Friday, September 08, 2023

Only Sweden had the right COVID-19 response

HOW WOULD the COVID-19 experience have turned out had there been no government-imposed states of emergency, no mask mandates, no orders to shelter in place, and no shutdowns of schools, restaurants, offices, and gyms?
The query isn't hypothetical. While the United States and virtually every advanced nation did turn to lockdowns and compulsory social distancing, Sweden charted a very different course. There, life continued more or less normally. Only public gatherings of more than 50 people were banned. Elementary schools, day-care facilities, shops, and parks stayed open. Health officials emphasized the importance of hand-washing and advised residents older than 70 to stay home. But masking was not mandatory; there were relatively few restrictions on personal mobility; and unlike elsewhere, public messaging by government leaders did not reflect frantic desperation.

We now know the result of Sweden's wager: By every important measure, Scandinavia's most populous country weathered the pandemic with better consequences than other nations. Its economy didn't collapse, its children suffered no learning loss, and it registered no increase in suicides. Most important, Sweden's excess death rate during the three pandemic years — the increase in mortality from 2020 through 2022 compared with the loss of life during the previous three years — was lower than in any other European nation.

The data are summarized in a new study for the Cato Institute by the historian and social researcher Johan Norberg. The policy paper provides convincing evidence that the approach adopted by the United States and other advanced nations — an approach that relied on top-down coercion and sharply curtailed personal freedom — was a mistake.

For a while, the prevailing view was that the mistake was Sweden's. The disease spread quickly through the Swedish population in the early months and by July 2020 Stockholm was reporting COVID-19 deaths at a level of 517 per million — several times the rate in nearby Norway, Denmark, and Finland. "Sweden Has Become the World's Cautionary Tale," reported The New York Times, which blamed the country's "grim result" on its "failure to impose social distancing." Former president Donald Trump agreed, declaring that "Sweden is paying heavily for its decision not to lockdown."

But Swedish voters backed their government and gave its noncoercive policy time to work. The upshot, writes Norberg, is that "based on what we now know, [Sweden's] laissez-faire approach seems to have paid off."

It wasn't entirely laissez-faire. In addition to banning gatherings of more than 50 people, Sweden stopped visits to nursing homes, imposed earlier closing hours on bars and restaurants, and — as required by European Union rules — closed its borders to non-Europeans. But on the whole, Swedes were trusted by their political leaders to use their own judgment.

Measured against the yardstick of reported COVID-19 deaths, Sweden by 2023 was squarely in the middle of the pack: Its death rate was about 40 percent higher than that of the rest of Scandinavia but much lower than that in Southern Europe, Britain, and the United States. Then again, Sweden counted everyone who died and had tested positive for the virus as a COVID death, whereas in other countries, such as Norway, only when an attending physician listed COVID as the cause of a patient's death was it included in the statistics.

For that reason, Norberg spotlights "excess deaths," a category that includes all the additional lives lost to the pandemic, including those not necessarily encompassed by a given country's official COVID data. By that metric, Sweden appears to have outperformed every country in Europe. Its excess-death rate during the pandemic was just 4.4 percent higher than the previous norm. That's less than half of the European average of 11.1 percent and lower even than the 6.77 percent average of its Nordic neighbors.

Sweden's strategy paid off in other ways, too.

While Europe's overall economy shrank by 2.1 percent during the pandemic lockdowns, the Swedish economy expanded slightly. Students in many nations fell behind by as much as a year in one or more subjects, but Swedish children suffered no learning loss. Lockdowns forced tens of millions of kids worldwide to miss out on childhood vaccinations; in Sweden, the juvenile vaccination rate went up. And though a dreadful spike in domestic abuse and suicides was reported in many countries, no such phenomenon was observed in Sweden.

"It was not Sweden that engaged in a reckless, unprecedented pandemic experiment, but the rest of the world," Norberg concludes. It was a serious mistake to drastically limit citizens' liberty and shut down so much of society. The world's elites sneered at Sweden, but Sweden was right.


Failed vaccine mandates

In Australia, the vaccine efficacy that preoccupies state premiers – who imposed the mandates – is getting re-elected. As Premier Andrews put it when he won the Victorian election in a ‘Dan-slide’ last November, ‘Vaccines work!’ In Queensland, Premier Palasczcuk is so keen to repeat the act that she’s hired Andrews’ adman.

But who will last longer? The mandates or Palasczcuk? On Friday 1 September, Health Minister Shannon Fentiman (mooted to be a front-runner to replace the Premier) announced two-week consultations on removing the mandates, two years after they were imposed in September 2021.

Queensland’s Chief Health Officer (CHO) has already said they should go but the power of the CHO which seemed almost unlimited at the height of Covid hysteria has diminished now that he is proposing something sensible.

A group called Doctors Against Mandates mounted a legal challenge to the mandates on 12 March 2022. Within a fortnight of receiving 13 affidavits from medical professionals and six reports from international experts, the CHO revoked the mandates for health workers in the private sector. Unfortunately, mandates which cover the public sector health are still in force.

One of the most damning indictments of vaccine efficacy was filed in relation to the doctors’ challenge to the mandate in the Supreme Court of Queensland early this year by the state’s Chief Health Officer Dr John Gerrard. It revealed that once 80 per cent of the population were vaccinated and the borders opened in December 2021, not only did Covid cases explode, peaking at 18,500 per day in January, but 80 per cent of the 176 Covid deaths were in people who had had one or more Covid vaccine jabs. Most were double-vaxxed but 13 were triple-vaxxed and one died after five shots. In other words, the vaccines were duds. They failed to stop the pandemic or prevent the vulnerable from dying. All the bullying of the unvaccinated, preventing grieving Australians from comforting their dying loved ones or attending their funerals, denying a pregnant woman in New South Wales permission to cross the border and get urgent medical treatment which meant she waited 16 hours to fly to Sydney, and lost one of her twins – it was all for nothing.

Did the Premier rush to apologise for the damage done by the ‘failed vaccines’, to quote Bill Gates who profited heavily from his investment in the Pfizer jab? Of course not. The information was only made public last month by Rebekah Barnett in her excellent substack Dystopian Downunder.

Far from apologising, Queensland Health is still threatening disciplinary action against ‘hundreds’ of workers who ‘did not comply with their employment contract’ by getting jabbed.

Infectious disease physician Paul Griffin supports ending the mandates but thinks the biggest risk is that ‘people will think the initial rule was wrong, which,’ according to him, ‘isn’t the case’.

That’s the nub of it. The government doesn’t want to admit that the vaccines are useless and the mandates were morally, scientifically and practically wrong.

The only reason it is ending the mandate is because it can’t replace the more than 2,100 healthcare workers who were stood down or forced to resign.

‘We have global workforce shortages, so I think it makes sense now to reconsider this mandate,’ Fentiman says.

