Chair of Lancet COVID-19 Commission: Investigate Origins of COVID

Authors: Michelle Edwards -May 24, 2022

The Chairman of The Lancet’s COVID-19 Commission has called for an independent inquiry into the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Jeffrey Sachs, a world-renowned economics professor, stated on May 19 that U.S. laboratory experiments may have contributed to the emergence of COVID-19. In an argument published in PNAS, a peer-reviewed journal of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), Sachs has called on universities to open up their databases for close examination amid fears that laboratories were genetically modifying viruses.

Sachs maintains that “there is much important information that can be gleaned from U.S.-based research institutions, information not yet made available for independent, transparent, and scientific scrutiny.” He insists that critical data available in the U.S. from these institutions “would explicitly include, but are not limited to, viral sequences gathered as part of the PREDICT project and other funded programs, as well as sequencing data and laboratory notebooks from U.S. laboratories.” He wrote:

“We call on U.S. government scientific agencies, most notably the NIH, to support a full, independent, and transparent investigation of the origins of SARS-CoV-2. This should take place, for example, within a tightly focused science-based bipartisan Congressional inquiry with full investigative powers, which would be able to ask important questions—but avoid misguided witch-hunts governed more by politics than by science.”

Sachs, who wrote the article with Neil L. Harrison, said it was apparent scientists from the University of North Carolina (UNC) and New York-based EcoHealth Alliance (EHA) had been working with the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) to manipulate viruses. The authors note that the bulk of the work done at WIV “was part of an active and highly collaborative U.S.-China scientific research program funded by the U.S. Government (NIH, Defense Threat Reduction Agency [DTRA], and U.S. Agency for International Development [USAID]).”

Furthermore, they point out that although the work was coordinated by researchers at EcoHealth Alliance (EHA), it also involved researchers at several other U.S. institutions. The article states, “For this reason, it is important that U.S. institutions be transparent about any knowledge of the detailed activities that were underway in Wuhan and the United States,” adding, “The evidence may also suggest that research institutions in other countries were involved, and those too should be asked to submit relevant information (e.g., with respect to unpublished sequences).”

Indeed, in addition to EHA, participating U.S. institutions include the University of North Carolina (UNC), the University of California at Davis (UCD), the NIH, and the USAID. Under a series of NIH grants and USAID contracts, the authors note that EHA coordinated the collection of SARS-like bat CoVs from the field in Southwest China and Southeast Asia. Researchers then “coordinated the sequencing of these viruses, the archiving of these sequences (involving UCD), and the analysis and manipulation of these viruses (notably at UNC).” Undoubtedly, a large part of the research was done in the United States. The authors point out:

“The exact details of the fieldwork and laboratory work of the EHA-WIV-UNC partnership, and the engagement of other institutions in the United States and China, has not been disclosed for independent analysis. The precise nature of the experiments that were conducted, including the full array of viruses collected from the field and the subsequent sequencing and manipulation of those viruses, remains unknown.

Instead of disclosing their research activities to the U.S. scientific community and the general public, the EHA, UNC, NIH, USAID, and other research partners have insisted they were not involved in any experiments that could have resulted in the emergence of SARS-CoV-2. Specifically, the NIH has stated there is “a significant evolutionary distance between the published viral sequences and that of SARS-CoV-2 and that the pandemic virus could not have resulted from the work sponsored by NIH.”

The authors argue this assertion by the NIH is only as good as the limited data on which it is based, adding the validation of this assertion relies upon gaining access to any other unpublished viral sequences that are deposited in relevant U.S. and Chinese databases. They remarked:

“On May 11, 2022, Acting NIH Director Lawrence Tabak testified before Congress that several such sequences in a U.S. database were removed from public view, and that this was done at the request of both Chinese and U.S. investigators.”

Sachs and Harrison insist that even though the NIH and USAID have “strenuously resisted” full disclosure of the details of the EHA-WIV-UNC work program, several documents leaked to the public or released through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) have raised concerns. The experts refer to particular circumstances surrounding the presence of an “unusual furin cleavage site (FCS)” in SARS-CoV-2 that augments the pathogenicity and transmissibility of the virus related to viruses like SARS-CoV-1.” Describing their concern in more depth, they explain:

“SARS-CoV-2 is, to date, the only identified member of the subgenus sarbecovirus that contains an FCS, although these are present in other coronaviruses. A portion of the sequence of the spike protein of some of these viruses is illustrated in the alignment shown in Fig. 1, illustrating the unusual nature of the FCS and its apparent insertion in SARS-CoV-2. From the first weeks after the genome sequence of SARS-CoV-2 became available, researchers have commented on the unexpected presence of the FCS within SARS-CoV-2—the implication being that SARS-CoV-2 might be a product of laboratory manipulation. In a review piece arguing against this possibility, it was asserted that the amino acid sequence of the FCS in SARS-CoV-2 is an unusual, nonstandard sequence for an FCS and that nobody in a laboratory would design such a novel FCS.”

origins
This alignment of the amino acid sequences of coronavirus spike proteins in the region of the S1/S2 junction illustrates the sequence of SARS-CoV-2 (Wuhan-Hu-1) and some of its closest relatives. The furin cleavage site (FCS) is indicated (PRRAR’SVAS), and furin cuts the spike protein between R and S, as indicated by the red arrowhead. Adapted from Chan & Zhan (15).

