Saturday, October 30, 2021

The Covid-19 pandemic has politicized science

With COVID-19, every disagreement became a culture-war flashpoint | Boston Globe - Jeff Jacoby: 

October 13, 2021 - "It was just over a year ago, on Oct. 4, 2020, that a group of doctors and medical experts, most of them specialists in epidemiology, immunology, and related public health disciplines, published a statement challenging the wisdom of the widespread COVID-19 lockdowns. The primary authors of the “Great Barrington Declaration” — it was named for the town in Western Massachusetts where it was drafted — were three scientists with blue-chip credentials: Martin Kulldorff, a professor of medicine at Harvard; Sunetra Gupta, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Oxford; and Jay Bhattacharya, a physician and professor at Stanford Medical School.

"'Coming from both the left and right, and around the world, we have devoted our careers to protecting people,' began the declaration, which was soon signed by thousands of additional public health scientists and doctors. 'Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health.' The scientists warned that “keeping these measures in place until a vaccine is available will cause irreparable damage, with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed.' They argued instead for a policy focused on protecting those most at risk from the virus, namely the old and infirm, while allowing others to resume normal life with common-sense precautions.The relatively brief declaration was accompanied by a much more detailed analysis of lockdowns and their collateral damage, and of the best ways to shield the elderly and people in other high-risk groups....

"Kulldorff, Gupta, and Bhattacharya expected their views to be challenged — after all, lockdowns had become the primary default strategy for containing COVID-19 in nearly every jurisdiction — but they never expected the whirlwind of denunciation and censure that their statement provoked. For a year, the three scientists have been 'vilified,' reported The Berkshire Eagle last week. Bhattacharya told the paper he is worried for his safety 'amid a campaign to censor him on the [Stanford] campus where he has worked for 35 years.' Harvard’s Kulldorff said he, too, 'continues to face denunciation.' Reflecting on their experience in an essay for the British website Spiked, the scientists expressed astonishment that their good-faith critique of the lockdown strategy caused them to be subjected to a 'multi-pronged propaganda campaign' and demonized for their views.

"But that’s been the story of this pandemic. As with so much else in contemporary American life, every disagreement has been turned into an ideological battle.... Whether the subject was lockdowns, masking, social distancing, vaccination, the origins of the virus, or even what the disease should be called, dogmatism consistently drowned out honest debate. There should have been a lively, ongoing process of questioning, testing, and revising scientific insights into COVID-19 and how best to confront it. Yet too many people preferred to dig in their heels, refusing to acknowledge that critics or dissidents might have a legitimate point. Again and again, on both the right and the left, people have insisted on viewing public health measures through a political or partisan lens.

"In retrospect, it seems clear that the Great Barrington authors were on target in doubting the advisability of sweeping lockdowns. Numerous studies have found that shutting down the economy was largely futile in preventing COVID’s spread and achieved little that could not have been done through less restrictive means. Whatever effect the lockdowns had on containing the coronavirus, there is no disputing that they damaged public health in many other ways, including domestic abuse, mental illness and addiction, anxiety and depression among children, deterioration in oral health, missed cancer diagnoses, and thousands of additional deaths from untreated heart disease.

"None of this means that the Great Barrington Declaration was unassailably correct, let alone that its prescriptions, if adopted, might not have caused other problems. But did it have to become a flashpoint in the culture war? In the midst of a pandemic, respected epidemiologists ought to be able to raise questions about prevailing public health policy without being savaged as fools or apostates. The fact that they couldn’t is appalling, and should make all of us uneasy, lockdown supporters and detractors alike."

Read more:

Friday, October 29, 2021

Canada's lockdown of the unvaccinated

‘It’s absolutely appalling’: Unvaccinated Canadians become social outcasts and the new persecuted minority | RT - Eva Bartlett:

October 21, 2021 - "In Canada, the supposedly benevolent country that prides itself on inclusivity, Covid totalitarianism has become unavoidably apparent, with its decision that soon only the fully vaccinated can travel. Vaccine mandates have also been imposed on healthcare workers, municipal employees and [some] federal public servants. Basically, as part of what PM Justin Trudeau called one of the world’s strictest vaccine-mandate policies, unjabbed Canadians are being increasingly restricted/excluded not only from work, but from social life as well.... 

"Under some of the world’s longest lockdowns, Canadians had their businesses shuttered, were deprived of contact with their elderly, were prevented from worshipping and holding holiday gatherings (while Canadian leadership steadfastly ignored the rules) and, more seriously, were deprived of critical medical care—all in the name of public health.

"Already, Canadians with natural immunity say they have been told that’s not enough to enter the country. Starting from October 30, only the Covid-jabbed can travel by plane or train in Canada. While huge numbers of Canadians have got the shots, many others have legitimate concerns about the safety of vaccines, with good reason. When Dr. Byram Bridle, associate professor of viral immunology — a well-recognized expert in vaccinology — refused vaccination due to his natural immunity, he was derided by media and banned from his University of Guelph campus....

"[A]lthough I already realized it is unlikely that I'll see my family in Canada in person again, the newest ‘no jab, no travel’ dictates seal the deal for me. But, for people within Canada, it is more than just the matter of being able to see loved ones again. For some, these new dictates might mean a matter of life or death: whether they can get vital medical care and whether they can earn a living. One such person is an Italian researcher living in Canada since 2001, who was in that year diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I recently spoke with Valentina Capurri about how the vaccine mandates will affect her.

"She explained that, following her MS diagnosis, she was offered to participate in a trial program for a new medication. Although a risky decision, she accepted for different reasons, including the health care and medication it would ensure her as a then-lone international student. She described the importance of the trial, which lasted twelve years. 'Lots of people who had severe effects of MS would have benefitted from the medication. And yet they were not able to access the medication for a reason: because you cannot give a medication whose effect – if everything goes wrong – can be worse than the cure.... And none of this has been done in this particular case'....

"Over the past year and a half, she says, she has not been allowed to see her neurologist, all medical appointments at her Toronto hospital were suspended and replaced with  phone consultations. No physical visits, no MRIs, just phone calls. 'In 2003, when we had SARS, I used to go once a month to the hospital. Despite the fact that SARS in 2003 had a much higher mortality rate than Covid, we still were allowed to enter the hospital on a regular basis. None of our visits were cancelled back then as they are now.'

"Since neither she nor her Canadian husband will take the jab, they will lose their jobs, and thus won't be able to pay for her expensive MS medication. 'You are forcing me to lose my job, to lose my ability to support myself, just because I am exerting my right not to have an experimental medical procedure done on me. This is worse than fascism, this is absolutely appalling.'

"On top of this, now, those needing organ transplants face being denied care if they do not consent to mandatory jabs.

"Among other Canadians suspended without pay for their refusal to be jabbed are hundreds of hospital workers, including nurses.... And, in August, emergency room and family practice physician, Dr. Rochagné Kilian resigned over the unethical and coercive pressuring of Canadians to be jabbed.

