Saturday, February 20, 2021

A Doctor’s View About the New mRNA Vaccines

By Thomas Siler

I’ve practiced for 35 years. I am always honest with my patients, even if conversations are difficult or confrontational. I will also be honest about saying “I don’t know.” This happens when a diagnosis is not readily apparent or when there are limits to the help I can give. With the passage of time, I’ve learned that what we don’t know about medicine outweighs what we do know.

I’ve always been a proponent of older, more established vaccines. However, they are imperfect and, like all medical treatments, can have side effects. Unfortunately, in the conversation about the new COVID-19 vaccines, the tenets of honesty and a willingness to admit ignorance are being compromised.

Operation Warp Speed was remarkable, but it leaves an uncomfortable question: Is it a good thing to rush a vaccine (or medicine) to the public without the usual safeguards? Operation Warp Speed might be a great business objective or military goal, but is it great for a medical treatment?

The pharmaceutical industry, government health authorities, and the media insist the new vaccines are safe and effective. While the initial results are promising, this is not the whole truth. Both honesty and acknowledging ignorance require answering a few questions.

What do we know about the new TYPE of vaccine being given?

Pfizer and Moderna were the first COVID-19 vaccines to be approved. Both use a new technology called mRNA vaccine, which has never been broadly given to a human population to prevent any disease.

Let that sink in for a moment.

All previous vaccines take a weakened virus or a piece of the virus and inject it into humans to induce an immune response sufficient to prevent a disease. Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines inject mRNA, which is a protein code that instructs the body to make a part of COVID-19’s spike protein that will then induce an immune response.

Our bodies daily use our own mRNA to carry instructions from DNA to make various proteins the body uses. While this new vaccine science sounds intriguing, it has never been tried in humans in this scope. It may be a breathtaking scientific advancement heralding a new path for all vaccines. It may also be less effective or have currently unknown side effects.

Is the mRNA vaccine for COVID-19 safe?

So far, the limited study of the vaccines approved for emergency use (one major study for each vaccine approved) has shown some short-term side effects. The vaccine is a two-shot series and side effects were prominent after the second shot. Side effects were more common if the recipient was younger than 65 years old.

Pain at the injection site has usually gone away in 4-5 days. The other side effects resolve, on average, in 2-3 days.

Early reports after giving the vaccine have also included allergic reactions ranging from mild to a few cases of anaphylaxis (serious allergic reaction). Allergy may be to mRNA itself or the lipid nanoparticles/PEG vehicle it is housed in. The long-term side effects are not currently known, as the main study length and follow up have only been four months.

Is the mRNA vaccine effective?

In the main study from Pfizer’s vaccine, 8/17,000 patients got symptomatic COVID-19 in the treatment group during the short follow up. In the placebo group, 162/17,000 patients got symptomatic COVID-19 during the study time. There was also a trend towards those getting the vaccine having a less severe disease and needing less hospitalization.

The Moderna study had 30,000 patients split into treatment and placebo arms. In the vaccine group, 11/15,000 patients came down with COVID-19. In the placebo group, 185/15,000 patients came down with COVID-19.

It was hard to ascertain death avoidance in these small studies. However, the two initial studies are favorable and show a 95% efficacy. Now that more information about the studies is known, Peter Doshi, associate editor of the British Medical Journal, wrote an editorial that the true efficacy may be much lower because the study excluded people with COVID-19 symptoms but a negative test and other factors.

How long does immunity last?

This is unknown. Injected mRNA goes away in days, but it is thought that the immune response will be long lasting. Whether patients will need boosters at some point is not known.

What about mutations in the COVID-19 virus? Will the vaccine still work?

Viruses always mutate and scientists following COVID-19 estimate it mutates, on average, twice a month. Most of these mutations are minor and will likely not change the vaccine effectiveness. These mutations also usually do not make the virus more deadly.

What is antibody dependent enhancement?

COVID-19 is in the family of Coronavirus that causes the common cold. The pharmaceutical industry has been trying without success for the last two decades to make a vaccine against the common cold. A safe vaccine against the common cold would make some company a lot of money!

One problem in the animal studies on coronavirus family vaccines was “antibody dependent enhancement.” When animals were inoculated, they developed a robust immune response, which is a good result.

However, when the animals were later exposed to the coronavirus against which they were vaccinated, their immune system went into overdrive, and they developed an overwhelming, fatal immune response called a “cytokine storm.” Fatal cytokine storms also happened to some COVID-19 patients when their infection was severe.

Human responses do not always correlate to animal responses. So far, there have been no signs that humans have a cytokine storm when exposed to COVID-19 after receiving the vaccine. Obviously, this would be catastrophic for any vaccine.

Should we be concerned about other long term side effects from mRNA vaccines?

A concern that deserves mention is the possibility that a cross-reaction and immunity to other parts of the spike protein could cause auto-immune disease or other problems.

A former Pfizer VP, Dr. Michael Yeadon, who has over 30 years of experience in immunology and drug research, filed a Stay of Action petition with the European Medicine Agency (like our FDA) to halt the trials of mRNA vaccines over concerns it might affect sterility in women.

Yeadon is worried that the mRNA vaccine was coded for a region of the spike protein that was similar to Syncytin-1, which is a protein that is essential for the development of the placenta. If a woman’s body makes antibodies to this protein, she could become sterile when vaccinated for COVID-19. This is a theory, not a proven fact, and no one has studied it. Yeadon’s insistence on more studies to make sure this will not happen seems reasonable.

What to make of all these concerns?

Medicine is always about a risk/benefit analysis, subject to the first maxim of “do no harm.” Usually, new medicines or new vaccines are used only after multiple studies show over long periods of time (for vaccines, at least five years) prove they’re safe and better than the older treatments.

While the new mRNA vaccines have good initial results and may be a breakthrough, they should be viewed as experimental and would best be used in high-risk patients (older patients or those with health conditions raising COVID-19 mortality) until we know more. Patients should receive extensive informed consent to understand the risks and benefits. Patients also need to know that if they have a serious complication, Congress already protected the pharmaceutical companies from litigation around emergency vaccines.

The mantra of “safe and effective” is not only incomplete, but it also ignores other pathways out of the pandemic. For healthy people, early outpatient treatments are being developed to treat COVID-19. These would be a safer option than taking an experimental vaccine. Young people (<60 years old) who have very low mortality from COVID-19 should approach getting the new vaccine as if they were consenting to be in an experimental trial of a new vaccine.

Our history shows there are good reasons why new medicines and vaccines are not rushed into widespread use until we have multiple studies and time to assess the safety and efficacy of the new treatments. If the death rate from COVID-19 were much higher, it might make the risks acceptable to try an experimental vaccine. Given that the COVID-19 death rate is a little higher than a bad flu, my opinion is that younger and healthier people need a more rigorous risk/benefit analysis before taking the mRNA vaccines.


Furious Leftist hatred of Trump still burning

These are seriously disturbed people

Democrat lawmakers in the House of Representatives introduced a new bill on Thursday that would ban only former President Donald Trump from being buried in Arlington National Cemetery or having federal funds going to buildings bearing his names.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA), applies all its prohibitions to “any former President that has been twice impeached by the House of Representatives on or before the date of enactment of this Act.” The bill would specifically target Trump, who is the only U.S. president to have been impeached twice by the House of Representatives.

The bill states its ban on property named after a twice impeached president includes “any highway, park, subway, Federal building, military installation, street, or other Federal property.”

In a statement announcing the bill, Sanchez said the bill, barring federal funds to any other building bearing Trump’s name, could also prevent public schools from being named after him.

“I can’t imagine sending students in Southern California — or anywhere in America — to a school named in honor of a traitorous president,” she said.

Sanchez said federal funding would not go to a single thing bearing Trump’s name, “Not a building, statue, or even a park bench.”

By targetting only presidents impeached twice before the bill’s enactment, the bill would allow Democratic President Bill Clinton to retain typical burial and honors given to U.S. presidents despite having also been impeached. Clinton was impeached in 1998 on one charge of perjury and one charge of obstruction of justice.

The bill could also affect the management of a Trump presidential library. According to the National Archives, while presidential libraries are constructed with non-federal funds, the libraries are typically transferred to the National Archives, which then staffs and operates them. The National Archives is a federal agency.

Additionally, the bill would also aim to strip Trump of other benefits of his presidency.

The Former President’s Act of 1958 describes a number of lifetime benefits for former presidents who have not been removed from office. The act provides retirement, clerical assistants and free mailing privileges to former presidents. Referring to the 1958 act, Sanchez’ bill states, “Notwithstanding any provision of the Act . . . any former President that has been twice impeached by the House of Representatives on or before the date of enactment of this Act or has been convicted of a State or Federal crime relating to actions taken in an official capacity as President of the United States is not entitled to receive any benefit, other than Secret Service protection, under such Act.”