Emphatically, the duo insists the argument that the FCS in SARS-COV-2 is “an unusual, nonstandard amino acid sequence” is false. Offering an in-depth explanation in their paper, Sachs and Harrison say they “do not know whether the insertion of the FCS was the result of evolution—perhaps via a recombination event in an intermediate mammal or human—or was the result of deliberate introduction of the FCS into a SARS-like virus as part of a laboratory experiment.” Noting that the researchers were already familiar “with several experiments involving the successful insertion of an FCS into SARS-CoV-1 and other coronaviruses,” they added:

“We do know that the insertion of such FCS sequences into SARS-like viruses was a specific goal of work proposed by the EHA-WIV-UNC partnership within a 2018 grant proposal (“DEFUSE”) that was submitted to the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The 2018 proposal to DARPA was not funded, but we do not know whether some of the proposed work was subsequently carried out in 2018 or 2019, perhaps using another source of funding.”

origins
Amino acid alignment of the furin cleavage sites of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein with (Top) the spike proteins of other viruses that lack the furin cleavage site and (Bottom) the furin cleavage sites present in the α subunits of human and mouse ENaC. Adapted from Anand et al. (16).

Harrison and Sachs write that the EHA-WIV-UNC research team would also be familiar with the FCS sequence and the FCS-dependent activation mechanism of human ENaC, which was extensively characterized at UNC. They insist while the “molecular mimicry of ENaC within the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein might be a mere coincidence,” it is unlikely that is the case. Indeed, they explain the exact FCS sequence present in SARS-CoV-2 was recently introduced into the spike protein of SARS-CoV-1 in the laboratory in a series of “elegant” experiments with predictable consequences in terms of improved viral transmissibility and pathogenicity.

Reflecting on the fact several researchers raised genuine concerns in Feb. 2020 over the possibility that SARS-CoV-2 emerged from a research-associated event, Sachs and Harrison maintain transparency from the federal government is essential. They explain, based on the previous work executed by these government-funded researchers, the probability of a lab producing and releasing a novel pathogen like COVID-19 is high, adding:

“These simple experiments show that the introduction of the 12 nucleotides that constitute the FCS insertion in SARS-CoV-2 would not be difficult to achieve in a lab. It would therefore seem reasonable to ask that electronic communications and other relevant data from U.S. groups should be made available for scrutiny.”

A New WHO COVID Report Once Again Proves Sweden Right

Authors: Ian Miller ‘ Substack, MAY 25, 2022

Throughout the pandemic, Sweden has faced an enormous amount of criticism and international pressure due to their willingness to stick to established public health principles and pre-pandemic planning.

Instead of following the incessant, anti-science groupthink that became part of a virus-induced political religion, Sweden chose instead to not impose the strict lockdowns that Dr. Fauci recently claimed were not tried in the US.

Sweden never mandated masks be worn in indoor public spaces, correctly identifying the lack of evidence supporting their use.

They kept schools open in defiance of teacher’s unions and politically motivated “experts” in the United States who advocated for a policy with zero benefits and tremendous harms.

Essentially, Sweden followed the actual science and not The Science™, with the requisite trademark and capital letters. That would include the guides that were prepared prior to the panic, inaccurate modeling, political motivations and crisis obsession took over.

Even last year it became readily apparent that no one in the media or public health establishment was willing to discuss the inarguable reality that Sweden’s results were no worse than many countries across the globe — and significantly better than many, many others.

In general, comparisons have been mainly focused on COVID specific outcomes, but now the World Health Organization, fresh off demanding authoritarian powers over sovereign nations whenever they deem necessary, has released a new report on their estimates of excess mortality.

Excess mortality is simply the number of deaths above the expected rate in a given country in a specific time frame.

Excess mortality captures all of the outcomes in a country — it’s not limited to COVID related metrics or any other specific cause.

For that reason it can often be a better indicator of the true cost of the pandemic, whether that be COVID mortality or the consequences of lockdowns, hospital policy or mental health breakdowns.

The WHO report contains many illuminating statistics from the first two years of the pandemic which illustrate that Sweden’s approach was undoubtedly the correct one; once again contradicting the expert derived “consensus” that advocates for endless restrictions on normal life.

Sweden’s relative success is easily visible when comparing thirty European countries in estimated excess mortality rate per 100,000:

Sweden ranks 25th out of the 30 countries.

24 countries had a higher excess mortality rate per 100,000.

In summary, Sweden, the country that eschewed strict lockdowns, had some of the lowest mask usage anywhere on earth, kept schools open and society functioning as much as possible, and had one of the lowest rates of overall mortality of any country in their region.

While a single graph or chart may not necessarily disprove pro-mandate arguments, this one comes remarkably close.

If lockdowns, masks and other restrictions were as important as experts and politicians preach that they are, these results should not be possible.