"While medical workers and average Canadians are being forced out of work, denied medical care, ostracized from society, the government has made clear the rules for thee but not for me adage still applies. PM Trudeau said all federal workers would be compelled to get fully vaccinated but, as it turns out, that’s not the case. According to an article in the Toronto Sun, roughly 70% of the federal workforce will be exempt from getting vaccines, including: federal judges, meat inspectors, park wardens, postal workers, tax auditors, Commons and Senate staff, soldiers, sailors and air force personnel, and Canada Post employees, among others.

"Canada doesn’t even pretend to follow logic any longer. Just full-on medical fascism for the majority of Canadians. With the introduction of vaccine mandates, it is only a matter of time before Canada reaches Lithuanian-level totalitarianism where the non-jabbed are almost fully excluded from all aspects of society."

Read more:

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Canadian government employees exempted from vaccine mandates

Look closely, Trudeau's 'mandatory' vax policy isn't what it seems | Toronto Sun - Lorne Gunter: 

October 9, 2021 - "Back on Sept. 28, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said all federal workers would be compelled to get fully vaccinated. 'We are going to ensure the federal public service is vaccinated,' he said. 'There is a clear requirement for vaccination for anyone who works for the federal government.' Except that when Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland announced the vax policy on Wednesday, there were gaps in it you could drive a semi through....

"The Treasury Board claims that Ottawa employs the equivalent of 300,540 full-time civil servants. About 212,000 of them will be exempt from getting vaccines ... nearly 70% of the federal workforce that won’t be covered.... According to Blacklock’s Reporter: 'Exempted employees include (federal) call centre operators, federal judges, meat inspectors, park wardens, postal workers, tax auditors, Commons and Senate staff,' and members of the armed forces.

"Mounties, Canada Border Services agents and federal prison guards must be fully vaccinated by the end of October or face being placed on unpaid leave by mid-November. But soldiers, sailors and air force personnel are exempt.

"Also excluded from the mandate are any federal employees who work for Crown corporations, such as Canada Post. Right, why should they be vaccinated? They only visit about 40% of the homes in the country and touch the mail of every Canadian who uses a superbox or postal office to pick up their letters and parcels.

"Tax processors and auditors at the Canada Revenue Agency are exempt, as are federal employees who deal directly with the public or employees of departments that are deemed short-staffed by the Trudeau government, so cannot afford to lose any more workers. According to Blacklock’s, that includes call centre operators who process E.I. claims and veterans’ benefits.

"For me, here’s the kicker: The unlucky saps who aren’t exempt, don’t have to provide proof of vaccine. They merely have to fill out an online form claiming to be fully vaccinated or claiming a religious or medical exemption. Canadians not employed by the federal government who want to dine out without a mask or attend a hockey game or live theatre have to provide more rigorous proof of their vaccination status.

"Furthermore, because the Trudeau government wants to look tough, it has said it will not allow unvaccinated civil servants to provide negative test results as an alternative. In practice, though, that means a large portion of Ottawa’s workforce will be neither vaccinated nor regularly tested for COVID-19.

"The worst of both worlds. This is consistent, however, with other alleged 'zero-tolerance' COVID-19 policies from Trudeau. His government’s policy to require all travellers arriving by air to spend at least three days in quarantine (now ended), exempted anyone arriving by private plane or charter, whether vaccinated or not. It exempted students and people claiming to be essential workers. And others could get around the quarantine by paying a fine or by landing at a U.S. airport near the border and taking a taxi across.

"The Trudeau government merely wants to appear and sound serious about tackling COVID-19. It doesn’t really want to do anything."

Read more:

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

More lockdowns in ZeroCovid China

Fresh lockdowns in China as local Covid-19 infections spread to 11 provinces | CNN -Nectar Gan:

October 25, 2021 - "Authorities in northern China are reimposing lockdowns and other emergency measures to curb the spread of coronavirus, with health officials warning of a worsening outbreak after the country recorded more than 100 cases across 11 provinces over the last week. 'Since October 17, there have been multiple scattered local outbreaks in China, and they're expanding rapidly,' Mi Feng, a spokesman at the National Health Commission (NHC), said at a news conference Sunday. 'There is an increasing risk that the outbreak will spread even further.'

"The rapid spread comes despite about 75% of China's population -- or more than a billion people -- being fully vaccinated, according to Mi.... The outbreak was first detected on October 16 among a tour group of fully vaccinated senior citizens from Shanghai who traveled in several northern regions.... Infections have been reported in nearly a third of the country's provinces and regions... Authorities have banned travel agencies from organizing cross-provincial tours in these regions.

"On Sunday, the Chinese capital tightened entry restrictions into [Beijing], requiring travelers from places with confirmed cases to present a negative coronavirus test and undergo 14 days of health monitoring. The city has recorded 14 confirmed cases in the latest outbreak, including 12 over the past three days, according to a CNN tally of the Beijing Municipal Health Commission's daily reports.

A widespread Covid outbreak in Beijing would be the last thing Chinese leaders want to see as the city gears up for the 2022 Winter Olympics in February.... Already, authorities in Beijing are making an example of six residents who allegedly broke Covid rules with criminal detentions. Among them, two went out to eat and invited friends home for mahjong despite having developed fevers upon returning from a Covid-infected tourist destination in Inner Mongolia. Another two tried to climb over the fences of their locked-down gated community....

"Ejin Banner, a city of 35,000 people in Inner Mongolia and a popular tourist destination, banned all residents and tourists from leaving their homes or hotel rooms starting Monday, after it recorded 12 cases on Sunday. The city also announced harsh punishment for six officials, including the director of the local health commission, for their 'slack response and ineffective management' of the latest outbreak... In neighboring Gansu province, the provincial capital of Lanzhou also announced measures over the weekend to 'cease all tourist activities' and put visitors in quarantine. Both cities, as well as several others in Inner Mongolia and Gansu, have suspended all trains, buses and taxi services, according to the Transportation Ministry."

Read more: 

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

US NIH funded Wuhan gain of function research

NIH acknowledges US funded gain-of-function at Wuhan lab, despite Fauci’s denials |  Fox News - Andrew Mark Miller:

October 22, 2021 - "The National Institutes of Health is now admitting to funding gain-of-function research on bats infected with coronaviruses at a lab in Wuhan, China despite repeated denials from Dr. Anthony Fauci that U.S. tax dollars were used on the funding. 

"In a letter to Rep. James Comer, ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, an NIH official admits that a 'limited experiment' was conducted in order to test if 'spike proteins from naturally occurring bat coronaviruses circulating in China were capable of binding to the human ACE2 receptor in a mouse model.' The letter states that the laboratory mice infected with the modified bat virus 'became sicker' than mice that were given the unmodified bat virus. The official, Lawrence A. Tabak, accused the New York City-based nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance, who funneled funds to the Wuhan lab, of not being transparent about the work that was taking place.

