Thursday, May 07, 2020

The Worldwide Lockdown May Be the Greatest Mistake in History

The idea that the worldwide lockdown of virtually every country other than Sweden may have been an enormous mistake strikes many — including world leaders; most scientists, especially health officials, doctors and epidemiologists; those who work in major news media; opinion writers in those media; and the hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people who put their faith in these people — as so preposterous as to be immoral. Timothy Egan of The New York Times described Republicans who wish to enable their states to open up as “the party of death.”

That’s the way it is today on planet Earth, where deceit, cowardice and immaturity now dominate almost all societies because the elites are deceitful, cowardly and immature.

But for those open to reading thoughts they may differ with, here is the case for why the worldwide lockdown is not only a mistake but also, possibly, the worst mistake the world has ever made. And for those intellectually challenged by the English language and/or logic, “mistake” and “evil” are not synonyms. The lockdown is a mistake; the Holocaust, slavery, communism, fascism, etc., were evils. Massive mistakes are made by arrogant fools; massive evils are committed by evil people.

The forcible prevention of Americans from doing anything except what politicians deem “essential” has led to the worst economy in American history since the Great Depression of the 1930s. It is panic and hysteria, not the coronavirus, that created this catastrophe. And the consequences in much of the world will be more horrible than in America.

The United Nations World Food Programme, or the WFP, states that by the end of the year, more than 260 million people will face starvation — double last year’s figures. According to WFP director David Beasley on April 21: “We could be looking at famine in about three dozen countries. … There is also a real danger that more people could potentially die from the economic impact of COVID-19 than from the virus itself” (italics added).

That would be enough to characterize the worldwide lockdown as a deathly error. But there is much more. If global GDP declines by 5%, another 147 million people could be plunged into extreme poverty, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute.

Foreign Policy magazine reports that, according to the International Monetary Fund, the global economy will shrink by 3% in 2020, marking the biggest downturn since the Great Depression, and the U.S., the eurozone and Japan will contract by 5.9%, 7.5% and 5.2%, respectively. Meanwhile, across South Asia, as of a month ago, tens of millions were already “struggling to put food on the table.” Again, all because of the lockdowns, not the virus.

In one particularly incomprehensible act, the government of India, a poor country of 1.3 billion people, locked down its people. As Quartz India reported on April 22, “Coronavirus has killed only around 700 Indians … a small number still compared to the 450,000 TB and 10,000-odd malaria deaths recorded every year.”

One of the thousands of unpaid garment workers protesting the lockdown in Bangladesh understands the situation better than almost any health official in the world: “We are starving. If we don’t have food in our stomach, what’s the use of observing this lockdown?” But concern for that Bangladeshi worker among the world’s elites seems nonexistent.

The lockdown is “possibly even more catastrophic (than the virus) in its outcome: the collapse of global food-supply systems and widespread human starvation” (italics added). That was published in the left-wing The Nation, which, nevertheless, enthusiastically supports lockdowns. But the American left cares as much about the millions of non-Americans reduced to hunger and starvation because of the lockdown as it does about the people of upstate New York who have no incomes, despite the minuscule number of coronavirus deaths there. Or about the citizens of Oregon, whose governor has just announced the state will remain locked down until July 6. As of this writing, a total of 109 people have died of the coronavirus in Oregon.

An example of how disinterested the left is in worldwide suffering is made abundantly clear in a front-page “prayer” by a left-wing Christian in the current issue of The Nation: “May we who are merely inconvenienced remember those whose lives are at stake.”

“Merely inconvenienced” is how the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, a Protestant minister and president of the North Carolina NAACP, describes the tens of millions of Americans rendered destitute, not to mention the hundreds of millions around the world rendered not only penniless but hungry. The truth is, like most of the elites, it is Barber who is “merely inconvenienced.” Indeed, the American battle today is between the merely inconvenienced and the rest of America.

Michael Levitt, professor of structural biology at Stanford Medical School and winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in chemistry, recently stated, “There is no doubt in my mind that when we come to look back on this, the damage done by lockdown will exceed any saving of lives by a huge factor.”