German phyicist says he is '99.9 per cent sure' that coronavirus leaked from Wuhan lab

Dr Roland Wiesendanger, a physicist from the University of Hamburg, has published a 100-page paper laying out what he claims is evidence pointing to a leak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, in the city where the pandemic began.

The professor says the fact that no animal host has been found, safety concerns about the lab, and the fact that researchers were involved in controversial 'gain-of-function' research to make viruses more infectious to humans all confirm his view.

But others have slammed his 'research' - saying it is unscientific, relies on newspaper reports and YouTube videos as sources, and point out that he is not a virus expert.

His paper was published just 10 days after WHO scientists probing the origins of Covid in Wuhan urged scientists to dismiss lab leak theories, saying the possibility is 'extremely unlikely'.

Dr Wiesendanger openly admitted to German media that he has no 'scientific basis' for believing the virus escaped from the Wuhan lab. But he insisted that there is plenty of 'circumstantial evidence' that suggests a lab leak is the most likely explanation.

'I am 99.9 percent certain that the coronavirus came from the laboratory,' he told German newspaper ZDF.

Among the evidence that Dr Wiesendanger puts forward is the fact that, despite China's insistence that thorough searches have been carried out, no natural host for the virus has yet been found.

The closest relative of Covid to be found in nature is a coronavirus found in bats living in a mine in Mojiang in 2012 - labelled RaTG13 by researchers.

Dr Wiesendanger points out that these bats live some 1,200 miles from Wuhan, meaning it is unlikely they carried the virus to the city.

WHO scientists also pointed out in their own report that contact between citizens of Wuhan and bats is uncommon.




Friday, February 19, 2021

World watches as Israel’s fast-tracked vaccination program delivers promising results

It paid a sky-high price to access one of the best coronavirus vaccines in the world and also agreed to share data on the accelerated rollout – but Israel’s expensive gamble seems to have paid off.

The small country in the Middle East was late joining the line for the Pfizer vaccine behind the US, Canada and Japan, according to The Times of Israel, but it still managed to gain fast-tracked access to millions of doses.

This was partly due to Israel paying a lot more for the vaccine – as much as double what the United States and United Kingdom signed up for per dose – but also because it agreed to share data on the results of the rollout with Pfizer.

“We didn’t quibble about the price,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters in January.

Mr Netanyahu also acknowledged that one of the selling points for Pfizer was that Israel “could serve as a world laboratory for herd immunity or something approaching herd immunity very quickly”.

Israel “can serve as a global test case” on the coronavirus vaccine and on reopening the economy, he said.

Two months since the vaccine began to be rolled out, experts are now watching closely to understand its effectiveness in the real world.

The program has been so successful that on Monday Mr Netanyahu’s government announced the reopening of some businesses.

“We’ll be the first in the world to get out [of COVID],” Mr Netanyahu told Israel’s Channel 12.

He encouraged 570,000 people aged over 50 who had not yet been vaccinated to get the jab, saying they would decide whether the current lockdown will be Israel’s last.

Israel has already provided the first of two jabs to more than four million people in just two months.

This has provided coverage to more than 40 per cent of its population of nine million. Of these, more than 2.6 million have also received their second jab.

Although the number of vaccinations is not as high as other countries, Israel’s smaller population makes it easier to assess the impact of widespread vaccination because a higher proportion of the population is potentially protected.

So what is the data saying?

So far there isn’t a clear answer on whether vaccinated people can still infect others but there is promising data suggesting vaccinations reduce viral load and this means people are less likely to infect others.

Analysis from DNA scientist Yaniv Erlich, who is MyHeritage’s chief science officer, and his colleague Ella Petter, found vaccinated people who still got sick with coronavirus had a viral load 1.5 times to 20 times lower than those who weren’t vaccinated.

This means they are less likely to pass on the virus to others even if they do get infected and provides some hope that herd immunity can be achieved.

“Whoever gets vaccinated not only protects himself but also his family, his neighbours, and his community. Therefore, it is important to get vaccinated,” Dr Erlich wrote in a Facebook post on February 8.

Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to US President Joe Biden, also spruiked the vaccine’s ability to reduce people’s viral load, seen in studies from Israel and Spain.

“The vaccine is important not only for the health of the individual to protect them against infection and disease, including the variants … but it also has very important implications from a public health standpoint, for interfering and diminishing the dynamics of the outbreak,” he said on Wednesday.

With any new vaccine there’s a risk that results seen in the trials won’t be replicated in the real world. This can happen for many reasons including the fact that people who sign up for trials tend to be healthier, more educated and open to new technology.

But so far the Pfizer’s results appear to be mirroring those experienced in the trial and it is protecting people from getting sick.

Israel has now announced a “green badge” system to re-open certain venues to those who have received both of their jabs.

From Sunday, those who have the badge, which will also be given to those who have recovered from the virus, will be allowed into gyms, cultural events, houses of worship and hotels.

“We are moving ahead with the responsible reopening on the principle of ‘you’re vaccinated – you’re in’,” Defence Minister Benny Gantz said on Monday.

Other facilities, like malls and museums, will open to all citizens, with or without a green badge, under a so-called “purple code”, with crowd size limits and other restrictions that have applied through much of the pandemic.

Hagai Levine, a public health professor and researcher at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, stressed Israel’s vaccination-dependent reopening plan required a “delicate balance” between public health needs and individual freedoms.

There is also “a right not to be vaccinated,” he told AFP.

“I think people should do it, but you cannot force them,” he added, noting that those who opt out inevitably risk being denied certain services.


UK: No, patriotism doesn’t alienate ethnic minorities

The battle for the Labour Party’s soul is now in full flow. This once great party has been on the opposition benches for over a decade, and is now on the verge of being plunged into an internal culture war over matters of patriotism and tradition.

According to progressive activists, taking pride in the Union flag, respecting those who have served in the armed forces and being smartly dressed is pandering to extreme right-wing nativism.

But what is an especially questionable charge, made by the likes of Aditya Chakrabortty in the Guardian, is that embracing expressions of British patriotism would alienate ethnic minorities. According to this view, the imagined ‘BAME community’ has little to no sense of national pride or appreciation of British life. This assumption is both misguided and divisive.

The 2010 Ethnic Minority British Election Study, which remains the only full-scale survey on British ethnic-minority attitudes to date, showed that non-white people are far more likely to express satisfaction with the British democratic system than white Brits. This should come as no surprise. A notable section of Britain’s non-white population moved directly to the UK from unstable parts of the world with dysfunctional political systems and substandard public infrastructure.

Part of the reason my Bangladeshi-origin parents decided to set up their stall in Britain was because of the stable nature of British democratic society and the great educational opportunities on offer for their children. This feeds into a naturally positive orientation towards Britain – a country that provided them with an opportunity to start afresh and prosper.

The progressive-activist brigade, which lectures Labour on how to engage with Britain’s ethnic-minority people, fails to understand that patriotic sentiments and culturally traditional values run deep in many British non-white communities. Arguing that Labour should steer clear of expressions of patriotism and national civic pride, on the baseless grounds that it would alienate swathes of ‘BAME’ people, is nonsense-on-stilts.

It also amounts to the crass exploitation of non-white people, who are being used to stop Labour embracing patriotism and tradition. This is an attempt to ensure the party continues to indulge racial identity politics, and continues to support the kind of cultural liberalism that runs counter to traditional family-oriented values – values which often characterise South Asian and black communities across the home nations.

Britain’s progressive activists – who span various spheres of British life, from politics to academia to the media and entertainment – are far from ideologically in-sync with mainstream ethnic-minority public opinion.

While these progressive activists squirm at the mildest expressions of patriotism, a comfortable majority of non-white people attach importance to their British national identity. Following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union and the Conservative Party’s handsome victory in the 2019 UK General Election, some Labourites have grown increasingly dissatisfied with the outcomes produced by the UK’s recent democratic exercises. But many of Britain’s non-white people – who can trace their ancestral origins back to countries with autocratic regimes and rampant political oppression – simply do not share in this domestic progressive-liberal discontent. And while progressive activists look to ‘protect’ an imaginary BAME community from the forces of oppression, they fail to acknowledge that non-white people tend to be more satisfied with their life in the UK.

Progressive activists are either unaware of the culturally conservative attitudes in non-white communities or, worse still, they are fully aware of them but would still rather exploit ethnic minorities to promote their identitarian agenda. This tribe of left-wingers – instinctively hostile to expressions of patriotism, dissatisfied with the democratic system, and always keen to interpret a range of social issues through the prism of race – threatens to lock Labour in a position of neverending electoral misery.

If such people continue to wield considerable influence on the British left, Labour will only be left with offering a miserable form of grievance politics, which is likely to prove very costly at the ballot box. The lessons of the 2019 UK General Election are clearly still not being learned.