Countries like Germany, Portugal and the Czech Republic were all praised for having “science based” responses with strict lockdowns, and extremely high rates of mask compliance.

Portugal’s vaccine success

Germany’s “Master class in science communication”

The Czech Republic’s “Lifesaving lesson to wear masks”

Sweden vastly outperformed each of them.

But let’s dive in a bit deeper.

One of the more common refrains from mask advocates is that US states such as New York, New Jersey and others have poor cumulative results because they weren’t aware early on that masks “work,” so their policies were adjusted and spread was successfully reversed by mask mandates and other restrictions after the first wave.

However, Sweden shows the exact opposite.

Restrictions in Sweden for the entirety of 2020 and 2021 were consistently among the least authoritarian and invasive when compared to other western countries.

Once again, if mask mandates, lockdowns and strict vaccine based policies were so important and effective, we’d expect the outcomes in 2021 to be worse in Sweden, as most of the world experienced increased spread with more transmissible variants.

Instead we see the exact opposite:

Black bars indicate the 2020 rate in each country, while the orange bars are the 2021 rates.

In many European countries, excess mortality became significantly worse in 2021 despite the arrival of vaccines, the ingrained evidence-free belief in masks and widespread discriminatory vaccine passport policies. Sweden had the exact opposite results, with significantly lower rates in 2021 despite their “lax” rules.

Comparing the 2021 numbers exclusively also highlights Sweden’s success:

Although the determination of pro-mandate fanatics to exclusively compare Sweden to other Scandinavian countries is nonsensical, the 2021 excess mortality rates show Sweden with lower numbers than both Finland and Denmark.

Their numbers were also lower than a number of other countries that imposed mask mandates and strict vaccine passports like Ireland, Portugal and Greece.

Revisiting the overall chart from 2020-2021, it’s important to highlight several other countries that had much stricter rules than Sweden:

France, Austria, Belgium, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Spain and Italy all had lockdowns, varying levels of vaccine discrimination, mask mandates and strict entry requirements.

All fared worse than Sweden.

The lockdown and mask apologists simply offered no explanation for this.

Oh sure, there are excuses and misdirections, but no actual explanations.

Yes, Sweden had higher cumulative rates than the other Scandinavian countries, but viewing them in context shows how similar they actually were, outside of Norway, which was essentially a global exception.

Norway, however, had significant rates of spread in late 2021 that would not be counted until the 2022 data is in.

In general, the Scandinavian countries were more lax than most of continental Europe regardless.

More importantly, the broader context of Europe shows how successful Sweden’s policies actually were.

Here are several notable countries and how much higher than excess mortality rates were from 2020-2021:

  • Czech Republic 229%
  • United States 163%
  • Italy 147%
  • Spain 106%
  • United Kingdom 100%
  • Germany 96%
  • Portugal 71%
  • Greece 63%
  • Netherlands 57%
  • Belgium 35%

All of these countries had much harsher restrictions than Sweden with significantly worse results.

No matter how hard they try, every available piece of data and evidence continues to contradict the assertions made by incompetent experts desperate to protect their disgraced reputations and future grants.

Masks, lockdowns and strict discrimination at nearly every indoor business were all proven to be completely ineffective, both at reducing infections and overall mortality.

Sweden’s willingness to follow science and not The Science™ meant that they limited the negative impacts of COVID while avoiding higher numbers of deaths from other lockdown-derived consequences.

The vast majority of mainstream media outlets have no interest in covering these results because it contradicts the policies they’ve strongly advocated for and consistently promoted.

CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times and many other mainstream left wing publications did their best to ensure that corporations, politicians, teacher’s unions and other decision makers had the cover to enforce seemingly endless mandates.

Disturbingly, toddlers are still masked in New York City, which appears to be heading back towards mask mandates and vaccine passports (now with boosters!).

School districts across the United States have already decided to mandate masks due to a slight increase in cases.

These policies will now be an endless, reoccurring threat in anti-science areas like Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

All based on the lie that masks work. A lie that Sweden helps expose.

“Doomed To Fail” – Top Immunologist Blasts Global COVID Response Driven By “False Propaganda”

Professor Ehud Qimron, head of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Tel Aviv University and one of the leading Israeli immunologists, has written an open letter sharply criticizing the Israeli – and indeed global – management of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ministry of Health, it’s time to admit failure

In the end, the truth will always be revealed, and the truth about the coronavirus policy is beginning to be revealed. When the destructive concepts collapse one by one, there is nothing left but to tell the experts who led the management of the pandemic – we told you so.

Two years late, you finally realize that a respiratory virus cannot be defeated and that any such attempt is doomed to fail. You do not admit it, because you have admitted almost no mistake in the last two years, but in retrospect it is clear that you have failed miserably in almost all of your actions, and even the media is already having a hard time covering your shame.

You refused to admit that the infection comes in waves that fade by themselves, despite years of observations and scientific knowledge. You insisted on attributing every decline of a wave solely to your actions, and so through false propaganda “you overcame the plague.” And again you defeated it, and again and again and again.

