Tag: coronavirus

Mask objectivity

Jacob Sullum:

This week two Texas judges issued temporary restraining orders that allow public schools in Bexar and Dallas counties to require that staff and students wear face masks as a safeguard against COVID-19. The legal issue is whether Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order banning such mandates fits within his authority under the Texas Disaster Act of 1975. But the wisdom of requiring masks in schools depends on whether the public health benefits of that precaution outweigh the burdens it imposes on students and employees. On that point, the evidence is not nearly as clear as mandate enthusiasts imply.

Two important facts should inform decisions about face masks in schools.

First, COVID-19 infections among children and teenagers are rarely life-threatening. According to the “current best estimate” from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the infection fatality rate (IFR) for people younger than 18 is 0.002 percent. By contrast, the CDC estimates that the IFR for COVID-19 among people 65 or older is 9 percent, 4,500 times as high. The estimated IFRs for other age groups fall between those two extremes: 0.05 percent for 18-to-49-year-olds and 0.6 percent for 50- to 64-year-olds.

Second, COVID-19 vaccines are currently available to all Americans 12 or older, and the vaccination rate is especially high among older Americans, which helps explain why the recent surge in cases has not been accompanied by a commensurate increase in deaths. For teachers and other staff members who are concerned about catching COVID-19 in school, vaccination sharply reduces the risk of infection and is even more effective at preventing severe cases. The same goes for students 12 or older.

Keeping those facts in mind, what is the evidence that face masks play an important role in preventing school-related COVID-19 outbreaks? In a New York Times opinion piece published on Tuesday, Duke University pediatrician Kanecia Zimmerman and We Studied One Million Students. This Is What We Learned About Masking.”

Here is how Zimmerman and Benjamin describe the results of their study, which was based on data from March through June 2021:

During that time, more than 7,000 children and adults acquired the coronavirus and attended school while infectious. Because of close contact with those cases, more than 40,000 people required quarantine. Through contact tracing and testing, however, we found only 363 additional children and adults acquired the coronavirus. We believe this low rate of transmission occurred because of the mask-on-mask school environment: Both the infected person and the close contact wore masks.

That belief is not actually supported by Zimmerman and Benjamin’s study. Since all the North Carolina public schools they studied had universal masking, there was no control group of schools without that requirement. It is therefore impossible to say whether the low rate of secondary transmission can be attributed to the mask policy. “Because North Carolina had a mask mandate for all K-12 schools,” Zimmerman and Benjamin concede, “we could not compare masked schools to unmasked schools.”

In lieu of a control group, Zimmerman and Benjamin cite a few COVID-19 outbreaks that they attribute to a lack of universal masking. Here are the cautionary examples they mention:

• This month in North Carolina, Mooresville Graded Schools and the Union Academy Charter School decided to require masks after “both experienced outbreaks during the first days of the new school year,” the ABC affiliate in Charlotte reports. An elementary school in the Mooresville system identified “nine positive cases,” while the charter school saw “at least 14 confirmed COVID-19 cases.”

• In Illinois last month, Springfield Public Schools began requiring masks during a summer session, citing “an increase in COVID-19 positive cases among SPS students and staff.”

• In May 2020, an Israeli public school had an outbreak that involved “153 students and 25 staff members” who “were confirmed as COVID-19-positive.” The outbreak was tied to an “extreme heatwave,” during which a face mask requirement was suspended, windows were closed, and “air-conditioning functioned continuously in all classes.” The authors of the report on the Israeli outbreak also note that “distancing among students and between students and teachers was not possible,” because the classrooms were “crowded.” The CDC cites “classroom crowding” and “poor ventilation” as factors in the outbreak.

These are all examples of outbreaks (or “an increase in COVID-19 positive cases”) that occurred when masking was optional. But they do not show that a lack of masking was the main reason for virus transmission. And the Israeli outbreak, which is commonly cited by mask-mandate advocates, is striking because it was unusual, even though other Israeli schools also did not require masks during the three-day heat wave.

Meanwhile, Zimmerman and Benjamin overlook examples of school systems that did not require masks but nevertheless saw minimal COVID-19 transmission.

In Florida, where many school districts did not require masks, the CDC found that less than 1 percent of students were infected in schools during the first semester after they reopened in August 2020. The CDC did report that school districts without mask mandates had a higher school-related infection rate: 1,667 vs. 1,171 per 100,000 students. But the study notes that smaller districts were less likely to require masks, and they also “had a higher proportion of students attending in-person instruction,” which likewise was “positively correlated with the student case rate.” And even in districts without mandates, just 1.7 percent of students were infected at school.