Joe Biden takes a sledgehammer to Trump immigration agenda by pulling 65 pending EOs (Free Beacon)

Soon-to-be President Kamala Harris is now taking Biden's head of state calls (Disrn)

Christian actor Kevin Sorbo gets deleted by Facebook (Disrn)

William Shakespeare ditched by more and more woke teachers over "misogyny" and "racism" (Fox News)

New York school encourages parents to become "white traitors," "white abolitionists" (Daily Wire)

Dumb and dumber: San Francisco school board delays talk of reopening classrooms — but keeps working on changing "racist" school names (Daily Mail)

National Guard mission in DC to finally conclude by mid-March, Pentagon claims (Examiner)

Iraq rocket attack kills contractor, wounds U.S. service member; it was the most deadly attack to hit U.S.-led forces for almost a year in Iraq, where tensions have escalated (NBC News)

Wharton School analysts concludes that Biden's proposed spending binge would actually lead to a smaller economy in 2022 (FEE)

We're shocked — shocked! Venezuela turns to privatization after being bankrupted by socialism (FEE)

It didn't start on January 6: A brief history of terrorist violence at the Capitol (Heritage Foundation)

Endangered bears being released into the wild start charging their rescuers because that's what bears do (Not the Bee)

Chick-fil-A worker wins car in company raffle, gives it to coworker who was biking to work (Not the Bee)

Policy: Biden should keep U.S. troops in Europe (Heritage Foundation)

Joe Biden rightly disappoints hard leftists on minimum wage hike and student loan forgiveness (Examiner)

Hypocritical Twitter allows grotesque hashtags to trend following Limbaugh's death (Daily Wire)

The U.S. is now administering average of 1.7 million vaccine doses per day (Disrn)

U.S. life expectancy drops a year in pandemic — the most since WWII (Fox News)

Government seizes over 10 million phony N95 masks in COVID probe (AP)

Three North Korean military hackers indicted in wide-ranging scheme (

U.S. retail sales rebounded sharply in January — up a seasonally adjusted 5.3% (Reuters)

Google and News Corp strike a deal: Google will start paying for the use of News Corp's journalism in the U.S., UK, and Australia (NBC News)

Baltimore activist suggests paying killers not to kill (Fox News)

Security camera catches LA County health inspector breaking into dance like a psycho moments after ordering bar to shut down (Not the Bee)

Karma: At least 30 Taliban terrorists blow themselves up during bomb-making class (Disrn)

Porch pirate attempts to steal a package and is met with a loaded rifle (Not the Bee)

Policy: Technology alone won't end poverty. We need savings first. (Mises Institute)




Thursday, February 18, 2021

Why did COVID fail to take off in India and has now collapsed? Mystery plunge in coronavirus

Scientists are trying to work out why coronavirus cases in India are falling when at one point it looked like the country might overtake the US as the worst-hit nation.

In September the country was reporting some 100,00 new cases per day, but that went into decline in October and is now sitting at around 10,000 per day - leaving experts struggling to explain why.

While the Indian government has been keen to put the apparent success down to its mask-wearing and social distancing laws, few believe these measures alone are responsible for the dip.

Instead, experts believe it may be down to the fact that India's largest cities have reached herd immunity, meaning the virus has moved to rural areas where it spreads slower and where cases and deaths are far less likely to be tested and logged.

A recent survey found 56 per cent of people in Delhi - the country's most-populous city - have Covid antibodies, which is likely to be an under-estimate with 70 per cent required for herd immunity.

Only around 20 per cent of deaths in India are medically certified - meaning 80 per cent do not have an official cause of death - with analysts warning the country may be under-counting its Covid fatalities by two or three times.

India also tests far less than developed nations, with medical experts warnings some states are relying on rapid lateral flow tests that give false-negative results.

The country also has a far younger population than many western nations - with an average age under 30 - and has far lower rates of obesity, which are both major factors in serious Covid infections and deaths.

Antibody surveys carried out in Mumbai, India's second-largest city, and Pune also showed antibodies in around 50 per cent of the population, The Times reported.

'The most densely-populated areas are already saturated and reaching the threshold of herd immunity, Giridhar Babu, an epidemiologist at the Public Health Foundation of India, told the paper.

'The virus has now spread to rural areas, but they are not so dense.'

Having a less-dense population means the virus spreads slower, which will naturally bring down daily case figures.

But with access to healthcare in rural India often lacking, it may also mean that many cases and deaths are going undetected.

Testing data for India shows that just 0.5 people per 1000 are swabbed each day - one of the lowest rates among countries that report such data.

More data released in September last year showed that people in rural areas are less-likely to be swabbed than those in cities - meaning that as the disease moves away from urban centres, the number of positive tests appears to decline.

The average number of tests carried out per day has also been falling across the whole of India since mid-December, which could also help to explain why positive test results have fallen.

And even those who are swabbed may be returning false-negative results, with doctors warning in September last year that many states are over-reliant on rapid lateral flow tests, which are unreliable.

Rijo John, a public health policy analyst, also warned that some states are failing to report which kind of tests are being used, further muddying the picture.

'More and more states are moving towards rapid antigen detection tests, which are known to have a high percentage of false negatives and not utilising the gold standard RT-PCR tests to full capacity,' he said.

'It should be made mandatory for all states to report the break[down] of different test types as well as the positives from these.'

Data also shows 80 per cent of Indians die at home, with no national requirement for a cause of death to be given before a body can be cremated or buried.

That has led experts to warn of a 'substantial' under-counting of deaths, with Dr Babu warning the true toll could be two or three times higher than the official count.

But others point to easing pressure on the country's hospitals as evidence that something other than an under-counting of cases and deaths in going on.

Some point to India's young population and relatively low rates of obesity as possible explanations.

The country has an average age of less than 30 with just 15 per cent of adults being overweight and 5 per cent obese, according to 2015 data.

By comparison, the US - which has been hardest-hit by Covid - has an average age of 38 with 32 per cent of adults overweight and 36 per cent obese.

Age and obesity are known to be two of the biggest factors increasing the likelihood that someone will fall seriously ill or die from Covid.

Other theories include that India has been dealing with less-virulent strains of the virus than those found in Europe, the US and parts of Africa.

India suspended all commercial flights in March last year, and while it has been operating 'travel corridors' since July, it has been quick to cut off routes to countries where dangerous new variants have emerged such as the UK.

That could have stopped the country suffering from spikes in infections like that seen in Britain after the so-called Kent Variant emerged, epidemiologists suggest.

Others believe that Indians, many of whom live in unsanitary conditions and suffer repeated waves of infections, have naturally resilient immune systems.

Jacob John, a prominent virologist at Christian Medical College in Tamil Nadu state, said: '[India suffers] dengue, chikungunya, malaria, typhoid, cholera, dysenteries, influenza, so the "innate immune system" is trained to be on high alert.'

The success cannot be attributed to vaccinations since India only began administering jabs in January, with just seven million out of the country's 1.3billion population jabbed so far.

Experts have cautioned that even if herd immunity in some places is partially responsible for the decline, the population as a whole remains vulnerable - and must continue to take precautions.

This is especially true because new research suggests that people who got sick with one form of the virus may be able to get infected again with a new version.

A recent survey in Manaus, Brazil, that estimated that over 75% of people there had antibodies for the virus in October - before cases surged again in January.


Did the CDC Really Say We Need to Wear 2 Masks? Here’s What You Need to Know About Double-Masking

Throughout the course of this pandemic, there has been widespread confusion, misunderstanding, and anxiety about COVID-19—how it is transmitted, how dangerous it is, and how to protect yourself from it.

Now, the latest topic of debate is whether or not the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend double-masking, and like other COVID-19 debates, misconceptions abound.

The use of masks as a simple infection control measure has become a controversial and polarizing issue. Now, a new push to wear not one, but two masks at once threatens to make it even worse. But does it even make sense?

Protective masks are a lightweight and easy tool for reducing the chances of spreading respiratory pathogens from one person to another. Illnesses (such as COVID-19) are caused by respiratory viruses and are transmitted by our breaths.

Thus, it makes sense that placing a filtering barrier in front of our respiratory orifices would reduce the spread of respiratory viruses.

Nearly every locality in the United States now mandates wearing masks in situations where you are exposed to other members of the public, and 96% of the population is willing to wear a mask when they leave the house or come into contact with other people, according to a survey taken in December 2020.

Despite this, the rate of known cases, hospitalizations, and deaths due to COVID-19 reached unprecedented levels this past fall. The rate of hospitalizations alone eclipsed the summer spike by a twofold factor.

The conclusion to draw from this is that masks may indeed help in certain situations, but on their own they simply were insufficient to stem the spread of the virus in the past few months.

We seem to be on the downward slope of the present spike, as cases and hospitalizations have been on a sustained decline since January, and deaths have begun trending downward more recently, but it likely has little to do with masks, since they have been so broadly accepted or already mandated in so many places since before the fall spike.

So if one mask isn’t working very well, why not wear two?

That is the conclusion many are drawing from the recent CDC study. To unpack this study correctly, we must first understand that the CDC was testing different ways of wearing masks to improve their performance—it was not simply testing the efficacy of double-masking exclusively.

