(American Institute for Economic Research) – The World Economic Forum estimates that the COVID response has cost the globe $11 trillion thus far and counting and AIER’s seminal analysis of the costs (mental health costs, hunger and poverty costs, direct economic costs, unemployment costs, educational costs, healthcare costs, and crime costs etc.), places the COVID ‘emergency’ in a sobering light. It reveals the devastating and crushing collateral damage from the unnecessary lockdowns, school closures, and masking and mask mandates that will impact the rest of the 21st century by some estimates. These harms have damaged the poorer class among us in a perverse and brutal manner. They destroyed businesses, destroyed employees who were sent home, destroyed lives, and destroyed the lives of children who committed suicide.
Yet the elites are far removed from the ramifications of their nonsensical, illogical, specious policies and edicts. Dictates that do not apply to them or their families or friends. The ‘laptop’ affluent class could vacate, work remotely, walk their dogs and pets, catch up on reading their books, and do tasks they could not do had they been in the workplace daily. They could hire extra teachers for their children etc. Remote working was a boon. The actions of our governments however, devastated and long-term hurt the poor in societies and terribly and perversely so, and many could not hold on and committed suicide. AIER’s Ethan Yang’s analysis showed that deaths of despair skyrocketed. Poor children, especially in richer western nations such as the U.S. and Canada, self-harmed and ended their lives, not due to the pandemic virus, but due to the lockdowns and school closures. Many children took their own lives out of despair, depression, and hopelessness due to the lockdowns and school closures.
Our core position since the start of the COVID-19 response in February 2020 (and which remains fixed for how the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, Caribbean nations, European nations, and all other global nations must presently respond to the Delta variant/mutation) is that we do not lock the society down or close schools or impose mask mandates, etc. These policies did not apply to this emergency and certainly not after the first 3 to 4 weeks or so. This applies just as much for the initial Wuhan variant and now for the COVID-19 Delta variant or any other variant to come, if the variant is not one with an extremely high level of lethality, as was presumed erroneously for the initial Wuhan variant. In fact, even with respect to the initial variant it became clear very early on in the pandemic that it was probably no more lethal than annual influenza, yet we persisted with draconian devastating lockdown policies that only served to harm the people. These restrictive policies worked to ruin and kill (direct and indirect) more persons than SARS-CoV-2 itself.
It is why leading infectious diseases experts especially with regards to pandemics (such as Dr. Donald Henderson of Johns Hopkins) never supported the non-pharmacological measures noted above, as they knew that such policies would be catastrophic; even for more lethal pathogens (see AIER).
“As experience shows, there is no basis for recommending quarantine either of groups or individuals. The problems in implementing such measures are formidable, and secondary effects of absenteeism and community disruption as well as possible adverse consequences, such as loss of public trust in government and stigmatization of quarantined people and groups, are likely to be considerable.”
None of these restrictive policy measures such as lockdowns and school closures have worked in the past for COVID-19 and they will not work now with this media-driven hysteria over the Delta variant. If reimposed, they will once again cause crushing harms and deaths due to the collateral effects.
The leaders in public health and government spokespersons as well as the corrupted media are quickly progressing towards endorsing and implementing and registering of individuals under the guise of a public health emergency. That our Governments are even considering the issuance of what have become known as COVID-19 ‘vaccine passports’ is very troubling on many levels. The very idea is anathema to our democratic principles and rights that are enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.
The vaccine passports which are being considered and/or introduced by various government bodies which will constrain the rights of citizens under the questionable guise of safety. These passports are simply unjustifiable on any grounds, not the least of which is the fact that SARS-CoV-2 is no more deadly on a population level than influenza. Ostensibly, the passports are designed to allow individuals to partake in everyday commerce and “life” with freedom.
There is even talk of immunity passports also known as “antibody passports” with the concept of antibodies as a “declaration of immunity” or “golden passport” so as to return to routine work and travel. Yet, it is well known that insofar as immunity passports are concerned, antibody levels in people who’ve either had COVID-19, or have been vaccinated, wane after weeks to months.
Hence even someone who should be completely eligible not only for a vaccine passport but in fact an “immunity” passport would easily fail the tests required to obtain such a passport. We and others argue that such will drive the development of a heretofore unheard of (in the USA and Canada) caste system of the haves (have vaccine passports) and the have nots (don’t have vaccine passports). Liew stated “the introduction of immunity passports is beset with challenges, not least of which is the potential erosion of civil liberties, as travelers are stratified into the ‘immunoprivileged’ and the ‘immuno-deprived’.”
