Writing in the Wall Street Journal, UCLA medical-school professor Joseph Ladapo rightly laments the “epidemic of ‘Covid Mania’,” correctly noting that “[t]he problem isn’t only the overreaction to the virus but the diminution of every other problem.” Two other slices: The novel coronavirus has caused suffering and heartbreak, particularly for older adults and their loved ones. But it also has a low mortality rate among most people and especially the young—estimated at 0.01% for people under 40—and therefore never posed a serious threat to social and economic institutions. Compassion and realism need not be enemies. But Covid mania crowded out reasoned and wise policy making. Americans groaned when leaders first called for “two weeks to slow the spread” in March 2020. Months later,
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Writing in the Wall Street Journal, UCLA medical-school professor Joseph Ladapo rightly laments the “epidemic of ‘Covid Mania’,” correctly noting that “[t]he problem isn’t only the overreaction to the virus but the diminution of every other problem.” Two other slices:
The novel coronavirus has caused suffering and heartbreak, particularly for older adults and their loved ones. But it also has a low mortality rate among most people and especially the young—estimated at 0.01% for people under 40—and therefore never posed a serious threat to social and economic institutions. Compassion and realism need not be enemies. But Covid mania crowded out reasoned and wise policy making.
Americans groaned when leaders first called for “two weeks to slow the spread” in March 2020. Months later, many of these same Americans hardly blinked when leaders declared that lockdowns should continue indefinitely. For months Covid had been elevated above all other problems in society. Over time new rules were written and new norms accepted.
Liberty has played a special role in U.S. history, fueling advances from independence to emancipation to the fight for equal rights for women and racial minorities. Unfortunately, Covid mania led many policy makers to treat liberty as a nuisance rather than a core American principle.
Covid mania is also creating new conflicts over vaccine mandates. The same people who assured the public that a few weeks of lockdown would control the pandemic now argue that vaccinating children, for whom no vaccine has yet been approved, is essential to end the pandemic. Children account for less than 0.1% of Covid deaths in the U.S. Is enough known about vaccines to conclude that their benefits outweigh potential risks to children?
“Yes” is the answer of a salesman, not a scientist. Mandating a vaccine for children without knowing whether the benefits outweigh the risks is unethical. People who insist we should press on anyway, because variants will prolong the pandemic, should be reminded that a large reservoir of unvaccinated people in the U.S.—and in the world—will always exist. We cannot outrun the variants.
Well, nope: COVID-19 deaths and cases continue to fall in Texas, even without a mask mandate or capacity restrictions on businesses. The same is broadly true of Florida, which relaxed its restrictions all the way back in September and has managed to weather the pandemic more successfully than super locked down states like New York and California.
This is good news! It’s more evidence that warmer weather does make it harder to spread COVID-19—in large part because the heat and sunshine allow people to socialize outdoors, where there is a significantly lower risk of transmission. It also shows that the vaccines are working. Fully vaccinated people are essentially immune from serious disease or death, and according to the latest data, they are very unlikely to carry or transmit COVID-19 at all. The message to the unvaccinated should be: Go get vaccinated. The message to the vaccinated should be: Rejoice! You can go back to normal life.
But the frustrating truth of the matter is that Team Blue doesn’t want to hear this. Many people—predominantly liberals—who claim to Follow the Science and Trust the Experts no matter what are nevertheless captivated by pandemic panic porn. By asserting, for instance, that social distancing and masks should be mandatory even for the vaccinated, they bizarrely fixate on the minuscule risk of post-vaccination infection.
(DBx: No surprise here, alas. The reaction to Covid from the start has rested on a lamentable inability to put risks into context. This inability quickly led to the deranged supposition that no amount of risk of coming into contact with SARS-CoV-2 is tolerable – or, what is the same thing, that no cost is too high to pay for even the most minuscule reduction in the risk of coming into contact with SARS-CoV-2).
The variant risk, then, is no more immediately terrifying than our five-year NHS backlog or that cancer research now faces its biggest setback in generations. And yet the Government seems captivated by the horror of a mutant punishing us for a sinful orgy of summer freedom. This is only in part explained by its fear that, after delaying the first lockdown, they will be accused of failing to act again. It is, more disturbingly, testament to the psychological power of the precautionary principle. Policy makers have become bewitched by the potentially infinite damage from existential risks, however remote or manageable they are in practice.
Over 40 years, the precautionary principle has mestasised from a fringe worldview propagated by environmental lobbyists to a groupthink mantra incorporated into everything from the Maastricht treaty to pesticide control. Despite its unscientific principles, demanding a level of certainty about safety that can never be reached and replacing trial and error with the elimination of error by banning trial, a weird synergy with predictive modelling has lent it academic credibility. Its intrusive hyper-caution has an aesthetic appeal for big-state politicians.
It is quite possible that I will never see my father or siblings again. That’s the logic behind Australia’s ongoing Covid policy, the country in which they live. Even if both he, my brother, sister, and I, are all fully vaccinated. Even though we therefore pose close to a zero risk of spreading the virus.
“If the whole country were vaccinated, you couldn’t just open the borders,” said Australia’s health minister Greg Hunt last week, dashing any hope that international travel will recommence this year, as was previously indicated. “Australia is in no hurry to open those borders, I can assure you”, its prime minister Scott Morrison confirmed yesterday.
The Australian government has also backed away from its promise to have its entire population inoculated by October. Due to inevitable supply issues, it looks like this won’t happen until 2022. Even then, it won’t allow vaccinated foreigners to visit. Even its own citizens, some 40,000 of whom are still stranded abroad, even if they’ve had the jab too.
Thing is, this is infinitely more ridiculous than banning all cars everywhere lest anyone die in a crash. It is drastically more insane than forbidding families from hugging come next flu season, even if they’ve all had the flu jab. It is further horrifying proof that democratic leaders are in no rush to release this North Korea-esque grip on their own people: No-one in. No-one out. No questions. Just obey.
Phil Magness understandably wonders “how many people caught covid because Fauci disrupted the vaccine supply chain for over a week in order to put a warning sticker about an extremely rare complication on the J&J box…”