Here’s what the CDC found. Unsurprisingly, when a mask is better fitted to a person’s face, fewer aerosols and particulates escape past it.

In a trial where a source (a person coughing or breathing) and a receiver (the person from which aerosols were measured) wore two masks (a cloth mask worn over a medical procedure mask) the receiver was exposed to 96.4% less aerosol.

On its own, this is an interesting finding, but is impossible to be generalized to a policy on how we ought to comport ourselves during the present pandemic.

One problem is that this study only tested one type of procedure mask and one type of cloth mask. Procedure masks are fairly standard (although there are different strap types), but the market for cloth masks includes an endless variety of fabrics and forms.

Outside of the ideal conditions of a laboratory, someone who opts to wear a cloth mask on top of a procedure mask would lose all the benefits of improved filtration if, for example, the cloth mask was poorly fitted to the face.

If, for instance, a cloth mask has poor fitment, it would do nothing to improve filtration, and the purpose of the double mask would be negated.

Another problem is that the aerosols in the experiment are not an exact representation of viral particles, but of a person’s respirations. How infectious a person’s respirations are would depend on his or her viral load.

Thus, a reduction in exposure, as measured in the study, does not necessarily mean the same reduction in infectiousness.

The study authors themselves recognize that these findings are not to be interpreted “as being representative of the effectiveness of these masks when worn in real-world settings.”

Indeed, to reduce the point of the study as to simply a trial of the effects of double-masking would be far too narrow an interpretation—in reality, the results only speak to the effectiveness of the particular masks used.

As every person has a unique face, masking, double-masking, or other modified mask-wearing could all work to varying degrees. The only true conclusion from this study is not that we should all wear two masks, but that better fitting masks filter our breaths better.

To that end, wearing a properly fitted N95 respirator would do just as well as double-masking, or rather, better.

The greatest potential utility of masks is when people who are possibly exposed find themselves in situations where physical distancing from strangers is impossible—for instance, while walking past others in a grocery store aisle.

But masks were only ever meant to be part of a broad mitigation strategy. They were never meant to seal us off from the dangers of the world.

If people want to wear two masks, they should certainly do so, but everyone must remember that masks only make up one part of a broader mitigation strategy, which includes assessing risks, social distancing, testing, and importantly now, vaccinating. Policymakers should remember this, rather than rely on masks and make them even more unappetizing to use.

And policymakers should explore additional options—like widespread rapid self-testing, which is an even more promising way to battle the pandemic.

It has been over a year now since SARS-CoV-2 first arrived on our shores, and Americans have been asked to avoid buying masks, to wear masks, and, now, to wear two masks.

We’ve learned many things over the course of 2020, but at no point did we learn that masks would be anything other than an adjunct to better, more effective measures.

Doubling up on masks, at this point, would be doubling down on one of the least effective measures we now have.




Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Leftist Hypocrisy on Authoritarianism

Republicans are “radicalizing against democracy” because they rely on our constitutional process when governing. This is the essence of Chris Hayes’ recent Atlantic piece contending that the GOP is descending into authoritarianism.

The MSNBC host notes, without any suggestion of self-awareness, that “the Constitution puts a wind at the backs of Republicans and makes them more competitive than they would be otherwise.”

What does “otherwise” mean here, exactly? A return to the British Empire? Or does it mean functioning as the centralized direct democracy that progressives covet, but that’s never existed in this country? There is no “otherwise.”

The idea that the Constitution allows “minoritarian control” might be popular in certain quarters, but it remains a faulty way of looking at our system.

The American republic is democratic, yes; but it also protects the rights of the individual, the power of the states, and the dignity of the minority, and it does so openly and deliberately.

Federalism, far from representing a modern plot, has existed from the start as a means by which to diffuse power and prevent the subordination of smaller states—read: communities—by bigger ones.

There is nothing preventing California from passing whatever laws it wishes at the state level. There are provisions making it hard for California to pass whatever laws it wishes in West Virginia. That’s not a bug; it’s the point.

To bolster the claim of this minoritarian autocracy, Hayes is impelled to create the impression that the overriding national consensus is being thwarted. “Democrats have established a narrow but surprisingly durable electoral majority, holding control of the House, winning back the Senate, and taking the presidency by 7 million votes,” he argues.

This is wishful thinking. Voters are fickle and mercurial, and the fleeting vagaries of public sentiment are constantly changing.

Four years ago, Republicans controlled everything, too. What has changed? Not much, really.

Even in the midst of a once-in-a-century pandemic and subsequent economic downturn; even with Donald Trump’s boorishness and self-destructive behavior; even with a sloppy election that showered paper ballots on nearly everyone in the country—even then, Republicans came somewhere within 45,000 to 90,000 votes of controlling all of Washington’s institutions once again.

There is a good chance that the GOP will take back the House in 2022; the Senate is tied; and nobody has a clue what will happen in the presidential election of 2024. 1932 this was not.

Perhaps the most dangerous thing about anti-constitutionalists such as Hayes is their inability to comprehend their own authoritarianism. Hayes asserts that, in the future, the national fight will revolve around “whether the United States will live up to the promise of democracy.”

“On that crucial question,” he suggests, “we’ve rarely been so divided.” But he doesn’t really mean “democracy” so much as he means “things I personally like.”

Rest assured, Hayes wasn’t a fan of majoritarian “democracy” when the vast majority of Americans opposed gay marriage. He’s not really a fan of catchall “democracy” when it doesn’t serve his philosophical interests.

As for “authoritarianism”—well, that also seems to depend upon whose ox is being gored. One can only imagine the kind of raging screeds we’d be subjected to if Republicans were talking about a national domestic-terror act—a Patriot Act for Americans—that was explicitly designed to weed out the left-wing extremists that burned their way through last summer.

And how many Hayes-approved protesters do we think would hit the streets if the Biden administration had instructed the military to stand down so it could ferret out thought crimes?

Forget the hypotheticals: Where are Hayes’ passionate objections to President Joe Biden’s having signed a slew of acutely undemocratic executive orders—including international agreements—without the consent of the legislative branch?

How loud has he been in criticism of Sen. Chuck Schumer’s imploring the executive to strip Congress of its power?

Where was he when the Obama administration went after the conscience rights of nuns?

Clearly, for many left-wingers—and, no, it is no longer accurate to call them “liberals”—“democracy” and “authoritarianism” are wholly situational ideas. I won’t be lectured by them any longer.

To believe the “Biden era of American politics is shaping up as a contest between the growing ideological hegemony of liberalism and the intensifying opposition of a political minority that has proved willing to engage in violence in order to hold on to power,” one has to ignore reality—starting with the endless supply of leftist riots that broke out across the country last summer to unfailingly rave reviews—and, in concert, to pretend that the Capitol rioters were not only magically “different,” but represented the core of the conservative argument.

Well, I won’t do either. I’m for the rule of law—as it actually exists, not how others would like it to exist. I am for the Constitution. I am for both houses of Congress. I am for the states. I am for the Bill of Rights. I’m for all those things because I reject authoritarianism.


An Emerging and Tragic Side Effect of COVID Has Hit San Francisco

As lazy teachers and their unions continue to fight going back to school in an effort to extend their summer vacation, kids are dying. They’re committing suicide at alarming rates due to the lack of in-person learning, social interaction, after-school activities, and sports. It's causing kids to become depressed at exponential rates. They’re also not learning.

I think parents have known this for months, but now there’s solid data to reinforce this commonsense point. Little kids cannot sit still in front of a computer screen. Also, not everyone has Internet access. To liberal America and the elites, you know this undercuts your "stay at home, we’re all in this together" war cry, right?

I think this was already happening in the red states, but dead kids from Republican states don’t matter in their eyes. It only matters when it started to creep into the blue states, which has happened. In Clark County, Nevada, its school district is rushing to reopen schools as soon as humanly possible due to a spike in student suicides. And now, in San Francisco, they’re seeing the same tragedies, which prompted the city to yank its own school board into court in an effort to get kids back in the classroom. These schools have been closed for over a year (via NY Post):

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera announced last week he was taking the dramatic step of suing the city’s own school district, which has kept its classrooms closed nearly a year. In the motion filed Thursday in San Francisco Superior Court, Herrera included alarming testimony from hospitals in the San Francisco Bay Area, doctors and parents on the emotional and mental harms of extended distance learning.

One mother, Allison Arieff, said she had recently found her 15-year-old daughter “curled up in a fetal position, crying, next to her laptop at 11 am” Arieff said her daughter often cries in the middle of the day out of frustration and “is losing faith not just in SFUSD but in the world.”

Another mother, Lindsay Sink, has seen a “major regression” in her 7-year-old son who has “uncontrollable meltdowns that turn (the) whole house upside down.” Sink’s 10-year-old daughter is experiencing “depression and anger” and she fears her daughter’s “mental health will continue to suffer” until in-person learning resumes.

UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital has seen a 66 percent increase in the number of suicidal children in the emergency room and a 75 percent increase in youth who required hospitalization for mental health services, the lawsuit said, quoting pediatricians, child psychiatrists and emergency room doctors.