When England reopened schools in August 2020, they did not require face masks. Public Health England identified 969 outbreaks, or about one for every 25 schools. The outbreaks affected 2 percent of primary schools and 10 percent of secondary schools. In response to a geographically representative survey, 100 primary schools and 79 secondary schools reported 2,314 cases, or an average of about 13 per school. In primary schools that experienced outbreaks, 0.84 percent of students were infected; the rate for secondary schools was 1.2 percent. Teachers were more likely to be infected and more likely to transmit the virus than students.

Both of these studies were conducted at a time when vaccines were not available to staff or students. Now that 70 percent of American adults have been at least partly vaccinated and vaccines are available to students 12 or older, we should see similar or lower rates of school-related infection, even allowing for the greater transmissibility of the delta variant.*

“Although outbreaks in schools can occur,” the CDC says, “multiple studies have shown that transmission within school settings is typically lower than—or at least similar to—levels of community transmission, when prevention strategies are in place in schools.” Regarding mask requirements specifically, it says “most studies that have shown success in limiting transmission in schools have [involved schools that] required that staff only or staff and students wear masks as one of the school’s prevention strategies.” That gloss implies that some studies found schools had “success in limiting transmission” even without mask mandates or with mandates that did not apply to students.

The CDC, which is now urging “indoor masking for all individuals age 2 years and older” in schools and child care facilities, cites six studies to support its conclusion that mask mandates are crucial: a preliminary report on Zimmerman and Benjamin’s North Carolina research; a study concluding that reopening schools in Italy, where students were required to wear masks, did not appear to drive the second COVID-19 wave in that country; a study of Chicago schools, which also required masks, finding “a lower attack rate for students and staff participating in in-person learning than for the community overall”; a CDC study that reported “limited secondary transmission” of COVID-19 in Rhode Island child care programs that required adults to wear masks; a CDC study that found 6 percent of child care facilities in Washington, D.C., with a similar requirement experienced an outbreak; and a CDC report of “minimal” COVID-19 transmission at a New Jersey school “after implementation of a comprehensive mitigation strategy” that included “universal masking.”

In their Times piece, Zimmerman and Benjamin cite CDC data from Utah, Missouri, and Wisconsin. The Utah study found that “mask adherence was high” and that “COVID-19 incidence among students and staff members was lower than in the county overall.” According to the Missouri study, COVID-19 transmission was “much lower” in schools than in the general community. The schools had adopted precautions that included “mandating use of face masks, physical distancing in classrooms, increasing ventilation with outdoor air, identification of close contacts, and following CDC isolation and quarantine guidance.” In Wisconsin, “reported student mask-wearing was high,” and “transmission risk within schools appeared low.”

These studies show that mask mandates are consistent with low rates of COVID-19 transmission. But contrary to what the CDC implies, they do not show that mask mandates are necessary to keep infection rates low, which would require comparing outcomes in otherwise similar schools with and without mandates.

In December, based on data from Georgia, the CDC reported that “COVID-19 incidence was 37% lower in schools that required teachers and staff members to use masks,” which was similar to the difference associated with “improved ventilation.” But while the incidence of infection was 21 percent lower in schools that also required students to wear masks, that difference was not statistically significant.

In a May 21 preprint study, Brown University economist Emily Oster and four other researchers analyze COVID-19 data from Florida, New York, and Massachusetts for the 2020–21 school year. “We do not find any correlations with mask mandates,” Oster et al. report. But they note that “all rates are lower in the spring, after teacher vaccination is underway.” The authors caution that their study “does not imply masks are ineffective, as these results focus only on masking in schools and do not take community behavior into consideration.” They also note that they considered “mask mandates and not actual masking behavior.”

Zimmerman and Benjamin say it is “now clear” that “universal masking is linked to lower spread” in schools; that “schools that do not require masks will have more coronavirus transmission”; that “if we send children to school without masks, we increase their risk of acquiring Covid-19”; that “masking helps prevent spread among unvaccinated people in schools”; that “universal masking is a close second” to vaccination as a way of preventing school outbreaks; and that “universal masking in schools can save lives.” But the evidence they cite to support these assertions is inconclusive at best.