"Gain-of-function [GOF] research involves extracting viruses from animals to artificially engineer in a laboratory to make them more transmissible and deadly to humans. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has repeatedly denied any NIH money went to such research in Wuhan, but his organization has given millions of dollars in grant money to the EcoHealth Alliance which funneled at least $600,000 to Wuhan coronavirus research.

"Fauci has testified before Congress stating multiple times that NIH does not fund gain-of-function research in Wuhan, but Paul has insisted that Fauci is lying to Congress and even requested a criminal referral from the Department of Justice. In his questioning of Fauci at a Senate hearing this summer, Paul cited a paper on research about bat coronaviruses and said that U.S. money had essentially gone to the hazardous and controversial research – an assertion Fauci strongly objected to. 'I have never lied before the Congress, and I do not retract that statement,' Fauci said when pressed by Paul on previous testimony from the doctor that the U.S. did not fund gain of function research in Wuhan. 'You do not know what you are talking about quite frankly, and I want to say that officially.' Pau[l] responded to the [Tabak letter] news on Twitter saying that 'I told you so doesn’t even begin to cover it here.'

"A new book from an investigative Australian reporter says that Fauci reportedly misled the Trump administration on gain-of-function research in China. 'Fauci’s public persona as a cautious, careful medical professional is contradicted by his central role in kickstarting exceptionally fraught gain-of-function research in the United States after the ban introduced in the Obama era, along with his role in funding coronavirus research in China in unsafe laboratories. ... that intelligence agencies suspect may have sparked the pandemic,' Sharri Markson details in her new book, What Really Happened In Wuhan.  In September, leaked documents obtained by private research group DRASTIC 'completely contradict' claims made by both China and Fauci about the reality of gain-of-function research being done inside the Wuhan Institute of Virology that may have caused the coronavirus pandemic, according to a former State Department COVID-19 investigator.... 

"Fauci's NIAID told Fox News in a statement that the doctor has been 'entirely truthful.' 'Gain of function is a broad term,' the statement said. "The research that requires increased oversight under the HHS P3CO Framework is that which is reasonably anticipated to create, transfer or use potential pandemic pathogens resulting from the enhancement of a pathogen’s transmissibility and/or virulence in humans (ePPP). Drs. Collins and Fauci have made clear in numerous public appearances that the research in question did not fit this definition, and nothing in the last research progress report changes that fact.... 

The experiment described in the final progress report provided by EcoHealth Alliance was testing to see if spike proteins from naturally occurring bat coronaviruses circulating in China were capable of binding to the human ACE2 receptor in a mouse model.... The research plan for the grant was reviewed in advance of funding and was determined ... not to meet the definition of enhanced potential pandemic pathogen (ePPP) research because the bat coronaviruses used in this research have not been shown to infect humans and the experiments were not reasonably expected to increase transmissibility or virulence in humans.... NIAID reviewed the progress report and has determined that the research described in the progress report would not have triggered a review under the HHS P3CO Framework because the bat coronaviruses used in this research have not been shown to infect humans and the experiments were not reasonably expected to increase transmissibility or virulence in humans."

Read more: 

After blogging and rereading this story, I remembered that up until December 2019 Sars-Cov-2 had "not been shown to infect humans" either; meaning that if GOF research had been done on the coronavirus at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (either in its own labs or at the Wuhan-Hubei Center for Disease Control) it would not "have required increased oversight" under NIAID's interpretation of the HHS P3CO Framework either. - gd

Monday, October 25, 2021

Lockdown of the unvaccinated in Lithuania

Lithuania Launches EU Vaccine Passport to Facilitate Travel | Shengen Visa News: 
June 8, 2021 - "Lithuania has facilitated the travel process for all vaccinated people against the Coronavirus by issuing EU vaccination passports.... Approximately 300,000 Lithuanian residents who either have had the virus or have been vaccinated can obtain the digital certificate.... Based on the current rules imposed by Lithuania’s government, travellers are exempted from additional restrictions upon their arrival if they:

  • received the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine
  • two weeks after they have taken the second dose of the Moderna vaccine
  • about two weeks after they received the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine
  • two weeks after they got vaccinated with the only doze of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine

"Exempted from the restrictions are also people who have fully recovered from the virus if the period from the confirmation of their COVID-19 test result does not surpass 180 days. If people do not follow the requirements mentioned above, they will be obliged to present a negative result of the Coronavirus test, not older than 72 hours, upon their arrival in Lithuania. In addition, they will be obliged to comply with quarantine requirements."
Read more:

Lithuania makes COVID pass mandatory for citizens to enter malls, marketplaces | Republic World - Anurag Roushan:
September 14, 2021 - "On September 13, Lithuania made it mandatory for its citizens to obtain national COVID-19 certificates in order to avail certain services. People who have recovered from COVID in the last 180 days, have tested negative for coronavirus, or have been fully vaccinated are eligible for the 'Opportunity Pass,' according to Xinhua news. It further stated that the Digital COVID Certificate issued by the European Union is also valid. People without such certifications will be prohibited from entering non-essential goods stores, major shopping malls, and marketplaces larger than 1,500 square metres. They would also be barred from beauty salons, gyms, and events with more than 500 attendees. People without national certificates, on the other hand, will still be permitted to visit stores and markets that offer food, veterinary products, animal feeds, pharmacies, as well as stores that sell vision correction products, orthopaedic products, fertilisers, seeds and plants...

"Lithuania began issuing the EU's COVID pass on June 7. With more stringent regulations, the government intends to encourage higher immunisation rates in the country." 
Read more:

Lithuanian news websites delete public comments to prevent COVID-19 misinformation | Euronews - AFP:
October 21, 2021 - "Lithuania's largest news outlets will remove public comments from their websites to combat COVID-19 misinformation. The organisations announced on Wednesday that viewers would not be able to publish anonymous comments on stories about COVID-19.... 'We are showing solidarity with the state and society in the joint effort to neutralise the misinformation spread by anti-vaxxers,' said Arnas Marcinkus, president of the Lithuanian Online Media Association. 'The success of the vaccination campaign must be our common cause, without excluding the government or the media,' he told AFP.

"Around 71% of adults in Lithuania have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 – a higher rate than in many neighbouring countries in Central and Eastern Europe. But cases of infection have increased in recent days, which prompted the government to impose further restrictions in September."
Read more:

Lithuania vaccinated ~75% of its adults and instituted a very strict vaccine pass program … | Substack - Alex Berenson:
October 23, 2021 - "For months, Lithuania – once the home of peaceful and surprisingly effective resistance to Soviet tyranny – has engaged in increasingly strict medical fascism. Adults who refuse the Covid vaccine are essentially barred from work, shopping, and public life. Even food shopping and visits to doctors are difficult. Violators face hefty fines.... And the restrictions have worked – to raise vaccination levels, that is. About three in four Lithuanian adults are fully vaccinated, more than the United States and well ahead of most other Eastern European countries.