As long as teachers’ unions drag their feet and deny the science behind schools in the COVID era, which is that it's been safe to reopen them for quite some time, nothing will happen. The unions are too big an ally for the Democratic Party to anger. They will need their help in the 2022 midterms. Don’t expect much movement. I would be happy to see a seismic shift occur, but don’t bet the mortgage.


Australian churches on collision course with the government over AstraZeneca vaccine

Major churches are at odds with authorities over the AstraZeneca vaccine, with religious leaders telling parishioners they are entitled to request a different jab but the federal government saying most people won’t have a choice.

Religious concerns about the AstraZeneca vaccine arise from its use of decades-old aborted fetal cells in the development process, which is common scientific practice that some Christians find objectionable.

The stoush could frustrate or delay attempts to inoculate the country against further COVID-19 outbreaks and lockdowns as authorities prepare to start the vaccine rollout later this month.

While Australia will import 20 million Pfizer doses for high-risk populations, most Australians will be offered the AstraZeneca jab, with 50 million doses to be made locally and expected to begin in late March. A third vaccine, Novavax, should be available later in the year pending clinical trials and regulatory approval.

Catholic and Anglican archbishops told The Sun-Herald and The Sunday Age that while it was ethical for people with concerns to take the AstraZeneca vaccine if necessary, they should be entitled to request a different jab.

On Friday a spokesman for Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher said he was a strong advocate of vaccinations but “like any medicine they must be safe and ethically obtained”. “Fortunately, the Novavax and Pfizer vaccines will be made available in Australia, they seem if anything to have higher success rates, and they are morally uncompromised,” he said.

“Anyone who is concerned about the ethics of the AstraZeneca vaccine should be confident in requesting an alternative, but also be confident that it is not unethical to use the AstraZeneca vaccine if there is no alternative reasonably available.”

A spokeswoman for the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne Peter Comensoli said the church would clarify its ethical position on the vaccines next week, but in the meantime referred to his remarks in a letter to the faithful last year.

“Where there is a choice, we encourage people to use a vaccine that has not been developed using human fetal cells deriving from abortion,” he wrote at the time. “The bishops accept that the use of an ethically compromised vaccine is acceptable if no other option is available.”

Sydney Anglican Archbishop Glenn Davies was among the religious leaders who signed a letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison last year complaining the AstraZeneca vaccine “makes use of a cell line cultured from an electively aborted human fetus”.

“I was one of the church leaders who urged the Prime Minister to give Australians a choice, in order to assure the highest vaccination rate possible,” Archbishop Davies said on Friday.

“I welcome the fact that the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for distribution in Australia since this vaccine is free from ethical concerns in its production. This is a matter of individual choice for each Australian but I want to encourage widespread vaccination in our population throughout 2021.”

Asked about the archbishops’ comments, the federal health department referred The Sun-Herald and The Sunday Age to remarks by secretary and former chief medical officer Brendan Murphy on February 4 in which he said most people would not have a choice of vaccines. “In the main, there won’t be a choice, and I think both vaccines are extremely good, and I would be very happy to have either of them,” Professor Murphy said.

About 70 per cent of Australians report some kind of religious affiliation in the census, including about 50 per cent who identify as Christian, though not all would hold concerns about abortion or the use of an aborted fetus in vaccine production.

A spokesperson for Australian Christian Churches, which has more than 375,000 Pentecostal followers, said the ACC “does not hold an official ethical position on the use of vaccines and encourages individuals to make a decision based on personal conscience”.

Church newsletters have also contained commentary raising concerns about the AstraZeneca vaccine. For example, in the December issue of the Sydney Anglican magazine Southern Cross, Bishop Chris Edwards warned of “problems” with the vaccine due to its use of the aborted cells. “The ethical issues around this are very complex,” he wrote.




Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Understanding Singapore’s Covid miracle

How did a nation that locked down so late become the success story of the pandemic?

Something close to a miracle occurred in Singapore in 2020. At the time of writing, Singapore has recorded 59,602 cases of Covid with just 29 deaths. At just over 10,000 cases per million, the cases are well below those of the US (80,232 cases per million), the UK (57,198) and France (50,710). Moreover, the vast majority of Singapore’s cases are concentrated in the foreign worker dorms, while community cases have been limited to just over 6,000.

Moreover, Singapore’s Covid-related death toll is staggeringly low, with its infection-fatality rate standing at just 0.05 per cent. Little wonder many have noted that Singapore has controlled the outbreak of Covid remarkably well. Yet very few have noted how unlikely an outcome that was. Even David Chan, a professor of psychology at Singapore Management University, in his hurriedly written book on the Singapore outbreak, Combating a Crisis, misses how spectacular an outlier Singapore is.

Several reasons for Singapore’s outlier status have been proposed, including: mask wearing, tight border controls, lockdown measures, and contact tracing with the associated app, TraceTogether. As implied by the extended title of Chan’s book – The Psychology of Singapore’s Response to Covid-19 – he claims that the success of Singapore’s Covid response was, at least in part, due to good psychological management of ‘negative emotions’, and ‘building psychological capital’ and trust via, for example, campaigns to maintain personal hygiene and to safe-distance, and clear government communication and assurance.

However, the ultimate reason why Singapore has suffered so minimally from the Covid outbreak is mysterious, and may ever remain so. Out of all the possibilities put forward, good contact tracing is likely the most important in stemming community spread of Covid, although, as we will see, the TraceTogether app played no role in that. The other vitally important measure that Singapore took was to protect care homes, something that has not been widely commented on and that Chan does not mention anywhere in Combating a Crisis.

Government communication in Singapore has been less chaotic than it has been elsewhere, notably in the UK and the US. It was not, however, entirely smooth, and communication regarding face masks was notably mixed. Indeed, face masks were a rare sight before January 2020, and at that time the official advice to residents was not to wear a mask. At the end of January, Singapore’s prime minister Lee Hsien Loong advised Singaporeans not to wear a mask unless they were currently sick. That advice was supported by a national information campaign from the National University of Singapore School of Medicine (see the cartoon below). Mask sales surged (despite government instruction) in late January, and then eased again until the advice was reversed in early April. Mask wearing was rare before January 2020 and then patchy until it was enforced on 14 April, and so widespread mask-wearing before the outbreak cannot explain Singapore’s extreme outlier status.

Singapore is a major travel hub and welcomes close to 20million overseas visitors every year. Between October 2019 and March 2020, close to 7.5million visitors entered Singapore from overseas, with roughly 20 per cent of them coming from mainland China. Singapore did not close its border to tourists until 24 March, one week after Rome closed its main terminal. Thus, as for other major international travel destinations, including Rome, London and New York, Singapore will have received guests who moved freely throughout the city with Covid for at least three to four months (and many of them not wearing masks). Temperature screening set up at the end of January at Singapore’s airport might have made some difference, but it would not have detected asymptomatic cases. Tight border control cannot explain Singapore’s extreme outlier status.

Singapore is also densely populated; people live and socialise in close proximity. Few people cook at home because eating out is so cheap, and the weather is conducive to being outdoors. I took the picture below on 25 March in a popular night spot known as Holland Village. Note the density, the close proximity of tables and the lack of mask wearing. The national lockdown, known here as a circuit breaker, did not come into effect until 7 April, almost a month after Italy, and about two weeks after New York City and the UK. A widespread tendency to distance or an early lockdown cannot explain Singapore’s extreme outlier status.

Singapore’s highly effective track-and-trace systems provides a more promising explanation. Singapore learned several lessons from the SARS outbreak in 2003, including: that the transfer within hospitals was a central problem (UK, take note); and that temperature monitoring and isolating those with a fever, along with their contacts, was the best way to prevent community transmission.

Beginning in January, temperature screening became more common, and by early February daily screening was mandatory at most workplaces and for entry to most shopping centres, bars, restaurants and other crowded areas. Anyone with a fever was required to isolate for two weeks. Most public places also required patrons to declare their entry using their mobile phones to register via a SafeEntry QR code. Anyone diagnosed with Covid was interviewed regarding their whereabouts and their SafeEntry records were inspected. Close contacts were identified and quarantined. The hotspots identified by SafeEntry were also reported and people were advised to self-isolate if they had been in those areas during certain periods.

Singapore launched its own contact-tracing mobile app known as TraceTogether on 21 March. TraceTogether works via Bluetooth to record other phones using TraceTogether in close proximity. In the event of a user being diagnosed with Covid, the records can be downloaded by government officials and those who were in proximity can be alerted to either isolate or be tested.

Chan notes that utilisation of the TraceTogether app was far below what was needed in order for the app to be useful. There were several initial problems with the app, including the general difficulty for older people in navigating their smartphones, and some did not own one. The app was also incompatible with some phones, especially the iPhone. And it also had a tendency to drain phones’ batteries. The government addressed those problems by introducing a wearable app for people to carry around with them.