Assuming that universal masking in schools does make a difference (which it might!), it is by no means clear that the benefits outweigh the costs. The data from Florida and England indicate that COVID-19 transmission in schools was a minor problem even without mask mandates and even before vaccination was possible. Given the low risks that children face from COVID-19, the low infection rates even in schools that don’t require masks, and the fact that vaccination is readily available to adults and teenagers, the benefits of forcing kids to cover their faces all day, whether or not they are vaccinated, are likely to be small.

The costs, meanwhile, are more substantial than mandate supporters typically acknowledge. The inconvenience and discomfort caused by mask requirements aggravate the unpleasantness of environments that were stressful, boring, and restrictive long before anyone had heard of COVID-19. Masks interfere with  communication, learning, and social interaction. And they unfairly burden children with the responsibility of preventing infections that primarily threaten adults, who can better protect themselves by getting vaccinated. To justify those costs would require more evidence than mandate advocates have been able to muster.

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From a COVID survivor

Tom Woods:

To the Person Who Gave Me the Virus:

I have no idea who you are, but our paths almost surely crossed last month in Las Vegas.

Even now I wouldn’t change a thing about that trip, by the way, which was a blast. The existence of the virus, it’s true, made my life a fraction of one percent more dangerous than it was before. But since I don’t have any mental disorders, I hadn’t calibrated my risk tolerance so precisely that such a tiny change would make me radically alter my life.

Naturally if you knew you were sick, you should have stayed home. Of all the advice they’ve given — mask wearing, social distancing, and all the rest — staying home when you’re sick would do by far the most good, yet we hear it urged upon us the least.

At the same time, The Hill reports that you can easily confuse the symptoms of the virus for allergies, so it’s entirely possible not to be aware that you’re contagious. I see no reason to assume bad will on your part.

Every time I leave my house I am taking a risk. We all are. I don’t blame you for the constraints imposed by reality.
If the chance of being struck by lightning increased tenfold tomorrow, this would not affect my behavior in any way. Not being neurotic, I don’t live my life as if the present rate of lightning strikes is precisely as high as I can tolerate.

It has become almost impossible to have a rational conversation about any of this. For one thing, most people are shockingly misinformed. Ask the average person what the likelihood is of someone in his age cohort needing to be hospitalized for COVID, and his answer will be off by a factor of 10, if not 100. Guaranteed.

For that matter, I cannot believe how many people think masks are accomplishing anything. The laughable “studies” on masks generally assume what they set out to prove, and/or confine themselves to strangely arbitrary timeframes, before explosions in COVID spread.

Dozens of countries have seen their COVID charts go almost vertical after (not necessarily immediately after, but after) introducing large-scale masking, which is what the charts would look like if masks accomplished absolutely nothing. These places are ignored, because nobody is told about them.

Meanwhile, there have been essentially zero COVID deaths in Sweden over the past month, and the rest of Scandinavia is also doing very well despite very little masking or other restrictions.

The world acts as if these countries do not exist. As usual with the “you’re to blame for the virus” people, success stories like these are of no interest, because there’s nobody they can demonize — and demonizing people is their favorite pastime.

The case of Nepal is interesting, too. After a lockdown that ended in July 2020, they decided essentially to proceed as normal. They’re a poor country, and they chose the radical, unheard-of approach of overturning a policy that would have had them starving to death.

And guess what?

They’re doing fine.

“Public health officials” were stumped, but at this point who can be surprised by that? What we laughingly call our “public health” establishment has made fools of themselves during this entire fiasco.

Nepal is at 340 deaths per million. Compare that to locked-down countries like the UK (1909), Spain (1756), Belgium (2170), or Peru (5883).

Back in the United States, the Sun Belt spike of 2020 came down with zero behavioral changes of any kind. The “COVID is your fault” people are too determined to blame someone to show any curiosity about this, even though it absolutely should evoke curiosity.

COVID comes and goes seasonally and regionally, and blows its way past our silly masks and six-foot floor stickers.

With my friend Tim Scott, I created a website where people can test their ability to determine which alleged mitigation measures accomplished what. If they work, it should be easy and obvious to choose which line on a graph represents a state or country that implemented it and which line represents one that did not.

So go ahead. Try your hand at it. If any of the insanity accomplished anything, it’ll be a breeze: CovidChartsQuiz.com. …

Now it’s true: I was definitely laid up in bed for a while. But not a single kid should have missed a single basketball practice to keep me from getting sick. Imagine the selfishness involved in that kind of demand.

Screw that.

And nor should you, mysterious Las Vegas person, feel sorry for me. I don’t want you staying in your house! I don’t want you refusing to live! I’m glad you were out living your life, enjoying things that make life worth living. Merely preserving your biological existence is unworthy of a human being.