‘If someone wants to now reapply for a job with Queensland Health who is not vaccinated for Covid, they’ll be treated the same as any other worker.’

Despite a massive increase in Australia’s international immigration intake and wage hikes in the health sector, acute shortages persist, not least because the repeatedly vaccinated healthcare workers repeatedly get Covid-19. This was observed in a study of more than 50,000 US healthcare workers in the prestigious Cleveland Clinic, which showed the more often you were jabbed, the more you caught Covid.

Interstate migration into Queensland, predominantly Victoria, and NSW, the states worst affected by lockdown lunacy, has increased demand for health services.

National excess mortality of over 13 per cent this year has increased pressure on hospitals.

The dramatic spike in ‘dying suddenly’ is recorded under ‘other cardiac conditions’ in Australia’s provisional mortality data. Deaths from January to May are 15.5 per cent higher than the baseline average and 1 per cent higher than the same period in 2022.

Deaths due to diabetes were 22 per cent above the baseline average in May 2023, and 1.4 per cent higher than in May 2022

Deaths due to dementia including Alzheimer’s were 18 per cent above the baseline average in May 2023, and 2.1 per cent above May 2022.

Each of these causes of death has been linked in studies to the spike protein in the virus and/or the vaccine. For example, a paper from Larson et al. at Linkoping University, Sweden published on 1 September presents evidence for the initiation or acceleration of Alzheimer’s disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease by the spike protein.

When the mandate for health workers ends in Queensland, flagged for 25 September, only NSW, Victoria and South Australia will be left. Will that be the end?

Who knows? In the US some colleges and hospitals are trying to bring back mask mandates.

Scott Gottlieb, former head of the US Food and Drug Administration and now on the board of Pfizer is talking up the next booster.

The latest variant has been named after Eris, the Greek goddess of ‘strife and discord’. What is the plan? A rerun of lockdowns and Black Lives Matter on the rampage in the run-up to the 2024 Presidential election? Skeptics have their own name for the variant – BS.24.7.




Thursday, September 07, 2023

US judge slams pharma regulator for rubbishing drug ivermectin

The world’s most powerful drug regulator has been humiliated after a US federal court ruled it was out of bounds in telling Americans they were not a “horse” so should not take the drug ivermectin – an anti-parasitic medication whose inventors won the Nobel Prize for medicine in 2015 – to treat Covid-19.

The US federal appeals court in Louisiana on Friday (Saturday AEST) ruled the Food and Drug Administration erred in a tweet that went viral in August 2021, saying “You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it”, in response to reports, later debunked, that Americans were overdosing by taking the drug as an alternative to Covid vaccines.

“FDA is not a physician. It has authority to inform, announce, and apprise – but not to endorse, denounce, or advise,” judge Don Willett wrote for the appeals court. “The doctors have plausibly alleged that FDA’s posts fell on the wrong side of the line between telling about and telling to,” the judge concluded, referring to three doctors who had sued the FDA for, in effect, stymieing their ability to prescribe ivermectin to their patients.

Mary Bowden, one of the plaintiffs, claimed her ability to prescribe ivermectin for patients had been undermined by the FDA’s social media posts, which caused some pharmacies to withhold the drug, in addition to reputational damage caused.

“I’ve treated over 6000 Covid patients now and found ivermectin not only effective but also extremely safe,” she told The Australian in an interview.

Throughout the pandemic an aggressive war emerged between some doctors and pharmaceutical regulators over the utility of two off-patent drugs, ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, which some observational studies had shown to be effective if prescribed early in the onset of Covid-19 symptoms.

In January the US federal court blocked California from enforcing a new state law that would have punished doctors for giving advice contrary to the government public health and pharmaceutical regulators.

“There are a number of significant public health risks associated with taking ivermectin in an attempt to prevent Covid-19 infection rather than getting vaccinated,” Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration said in September 2021, as it banned Australian doctors from prescribing the drug.

Dr Bowden suspected institutional resistance to ivermectin for Covid-19, in the US and other developed nations including Australia, stemmed from a desire to encourage take-up of next-generation vaccine technology.

“If they had a safe, effective treatment, that would be an obstacle to getting the vaccine out, which really is too big to fail, just too much money and ego involved,” she said.

It has been reported that US law prevented the granting of Emergency Use Authorisation for then new Covid-19 vaccines, which have generated more than $US110bn in revenue for the three US pharmaceutical giants if existing prophylactic treatments were already available.

Robert Clancy, a retired University of Newcastle professor of immunology, told The Australian it was “nonsense to say ivermectin didn’t work”. “It was panned because it would have stopped the FDA and TGA from legally allowing the Covid-19 vaccines,” he posited.

In 2021, America’s top podcaster, Joe Rogan, and CNN butted heads over the drug after the latter accused Rogan, who said he had taken the drug via a prescription from his doctor, had consumed “horse dewormer”.

The TGA in May reversed its 2021 ban on prescribing ivermectin for Covid-19, claiming “sufficient evidence the safety risks to individuals and public health” was “low”.

However, the TGA does not endorse off-label prescribing of ivermectin for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19.

Asked if drugs such as ivermectin were more effective than the Covid-19 vaccines, Dr Bowden said “hands down, the medications”. “That’s what prompted my scepticism to begin with: I was seeing a lot of patients coming in who had been vaccinated, and they were just as sick if not sicker than the patients that were not vaccinated.”


Why Won't COVID Lockdown Artists Admit They Were Wrong?

COVID mania just won't go away. The deadly strains of the virus have been gone for two years now, and yet the recent outbreak of a mild flu-like variant is again stoking panic on the Left.

Nearly 100 universities are requiring masks this fall.

Lionsgate movie studios in Los Angeles and Atlanta-based Morris Brown College recently stated they are reinstating not just mask mandates but social distancing measures and contact tracing.

CNN, which led the panic in 2020 and 2021 -- causing manic school, restaurant and business shutdowns and vaccine mandates -- recently put out a headline on its website that encouraged its readers not to go outside without a mask on. Really? The latest evidence finds this is less dangerous than a normal flu virus and tracking data suggest that the wave has already peaked.

What's even more disturbing here is that the leftist medical community and the media aren't renouncing their calls for mitigation strategies that were catastrophically wrong in the panic era of 2020 and 2021 -- but instead calling for more of these assaults on freedom in the future.

It is one thing for well-meaning medical experts to have disagreed about how to best combat a once-in-a-half-century deadly virus. We didn't know exactly what we were dealing with. But now we know with concrete scientific evidence that most mandates and lockdowns had a small impact on the spread of the virus and on fatalities. It turns out there was almost no difference in death rates in states with strict lockdowns and no lockdowns at all. The same is true of cross-country evidence.