Nevertheless, take-up of the app (and wearable device) remained at around 25 per cent in March, far below the 75 per cent needed to make it useful. Human-interview contact tracing might have contributed to Singapore’s extreme outlier status, but smartphone tracing did not.

The major barrier to use of TraceTogether was a concern about privacy. As Chan notes:

‘The news on developing the wearable device and the updated TraceTogether app to collect users’ personal identification numbers evoked considerable negative feedback on social media, including an online petition which garnered more than 40,000 signatures within a short span of only a few days.’

People were concerned about the government having access to their location and who they were with. Chan considers that concern misguided because the government will only obtain the data where a person has been in close contact with a case. And besides, who wouldn’t want potentially life-saving intervention to protect them from Covid?

Well, the person having a secret affair, or moonlighting on their boss, or not working entirely legally or being with other people not working entirely legally. Even in Singapore, people can step outside the rules either on purpose or by accident, and Singapore is not known for leniency when it comes to those who don’t follow the rules, whatever the reasons might be. Governments globally have also breached privacy accidentally through the misplacing of records, or deliberately to counter crime or terrorism. Given all this, people’s reluctance to download a tool of state surveillance on to their phones is hardly a surprise.

Regardless of the reluctance to use TraceTogether, it is clear that Singapore implemented strong techniques to prevent Covid transmission. The worker dorms, however, were not included in the efforts. There are over 300,000 foreign workers residing in worker dorms in Singapore. Workers come from Malaysia, Bangladesh, India, Thailand, Burma, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and China and largely perform construction and other manual labour jobs that employers claim Singaporeans are unwilling to do – at least for the wages they offer.

The worker dorms provide, as Chan described, ‘crowded communal living… A typical dormitory has between 12 and 16 workers living together in a room with beds spaced less than one metre apart.’ Such crowding is perfect for spreading an infectious virus like Covid, and it spread impressively. Based on PCR and serology testing, just under half the workers were infected. Of those infected, just over a third showed symptoms, 25 were admitted to ICU, and two tragically died.

So, overlooking the threat of infection in the worker dorms was an error on the Singapore government’s part. But it was one that had relatively minimal health impact because the workers were young and healthy. Errors that allowed Covid to spread through care-home populations, notably in the UK, Sweden, and elsewhere, were vastly more destructive.

Around 12,000 Singaporean citizens live in care homes, compared with around 418,000 UK citizens. That equates to about 0.3 per cent of Singapore’s population (citizens only) and about 0.6 per cent of the UK’s. Outbreaks of Covid in care homes in the UK and elsewhere have had a devastating impact, but that has clearly been avoided in Singapore.

Indeed, shortly after the first case of Covid was detected in a care home on 31 March, Singapore’s Ministry of Health moved around 3,000 nursing home employees into hotels to isolate them from the wider community, and tested all 9,000 nursing-home staff. Positive tests were followed by contact tracing and quarantine. Those measures were in addition to a month-long ban on visitation, safe-distancing in all homes, and zoning. Singapore has reported only three Covid-related care-home deaths, compared with estimates of 25,000 Covid-related deaths in the UK.

In summary, then, Singapore implemented an effective track-and-trace system with associated quarantine. That system did not rely on the TraceTogether app. An app might be cheaper and easier to implement than manual track-and-trace, but that is still to be proven and the privacy concerns remain.

Early adoption of masks and lockdown were not a feature of Singapore’s response to Covid, and so early mask adoption and early lockdown did not make the difference. Whether the later adoption of masks has helped prevent any further spread, and whether the lockdown was necessary to prevent a wider community spread, will be answered by further scientific and historical enquiry. Strong protection of care-home staff and residents, however, clearly contributed to the remarkably low death rate.

Chan’s broad suggestion that psychology played a special role in Singapore is only true in a narrow sense. Adoption of the TraceTogether app is rising, nudged along by the government making further relaxation of the Covid rules dependent on more people adopting the app and by linking the app to the SafeEntry procedure. Soon it will not be possible to shop, go to a restaurant, or enter most public buildings and places unless the app is activated and running. It doesn’t require much psychological knowledge to understand why people conform with measures that are required for many everyday activities. As Chan explains, the authorities have been prepared to ‘explicate, elaborate, educate, engage, and enforce’ (my emphasis). So, although Singapore’s success in dealing with Covid is impressive, it has relied on compliance with strict laws that might not transplant across borders. Attempting to reproduce Singaporean approaches to Covid in London, Rome or New York could generate a considerable amount of what Chan calls ‘negative emotion’.


How two states with opposite COVID strategies BOTH 'bent the curve': Cases, deaths and hospitalizations plummet by 30% in a month in lockdown-loving California AND open-all-hours Florida

Since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, no two states have been more different in their approaches than California and Florida.

In early March, California Gov Gavin Newsom limited gatherings, closed bars and indoor dining at restaurants, implemented mask mandates and implored residents to stay at home.

Comparatively, Florida Gov Ron DeSantis has enacted few measures, lifting an ordinance that prevented people from operating businesses and restaurants as well as lifting COVID-19 related fines and penalties in September.

Looser restrictions mean schools have not been shut down statewide and mask mandates have never been imposed.

In November, he even criticized states like California with harsher restrictions and said he trusted his residents to 'use common sense.'

In an interview on Fox News Business on Sunday, DeSantis argued that Florida 'focused on lifting people up' during the pandemic but 'lockdown states' are 'putting people out of business.'

'There's a whole bunch of things we've been doing for COVID, but at the same time, we've lifted our state up, we've saved our economy and I think we're going to be first out of gate once we are able to put COVID behind the country,' he told Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo.

Despite these different approaches, both states ended up with roughly the same outcome. A analysis shows that, over the last two months, the states have each seen cases, deaths and hospitalizations fall by about one-third.

So were lockdowns necessary and did they work? The answer is a complicated one, but researchers say that they were beneficial in the early months due to our lack of knowledge about how COVID-19 spread and how to treat it.

Studies have shown that stay-at-home orders and restrictions saved numerous lives, but that they might be less useful now as more of the population gains natural immunity through infection or immunity via vaccination - but that social distancing and masks are still necessary to continue driving down case and death rates.

CALIFORNIA: Historically California has had a rate of about 8,499 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents

FLORIDA: Similarly to California, Florida has an overall rate of about 8,306 cases oper 100,000 people




Monday, February 15, 2021

Young people’s despair over coronavirus deepens as crisis drags on

London: Life seemed promising last year to Philaé Lachaux, a 22-year-old business student in France who dreamed of striking out on her own in the live music industry. But the onset of the pandemic, leading to the loss of her part-time job as a waitress, sent her back to live at her family home.

Now, struggling to envision a future after months of restrictions, Lachaux says that loneliness and despair seep in at night. “I look at the ceiling, I feel a lump in my throat,” she said. “I’ve never had so many suicidal thoughts.”

“The pandemic feels like a big stop in our lives,” she added. “One that puts us so low that I wonder, ‘What’s the point?‘”

With curfews, closures and lockdowns in European countries set to drag into the northern spring or even the summer, mental health professionals are growing increasingly alarmed about the deteriorating mental state of young people, who they say have been among the most badly affected by a world with a foreshortened sense of the future.

Last in line for vaccines and with schools and universities shuttered, young people have borne much of the burden of the sacrifices being made largely to protect older people, who are more at risk from severe infections. But the resilience of youth may be overestimated, mental health professionals say.

Faced with a restricted social life and added uncertainty at an already precarious moment in their lives, many young people are suffering from a gnawing sense that they are losing precious time in their prime years.

Across the world, they have lost economic opportunities, missed traditional milestones and forfeited relationships at a pivotal time for forming identity.

“Many feel they’re paying the price not of the pandemic, but of the measures taken against the pandemic,” said Dr Nicolas Franck, the head of a psychiatric network in Lyon, France.

In a survey of 30,000 people that he conducted last spring, young people ranked the lowest in psychological well-being, he said.

In Italy and in the Netherlands, some youth psychiatry wards have filled to record capacity. In France, where the pandemic’s toll on mental health has made headlines, professionals have urged authorities to consider reopening schools to fight loneliness. And in Britain, some therapists said that they had counselled patients to break lockdown guidelines to cope.

In the United States, a quarter of 18- to 24-year-olds said they had seriously considered suicide, one report said. In Latin America and the Caribbean, a survey conducted by UNICEF of 8000 young people found that more than a quarter had experienced anxiety and 15 per cent depression.

And a study conducted last year by the International Labor Organisation in 112 countries found that two-thirds of 18- to 29-year-olds could be subject to anxiety and depression.

The lasting effects on suicide rates, depression and anxiety are still being measured, but in interviews, a dozen mental health experts in Europe painted a grim picture of a crisis that they say should be treated as seriously as containing the virus.

“We are in the midst of a mental health pandemic, and I don’t think it’s treated with near enough respect,” said Arkadius Kyllendahl, a psychotherapist in London who has seen the number of younger clients double in recent months.

