances.

Important and expensive decisions are being made based on bad data, including misleading “new case” data that merely reveals the huge, preexisting gap of testing and the actual number of cases. Nonetheless, these bad data are talked about as if they’re gospel by an incurious media.

While I would not expect ardent leftists and those suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome to care about the reliability of data, I do think local and state authorities are more practical, less ideological, and less able to weather additional shutdowns. Here they are simply too cautious or uninformed to push back against the imperius experts.

But they should.

Science is not black magic. It involves data and logic. The enormous holes in the coronavirus testing data—as well as the very recent failure of the experts’ dire predictions to come true—should encourage more critical thinking by everyone.

In litigation, we often talk about the “garbage in, garbage out” aspect of expert opinions. If the expert is relying on the false statements of a witness or the “cooked books” of his client, a perfectly sound, scientific method will still produce useless and misleading results. Even reliable models are only as reliable as the data one feeds into them.

The public health community has behaved irresponsibly throughout the coronavirus episode. It has not considered costs and benefits, the usual rise and fall of epidemics even absent intervention, the nature of the testing data on which it relied, and the public health risks of mass unemployment and mandatory social isolation.

The coronavirus panic was starting to ebb after the successful state reopenings of May and enthusiastic public protests of June. Rather than acknowledging this good news story, the same lunatics are clamoring to tighten the screw again, this time by looking at flawed data showing “new cases.”

This time, don’t play along.

Great America

COVID-19 Did Not ‘Cure Pneumonia’

It is imperative to rebuke what is clearly misleading, no matter how much it reinforces our preexisting opinions.

When it comes to memes, “COVID-19 Cured Pneumonia” is a good one. Its obvious implausibility immediately directs the reader to consider the underlying allegation, which is that pneumonia deaths are being deliberately understated in order for the Centers for Disease Control to reclassify them as COVID-19 deaths, thus fanning public panic.

When there’s a meme, there’s an image. To support the phrase “COVID-19 Cured Pneumonia,” there is a graphic representation of CDC data that appears to show a precipitous drop in pneumonia cases at precisely the time when COVID-19 cases were precipitously rising.

Depicted below is the graph behind the assertion that “COVID-19 Cured Pneumonia.” On the surface, it’s awfully convincing.

It references an official government source and the data on the downloadable Excel spreadsheet is faithfully rendered in the graph. And wow! Compared to the previous six years, this year far fewer people are dying from pneumonia.

The problem with this graph, and the accompanying meme, is that, as the CDC discloses on their Daily Updates of Totals by Week and State, “it can take several weeks for death records to be submitted to National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), processed, coded, and tabulated.” The first chart used data as reported to the CDC through March 25. The next chart, below, uses data gathered for an additional three months, through June 24. The differences are striking.

What appears to have happened around the tenth week of 2020, in mid-March, is completely different on the earlier chart compared to the more current one. On the chart that went viral, which purported to indicate what might even be deceit on the part of the CDC, deaths from pneumonia plummeted, dropping from around 3,100 during week nine to only around 2,400 during week 10. On the later chart, using complete data, weekly deaths from pneumonia were averaging around 4,000 per week in mid-March, and by early April had surged to nearly 12,000 in a single week.

Further comparisons between the earlier chart and the later chart show that pneumonia deaths were not reported based on complete data on the earlier chart after around the beginning of the year. On the earlier chart, weekly deaths peaked in early January at around 4,000 and then began to fall. But on the later chart, using complete data, it is clear that pneumonia deaths remained at around 4,000 per week right up until mid-March, when they skyrocketed.

For this reason, it is premature to assume that much if any of the drop showing in pneumonia deaths later in April and onward is real. We don’t know yet.

Subjective Data, Subjective Conclusions

The COVID-19 pandemic is impossible accurately to dissect and analyze. Obviously the differing policy responses and differing media interpretations are evidence of differing political ideologies and agenda. But what happened with the “COVID-19 Cured Pneumonia” meme should remind everyone, regardless of their perspective, to dig beneath the surface.

“COVID-19 Cured Pneumonia” is false both on its humorous surface but also in its clever insinuation. No matter how far you dig into the labyrinth of data surrounding COVID-19, it remains untrue.

When data is inherently difficult to parse, and the consequences of misinterpreting the data are so serious, it is vital to dig beneath the surface of clever phrases and charts. It is imperative to rebuke what is clearly misleading, no matter how much it reinforces our preexisting opinions.

As it is, even the CDC appears unsure of how to characterize COVID-19. There have been allegations that deaths around the country are being reclassified as COVID-19 deaths, and that co-morbidities are present in almost all deaths. This however is why isolating and reporting just deaths from pneumonia is indicative. Clearly this year there are far more people dying from pneumonia than in previous years. In April 2020, pneumonia deaths were more than triple what they had been any of the previous six years.

Another way to get at the lethality of COVID-19 is to look at total deaths from all causes, a statistic that is rather difficult to cook. Here also, using CDC data, there is a definite trend. In the five weeks encompassing April 2020, there were 355,399 deaths from all causes in the United States. By contrast, in 2019 there were 276,887, in 2018 there were 273,205, in 2017 there were 272,089, in 2016 there were 265,612, in 2015 there were 261,623, and in 2014 there were 251,622. Deaths from all causes.

This is unambiguous data. Prior to 2020, the six-year average deaths from all causes in the United States during the five-week period encompassing the month of April was 266,839, with the largest deviation from that average in any year topping out at only 6 percent. This year, during the same period, deaths are up by 88,560 over the average, a 33 percent increase. Something horrible is going on.

It is important to debate the efficacy of masks, social distancing, hand washing, and the whole shutdown. It is important to point out the rampant hypocrisy of encouraging riotous protests over social justice while condemning any crowd formed in favor of a conservative cause. It’s important to wonder why we’re locking down the healthy instead of just protecting the vulnerable. And it’s probably true that COVID-19 is reasonably easy for a healthy young person to beat. But this disease is a mass murderer, and all debates ought to acknowledge that context.

COVID-19 Exposes Inadequacy of Ideological Rigidity

When President Trump calls COVID-19 the “Chinese virus,” he’s right. COVID-19 was spawned in the Wuhan “wet market,” a horrific public slaughterhouse where virtually any living cellular organism is for sale, ready on-demand to be dismembered while still alive. The Wuhan wet market is a fetid, barbaric throwback that disappeared from developed Western nations well over a century ago.

But who can say so? Who can, with abundant justification, condemn these “wet markets,” in all their filth, squalor, and hideous brutality? Racists? Nationalists? Western chauvinists? White supremacists? Trump’s deplorable minions? Why is it appropriate to throw our Constitution’s Bill of Rights out the window in the name of a health emergency, yet it is stigmatized as racist, and subject to online censorship, to unequivocally identify and condemn the source of this virus?

COVID-19 not only exposes some of America’s cultural absurdities. It challenges both the pieties of the globalist Left, and the principles of the libertarian Right. Because COVID-19, for all the havoc it is inflicting on this nation and around the world, could well be just a prelude.

For all we know, only a distant microbial ancestor of COVID-19 was spawned in the Wuhan wet market. There is evidence it was designed in a Chinese lab, ostensibly in an effort to experiment with vaccines and treatments. If so, was it released from this lab accidentally or on purpose? Mao used to boast that his nation could absorb hundreds of millions of casualties in war, and emerge relatively unscathed. So why not? And the Chinese, for their part, have accused the Americans of creating and spreading the virus.

One thing is certain. Viruses exist today that are capable of making COVID-19 look like a mild cold. Far more infectious, far more persistent on surfaces and in the air, and far more deadly, these designer diseases are stored in labs and military depots all over the world. Should any of them ever be unleashed, Americans will be glad they had a dry run, coping with COVID-19.

This fact should make everyone wonder as objectively as possible about how Americans respond to COVID-19. Maybe we shouldn’t have shut down the economy, this time. Maybe we’re going to be paying for that for many years. But what are we going to do when the big one comes? What sort of collective skills will we need to have as a nation?

To that question, libertarians, as usual, have no answer. “Collective” anything is anathema to them. Nationalists should recognize that next time could be different, much worse, and that what they perceive as an unconstitutional overreaction this time might be a condition of survival next time. And globalists, liberals, the whole woke mob, God bless ’em, will need to shut up when we have to shut the borders, and they will need to stop apologizing for our enemies.

News

Data Suggests Protests Led To COVID Spike

A Twitter thread by el gato malo on the connection between the protests that have swept the country and the recent COVID-19 spike.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great America

The Suicide of Expertise

After misleading Americans on a long list of consequential issues over the past few decades—from climate change to dietary guidelines and now the common cry of “systemic racism”—the body of expertise is twitching. In this case, I will even allow for coding its death as another coronavirus fatality.

In his 2017 book, The Death of Expertise, author Tom Nichols argued that know-it-all Americans were tuning out the credentialed class at great risk to the country. “We rely on delegating decisions to other people who we assume are going to have some better knowledge of these issues than we are,” he said in an April 2017 speech. “Our republic functions on delegating decisions to others who rely on expertise to help make the best decisions we can make.”

Nichols, a rabid NeverTrumper, often ridicules Trump and his supporters as ignorant rubes who recklessly disregard the advice of Our Betters with Letters. Blaming experts for disastrous foreign wars or lousy trade pacts, Nichols insists, is just a craven political strategy. It is inconceivable to him that disgust with the expert class could be rooted in legitimate gripes or clear evidence of failure.

But like so many assumptions made by his NeverTrump cohorts, Nichols is wrong. Again. Expertise did not die at the hands of deplorable Trumpkins or even web-surfing suburban moms. Expertise wasn’t killed; it has slowly committed suicide.

And we are watching the final death throes of the credentialed class as the last gasps of their credibility can be heard across social media and cable news outlets. The tension between two forms of pseudoscience—social distancing and social justice—snapped, and the experts who vehemently demanded the former now take a knee to defend the latter.

Public Health Hypocrisy

As I wrote last week, the protests and violence unleashed in the name of George Floyd abruptly canceled the expert-backed lockdowns that most Americans have followed dutifully for nearly three months. Close observers of the coronavirus crisis waited in vain for inevitable lectures from public health officials and social media shamers warning that hedonistic rabble-rousers would spread the disease.

To the contrary, not only did the experts refuse to scold social distancing violators, they justified the mass gatherings. Health experts signed a letter explaining why mostly-white lockdown protesters should be treated differently than mostly-black social justice protestors; they even objected to various law enforcement measures. “[We] Advocate that protesters not be arrested or held in confined spaces, including jails or police vans, which are some of the highest-risk areas for COVID-19 transmission,” the experts scolded.

One well-known expert, a familiar face on cable news shows over the past few months, also weighed in: “We commit to working to produce the evidence that racism and discrimination are critical public health issues that demand an urgent response, wherever they occur. We are committed to this fight.”

The author of those empty words? Dr. Christopher Murray, the head of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the expert behind the flawed models that were used to force President Trump to shut down the economy in late March. Murray wrongly predicted that coronavirus patients would overwhelm the country’s health care system, causing widespread shortages of hospital beds and ventilators.

He’s been the leading voice for social distancing, including the closure of schools, and nags beachgoers and Republican governors daring to reopen their states against his wishes. Yet Murray has made no mention of the public health risk posed by the tens of thousands of protestors assembling for days on end and clearly in violation of his own rules.

Of course, Murray was not alone—experts and their media mouthpieces caused a case of collective whiplash as they attempted to explain their latest double-standard.