Healthy children were never at risk from COVID (something we knew early on), so shutting down schools for one or two years was a sop to the teachers unions but a disaster for this generation of kids. Test scores are the worst in 30 years.

Before the pandemic, only 15% of public school students were chronically absent -- more than 18 or more days a year.

Stanford University education professor Thomas Dee's data shows an estimated 6.5 million additional students are now chronically absent. In Connecticut and Massachusetts, chronic absenteeism remains double its pre-pandemic rate.

But polls show that Democrats -- even those who are highly educated -- generally still support the lockdowns that were mandated. These are the same people who lecture about "following the science." The most comprehensive study by experts at Johns Hopkins University found death rates from lockdowns were reduced by 0.1 percent. But how many people died from the isolation of lockdowns, delayed health screening from cancer, the increase in drug overdoses?

Biden's vaccine mandates only made Americans more resistant to get pricked. They backfired.

Worst of all, Anthony Fauci, who remains a hero of the Left, recently not only refused to admit the errors of his advice but said the "lockdown was absolutely justified."

Why does this bizarre rewrite of recent history matter? Because the fearmongering Left can't wait to install new lockdowns every time we have a new flu virus and health scare. They've even started putting out feelers for occasional climate change economic shutdowns.

Those who love freedom must strenuously resist this coming tyranny.


Back in Masks?

Dr. Jill Biden has COVID with “mild symptoms,” and though Joe Biden tested negative, he’s in a mask, despite both of them being stuck full of shots and boosters. Anthony “The Science” Fauci is on CNN extolling the efficacy of masks. Did we fall in a time warp and end up in 2021 again? Is Biden’s pandemic presidency ever going to be over?

Not if Democrats once again use COVID to rig the election with bulk-mail ballots.

The truth, of course, is that COVID is now endemic, not a pandemic. It’s going to be around for a while in whatever mutated form happens to spread this week. Most people now think of it as a mild or sometimes bad cold. But some people want more panic.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre promises the 80-year-old Biden is “not experiencing any symptoms,” but he “will be masking while indoors and around people, in alignment with CDC guidance.”

Or not.

Those CDC guidelines stipulate that people should test, wear masks, and self-isolate after exposure, “regardless of your vaccination status or if you have had a previous infection.” The guidelines were last updated in August 2022. Biden didn’t follow the CDC, even while presenting the Medal of Honor to 81-year-old Larry Taylor and then immediately fleeing the room, so why should anyone else?

“We are in a very good position to deal with COVID-19 in the fall,” Jean-Pierre added, “and we’re going to continue to listen to the experts as we move forward.”

Ah, the “experts.” Those would be the same experts who politicized a virus and wrecked our economy over it.

Speaking of those “experts,” the 82-year-old Fauci says he’s “concerned that people will not abide by recommendations.” Lavishly retired but still making appearances on CNN, Fauci opined, “I would hope that if we get to the point that the volume of cases is such and organizations like the CDC recommends — CDC does not mandate anything — recommends that people wear masks, I would hope that people abide by that recommendation and take into account the risks to themselves and their families.”

Oh don’t worry, Tony. We’re taking things into account and know exactly where you can stick those recommendations.

After he patronized the American people with his sanctimony, Fauci continued talking out of both sides of his mouth about masks. CNN’s Michael Smerconish challenged Fauci to explain the huge Cochran Review study of randomized tests earlier this year that concluded, “Wearing masks in the community probably makes little or no difference.” Just as all the experts knew back in early 2020 before politics took the place of science.

“When you’re talking about the effect on the pandemic as a whole, the data is less strong,” Fauci sputtered. “But when you talk about an individual basis of someone protecting themselves … there’s no doubt that there’s many studies that show that there is an advantage [to masks].” Whatever, dude.

This is the same guy who in March 2020 said, “There’s no reason to be walking around with a mask.” That was before he told us it was “common sense” to wear not one mask but two.

Fauci’s “credibility is entirely shot,” said Stanford epidemiologist Jay Bhattacharya back in 2021. “He’s been all over the place on masks.”

Masks aren’t all, either. Fauci lied about that little matter of U.S. taxpayer funding for gain-of-function research at the Wuhan lab that leaked COVID into the world. More evidence that he knew of that funding back in 2020 before spending years denying it just came to light this week. Can we get a lockdown of Fauci?

Meanwhile, the same people who want to help kids change their gender want those kids to mask up in schools again. Because science, or something.

Maybe Fauci wouldn’t be “concerned” about people ignoring medical advice if anything the “experts” said made any sense at all anymore.




Wednesday, September 06, 2023

FDA, CDC Hid Data on Spike in COVID Cases Among the Vaccinated: Documents

COVID-19 cases among vaccinated seniors soared in 2021, according to newly disclosed data that was acquired by U.S. health agencies but not presented to the public.

Humetrix Cloud Services was contracted by the U.S. military to analyze vaccine data. The company performed a fresh analysis as authorities considered in 2021 whether COVID-19 vaccine boosters were necessary amid studies finding waning vaccine effectiveness.

Humetrix researchers found that the proportion of total COVID-19 cases among the seniors was increasingly comprised of vaccinated people, according to the newly disclosed documents.

For the week ending on July 31, 2021, post-vaccination COVID-19 cases represented 73 percent of the cases among people 65 and older, the company found. The elderly were 80 percent fully vaccinated at the time.

Breakthrough infection rates were higher among those who were vaccinated early, the researchers found. They estimated that the rates were twice as high in those who had been vaccinated five to six months prior, when compared to people vaccinated three to four months before.

The breakthrough cases started in January 2021, according to the data.

Protection against hospitalization was also fading, researchers discovered.

In the week ending on July 31, 2021, 63 percent of the COVID-19 hospitalizations in seniors were among the fully vaccinated, according to the documents. The same pattern of weaker protection among people who were vaccinated early was found.

Researchers calculated that the vaccine effectiveness (VE) against infection was just 33 percent while the effectiveness against hospitalization had dropped to 57 percent.

Seniors who previously had COVID-19 and recovered were more likely to avoid hospitalization, the researchers also found. Risk factors included serious underlying conditions such as obesity and being in the oldest age group, or older than 85.

The cohort analysis was completed on 20 million Medicare beneficiaries, including 5.6 million seniors who received a primary series of a COVID-19 vaccine.

"Our observational study VE findings show a very significant decrease in VE against infection and hospitalization in the Delta phase of the pandemic for individuals vaccinated with either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine for those 5–6 months post vaccination vs. those 3–4 months post vaccination," Dr. Bettina Experton, Humetrix's president and CEO, said in a Sept. 15, 2021, email to top U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials.

Humetrix also found that among the beneficiaries, there had been 133,000 cases, 27,000 hospitalizations, and 8,300 intensive care admissions among the fully vaccinated since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Experton disclosed that Humetrix shared the data with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in August 2021.