"Now Lithuania is seeing the rewards! Covid cases and deaths have fallen basically to zero....

"Wait… I think I cut the chart too soon. Hate it when that happens. Here’s the right one....

"3,000 new cases as of yesterday? 100 times the level in July? The equivalent of more than 350,000 in the United States? This can mean only one thing, citizens of Lithuania: You have abused your freedom. Obviously it’s time to tighten the restrictions!"
Read more:

Sunday, October 24, 2021

AIER responds to anti-GBD screed in BMJ

Medice, cura te ipsum | British Medical Journal (letter to the editor):

September 16, 2021 - "In their essay 'Covid-19 and the new merchants of doubt' (BMJ Opinion, 9/13/21,, Gavin Yamey and David Gorski present themselves as defenders of sound scientific principles in the face of 'denialism' related to the Covid-19 pandemic. These authors specifically target the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD), and the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) as sources of what they imply is a misinformation campaign about the efficacy of Covid-19 public health measures. Unfortunately, it seems to us that Yamey and Gorski have misrepresented both the GBD and AIER....

"In October 2020, AIER hosted a small academic conference on the costs and consequences of lockdowns with three highly qualified medical scientists, Martin Kulldorff, Sunetra Gupta, and Jay Bhattacharya. These scientists received no compensation for their participation, which came about due to a mutual recognition that the medical, social, and economic harms of lockdowns were being neglected as countries around the world pursued an aggressive lockdown strategy. At the time the evidence of the efficacy of lockdowns was being debated ( This novel approach conflicted with existing public health recommendations for respiratory pandemics from as recently as 2019 (,,

"During the conference, journalists including science writer David Zweig, Forbes’ John Tamny, and Jeanne Lenzer, who reported it for The BMJ (, conducted a wide-ranging question and answer session with the scientists, which AIER videotaped for release to the public ( At the conclusion of the conference, the scientists drafted the GBD as a general statement of public health principles, calling for an end to lockdowns and outlining an alternative strategy of “focused protection” for vulnerable communities ( While AIER is proud to have hosted the conference that produced this document, its text and principles originated entirely with the scientists - indeed, the idea for a general letter came about spontaneously on the afternoon of October 4 as the conference drew to a close.

"Yamey and Gorski’s allegations of fossil fuel and tobacco company interests in AIER are unfounded. These stem from their misunderstanding of AIER’s financial assets as independently managed by our investment subsidiary, American Investment Services. As with any investment fund, these holdings inevitably include stocks from hundreds of companies, none of which have any bearing on our editorial positions. This would be akin to suggesting that Yamey’s own pro-lockdown position is tainted by Duke University’s multi-billion dollar foundation - built from the tobacco fortune of James Buchanan Duke - or that Gorski’s medical work is ethically compromised by the presence of fossil fuel stocks in Wayne State University’s $400 million endowment. To portray either as a source of financial influence appears to display a misunderstanding of the very nature of investments, which are a way of ensuring an institution’s long-term financial stability - not a payoff from the firms whose stocks are owned.

"Are financial theories about AIER and the GBD really where these authors want to hang their hats? For the record, AIER publishes its own financial reports every year ( Anyone who wants to see where the money comes from, or where it goes can simply navigate to our website and do so. There are no tricks. There is no deception.


Phillip W. Magness
Senor Research Faculty & Interim Director of Research and Education
American Institute for Economic Research

James R. Harrigan
Senior Editor

American Institute for Economic Research

Read more:

All articles and resources listed at are freely available for the duration of the covid-19 pandemic or until otherwise determined by BMJ. They may be downloaded or printed for any lawful, non-commercial purpose (including text and data mining) provided that all copyright notices and trade marks are retained.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Dr. Kulldorff responds to anti-GBD screed in BMJ

Covid, lockdown and the retreat of scientific debate | The Spectator - Martin Kulldorff, Coffee House:

October 12, 2021 - "Science is about rational disagreement, the questioning and testing of orthodoxy and the constant search for truth. With something like lockdown – an untested policy that affects millions – rigorous debate and the basics of verification/falsification are more important than ever.... But with lockdown, science is in danger of being suppressed by politics. Lockdown moved instantly from untested theory to unchallengeable orthodoxy: where dissenters face personal attack. Understandable on social media perhaps, but it has now crept into the British Medical Journal (BMJ) in a recent article about the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD).  

"The GBD, which I wrote, together with Dr. Jay Bhattacharya [of] Stanford and Dr. Sunetra Gupta [of] Oxford, argues for focused protection. Rather than a blanket lockdown which inflicts so much harm on society, we wanted better protection of those most at risk – mindful that Covid typically poses only a mild risk to the young. For saying so, we are smeared as 'the new merchants of doubt' – as if scepticism and challenge is regarded by the BMJ as something to be condemned. The BMJ article is full of errors that ought to have never found their way into any publication. Here are some examples:

  • My colleagues and I are described as ‘critics of public health measures to curb Covid-19’. On the contrary, throughout the pandemic we have strongly advocated better public health measures to curb Covid-19 – specifically protection of high-risk older people, with many ‘clearly defined’ proposals. The failure to implement such measures, in our view, has led to many unnecessary Covid deaths.
  • We are described as ‘proponents of herd immunity’ which is akin to accusing someone of being in favour of gravity. Both are scientifically established phenomena. Every Covid strategy leads to herd immunity. The key is to minimise morbidity and mortality. The language, here, is non-scientific: herd immunity is not a creed. It’s how pandemics end.
  • It says we have ‘expressed opposition to mass vaccination’. Dr. Gupta and I have spent decades on vaccine research and we are all strong advocates for Covid and other vaccines. They are among the greatest inventions in history. To falsely credit the anti-vaccine movement with support from professors at Harvard, Oxford and Stanford is damaging for vaccine confidence. This is unworthy of a medical journal.
  • The GBD is referred to as a 'sophisticated science denialism’. Note here how something that challenges an orthodoxy is described as anti-science – a label that presumably could have been applied to any scientific innovator who ever questioned a failed orthodoxy. Collateral public health damage from Covid restrictions are real and enormous on cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, backsliding childhood vaccinations, starvation and mental health, just to name a few. It is not the GBD, but those who downplay lockdown harms who should be equated with those who [downplay] the harms of tobacco or climate change.
  • The GBD was not ‘sponsored by the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER)' – and I’m pleased to see that the BMJ has at least retracted this claim. We were there for media interviews, with no sponsorship. How did such a blunder end up in print in the first place? The AIER staff did not even know about the Declaration until the day before it was signed, and the AIER president and board did not know about it until after publication. If we had written the Declaration at say, Starbucks, would the BMJ have claimed that it was sponsored by the coffee shop?
  • The BMJ article mentions ‘AIER contributor Scott Atlas’, but Dr. Atlas has never been affiliated with nor written for AIER. Neither have we – unless the BMJ also views us as affiliated with hundreds of universities and organisations that we have visited during our careers or that have reprinted some of our articles. Dr. Atlas was not even aware that AIER had reprinted one of his articles until the BMJ linked to it. 
  • Several AIER employees have gracefully supported the GBD, just like countless other people around the world, but we have never received any money from the AIER. This basic error again exposes how normal checks did not appear to have been applied by the BMJ.
  • The BMJ article ends by saying that my colleagues and I are peddling a 'well-funded sophisticated science denialist campaign based on ideological and corporate interests'. Nobody has paid us money for our work on the GBD, or for advocating focused protection. None of us would have undertaken this project for professional gain: it is far easier to stay silent than put your head above the parapet. As a vaccine developer, Dr. Gupta has connections with a pharmaceutical start-up, but Dr. Bhattacharya and I are among the few drug/vaccine scientists who purposely avoid pharmaceutical company funding to be free from conflicts of interests.
  • "The BMJ attempt to link us to the Koch brothers is an ad hominem attack of the highest order, but failed to mention much closer connections. We all work for universities that have received donations from Koch Foundations, although unrelated to any of our own work. While the AIER has received only a single $68K (£50,000) Koch donation a few years ago, many universities have received multiple, much larger Koch donations, including million dollar gifts to Duke, Harvard, Johns Hopkins and Stanford. Since university staff frequently publish in the BMJ, the journal is arguably more closely connected to a ‘network of organisations funded by Charles Koch’ than the AIER.
  • "Many scientists receive research funding from private foundations, for which we as scientists should be grateful. It is hypocritical and discriminatory for the BMJ to single out Dr. Gupta because her lab received limited funds from the Opel Foundation. As one among many examples, Neil Ferguson and his team at Imperial College were awarded a prize by the Koch-affiliated Mercatus Center's 'Emergent Ventures' program.