This is especially so when we’ve been given no indication of precisely what would constitute an all-clear. It’s all arbitrariness piled upon more anti-scientific arbitrariness.
We should all be inspired by the words of Lord Sumption in the UK:

“What sort of life do we think we are protecting? There is more to life than the avoidance of death. Life is a drink with friends. Life is a crowded football match or a live concert. Life is a family celebration with children and grandchildren. Life is companionship, an arm around one’s back, laughter or tears shared at less than two meters. These things are not just optional extras. They are life itself. They are fundamental to our humanity, to our existence as social beings. Of course death is permanent, whereas joy may be temporarily suspended. But the force of that point depends on how temporary it really is.”

Thank you, Las Vegas person, for refusing to be inhuman, for refusing to be an automaton, and for saying yes to those things that bring us joy and make our lives meaningful.

How to reach the vaccine holdouts

Grace Curley:

The Biden administration is desperate for some fresh ideas as they attempt to convince more Americans to take the COVID-19 vaccine. Between White House press secretary Jen Psaki, Dr Anthony Fauci and Dr Rochelle Walensky, we are constantly hearing about the White House’s latest creative ways to encourage people to get vaccinated.

The administration seems eager to push the notion that all of the vaccine holdouts are Trump supporters. Unfortunately for them, recent studies suggest otherwise. According to Forbes, polling analysis by Kaiser Family Foundation shows that ‘the “wait and see” group, by contrast, is more evenly divided politically — 39 percent are Democrats and 41 percent Republicans — and are slightly more likely to be black or Hispanic (22 percent black and 20 percent Hispanic, versus 5 percent and 11 percent in the “definitely not group”), though 72 percent are still between the ages of 18 and 49.’

Putting this pesky data aside, Jen Psaki proudly boasted about how the administration has run PSAs on The Deadliest Catch and works with NASCAR and Country Music TV. Somehow that fool-proof plan to reach out to the Neanderthals fell flat. Go figure.

Masks vs. vaccinations

New York University Prof. Marc Siegel:

President Biden wants 70% of American adults vaccinated against Covid-19 by July 4. It’s an achievable goal but suddenly looks more daunting, even though plenty of doses are available. Demand is slackening now that those most eager for vaccinations have already gotten them.

If Mr. Biden wants to encourage Americans to get the shots, he should change his attitude toward masks. Last week he said wearing masks in public is a “patriotic duty.” He continues to do so, even outdoors, even though he is vaccinated and therefore at almost no risk of either contracting the coronavirus or transmitting it to others. Federal mandates remain in place requiring masks in airports, national parks and public transit, among other places.

Think about the messages that sends: If you get vaccinated, you’ll be afforded virtually no relief from the pandemic’s most persistent burden—the social and legal pressure to cover your face in public—which has lingered for more than a year. If you don’t get vaccinated, society will keep trying to protect you from infection by imposing discomfort on everyone. And the authorities, at least at the federal level, seem to be in no hurry for the pandemic to end.

Meanwhile, it is in the process of ending. Case rates, hospitalizations and deaths are down all across the country. In California, the case rate is 4 per 100,000 with a 1% positive test rate. New York’s numbers are almost as good. A combination of natural and vaccinated immunity—60% of the adult population will have received at least one shot by the end of this week—is bringing this virus to its knees.

A more effective strategy would be to relieve the public of ineffective draconian restrictions. The president should announce that all federal mask mandates will end effective May 28, in time for Memorial Day weekend, and he should encourage states, localities and private institutions to do the same.

This would send a clear message to the vaccine-resistant: It’s your responsibility to protect yourself by getting your shots. The message to everyone: Vaccines work, and it’s time to get back to normal.

 

The panic, one year later

James Freeman:

A year after the World Health Organization declared a Covid pandemic and government health authorities encouraged politicians to order societal shutdowns, America has only begun to pay the staggering cost.

Matthew Impelli writes at Newsweek:

Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a professor at Stanford University Medical School, recently said that COVID-19 lockdowns are the “biggest public health mistake we’ve ever made…The harm to people is catastrophic.”

…Bhattacharya, who made the comments during an interview with the Daily Clout, co-authored the Great Barrington Declaration, a petition that calls for the end of COVID-19 lockdowns, claiming that they are “producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health.”

Newsweek shares a more recent email from Dr. Bhattacharya:

We will be counting the catastrophic health and psychological harms, imposed on nearly every poor person on the face of the earth, for a generation.