Propaganda Disguised as Science

But that wasn’t the only credibility-crushing moment in the past week. The Lancet, a leading scientific journal, retracted a study it published last month claiming the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine didn’t help coronavirus patients and in fact would kill people who use it. After Trump said he was taking the medicine, the Lancet rushed to post the contrarian paper—but it was pure propaganda.

“We can never forget the responsibility we have as researchers to scrupulously ensure that we rely on data sources that adhere to our high standards,” the Lancet wrote. “Based on this development, we can no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources. Due to this unfortunate development, the authors request that the paper be retracted.” The New England Journal of Medicine then retracted a similar study produced by the same source as the bogus hydroxychloroquine paper.

There’s more: Health experts this week have called into question two main assumptions about COVID-19—fever is a common symptom and asymptomatic carriers can spread the disease. The Centers for Disease Control lists fever as the top symptom for coronavirus; temperature screenings have been recommended as a way to detect infected people.

Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, a key driver of coronavirus hysteria, said in April that he would make sure his kids didn’t have a fever before allowing them to visit his parents. But on Tuesday, Gottlieb, who is a board member for companies seeking to profit from the disease, admitted that only “a small percentage” of people with COVID-19 show a fever. “Temperature screening alone could provide a false assurance related to covid infection,” Gottlieb tweeted. “One recent study of patients presenting in New York showed about 70% of those sick enough to be hospitalized for Covid19 didn’t have fevers on triage at the hospital.”

This as companies, restaurants, and stores prepare to temperature-screen employees and customers in order to reopen their businesses.

The World Health Organization, which has fumbled every aspect of the crisis, twisted itself into another reputation-burning knot when it announced Monday that asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19 is “very rare.” The myth of asymptomatic spread is the top reason why experts demand healthy people wear face masks, so that shocking confession caused quite a kerfuffle.

By Tuesday morning, WHO officials were in damage control mode. “I used the phrase ‘very rare,’ and I think that that’s a misunderstanding to state that asymptomatic transmission globally is very rare. I was referring to a small subset of studies,” Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, head of the WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, said in a backpedaling press conference. She quickly contradicted herself, citing one model that claimed 40 percent of transmissions are caused by asymptomatic carriers.

Give It a Rest, Already

All the pivoting and groveling and mind-changing by the credentialed class caught the attention of one observer: Tom Nichols, the expert-defender himself.

“I’m worried that this is going to be viewed as the politicization of expertise,” Nichols told Politico. He later tweeted that the hypocrisy on full display was “not only bad for experts, it makes me plenty mad.”

For the first time, Nichols couldn’t think of a way to blame Donald Trump.

But the politicization of science, Nichols will be even more upset to hear, will only get worse. On Wednesday, experts in STEM will participate in a daylong “strike” to protest racism and inequality. “Those of us who are not Black, particularly those of us who are white, play a key role in perpetuating systemic racism,” the experts organizing the stunt wrote on its website. “Unless you engage directly with eliminating racism, you are perpetuating it.”

Given their recent track record of failure on coronavirus, they should definitely give it a rest for at least one day.

After misleading Americans on a long list of consequential issues over the past few decades—from climate change to dietary guidelines and now the common cry of “systemic racism”—the body of expertise is twitching. In this case, I will even allow for coding its death as another coronavirus fatality.

Great America

Myopic Leadership on COVID-19 Continues to Grip New York City

New York has myopic leadership and a deluded press corps that feed off each other, which results in the impoverishment of the people of the city and may cost many their lives.

As a New York City physician, I was dismayed by the recent report of the closure of the Brooklyn field hospital authorized by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. The New York Post has reported that amid the pandemic, a $21 million Brooklyn field hospital never saw a patient. This followed on the heels of New York City officials closing the 470-bed field hospital set up at a tennis center.

Regardless of political orientation, leadership and reporters appear intentionally to be ignoring risks of neglecting CDC and state recommendations. This not only prolongs the severe economic damage and long-term consequences of the closure, but puts more lives at risk.

The empty bed capacity of the USNS Comfort hospital ship, the field hospital set up in Central Park by the Samaritan’s Purse Evangelical organization led by Rev. Franklin Graham, as well as these Brooklyn and Queens field hospitals could have served as vital reserve capacity to allow for reserve beds counted to meet this threshold. Instead, the ship was sent away because it was perceived as no longer needed, and the Samaritan’s Purse organization was maligned in the New York Times in a style unique to the leadership and media of New York City (“Franklin Graham Is Taking Down His N.Y. Hospital, but Not Going Quietly”), and the city is closing down field hospitals under its authority. 

Allowing these hospitals with “empty beds” to close in the wake of the first wave of the tragedy of COVID-19 represents a failure of foresight, leadership, and the complete dereliction of duty by our elected leaders and city government. 

Rather than focusing their efforts on the “chutzpah” of criticizing those who have come to help us motivated by their religious beliefs or inflating the list of pandemic victims by printing the names of those we have lost to causes other than COVID-19, media such as the New York Times and the elected local leadership need to focus on achieving the metrics necessary both to reopen the economy and preserve lives.

As Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has stated, “We must make reopening decisions based on fact. No politics. No spin. No Emotion. No conspiracies. Just the facts and the data and the science.” 

In order to reopen, the governor says, “The health care system has the capacity to absorb a potential resurgence in new cases.” We now know that while New York City health authorities with the help of media such as the Times were fictionally and intentionally inflating the number of cases and deaths, and misrepresenting old cases as current to inflate the tally of newly diagnosed cases. 

Meanwhile, those authorities and their media allies attacked Evangelicals for their religious beliefs, jeopardizing their presence to absorb potentially real “new cases.”

While New York City could and should already have opened had they focused on measures that needed to be done according to the CDC, WHO and the governor’s office, the city remains closed—based on assumptions repeated day after day by the media that New York City was far above the threshold of new cases needed to reopen, assumptions that were simply fictional. 

The problem now is a lack of empty bed capacity, and with the city closing yet another empty field hospital, New York City remains shy of the available bed requirement to reopen. New York City has myopic leadership and a deluded press corps that feed off each other, which results in the impoverishment of the people of the city and may cost many their lives as they play politics. 

Great America

Democrats Confining Americans Like it’s 1942

In many ways, the government and military in post-Pearl Harbor 1942 presented a far more credible case for the social distancing of the ethnic Japanese relocation than the various governments have today for the COVID-19 regulations.

Calls for leadership in the war against COVID-19 inevitably compare unfavorably our current effort to that of Franklin Roosevelt. But those who pine for such a leader—a ruthless partisan after all—who eventually crushed Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany seem to forget one element of his war strategy: The forcible removal of some 110,000 ethnic Japanese, citizen and alien alike, from the West Coast into inland centers and internment camps.

This drastic action, in the months following Pearl Harbor, routinely has been denounced as “the worst violation of civil liberties” in the 20th century. FDR defended it as vital to combat potential espionage or even Imperial Japanese invasion of the West Coast that might recruit local ethnic Japanese. And late in the war, the Supreme Court upheld the relocation as constitutional (Korematsu v. U.S., 1944), while also freeing ethnic Japanese who were concededly loyal Americans—that is, virtually all of them (ex parte Endo, 1944).  

Yet this repugnant element of FDR’s leadership may be the more appropriate comparison to make regarding today’s “war” against the pandemic. For example, my parents had to dispose of property, lost their livelihoods, and had to endure barracks living for almost three years before returning to a hostile West Coast.

Today, some 75 years after an earlier “social distancing,” their son knows people who have lost their businesses and jobs and are restricted to home detention through anti-COVID-19 dictates from governors, acting under federal government guidance. Though the federal government made symbolic restitution of $20,000 per surviving evacuee in 1988, there will never be such individual compensation for the billions lost to the survivors of the 2020 shutdown.

Millions more are terrified to leave their homes, see friends, mourn their departed, or engage in ordinary activities of life. Yet many governors insist on continuing or even intensifying these policies as essential for public safety. 

Even though World War II is supposed to be our indisputably “good war,” assailing the relocation (while always adding “racist”) has been a popular way to attack America—and not just for the Left. 

For example, two years ago, former first lady Laura Bush, echoing others who were fed the same script, denounced the separation of children from illegal immigrants caught at the border as “eerily reminiscent of the internment camps for U.S. citizens and noncitizens of Japanese descent during World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history.”

But despite the consensus against the camps, it is undeniable that my parents and their fellow Japanese enjoyed significant liberties greater than those of most Americans under the COVID-19 restrictions. It’s 1942, and we all lack even the limited freedoms of those ethnic Japanese. 

Of course, we need to keep in mind that wartime restrictions such as food rationing burdened all Americans. In Hawaii there were curfews, enforced by the military; martial law replaced the courts. The draft laws continued to apply to ethnic Japanese men. Yet pro-Japan demonstrators could express their views, though they were mainly segregated into one center, Tule Lake.

The advantages the relocated ethnic Japanese had over Americans today include numerous elements of everyday life. Though denied their livelihoods, they did have paying jobs and could leave (and return) for seasonal agricultural work (which my parents did) or leave for permanent jobs in inland cities such as Chicago (as some of my relatives did), Denver, or Salt Lake City.

Within the relocation centers socializing, dancing, sports teams (which played teams on the outside), churches, and other group and individual activities enlivened routines. Medical care was available. Private businesses and farming flourished. Schools (including one certified junior college and several trade schools) were of more than respectable quality, with a high proportion, including 43 percent of the high school teachers having M.A. degrees. Others left for four-year colleges around the country. It is no wonder that Americans who resided near the camps accused the government of “coddling” these putative “potential enemies.” 

Even before the Endo decision, inhabitants of the camps left them in droves. These American Japanese preferred freedom.

In comparing the rationales for relocation and internment of ethnic Japanese with the advocates of shutdowns, one might note the similarity of representative statements of western military commander General John DeWitt and others in World War II with those of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, one of the most vocal opponents of restoring freedom. 

DeWitt: The west coast is “a battlefield.” Both of them echoing FDR, “DeWhitmer” says: “President Trump called this a war, and it is exactly that. So we must act like it.” I am the general you are the privates.

DeWitt: “A Jap is a Jap….” DeWhitmer: “Private gatherings of any number of people occurring among persons not part of a single household are prohibited.” 

The enemy is everywhere

Distinguished journalist Walter Lippmann: That “there has been no important sabotage on the Pacific Coast . . . is a sign that the blow . . . is held back . . . .”

DeWhitmer et al.: We have to be ready for the second wave. I will rule in perpetuity. 

In many ways, the government and military in post-Pearl Harbor 1942 presented a far more credible case for the social distancing of the ethnic Japanese relocation than the various governments have today for the COVID-19 regulations. 

This current war for the sake of health has crippled the physical, moral, and political health of the country; it has struck its soul. Even the slaves enjoyed some religious liberty. We have swapped a life of promise for compromised mere life. Unless, of course, you are rioting

Great America

Riot Response Proves the Pandemic Precautions Were Always Political—And That’s Fine

It is foolish in the extreme to pretend that politics can be excised from major, governmental action, as with COVID-19 and the riot-protests.

Many Americans were shocked when the demands for social distancing, slavish public masking, and lockdowns to combat the global coronavirus pandemic—backed by social shaming, arrests, fines, and even jail time—were suddenly dropped. Just like that, the scourge of COVID-19 seemed to be over, ending not with a whimper but with a literal bang—nationwide riots.

Our abrupt about-face regarding measures to combat coronavirus is instructive; in fact, it reveals the fundamental soundness of the lockdown skeptics’ position.

Why have we suddenly and dramatically distanced ourselves from things like social distancing? Does COVID-19 not spread in tightly packed, so-called righteous protests? Did Black Lives Matter secretly develop a vaccine that allows them to gather without masks? Has COVID-19 disappeared overnight, perhaps prompted, strangely, by the killing of George Floyd?