"During a pandemic, it is the duty of public health scientists to engage with government officials: to use their expertise to confront what right now is perhaps the biggest single problem facing humanity. It is hard to understand why anyone would criticise that.... If we are wrong, then as scientists we would welcome a scientific discussion on how and where we are wrong.

"The BMJ article urges people to use ‘political and legal strategies’ rather than scientific argument to counter our views on the pandemic. It also calls for people to adhere to the ‘scientific consensus’ as represented by a Memorandum [the John Snow Memorandum - gd] published by the Lancet, a document that questions natural immunity after Covid disease....

"That such an article was published exemplifies the decay in standards of scientific journals. Open and honest discourse is critical for science and public health. As scientists, we must now tragically acknowledge that 400 years of scientific enlightenment may be coming to an end. It started with Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei and René Descartes. It would be tragic if it would end up as one of the many casualties of this pandemic."

Read more:

Friday, October 22, 2021

New lockdown in Moscow

Moscow prepares for a return to lockdown as covid cases — and deaths — soar | Washington Post - Isabelle Khurshudyan & Mary Ilyushina:

October 21, 2021 - "With Russia enduring its worst wave of the coronavirus pandemic, setting grim records in daily cases and deaths, Moscow announced a lockdown Thursday — a move the Kremlin had previously said it would avoid at all costs.

"Russia joins other countries grappling with how to reintroduce restrictions after doing away with nearly all of them.... Russia — Moscow, in particular — has in the past year regularly introduced measures when new cases have spiked, including a digital pass system for the vaccinated and a curfew for bars and restaurants. But those provisions were often quickly abandoned, in some cases after just a couple of weeks. Mask-wearing compliance throughout the country remains low. More importantly, Russia’s vaccination campaign has stalled at just 33 percent, perhaps because authorities have often touted their success in dealing with the pandemic. Analysts have said that has created mixed messages for Russians as to why they even need to get the shots.

"A new lockdown in Moscow, the city’s first in more than a year, is the toughest step officials have taken since exiting the last one in June 2020. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said earlier this month that 'the introduction of lockdowns is an absolutely undesirable scenario' and encouraged regional authorities to consider other methods of stanching the virus’s spread. 

"A day after President Vladimir Putin approved a 'non-working week' from Oct. 30 to Nov. 7 to keep most office employees at home, the country’s capital went a step further. Without officially labeling the new restrictions a lockdown, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin announced that from Oct. 28 to Nov. 7, everything — schools, gyms, restaurants and other nonessential businesses — will be closed, with the exception of grocery stores, pharmacies and medical centers. Theaters and museums can continue operating at 50 percent occupancy and with the use of digital codes....

"No major city in Russia has been in a strict lockdown in more than a year. But after recording another record of 1,036 fatalities from the virus in the past day, Russia’s official death toll of more than 225,000 is by far the highest in Europe. It is also believed to be an undercount. Independent demographer Alexey Raksha calculated that excess mortality — seen by analysts as the most reliable indicator of coronavirus deaths — has reached around 750,000, he said in a Facebook post. Raksha’s calculation used figures maintained by Rosstat, Russia’s statistical agency, where Raksha used to work....

"In nationally televised comments Wednesday, an exasperated Putin encouraged Russians to get vaccinated. Russia has several domestically produced vaccines, but none have yet been approved by the World Health Organization. Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said Thursday that 'certain technological differences regarding the fullness of the documents and the information provided for our vaccine to be registered' were the reason Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine has yet to be approved by the European Union’s drug regulator, the European Medicines Agency. The EMA is unlikely to approve Sputnik until at least the first quarter of 2022, according to Reuters."

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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Pandemic and lockdowns return to Europe

Latvia is first country to reimpose lockdown in Europe’s new Covid wave | The Guardian - Pjotr Sauer:

Oct 20, 2021 - "Latvia has announced a month-long Covid-19 lockdown after an unprecedented surge in infections, becoming the first country in Europe to reimpose far-reaching restrictions amid a new wave of cases in countries across the continent. The Baltic country has one of the highest rates of new Covid cases relative to population in the world, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), after ... keeping the virus at bay for months.

“'Our health system is in danger' … the prime minister, Krišjānis Kariņš, said on Monday evening at an emergency government meeting. He said the country’s low vaccination rate was to blame for the surge in hospital admissions. Only 57% of the 1.9 million Latvians are fully vaccinated, well below the EU average of 74%. The government imposed a month-long night-time curfew, from 8pm to 5am, this week and closed schools and all non-essential shops....

"Latvia is the first country in Europe to reimpose a strict lockdown as the fresh Covid wave gathers pace across the continent. The World Health Organization said there was a 7% rise in new coronavirus cases across Europe last week, the only region in the world where cases increased, according to the health body....

"Poland’s health minister, Adam Niedzielski, said on Wednesday the country had experienced an 'explosion of the pandemic in the last two days' and warned the Covid situation was 'becoming very serious'. Poland’s daily number of cases had exceeded 5,000 for the first time since May. Neighbouring Slovakia reported 3,480 new cases on Tuesday, its highest daily tally since the spring, according to health ministry data.