At the same time, [lockdowns] have not served to control the epidemic in the places where they have been most vigorously imposed. In the US, they have – at best – protected the “non-essential” class from COVID, while exposing the essential working class to the disease. The lockdowns are trickle down epidemiology.

Dr. Bhattacharya and the tens of thousands of other medical practitioners and scientists who signed the declaration have been arguing against lockdowns for months:

The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk. We call this Focused Protection.

Adding insult to the injuries caused by politicians who rejected this sensible approach is that the relative risks were largely understood at the dawn of the lockdown era. It was already clear that for most people the virus was not a dire threat. A year ago today, the Journal’s Betsy McKay, Jennifer Calfas and Talal Ansari reported:

Roughly 80% of cases of Covid-19—the illness caused by the novel coronavirus—tend to be mild or moderate, and more than 66,000 people globally have recovered. But those who are older or have underlying health conditions, such as heart disease, lung disease or diabetes, are at a higher risk.

Instead of focusing on the protection of the elderly and those with particular vulnerabilities, credentialed government experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci continued to suggest school closures and broad limits on business activity as appropriate responses in areas where the virus was spreading.

This column’s March 10, 2020, edition warned about the cost of lockdowns and noted:

To this point the coronavirus has taken a heavy toll on the elderly but not so much on kids. Many children may have such mild cases that nobody ever even realizes they’re sick.

This column also suggested that “President Donald Trump should first ask his economic team to estimate the costs and benefits of coronavirus countermeasures” and noted that the “unintended consequences of such interventions are not just financial.”

Pro Publica’s Alec MacGillis writes this week about adolescent mental-health disasters in the small town of Hobbs, N.M. He notes that across the U.S., while the lockdown was catastrophic, the virus was never a huge threat to the young:

The median age for COVID-19 fatalities in the U.S. is about 80. Of the nearly 500,000 deaths in the U.S. analyzed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as of early March, 252 were among those 18 or younger — five hundredths of a percent of the total.

Mr. MacGillis then describes a number of local tragedies in Hobbs, including the story of 11-year-old Landon Fuller, who took his life after riding his bike to a field near his house:

“I think the big question we all have is why, and we will never know the reason why,” his mother, Katrina Fuller, told an Albuquerque TV talk show in July. “The only thing that I was able to find was in his journal, was that he had wrote that he was going mad from staying at home all the time and that he just wanted to be able to go to school and play outside with his friends. So that was the only thing that I can imagine what was going through his head at that time.”

At the same time, shutdowns necessitated massive government spending of borrowed money to offset the loss of normal economic activity. So U.S. children were handed a massive additional debt burden at the same time their ability to generate future income was reduced.

In the last year the United States has added more than $4 trillion in federal debt, and that doesn’t even count the historic Biden spending surge, which kicks off today with his signature on the massive new stimulus plan.

Yet as the country was locking down last spring, Dr. Fauci described the impact on Americans as “inconvenient” and later acknowledged that he did not do cost-benefit analysis and really had no idea what the consequences were for students: “I don’t have a good explanation, or solution to the problem of what happens when you close schools, and it triggers a cascade of events that could have some harmful circumstances.”

In March of last year, Dr. Fauci told National Public Radio that the U.S. “would not have a vaccine available for at least a year to a year and a half—at best.”

Thank goodness he was wrong about that. Dr. Fauci’s other errors have been much more painful for Americans to bear.

I know three people who died from COVID. Freeman’s conclusion is nonetheless absolutely correct. The federal and Wisconsin government’s performance against COVID ranks among the worst government failures in history. Educators say it will take years for children to recover from the lost fourth quarter of last school year. Some people — for instance, those whose businesses were ordered closed because they were “nonessential,” and then their businesses closed for good — will never recover.

 

Fauci to closed schools: Open

The Wisconsin State Journal:

The nation’s top infectious disease expert just urged schools to reopen.
We hope school officials in Madison and across Wisconsin were listening — those who have kept most of their students at home for online learning during the pandemic.

School officials should be ready to open for the second semester in late January, at least for elementary school students. Districts also should share their plans with the public. School officials always can push back their opening dates based on what’s happening in their communities. Not every school and situation is the same.

But Dr. Anthony Fauci told ABC’s “This Week” last Sunday that in-person classes should be “the default position.”

The spread of COVID-19 “among children and from children is not really very big at all, not like one would have suspected,” Fauci said. “So let’s try to get the kids back.”

Amen.