Experts have argued that the introduction of vaccine and/or immunization (antibody) passports must entail extensive debate that considers all of the moral, ethical and constitutional issues, including “a comprehensive assessment of benefits and harms, and what would least restrict individual liberties without significantly heightening the threat of Covid-19.”
The ACLU has weighed in, sounding warnings that there are many harms that can arise with the introduction of vaccine passports, particularly the digitization of relevant information associated with the granting of those passports. The ACLU stated, “Given the enormous difficulty of creating a digital passport system, and the compromises and failures that are likely to happen along the way, we are wary about the side effects and long-term consequences it could have.”
Now our concerns look to the future for more variants that will most assuredly emerge more efficiently than the Delta variant. Refocusing on the lockdowns, these restrictions are options of last resort as mentioned above (see Henderson, 2006, Disease Mitigation Measures in the Control of Pandemic Influenza). This basic principle applied to the first variant of SARS-CoV-2 and even more so to the Delta variant which appears to be the weakest, most nonconsequential of all the variants as can be computed based on data obtained in the UK and Israel (and other data). The emergence of the Delta variant is quite simply not a new COVID-19, nor was the Alpha (original) variant and sadly as a consequence of the draconian measures we’ve discussed, societies were decimated needlessly. There is now evidence out of Israel that the booster shot (3rd shot) is also met with emergent infections.
We were fantastically misled by the media and experts who doled out misinformation related to COVID-19 and the lockdowns and we were driven into a life of fear. This really is and was a pandemic of fear, of ignorance, and of hysteria. It continues to be so, underpinned by a corrupted biased media. This is ‘panic porn’ driven by a craven inept media, and the corrupt public health officials who are using the Delta variant (soon another e.g. Lambda or Epsilon), to drive further fear. We wonder if it is pure incompetence or unabashed unbridled bias and corruption?
The fact is that we knew very early on that COVID-19 was amenable to risk stratification that predicted outcome, especially with regard to severity and mortality. We know that an age-risk “focused” (Great Barrington Declaration) and “targeted” approach was the critical and only meaningful approach that should have been used. Then and now.
We argue and hold that these lockdown strategies have devastated the most vulnerable among us – the poor – who are now worse off. Lockdowns have hit the African-American, Latino, and South Asian communities devastatingly and have decimated developing nations. Lockdowns have made poor persons even poorer. Lockdowns and especially the extended ones have been deeply destructive and there was absolutely no reason to ever quarantine those up to 70 years old. There was no reason to test or quarantine asymptomatic individuals. And in relation to the testing of “asymptomatic” people we can point to the subtle nature of the creation of an environment of fear. The mere use of the word ‘asymptomatic’ implies that everyone being tested is sick! They are not! They are healthy people! Why would we ever do mass testing for viral or other pathogens in healthy people? Readily accessible data showed consistently that there was near 100% probability of survival from COVID for those 70 and under (99.95%). Therefore, we strongly secure and safeguard the elderly as our core approach, while the young and healthiest among us should be ‘allowed’ to live their lives without fear. This was and is our position as we argued and continue to argue for a ‘focused’ and ‘targeted’ approach based on risk. We continue to suggest a similar approach for the Delta variant, based on the U.K. and Israel data (and other emerging data) and all other nonlethal variants yet to emerge.
This is not heresy. It is classic biology and modern public health medicine! As mentioned, those in the low to no risk categories must live reasonably normal lives with sensible common-sense precautions (while providing strong safeguards to the high-risk persons and vulnerable elderly). With strong protections of the high-risk among us and the use of early treatment as needed (for those infected will be in a better position to clear the virus and be then ‘naturally immune post early treatment), we can close off this pandemic emergency.
So, what do we know about Delta?
The good news is that Delta is so far proving to be the mildest form of COVID-19 as the mutations have focused on the Spike protein and in and around the gain-of-function furin cleavage joint, which causes the virus to be less dangerous.
This is great news, as those who have natural immunity will be immune to Delta, though we are seeing some breakthrough cases in those vaccinated.
Unfortunately, across the last 17 to 18 months, we chose to ignore the signals from the pandemic and instead we chose to focus on the noise to address COVID-19. We instead harmed our societies and especially our children!
