A couple weeks ago, Salvador Rizzo of The Washington Post wrote an article about the confrontational exchange between Anthony Fauci and Senator Rand Paul during a Senate health committee hearing. Several things in the article were interesting. First, COVID has escalated into a serious political issue. I say serious because few things other than war have as serious life and death consequences as COVID. Second, why has the The Great Barrington Declaration become so polarizing?
In the article, Rizzo refers to the 3 authors of the Barrington paper as “three conservative academics who opposed lockdown measures in 2020.” This has become a much more interesting topic as of late but more later.
How quickly the COVID world changes. In searching social media. the first thing I noticed was the NHL announced asymptomatic players were no longer going to be tested. With the NFL playoffs upon us and the Super Bowl only days away, the NFL followed with a similar decision. The NFL’s once a week testing of all players and personnel has now been changed to only testing players displaying symptoms. In the Friday edition of The Dallas Morning News, I noticed a brief note, “The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials has called on governments to stop conducting widespread contact tracing, saying it’s no longer necessary.” What?
Another significant social media event occurred Friday evening, January 24, 2022, on the episode of “Real Time With Bill Maher.” Both Bill Maher and his guest, Bari Weiss, disclosed their personal frustrations with living under COVID restrictions. This brought on a social media firestorm. On a more personal note, my local school district closed for two days because of a COVID caused teacher shortage. Anyone see conflicting messages but me?
Canada has a nation-wide trucking demonstration in opposition to mandates going on. Johns Hopkins University recently released a 60+ page “Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Lockdowns on COVID-19 Mortality.” The paper comes to the conclusion that “lockdowns in Europe and the United States only reduced COVID-19 mortality by 0.2% on average. Shelter-in-place-order studies were also ineffective, only reducing COVID-19 mortality by 2.9% on average.” For those familiar with The Great Barrington Declaration, the Johns Hopkins study seemingly supports the recommendations of the Declaration. This document came under intense challenge by Fauci and Collins who challenged the scientific validity of the document.
Needless to say I’m getting more confused as I attempt to stay informed about what’s going on with COVID and trying to provide meaningful/helpful commentary. Amidst all of the aforementioned seemingly contradictory information the following headline appeared in The Dallas Morning News, “Omicron pushes death toll higher.” So from a logical perspective one would think there’s a pretty significant reason for people to consider any and all approaches to stop the dying. I can categorically say this is not the case. In the aforementioned article, it’s suggested even though omicron is “milder,” it’s highly contagious, causing more to become ill and die.
I’m not a biostatistician so my following conclusion is not based on any technical skill or training. Based upon a vaccination website on Google, 211 million Americans are vaccinated representing 64% of the population. Our mortality numbers seem to be gaining on the peak mortality numbers during last fall. Common sense would suggest with more than half the population vaccinated and some additional percentage of the population being previously infected and surviving, we shouldn’t be experiencing this type of outcome unless something else is going on. Is the vaccine not working on Omicron? What are we learning about immunity? Does having the Delta variant provide immunity to the Omicron variant? Are the risk factors identified for the Delta variant the same as Omicron? Are there new or different risk factors impacting mortality? Are mandates working? What are the unintended consequences of the mandates and are there mortality impacts associated with these? What are the most effective treatments? Where should people go for treatments?
I spend my days searching for answers to these and other seemingly important questions. What’s frustrating is the lack of consistency in how the Press is reporting on the evolving information. I’m getting the sense if the information does not conform to the political context or the reporting outlet’s viewpoint, it may or may not be reported. This is dangerous! In fact, it’s starting to remind me of a time when the Pentagon Papers were the headline of the day.
As discussed before, we’re living in real-time, scientific discovery mode that is being exposed via social media to the entire world. As stated before, history shows us the scientific discovery process is complete with much trial and error as well as pure serendipity. Politicians intent on making public policy on unproven, untested or changing scientific discovery are going to be wrong some of the time. This is going to require real-time course corrections. It’s going to require people to admit they were wrong and move forward. It’s going to require politicians with courage and backbone to make decisions and then make better decisions based upon new information. Hiding information because it conflicts with existing public policy will not end well for anyone.