To the left, anyone who questions the lockdown is driven by preference for money over lives. Typical of the left’s moral shallowness is this headline on Salon this week:

“It’s Time To Reject the Gods of Commerce: America Is a Society, Not an ‘Economy,'” with the subhead reading, “America Is About People, Not Profit Margins.”

And, of course, to smug editors and writers of The Atlantic, in article after repetitive article, the fault lies not with the lockdown but with President Donald Trump. The most popular article in The Atlantic this week is titled “The Rest of the World Is Laughing at Trump.” The elites can afford to laugh at whatever they want. Meanwhile, the less fortunate — that is, most people — are crying.



The Unintended Consequences of COVID-19 Lockdowns

There will be much still to learn when COVID-19 has passed. Books will certainly be written questioning the knee-jerk authoritarian response from most governments. Opinions championing a more modest approach to future pandemics are already emerging, even as this one continues to smolder. Dr. Michael Ryan, the WHO’s executive director for health emergencies, recently praised the Swedish government’s response, which largely resisted wide-scale shutdowns. Calm, rational heads will increasingly wonder if this situation should have been handled differently.

The financial devastation from forced lockdown will likely outlast the pandemic itself. While unfortunate (to put it mildly), most have argued that it has been necessary. The prevailing wisdom is that governments must choose either physical or economic health for citizens during this difficult time. Apparently, we cannot manage both ourselves. But believing that government actions have been justified also requires one to suspend reality and imagine that COVID-19 occurs in a vacuum. It requires one to pretend that nothing else factors into health and well-being. While the heavy hand of government has been intended to quell cases of COVID-19, it’s certainly worthwhile to examine the collateral damage directly resulting from its actions.

The pandemic has negatively impacted oncology services worldwide. Elective screening procedures (colonoscopies, mammograms, etc.) have been cancelled by government order. Naturally, this has led to a decrease in new cancer diagnoses. Obviously, new cancers haven’t stopped arising, but thousands of them have been neglected over the past few months. Those delays in diagnosis will equal delays in treatment. Even some patients with known cancers have experienced delays in therapy. A study from the University College London and the Health Data Research Hub for Cancer reports that in England and Northern Ireland, admissions for chemotherapy have fallen 45–66 percent and urgent referrals for early cancer diagnosis are down 70–89 percent, compared to pre-COVID-19 levels. Ominously, they predict that “Under conservative assumptions of the emergency affecting only people with newly diagnosed cancer … the model estimated 6,270 excess deaths at 1 year in England and 33,890 excess deaths in the US.”

It’s important to note that most of these deaths both here and abroad will be from delays in diagnosis and/or therapy, not COVID-19 infection. When considering total cancer patients living in England, they project the number of excess deaths could be up to 18,000 in that country alone. Dr. Alvina Lai, the lead author, claims the study demonstrates “the serious potential for unintended consequences of the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which may negatively impact on patients with cancer and other underlying health conditions.”

Perhaps the greatest harm from this pandemic comes from the toll on mental health.

Oncology patients are not the only ones being negatively affected by shelter-in-place edicts. Visits to pediatricians are also down, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. In an effort to decrease exposure to SARS-CoV-2, children are missing routine vaccinations. Data from the Physicians Computer Company (an electronic medical record company focusing on pediatric settings) shows that, across the U.S., “The number of vaccines administered for diseases including measles, mumps, whooping cough and HPV each dropped by at least 40% during the week of April 5, compared to a week in February of this year.” Dr. Eileen Costello, a pediatrician and the chief of ambulatory pediatrics at Boston Medical Center, claims that her center’s clinic volume was down approximately 80 percent last month. She fears that “We’ll be having pertussis and measles outbreaks in a couple months, which are going to be way more devastating.” Generally speaking, COVID-19 infections in children are asymptomatic. The desire to keep them from becoming asymptomatic carriers is valid, but if the end result is an increase in fatal (yet preventable) childhood illnesses, should this be considered a win?