We knew early on and ignored it, that COVID-19 was amenable to risk stratification and that your baseline risk was prognostic on your subsequent outcome, e.g. mortality. We had strong early evidence that a focused approach based on age and risk stratification was more optimal but disregarded this. The fact remains that age and excess body weight/obesity, have accounted for almost 80 to 85% of the hospitalizations, intubations/ventilation, severe sequelae, and deaths in COVID-19. Many persons who have died in nations such as the U.S. have been overweight with some level of obesity. The importance of educating the public on the risk factors and the need for such protective efforts can be enhanced by the people themselves. Had public health leaders used their platforms optimally, the geared messaging would have helped reduce the damage significantly. We could have cut deaths significantly had the options described above been used, especially early outpatient treatment.
Understanding COVID-19 must therefore not involve the traditional unidimensional, dogmatic orthodoxy whereby we simply wish to control the spread of the virus or eradicate it. It remains an impossibility to eradicate a viral pathogen, especially if it is highly mutable like the flu virus. We as humanity have learned to live with such viruses. It is likely that COVID-19 will become the 5th ‘common cold’ coronavirus (if it isn’t already) and be with us for decades, in a mild, mainly nonlethal form, and will exhibit a seasonal pattern. Indeed, we have almost zero concerns about the common cold, and yet, the common cold is responsible for many deaths in the elderly or those with compromised immune systems. We will learn to live with it as we have for other pathogens, e.g. common cold, seasonal influenza etc., and we argue that this latest Delta variant is the step toward this largely ‘benign’ relationship with humans. At the same time, whenever there is a pathogen that is causing some level of illness, there is usually a greater severity and adverse sequelae in the lower SES populations (socioeconomically disadvantaged populations). We must therefore look at this consequence and consider a more nuanced and finessed approach to pathology, as we address targeting the pathogen. We can learn from this public health debacle created through wilful ignorance and the near criminal merging politics with medicine and not repeat the mistakes.
Where did we go so wrong with these lockdowns and school closures? The stark reality is that the COVID-inspired forced lockdowns on business and school closures are and have been counterproductive, were not sustainable and were, quite frankly, meritless, unscientific and may have caused more harm through forcing individuals into enclosed spaces. These unparalleled public health actions were enacted for a virus with an infection mortality rate (IFR) roughly similar to seasonal influenza. Stanford’s John P.A. Ioannidis identified 36 studies (43 estimates) along with an additional 7 preliminary national estimates (50 pieces of data) and concluded that among people <70 years old across the world, infection fatality rates ranged from 0.00% to 0.57% with a median of 0.05% across the different global locations (with a corrected median of 0.04%).
What is the conclusion after 17 to 18 months of COVID-19 (February 2020 to July 2021) in terms of the utility of societal lockdowns and school closures? What does the new evidence across the past year and a half add? What can we say based on the sum of the evidence to date? Have our positions changed on lockdowns and school closures as to the merits? We can state conclusively, after 17 months, that lockdowns and school closures were a catastrophic failure in every sense of the word! With careful examination of all available studies, reports, and documents that are judged of quality enough to inform this thesis, we can find not one instance, (not one!) across the entire globe whereby societal or setting lockdowns or school closures conferred any benefit in curbing the spread of COVID virus or reducing deaths. In fact, we find the contrary, whereby lockdowns and school closures were devastating and particularly on the poorer in society, benefitting the laptop ‘café latte’ class and decimating the underprivileged class.
What was incredible across the 17 months was that governments and their scientific advisors were not satisfied with the well-documented failures of lockdowns. None!
In terms of the evidence, what do we have to offer across 17 months now to support our argument against lockdowns, school closures, and masking (mask mandates)? Well, none of these measures have worked and will work. We offer:
i) in terms of lockdowns, based on our deep study, we found out about the catastrophic harms (consequences), threat, dehumanization, and failures of lockdowns and sheltering/shielding (including prolonged lockdowns) (references 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88).
As an example, a very recent study in Nature by Jani looked at the effectiveness of this sheltering/shielding (lockdown), by linking family practitioner, prescribing, laboratory, hospital and death records and comparing COVID-19 outcomes among shielded and unshielded individuals in the West of Scotland. Researchers reported that of the 1.3 million population, 27,747 (2.03%) were advised to shield, and 353,085 (26.85%) were classified a priori as moderate risk. They found that by using the reference group as the low-risk group and when compared to this group, “the shielded group had higher confirmed infections (RR 8.45, 95% 7.44–9.59), case-fatality (RR 5.62, 95% CI 4.47–7.07) and population mortality (RR 57.56, 95% 44.06–75.19). The moderate-risk had intermediate confirmed infections (RR 4.11, 95% CI 3.82–4.42) and population mortality (RR 25.41, 95% CI 20.36–31.71) but, due to their higher prevalence, made the largest contribution to deaths (PAF 75.30%). Age ≥ 70 years accounted for 49.55% of deaths. In conclusion, in spite of the shielding strategy, high risk individuals were at increased risk of death.”