"Bulgaria on Tuesday recorded its highest Covid death rate since late March, and the authorities made vaccine passports compulsory for visiting gyms, museums, cafes and other public places to stop the spread of the virus. In Romania and Ukraine local hospitals have found themselves under intense pressure, as the two countries have been posting record numbers of Covid deaths this month.

"In Russia, which has been reporting record daily deaths and has a vaccination rate dramatically below the EU’s, with only a third of its population vaccinated, a new set of restrictions was announced on Tuesday. In Moscow, unvaccinated citizens aged over 60 were ordered to stay at home for four months and vaccine passports were introduced in several regions.

"Moscow will go into a full lockdown if coronavirus infections continue to increase in the capital, a government order that was sent to businesses in the Russian capital on Wednesday said. The order, seen by the Guardian, would close all non-essential businesses, including restaurants, shopping malls and museums as well as suspend planned medical procedures from 30 October to 7 November. The order said that the lockdown would come into effect if the total number of new coronavirus cases in the capital over the next seven days surpasses the number of infections recorded in the previous week. The measures, labelled as a 'short-term lockdown' in the document, would amount to Russia’s strictest coronavirus restrictions since spring 2020."

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Chart courtesy Worldometer

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Mandates, burnout to blame for nursing shortage

Front-line health care worker shortage due to COVID-19 vaccine mandates, burnout | Fox News - Julia Musto: 

October 19, 2021 - "Hospital staffing shortages due to COVID-19 vaccination disputes have continued across the U.S. this month, leaving patients untreated amid surges of the virus' delta variant. Health care workers against vaccine mandates have stood their ground, despite the fact that millions of Americans have been safely vaccinated against coronavirus.... 

"In upstate New York, several maternity staff members resigned from Lewis County General Hospital, worsening an existing shortage and forcing the hospital to stop delivering babies and potentially curtail services in five other departments.... 

"More than 150 Houston Methodist hospital system workers were fired or resigned in June over a vaccine mandate after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order banning any entity from implementing mandates in the state, according to Houston Public Media....

"In Michigan, approximately 400 workers walked off the job at Henry Ford Health System at the beginning of the month rather than take a required COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Detroit Free Press and an additional 1,900 workers received exemptions from the health system's vaccine requirement. The publication reported that the workers who left made up about 1% of the workforce of 33,000 people, and Reuters reported that dozens of employees had filed a lawsuit against Henry Ford Health System in September.

"Other hospital systems around the country have also gotten pushback on COVID-19 vaccine mandates, leading to employee firings. In July, a study by The COVID States Project said that 27% of health care workers were unvaccinated and NPR reported in September that other research showed the rate of vaccination has been lower among nurses and nursing home aides. There was a widespread shortage of nurses even before the pandemic, according to NPR.

"In a Sept. 1 news release, the American Nurses Association (ANA) – which represents the interests of the nation's more than 4 million nurses – penned a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, calling on the administration to declare the nurse staffing shortage a national crisis and take action.... Health leaders said exhausted nurses are quitting or retiring over the crisis and some are leaving for lucrative temporary, traveling positions. The ongoing pandemic and surges in infections have led to burnout, though issues reportedly extend further back than last year.

"'The current nursing crisis the state of Oregon is facing … has been decades in the making,' Natasha Schwartz, a member of the Oregon Nurses Association Board of Directors, said during a news conference at the beginning of the month. "As we see a small number of nurses potentially leave the profession due to their decision to decline the vaccination, we are also concerned burnout will lead to an even larger number of nurses leaving the bedside – and in Oregon, we will not be able to educate a large enough number of nurses to replace them.' Officials from the Oregon Nurses Association said 60% of nurses at the state’s largest hospital, Oregon Health & Science University, indicated that they are considering leaving the profession entirely.

"In September, an Alabama man ... died following a cardiac event after being turned away by dozens of hospitals filled with COVID-19 patients.... Another man who had suffered a heart attack was also bounced from six hospitals in New Orleans before finding an emergency room that could take him."

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Also read: Canadian hospitals struggle with staff shortages

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Life in a ZeroCovid dystopia

Melbourne embraced zero-Covid. Now it remains isolated as the world bounces back | The Telegram - Megan Gold: 

October 15, 2021 - "It’s a bright cold day in October and the clocks are striking nine. That’s the time when residents of my home town of Melbourne, Australia, must obey a curfew or face crushing fines for breaching health orders. It’s not quite Orwell’s Oceania, but Australia’s second city shares some alarming similarities with the totalitarian regime from Nineteen Eighty-Four.

"Melbourne holds the dubious record of being the most locked-down city in the world – 260 days and counting. Watching television footage from Italy, India, New York and even London at the peak of their outbreaks terrified many Australians into relinquishing all their civil liberties.

"Unlike in the UK, where advice is formulated by Sage, Australian state health officers issue restrictions without explaining the science underpinning them. Many experts doubt that rules like curfews curb Covid at all. As cases in locked-down Melbourne reached a record high of 2,300 per day, officials in Sydney ended lockdown early after a vaccination drive. The reason for the spike is that Melbourne’s lockdown-fatigued citizens are secretly breaking all the rules, even those that actually work.

"Democracy has crumbled under zero Covid, with parliaments shut for months under health orders. The twitching curtain brigade, encouraged by government campaigns urging them to inform on their neighbours, watch for rule-breakers and use special hotlines to summon the police. Melbourne police were recently ordered to patrol playgrounds until a public outcry forced a U-turn. In a park near me, children on scooters flee as a police car pulls up. It’s like a scene from RoboCop.

"Masks are mandatory outdoors even if walking on a windswept beach or a deserted street. Those caught disobeying may be fined, handcuffed, forcibly masked and arrested if they refuse to comply. In another Orwellian twist, health orders banning protests are issued by bureaucrats reporting to the very leaders the protesters are demonstrating against. Protest organisers, including a pregnant woman, have been arrested in their homes and hit with conspiracy charges. Religious worship, even in small groups outdoors, has been banned.

"Getting into Australia has been near-impossible. Getting out requires a North Korea-style exit permit. Border closures have separated families and caused untold hardship. Babies have died, unable to access urgent medical attention at the nearest hospital across a locked state border. Thousands of holiday-makers who were travelling when border closures were imposed have been made homeless, some having to sleep in cars or live for months in refugee-style campsites, unable to return home even if they are double vaccinated. Some have been prevented from visiting dying relatives in other cities. Yet state leaders have held firm, only lifting interstate bans for celebrities and sports stars.

"Many abroad envy Australians, believing we have escaped the worst of the pandemic, but the true cost of our lockdown policy is yet to be fully understood. While deaths have remained low, other metrics paint a disastrous picture. Psychologists and GPs report a surge in substance abuse, eating disorders, domestic and child abuse, truancy, depression, anxiety and self-harm. Even high vaccine uptake may not protect the most vulnerable from Covid; let alone the other illnesses that could ravage Australia due to the 'immunity debt' caused by much lower exposure to other viruses."