Of course not.

It’s just finally dawned on the lockdown fetishists that a meaningful human existence requires acknowledging and pursuing a diverse array of human goods, of which a preserve-mere-human-life-at-any-cost mentality is a deadly enemy. In other words, those who now don’t mind that viral-control protocols are being flouted with impunity by “anti-racist” demonstrators have come to their senses, once again recognizing that there are competing goods at stake in all this madness.

They’re not hypocrites; they’re human beings.

We All Have a Sense of What We’re Willing to Die for

Recall that before the riots broke out in earnest, many—usually, but not exclusively, those identified as “conservative”—insisted that the draconian measures instituted to combat the spread of COVID-19 had real costs, even if they did save lives. Basically, the argument was that there were other important goods—cultivating friendships, engaging in meaningful work to feed one’s family, recreation, pursuing healthy balance to stave off pathological temptations, having funerals to mourn the dead, worshipping God, and so on—that needed to be attended to in the anti-pandemic battle plan. They understood that the myopic attempt to reduce the entire, complex web of issues to a vapid slogan—“If it saves even one life, we must do it!”—was disingenuous and manipulative.

Now?

Pro-protest folks are saying the same thing!

The basic argument goes something like the following: There is a grave, festering injustice in the country, of which George Floyd’s killing is but a particularly visceral symptom. Yes, COVID-19 still lingers; we know the risks. But you know what? This issue is far too important to sideline for who knows how many months until we get a handle on COVID-19, and besides, the raw number of lives saved can’t be the only important good—there are others at stake, like striving toward a more just, humane society.

But don’t just take my word for it. Here’s someone making exactly that argument:

People are asking how I could be so pro-quarantine and now pro-protest. I’ll put it like this: 

If the bus driver tells you to put on your seatbelt, you absolutely should. If the bus driver starts shooting passengers, it’s probably worth unbuckling.

For the trolls: I know it’s not a perfect analogy, because there’s a lot of nuance here. Protestors should wear masks and socially distance. But the point is there are causes for which it is worth taking on risk. Eating at restaurants is not one. Stopping police brutality is. [Emphasis added]

And here’s another, from NeverTrumper Amanda Carpenter, author at The Bulwark: “I realize there is [a] lot of scolding of protesters in regards to the pandemic but consider the possibility the protesters think the cause is important enough that they are willing to risk COVID. . . .”

This is precisely why people who were skeptical of our manic posture regarding COVID-19 were deeply frustrated, and why their frustration has both deepened and intensified.

Just a couple weeks ago (doesn’t it feel like a lifetime ago?), blue state governors and other members of the leftist ruling class, especially its intellectuals, not-so-subtly implied that those who were skeptical of shutting down the entire country for two-plus months were literal grandma killers. Or bloodthirsty human sacrificersoops! (Here’s a list of such examples, which are legion.)

In reality, however, the lockdown skeptics were simply reasoning honestly, as human beings do, about the messiness of life—namely, its costs and benefits, and its myriad trade-offs, which all need to be accounted for in an environment shot through with systemic uncertainty.

These people—and I proudly count myself among them—recognized that there were lots of human goods at play wrapped up in our plans to respond to COVID-19, and we tried to articulate our belief that every single one of them was being ignored—all except the crazed struggle to preserve bare human life by “flattening the curve” at any cost. We did all this while also trying to navigate a minefield littered with bad-faith detractors who insisted that we were not-so-secretly putting our personal comfort ahead of their beloved relatives’ very lives.

And now, everyone who opposed the radical anti-pandemic response—showcased most clearly by states headed by Democratic governors—is appalled that doctors and experts suddenly support tossing aside their prior public-health recommendations and guidance for the sake of advancing these protest-riots. They cite politically-inflected thinking as the unsavory, cynical reason for the shift.

Their anger at this latest reversal is understandable, but they should take it as a win. They’ve actually been vindicated. This is exactly what we’ve been saying the whole time.

It’s Impossible to Erase Politics from Societal Deliberation

The decisions to shut down the country, lock people in their homes, and then open up (to whatever degrees states have done so), in the final analysis, were solidly based on politics—that is, a concern for the whole of the community.

Were many of those judgments regarding the pandemic partisan, politicized judgments—that is to say, not properly political? Yes. Can the same be said of the judgments regarding the protest-riots? Again, yes.

But that’s the whole point. It is foolish in the extreme to pretend that politics—in the high sense of the word, i.e., concern for the whole polity—can be excised from major, governmental action, as with COVID-19 and the riot-protests. Politics, properly understood, cannot be separated from such decisions; it is endemic to public life.

And the protest-riots ought to prove it for any who were in doubt about that back when COVID-19 came a-knockin’.

Nature is healing, as they say. Politics is at play once again.

Great America

Fauci’s Flip Flops

He’s been on every side of every important question about containment, mitigation, and treatment of COVID-19. And he’s not alone.

Science is almost never “settled.” Science is a collection of hypotheses and theories that are challenged repeatedly to determine whether they can withstand re-examination with new tools, techniques and methodologies.


Over the course of history, hypotheses and theories have been abandoned when the results or conclusions were later found to be based on falsified data, faulty methodology, or were not reproducible by other researchers. Often, this process takes years, particularly when findings quickly congeal into consensus—as was the case with the purported link between vaccines and autism (indeed, autism is the poster child for debunked theories).

But COVID “science” is being reversed—and reversed again—at a dizzying pace. At the center of these flip flops is none other than Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force and avowed Hydroxychloroquine Hater.  

With the notable exception of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), Fauci has, um . . . adjusted all of his talking points. He’s been on every side of every important question about containment, mitigation and treatment of COVID-19—and he’s not alone.

That Was Then, This Is Now: Face Masks

March 2: U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams warned that wearing face masks could increase risk of contracting COVID-19, and advised non-healthcare workers to “stop buying masks.”

April 1: In an article published in New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), a group of Harvard public health experts wrote: “Wearing a mask outside health care facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection. Public health authorities define a significant exposure to Covid-19 as face-to-face contact within 6 feet with a patient with symptomatic Covid-19 that is sustained for at least a few minutes (and some say more than 10 minutes or even 30 minutes). The chance of catching Covid-19 from a passing interaction in a public space is therefore minimal. In many cases, the desire for widespread masking is a reflexive reaction to anxiety over the pandemic.”

April 3: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that healthy people—who may be asymptomatic or “pre-symptomatic”—wear cloth face coverings in public settings like groceries and drug stores where maintaining six-feet social distancing is not possible. The purpose of wearing a mask was to protect asymptomatic transmission to vulnerable populations like the elderly, particularly in communities experiencing significant outbreaks.

April 5: Asked by a reporter during the then-daily White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing why he was not wearing a face mask, Fauci offered the opposite explanation as the CDC’s about the value of being masked: “The major reason to wear a face mask, is to protect you from infecting you,” adding that he had tested negative for COVID-19 the day before.

April 6: Surgeon General Adams had changed his mind, and was demonstrating how to make cloth masks.

May 27: Fauci reversed himself, telling CNN’s Jim Sciutto he wears a mask in public “because I believe it is effective. . . . I do it when I am in public for the reason that I want to protect myself and protect others, and also because I want to make it be a symbol for people to see that that’s the kind of thing you should be doing.” 


May 28: Since the onset of the pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) advised against healthy people wearing face masks, and reiterated its recommendation that  people without COVID-19 symptoms need to wear a mask only when caring for someone who has contracted the virus. Those who are coughing or sneezing should also wear a mask.

That Was Then, This Is Now: Stay Home, Save Lives

March 15: A group of 22 public health professionals published an open letter in USA Today recommending steps to mitigate COVID-19 spread to ensure adequate hospital capacity to care for stricken patients, that included the advice to “STAY AT HOME as much as possible. . . . even if you have no symptoms. That means avoiding play dates, sleepovers, bars, restaurants, parties or houses of worship. Avoid all crowds.”

May 19: A group of 600 physicians sent a letter to President Trump calling state lockdowns that have kept businesses closed and kids home from school a “mass casualty incident” with “exponentially growing health consequences” and urging him to reopen the country.

May 20: An Italian study contradicted conventional wisdom that keeping elders socially isolated from their families has a protective effect against contracting and dying from COVID-19.

May 21: The head of trauma at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek implored California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) to end his lockdown orders because “we’ve seen a year’s worth of suicide attempts in the last four weeks.”

May 22: A J.P. Morgan strategist published a report concluding that “flawed scientific papers” panicked governments into imposing “inefficient or late” lockdowns administered with “little consideration that they might not only cause economic devastation but potentially more deaths than Covid-19 itself . . . the fact that re-opening did not change the course of the pandemic is consistent with studies showing that initiation of full lockdowns did not alter the course of the pandemic either.”

The same day, Fauci changed his mind about the lockdowns in an interview with CNBC’s Meg Tirrell: “We can’t stay locked down for such a considerable period of time that you might do irreparable damage and have unintended consequences, including consequences for health.” 


May 26: A month after reopening gyms, hair and nail salons and parks, Georgia hasn’t seen the spike in new COVID-19 cases public health experts warned about. The same is true in Florida, after the state began easing lockdown restrictions on May 4—as well as in Arizona, Colorado and other states.

May 30: Dr. John Carlo, former medical director of Dallas County’s health department, told Dallas Morning News that looters, rioters and arsonists laying waste to entire neighborhoods nationwide are less at risk of contracting or passing on COVID-19 than people attending an indoor gathering (like a church service, maybe?).

That Was Then, This Is Now: Surface Contamination

March 17: A study published in NEJM suggested that COVID-19 can remain infectious on surfaces for hours to days under consistent laboratory conditions (room temperature, 65 percent humidity). For instance, coronavirus was viable on cardboard for up to 24 hours, and on plastic and stainless steel for up to 72 hours.

 

March 26: CDC notes, “Current evidence suggests that [COVID-19] may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials. Cleaning of visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection is a best practice measure for prevention of COVID-19 and other viral respiratory illnesses in households and community settings.”

May 22: CDC updates its guidance: “It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, but we are still learning more about how this virus spreads.”

That Was Then, This Is Now: HCQ

March 28: Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) allowing HCQ and chloroquine (CQ) to be used to treat certain patients hospitalized with COVID-19.

April 24: FDA warned that HCQ and CQ, alone or combined with azithromycin, are associated with heart rhythm problems and issued a warning that they should be “limited to clinical trial settings or for treating certain hospitalized [COVID-19] patients under the EUA.

April 27: The Arizona chapter of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons sent a letter to Governor Doug Ducey asking him to rescind his executive order forbidding prophylactic use of CQ or HCQ based on “clear and convincing evidence of benefit both pre-exposure and post-exposure.” A press release announcing the letter states that studies show the drugs can “decrease the number of days when a patient is contagious, reduce the need for ventilators, and shorten the time to clinical recovery.”

May 19: After President Trump divulged that he had begun taking HCQ prophylactically after his butler tested positive for coronavirus, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said, “The decision to take any drug is ultimately a decision between a patient and their doctor.” By the way, on May 26, El Salvador President Nayib Bukele said he also uses HCQ prophylactically, and that “most” world leaders do as well.

May 22: Lancet published a retrospective observational study that found no therapeutic benefit associated with HCQ or CQ, and increased risks of ventricular arrhythmias and in-hospital death with COVID-19.” As a result, WHO suspended its clinical trial of HCQ on May 27.

May 30: More than 160 clinicians, medical researchers, statisticians, and ethicists worldwide signed an open letter addressed to the Lancet pointing to serious problems with the study design and data sets underlying the findings. “In the interests of transparency” they requested the pre-publication peer review comments on the manuscript be made public.