You refused to admit that mass testing is ineffective, despite your own contingency plans explicitly stating so (“Pandemic Influenza Health System Preparedness Plan, 2007”, p. 26).

You refused to admit that recovery is more protective than a vaccine, despite previous knowledge and observations showing that non-recovered vaccinated people are more likely to be infected than recovered people. You refused to admit that the vaccinated are contagious despite the observations. Based on this, you hoped to achieve herd immunity by vaccination — and you failed in that as well.

You insisted on ignoring the fact that the disease is dozens of times more dangerous for risk groups and older adults, than for young people who are not in risk groups, despite the knowledge that came from China as early as 2020.

You refused to adopt the “Barrington Declaration”, signed by more than 60,000 scientists and medical professionals, or other common sense programs. You chose to ridicule, slander, distort and discredit them. Instead of the right programs and people, you have chosen professionals who lack relevant training for pandemic management (physicists as chief government advisers, veterinarians, security officers, media personnel, and so on).

You have not set up an effective system for reporting side effects from the vaccines and reports on side effects have even been deleted from your Facebook page. Doctors avoid linking side effects to the vaccine, lest you persecute them as you did to some of their colleagues. You have ignored many reports of changes in menstrual intensity and menstrual cycle times. You hid data that allows for objective and proper research (for example, you removed the data on passengers at Ben Gurion Airport). Instead, you chose to publish non-objective articles together with senior Pfizer executives on the effectiveness and safety of vaccines.

Irreversible damage to trust

However, from the heights of your hubris, you have also ignored the fact that in the end the truth will be revealed. And it begins to be revealed. The truth is that you have brought the public’s trust in you to an unprecedented low, and you have eroded your status as a source of authority. The truth is that you have burned hundreds of billions of shekels to no avail – for publishing intimidation, for ineffective tests, for destructive lockdowns and for disrupting the routine of life in the last two years.

You have destroyed the education of our children and their future. You made children feel guilty, scared, smoke, drink, get addicted, drop out, and quarrel, as school principals around the country attest. You have harmed livelihoods, the economy, human rights, mental health and physical health.

You slandered colleagues who did not surrender to you, you turned the people against each other, divided society and polarized the discourse. You branded, without any scientific basis, people who chose not to get vaccinated as enemies of the public and as spreaders of disease. You promote, in an unprecedented way, a draconian policy of discrimination, denial of rights and selection of people, including children, for their medical choice. A selection that lacks any epidemiological justification.

When you compare the destructive policies you are pursuing with the sane policies of some other countries — you can clearly see that the destruction you have caused has only added victims beyond the vulnerable to the virus. The economy you ruined, the unemployed you caused, and the children whose education you destroyed — they are the surplus victims as a result of your own actions only.

There is currently no medical emergency, but you have been cultivating such a condition for two years now because of lust for power, budgets and control. The only emergency now is that you still set policies and hold huge budgets for propaganda and psychological engineering instead of directing them to strengthen the health care system.

This emergency must stop!

Professor Udi Qimron, Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University

Fauci Doesn’t Have An Answer To Why Those Who Recovered From Covid Are Required To Take Vaccine

Authors: JORDAN LANCASTER REPORTER September 10, 20214:03 PM E

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday night on CNN that he didn’t have a “firm answer” as to why those who have been previously infected with Covid and have natural immunity are being required to take the vaccine.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent, pointed out a recent study from Israel that found people with natural immunity from Covid due to a previous infection were much less likely to become infected, be hospitalized, or die from Covid than their counterparts who had never been infected but had received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The scientists also found that previously infected people were more protected if they had one dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

Gupta asked if previously infected people should also get the vaccine, and if so, how Fauci plans to make the case for those people to get it.

“You know, that’s a really good point, Sanjay. I don’t have a really firm answer for you on that,” Fauci said. “That’s something that we’re going to have to discuss regarding the durability of the response.”

Fauci also said that the study didn’t discuss how long the immunity lasts. (RELATED: Natural Immunity To COVID-19 May Last More Than A Year After Infection, New Studies Show)

“The one thing the paper from Israel didn’t tell you is whether or not as high as the protection is with natural infection – what’s the durability compared to the durability of a vaccine? So it is conceivable that you got infected, you’re protected, but you may not be protected for an indefinite period of time,” he added. “So I think that is something that we need to sit down and discuss seriously, because you very appropriately pointed out it is an issue, and there could be an argument for saying what you said.”

Pfizer Board Member Warns Policymakers: “Natural Immunity” Needs to Be Included In COVID Mandate Plans

Authored by: Jack Phillips via The Epoch Times, MONDAY, AUG 30, 2021 – 10:20 PM

Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who is a Pfizer board member, noted that “natural immunity” gained from a prior COVID-19 infection needs to be included in discussions about policies and mandates.

“The balance of the evidence demonstrates that natural immunity confers a durable protection,” Gottlieb said during a Monday morning TV interview, referring to a landmark new preprint Israeli study that found prior COVID-19 infection confers much more protection against the virus than any vaccine.

“It’s fair to conclude that,” he said.

Although Gottlieb said he would “be careful” about concluding whether natural immunity provides better protection against transmitting the virus, officials “should start assimilating that into our policy discussions.”