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Monday, October 18, 2021

Delta's variant: airline rejects Biden's vax mandate

Delta Air Lines CEO ditches ‘divisive’ COVID vaccine mandate; marks 90% employee vaccination rate | Fox Business - Angelica Stabile:

October 14, 2021 - "Delta Air Lines is the only U.S. carrier to hold off on enforcing a coronavirus vaccine mandate for employees and CEO Ed Bastian reported that it’s been an effective tactic for vaccination rates and compliance. The Delta head revealed on 'The Claman Countdown' that the company has reached a more than 90% vaccination rate and expects it to rise another 5% within the next month without a mandate in place.

"'The reason the mandate was put in by [the] president, I believe, was because they wanted to make sure companies had a plan to get their employees vaccinated,' he said. 'A month before the president came out with the mandate, we had already announced our plan to get all of our people vaccinated. And the good news is the plan is working.'

"Bastian acknowledged that there will need to be religious and medical accommodations made for those who wish to remain unvaccinated while avoiding having to threaten employment status.

"'By the time we’re done, we’ll be pretty close to fully vaccinated as a company without going through all the divisiveness of a mandate,' he said. 'We’re proving that you can work collaboratively with your people, trusting your people to make the right decisions, respecting their decisions and not forcing them over the loss of their jobs.'

"Despite a 'very choppy' coronavirus recovery for the air travel industry, Bastian celebrated Delta’s low cancelation rate and overall operational balance. 'Delta’s done a great job all year long with making certain that we’re managing supply and demand in equilibrium,' he said. 'Our people are doing a great job.'"

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Photo by Konstantin von Wedelstaedt. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Mental disorders rose globally during lockdowns

Covid Anxiety Is a Health Problem Too | Wall Street Journal - Dr. Marc Siegel:

October 15, 2021 - "In New York City, I often see people walking down the sidewalk, masks hanging low over their chins, looking fearful and dodging one another. The health benefit from these wary rituals is minimal to nonexistent, and they illustrate the toll that fear of Covid-19 has taken on mental health.

"A new global study published in the Lancet examines 48 data sources in an attempt to quantify that toll. The authors report a world-wide increase of more than 129 million cases of major depression and anxiety disorders compared with pre-pandemic figures. They attribute this to the 'combined effects of the spread of the virus, lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, decreased public transport, school and business closures, and decreased social interactions, among other factors.'

"The rise in mental-health problems was correlated with both infection rates and restrictions on personal behavior: 'We estimated that the locations hit hardest by the pandemic in 2020, as measured with decreased human mobility and daily SARS-CoV-2 infection rate, had the greatest increases in prevalence of major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders'....

"As in previous studies, the mental-health effect was most severe on younger people, likely because their need for social interactions is stronger and their social lives depend more on people outside the household. They are also at considerably less risk of severe disease, so restrictions pose a relatively heavy burden on them primarily for the benefit of their elders.

"From the beginning of the Covid outbreak in China, studies have found a connection between the severity of lockdowns and depression rates.... In most states, the average anxiety and depression scores increased during the late summer, fall and winter of 2020, while lockdowns were still in place. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, almost a third of adults in the U.S. reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder in late April and early May 2021, triple the number in 2019 before the pandemic started. But in South Dakota, which has had very few restrictions, the numbers were lower, with 24% reporting these symptoms.

"Government overreach in closing schools has caused a great mental health tragedy among our young. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has declared the Covid-19 pandemic the most severe disruption to education in history, with 1.6 billon learners in more than 190 countries out of school at some point in 2020.... A University of Washington study published last month by the Journal of the American Medical Association surveyed more than 2,300 American parents and found that remote learning negatively affected mental health and that 'older and Black and Hispanic children as well as those from families with lower income who attend school remotely may experience greater impairment to mental health than their younger, White, and higher income counterparts.'

"Badly conceived methods for stopping infection can be harmful to public health. Lockdowns and business closures were based on a model that ... proved ineffective at containing SARS-CoV-2, ... while causing enormous psychic damage. Even many people who didn’t get sick with Covid-19 will never be the same again."

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Saturday, October 16, 2021

The Great Barrington Declaration one year on

The Great Barrington Declaration One Year On | American Institute of Economic Research - Phillip W. Magness & James R. Harrigan:

October 5, 2021 - "From October 2-4, 2020, the American Institute for Economic Research hosted a small conference for scientists to discuss the harms of the Covid-19 lockdowns, and maybe hint at a path back to normal life. Organized by Martin Kulldorff, Sunetra Gupta, and Jay Bhattacharya, the conference made a scientific case for shifting away from the heavy-handed lockdowns of the initial Spring 2020 outbreak. On their final day together in Great Barrington, the scientists wrote a short statement of principles, calling it the Great Barrington Declaration. This Declaration, their Declaration, touched a nerve well beyond the scientific community, and well beyond anything they or AIER could have expected....

"The aim that our guests had in offering the Great Barrington Declaration was to spark scientific dialogue that had been missing from the lockdown discussions until that point. It was AIER’s goal to facilitate this dialogue. The Declaration was a success in bringing, for the first time since the pandemic started, an anti-lockdown voice to mainstream policy discussion. The signatories’ stance was generally in line with the pre-pandemic plans that many, if not most mainstream authorities, (the World Health Organization, the epidemiology center at Johns Hopkins University, and the Centers for Disease Control to name just three) held. People tend to forget what the pre-2020 conventional wisdom on pandemics even was.

"As successful as we think the Great Barrington Declaration was, it failed in a number of respects.... We did not, for example, anticipate the vilification the Declaration would receive from any number of people, ranging from the progressive left to self-described libertarians. Immediately after the website launched, it was hit by a hoax signature campaign instigated on Twitter by pro-lockdown journalist Nafeez Ahmed. Most of the fake signatures were caught within hours and removed, but not before a hostile news media used them to manufacture a false story about their own self-created controversy over signatures from 'Dr. Johnny Bananas' and similar easily-caught pseudonyms.... 

"Ahmed also let loose what can only be called a flurry of increasingly unhinged conspiracy theories, falsely alleging that the GBD was somehow financially orchestrated by the Koch brothers, the British Ministry of Defence, and even a resort hotel property in Wales. Although Ahmed has a long history of conspiracy theorizing including the promotion of kooky claims about a controlled demolition bringing down the Twin Towers on 9/11, his ravings about the GBD were credulously adopted and shared by prominent scientists, journalists, and any number of other people who should have known better. (For the record, AIER received $68,000 in Koch funding over the last ten years. And that sum was used entirely to offset the costs of a single economics conference in 2017, with no links whatsoever to the GBD)....