That Was Then, This Is Now: Second Wave

April 29: During a White House Coronavirus Task Force presser, Fauci said a second wave of coronavirus in the United States is “inevitable,” and that if states ease lockdown restrictions too soon new infection rates could skyrocket and deaths could outpace projections.

May 27: Fauci said, “I want people to really appreciate that [a second wave] could happen, but it is not inevitable. If we do the kinds of things that we’re putting in place now, to have the workforce, the system, and the will to do the kinds of things that are the clear and effective identification, isolation and contact tracing, we can prevent this second wave that we’re talking about.”

That Was Then, This Is Now: COVID Antibodies

April 14: David Walt, professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School, told Bloomberg News, “There is no proof at this point that the development of an antibody response will be protective. There is no evidence yet that people can’t be re-infected with the virus.”

April 24: WHO issued a statement warning that “There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection.”

April 25: WHO walked back its April 24 statement: “We expect that most people who are infected with #COVID-19 will develop an antibody response that will provide some level of protection.”

April 29: A study published in Nature Medicine found that people who recovered from COVID-19 developed antibodies against re-infection within two to three weeks of the onset of symptoms.

May 12: Asked by Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) during a Senate hearing whether recovering from coronavirus confers immunity to re-infection, Fauci said, “[W]hen you have antibodies present it very likely indicates a degree of protection . . . but natural history studies over a period of months to years will then definitively tell you if that’s the case.”

That Was Then, This Is Now: When a Vaccine Will be Available

March 3:  Fauci pooh-poohed the idea of speeding up development of a vaccine against COVID-19: “The whole process is going to take a year, a year and a half, at least.”

May 18: Biotechnology firm Moderna released preliminary phase-one clinical trial data showing its COVID-19 vaccine was safe, and produced protective antibodies in eight healthy volunteers ages 18 to 55 years old.

May 22: Fauci told NPR, “I think it is conceivable . . . that we could have a vaccine that we could be beginning to deploy at the end of this calendar year, December 2020, or into January, 2021.”

May 27: Fauci predicted on CNN that “We have a good chance—if all the things fall in the right place—that we might have a vaccine that would be deployable by the end of the year, by November-December.”

May 29: Moderna’s vaccine enters phase-two clinical trials. Roughly 600 participants in eight states were recruited, half of them between 18 and 55 years old and half older than 55. They will be tracked for 12 months after receiving either a placebo or two doses of the vaccine 28 days apart.

Scientists are still trying to figure out this never-before-seen virus, so we should cut them some slack. Unfortunately, public health officials seize on each study finding to refute or validate policy and guidelines that they seem to be making up as they go along.

Not to be outdone, politicians are spewing contradictory and seemingly capricious edicts issued in the name of “science.” For instance, Mayor Eric Garcetti told Los Angeles beachgoers that it’s “safe” to be on wet sand but not on dry sand, whereas New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio said the opposite and threatened to have police forcibly remove people from the water.

Americans are understandably starting to question the judgement of public health officials and elected officials, and losing patience with nonsensical prohibitions on planting a garden, getting a mammogram, and joining their congregation in worship

Thousands of people around the country are taking to the streets to demand that their states reopen schools, small businesses and workplaces. Some intrepid business owners whose communities are not coronavirus hot spots are also defying lockdown orders—even at the risk of license suspension or being jailed.

The science is “evolving,” and the demands of Americans to resume their lives are as science-based—if not more so—as the prohibitions they are seeking to have rescinded.

Great America

The Los Angeles County Office of Education Loses Its Damn Mind

Is the risk of death so high that we must imprison our children?

The school-to-prison pipeline in Los Angeles County just got a whole lot shorter. In fact, for the coming school year, it will disappear entirely!

Now they will waste no time. The schools themselves will become prisons. That, at least, is the gist of a recently released document, “A Planning Framework for the 2020-2021 School Year” by Dr. Debra Duardo, superintendent of L.A. County Schools. There she lays out her COVID-19 guidance for the fall. It’s filled with educational jargon about “stakeholders” and “bargaining units,” brightly color-coded tables, and 44 pages of decision matrices, templates, and flow charts.

But the core point remains: Duardo’s “best practices” for schools recommend treating children like prisoners—assuming the schools reopen at all.

She calls for placing “seats 6 feet apart,” installing “floor markings to illustrate social/physical distancing,” and providing students with “lunch and/or meals in supervised, non-congregate settings” that “avoid sharing tables whenever possible.” 

Staggered recesses and different entry and exit points for all students and staff are a must. “Cloth face coverings” should be worn all day long, of course. Duardo imagines a typical classroom stripped of all furniture to allow for a maximum number of 16 students. 

In a particularly jarring line, Duardo explains why this must be done: “to limit people encounters.” The annihilation of basic human interaction and social life is a small price to pay to confront the coronavirus! 

This thinking forces children to live in perpetual fear under onerous mandates and regulations. It treats them as prisoners. Even walking from one place to another will not be done freely in schools under the “new normal” in the nation’s most populous county. 

Children should not live this way. Americans cannot allow bureaucrats to treat our children in such a despicable and unwarranted manner. 

These students need friendship and playtime. They need the ability to see each other, to smile and laugh. They need to be able to share books and toys. They absolutely do not need to be subjected to the unnecessary fear of neurotic adults with no sense of proportion or reality.

In Los Angeles County there have been some 2,000 COVID-19 deaths. That works out to roughly 1 in every 4,600 Angelenos having died this year from the illness. For reference, roughly 1 in every 140 Americans dies annually. Coronavirus, therefore, makes up only a minute percentage of overall deaths in Los Angeles County. And that’s among the whole population. When it comes to children, the coronavirus is virtually no threat at all.

In 2018, 186 American children died from seasonal influenza. As of May 28, there have been 90 coronavirus deaths in Americans aged 0 to 24. Even with an expanded age range, the number of coronavirus deaths among young Americans is still far lower than pediatric deaths from the annual flu! Put another way, according to the Centers for Disease Control, 15,050 Americans between the ages of 0 and 24 have died this year—which means this group is 167 times more likely to die from any cause other than COVID-19.

According to the California Department of Health, zero percent of the coronavirus deaths in L.A. County is attributable to children under the age of 18.

Zero percent.

The risk of death to children from this illness in the county isn’t just minuscule—it is nonexistent. 

None of the “health and safety” measures being put in place by Los Angeles County has anything to do with the health or safety of students or even teachers and staff. There is no conclusive evidence that placing desks six feet apart, wearing face masks, or establishing specified “ingress and egress points” will reduce the transmission of the coronavirus in the general population or among students. 

But even if they did, it still would not answer the question of whether we must sacrifice the spiritual, mental, and educational well-being of our children to this illness. Is the risk of death so high that we must imprison our children? 

Absolutely not. What Duardo and her staff want to do to our children is insane. 

Americans should not submit to their crazed whims. We certainly should not subject our children to them. 

Great America

The Shame of Proxy Voting in the House of Representatives

The House of 1814—like the House of the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1793, the Spanish Flu of 1918, the Civil War, and 9/11—continued to meet in person, conducting the business of those who elected them. In the shadow of their memory, the House of 2020 finds itself diminished.

For the first time in history this week, members of the House of Representatives voted without actually being in the chamber. More to the point, they had other members cast their votes for them.

Proxy voting, as it is known, was an extraordinary change to the House rules jammed through alongside Nancy Pelosi’s $4 trillion COVID-19 “relief” package, and it allows Members to delegate their voting responsibility—the one they fought so hard in an election to obtain—to another Member.

In doing so, it removes the responsibility of elected Members of Congress to be present when legislation is written, debated, and passed; to respond to and sway with the tides of the legislative process. It diminishes the fundamental nature of politics itself, which is to be present; to bear witness to and engage with the changes that collectively determine the character of the country.

Such a move is unprecedented. Not during the Spanish Flu of 1918 or other pandemics; the Civil War; when the British burned all of Washington, D.C. during the War of 1812; and not even during 9/11, when the Capitol was a terrorist target, did Members of the House wither in the face of their duty to represent for their part of the country, and to be present to vote its interests.

That is, until now.

The rules passed by the House authorize proxy voting for 45 days, a period of time which can be extended for “a coronavirus emergency” as determined by the Sergeant at Arms. But the precedent has now been set that, should an emergency arise, the men and women we elect to face it can do so from home. On their couches.

Serious Constitutional Questions

COVID-19 has unraveled the country in many ways, revealing everything from the frailness of our public health policy to the brittleness of our supply chains. It has also unmasked the diminished view we take of our politics, where our individual elected representatives are not critical to policy formulation, but merely levers to be pulled in favor of one policy or another, determined by a handful of unelected staff, interpreting the whims of the political leadership.

It’s a far cry from the statesmanship of our past, which held oration to be an end in and of itself; which valued mastery of the physicality of the legislative process; which cleaved, fully, to the weight of the constitutional duty statesmen had been given, regardless of the risk. (Particularly when the risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control, is far lower than originally estimated.)

It is also, very likely, unconstitutional.

A lawsuit filed by 21 Republican House members against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) leads with a quote from Chief Justice John Roberts himself, who, in NFIB v Sebelius, remarked that “sometimes the most telling indication of [a] severe constitution problem . . . is the lack of historical precedent for Congress’s action.” It’s an observation that resonates in the face of previous pandemic precedents, in which Members of the House made their way to Washington in spite of—or, perhaps understanding that it was their duty, because of—the present peril.

The brief goes on to cite the Constitution’s repeated references to “meeting,” “attendance,” “assemble,” “sitting” and “recess” as evidence of the House as the Founders envisioned it—a deliberative body, “where the People’s representatives would gather together, face to face, to debate and address the issues of the day.”

It further cites the Democrats’ own committee report, which identified the “best option” as “use[ing] the existing House rules and current practices,” rather than upending the centuries of accumulated tradition to grapple with a problem the House has already faced, and faced successfully.

The Physical Vitality of Our Politics 

But beyond the constitutional criticisms, proxy voting has an existential element that cannot be overlooked.

Critical moments in our legislative history have been  dominated by physical presence. Daniel Webster, in his most famous 1830 address on slavery, nullification, and his hopes for “my united, free and happy Country,” brought the Senate gallery to tears. But Webster recognized that the reprint of his address would lose the power of human delivery, and took pains to convert the spoken words “embellished as they had been by gestures, modulations of voice, and changes of expression” to convey the same resonance.

The power of the Senate’s talking filibusters is less about their substance than about the sheer physical stamina required to stand, literally, for hours in defense of a cause. There is equal power in being “in the room” during a negotiation, where persuasion is gained through argument, but also communicated through body language. Lyndon Johnson, perhaps one of the Senate’s finest manipulators of the institution, was famous for grabbing men by their lapels and getting very close to their face in making his point.

The process of legislating is far more than amending words on a page, or tapping out new policy in a Word document. It is cajoling, maneuvering, and horse-trading. It is parliamentary tussles over points of order and trading rhetorical jabs in hours of debate. It is late night deal-making, and emotional appeals on issues that divide the country.

In other words, delegating our politics erases the vital, human elements of our self-government.

The House is Diminished 

There is also the practical matter that, as a matter of representation, citizens also lose. The legislative process is full of surprises. Amendments come at the last minute, legislative text is updated and modified, points of order are sprung without warning.

When a member has transmitted his vote to another on one question, who decides if and when other, unanticipated questions arise? Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) has submitted her proxy to Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.). Is Raskin equipped to make a last-minute decision on behalf of the citizens of the 7th District of Washington? Or is it Jaypal’s unelected staff who will have that authority? Or her party’s leadership? Or the armies of lobbyists, bureaucrats, think tanks, and advocacy groups that remain in D.C., regardless of the pandemic?