“Natural infection confers robust and durable immunity,” he said, citing the Israeli study and others.

However, whether natural immunity or vaccines are better than one another “isn’t that material” when it comes to policy discussions, Gottlieb added.

Last week, researchers from Maccabi Healthcare and Tel Aviv University said that individuals who recovered from COVID-19 had superior protection against the Delta variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus than those who received the Pfizer mRNA vaccine, the most commonly used shot in Israel.

“This analysis demonstrated that natural immunity affords longer-lasting and stronger protection against infection, symptomatic disease, and hospitalization due to the Delta variant,” the study concluded, noting their findings came from the “largest real-world observational study” in the world. Their study, which hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed, noted outcomes for a period between June 1 and Aug. 14 of this year.

When researchers compared cases of prior infection that occurred between March 2020 and February 2021 with vaccinations between January and February 2021, they found that the vaccinated cohort was 5.96 times more likely to contract the Delta variant and 7.13 times more at risk for symptomatic disease compared to those previously infected.

The results suggest that natural immunity gained from having survived a previous infection of COVID-19 may wane over time against the Delta variant, the authors wrote.

Those vaccinated were at a greater risk of COVID-19-related hospitalizations compared to those who were previously infected, the authors noted. They said that being 60 years of age or older increased the risk of infection and hospitalization.

The authors of the research paper said they only observed protection against the Delta variant and not other strains. Meanwhile, they only observed the Pfizer vaccine and didn’t look at other vaccines or the effects of a booster shot.

Denmark To Scrap All Covid-19 Restrictions

Authors: BY TYLER DURDENFRIDAY, AUG 27, 2021 – 01:34 PM

Denmark will on September 10th stop classifying Covid-19 as an “illness which is a critical threat to society”, meaning all remaining special pandemic restrictions will expire, The Local reported. In a press release issued on Friday morning, the country’s health minister Magnus Heunicke said that the high level of vaccination in Denmark, particularly among the vulnerable, had radically altered the risks posed by the virus.

“The epidemic is under control, we have record high vaccination rates,” he said in a statement. “As a result, on September 10th, we can drop some of the special rules we have had to introduce in the fight against Covid-19.”

September 10th marks the expiry date for that the executive order classifying Covid-19 as a “socially critical illness”, which was passed by the Danish parliament’s Epidemic Committee on March 10th last year. 

The parties in the centre-right blue bloc, led by the Liberal Party, have already said that they believe that Covid-19 should no longer be classed as a serious threat to society, and the health ministry’s announcement came less than an hour before the ruling Social Democrats were due to discuss the issue with the other parties in the Epidemic Committee. 

“When it sinks in for the Social Democrat government that they are in a minority, they then come up with better ideas just 45 minutes before the meeting in the Epidemic Committee is starting,” said Sophie Løhde, a member of the committee for the Liberal Party. 

A number of restrictions are set to lapse on September 1st, notably the requirement to show a valid coronapas to sit in restaurants and bars, and the ban on discos and nightclubs.  

Friday’s announcement means that just ten days after nightclubs reopen on September 1st, visitors will no longer have to show a coronapas, and it also means that from September 10th, those going to watch a Superliga football match or attend an outdoor event with more than 2,000 people, will no longer need a coronapas. 

The change in the classification of Covid-19 will not, however, affect rules on travel into Denmark, which are governed by a separate inter-party agreement which is due to expire in October, a spokesperson for the health ministry said. 

The Bizarre Refusal to Apply Cost-Benefit Analysis to COVID Debates

Are those who oppose a ban on cars or a radical reduction in speed limits sociopaths, given the huge number of people they are knowingly consigning to death or maiming?

Authors: Glenn Greenwald 5 hr ago 285536

In virtually every realm of public policy, Americans embrace policies which they know will kill people, sometimes large numbers of people. They do so not because they are psychopaths but because they are rational: they assess that those deaths that will inevitably result from the policies they support are worth it in exchange for the benefits those policies provide. This rational cost-benefit analysis, even when not expressed in such explicit or crude terms, is foundational to public policy debates — except when it comes to COVID, where it has been bizarrely declared off-limits.

The quickest and most guaranteed way to save hundreds of thousands of lives with policy changes would be to ban the use of automobiles, or severely restrict their usage to those authorized by the state on the ground of essential need (e.g., ambulances or food-delivery vehicles), or at least lower the nationwide speed limit to 25 mph. Any of those policies would immediately prevent huge numbers of human beings from dying. Each year, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “1.35 million people are killed on roadways around the world,” while “crashes are a leading cause of death in the United States for people aged 1–54.” Even with seat belts and airbags, a tragic number of life-years are lost given how many young people die or are left permanently and severely disabled by car accidents. Studies over the course of decades have demonstrated that even small reductions in speed limits save many lives, while radical reductions — supported by almost nobody — would eliminate most if not all deaths from car crashes.