"It would have been nice to know [the military] was conducting this prior to now. Also might have been nice for CDC to share the data," Dr. Peter Marks, one of the FDA officials, told colleagues in response.

"This is more worrisome than the other data we have in my opinion," Dr. Janet Woodcock, the FDA's acting commissioner at the time, said in reply.

The presentation and emails were obtained by the Informed Consent Action Network, a nonprofit that seeks to provide transparency around medical issues, through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

"It is hard to see this as anything other than a failure of our health authorities to assess, share, make public, and act upon valuable, real-world data in the midst of a so-called pandemic," Del Bigtree, founder of the network, told The Epoch Times via email. "And without FOIA, the public likely would never be made aware of these failures which, of course, allows them to be perpetrated again and again."

The FDA and CDC declined to comment.

Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health at the time, wrote in a separate email obtained through FOIA that the results of the study provided "pretty compelling evidence that VE is falling 5–6 months post vaccination for both infection and hospitalization for those over 65."

He added, "Even for those 3–4 months out there is a trend toward worsening VE.”

The CDC, FDA, and National Institutes of Health did not share the data with the public as they considered whether to clear and recommend COVID-19 vaccine boosters.

The CDC held a meeting with its vaccine advisers on Aug. 30, 2021. During the meeting, CDC officials went over emerging data on waning vaccine effectiveness. But the military study was not included.

The FDA held a similar meeting on Sept. 17, 2021. The CDC participated. The Humetrix analysis was also not presented during that meeting.

Both agencies have aggressively promoted COVID-19 vaccines throughout the pandemic, including hyping them as strongly protective against severe disease even after their own data have suggested that is not the case.

The CDC did present (pdf) data from COVID-NET, one of its systems, that showed effectiveness against COVID-19-associated hospitalization was falling among the elderly since the emergence of the Delta variant but that data still showed 80 percent effectiveness.

The presentation also included data from outside researchers and Israel that estimated the protection during the Delta era against infection ranged from 39 percent to 84 percent and that the effectiveness against hospitalization ranged from 75 to 95 percent.

The FDA ended up clearing a Pfizer booster for many Americans. The CDC advised most people to receive it. The agencies later expanded booster clearance and recommendations to virtually all Americans aged 5 and older, with Moderna's shot as another option. Authorities have since replaced the old shots due to their lack of durability, and are preparing to roll out another slate of shots this fall.


Control Versus Choice

John Stossel

COVID cases are up. Hospitalizations climbed 24% last week.

But the media make everything seem scarier than it is. The headline "Up 24%!" comes after dramatic lows. Hospitalizations are still less than half what they were when President Joe Biden said, "The pandemic is over."

Yet the shallow media keep pounding away: "It may be time to break out the masks" headlined CNN.

Frightened people believe. The movie studio Lionsgate reinstated an office mask mandate. Atlanta's Morris Brown College mandated masks and even banned parties.

This month, several school districts in Kentucky and Texas closed. "The safety and wellbeing of our students, staff, and community is a top priority," said the school superintendent in Texas.

But kids rarely get very sick from COVID, and schools aren't COVID hotspots. Studies on tens of thousands of people found "no consistent relationship between in-person K-12 schooling and the spread of the coronavirus."

A Lancet study found Florida had the 12th-fewest excess COVID deaths in the country, even though Florida students went back to school without masks relatively soon.

At least Texas' and Kentucky's closures were isolated and brief. Long-term closures during the pandemic brought America's lowest math and reading scores in decades. Florida's kids suffered less learning loss than kids in other states.

Sweden, which never closed its schools, suffered no learning loss. Sweden's education minister wrote that children were "at much lower risk of serious illness" and that "keeping children learning was vital."

Sweden also imposed fewer restrictions on adults. At the time, Sweden was mocked in the media. NBC called Sweden's openness a "failed experiment."

But Sweden's approach did work. Data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development show that Sweden had fewer excess deaths since COVID than any other European country.

Fortunately, this year, most of America seems less likely to panic.

Unfortunately, that doesn't include Facebook and its idiot authoritarian "fact-checkers." Even though the World Health Organization says kids under 5 should not be required to wear masks, Facebook still censors science writer John Tierney for writing that forcing children to wear masks is unnecessary.

Masks, lockdowns and closing schools won't stop COVID. We have to live with it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 96.7% of us now have some immunity through vaccines or prior infection. That probably means future infections will be less severe.

Still, COVID continues to kill some of us.

I'm skeptical of the anti-vax messages in my social media. Unvaccinated people are five times more likely to die. Vaccines are still the most effective way to protect ourselves.

I'm also skeptical of politicians eager to use force. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis forbade private businesses from requiring customers to wear masks or have vaccinations.

But I say privately owned should mean ... private. A store owner should be allowed to make his own choices. If customers don't like a policy, there are lots of other businesses to patronize.

I confronted DeSantis about that:

Stossel: "If it's my business, and I'm scared, and I want to have that, why can't I?"

DeSantis: "You had some big corporations basically imposing Fauci-ism, vax mandates, mask mandates. ... So we barred (them)."

Stossel: "But if I have a candy store and want to say you have to stand on your head to buy my candy ... "

DeSantis: "Yeah, but there's certain business regulations that everyone's gotta abide by ... "

Stossel: "I'm just surprised you're pushing them."

DeSantis: "Sometimes, you just gotta say, is this something that we want in our state at all? That's how we've come down."

That's how we've come down? The politician decides for everyone?

I hate that tyranny, whether it comes from DeSantis, who had mostly sensible Covid policies, or from worse repressers like New York's Andrew Cuomo and California's Gavin Newsom.

We individuals should get to decide what's best for us.

I'm 76. Nine in 10 COVID deaths happen people over 65.

So I'm glad I've been vaccinated. I'll get the new booster this fall.

I will wear a mask in crowded places when I travel to Chicago to speak at the Heartland Institute next week.

But that's my choice. There's a big difference between choice and force.

Individuals should decide, not politicians.




Tuesday, September 05, 2023

Florida Doctor Reinstated After Losing Board Certification for Criticizing COVID-19 Vaccines

A Florida physician known for being outspoken about COVID-related topics has regained his board certification that was stripped because he publicly criticized COVID vaccines.

Now, Dr. John Littell is moving forward from the experience with plans to help future physicians defend themselves when disciplined for voicing viewpoints that are not in the majority, he told The Epoch Times.

Dr. Littell, a longtime family physician in Ocala and a medical school professor, began posting videos sharing his thoughts about COVID-19 testing, treatments, and vaccines early in the pandemic. He was frustrated to find his content often was pulled down from his YouTube channel.

But he fought against what he saw as censorship by moving the content to other platforms, such as Rumble, he said.

