Reason’s Charles Oliver reports on Covidocratic tyranny in Santa Cruz County, CA: The Santa Cruz County, California, health officer has announced that masks will be required indoors indefinitely as part of its efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Private homes are exempt from the order if only members of the household are present. But if there are people who live elsewhere inside the home, everyone must wear a mask. The order does not exempt those who are fully vaccinated. Wall Street Journal columnist Holman Jenkins – writing in response to the omicron variant – is correct: “Covid overkill is bad for everybody except the politicians.” Three slices: The latest variant of concern may be indeed that most expected of evolutionary developments, a virus resistant to existing vaccines.
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The Santa Cruz County, California, health officer has announced that masks will be required indoors indefinitely as part of its efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Private homes are exempt from the order if only members of the household are present. But if there are people who live elsewhere inside the home, everyone must wear a mask. The order does not exempt those who are fully vaccinated.
The latest variant of concern may be indeed that most expected of evolutionary developments, a virus resistant to existing vaccines. This is what follows from putting our vaccines into 4.5 billion arms. Early readings suggest Omicron may also be that other expected thing, a variant producing milder symptoms. Evolutionarily, the virus wants you to remain active, energetic and meeting lots of people and sneezing on them.
To someone in my age group and health, encountering Covid-19 unvaccinated would be like putting a gun to my head with 150 empty chambers and one bullet. I could further lower these odds and did, some 90%, by being vaccinated. By now facing Covid for the vast majority of Americans is like facing one bullet for many thousands of empty chambers, thanks to vaccines and natural immunity plus youth and general good health.
Omicron’s arrival is an appropriate moment, in fact, for a new memoir from Trump Covid adviser Scott Atlas. His book has been rightly likened to “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” in the sense of rediscovering that Washington’s real job isn’t policy, it’s politics.
Dr. Atlas repeatedly pulls his hair over an early Covid response in which hundreds of thousands of elderly and highly vulnerable people died while politicians focused inordinately on isolating and protecting those at little risk.
But this approach actually solved a real problem. It just happened to be the problem of how politicians could negotiate the Covid moment with the least damage to their own careers.
Their intuitive weathervaning was on the money. For older voters, lockdowns were barely an inconvenience and showed politicians pleasingly devoted to their health at any cost. For many affluent voters, lockdowns were a work-at-home lark, and their 401(k)s went up thanks to the Federal Reserve.
Less affluent and younger voters were more of a mixed bag, but some could be bought off with government checks. And of course, America’s schoolchildren, who suffered most and benefited least from lockdowns, don’t vote.
Voilà. Many of the prescriptions imposed by Washington and the state capitals may have inflicted needless damage while doing little real good against the virus, but they proved shockingly successful at reproducing (to use a verb favored by political scientists) their own political power.
The stock market, which is never as dumb as people think, recognizes as much. It continues to tremble not from fear of a new variant but from fear of what political incentive might again do to the economy and business.
Everything else that politicians are currently doing, from masking to porous travel bans, feels like so much political theater. It’s a well-worn script that officials are apparently committed to following every time a new COVID variant pops into existence.
Similarly, Covid-19 vaccine mandates for children are unwarranted because children almost entirely get infected from their parents or other adults in the household, and infrequently transmit the infection to their classmates, teachers or uninfected household adults.
Normal healthy children do not die from Covid-19, and the 33 children aged 5-11 years estimated by the CDC to have died from Covid-19 between October 3, 2020 and October 2, 2021 all had chronic conditions like diabetes, obesity, being immunocompromised (e.g., after cancer treatment) that put them at high risk, and even these numbers are much lower than childhood deaths from traffic and pedestrian accidents, or even being hit by lightning. Covid-19 in children is almost entirely an asymptomatic or mild disease typified by fever and tiredness and resolves on its own in 2-3 days of rest. Thus, vaccine mandates for children are unwarranted.
Ron Bailey rightly complains, about the FDA, that “[t]he same agency that stymied COVID-19 testing is now dawdling over approving new antiviral pills.” (DBx: Focus on realities such as this one, dear readers – and especially those of you who insist that Covid justifies trusting government officials with more power.)
We are clearly in a period of prolonged exceptionalism — the kind that redefines a country and its values. The muscle memory we have acquired from repeated executive-imposed lockdowns is impossible to unlearn. The Government’s continued avoidance of parliamentary scrutiny — unless forced by backbench pressure — treats democracy as part-time, debate as futile, and opposition as something to be squashed.
