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(LifeSiteNews) — Throughout the world, governments, schools, and the traditional media seem to be engaged in an abrupt about-face on orders to control the COVID-19 virus.

In a matter of days, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, New Jersey, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Oregon are among a growing number of states, counties and cities that have announced plans to lift their mask mandates. The new policies follow similar action in Europe where countries like France, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and the United Kingdom are lifting COVID-19 restrictions.

The announcements have caught much of the public by surprise because it was mere weeks ago that leaders were giving little hope that life would return to normal. When New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s (D) said on February 7 he was lifting the mask mandate because “we have reached a point where we feel confident that we can take another step toward normalcy for our kids,” it raised eyebrows because less than one month ago (January 10), he stated masks for students and staff will continue “for the foreseeable future.”

Cases in the Garden State reached an all-time high on January 7, according to Johns Hopkins University, and deaths reached another peak on January 22. While cases and deaths have dropped significantly, they are still higher than other periods in the last two years.

Leana Wen, M.D., a prominent mask proponent now supports lifting mask mandates in schools.

“[W]hen restrictions were put in, it was always with the understanding they would be removed as soon as they can,” she told told CNN on February 8. “Case counts are declining, also the science has changed,” she stated, noting that extending vaccine access to people as young as 5-years-olds has been a plus.

On December 24, however, she expressed a different sentiment. Wen told NPR that people should wear 3-ply surgical masks, N95, KN95 or KF94 masks and that the government should mandate such coverings with mask orders.

Economists: Lockdowns Failed

Several governors in states where restrictions were the strictest are up for re-election in 2022 and may be aware of the changing sentiment on public health restrictions.

A January 31 poll by Monmouth University found that 70 percent of those polled agreed with the statement: “[I]t’s time we accept that Covid is here to stay and we just need to get on with our lives.”

But another reason could be new studies that have shown mandates and vaccine orders have failed to save lives.

A meta-analysis published by the Johns Hopkins Institute for Applied Economics found a variety of restrictions to stop deaths from COVID-19 had little to no effect and instead caused more damage by imposing “enormous economic and social costs.”

Economists Jonas Herby, Lars Jonung, and Steve H. Hanke, a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute, set out to review the empirical evidence on the effectiveness of lockdown measures. They defined a lockdown as a government mandate restricting activity, such as travel bans; school and public facility closures; facemask requirements, and limits on crowds.

Using a “systematic search and screening” process, the authors sifted through 18,590 studies that potentially “support the belief that ‘lockdowns reduce COVID-19 mortality.’” The team selected 24 studies which they put in three topical groups: lockdown stringency indices, shelter-in-place orders; and specific non-pharmaceutical interventions.

“An analysis of each of these three groups supports the conclusion that lockdowns have had little to no effect on COVID-19 mortality,” write the authors.

Further, the analysis determined that strict lockdowns in Europe and the United States reduced mortality by a mere 0.2 percent compared to similar virus control measures that were recommended but not mandated.

“Lockdown policies are ill-founded and should be rejected as a pandemic policy instrument,” concludes the report.

Vaccine Mandates Under Fire

Another study found that natural immunity is superior to immunity from COVID-19 shots.

After months of denial and dodging, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a report showing that, compared to getting the shots, natural immunity to COVID-19 is 2.8 times more effective in keeping people out of the hospital and 3.3 percent to 4.7 percent more effective in preventing reinfection.

The study, “COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations by COVID-19 Vaccination Status and Previous COVID-19 Diagnosis — California and New York, May–November 2021,” was published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on January 19.

The analysis proves what many suspected throughout the pandemic, says Joel Hirschhorn, author of Pandemic Blunder and editor of the Pandemic Blunder Newsletter.

“The refusal by U.S. government public health agencies to formally give credit to people with natural immunity obtained from prior COVID infection made no sense,” said Hirschhorn. “The only apparent motivation was to NOT give those people a way out of getting experimental COVID vaccines and to NOT give them a way out of obeying all kinds of mandates. It has nothing to do with ‘following the science.’”

Shots ‘Safest Strategy’

The study’s authors looked at COVID-19 cases in California and New York, the two states with high mortality rates from COVID, where one in six COVID-19 deaths in the United States occurred, and found vaccination was less effective than natural immunity in preventing reinfection with the virus.

Despite the findings, the authors emphasize the importance of getting the shots.

“Although the epidemiology of COVID-19 might change as new variants emerge, vaccination remains the safest strategy for averting future SARS-CoV-2 infections, hospitalizations, long-term sequalae, and death,” states the report.

Hybrid Immunity’ Slightly Better

The study spins its results to push the agency’s persistent narrative, states Marty Makary, M.D., a surgeon at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, professor, and public policy researcher, in a commentary in The Wall Street Journal on January 26.

“It based this conclusion on the finding that hybrid immunity—the combination of prior infection and vaccination—was associated with a slightly lower risk of testing positive for COVID,” wrote Makary.

“But those with hybrid immunity had a similar low rate of hospitalization (3 per 10,000) to those with natural immunity alone,” wrote Makary. “In other words, vaccinating people who had already had COVID didn’t significantly reduce the risk of hospitalization.”

“The science has always been crystal clear: natural immunity is more effective, longer-lasting, and safer than vaccine immunity,” said Hirschhorn.

AnneMarie Schieber ([email protected]) is a LifeSite News contributor and the managing editor of Health Care News. Parts of this article appeared on Heartland Daily News. Reprinted with permission.