Center for Disease Control, 2020

Given how many deaths and serious injuries would be prevented, why is nobody clamoring for a ban on cars, or at least severe restrictions on who can drive (essential purposes only) or how fast (25 mph)? Is it because most people are just sociopaths who do not care about the huge number of lives lost by the driving policies they support, and are perfectly happy to watch people die or be permanently maimed as long as their convenience is not impeded? Is it because they do not assign value to the lives of other people, and therefore knowingly support policies — allowing anyone above 15 years old to drive, at high speeds — that will kill many children along with adults?

That may explain the motivation scheme for a few people, but in general, the reason is much simpler and less sinister. It is because we employ a rational framework of cost-benefit analysis, whereby, when making public policy choices, we do not examine only one side of the ledger (number of people who will die if cars are permitted) but also consider the immense costs generated by policies that would prevent those deaths (massive limits on our ability to travel, vastly increased times to get from one place to another, restrictions on what we can experience in our lives, enormous financial costs from returning to the pre-automobile days). So foundational is the use of this cost-benefit analysis that it is embraced and touted by everyone from right-wing economists to the left-wing European environmental policy group CIVITAS, which defines it this way:

Social Cost Benefit Analysis [is] a decision support tool that measures and weighs various impacts of a project or policy. It compares project costs (capital and operating expenses) with a broad range of (social) impacts, e.g. travel time savings, travel costs, impacts on other modes, climate, safety, and the environment.

This framework, above all else, precludes an absolutist approach to rational policy-making. We never opt for a society-altering policy on the ground that “any lives saved make it imperative to embrace” precisely because such a primitive mindset ignores all the countervailing costs which this life-saving policy would generate (including, oftentimes, loss of life as well: banning planes, for instance, would save lives by preventing deaths from airplane crashes, but would also create its own new deaths by causing more people to drive cars).

While arguments are common about how this framework should be applied and which specific policies are ideal, the use of cost-benefit analysis as the primary formula we use is uncontroversial — at least it was until the COVID pandemic began. It is now extremely common in Western democracies for large factions of citizens to demand that any measures undertaken to prevent COVID deaths are vital, regardless of the costs imposed by those policies. Thus, this mentality insists, we must keep schools closed to avoid the contracting by children of COVID regardless of the horrific costs which eighteen months or two years of school closures impose on all children.

It is impossible to overstate the costs imposed on children of all ages from the sustained, enduring and severe disruptions to their lives justified in the name of COVID. Entire books could be written, and almost certainly will be, on the multiple levels of damage children are sustaining, some of which — particularly the longer-term ones — are unknowable (long-term harms from virtually every aspect of COVID policies — including COVID itself, the vaccines, and isolation measures, are, by definition, unknown). But what we know for certain is that the harms to children from anti-COVID measures are severe and multi-pronged. One of the best mainstream news accounts documenting those costs was a January, 2021 BBC article headlined “Covid: The devastating toll of the pandemic on children.”

The “devastating toll” referenced by the article is not the death count from COVID for children, which, even in the world of the Delta variant, remains vanishingly small. The latest CDC data reveals that the grand total of children under 18 who have died in the U.S. from COVID since the start of the pandemic sixteen months ago is 361 — in a country of 330 million people, including 74.2 million people under 18. Instead, the “devastating toll” refers to multi-layered harm to children from the various lockdowns, isolation measures, stay-at-home orders, school closures, economic suffering and various other harms that have come from policies enacted to prevent the spread of the virus:

From increasing rates of mental health problems to concerns about rising levels of abuse and neglect and the potential harm being done to the development of babies, the pandemic is threatening to have a devastating legacy on the nation’s young. . . .

The closure of schools is, of course, damaging to children’s education. But schools are not just a place for learning. They are places where kids socialize, develop emotionally and, for some, a refuge from troubled family life.

Prof Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health, perhaps put it most clearly when he told MPs on the Education Select Committee earlier this month: “When we close schools we close their lives.”

For More Information: https://greenwald.substack.com/p/the-bizarre-refusal-to-apply-cost

Lockdowns Biggest Mistake in Public Health History

Authors: Jay Bhattacharya, UnHerd

Professor Jay Bhattacharya is one of the famous voices to have emerged out of the pandemic. A vocal critic of lockdowns, his name became synonymous with the controversial Great Barrington Declaration, which called for an “alternative approach to the pandemic” that would entail no lockdowns. Along with co-signatories Sunetra Gupta and Martin Kulldforff (who featured on UnHerd last year), the trio argued that public health strategies should instead centre on the ‘focused protection’ of at-risk groups while keeping society as open as possible so the healthy parts of the population could build herd immunity.

The declaration triggered a huge global debate, with critics arguing that many more lives would have been lost on account of the difficulty of shielding all those who were vulnerable. During this week’s interview, Freddie Sayers challenged Prof Bhattacharya on what would have happened if his strategy was adopted, whether he has changed his mind in retrospect, and how his ‘focused protection’ have would worked with waning immunity and new variants?

