UnHerd‘s Freddie Sayers talks to a former prisoner of Australia’s Covid-internment camp. Here’s the abstract of a new paper by Daron Acemoglu, Victor Chernozhukov, Iván Werning, and Michael D. Whinston – a paper which lends a good deal of support (without mentioning it) to the spirit of the great Great Barrington Declaration): (HT Ian Fillmore) We study targeted lockdowns in a multigroup SIR model where infection, hospitalization, and fatality rates vary between groups—in particular between the “young,” the “middle-aged,” and the “old.” Our model enables a tractable quantitative analysis of optimal policy. For baseline parameter values for the COVID-19 pandemic applied to the US, we find that optimal policies differentially targeting risk/age groups significantly outperform optimal
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Here’s the abstract of a new paper by Daron Acemoglu, Victor Chernozhukov, Iván Werning, and Michael D. Whinston – a paper which lends a good deal of support (without mentioning it) to the spirit of the great Great Barrington Declaration): (HT Ian Fillmore)
We study targeted lockdowns in a multigroup SIR model where infection, hospitalization, and fatality rates vary between groups—in particular between the “young,” the “middle-aged,” and the “old.” Our model enables a tractable quantitative analysis of optimal policy. For baseline parameter values for the COVID-19 pandemic applied to the US, we find that optimal policies differentially targeting risk/age groups significantly outperform optimal uniform policies and most of the gains can be realized by having stricter protective measures such as lockdowns on the more vulnerable, old group. Intuitively, a strict and long lockdown for the old both reduces infections and enables less strict lockdowns for the lower-risk groups.
This speed of transmission is what keeps throwing the world for a loop; moreover, it seems indisputable in retrospect that we squandered our best point of leverage by failing to focus on protecting the elderly and those at highest risk.
Indeed, so much of what we became hysterical about—mask wearing and vaccine hesitancy as applied to the low-risk—was a poor substitute for communicating about and acting on distinctions in risk.
The worst part is we knew better on day one, but political imperative did not favor realistic communication about risk or prioritization.
The White House on Thursday released its latest list of Covid rules in anticipation of a rise in winter cases and the arrival of the Omicron variant. The administration imposed new testing rules for international travelers, extended its transportation mask mandate, and announced it would launch hundreds of vaccination clinics and a campaign for boosters, distribute 25 million free tests, and allow reimbursement for home testing.
Feel better now? Confident that this time we’ll whup the virus? Of course not. If there’s one thing a weary world has realized, it’s that there’s no beating a highly transmissible respiratory disease. Vaccines prevent serious disease, but they don’t stop transmission. No amount of masking, social distancing or locking down has stopped the surges of the past six months, including in states like Michigan and New Mexico, which boasted about their restrictions. The virus doesn’t follow executive orders.
But the Biden administration hasn’t worked this out. The White House has instead created for itself a toxic Covid loop. With each new surge it rolls out more restrictions and actions. With each failure of these measures to beat the virus, the public loses faith. Cue yet more administration rules that are designed to restore confidence, even as they are destined both to fail and to annoy the country.
(DBx: From my perspective, the country isn’t getting annoyed as fast, as fully, and as furiously as it should.)
We’re long past the point in the COVID-19 pandemic when politicians are doing much more in response to viral scares than engage in rituals to soothe a fearful public and enhance their own power. With the new omicron variant spreading across the world, travel restrictions seem to be the response of choice because they’re politically popular. Never mind that closing borders is ineffective at anything other than further burdening already hobbled families and economies. The actual danger posed by omicron remains uncertain, but the policy response is as pointless as it was preordained.
Official reaction seemed crafted more to further separate families and impoverish an already troubled world than to address a bug that was already loose. Health experts make exactly that point.
“Travel restrictions may play a role in slightly reducing the spread of COVID-19 but place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods,” the World Health Organization’s Africa office warned as travel bans proliferated. “If restrictions are implemented, they should not be unnecessarily invasive or intrusive, and should be scientifically based.”
The warning that restrictions on movement carry their own costs and aren’t particularly effective isn’t new; health experts said the same thing years before COVID-19 appeared when they considered ways of slowing the spread of new varieties of flu.
“The results of our systematic review indicate that overall travel restrictions have only limited effectiveness in the prevention of influenza spread,” according to a 2014 article in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization. “Only extensive travel restrictions – i.e. over 90% – had any meaningful effect on reducing the magnitude of epidemics. In isolation, travel restrictions might delay the spread and peak of pandemics by a few weeks or months but we found no evidence that they would contain influenza within a defined geographical area.”
Stopping the spread of the virus in the U.S. with restrictions on travel from elsewhere would be quite a feat given that omicron is already here. But public officials gain office by winning elections, not assessments of logical reasoning. So, we get not just bans on travel from a subset of countries where omicron was detected early, but new testing requirements on anybody else who might want to visit from overseas. We’ll also get the consequences of new curbs on trade and travel.
The pandemic has turbocharged this process of medical objectification. We are no longer individuals, with unique desires, responses, wishes and drives, but rather are primarily considered by policy makers to be infection risks. Once we are primarily objects, rather than diverse human beings, it then becomes legitimate for medical procedures to be mandated, mask wearing to be forced, or our movements to be tracked and traced.
Indeed, the new Covid measures run counter to much that voters were told only a few weeks ago by leading figures in the SDP, FDP and some Green politicians. During the election campaign, they led people to believe there would be no compulsory vaccination programme and that they were opposed to nationwide lockdowns. The FDP, in particular, won the support of many younger people by promising more liberty and freedom. ‘We Free Democrats’, its manifesto declared, ‘place our faith in freedom, the rule of law and civil rights, which apply even in times of crisis and must not be dismissed as “privileges” to be allocated or withheld from us at will’. Grand words now betrayed by authoritarian actions.
Have you noticed this concept of ‘resilience’ is frequently used to justify adult and governmental abuse of children? Close the schools: the kids are resilient. Mask the kids: they are resilient. Scrap the nativity play for a second year in a row: it will build the resilience. Very rarely are adults asked to be resilient, but children are.
But the result is not just oddly religious, but perverse. Unlike actual science, which is one of the most vital truth-seeking mechanisms we have, this “science” is utterly incurious, hostile to questions, incapable of admitting fault. And while this would be an alarming development at any time, it’s especially bad amid a global catastrophe in which it’s never been more important to stay humble and ask questions, even if they’re politically inconvenient, even if they make powerful people bristle at your insubordination.
We can try to blame Anthony Fauci for this: for accepting the accolades, for licensing his bobblehead likeness, for letting us call the vaccine the “Fauci ouchie,” for buying wholesale into the myth of his own infallibility. But while Fauci may be at fault for getting a bit too high on his own supply, he didn’t appoint himself to this position; we did, when we decided to make him the Science Daddy without whose say-so we can never live normal lives again.
For two years, a frightened populace has looked to Fauci for the answers to impossible questions, for a sense of control amid the uncertainty, for assurance that we’re on the right side of history — even though nobody can tell us exactly what went wrong. We made science a civic religion, and we told Fauci he was the Pope. Unfortunately, he believed us.
Given the devastation wrought by lockdowners on the working class and poor, they face two choices:
1. Admit their hypocrisy and repudiate lockdown, or
2. Smear the people who pointed out the cruelty and folly of lockdowns with defamatory lies.
This guy chose option 2.