Delegating voting authority in this way severs the connection between a popularly elected member of Congress and those who sent her there to vote their interests. It will only serve further to dilute the representative process, while centralizing power among interested parties intent on furthering theirs.

In 1814, after the British had turned Washington, D.C. to burning rubble, Members of the House packed into the Patent Office (the present-day National Portrait Gallery), one of the few public buildings that was spared.

In extremely tight quarters, they debated the wisdom of abandoning D.C. for another, more comfortable, and safer location. Joseph Pearson of North Carolina rose, and chided his colleagues. “If . . . Congress should, under the impulse of terror, or any other motive, remove from here, they will only give cause of triumph to the enemy.” He went on, “So far from entering into the feelings of the nation, for such conduct the people would scout us from our seats.”

The House of 1814—like the House of the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1793, the Spanish Flu of 1918, the Civil War, and 9/11—continued to meet in person, conducting the business of those who elected them. In the shadow of their memory, the House of 2020 finds itself diminished.

Great America

Obama’s Dangerous National Security Policy Left Us Unprepared for Pandemic

While the Obama Administration focused on improving public health in developing countries, China continued developing so-called “dual use” capabilities, allowing them to disguise bioweapons research beneath the veil of biodefense work.

The current crisis makes it clear that the lessons of national security we learned very painfully through 9/11 and its aftermath were disregarded by the Obama Administration in approaching emerging biological threats. In 2015, after seven years of President Obama, a blue-ribbon bipartisan commission on biodefense warned, “the Nation lacks the leadership, coordination, collaboration and innovation necessary to respond” to a biological attack.

The commission recommended restoring funding for state and local public health emergency cooperative agreements to the levels the Bush Administration instituted in response to the 2001 anthrax attacks. But the warning and recommendation went unheeded. President Obama and Vice President Biden chose to follow a course dependent upon building international institutions, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), rather than building stronger federal coordination of epidemic prevention and preparedness. As more details emerge regarding the failures of the WHO’s response to the COVID-19 epidemic, the danger of subordinating our national security to global interdependence has become starkly apparent.

Post 9/11 Unity and Fraying

To better understand how far off course Obama and Biden led our national security policy, let us look back at where we were right after 9/11. In addition to dealing with immediate loss of lives and the aftershocks caused by the anthrax threat, Congress and the Bush Administration assessed what had allowed the attacks to occur and a consensus developed that our intelligence agencies and domestic law enforcement agencies needed the authority to work together in the interest of national security if we were to prevent the next attack.

Within a month, the notorious Patriot Act became law. What was controversial about the Patriot Act, and rightly so, was the degree to which the civil liberties of U.S. citizens were infringed. What was not controversial at the time, across the political spectrum, was the idea that U.S. national security was an appropriate, justifiable, and worthwhile goal. In the spirit of national unity that emerged in the wake of the attacks it was not only felt but also expressed, time and again in our politics and in our culture, that we have something special in this country that is worth protecting.

It wasn’t long before the edges were fraying on that national unity, fraying largely in dissent over preemptive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But it is one thing to question the morality, necessity or wisdom of sacrificing American lives in foreign conflicts—always a difficult issue of balancing security interests. It is another thing altogether to question whether our nation is exceptional at all, whether there is or ever was anything about the United States that is inherently and objectively worth protecting.

While much of the thoughtful resistance to the Bush-era policies in the War on Terror was grounded in a belief that domestic spying and an interventionist military went against all that had made America great, the critics today of President Trump’s prosecution of the battle against the CCP virus question and even threaten the very basis of our Republic. The eight years of Obama-Biden policies have brought us to a place where many question whether preserving our American way of life is worthwhile.

Leftist Response to American Exceptionalism

The illogical view from the political Left that protecting American interests is not the appropriate objective of our national government came into full view soon after President Obama was inaugurated. In early 2009, he went on an “apology tour” of Europe and refused to express any recognition of American exceptionalism, saying “the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks in Greek exceptionalism.” The natural extension of this ambivalent view of American greatness translated into a foreign policy that put globalist interests ahead of our own national security.

It is a view that led President Obama to issue a National Security Strategy (NSS) in May 2010 that called for embracing a new multilateral order in which “our own interests are bound to the interests of those beyond our borders.” The same month, Vice President Biden in remarks at the U.S. Naval Academy, claimed that defeating threats such as pandemic disease and terrorism which “have no respect for borders” would require new international rules and “that other nations, along with us, enforce those rules of conduct.”

The implications of this approach were exemplified soon after by a State Department spokeswoman expressing the opinion that ISIS terrorists just needed jobs, and that the way to defeat terrorism would be to help foreign governments build their economies. This was no rogue spokesperson—the statement is one of a piece with remarks made by then-Senator Biden, who in 2007 said “Our counterterrorism authorities should not only thwart attacks; these authorities should also strengthen international coalitions, draw Muslim populations around the world closer to us, and deprive terrorists of a recruitment narrative.”

In the 2010 NSS, the Obama-Biden Administration acknowledged the threat of pandemics and infectious diseases, yet claimed that our ability to prepare for and respond to such threats was inherently dependent upon the rights, interests and willing cooperation of other nations’ governments. The effect was that protecting the lives and safety of Americans against biological threats took a backseat to global health initiatives. The Obama-Biden strategy was “that providing assistance to address the immediate problems of global health now will yield more capable and willing partners to work on biodefense-related issues later.” As stated in a 2012 report in International Affairs, the Obama Administration believed that “improving public health in developing nations can influence the intent of would-be bioterrorists.”

While the Obama Administration focused on improving public health in developing countries, China continued developing so-called “dual use” capabilities, allowing them to disguise bioweapons research beneath the veil of biodefense work. A 2015 report in the Journal of Defence Studies concluded that China had developed advanced methods of deploying and dispersing aerosolized biological weapons. That same year, China established its first biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. As defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, BSL-4 facilities “are applicable for work with dangerous and exotic agents that pose a high individual risk of life-threatening disease, which may be transmitted via the aerosol route and for which there is no available vaccine or therapy.”

Moving Forward in the Current Crisis

In the present crisis, no one can yet say with certainty that we have been intentionally attacked by a foreign adversary or that the virus originated in a Wuhan laboratory. Yet, it is apparent that the Chinese government, by definition the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), either negligently mishandled an outbreak of a naturally occurring virus, or the CCP intentionally developed and/or released the virus. What does this mean for our response going forward? It means that, much as we were after 9/11, we must be unified in putting the safety and security of American citizens first. It means that we should work in cooperation with our allies, each putting the security of its own citizens foremost, and work together to clearly define the nature of our mutual adversary. Most importantly, it means the United States must lead, even when leading means going against the conventional wisdom of the internationalist crowd.

In 2018, President Donald Trump adopted a National Biodefense Strategy to begin to reverse the dangerous Obama-Biden era policies. This aligned with his overall 2018 National Security Strategy, and central to both is a call for protecting “the American people, the homeland, and the American way of life.” His then-National Security Advisor John Bolton reorganized the NSC to combine various Directorates and better coordinate biodefense into our overall efforts on counterproliferation and national defense. Predictably, allies of former vice president and  now presidential candidate Biden embarked on a campaign of disinformation earlier this year, falsely claiming that President Trump, by reorganizing and combining directorates, had “dissolved the office” responsible for pandemic response. As the former Senior Director of that office, Tim Morrison, wrote in the Washington Post, “if anything, the combined directorate [for counterproliferation and biodefense] was stronger because related experience could be commingled.”

The Trump Biodefense Strategy enabled the Administration quickly to identify the threat caused by the Chinese coronavirus and respond appropriately by shutting down travel from China, at a time when his liberal critics called such a move xenophobic. But by that time the proverbial bat was out of the barn at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The American Left, rather than working together in coordinated fashion with the administration to repel the attack, devolved into an unhelpful combination of politically-correct virtue signaling and finger pointing.

But the American people know that this is a great and moral nation worth protecting and preserving, and we deserve leaders who understand that as well. So, while our nation’s focus is now appropriately on reopening our economy as we learn to live with—and work to defeat—this virus, President Trump’s biodefense strategy puts us in a better position to discover the precise nature and intent of the attack, and to hold China appropriately accountable. He and his Administration deserve bipartisan support—from the country and from the Congress—to give him every available tool to ensure that response strengthens our national security.

Podcast

Ruth Papazian on Hydroxychloroquine

Ruth Papazian, a contributor to American Greatness, joins American Adversaries to discuss her latest article: Hydroxychloroquine: “What Does Trump Have to Lose?” Listen here (Part 4).

Great America

Unmasking the Pandemic Masquerade

This test of wills between the Left’s pandemic policymakers and citizens is being waged to protect the administrative state’s credibility and authority to coerce you into serfdom.  

First, pandemic policymakers averred masks weren’t useful in stopping the spread of COVID-19. Now, these authoritarians in government, health care, and the media are demanding citizens wear masks. What gives?

Throughout this COVID-19 pandemic, by their own admissions and actions, the pandemic policymakers have been wrong. Egregious and injuriously errant models regarding mortality and hospitalizations; the unprecedented societal and economic damage these models caused by instigating the lockdown of entire states; the lethal nursing home policies placing COVID-19-positive seniors in with non-infected seniors; the now-discredited warnings the virus was easily transmissible on surfaces—their flip-flops, revisions, and disasters go on and compound daily.

Unabashed by their abysmal track record, the pandemic policymakers now demand everyone wear a mask under the pain of prosecution, starvation, isolation, societal shaming, or all of the above. The irony of pandemic policymakers—who should be ashamed of their failures—arguing you be shamed for disregarding them is as ironic as it is tyrannical.

But never let it be said the experts allow failure to diminish their self-esteem.

Symbols Over Substance

Dr. Anthony Fauci weighed in that he wears a mask because he believes it is “effective.” While conceding the mask is “not 100 percent effective,” he doesn’t say how effective it actually is in stopping transmission of the COVID-19 virus.

Instead, despite not being a doctor of sociology, he asserts wearing a mask is very effective in evincing a “sort of respect for another person, and [having] that other person respect you . . . I want to make it be a symbol for people to see that that’s the kind of thing you should be doing.”

Charitably, a mask is the kind of thing one should be wearing when leaving the scene of a crime. But when walking your dog?

Fortunately, other medical professionals have weighed in on the efficacy of wearing masks to protect the public health—though, admittedly, they did not study mandatory masks’ impact upon promoting respect or becoming a symbol.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine:

We know that wearing a mask outside health care facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection. Public health authorities define a significant exposure to Covid-19 as face-to-face contact within 6 feet with a patient with symptomatic Covid-19 that is sustained for at least a few minutes (and some say more than 10 minutes or even 30 minutes). The chance of catching Covid-19 from a passing interaction in a public space is therefore minimal. In many cases, the desire for widespread masking is a reflexive reaction to anxiety over the pandemic. The calculus may be different, however, in health care settings.

In a respite from echoing Communist Chinese propaganda, the World Health Organization echoed the New England Journal of Medicine’s findings: “If you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with COVID-19 . . . Masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.”

The bulk of the pandemic policymakers and their cohorts, Team Lockdown and Quaranteam, either haughtily dismiss these findings and recommendations or respond with outraged pandemic illogic.

For example, some argue the mask is worn not to prevent you from catching COVID-19, but to prevent you from spreading it. How a mask cannot stop another person’s exhaled virus coming at it with less force, but can manage to stop the wearer’s virus-riddled breath being exhaled from a greater proximity and with more force is left unexplained. Regardless, the fact of the dispute proves the point: while there is much speculation and virtue-signaling, there is scant science to support the mandatory masking of the American people.