Did the early arrival of vaccines change his mind on lockdowns?I did not think that vaccines would arrive in nine months, let alone 12. I was very pleasantly shocked and surprised. If you asked me in March 2020, “can there be a vaccine?” I would have said and I did say that it’s very unlikely. There’s no coronavirus vaccines, it’s been difficult to produce one. I don’t see how it’s possible…But I still would have had the same view of lockdowns… I still would have been in favour of keeping schools open. But I might have been more in favour of more restrictive things for older people. – JAY BHATTACHARYA, UNHERD

On the Great Barrington Declaration:We’ve been vindicated. The lockdowns were the single biggest mistake in public health history. I don’t see how anyone can look at lockdown and say ‘that was successful policy’. We’ve had lockdowns in country after country after country. Would you call lockdown a success in the UK? Would you call the lockdown in Peru a success? The lockdown in India or the United States? I don’t think by any measure you could call them a success. – JAY BHATTACHARYA, UNHERD

On the backlash against the declaration:I was naive, I have spent my career in academia. I’ve not spent my career in politics… I didn’t know that people would then use ad hominem attacks against me. I worked on the Santa Clara study when I was even more naive. There was a furious counter attack on that, again, with this ad hominem overlay that shocked me. I expected more serious engagement by serious people. – JAY BHATTACHARYA, UNHERD

On the harms of lockdowns:One in four young adults experienced depression or anxiety during the lockdown last year. One in four young adults have seriously considered suicide. I told you about the studies in the developing world where you have enormous numbers of people newly thrown into poverty, deep poverty, or newly food insecure, or who were actively starving. Disruptions in medical care that have harmed people with tuberculosis, with HIV, with malaria… The harms of lockdowns are extremely multi-dimensional. A child who skips a year of school will feel those consequences over a lifetime. They’ll be poorer, less healthy, and live less long. We’re just starting to come to terms with that. – JAY BHATTACHARYA, UNHERD

Should young people take the vaccine?They don’t have to. I mean, they can. I’m not against it. It’s an individual thing where you compare the potential harms of the vaccine versus the potential benefits, because it doesn’t stop disease spread. There will be some age where you say below it doesn’t make any sense because it would depend on the side effects. – JAY BHATTACHARYA, UNHERD

The future of Covid: Just like any other danger, we eventually get used to it. You read stories about horrible wars and it becomes like a thing you get used to. I think humans are capable of getting used to so many horrible things. I think we got used to lockdown. As a species we are adaptable that way, but that doesn’t mean we flourish that way. Covid is going to join the 200 other pathogens that afflict humans, and we will learn to live with it. – JAY BHATTACHARYA, UNHERD

Delta variant likely to bring a fall and winter of masks, vaccine mandates, anxiety

Authors: Rong-Gong Lin II, Luke Money Fri, August 20, 2021, 8:00 AM

The rise of the Delta variant has upended previous optimistic projections of herd immunity and a return to normal life, with many health experts believing mask mandates and tougher vaccine requirements will be needed in the coming months to avoid more serious coronavirus surges.

While there are promising signs that California’s fourth COVID-19 surge may be starting to flatten, the fall and winter will bring new challenges as people stay indoors more often and vaccine immunity begins to wane.

The rapid spread of Delta among the unvaccinated — and the still relatively small number of “breakthrough” cases among the vaccinated — shows that significant increases in inoculations will help stop the spread. In fact, officials are now preparing to provide booster shots to those who already got their first series of vaccinations, saying the extra dose is needed to keep people protected.

Still, “the vaccines themselves are not going to likely be sufficient. And during times of increased transmission, we’ll need other tools available to protect all of us — and particularly those who, at this time, can’t be vaccinated, like our children,” said UC San Francisco epidemiologist Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo.

California is in a better position than other states because of relatively higher vaccination rates, and there is little appetite for a return to stay-at-home orders. But in settings where more people gather, strategies that can be used to keep COVID-19 controlled include ensuring people are either vaccinated, have a recent negative coronavirus test or both, Bibbins-Domingo said.

“There will be a time when we have our masks off again as transmission goes back down. But I think we’re going to have to be prepared that if we’re in an environment when there’s more virus around, that it is sensible that we have another layer of protection — and that will be masks,” Bibbins-Domingo said. “And I don’t think we’re going to be totally throwing our masks away anytime soon, frankly.”

Policies like mandatory masking and requiring vaccines or regular testing in workplaces “are going to be very important if we are ever going to get over this pandemic,” said Dr. Robert Kim-Farley, a medical epidemiologist and infectious-diseases expert at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.

It was once thought that as soon as 70% to 85% of a population was vaccinated, communities would reach a high enough level of herd immunity that the threat of COVID-19 would be mostly behind us. Now, “that’s out the window,” Bibbins-Domingo said, and computer models suggest the coronavirus will be with us for the foreseeable future. “Almost certainly, we’ll be dealing with it this winter.”

How long the pandemic will last depends on any new variants that emerge, the ability to adapt the vaccines to them and temporary measures that may be needed to tamp down surges, Bibbins-Domingo said.

There are several key factors that have altered what we previously understood about COVID-19 and underscore just how far off the end of the pandemic still is.

The first is the emergence of the Delta variant — at least twice as transmissible as the previous dominant variant, Alpha, and capable of producing a viral load up to 1,000 times greater in the upper throat.