Then, in January 2022 and again five months later, he received warning letters from the American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM), the organization that issued his certification for his medical specialty.

The letter stated that his videos on YouTube and Rumble spread “medical misinformation” and could put his board certification in jeopardy, he said.

The ABFM declined to comment on the matter because the board's "policy indicates we are unable to comment about professionalism cases," an unidentified spokesperson said in an email to The Epoch Times.

The ABFM is the third largest of the 24 boards of the American Board of Medical Specialties. More than 100,000 family medicine doctors are certified by the board, according to its website.

To keep their certification, physicians must uphold the board's ethical standards and "guidelines for professionalism, licensure, and personal conduct," the website states.

In letters from the board, Dr. Littell was told his public statements violated those guidelines. Dr. Littell responded to the letters and continued to speak publicly and post videos about the subjects, he said.

Months later, when he didn’t hear back, he said he thought the threat was gone.

“I was very happily under the radar,” he said.

That changed after he was escorted out of a Sarasota Memorial Hospital board meeting in February for approaching a board member behind the dais. He wanted to thank the board member, he said, for letting him speak at the meeting. He didn't realize that move would be seen as inappropriate, he said.

Though he's cared for many patients in hospitals, he'd never attended a hospital board meeting, let alone a contentious one, he said.

That day, medical freedom activists filled the boardroom to speak against the public hospital's policies during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many were angry their loved ones were denied the opportunity to try ivermectin, an antiparasitic for humans and animals widely used by some in treating COVID-19, and other treatments.

Dr. Littell spoke cordially to board members from the podium, an Epoch Times reporter confirmed. He told board members how treating patients with ivermectin had been his key to success in helping them recover. And he praised hospital personnel for their work during the pandemic.

Shortly after that, security guards escorted him outside.

A video of Dr. Littell's removal from the meeting by security guards was posted to social media and received millions of views and media coverage. And that thrust him back in the spotlight as a doctor vocal about COVID-19 policies. “I had a target on my back,” he said.

He questioned whether someone else would have been removed for the same reason.

Many doctors have faced consequences for questioning the efficacy and safety of COVID-19 vaccines and for advocating for the use of medicines such as ivermectin in the treatment of the disease.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wrote in one social media post about ivermectin: “You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it.” It linked to a page entitled "Why You Should Not Use Ivermectin to Treat or Prevent COVID-19."

Three doctors sued the FDA over the statements, saying it had no power to tell doctors which drugs to prescribe.

On Sept. 1, a federal court ruled that the agency likely overstepped its authority when it told Americans to "stop" using ivermectin against COVID-19. The FDA can inform, but has "no authority" to recommend consumers "stop" taking medicine, U.S. Circuit Judge Don Willett wrote in the ruling.

Accused of 'Spreading False' Information

The month after Dr. Littell spoke in Sarasota, the board sent a letter saying he'd been de-certified for “spreading false, inaccurate, and misleading materials about COVID-19, COVID-19 vaccination, and treatment and mitigation of the virus," The Epoch Times confirmed.

A letter reviewed by The Epoch Times stated that if Dr. Littell appealed the decision within 20 days, he would continue to be represented by the board, pending a review of his case by the professionalism committee of the ABFM board of directors.

The reason for the decision to review his record was because of his past suggestions the COVID-19 vaccine was a product of genetic engineering, causing deaths in children and causing the rise of the Delta variant, the letter indicated. It also referenced "false" statements made by Drs. Ryan Cole and Robert Malone, who spoke at a medical freedom conference Dr. Littell organized in October 2022.

In the letter, the board also criticized Dr. Littell for "offering to provide medical exemptions from vaccination" to patients across the country and "publicly comparing the U.S. public health system's response to the COVID-19 pandemic to Nazi Germany."

After receiving the troubling letter, Dr. Littell sought the help of attorney Jeff Childers, a business attorney in Gainesville, Florida. Since the COVID-19 lockdowns began, Mr. Childers has become active in lawsuits around the country related to medical freedom. He authors a daily blog called Coffee and Covid, which started by chronicling COVID-19 issues and now tracks other social and political issues, as well.

Mr. Childers crafted a 64-page appeal to the board, dissecting every accusation made against Dr. Littell, an Epoch Times reporter confirmed. And as word of the threat to Dr. Littell's board certification spread—a move that would prevent him from practicing medicine—medical freedom activists rose up to take his side.

A campaign was started to collect donations to fund his legal fees. More than 6,400 people donated almost $255,000. And more than 1,900 pledged to pray for Dr. Littell.

The Global Covid Summit, an international group of doctors focused on medical freedom in COVID-19 treatment, sent a letter signed by 169 doctors to the ABFM in support of Dr. Littell. In the letter, they argued that the board was false in every accusation made against Dr. Littell.

Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo also voiced support for Dr. Littell.

“What they’re doing is being a bully,” he said in an interview with The Floridian. “It’s not going to age well.

“I read the letter from the Board, and it’s dripping with political animosity.”

Both Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) and Dr. Littell's congresswoman, Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.) sent letters in his defense to the board, Dr. Littell said.

“I’ve got to believe it's not in the dozens, but probably in the hundreds of people who called and sent letters to the American Board of Family Medicine," Dr. Littell said. "I never asked them to, but that is what was happening.”

In July, Dr. Littell received word that the board had reviewed his case and retroactively de-certified him for three months, from March 16 to June 16. He never stopped seeing patients.

“It's like a slap on the wrist so they’d feel good about it, but wouldn't, presumably, have to face any legal action," he said.

His attorney agreed. “They did it in a very face-saving way,” Mr. Childers said. But ultimately, he's pleased with the decision.

“We were really surprised and gratified that we were able to achieve that result," Mr. Childers said.

Dr. Littell credits it to being “a God thing" that he was able to keep caring for patients and face a decertification period only retroactively.

“If they had said I was decertified, I would not have been able to do what I was doing. I mean, especially with the hospital care patients. I could have gotten into big trouble.”

He still may face consequences for having the blemish on his record, he said. He’ll have to report it to the hospitals at which he works and explain what happened, he said.

“Every time I go up for privileges with a hospital or any other institution, they're going to say, ‘Well, has your license ever been suspended or revoked, and has your board certification ever been revoked?’ So, it's still an issue. It’s not like you can just forget about it.”

He’s been advised by some other doctors, such as cardiologist Peter McCullough, to pursue legal action for the disciplinary measure they feel was wrong, he said.

Continuing to Speak Out

Dr. Littell continues to speak out about the same topics. So he suspects he’ll face retribution again, he said. “The way I read the letter, it's sort of like a warning,” Dr. Littell said.

The board, he said, seemed to be sending the warning, “If you act up again, we know it's a privilege to have this board certification, and it can be removed at any time.”