The potentially deadly virus is more than a public health threat. It’s a detriment to learning, especially for children whose parents don’t have flexibility with their jobs or the latest technology in their homes to help students with their studies.

Online classes are hurting math scores and widening achievement gaps along racial and economic lines, a nonprofit research group reported last week. The NWEA’s analysis of data from more than 4 million third- through eighth-graders across the country showed student progress is slipping. The researchers also worried their study underestimates the impact on minority and poor students, who have been disproportionately stuck at home for school.

That concern definitely applies to Madison, where more than half of students are of color and nearly half are economically disadvantaged. The district absolutely should figure out how to follow Fauci’s advice.

While gathering students in classrooms presents some risk for infection, leaving them at home contributes to social isolation, abuse, depression and hunger, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. That’s especially true for younger students. Schools can help keep students safe from the virus by isolating them in small groups, separating desks with plexiglass and, for middle and high school students, requiring masks. Parents should still be given an online option.

New York City’s progressive Mayor Bill de Blasio reversed course last week by embracing in-person classes — despite a higher percentage of New York City residents testing positive for COVID. The nation’s largest school district plans to reopen school buildings to many of its youngest students Monday.

“We feel confident that we can keep schools safe,” de Blasio told The Associated Press.

Republicans who control the Wisconsin Assembly want to require schools here to open by late January. We share the Legislature’s urgency. But those decisions should be left to local officials.

State leaders can help ease health concerns among teachers and other school staff by prioritizing them for vaccines, ahead of the general public. Vaccines should start arriving for health professionals and the elderly later this month and expand from there.

Europe has learned that schools are not major sources of transmission of COVID-19, and children there have benefited from in-person instruction. America needs to learn that lesson, too.

That doesn’t mean the virus should be taken lightly. A Madison student at East High School, which has relied on remote learning, died last month after an apparent “COVID-related illness,” according to the district. Cases of COVID-19 in Wisconsin remain high, though they have been falling for the last two weeks.

Schools should prioritize what’s best for children — not what’s best for teachers unions or business interests. And according to Fauci and other health experts, that means opening schools for in-person classes sooner than later.

Who has been pushing schools to keep closed? Teacher unions. Which proves that Gov. Scott Walker didn’t go far enough in Act 10. He should have pushed to eliminate teacher unions.

The state of journalism is reduced to this now

Jeffrey A. Tucker via The Libertarian Republic:

This game of hunt-and-kill Covid cases has reached peak absurdity, especially in media culture.

Take a look at Supermarkets are the most common place to catch Covid, new data reveals. It’s a story on a “study” assembled by Public Health England (PHE) from the NHS Test and Trace App. Here is the conclusion. In the six days of November studied, “of those who tested positive, it was found that 18.3 per cent had visited a supermarket.”

Now, if the alarm bells don’t go off with that one, you didn’t pay attention to 7th grade science. If the app had also included showering, eating, and breathing, it might have found a 100% correlation. Yes, the people who tested positive probably did shop, as do most people. That doesn’t mean that shopping gives you Covid and it certainly doesn’t mean that shopping kills you.

Even if shopping is a way to get Covid, this is a very widespread and mostly mild virus for 99.8% percent of the population with an infection fatality rate as low as 0.05% for those under 70. Competent infectious disease experts have said multiple times that test, track, and isolate strategies are nearly useless for controlling viruses such as this.

This story/study was so poor and so absurd that it was too much even for Isabel Oliver, Director of the National Infection Service at Public Health England. She sent out the following note:

Thank you. One down, a thousand to go.

The New York Times pulled a mighty fast one with this piece: “States That Imposed Few Restrictions Now Have the Worst Outbreaks.” This would be huge news if true because it would imply not only that lockdowns save lives (which no serious study has thus far been able to document) but also that granting people basic freedoms are the reason for bad health outcomes, an astonishing claim on its own.

The piece, put together by two graphic artists and seemingly very science-like, speaks of “outbreaks,” which vaguely sounds terrible: packed with mortality. It’s odd because anyone can look at the data and see that New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Connecticut lead the way with deaths per million, mostly owing to the fatalities in long-term care facilities. These were the states that locked down the hardest and longest. Indeed they are locking down again! Deaths per million in states like South Dakota are still low on the list.