That is, there is scant science if one is more concerned about medical science than about political science. For there is plenty of science to explain this from a political point of view.

A Test of Wills

Within the pandemic policymakers’ ranks, the Left knows your disobedience to their mask diktat is an existential threat to their aims. After all, rejecting the demands of the pandemic policymakers is rejecting the administrative state.

If citizens tune out the arguments from authority by elitists and “experts” on how “to save lives” during a health emergency, citizens won’t obey them to “save lives” during a climate emergency. If citizens refuse to sport masks during this pandemic, they won’t submit to the Green New Deal. If citizens go back to normal, what will happen to the Left’s coveted “new normal” (or, more aptly, their “no normal”)?

If the Left can’t even make you wear a mask, the Left will never transform America.

Thus, this test of wills between the Left’s pandemic policymakers and citizens is being waged to protect the pandemic policymakers and, thereby, the administrative state’s credibility and authority to coerce you into serfdom.

And, as a public service announcement for the faint-of-heart Right, more concerned with their status inside the elitist “Karen” coffee claques than in protecting individual liberty, and cowed by the spurious smear that questioning oppressive orders constitutes “killing grandma”: the Left makes everything political. It is leftist governors who are killing grandma and grandpa with their heinous COVID-19 nursing home policies. But you regress…

Daily, it is becoming apparent the pandemic policymakers were ineffective and injurious throughout this crisis. The Left is well aware. Consequently, they have implemented mandatory masks to drive the narrative that their invaluable expertise and sagacity saved lives and saved the day. Hence, Fauci’s “symbol” remark. After all, who demanded you wear the mask?

Yet, can pandemic policymakers masquerading as saviors save themselves? Once an unmasked America realizes the COVID-19 pandemic ran its course largely regardless of the steps the pandemic policymakers prescribed; and, far more devastating, was actually exacerbated by their unconscionable decisions, such as New York and Michigan’s nursing home policies and the multi-state lockdowns with their ensuing depression and social costs, there is a chance something else might survive the pandemic—liberty.

All that is required is for some critical thinking by the citizenry; and a recognition that the pandemic policymakers are forcing you to cover your face so they can cover their ass.

Great America

How COVID-19 Plagues Religious Freedom

This is a brave new world for the uncontrolled and inexplicably self-confident forces of belligerent American secularism.

As the coronavirus crisis unfolds and the 2016 election and post-electoral scandals ooze into the open, God is affronted and false gods disintegrate. The discussion over the opening of churches is generally presented as a public health issue, coupled with a First Amendment freedom of religion argument. But, in many cases, it is an outright assault on the practice of religion generally.

Compared to other advanced Western democracies, the United States is a country that practices religion. But the media, academia, and conventional wisdom embedded in the contemporary ethos of America’s governing elites is, estimating very roughly, one-quarter religious communicants or sympathizers, one-quarter agnostic, one-quarter atheist, and one-quarter anti-theist. All of these groups, of course, are entitled to have and to express their opinions—but they are not entitled to impose their opinions on others. 

What Is “Essential”?

At the beginning of the coronavirus national shutdown in March, an argument was made that as religious congregations are frequently quite large and generally the congregants are physically close together, there was a legitimate public health claim to suspend services in all houses of worship. This was a legally vulnerable endeavor from the beginning because of the First Amendment prohibition on infringement of free exercise of religion, and because the criterion for essential services was arbitrarily decided by secular leaders. 

Liquor stores and gun stores were deemed to be essential even though houses of worship, judged to be essential by a large part of the population, were not so deemed by officials. Practically all of the religious denominations gamely went along in the time of crisis and offered virtual services over the internet.

But as data accumulated revealing that the risk of this virus was minimal to all but those with challenged immune systems, especially the elderly, it was clear that religious congregations, composed almost entirely of relatively purposeful and responsible people, would only pose a hazard to elderly congregants, and that these could normally be relied upon to be prudent about their own health and in any case to take responsibility for their own actions. 

There was thus no public health reason to attempt to continue the ban on religious services after it became clear that such measures were unnecessarily restrictive. The United States reached this point of public awareness by the middle of April and what has happened since has been harassment of religious practice by secular authorities masquerading as defenders of public health.

Our Anti-Theist Elites

It is impossible to be precise about the motives of individual governors and mayors diligently hiding behind masks of concern for public health. But it safely may be assumed that in some cases—such as the egregious Democratic governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam, who advocates infanticide and a semi-permanent lockdown—that a dislike for any acknowledgment of the possible existence of a divine intelligence or any spiritual forces active in human life partially informs the authoritarian regime he has inflicted upon his fellow Virginians. 

Though most of the influential founders of the institutions of American government were not diligent adherents to particular religious sects and had a somewhat “Age of Reason” perspective, they were concerned in the First Amendment to assure that one religious group did not oppress other religious groups. This was the burden of President Washington’s famous addresses to the Roman Catholics of Maryland and to the congregation of the Newport synagogue, that whatever oppressions they or their ancestors faced in the old world would not be replicated in the United States of America. 

In general, the United States has been faithful to Washington’s pledge and it would be an exaggeration to imply that it has departed from it in the last couple of months. But what American society is facing now was an unforeseen problem: today the anti-theists, a coalition of materialists, pagans, and both world-weary and militant cynics is tentatively seeking to suppress the practice of or indulgence of any religion. The United States has been a tolerant rather than a pious country, and this is what is under threat. 

Jefferson was a deist of very diluted faith in anything other than the wonders of the world. Franklin was more or less of a good-humored agnostic. Though his funeral train in 1790 was followed by every clergyman in Philadelphia, he did not have a religious funeral. Even the much-celebrated but rather desiccated Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes apologetically stated that he was a Unitarian because in the Boston of his youth, “You had to be something religiously, and Unitarian was the least you could be.” 

Of course, Jefferson, Franklin, and Holmes did not try to prevent those who wished to practice a religion from doing so. This is a brave new world for the uncontrolled and inexplicably self-confident forces of belligerent American secularism.

The Gods That Failed

There is no acceptable argument for seeking to prevent people from practicing a religion. It is an impulse that man has had since his earliest days, and is prompted by an awareness of the inability of the human mind to grasp the notions of how things began and what their physical and temporal extent might be, and how miraculous events and spiritual insights can be assimilated into any concept of cosmic order. 

There is the further complication that once any notion of supernatural, otherworldly, spiritual, or miraculous forces are dispensed with, a vacuum is created which is filled at best by vacuous imposters but more often and more infamously by people elevating themselves to the stature of gods and celebrating themselves in impressive but often repulsive pagan festivals. This tradition can be traced from the mists of antiquity to giants of classical history such as Alexander the Great and Julius and Augustus Caesar who raised themselves to the status of gods. Their festivals were replicated by Robespierre, Hitler, and Stalin, but modern anti-theistic self-elevated deities have naturally magnified the oppressions of the ancient world with the application of what Winston Churchill described, in reference to the Third Reich as tyranny “made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.”

Even an absurd state governor like Northam is not in any sense reminiscent of any of the individuals just mentioned. But if the militant atheists of the American media-academic complex who have practically taken over the Democratic Party are any more overt in their ambitions, they will be confronted by the great majority of Americans who either practice a religion or acknowledge that people have a right to do so. 

Those who aggressively despise religion in America are going to have to resign themselves to its imperishability or erupt from their fetid closet and acknowledge what their true aims are, and take their chances with the pluralistic system that they have deviously attempted to manipulate.

As this subplot unfolds, America’s most recent secular demigod, Barack Obama, is every day exposed as an empty legend crumbling into sawdust. He is not the idealist hailed in 2008 seeking American brotherhood and a Socratic state with less materialism and greater intellectual elevation. He is a failed and corrupt president whose principal achievements were a thoroughly inadequate reform to the healthcare system, insane and unconstitutional commitment to ecological fantasies, and an almost catastrophic attempt to appease America’s enemies, particularly the demented theocracy of Iran. 

As false gods fail, the believers in a real God persevere.

Great America

Cuomo’s Coronavirus Personae All Fail the Statesmanship Test

However much past policy decisions were taken in good faith, they must now be reversed for the sake of human life. To dodge political accountability by invoking science is not leadership, it is cowardice.

Anyone who has dipped into Andrew Cuomo’s daily coronavirus press briefings knows that the New York governor relishes his variegated personae.

There is the ethnic Cuomo, who, we have learned repeatedly, enjoyed spaghetti and meatball Sunday dinners in his Queens childhood home.

Then we have Cuomo the family man, now belatedly bonding with his daughters as they shelter together in place, as we have also repeatedly learned.

Cuomo, the dutiful son, broadcasting to millions of viewers an intimate Zoom chat with his mother on Mother’s Day.

Then there is Cuomo, the righteous champion of human life, berating the Trump Administration for not immediately sending New York State 30,000 ventilators. “You pick the 26,000 people who are going to die!” he exclaimed heatedly on April 23. (As it turned out, New York never used the thousands of ventilators it had already stockpiled and it sent its many surplus machines to other states, where the ventilators also sat unused.)

Don’t forget Cuomo, the regal recipient of tribute, whether from one Samir Bhatt, a senior lecturer at Imperial College London. “Governor, it’s a professional honor to work with you,” Bhatt told Cuomo via Zoom on May 18. “Your state has already shown what can be achieved when policies are driven by science”), or from the governors of neighboring states who on May 3 offered a similarly effusive assessment for Cuomo’s performance. Imperial College was the source of the disastrous coronavirus model that sent the world economy hurtling into depression.)

Naturally, Cuomo the triumphant: “The secret of our success has been communications and transparency”—with success being defined, apparently, by having nearly one-third of all coronavirus deaths in the country.

Cuomo the leader who is too comfortable in his own skin to mess around with false modesty: “People said you’re being too aggressive in setting testing goals. What can I say? It’s who I am.”

And then there’s Cuomo, the inspirational: “I talk about New York tough. . . . Yes, New Yorkers are tough, and we’ve shown how tough we are here. Tough means many things, as I’ve said, loving and disciplined, et cetera. But even tough is tough. Yeah, tough is about courage”—courage defined as staying home, wearing a mask at all times, and not protesting the ongoing evisceration of livelihoods and future opportunity, or, if you are a politician, declaring yourself “essential” and collecting your full salary while millions of small businessmen lose their livings.

But the most frequent Cuomo over the last several weeks is Cuomo, the objective man of science, guided not by prejudice or preconceptions but by data and facts: “Don’t act because ‘I feel this, I feel that.’ . . . Forget the anecdotal, forget the atmospheric, forget the environmental, forget the emotional. Look at the data. Look at the measurements. Look at the science. Follow the facts,” he advised on May 18. “This is about facts and science and data. These decisions are being made as a matter of math. It’s numbers, it’s math . . .  At a time of such division and politics and elections and all this garbage, this is an exercise in science and math.”

According to Cuomo, his decision to lock down the entire state and to impose on every New York county an arcane set of complicated benchmarks for reopening is not a policy decision, it’s dictated by science. Science, we are to believe, requires that every county have a 30 percent vacancy rate in its hospitals for both general beds and ICU beds, among six other complicated benchmarks, before its shoe repair and gardening stores can reopen. Never mind that even New York City had thousands of available beds at its worst moment of crisis—the breakdown of Elmhurst Hospital, a poorly run public facility in a high-immigrant, high-poverty Queens neighborhood. Three thousand five hundred hospital beds lay empty throughout the city, with two dozen new ambulances available to take patients to those beds, while hundreds of the sick languished without care at Elmhurst. Never mind that the hundreds of additional hospital beds that rapidly were constructed in the Javits Convention Center, in Central Park, and on a Navy hospital ship in April were never fully occupied.