And the next time, the punishment is likely to escalate.

“The implication is that if it happens again, it's going to be more than just three months,” Mr. Childers said.

Around the country, a slew of doctors had board certifications removed and licensure threatened for sharing their COVID-related opinions.

“Most people would probably be surprised to find out there's a lot of this going on, now that the pandemic is over,” Mr. Childers said. “From what I've heard, there's probably more challenges to doctor licensing right now than at any other time.”

But because most doctors aren’t vocal about receiving discipline, it’s hard to know exactly how often it’s occurring, he said.

Doctors who have been active on social media seem to be targeted more often by medical authorities, he said.

Doctors who were not actively posting their thoughts about COVID-19 on social media "should feel very confident that if they follow a similar approach to what Dr. Littell did, they could hope for a good result at this point," he said.

Obtaining good legal advice is key, he said. It also helps to spread the word.

“All too often doctors either ignore these kinds of letters until it's too late because they're embarrassed, or they try to handle it on their own," he said.

“It's important that people know when this happens. And if they'll let folks know, they'll find that they get a lot of support.”

Dr. Littell has no plans to keep quiet about what he feels went wrong during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I’m not letting up," he said.

He's organizing his third annual medical freedom summit in November called “Food, Family & Medical Freedom" in Ocala, Florida at the World Equestrian Center.

Helping Future Doctors

He intends to use the remaining money donated to his legal fund to help others respond to similar licensure problems, especially threats faced by medical students, he said.

He's trying "to come up with a legal, legislative, and public relations strategy that helps future physicians,” he said. When they see practicing doctors disciplined and “raked over the coals” for speaking out about medical freedom issues, it deters good people from pursuing a degree in medicine, he said.

“I would like the medical freedom fighters, as I'm calling them, to create a sanctuary for pre-med, especially, and medical school students.”

"Early on, even in the colleges, they weed out the physicians who dare to question the narrative or challenge it," he said, of those who insist that doctors decrees made by federal health agencies.

But asking questions and challenging prevailing thought is important to the goal of continually improving medical treatments, he said.

"And that intellectual curiosity is what we’re so desperately lacking now in medicine, and in most professions.”

He also envisions the network expanding to help connect like-minded educators in colleges, universities, and medical schools to share their ideas without fear of being in opposition to “woke” ideology, he said.

He hopes to see that network push back against “lockstep mentality” and help students who are suffering because of it.

Medical students taught by Dr. Littell often tell him how difficult it is to be entering the field of medicine at this time, he said.

One student told him that his second-year class was forced to be vaccinated for COVID-19, he said. Classmates were told by their university they'd be "thrown out" of medical school in two weeks if they didn't comply, Dr. Littell said.

The student told him that, although more than half the class didn't want the vaccine, they felt they had no other option, Dr. Littell said. Weeks later, the mandate was lifted. But it was too late—many students already had submitted to getting the shot they didn't want.




Monday, September 04, 2023

Excess Deaths in England: Everything but mRNA Vaccines Blamed

Back in June, TrialSite looked at the issue of excess deaths across Europe. Today, we focus on England with additional data on this frightening topic. As excess death reports pop up around the globe, a key question remains: are these due to lack of care during the lockdowns, COVID-19 mRNA vaccinations, COVID-19 itself, or some other causes?

While we can’t answer that today, we can add a few pieces to the puzzle. According to an Office of National Statistics report from September 2022, the total “excess deaths” in England and Wales from March 2020 to June 2022 were 137,447, about 87,000 men and 50,000 women. Excess deaths were concentrated as follows: cirrhosis/liver disease, 3.834 excess deaths; diabetes, 3,466 excess deaths, and “ill-defined” conditions which are often connected to old age and/or frailty, 9,094 excess deaths. Not counting COVID-19, deaths were above average for six consecutive months from July 2021 to December 2021, and this coincides with periods of heavy vaccination. In this time frame, 89,253 excess deaths took place at private homes, a 30.2% increase over the prior five-year average.

100,000 excess cardiac-related deaths

In June 2023, the British Heart Foundation took a look at this issue, with a focus on cardiac-related excess deaths. According to their headline, “Nearly 100,000 more deaths involving heart conditions and stroke than usual since the pandemic began.” These statistics mean that on average, “there have been over 500 additional deaths a week involving cardiovascular disease since the pandemic began.” The BHF cites many likely “contributing factors, including extreme and widespread pressure on NHS services and Covid-19.” BHF also notes that cardiovascular conditions account for more excess deaths than other disease groups—“a total of 96,540 since 21st March 2020, the analysis of data from the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) finds.”

Year three of the pandemic shows massive non-COVID-19-related heart conditions?

BHF continues that, “In the first year of the pandemic, COVID-19 infection drove high numbers of excess deaths involving cardiovascular disease – an umbrella term for a range of heart and blood vessel conditions including heart attack and stroke. But while deaths from COVID-19 have since fallen year-on-year, the number of deaths involving cardiovascular disease have remained high above expected levels.” According to the chart below from the report’s Appendix, in year one of the pandemic a particular heart disease and COVID-19 deaths were comparable, yet when we look at year three, there is a serious mismatch, showing excess non-COVID-19 heart-related deaths:

A comprehensive solution to the complex challenge

BHF states that they, “believe that there are now other major factors likely driving the continued increase in excess deaths involving cardiovascular disease, including the severe, ongoing disruption to NHS heart care, and Covid-19 increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke." And “We're calling on the UK Government to take charge of the increasingly urgent cardiovascular disease crisis.” After listing every possible cause except the mRNA vaccines, BHF says that “While there has been some progress towards addressing the cardiovascular disease crisis, the BHF is pushing for the UK Government to go much further and faster in providing a comprehensive and coordinated solution to a complex challenge.”

COVID-19 no longer explains excess deaths

Dr. Sonya Babu-Narayan, Associate Medical Director for BHF, said: “Covid-19 no longer fully explains the significant numbers of excess deaths involving cardiovascular disease. Other major factors are likely contributing, including the extreme and unrelenting pressure on the NHS over the last few years----As more and more heart patients wait longer and longer, we need to see a specific and long-term commitment from the government to fast-track improvements in cardiovascular care now and for the future.”

Why are vaccines not suspected?

Perhaps ignoring the mRNA elephant in the room, Professor John Greenwood, who is the president of the British Cardiovascular Society, noted: “The high numbers of excess cardiovascular disease (CVD) deaths published today are worrying, but unfortunately not surprising. We know that Covid has caused direct (Covid leading to new CVD), indirect (reduced treatment and prevention of CVD) and long-term effects (CVD and Long Covid)----The BCS recommends urgent prioritization of CVD prevention and treatment, as well as an increase in the cardiovascular workforce (primary and secondary care, and multidisciplinary team) to begin tackling the backlog of work and long waiting lists for treatment. Added to this we need a strong public health strategy from the government to promote healthy behaviors and prevent heart disease in the first place.”