A sense of limbo

Many European countries went into northern autumn with the illusion that they had curbed virus outbreaks, only to face an even larger wave of infections this winter. That led to mistaken expectations, young people said, that harsh restrictions would soon end.

Lockdowns have offered some a respite from the stresses of school or work, which have made them more resilient, psychologists say. But for others, especially those who already struggled with mental health conditions or limited access to care, their fragility has been exacerbated.

“Not being in control of something like this is anxiety inducing,” said Dalia Al-Dujaili, 21, a student at the University of Edinburgh. As the pandemic has dragged on, so has the sense of limbo, she said, and she tried online therapy for the first time last year.

“What am I doing? Why am I getting a degree, if there’s not going to be any jobs?” she asked.

One blessing, she said, is that younger people are more open to discussing their struggles. “Everybody talks about their therapists and their meds,” she noted.

That has not stopped some from feeling guilty, however, given that the pandemic has affected everyone.

“There are people with bigger struggles: people who have lost their jobs, or a relative to the disease,” said Marcelo Andreguetti, a Brazilian graphic designer who studies in Cologne, Germany.

He said he began taking antidepressants after he was told he had depression and obsessive compulsive disorder this year.

‘Loneliness brings them into despair’

Winter has worsened the situation, according to therapists and psychiatrists, who say they have seen young people manifesting more severe symptoms of anxiety, depression, eating disorders and addictions.

In the Netherlands, Dr Robert Vermeiren, a professor of child psychiatry at Leiden University Medical Centre, said the acute ward he manages has been full for weeks — something he had never experienced.

The situation was so serious, he said, that his team did not send children home for Christmas, as it usually would. Isolation has also disrupted the usual teenage transition, when young people move from belonging to their family to belonging to their peers, Vermeiren added.

In Italy, calls doubled last year to the main hotline for young people who have considered or attempted harming themselves. Beds in a child neuropsychiatry unit at the Bambino Gesù Children’s Hospital in Rome have been full since October, said Dr Stefano Vicari, director of the unit.

Hospitalisations of young Italians who harmed themselves or attempted suicide have increased 30 per cent in the second wave of cases, he added.

“To those who say that, after all, these are challenges young people have to go through, that they will come out stronger, this is only true for some, those who have more resources,” Vicari said.

Catherine Seymour, head of research at the Mental Health Foundation, a Britain-based charity, said that young people living in poorer households were more likely to experience anxiety and depression, according to a study conducted among nearly 2400 teenagers.

“It may be that those in poorer households are more likely to lack enough space and internet access to help with schoolwork and communication with their friends,” Seymour said. “They may also be affected by their parents’ financial worries and stress.”

Studies from the first lockdowns suggest that they may have already left an indelible mark.

In France, a survey of nearly 70,000 students found that 10 per cent had experienced suicidal thoughts during the first months of the pandemic, and more than a quarter had suffered from depression.

In Spain, one of the world’s toughest lockdowns last spring had a profound impact, especially for young girls, who were more likely to experience stress, anxiety and depression, according to a survey of 523 people by the University of Valencia.

Konstanze Schoeps, one of the study’s authors, said, “They were developing their own freedom and space, and during lockdown they lost what they had just started to experience.” “It amounted to a process of grieving,” she added.

A search for remedies

The situation has become so dire that students and mental health advocates have asked authorities to moderate some measures, including by reopening schools and universities, even as officials worry that a premature easing of regulations will worsen the spread of new variants.

“Building social relationships is at the centre of our lives, and that is gone,” said Heïdi Soupault, 19, who urged President Emmanuel Macron of France to reopen universities in an open letter that spread quickly on the internet last month.

Starting this month, students in France can return to universities one day a week. They can also get three free therapy sessions.

In Britain, where mental health organisations and experts have urged the government to divert funding to help address the issue in schools, officials have said that they will consider mental health support as part of plans to lift restrictions. In the Netherlands, the central government has pressed regional authorities to invest more in youth mental health.

Dr Silvia Schneider, a child and adolescent psychologist in Bochum, Germany, said that governments should share clear messages on television and social media.

“We need to give very easy accessible information on how to handle the feeling that they are not alone with these challenges,” Schneider said about young people. “And that there are some things that can help them.”

To combat symptoms of anxiety and depression, some therapists, like Kyllendahl in London, are telling their clients to go outside as much possible — even if it involves breaking restrictions.

Still, some young people see a silver lining. “At least the pandemic has given us the right to be sad,” said Lachaux, the French student. “We don’t have to show all the time how strong we are.”


Leftists have a new and hateful label for anyone who supported Donald Trump: Terrorist

Vengeance-seeking American leftists, in total coordination with Big Tech, corporate media collaborators, and the wholly unaccountable bureaucracy known as the deep state, have made it their mission to convince the nation that anyone who supported Donald Trump is a potential domestic terrorist.

How fanatical are the perpetrators of this narrative? CNN anchor Jake Tapper called on Republicans “to stop these insane lies [about the election results] that have taken root in their party” lest there be no end to “MAGA terrorism.” That Tapper and his network spent three years blatantly lying about Russian collusion reveals that genuinely insane lies that serve the progressive agenda are perfectly acceptable.

MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace not only likened Trump supporters to domestic terrorists, but noted that former President Barack Obama authorized drone strikes killing American citizens “for the crime of inciting violence, inciting terrorism.” She further insisted that Mitch McConnell, who was in the Senate at the time, knows the way you “root out terrorism” is to “kill those who incite it.”

Again, what constitutes incitement is highly selective. Here’s a small sampling of quotes from elected Democrats immune from such a designation:

“Let’s make sure we show up wherever we have to show up. And if you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd. And you push back on them. And you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.” —Maxine Waters

“We’re going to impeach the motherf—r!” —Rashida Tlaib

“We take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic. And sadly, the domestic enemies to our voting system and honoring our Constitution are right at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with their allies in the Congress of the United States.” —Nancy Pelosi

“We will probably need a supplemental for more security for members when the enemy is within the House of Representatives.” —Pelosi again

“I want to tell you, Gorsuch, I want to tell you, Kavanaugh, you have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price. You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.” —Chuck Schumer, “addressing” a mob on the steps of the Supreme Court — while a case was being heard

Is Schumer’s “you won’t know what hit you” less inciting than Trump’s “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard”? And what about the sitting speaker of the House labeling her political opponents enemies?



Pelosi says officers who protected Capitol will get Congressional Gold Medal (The Hill)

Remember back in January when Biden said the Capitol Police were racist?

Cuomo aide admits they hid nursing home data so feds wouldn't find out (New York Post)

Schumer leaves door open to 14th Amendment measure to bar Trump from office (Fox News)

New "gun trafficking" bill could cripple legal firearms market (Bearing Arms)

Pelosi banned congresswoman's military officer son from attending her swearing-in (Daily Caller)

Lincoln Project faces fierce backlash as more abuse evidence emerges (Fox News)

Well, except from CNN, which avoids the topic altogether.

AG Barr quashed plea deal by fired Officer Derek Chauvin in George Floyd death (NBC)

Biden administration finalizes deal for 200 million vaccine doses from Pfizer, Moderna (NBC)

Biden says U.S. will have enough vaccine for 300 million people by end of July (Washington Post)

Doctor destroyed for vaccinating patients (Power Line)

White House considering domestic travel bans to stop coronavirus mutations surge (Washington Times)

Gas prices are up 18% since Biden took office (Not the Bee)
Cancel Culture

China bans BBC after harrowing report on atrocities against Uyghurs (Fox News)

Berkeley dorms guarded by cops who only let students out to eat, use the bathroom, or get a COVID-19 test (Reason)

France sees foreign threat: "out-of-control woke leftism of American campuses" (Legal Insurrection)

Policy: Unemployment, inflation, and automation: The truth about the $15 minimum wage (Daily Wire)

Policy: Call transportation bailouts what they are: More welfare for labor unions (Heritage Foundation)




Sunday, February 14, 2021

The traitors

They were all RINOs, particularly the contemptible Mitt Romney, who never got over his defeat by Obama. And both they and McConnell wanted to distance them from Trump knowing how vengeful the Donks are. They wanted to be seen as good guys during the Biden regime. There have already been a lot of rats deserting the sinking ship and these were just the latest.

Former US President Donald Trump was acquitted Saturday in the Senate on the impeachment charge of inciting the January 6 Capitol riot despite seven Republican senators siding with Democrats to convict.

Senators Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania all voted against their former party leader.

The Republicans issued statements explaining their votes as Mr Trump’s historic second impeachment trial came to a close.

“Our Constitution and our country is more important than any one person. I voted to convict President Trump because he is guilty,” Senator Cassidy said.

“After careful consideration of the respective counsels’ arguments, I have concluded that President Trump is guilty of the charge made by the House of Representatives,” said Senator Romney, who also voted to convict Trump on a separate charge a year ago during the Ukraine impeachment.