Science, we are to believe, requires that Cuomo’s arbitrary benchmarks for reopening be enforced with a draconian sense of punctiliousness. On May 22, New York City had met most of the seven requirements. But it had only a 27 percent vacancy rate—as opposed to 30 percent—in its general hospital beds and a 28 percent vacancy rate—as opposed to 30 percent—in its ICU beds. No reopening for you!

Men of science reconsider their assumptions when evidence contradicts them. Not this man of science. On April 13, Cuomo stressed that the key to staying safe was barricading oneself indoors with one’s family: “If you isolate, if you take the precautions, your family won’t get infected.” On May 5, the state discovered the “shocking” news, in Cuomo’s words, that 66 percent of new hospital admissions had been people who were sheltering at home with their families, instead of being out and about and commuting to work.

This finding should not have been “shocking.” Ample data from China and Italy already showed that most transmissions are intrafamilial. It has also long been clear from the evidence that the risk of outdoor transmission is virtually zero. One study of 7,300 cases in China found one instance of outdoor transmission between two people talking to each other, or .01 percent of all cases. Infection depends on what Japan calls the three Cs: confined spaces, crowded places, and close contact.

By contrast, there is no place safer than wide-open, windswept space. It turns out that the mandate to stay cooped up indoors is the exact opposite of what people should do to avoid infection. But rather than urging New Yorkers to get out of their apartments and into the streets and parks for some healthy, fresh air, Cuomo has stayed resolutely silent about the nonexistent outdoor transmission rate. He also robotically continues to stress mask-wearing, making no distinction between indoors and outdoors. On May 23, he said: “I am telling you those masks can save your life. Those masks can save another person’s life.” As a result, about 98 percent of Manhattanites now wear masks outdoors and lunge away in terror if anyone unmasked is seen approaching at a distance. The outdoor mask is a brilliant Foucauldian mechanism to turn every citizen into an unpaid, walking billboard for the state’s message that we must stay afraid, very afraid.

The social-distancing rules embraced by Cuomo, other American politicians, and the official public health establishment are not mandated by science. The six-foot rule is arbitrary. The World Health Organization recommends one meter (or three feet). Austria, Norway, Sweden, and Finland ask for one meter of social distance; Germany, Poland, and the Netherlands, a meter and a half, according to the Telegraph. The larger the required distance, the harder it will be for many businesses, especially restaurants, to serve enough customers to stay afloat.  But Cuomo, like other politicians and experts, remains committed to the six-foot rule.

It was not science that required New York State to send infected elderly patients discharged from hospitals back to nursing home facilities. It was not even, pace Cuomo, the CDC guidance for nursing home admissions, which only recommended that nursing homes follow their usual procedures for admitting hospital discharges, but said nothing about known infected dischargees.

It is not science that requires gatherings be limited to 10 people, whether they are indoors or outdoors, as Cuomo magnanimously announced on May 19 in anticipation of Memorial Day. The number is arbitrary. It is not science that says that grocery stores can stay open while tiny storefront enterprises that are lucky to see one customer every few hours must go out of business.

Cuomo is so confident in his powers of persuasion that he invokes the failure of coronavirus science in the past as a reason to dispense with human discretion now. On May 25, he said with preening humility: “I’m out of business [of making judgments] because we all failed. The models were all wrong” in predicting deaths by the millions. Cuomo was “out of the guessing business,” he said, and would rely on a mechanistic application of his seven-part metrics for reopening. But if the models were and continue to be wrong, that is an argument for exercising common sense. Ninety-one percent of all coronavirus deaths in New York State have been in New York City and its four surrounding counties, as of May 26. The remaining nine percent are spread over tens of thousands of square miles, with many counties having had less than half a dozen deaths. They should all reopen now with no preconditions.

For years, the Democratic party has portrayed itself as the party of science, as opposed to those red state rube politicians and voters. (The science of biological sex differences is another matter entirely, of course. Most elite progressives and Democrats are committed to the idea that a biological male can decide to be a female and vice versa.) The claim to be guided by science, as opposed to prejudice or passion, has only accelerated during the pandemic.

On April 19, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said to Fox News Channel’s Chris Wallace that unlike Donald Trump, she was all about “science, science, science, evidence, data on how we should go forward.” On May 5, she tweeted that “science is our key to unlocking our country. The last thing we need is political interference into science.” Joe Biden admonished Donald Trump on May 3 for not masking in public: “I think it’s important to follow the science. Listen to the experts. Do what they tell you.”

Pundits on CNN and MSNBC daily echo these talking points about the need to follow the science and to stay locked down indefinitely.

Politics and leadership are about making prudential decisions that require trade-offs among competing interests. The public handling of the coronavirus pandemic has been a policy disaster of unprecedented proportions that wiped out trillions of dollars of wealth and human capital almost overnight. None of those pandemic decisions were dictated by science; they were choices that incorporated a host of unspoken assumptions about the world, especially about the ability of the government to replace private economic activity.

Up to two-thirds of people who will die of COVID-19 this year would have died of another cause by the end of 2020 anyway, according to the Imperial College’s Neil Ferguson. Science has no answer for how to balance the value of prolonging their lives against the value of the lives that have been and will be lost because of deferred medical care and unemployment-induced poverty and despair. Science has no answer to the question of how to balance the value of averted COVID-19 deaths against the destruction of opportunity for hundreds of millions of young adults and low-income workers. Cuomo can try to hide behind “science,” but every day he is making an implicit trade-off between one set of interests and another, and affirmatively choosing to prolong the lockdown.

Cuomo is thus responsible (along with New York Mayor Bill De Blasio and other New York politicians) for the daily-diminishing chance that New York City will recover from its deliberately induced coma.

However much past policy decisions were taken in good faith, they must now be reversed for the sake of human life. To dodge political accountability by invoking science is not leadership, it is cowardice.

Great America

The Rigid Old Normal

When the Covid-19 craziness subsides, our calcified zip-code education laws will endure.

Pundits are continuously speculating about what the post-pandemic “new normal” will look like in education when schools open (hopefully) in a few months. Many say that smaller class size will be necessary to facilitate social distancing. Some think that homeschooling will flourish. While others insist that online instruction or “distance learning” will make great strides. But every expert knows that one aspect of education will not change: children who remain in brick-and-mortar public schools will be assigned to a building according to their zip-code.

One of the enduring education half-truths, uttered by Hillary Clintonthe National Education Association and many other government education establishmentarians is that “public schools have to accept all students.” What needs to be added to that statement to make it honest is this corollary: “Public schools have to accept all students that live near the school, and students will be forced to attend no matter how awful that school is.”

Due to teacher union mandates like seniority and tenure laws, inner city children are often stuck in underperforming schools. The teachers unions also aggressively oppose any measures that would enable these kids to flee their zip-code mandated hellholes. Giving families any kind of choice–a charter school, opportunity scholarship, etc. is anathema to them.

The irony here is that when Donald Trump ran for president in 2016, one of his campaign promises was to erect a wall between the U.S. and Mexico in order to stanch the flood of border-crossers. The education establishment was shocked and horrified by the future president’s assertion. How can he deny entrance to people who are “trying to better their lives?” many insisted. Yet the same group has no problem coming down hard on parents who cross a school district border attempting to get a better education for their kid.

One celebrated case typifies the plight of many. In 2011, Hamlet and Olesia Garcia’s marriage was on the rocks. So, along with their daughter, Olesia moved in with her father who lived in an upscale part of Pennsylvania. When it came time for her daughter to go to school, she put her in nearby Pine Road Elementary School. However, in March 2012, the couple reconciled and moved out of the area, but kept their daughter at the same school to finish off the rest of the school year. Not long after, the couple was called in to discuss residency issues. This led to a huge fine for the Garcias, and nearly got Hamlet prison time for “educational theft.”

Another notable case took place in 2011, when Kelley Williams-Bolar, an education aide in Ohio, spent nine days in jail after being convicted for sending her two daughters to a superior school in a district where her father resided.

So what can parents do if they can’t home school or afford to pay for a private education, and live near a failing school? Depending on the school district, if one of the parents is employed in an area where there is a better school than where they live, they may be able to get a waiver to send their child to that school. For example, if a family lives in inner city Los Angeles, and one of the parents works in an upscale area where there is a better school, they can apply for an “intradistrict permit.”

Oddly, homelessness can also be helpful. In California, “…homeless children do not have to re-register at a different school every time they move, and districts must provide transportation to school regardless of where a homeless child is living.” In fact, an Illinois school administrator notes that “families pretend to be homeless so they can move to better school districts. State and federal laws require school officials to enroll students immediately, even if they doubt a claim.”

Writing in the Orange County Register last week, charter school operator and former California State Senator Gloria Romero reminded us that it has been 66 years since the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision was handed down. The ruling declared that segregated schools were unconstitutional. Romero writes that “admission to a high-performing school should not depend upon in which side of town families could afford the rent or mortgage.”

Because of geographical restraints, public schools are the most segregated institution in America today. Can you imagine a law that forces families to buy food from the supermarket down the street–even if it serves rancid meat and moldy fruit? Of course not. It’s time to end our Zip-code Mandated Education System–Z MES–immediately.

This article originally appeared in the California Policy Center.

Great America

Smoothing the Bumpy Road to Reopening

It is clearly past time to rein in the baseless, arbitrary restrictions that have been imposed by some politicians, as they can only inspire disrespect and non-compliance.

Every day seems to bring some new, unexpected, unpleasant revelation about the SARS-CoV-2 and the illness it causes, COVID-19. 

The infection has a long, often asymptomatic incubation period, high transmissibility, the ability to infect many human tissues, and, frequently, rapid deterioration of the clinical course. Some curious aspects of the infection, such as long duration of symptoms, multi-organ involvement, blood clots, and patients’ ability to tolerate extremely low blood oxygen levels have put critical care doctors on a steep learning curve, trying to understand how best to keep patients from falling off a cliff.

If the clinical aspects of the disease have been difficult to catalog and manage, the public health considerations have been equally vexing. We know enough now, however, to offer improved guidance for setting public health policy. Rather than using projections of cases and fatalities to guide policy decisions, the focus should be on the granular level of how the virus physically spreads. It is time to relegate the COVID-19 epidemiological models primarily to projecting required hospital and ventilator capacity and supplies of personal protective equipment.  

Based on a survey recently in New York, it appears that a very high percentage of new cases can be traced to individuals’ homes and to care facilities such as nursing homes. The survey found that 83 percent of new cases came from unemployed or retired individuals who are largely sheltered in place, while almost a quarter (22 percent) of these cases originated in long term care facilities. In the nation overall, 11 percent of COVID-19 cases have occurred in long-term care facilities, while deaths from the infection in long-term care facilities account for more than one-third of the country’s pandemic fatalities.

We are also learning more about the role of children in spreading COVID-19 from an analysis just released by the Netherlands’s National Institute for Public Health and the Environment:

Worldwide, relatively few children have been reported with COVID-19. Data from the Netherlands also confirms the current understanding: that children play a minor role in the spread of the novel coronavirus. The virus is mainly spread between adults and from adult family members to children. The spread of the virus among children or from children to adults is less common.

With sufficient resources, there are measures available to mitigate institutional spread that must be more widely and aggressively applied. There are limited controls available within households, however, so the main objective there needs to be eliminating the introduction of infection and performing contact tracing once that bubble has been pierced.