We found how pronounced the devastation was on the poorer in society, shifting the burden onto them. The richer among us could even tend to their gardens and walk their pets and order in meals while setting up private tutors for their children and teaching pods, etc. The less affluent had to scramble to find sources of internet, laptops and webcams for their children.
Micheal Peterson puts a face to this picture and said it best when he discussed the low savings of such underdeveloped nations and particularly the populations “in general, high domestic savings rates tend to lead to higher economic growth rates. Unfortunately, since developing countries typically have lower domestic savings, it’s much harder for those countries to weather lockdowns because individuals are unable to draw upon savings to compensate for lost income. For many developed nations, domestic savings is higher, which means that these countries will fare relatively better when income is severely reduced or altogether nonexistent,” due to the lockdowns and as such, shuttered businesses and as such, lost jobs.
A revealing statistic emerges in a World Bank working paper in which it was estimated that “approximately 1 in 5 jobs can be performed remotely in the developed world. In developing countries, this figure stands at only 1 in 26.” Here exactly is where the divide resides and where we failed to look and take into consideration. It is here that many poorer nations and settings were further ‘hollowed out’ by the often unsound and unscientific and as we argue, crushing, costly, illogical, and needless lockdowns and school closures.
ii) in terms of school closures and also based on our deep study and update of the evidence since our last Op-ed, we continue to conclude that there was and is no sound justification for school closures given the exceedingly low (statistically zero) risk to children and very low risk to schoolteachers. (references 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56).
Children do not acquire the infection readily (including Delta variant), spread it, or take it home. More particularly, children are at a near statistically zero risk of getting severely ill from COVID or dying from it; again, this includes the Delta variant. We have found no data or evidence to suggest otherwise, despite the hysteria presently running 24/7 in the daily media and by the statements of the lead public health officials. We urge them to provide the nation and us the evidence that backs up anything they report on the Delta variant, for we can find none.
iii) We also know of the ineffectiveness of masks.
More specifically on masking evidence, a particularly important seminal research study by the CDC published in Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID) in May 2020 and looking at nonpharmaceutical measures for pandemic influenza in nonhealthcare settings (personal protective and environmental measures using 10 RCTs), found that use of masks did not reduce the rate of laboratory-proven infections with the respiratory influenza virus. “In pooled analysis, we found no significant reduction in influenza transmission with the use of face masks”.
Similarly, a strong argument against the use of masks in the current COVID-19 pandemic gained traction when a recent CDC case-control study reported that well over 80% of cases always or often wore masks. This CDC study further called into question the utility of masks in the COVID-19 emergency. This CDC study showed that the majority of persons infected wore face masks, and still got infected.
Just look no further than the study out of Sweden by Jonas Ludvigsson on COVID transmission with no lockdowns or mask mandates in children. In terms of masking children which we are vehemently against (in school or out of school) Ludvigsson powerfully evidenced the low risk in children by publishing this seminal paper in the New England Journal of Medicine among children one to 16 years of age and their teachers in Sweden. From the nearly 2 million children that were followed in school in Sweden, it was reported that with no mask mandates, there were zero deaths from COVID and a few instances of transmission and minimal hospitalization.
What about the high-quality randomized controlled trial Danish Study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine that sought to assess whether recommending surgical mask utilization outside of the home would help reduce the wearer’s risks of acquiring SARS-CoV-2 infection in a setting where masks were uncommon and not among recommended public health measures? This can be regarded as the highest quality study on the effectiveness of COVID masks. The sample included a total of 3,030 participants who were assigned randomly to wear masks, and 2,994 who were told to not wear masks (i.e. the control arm). The authors concluded that there was no statistically or clinically significant impact of mask use in regard to the rate of infection with SARS-CoV-2.
Perhaps one of the most seminal and rigorous studies (along with the Danish study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine), emerged from a United States Marine Corps study performed in an isolated location; Parris Island. As reported in a recent NEJM publication (CHARM study), researchers studied SARS-CoV-2 transmission among Marine recruits during quarantine. Marine recruits at Parris Island (n=1,848 of 3,143 eligible recruits) who volunteered underwent a 2-week quarantine at home that was followed by a 2nd 2-week quarantine in a closed college campus setting.