How in the world can the NYT claim that states that did not lock down have the worst outbreaks? The claim hinges entirely on a trivial discovery. Some clever someone discovered that if you reflow data by cases per million instead of deaths per million, you get an opposite result. The reasons: 1) when the Northeast experienced the height of the pandemic, there was very little testing going on, so the “outbreak” was not documented even as deaths grew and grew, 2) by the time the virus reached the Midwest, tests were widely available, 3) the testing mania grew and grew to the point that the non-vulnerable are being tested like crazy, generating high positives in small-population areas.

By focusing on the word “outbreak,” the Times can cleverly obscure the difference between a positive PCR result (including many false positive and perhaps half or more asymptomatic cases) and a severe outcome from catching the virus. In other words, the Times has documented an “outbreak” of mostly non-sick people in low-population areas.

There are hundreds of ways to look at Covid-19 data. The Times picked the one metric – the least valuable one for actually discerning whether and to what extent people are sick – in order to generate the result that they wanted, namely that open states look as bad as possible. The result is a chart that massively misrepresents any existing reality. It makes the worst states look great and the best ones look terrible. The visual alone is constructed to make it looks as if open states are bleeding uncontrollably.

How many readers will even know this? Very few, I suspect. What’s more amazing is that the Times itself already debunked the entire “casedemic” back in September:

Some of the nation’s leading public health experts are raising a new concern in the endless debate over coronavirus testing in the United States: The standard tests are diagnosing huge numbers of people who may be carrying relatively insignificant amounts of the virus.
Most of these people are not likely to be contagious, and identifying them may contribute to bottlenecks that prevent those who are contagious from being found in time….
In three sets of testing data that include cycle thresholds, compiled by officials in Massachusetts, New York and Nevada, up to 90 percent of people testing positive carried barely any virus, a review by The Times found.

All of which makes one wonder what precisely is going on in this relationship between cases and severe outcomes. The Covid Tracking Project generates the following chart. Cases are in blue while deaths are in red.

Despite this story and these data, the graphic artists at the Times got to work generating a highly misleading presentation that leads to one conclusion: more lockdowns.

(My colleague Phil Magness has noted further methodological problems even within the framework that the Times uses but I will let him write about that later.)

Let’s finally deal with Salon’s attack on Great Barrington Declaration co-creator Jayanta Bhattacharya. Here is a piece that made the following claim of the infection fatality rate: “the accepted figure of 2-3 percent or higher.” That’s an astonishing number, and basically nuts: 10 million people will die in the US alone.

Here is what the CDC says concerning the wildly disparate risk factors based on age:

These data are not inconsistent with the World Health Organization’s suggestion that the infection fatality rate for people under 70 years of age is closer to 0.05%.

The article further claims that “herd immunity may not even be possible for COVID-19 given that infection appears to only confer transient immunity.” And yet, the New York Times just wrote that:

How long might immunity to the coronavirus last? Years, maybe even decades, according to a new study — the most hopeful answer yet to a question that has shadowed plans for widespread vaccination.

Eight months after infection, most people who have recovered still have enough immune cells to fend off the virus and prevent illness, the new data show. A slow rate of decline in the short term suggests, happily, that these cells may persist in the body for a very, very long time to come.

How is it possible for people to make rational decisions with this kind of journalism going on? Truly, sometimes it seems like the world has been driven insane by an astonishing blizzard of false information. Just last week, an entire state in Australia shut down completely – putting all its citizens under house arrest – due to a false report of a case in a pizza restaurant. One person lied and the whole world fell apart.

Meanwhile, serious science is appearing daily showing that there is no relationship at all, and never has been, between lockdowns and lives saved. This study looks at all factors related to Covid death and finds plenty of relationship between age and health but absolutely none with lockdown stringency. “Stringency of the measures settled to fight pandemia, including lockdown, did not appear to be linked with death rate,” says the study, echoing a conclusion of dozens of other studies since as early as March.

It’s all become too much. The world is being seriously misled by major media organs. The politicians are continuing to panic and impose draconian controls, fully nine months into this, despite mountains of evidence of the real harm the lockdowns are causing everyone. If you haven’t lost faith in politicians and major media at this point, you have paid no attention to what they have been doing for the better part of this catastrophic year.

The COVID sheeple

Tom Woods:

Here’s the first thing I saw on Twitter this morning. I promise this is real and not a parody:



So she’s delighted to learn that indeed they cannot leave the house to walk the dog or to exercise.

This is for everyone’s health, of course. Because a society can be run successfully when it’s allowed to operate, then suddenly shut down, then started again, and then shut down again. No problems there!

Second, I wanted to share a few charts with you. The heroic Ian Miller (@ianmSC) has more of them.