Perhaps the greatest (and most difficult-to-measure) harm from this pandemic comes from the toll on mental health. During this time of financial ruin and forced isolation, it’s logical to expect that rates of depression and suicide will increase. The Disaster Distress Helpline, a service of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), has reportedly seen an 891 percent increase in call volume when comparing March 2020 to March 2019. The psychological harm that accompanies bankruptcy and related crises cannot be understated. Dr. Glenn Sullivan, a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at the Virginia Military Institute, warns, “If the U.S. [suicide] rate jumps in the same manner it did after the 1929 stock market crash, then … 2021 could see more than 54,000 deaths by suicide (versus about 48,000 in 2018). The 6,000 excess deaths … would be additional victims of the coronavirus emergency and its economic impact.”

Out of supposed necessity, heads of state in the U.S. and abroad have admittedly been picking winners and losers on the economic front. Will they ever admit that, indirectly, they have been choosing winners and losers on the health-care front, as well? Whether it’s a missed mammogram, a missed vaccine, or a suicide attempt spawned from forced bankruptcy, these are not trivial matters. In fact, some peoples’ economic and physical health are being greatly harmed by the government’s heavy hand during this time. The exact amount and scope of the collateral damage will only be known in hindsight. Unfortunately, the unintended consequences will be significant. With government serving as referee, this game may end up with more losers than winners.



‘Fear Is The Problem’: Stanford’s Dr. Scott Atlas Defends Reopening Stance

Dr. Scott Atlas, senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution and the former chief of neuroradiology at Stanford University Medical Center, defended his position, in the wake of rising model numbers, that Americans should reopen the country.

Atlas originally made national news after his column, “The Data Is In — Stop The Panic And End The Total Isolation,” was published at The Hill and went viral last month. In it, the Stanford doctor cites several facts currently “being ignored by those calling for continuing the near-total lockdown,” along with evidence behind each.

Before his introduction on Monday night’s “The Story with Martha MacCallum,” Fox News host Martha MacCallum pointed out “unsettling data” that points to “a very big jump” in predicted U.S. deaths by August.

“Do these rising models change anything about your headline, that we need to stop panicking about this?” she asked.

“No, in fact they underscore some of the very things I was saying and they reveal a lot of, again, the same sort of misconception about models,” Atlas responded before pointing out that such models “change all the time.”

However, he said the most “important point” is that “nothing has changed here.”

“We should look at the evidence,” he said. “We don’t need to rely on hypothetical projections. We have a ton of evidence, and the evidence is consistent all over the world that we know the fatality rate is much lower than what the models were based on originally.

“We know that we have flattened, the curves have been flattened and the curves, to note, are not the numbers of cases. The only curves that count are the deaths per day and the hospitalizations per day and when you take all that into account, including the very important things that are catastrophically destructive about total isolation, you come to the same conclusion that I and many, many people all over the world support,” he continued.

Atlas called the notion that current reopenings are driving any spike today “completely false.”

“If you open the doors today and you have deaths in three days, there is no correlation there,” said the Stanford researcher. “It takes 23 to 30 days on roughly average to have somebody [go] from getting the infection to dying. When the number of deaths goes up in three days in the state opening their doors, there is no correlation whatsoever. That’s just a false conclusion to be made.”

After making an argument for protecting nursing homes and regulating sanitation and hygiene in certain areas, Atlas called fear the “real contagion.” (RELATED: Staying In Place Is ‘Actually Harmful’: Stanford’s Scott Atlas Makes The Case For Herd Immunity)

“There is a new standard evolving from this, but you can’t really make policy based on fear and catastrophic projections and this is another thing that’s actually harming, even things like the food supply chain,” Atlas said. “It’s the fear that’s the real contagion here. The fear is the problem.”

Atlas finished the interview by criticizing the logic behind keeping schools closed by saying there is “little, if any risk” to those under 18 who emerging research may show are even “less likely to transmit the disease.”



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

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