Overall, the research evidence alluded to here (including a summary by Ethan Yang) suggests that lockdowns and school closures do not (and definitely did not) lead to lower mortality or case numbers and have not worked as intended. Lockdowns have not slowed or stopped the spread of SARS-CoV-2.
Some critics of our position will point to data that ostensibly shows that the implementation of lockdowns led to reduced rates of death. However, these conclusions are based on artifactual and superfluous assessments. We know that declines in death were taking place even before lockdowns came into effect. In fact, in Europe, it was shown that in most cases, mortality rates were already 50% lower than peak rates by the time lockdowns were instituted, thus making claims that lockdowns were effective in reducing mortality spurious at best. Of course, this also means that the presumptive positive effects of lockdowns were and have been exaggerated grossly. Evidence shows that nations and settings that apply less stringent social distancing measures and lockdowns experience the same evolution (e.g. deaths per million) of the epidemic as those that apply far more stringent regulations.
What does this all mean?
These misguided policies have eroded the public trust. These policies include: 1) a flawed PCR test with cycle count thresholds that only pick up noninfectious fragments of viral mRNA; a Ct of 40 means one is noninfectious and nonlethal. 2) Asymptomatic spread 3) Recurrent infection 4) Equal risk of severe outcome if infected 5) No preventative or therapeutics available 6) We were not already partially immune; maybe as high as 80% (some level of immunity against SARS 2) 7) Social distancing of 6 feet prevents spread. 8) Mass testing asymptomatic persons 9) Quarantine asymptomatic persons 10) Children spread the virus and at risk of severe illness 11) Masks are effective against viral illnesses 12) Natural immunity was inferior to vaccine-induced immunity and 13) Evolutionary pressure towards virulence is caused by unvaccinated people.
Future generations will bear the cost of these decisions. Our children and younger people are going to be burdened with the indirect but very real harms and costs of lockdowns for a generation to come. Lives are being ruined and lost and businesses are being destroyed forever. Lower-income Americans, Canadians, and other global citizens are much more likely to be compelled to work in unsafe conditions. These are employees with the least bargaining power, tending to be minority, female, and hourly paid employees. Moreover, COVID-19 has revealed itself as a disease of disparity and poverty. This means that black and minority communities are disproportionately affected by the pandemic itself and they take a double hit, being additionally and disproportionately ravaged by the effects of the restrictive policies.
We do not need to drastically alter our society, the lives of our people, our economies, or our school systems to handle COVID and any variant that emerges. We are well capable of managing this with early treatment and properly securing the elderly and high-risk among us.
It is disheartening as to why governments, whose primary role is to protect their citizens, took these punitive actions despite the compelling evidence that these policies were misdirected and very harmful, causing palpable harm to human welfare on so many levels. It’s questionable what governments did (and now threaten to redo) to their populations with no scientific basis. None! In this, we lost our civil liberties and essential rights, all based on spurious ‘science’ or worse including, opinion, speculation, supposition, and whimsy. They just refused to listen, refused to read the data and science, and were blinded to it. Their ‘academically sloppy’ thinking and actions cost lives, and thousands of lives were cut short by their nonsensical and often irrational shutdown and closure policies.
We are hearing discussions now about renewed lockdowns and masking etc. due to the Delta variant which has emerged as one of the weakest in terms of lethality while being very transmissible. This greatly concerns us. We are horrified by this prospect and we have shown you the actual data as it relates to Delta, and not the contrived drivel and unscientific nonsense spouted by the mainstream media and the public health experts. There is absolutely no good reason to re-enter lockdowns and school closures or masking in response to the Delta variant. We find no evidence that this variant warrants masks in children. We leave you with the words of Donald Henderson:
“Experience has shown that communities faced with epidemics or other adverse events respond best and with the least anxiety when the normal social functioning of the community is least disrupted. Strong political and public health leadership to provide reassurance and to ensure that needed medical care services are provided are critical elements. If either is seen to be less than optimal, a manageable epidemic could move toward catastrophe.”
Paul E Alexander MSc PhD, McMaster University and GUIDE Research Methods Group, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada [email protected]
Howard C. Tenenbaum DDS, Dip. Perio., PhD, FRCD(C) Centre for Advanced Dental Research and Care, Mount Sinai Hospital, and Faculties of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada [email protected]
Dr. Parvez Dara, MD, MBA, [email protected]
Liesel Marie Alexander, MBA
Reprinted with permission from the American Institute for Economic Research