"I do not make this decision lightly, but I believe it is necessary," Burr said. "By what he did and by what he did not do, President Trump violated his oath of office to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."

A majority of senators found Trump guilty on Saturday in a 57-43 vote, but the number fell short of the supermajority needed to convict the president. Had Trump been convicted, the Senate would have moved to bar the 45th president from holding federal office ever again.


What’s next for Donald Trump? Some speculations

Trump has a lot of troubles. But the loyalty and enthusiasm of his followers aren’t among them.

“Now that he has been stripped of the title ‘commander-in-chief,’ he could find a different army, within the United States, to command and control,” surmise a group of analysts at the Brookings Institute policy think-tank.

It’s a notion the US armed forces takes seriously. This week, senior Pentagon officers addressed their troops on the dangers of extremism and their vow to uphold the constitution and defend “the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic”.

But the seditious movement remains strong among US militia, white extremists, fringe Christian and conspiracy communities.

The QAnon movement is whipping itself up towards another crescendo. It insists Trump is still president. That he’s just biding his time. That all his enemies are about to be arrested. That he will return to the White House in triumph on March 4.

But the near-religious fervour of such supporters presents an opportunity: “Trump could well become so desperate that he opts to continue to stoke violent flames of tension,” the Brookings analysts write.

“The state party leaders are the activists, not the elite,” notes former Republican senate strategist Liam Donovan. “The rank and file are hardcore Republicans, and hardcore Republicans are hardcore Trump people. He has absolutely converted them.”

“The 2020 election put to rest the comforting fable that Trump’s election was a fluke. Trump is the United States — or at least a very large part of it,” writes Professor of political science Jonathan Kirshner.

“One cannot paint a picture of the American polity and the country’s future foreign policy without including the significant possibility of a large role for Trumpism, with or without Trump himself in the Oval Office”.

Trump’s followers are loyal to Trump. Not the Republican party. Just how large – and powerful – that cohort is yet to be seen. The first tests will come as the Republicans select candidates for the next round of elections. Who Republicans vote for during the 2022 midterm elections will clinch it.

Trump’s ultimate goal: swaying the 2024 presidential primaries. Will he make a political comeback? Or will he seek to have one of his favourites installed?

Not all senior Republicans are enthralled by Trump. A few key figures have openly rejected the bombastic former president’s behaviour as dangerous and subversive.

Congresswoman and House Republican leader Liz Cheney voted to impeach him. He’s now preparing candidates to oust her from the preselection for her seat.

Former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell baulked at Trump’s demands at the last moment, saying he’d been “fed lies”. He’s now the target of intense internal pressure.

“Trump’s most ardent supporters not only offer allegiance to him but are deeply sceptical of any Republican who does not do the same,” the Brookings analysts say.

This may allow Trump to “go rogue” and splinter from the Republican Party. He’s already voiced the idea.

But any such move would be handing the Democrats an enormous advantage. He’s not likely to steal many of their votes. And any division of existing Republican ballots would be less likely to propel a candidate over the finishing line.

Then there’s the gulf between words and actions. In an anonymous vote, Cheney retained her position as House Republican leader 145 in favour to 61 against.

“There are plenty of foot-soldiers (quite literally), affiliated political staffers, and streams of grassroots funding to get such an effort off the ground,” the analysts write. “But Republican politicos know that while the Trump wing of the party is not large enough to be successful, it’s large enough to be devastating to their election chances.”

“Trump could look at the media landscape, see a significant prospective audience and launch new ways to communicate with the world. This could include establishing his own news channel.”

Social media may also be in his sights. And he has a ready and willing audience waiting in the wings.

Trump’s show business skillset was in full play as president. A personal social media and television stage would give him a new voice. He’ll have the adoration of fans. He’ll have a platform for his opinions. He can perform to the crowd.

Whatever the outcome, Brookings argues Trump has already paved the way for a successor seeking to ride on his coat-tails. “His supporters will still remember him fondly, but will have moved on to a new, shiny, race-baiting candidate like Josh Hawley or Marjorie Taylor Greene.”

The state of Georgia has opened a criminal investigation into Trump’s efforts to influence its election results.

“Trump’s legal problems could place him before state and federal judges who are unwilling to let his celebrity and claims of wealth supersede sentencing guidelines,” the Brookings analysts surmise. “It’s unlikely but possible that the former president could find himself in a place none of his predecessors found themselves: an orange jumpsuit.”

But it’s a scenario full of risk. He could well become a martyr to the Trumpism cause. With supporters ranging from extreme evangelicals to QAnon, the Proud Boys to neo-Nazis, from the Oath Keepers militia to white supremacists – the odds of such an outcome are high.

“Trump presided over dozens of ethical scandals, egregious procedural lapses, and startling indiscretions, most of which would have ended the political career of any other national political figure of the past half-century. But the trampling of norms barely registered with most of the American public,” says Professor Kirshner.


Is this finally proof the vaccine is working in Britain? Covid deaths among over-85s plummet by 41% - almost twice as fast as un-vaccinated people over-65s

The number of Covid deaths in over-85s is falling twice as fast it is in younger Brits, raising hopes that the UK's vaccine drive is clicking into gear, with just one per cent of the population refusing jabs.

The Government's target of administering 15 million doses is set to be hit this weekend, amid a backdrop of falling cases and deaths, with pressure growing on Boris Johnson to present his 'roadmap' out of lockdown.

The supreme efforts of volunteers over recent weeks now appears to be paying dividends, with the number of fatalities among the oldest age group now falling on average by some 41 per cent a week.

By contrast, the number of weekly deaths is falling by 22 per cent for those aged under 65.

Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, a risk expert from the University of Cambridge, told the Sun: 'There is a statistically significant difference between the age groups. A substantial amount of this difference will be vaccines.

'And, by the end of the month, it's going to be quite dramatic. It is quite tricky to spot as deaths are falling everywhere — it's just that in older groups the drop is much faster than others.'

Meanwhile, data from the Office for National Statistics reveals just one in every 100 people offered a Covid jab have turned it down.

The Prime Minister said today he is 'optimistic' he will be able to begin announcing the easing of restrictions when he sets out his 'roadmap' out of lockdown in England on February 22.

Speaking during a visit to the Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies plant in Billingham, Teesside, where the new Novavax vaccine will be manufactured, Mr Johnson said: 'I'm optimistic, I won't hide it from you. I'm optimistic, but we have to be cautious.'

He said his first priority remained opening schools in England on March 8 to be followed by other sectors. 'Our children's education is our number one priority, but then working forward, getting non-essential retail open as well and then, in due course as and when we can prudently, cautiously, of course we want to be opening hospitality as well,' he said.

'I will be trying to set out as much as I possibly can in as much detail as I can, always understanding that we have to be wary of the pattern of disease. We don't want to be forced into any kind of retreat or reverse ferret.'

It comes as:

The so-called R-rate is now below one in every region and stands at between 0.7 and 0.9 for the whole of the UK, which is the lowest level since summer;

It was revealed illegal migrants were getting the Covid jab in plush quarantine hotels in Heathrow;

Matt Hancock said he hopes Covid will become a 'treatable' virus and a disease we can 'live with' after all adults are offered a vaccine by September;

It was reported that Cabinet ministers have backed the use of vaccine certificates for travellers wanting to head abroad this year;

There were 15,144 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the seven-day average down 26.3 per cent on the previous week;
There were an additional 758 deaths, with the seven-day total down by 27.1 per cent.

There is variation in uptake between age groups, however, with five per cent of those offered the vaccine aged 30-49 deciding not to receive it, compared to two per cent for the 50-69s and less than one per cent for the over-70s.

Furthermore, Professor Anthony Harnden, the deputy chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), has said the uptake of the coronavirus jab among care home staff remains 'far too low'.

Prof Harnden said that nationally only 66% of care home staff had taken up the offer of a first dose.

'If they are to stop potentially transmitting to those vulnerable people who they look after and care for deeply, they need to take the immunisation up. The message needs to come across loud and clear,' he told the BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

However, he rejected suggestions that the vaccine could be made compulsory among staff if they wanted to carry on working in care homes. 'I would much prefer to be able to persuade by the power of argument than to force people or to make people lose their jobs because they didn't take up the vaccine.'

His comments come as the Government launches a fresh drive to encourage people to accept a vaccine amid continuing reluctance among some groups.

Ministers are confident they will achieve their UK-wide target of getting an offer of a vaccine to those most at risk from the virus - including all over 70s - by Monday's deadline.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he hoped a combination of vaccines and new treatments will mean Covid-19 could be a 'treatable disease' by the end of the year.

However, there is concern in Government at the rate of vaccine uptake among some communities - including some ethnic minorities.

NHS England said the top four priority groups in England - people aged 70 and over, care home residents and staff, health and care workers and clinically extremely vulnerable patients - 'have now been offered the opportunity to be vaccinated', while Wales said those groups had been reached.

NHS England said people aged 65 to 69 can now get a vaccine if GPs have supplies, while Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said they had already begun contacting some over 50s.