The CDC credited masks with bringing down Arizona’s curve. Are they planning a follow-up statement now? (I’m just playing with you with that question: we already know the answer.) And here’s New Mexico as well, for good measure:

Here’s New Jersey. The governor there said masks played a significant role in bringing their curve down. And it’s true that this is one of the rare charts in which that story at least has a surface plausibility. The problem is that there’s a right-hand side to that chart now:

Then there’s Minnesota, which has had all kinds of crazy restrictions, and Florida, which was mostly open for a while before becoming completely open on September 25. Isn’t it odd that their case counts are the opposite of what the hysteria would lead you to expect?

And finally, here are three states that believe in science! That’s funny: I guess by an interesting coincidence they all just abandoned their sciency strategies at exactly the same time (because remember: rising case counts are always somebody’s fault!):

In short, the world looks nothing — as in nothing at all — like it should if the cartoon version of the virus and the government responses were correct. And yet people continue to believe it.

And not only do they believe it: but they shame and condemn you if you don’t believe it.

Why, you’re “selfish”!

I’ll never forget, earlier this year, when people protested lockdowns because their livelihoods were being destroyed, everything they’d devoted their lives to was being taken away, and their kids were suffering very badly — and the lockdowners, being the compassionate lovers of mankind they always claim to be, responded, “You just want a haircut, you selfish person.”

Wisconsin’s mask mandate has worked so well that COVID diagnoses have increased 514 percent since it took effect Aug. 1. Now Gov. Tony Evers is extending it somewhere into January. Perhaps by then everyone in the state will have it. And yet most Wisconsinites appear petrified to dare question the people who are supposed to be representing them about why failed policy is allowed to continue.

 

 

It’s as if nothing actually works

Tom Woods:

Steve Sisolak, governor of Nevada, recently scolded citizens of his state. Why, only irresponsible behavior can account for a rise in “cases” there!

So he’s teling Nevadans that they have two weeks to get things under control.

He warned, “I’m not going to come back in two weeks and say I’m going to give you another chance.”

And then, three days later, Governor Sisolak himself tested positive for COVID-19.

Should we treat him like he’s 7 and scold him for his irresponsible behavior, the way he just did to his citizens?

The governor was forced to admit: “You can take all the precautions that are possible and you can still contract the virus. I don’t know how I got it.”

As Alex Berenson says, virus gonna virus.

The current state of lockdown “science” appears to be: we have no idea what we’re doing, but if something brings people pleasure we should probably limit or prohibit it, and if something causes great inconvenience or even pain, we should probably do that.

An anonymous professor who posts on Twitter about the virus just presented this graph for our consideration. It’s a plot of COVID deaths in North Carolina and Oklahoma. Those states have adopted very different approaches to the virus. And yet, somehow, they more or less track each other anyway:

Virus gonna virus.

Yesterday former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan posted the following:

“How did we catch it? I don’t know. We wore masks. We socially distanced. We avoided crowds. We haven’t had people in our house.”

Virus gonna virus.

We can either accept this, and take steps to protect those among us who are most at risk while others resume the one life they are given, or we can destroy our social fabric.

Meanwhile, we have families and friendships being torn apart over all this. You’re a bad person if you reject the propaganda. Why, you don’t care about saving lives! You’re “selfish”!

Never mind the countless lives lost by lockdown itself, a point I’ve made again and again. Those lives don’t seem to count for some reason.

Also brought to you by Biden voters

The Wall Street Journal:

Did you enjoy the days at home from mid-March to May? The 22 million lost jobs, the shuttered storefronts, the neighborhood shops out of business, the kids unable to attend school, and the near economic depression? Well, congratulations, a reprise may be coming your way if Joe Biden heeds his Covid-19 advisory team.

We’ve told you about Ezekiel Emanuel, the advisory committee member who wanted new lockdowns during the summer flare-up in the Sunbelt states. Lucky for the country that his only power then was appearing on MSNBC.

Then there’s Michael Osterholm, also a member of the Biden Covid committee, who now wants a new nationwide lockdown for as many as six weeks. Dr. Osterholm is director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. CNBC quoted him as suggesting that we are about to enter “Covid hell” and the government should lock everyone up as we await a vaccine.

“We could pay for a package right now to cover all of the wages, lost wages for individual workers for losses to small companies to medium-sized companies or city, state, county governments. We could do all of that,” Dr. Osterholm said, according to Yahoo Finance. “If we did that, then we could lock down for four to six weeks.”

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