Let’s be honest, this is exactly how politicians intoxicated with power want it to be.
Magna Carta enshrined the ancient democratic principle that the law is above the word of the King. But the word of Covid authoritarians has emerged as its own supreme authority that increasingly we are scolded for questioning.
In which case, we must question it more.
Well, David, this week I am not angry. I am raging. Since that lovely lunch, they have come up with a new variant which has pleased a lot of people no end. “We now interrupt this normal life to bring you something you didn’t know you needed to be scared about (which, probably, you don’t actually need to be scared of) but we’re going to scare you anyway because there are some concerns you seem to be enjoying your freedom rather too much so we are here to remind you that freedom is conditional on not enjoying yourself and remaining suitably scared.”
How else are we to interpret the impertinent statement by Dr Jenny Harries, current head of NHS Test and Trace, that “being careful, not socialising when we don’t particularly need to” is the way people can “do their bit” to reduce the spread of the new omicron variant? “And, of course, our behaviours, particularly around Christmas we tend to socialise more, so I think all of those will need to be taken into account,” averred Harries. Let me take a wild guess that Jenny has never downed three of Uncle Des’s Snowball cocktails and been Mariah Carey with a Santa hat in the family karaoke contest.
It is a golden rule of mine that anyone who uses “behaviour” in the plural is a nerd with a very limited understanding of what makes humans happy. Unfortunately, the geeks have inherited the Earth. In the past year and a half, narrow scientific minds have come to exercise undue influence on the Government and now they are upset that their control over the rest of us is, like Covid, waning fast. What do you suppose Harries has in mind when she says “not socialising when we don’t particularly need to”?
I object to masks not because my reading glasses steam up or my breathing is impaired but because they are dehumanising devices that should be obligatory only in extremis, not as a go-to expedient for a panicky Cabinet.
Mass mask wearing is the most visible sign of public willingness to go along with this madness every time there is a variant, which is why the scientific case for doing so either needs to be unambiguous or I must be made to wear one by law.
Perhaps it’s my age, or perhaps it’s just blind prejudice, but when I wake to the news that the Austrian government has interned an entire third of its national population as a danger to public health, a chill runs down my spine.
I look at the news photos of armed, masked, black-clad police stopping people in the streets to ask for their digital papers, and I read stories of others arrested for leaving their own house more than the permitted once a day, and I hear Austrian politicians intoning that those who refuse to accede to the injection are to be shunned and scapegoated until they acquiesce.
Then I watch interviews with “ordinary people”, and they say that the “unvaxxed” had it coming. Some of them say that they should all be jailed, these enemies of the people. At best, the “anti-vaxxers” are paranoid and misinformed. At worst they are malicious, and should be punished.
Then I look across the border at Germany. I see that in Germany, politicians are also considering interning the “vaccine hesitant”, and are also discussing enforcing vaccination upon every citizen. By the end of the winter, says Germany’s refreshingly honest health minister, Germans will be “vaccinated, cured or dead”. There is apparently no fourth option.
Much of it was sparked by the deja vu of a dreaded 5pm emergency Saturday evening press conference – like the one that saw the government unfathomably ‘cancel Christmas’ for millions of us last year thanks to Delta – where the fear and hysteria of a new Covid scariant was expertly whipped up.
None of them has any idea if the Omicron variant is more transmissible or – crucially – if it evades the vaccines.
In fact, so far there is no evidence of pretty much anything at all.
The South African scientists who had discovered the thing in the first place warned we were chronically overreacting, rather than waiting for evidence.
But who cares!
In the hysterical new world where only Covid matters, it was full steam ahead with a raft of new restrictions.
Travel bans are back (including for South Africa as some sort of bizarre punishment for using their brilliant science to warn the world).
So too are mask mandates on public transport and in retail settings, ten day self-isolation for Omicron contacts and compulsory day two PCR testing for all travellers, including home isolation while awaiting results.
Even then, the BBC, ITV and Sky News didn’t think Boris and the doomsday duo had gone anywhere near far enough.
Such a hysterical overreaction to a scariant before waiting for the facts has been my worst nightmare come true.
All the warnings folk like me have been making for the past 20 months are coming to fruition: The mad scientists are in control and, if we continue to allow them to act like this, a return to normal is no longer achievable.
In fact, I’m beginning to doubt if the normality I so desperately crave – a world where we make sensible decisions for ourselves, weighing up all the usual risk factors like we do every single day – will ever return.