When will the full facts be known?

In considering these excess deaths, one must ask why the experts are considering everything but the mRNA vaccines. This is especially true with cardiac-related deaths: we know that these vaccines have cardiovascular risks. Perhaps once the fog of COVID-19 dissipates, we will get some real answers to these important questions.


Are unvaccinated children healthier?

* A 2021 study that compared health outcomes among vaccinated and unvaccinated children found significantly higher incidence of severe allergies, autism, chronic ear infections, gastrointestinal disorders, asthma and ADD/ADHD (attention deficit hyper disorder) in vaccinated children. [1]

* A 2020 study of children over 5 years of age found higher incidence of development delays, asthma, ear infection and gastrointestinal disorders in vaccinated children compared to unvaccinated children.[2]

* Another study from 2020 found a higher incidence of doctor office visits for conditions such as fever, ear pain, asthma, allergic rhinitis, conjunctivitis, sinusitis, breathing issues, anemia, eczema, urticaria, behavioural issues, gastroenteritis and weight and eating disorders. Oddly enough this study was retracted.[3]

* A 2017 study of 6 to 12 year old children found higher incidence of otitis media, pneumonia, allergic rhinitis, allergies, ADHD, ASD, eczema, learning disability and neurodevelopmental disorder. [4]

* As far back as 1992, a study was conducted by a body named IAS in New Zealand. While the study is not peer reviewed, some of the findings were similar to findings of studies highlighted above. The study found increased incidence of asthma, eczema, ear infection , tonsillitis, tonsillectomy, apnoea, hyperactivity, epilepsy and slow development of motor skills among vaccinated children. [5]


Covid-19 vaccinations in Thailand: Risks outweighed Benefits?

Outside of China, Thailand was the first country to report a Covid-19 case. [0]Prior to the launch of mass vaccinations, Covid-19 in Thailand was limited to just a few cases and small contained outbreaks. As the country gradually opened up, Thailand continued to be free of any major Covid-19 outbreaks.

As of July 1st, 2020 bars, pubs, shopping malls, Internet cafes and convenience stores and all opened up and schools and restarted. [1] International travel restrictions were still there for much of the year and tourism continued to be impacted, although restrictions started gradually easing in October. [2] Over the next 6 months, Thailand seemed to heading in the right direction in terms of reopening of the economy,

Throughout 2020, Thailand recorded 120 deaths and 6,331 cases. Up until the launch of the vaccination program on Feb 14th, 2021, Thailand had recorded ~24,400 cases and 80 deaths over approximately 11 months since the first reported case. However, as vaccination ramped up, Thailand recorded 20,445 deaths 2,252,976 cases over the next 11 months. This represented a 92-fold increase in cases and 256-fold increase in deaths over the same time frame of 11 months after vaccination, compared to the timeframe of 11 months before vaccination.

The Covid-19 cases and deaths were observed to be in strong temporal association with the rollout of the vaccination program. It has been argued by this author in this article, quoting publicly available data as well as published studies, that massive Covid-19 waves in several countries seem to have been triggered by mass vaccinations, with 1-dose vaccinated the likely spreaders to close contacts thereby triggering outbreaks. To date, Thailand has reported 34,453 Covid-19 deaths, out of which 34,373, or 99.8% have occurred after the launch of mass vaccinations.

Another important piece of statistic for this vaccination drive is the number of people who have been compensated for vaccine injury. As of September 9th, 2022, 21,139 people had filed vaccine injury claims, of which 17,559 met eligibility for compensation. Families of 4,441 people were compensated for post-vaccination deaths or disability. [3]At least 3,670 families were compensated for post-vaccination deaths. [4]


Despite opening up much of its domestic economy in July 2020, Thailand was free of Covid-19 outbreaks for the best part of the next 6 months, up until the launch of the vaccination campaign.

99.8% of all Covid-19 deaths in Thailand occurred after the launch of the mass vaccination program, in strong temporal association with the vaccination drive.

21,139 people filed for vaccine injury compensation, of which 17,559 already have been or will be compensated.

4,441 people suffered post vaccination deaths or disability for which families were compensated.

Based on the above facts, what should one infer about the outcome of the Covid-19 vaccination program in Thailand?




Sunday, September 03, 2023

Maine Hospital Fired Nurses for Refusing COVID Shots—Now It’s Begging Them to Come Back

Nurses and other health care workers at MaineGeneral Health, one of Maine’s largest health care providers, were unceremoniously fired two years ago if they refused to take the experimental mRNA injections touted as COVID-19 preventatives.

Some of those workers were even slapped with misconduct charges for refusing to comply with the mandate, many were later denied unemployment benefits, and no requests for religious exemptions were honored.

Now, one of the nonprofit hospitals that left some employees jobless and without recourse to Maine’s unemployment insurance benefits is sending text messages to the same employees it cast aside practically begging them to come back to work.

“You were once a proud member of the MaineGeneral team. Would you consider rejoining us? We would be pleased to discuss options with you,” the MaineGeneral Health Recruitment team said in a text message to former registered nurse Terry Poland.

“As you know, nearly 2 years ago MaineGeneral had to comply with a state mandate for COVID-19 vaccination. We lost a number of great employees as a result, including you,” MaineGeneral said.

“MaineGeneral has eliminated the COVID-19 vaccination as an employment condition,” MaineGeneral said.

Poland, who lives in Augusta, had worked as a registered nurse for 33 years. Her career included employment with MaineGeneral, Central Maine Medical Center, Pen Bay Medical Center, and the Aroostook Medical Center.

She couldn’t believe that the hospital would contact her in such a manner after casting her life into chaos for nearly two years.

“I was livid. Like, how dare you force me out of a career that I’ve dedicated my whole life to, taken away my livelihood, my ability to earn a good income, and now you think I’m gonna come grovel back to you?” Poland said.

Poland continued:

“I don’t hardly think so. And that’s the attitude of most everybody that I’ve been in contact with since yesterday.”

A source told the Maine Wire that about 15 former MaineGeneral Health employees received similar text messages.

Poland refused to take the experimental COVID-19 shots after Gov. Janet Mills decreed on Aug. 12, 2021, that health care workers would be forced to receive the shots as a condition of working in health care by Oct. 1, 2021.

Documents reviewed by the Maine Wire show that MaineGeneral established a speedier timeline of Sept. 17 for compliance.

Eventually, the state pushed back the deadline to the end of October.

Poland was never opposed to vaccines generally speaking.

Though she previously used a religious exemption to avoid taking an influenza shot, she willingly took the other vaccines required to work in health care prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, including immunizations for measles, mumps, rubella, and hepatitis B.