More new information from recently updated CDC guidelines: COVID-19 “does not spread easily” by touching contaminated surfaces or objects, by animal-to-human contact, or vice versa. The CDC continues to warn “that the main way the virus is spread is through person-to-person contact, even among those who are not showing any symptoms,” and that “the main way to prevent infection” is social distancing, handwashing with soap, and “cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched areas.”

Those findings are consistent with an excellent article by University of Massachusetts immunologist Erin Bromage that explores the math of virus transmission. It strongly suggests that most forms of short-lived, non-intimate contact have little chance of transmitting a sufficient load of the virus to infect anyone except the immunologically compromised. Outdoors, the probability becomes even lower, because of air movement and dilution, and the consequent dissipation of viral particles. In short, the science suggests that outdoor activities with prudent distancing pose very low risk.

The same analysis shows that in indoor environments, the key physical factors are the rate of air exchange and the overall volume of air in the space. So, for example, a big-box store with effective air conditioning (ideally, with HEPA filters) is far less favorable to transmission than, say, a small boutique. This also explains why crowded restaurants and bars and homes and non-hospital care facilities are so conducive to contagion.

The second critical consideration is the number and distribution of virus particles emanating from a person who is infected. A cough projects far more virus a greater distance than breathing, and a sneeze is still worse. At least 44 percent of all infections are transmitted by people without any symptoms (asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic people), who can be shedding the virus into the environment for up to five days before symptoms begin.

Although no prescription for behavior can be perfect, we can offer some guidance. 

First and foremost, people with known exposure to COVID-19 or with fever and cough or sneezing should not go out in public, and should wear a mask if they must leave isolation. (If there were to be any basis for strict enforcement, we believe this should be it.) They must isolate as much as possible, preferably somewhere with effective air exchange and filtering to avoid infecting family and anyone else in close proximity.

The second relatively obvious policy prescription is to permit outdoor activities where reasonable distancing is possible. That will make most parks and beaches accessible, provided the capacity is policed to avoid overly close spacing. Surfaces will probably be a minimal source of transmission except for picnic tables and the like. Sensible restrictions like those contrast with ludicrous prohibitions, such as against power boating (in Michigan, since removed) and against fishing (Washington).

Along similar lines, indoor capacity controls should be tailored to the type of space and efficiency of ventilation. Roping off sections of a big box store is senseless, compared to overall capacity management and requiring that staff and customers wear masks. One logical government program might be to subsidize the installation of HEPA filtering and HVAC systems that can move greater volumes of air.

Because infections will still occur, contact tracing becomes very important. A high priority should be placed on testing of households where infections may have spread before the onset of symptoms in the first case.

Although we know that pre-symptomatic people can spread the virus, it is less clear how capable of spreading infection are individuals who are known to have been infected but remained asymptomatic. For that reason, it is critical to continue extensive population screening with accurate (validated) antibody tests, in order to assess the magnitude and importance of asymptomatic infection.

Taken together, these considerations suggest logical guidelines. It is clearly past time to rein in the baseless, arbitrary restrictions that have been imposed by some politicians, as they can only inspire non-compliance and contempt. Predicating policy on transmission dynamics can clear away the miasma of regulation based on macro trends and guesswork. We still need continued research on how the SARS-CoV-2 virus can most effectively be prevented from spreading from person to person.

Social distancing, testing, and the wearing of masks in relevant settings should be continued, along with contact tracing. The improvement of HVAC systems is less obvious, but also critical. Keeping the most dangerous—i.e., potentially most prolific—sources of spread contained should be the focus of enforcement.

None of what we have suggested eliminates the risks for those who do become infected, although there is some evidence that exposure to larger amounts of virus leads to worse outcomes. We need effective drugs and better clinical management practices. In the meantime, we believe that dispensing with unnecessary and unscientific restrictions on our behavior and the economy will go a long way toward safely returning the nation to some semblance of normality.  

Great America

The Real COVID Numbers Should Factor Out Nursing Homes

The oversight of not separating statistics about long term care facilities from the totals has had enormous economic consequences.

The New York Times headline screams: “U.S. Deaths Near 100,000, Incalculable Loss.” It should have read “Nursing Home Deaths Near 50,000, Unfathomable Negligence.” Both headlines are true, but only the imagined one is about a loss that could have been mitigated by proper policies and with well-understood protective measures. We know far less about what could have been done differently to avoid the fate of the other 50,000 or so people who succumbed to COVID-19, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. So, the Times was alerting us to nothing useful.

It is becoming more universally known that governors in several states, most notably the Democratic governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, mandated that nursing homes accept residents being released from the hospital after being diagnosed with COVID-19. Combined, the top seven states (New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, and Connecticut) account for half the deaths in long-term care facilities (LTCFs), which account for nearly half of the total U.S. COVID-19 deaths.

Historians and public health experts in the future will try to sort out to what extent the governors’ policies were responsible. It is clear that the resident population in LTCFs have a much higher incidence of comorbidities (conditions making them more susceptible to disease and death) and are far older than the general population (an appropriate allusion to prison these days). LTCFs are also generally ill-equipped to handle contagious diseases, and in far too many cases, are not maintained or sanitized as they should be. We will leave that debate to others for now.

But the refashioned headline does imply that there are really two statistical universes when it comes to COVID-19 mortality tracking: LTCFs and everywhere else. That means the relevant number for the average U.S. resident is the 50,000 or so deaths outside of the LTCF universe.

Examining that universe leads to different implications than would be reached using the gross number alluded to by the Times. As of May 22, the American Heart Association reports 94,708 deaths from COVID-19. Looking deeper into the data by state and combining it with data from Freeop.org about nursing home fatalities by state, the data allows us by subtraction to examine the impact of the virus on the general population. (For the 11 states not reporting on nursing homes, we applied the average of the others.)

It turns out that 34 states plus D.C. and Puerto Rico each had fewer than 500 fatalities from the virus over the course of three months; of those, 17 states have reported fewer than 100 deaths. In those 36 jurisdictions, it is unlikely that the healthcare system was ever threatened (although in some rural settings distance to care is a challenge, and Puerto Rico may be chronically underserved). 

It is also doubtful that the more severe restrictions imposed, especially lockdowns, were necessary given the small number of serious cases. The basic distancing, group limitations, hygiene, and masking protocols arguably would have been totally sufficient. Businesses without tightly packed workers could have continued with minor accommodations.

Then there is a middle tier of 10 states with deaths ranging between 500 and 1,600. Only the “top” six states had mortality over 2,000, with New York far ahead at nearly 25,000. It should have been obvious early on, even with only the initial fraction of cases and deaths, that the more draconian public health measures should be implemented first in the six or 16 most affected states. Those measures easily could have been held off in the remaining locations pending actual results.

This data was available in a timely fashion, so resorting to a “one-size-fits-all” approach was inappropriate. But the political pressure grew from those unwilling to accept the “flatten the curve” imperative as being sufficient and who believed that preventing every possible death was worth any price in economic harm. Also, the experts seem to have gotten sidetracked believing the novelty of this virus extended to methods of transmission, which now does not appear to be the case. 

What is novel, in fact, is the long incubation period and the ability of pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals to infect others. In a sense, the experts panicked and advised almost universal draconian measures, while inexplicably overlooking the value of masks to prevent infected individuals from spreading the virus before they knew they had it.

The current fashion is to criticize loudly the people attempting to manage this pandemic. As expected, much of this is based on pure opinion and outright speculation. There is usually an underlying assumption that, had other people been involved from the outset, the decisions and results would have been different and better without the benefit of hindsight or knowledge gained over the course of the pandemic. That, of course, is impossible to know.

Any objective observer (the species seems to be endangered) must acknowledge that the scientific knowledge was rapidly evolving, and the public reporting was contradictory and often wrong. This then stoked a fear factor that had political consequences and strongly influenced policymakers. For all the reasons above, there is no compelling basis to argue that another set of people would have reacted in a significantly different way.

The oversight of not separating statistics about LTCFs from the totals, however, has had enormous economic consequences. Limiting restrictions (at least until actual experience could provide a clearer road map) in places with low general population death rates (not skewed by LTCF mortality) would have made far more sense and caused far less pain. Lack of scientific knowledge is not a viable explanation for this shortcoming. 

Sadly, the press is unlikely even to recognize the underlying nuances of the data and we can expect more of the Times’ kind of shock reporting rather than the careful analysis once embraced by career journalists.

News

Lieutenant Governor and Governor of Idaho–Both Republicans–Clash on Reopening Guidelines

Fed up with Idaho’s draconian cornonavirus policies, the Republican lieutenant governor of Idaho is openly disputing her governor’s reopening guidelines. According to the Daily Beast, “anti-lockdown” Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin has “gone rogue” in defiance of Gov. Brad Little’s reopening orders. The two have reportedly not spoken to each other in weeks due to the policy divide.

Little—also a Republican—ordered bars to stay closed until at least May 30, but McGeachin has already reopened a tavern she owns with her family in Idaho Falls.

McGeachin, who owns four small businesses with her family, has for months been butting heads with Little over his oversight of the coronavirus pandemic. In April, she wrote to the governor, urging him to commit to fully reopening the economy no later than May 1st.

The day after Little’s stay-at-home order was lifted earlier this month, McGeachin also attended a “Disobey Idaho” protest outside the state capitol building.

After Little announced a four staged plan to reopen businesses in the state earlier this month, McGeachin wrote a withering opinion piece in the Idaho Statesman blasting the “heavy hand” of the government, and accusing the state of “picking winners and losers” by “unilaterally deciding which businesses were ‘essential.’”

“My reputation and current position has many constituents asking me why small businesses and entrepreneurs — who make up the backbone of Idaho’s economy — are largely underrepresented in the governor’s coronavirus advisory committees, task forces and economic reopening committees,” McGeachin wrote in her May 13 piece.

I lose sleep at night because the heavy hand of our government is hurting so many Idahoans. Idahoans were sidelined and left to watch silently as the government closed Main Street by unilaterally deciding which businesses were “essential” and which ones were not. By deciding that certain goods can only be purchased at certain places, or not at all, our government has been selecting economic winners and losers throughout this pandemic.

McGeachin has taken exception to the idea that her family broke any rules by re-launching The Celt Pub and Grill in mid-May, explaining in a Facebook post that The Celt is a restaurant and was thus allowed to reopen earlier. Moreover, the tavern says it’s taking precautions: “operating at 50 percent capacity; capping parties at six people; using paper menus.”  Also, staff are required to wear face masks during their shifts.

Earlier this month, a bar in Kendrick, Idaho defied the governor’s “Stay Healthy” reopening orders by reopening its doors a month early.  McGeachin, and three other local Republican lawmakers, along with about 30 other people patronized the financially stressed business to express their support.

Law enforcement visited the establishment multiple times during the relaunch to talk to the owners but no arrests were made.

McGeachin said at the time that she traveled to Kendrick from Boise to show her support after Christine and Doug Lohman invited her to their reopening of the Hardware Brewing Co.

She told the Spokesman-Review that the state should provide guidelines—not mandates during the pandemic.

“People can manage themselves and we know how to take care of our customers, our employees, our business,” McGeachin said. “We don’t need the government to mandate things.”

She said she is thankful Little lifted the stay-home order, but she is deeply opposed to the government deciding which businesses are essential and nonessential.

“It’s been frustrating because I have tried to convey as best as I can (to Little) the frustration and the anxiety that I sense from people all over the state and to convey how important it is that we try to do something to help the average person who’s been suddenly unemployed,” McGeachin said.

As of May 5, 117,811 people had filed for unemployment in Idaho since mid-March,  twice the total number of initial claims filed in all of 2019, according to the Idaho Department of Labor.

Idaho has only had 2,606 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 79 deaths.