“The big challenge with Delta is that it’s so much more transmissible than the original strain. … And really, this is possibly an unprecedented change in terms of the amount of the” shift in the so-called R-naught, or the basic reproductive rate of the coronavirus, Shane Crotty, a vaccine researcher at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology, recently told a forum at UC San Francisco.

Originally, a person infected with the ancestral strain of the coronavirus spread it to 2.5 other people on average. But the Delta variant is estimated to spread to five to eight other people. That means that within 10 cycles of transmission of the virus, in a population with no immunity to the virus, instead of fewer than 10,000 people being infected, more than 60 million will be infected, Dr. Carlos del Rio, an Emory University epidemiologist and infectious-diseases expert, said at the same UC San Francisco forum.

This is why vaccine mandates will become more important, especially at places of employment, del Rio said. “I think the going phrase that we’re hearing over and over is: ‘No jab, no job.’ And I think mandates are going to make a big difference,” he said.

Second, breakthrough infections — in which fully vaccinated people become infected with COVID-19 — are still uncommon but no longer rare. “I think vaccinated persons are much safer than unvaccinated persons, but they’re not completely safe. Breakthrough infections occur often enough with Delta that you will see them,” del Rio said.

While a vaccinated person with a breakthrough infection can transmit the virus to others, he or she is likely to be infectious for a significantly fewer number of days, del Rio said. “And therefore your contribution to transmission is much lower if you’re vaccinated than if you’re not.”

And that’s why wearing masks indoors remains important. Del Rio said many infectious-diseases doctors never stopped masking indoors, even after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it wasn’t necessary for fully vaccinated people.

Vaccinated people with breakthrough infections have much more mild illnesses because the body is already equipped to defend itself against the virus and likely can avoid lung illnesses or hospitalization, said Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, a deputy health officer for Orange County. But without prior immunity, the virus can lodge deeper into the body and cause more severe illness, eventually making it very difficult to breathe.

In Los Angeles County in April, fully vaccinated people accounted for 5% of all coronavirus cases; by July, they accounted for 30%. But fully vaccinated people, who now account for 55% of L.A. County residents of all ages, continue to be well-protected against hospitalization.

Unvaccinated older adults — age 50 and above — are 12 times more likely to be hospitalized than their vaccinated counterparts, and unvaccinated younger adults are 25 times more likely to be hospitalized than those who are fully vaccinated in that age group.

For More Information: https://news.yahoo.com/delta-variant-likely-bring-fall-120056591.html

Biden to require nursing homes get staff vaccinated or lose federal funds

Authors: By Jeremy Diamond, CNN

Updated 2:38 PM ET, Wed August 18, 2021

(CNN)The Biden administration will direct all nursing homes to require their staff be vaccinated against Covid-19 in order to continue receiving Medicare and Medicaid funding, administration officials told CNN. President Joe Biden will announce Wednesday afternoon that he is directing the Department of Health and Human Services to draw up new regulations making employee vaccination a condition for nursing homes to participate in Medicare and Medicaid, the officials said. The move represents a significant escalation in Biden’s campaign to get Americans vaccinated and the tools he is willing to use, marking the first time he has threatened to withhold federal funds in order to get people vaccinated. “As we see the spread of Delta and the threat of Covid cases, it is really especially important that we ensure that those caring for our most vulnerable are vaccinated,” Carole Johnson, a senior official on the White House’s Covid-19 response team, told CNN in an interview. The move comes as the more transmissible Delta variant now accounts for 99% of Covid-19 cases in the United States and as data shows a link between low vaccination rates in certain nursing homes and rising coronavirus cases among residents.

In the seven states in which less than half of nursing home staff is vaccinated, weekly cases were 7.9 times higher in the week ending August 1 than they were in the week ending June 27. Meanwhile, in states that have vaccinated a larger share of staff than average (more than 60%), cases reported in the week ending August 1 were only three times higher than cases reported in the last week of June.

The new regulations could go into effect as early as next month, but Johnson said the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will work with nursing homes, employees and their unions to ramp up staff vaccinations before the regulations go into effect.About 1.3 million people are employed by the more than 15,000 nursing homes that participate in Medicare and Medicaid. About 40% of those workers are not vaccinated, according to CMS data.

“We have seen tremendous progress with low Covid rates within the nursing home population and I think we’re seeing signs that it is starting to tip the other direction. We don’t want to go backwards,” said Jonathan Blum, CMS’ principal deputy administrator.Blum said CMS officials are “confident we have the legal authority” to implement the new regulation, noting that the law allows CMS to take action as it relates to the health and safety of nursing home residents.Biden began taking an increasingly muscular approach to boosting vaccination rates last month amid a plateau in vaccinations and the rapid spread of the Delta variant, including requiring all federal workers to attest that they have been vaccinated or be regularly tested for the virus. A slew of private companies have also since announced similar requirements for their workers.”We are on a wartime footing here. We are leaning in to making sure we are taking the steps that we can to ensure the health and safety of Americans and we will continue to do so,” Johnson said. “Delta’s not waiting and so we’re not waiting.”