She said she was concerned about the novel nature of the mRNA technology, a form of gene therapy, which prior to COVID-19 had not been used in the standard schedule of immunizations.

“I knew enough not to take it. I’ve been a nurse long enough to know I need to question what new products are,” Poland said. “I’m not going to be the first one to jump on board of an experiment.”

When she discovered that fetal tissues are commonly used in the development and production of the drugs, that only strengthened her resolve as a Christian not to get the injections.

In previous years, Poland has said she was allowed an exemption from taking the influenza shot so long as she wore a mask during flu season. However, the hospital was unwilling to provide this accommodation for COVID-19.

As a result of her choice, Poland faced not only termination but also an allegation of misconduct from her former employer.

When she applied for unemployment benefits, she was rejected because of the misconduct allegation.

When she appealed, she was turned away.

Documents reviewed by the Maine Wire show that the Maine Department of Labor determined that MaineGeneral Health “discharged” her; however, the agency concluded that Poland’s refusal to get the injections was a violation that constituted a “culpable breach of obligations to the employer.”

As a result, Poland had to rely on her savings to get by in the middle of economically disastrous government lockdowns and soaring inflation.

Poland then sought help from the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming that she’d been discriminated against on the basis of her religious beliefs.

MaineGeneral Health, in responding to the commission, argued that allowing Poland religious accommodations would impose an “undue hardship” on the hospital. On that basis, the commission declined to take on her case.

The Maine Human Rights Commission also rejected her discrimination complaint.

“[T]here has been positive energy between human resource personnel and managers who are in the process of working together to reach out to former employees to see if they are interested in returning,” said Joy McKenna, director of communications for MaineGeneral, in an email.

“Since Monday, we are only aware of a few people who have indicated that they are interested in having a conversation about applying for an open position,” she said. “We currently have 453 open positions, which is similar to our pre-COVID open position count.”

McKenna said the hospital did not intentionally fire unvaccinated employees in a way that would block them from getting unemployment benefits.

Some of those positions have been filled by foreign nationals with green cards, McKenna said, though she was not able to provide an exact number on Aug. 9.

At the time MaineGeneral fired her, Poland was working at the MaineGeneral Rehabilitation and Long Term Care at Gray Birch facility in Augusta.

The facility provides nursing home and assisted living services and has a 37-bed capacity. Federal stats show the facility had 141 staff before the mandate and 110 after it was enforced.

In the years since she was fired, she estimates she’s earned only $12,000 and $17,000 as a home health care worker, a position that hasn’t provided similar benefits to the job she lost.

As a registered nurse, Poland was making about $75,000 per year.

She’s still not willing to give MaineGeneral another shot.


New ‘Pirola’ variant of COVID is spreading fast, has experts concerned

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise nationwide, a new variant dubbed “Pirola” has experts worried.

Also referred to as BA.2.86, Pirola is a highly mutated variant of the Omicron strain of the coronavirus, which emerged in 2021 and led to a frightful spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths.

“When Omicron hit in the winter of 2021, there was a huge rise in COVID-19 cases because it was so different from the Delta variant, and it evaded immunity from both natural infection and vaccination,” infectious disease specialist Dr. Scott Roberts said in a Yale Medicine bulletin.

The bulletin states that “there is some reason to worry, in that this variant … has more than 30 mutations to its spike protein,” referring to the proteins on the surface of the virus that allow it to enter and infect human cells.

“Such a high number of mutations is notable,” Roberts said. “When we went from XBB.1.5 to EG.5, that was maybe one or two mutations. But these massive shifts, which we also saw from Delta to Omicron, are worrisome.”

Is the new COVID variant worse?

The three biggest questions facing medical experts are: How transmissible is Pirola? Will it bypass existing immune defenses? How lethal will it be for those unlucky enough to get infected by it?

“Nobody knows right now, but studies are ongoing,” Roberts said.

The Pirola variant was initially detected in Israel and was later identified in Canada, Denmark, the UK, South Africa, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland and Thailand, according to the CDC.

By August, it had surfaced in Ohio, Virginia, Michigan and New York. And Thursday, Dr. S. Wesley Long of Houston Methodist Hospital reported that he had isolated a Texas case of the Pirola variant.

The rapid spread of Pirola “doesn’t look good right now,” Dr. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, Calif., told Reuters.

Pirola’s multiple mutations make it “radically different in its structure” compared to earlier coronavirus variants, Topol said.

As far as Pirola’s severity is concerned, “[i]t is too soon to know whether this variant might cause more severe illness compared with previous variants,” the CDC stated.

Our current levels of immunity, whether from vaccination or prior infection, also remain to be seen.

The new booster shots, expected to be available later this month, were developed to target the Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5.

Nonetheless, the boosters “will likely be effective at reducing severe disease and hospitalization” from BA.2.86, the CDC states. “That assessment may change as additional scientific data are developed.”

“The vaccine is still going to provide you great defense against illness and death,” Long said.

Other experts agree: Despite Pirola’s mutations, “it’s important to remember that it’s still the same virus at its core, so the same prevention methods — masking, vaccination and hand-washing, among others — can help people avoid infection,” Roberts said.


Team Youngkin Addresses Future COVID-19 Restrictions: ‘In Virginia You Get to Choose’

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin won’t be mandating that Americans mask up or lock down to fight the COVID-19 pandemic any time soon, The Daily Signal has learned.

Some schools, hospitals, and businesses have begun encouraging Americans to wear masks again amid a rise in COVID-19 cases throughout the country, sparking fears that lawmakers will once again institute lockdown measures and mask mandates.

Youngkin’s office told The Daily Signal on Thursday that such measures won’t be happening in the state, where the governor previously has banned schools from mandating masks.

“Governor Youngkin has been consistent since the beginning of his administration, if you want to wear a mask, wear a mask, but in Virginia you get to choose,” spokesman Christian Martinez said.

He added: “On Inauguration Day, Governor Glenn Youngkin declared Virginia open for business, the governor has no plans to change that.”

On Tuesday, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Mandy Cohen said that up to 10,000 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19 per week in the United States. Cohen noted that this number is significantly lower than the comparative figures for August 2022, at the pandemic’s highest point, when there were 40,000 hospitalizations a week.

“We’re in a much different and better place in August of 2023,” she said. “We have stronger immunity and tools to protect ourselves, we have vaccines, at-home tests, effective treatments, and commonsense strategies like washing your hands and staying away from people when you’re sick.”

The Daily Signal also asked 2024 presidential candidates whether they would support future mask mandates or lockdowns. None of the 2024 hopefuls that The Daily Signal spoke with supported any such restrictions.

“No mask mandates,” candidate Vivek Ramaswamy told The Daily Signal on Thursday. “No vaccine mandates. No lockdown ever again.”