"The Declaration even came under attack from a targeted propaganda campaign at the highest levels of the British government. Jeremy Farrar, the director of the Wellcome Trust and a pro-lockdown advisor to the UK’s SAGE committee, revealed as much in a recent book about the pandemic. Per Farrar’s account, Dominic Cummings – then serving as chief advisor to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson – announced that he would orchestrate 'an aggressive press campaign against those behind the Great Barrington Declaration and to others opposed to blanket Covid-19 restrictions,' seeking to discredit any scientist who questioned the wisdom of his government’s lockdown strategy.

"In a broader and more basic sense, the Declaration was written during a period of deep uncertainty. No one really knew what the correct Covid answers were, but the signatories followed the evidence as it emerged. Most importantly, no one had any way of knowing that vaccines were so close to being available to the public. And while the specific strategies of last fall and winter might well have been different had the signatories known what we know now, everything they wrote was compatible with the anti-lockdown message at the heart of the Declaration....

"So how well did the lockdowns perform in practice? Given the intense criticisms leveled at the GBD, one might be inclined to think they worked rather well. But they didn’t.... First consider how the lockdowners have continuously shifted their accounts of the very same policies they advocated. In the weeks that followed the GBD, its critics crafted a well-honed and widely repeated message. Lockdowns, they insisted, were already a relic of the past – perhaps a suitable strategy for the uncertainties of spring 2020’s 'first wave,' but no longer a serious consideration.... After a year and a half or so of lockdowns, we can safely dismiss this response. Less than a month later, the UK returned to full lockdown. Dozens of other countries around the world followed suit in mid-November. When cases spiked again in the United States over the winter, several states reimposed these very same 'strawman' lockdown policies that the GBD’s critics dismissed with a wave of their hands in mid-October. Not that any of them would ever admit as much now. Quite the contrary.... One new conspiracy theory even faulted the GBD’s authors for allegedly delaying the reimposition of another UK lockdown by a few weeks the previous fall...

"More pro-lockdown epidemiologists seemed inclined to grasp the central theme of the badly misnamed John Snow Memorandum in the Lancet – drafted in direct response to the GBD. This petition, co-organized by Gurdasani and other pro-lockdown scientists, predictably claimed that drastic nonpharmaceutical measures such as business closures and shelter-in-place orders had a large effect on reducing Covid transmission in the spring and summer of 2020. Recent data indicate that this statement is overblown, and common sense should have researchers looking for the tradeoffs that have to be made in these sorts of large-scale public policies. Be that as it may, the Snow Memorandum was built upon unreliable pro-lockdown studies out of Imperial College-London that have since been discredited....

"So through it all, what have we learned and what should come next? First, vaccines have been a game changer, and will continue to be so. A forthcoming Covid-19 treatment pill from Merck might well be even bigger. And there are certainly other treatments coming that we don’t know about yet, that will only emerge through the innovative processes of scientific discovery.

"Also unknown at present are the costs of the lockdowns. These will be felt for years, if not decades, and will go well beyond lost wages. What will all those foregone cancer screenings mean, in the end? What about all those people who suffered mental health crises as they were confined to their homes alone? What about substance abuse costs? And what of the various financial catastrophes that so many people suffered?

"The benefits of the lockdowns are still ambiguous at best, this after a year and a half. We still have no clear empirical evidence that they delivered anything close to what they promised. But because science has been so completely politicized, it will take years longer to arrive at the truth than would have otherwise been the case. Here, we are left to offer advice with a nearly 2,500-year track record: First, do no harm."

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Canadian hospitals struggle with staff shortages

Health-care staff shortages could be on the way as COVID-19 vaccine mandates loom | Global News - Emerald Bensadoun:

October 11, 2021 - "Canada is preparing for the worst as provincial COVID-19 vaccine mandates threaten to plunge the country into a sharp uptick of health and long-term care worker shortages and layoffs. For hospitals and nursing homes, a shortage of workers would strain the already overburdened workforce dealing with nearly two years of the pandemic....

"Sharleen Stewart, president of SEIU Healthcare in the Greater Toronto Area, said that Ontario hospitals are already feeling the brunt of these layoffs, resulting in delayed surgeries and medical procedures. 'Unless you’ve got frontline staff to take care of your loved ones, they’re not going to be placed in those beds because there’s nobody there to take care of them,' she said. 'It’s a crisis that I have never seen before, the exodus is extremely alarming.' SEIU Healthcare is a union that represents 60,000 front-line health-care workers across Ontario. Stewart said most union members are fully vaccinated, but even a small percentage of layoffs could have a large impact on the quality of services hospitals will be able to provide.

"Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled Canada’s new mandatory vaccine policy earlier this month. It requires all federal employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of October, though hospitals are not federally regulated workplaces. Layoffs in Canada have already begun, leaving provincial authorities scrambling to make contingency plans ahead of expected staffing shortages.

"The University Health Network told Global News in August they had contacted more than 900 staff out of at least 16,671 employees who have either not given their vaccination status or said they haven’t been vaccinated. Meanwhile, a southwestern Ontario hospital fired 57 employees who failed to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by the beginning of October, representing 1.5 per cent of staff.

"Luc Mathieu, president of the Quebec Order of Nurses, told Global News that the union, which represents roughly 56,500 nurses throughout the province, has made the decision to suspend the licenses of members who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 until they get their shots. He said the vaccine mandate will affect one group of 4,338 nurses who are not adequately protected, including 2,807 who are unvaccinated and 1,541 nurses who have received at least one dose. Another cohort of 5,716 nurses will also be affected because information about those nurses provided by the Ministry of Health doesn’t match the information the Order has on file.

"In British Columbia, all health-care workers must be fully immunized against COVID-19 or receive an exemption from the provincial health officer by Oct. 26. Those who don’t will face unpaid leave and possible unemployment....

"Danielle Larivee, vice-president of the United Nurses of Alberta, expressed concerns about nursing shortages throughout the province, saying that the pandemic had 'exacerbated' an already existing problem....The union represents more than 30,000 registered unions in Alberta, the vast majority of which Larivee said are immunized. Alberta Health Services has required that all frontline health-care providers be fully vaccinated by Oct. 31 ... and any registered staff unable to prove they’ve gotten both doses will be suspended without pay. Larivee said she supports the vaccine mandate.... But she is worried about more seasoned nurses, who she said have already been working 'a substantial amount' of overtime in short-staffed hospitals for almost two years'....

"Stewart said she supports the vaccine mandates, but is worried that they will become 'the straw that broke the camel’s back' for many workers who were already considering leaving the health-care industry.... Stewart said the rate of infections and deaths among health-care workers, combined with poor working conditions, low wages, a lack of full-time work and around-the-clock hours, has made recruiting new hires near impossible."

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Thursday, October 14, 2021

YouTube removes UK MP's vaccine pass speech

YouTube censors David Davis MP’s speech against vaccine passports | Big Brother Watch:

October 14, 2021 - "YouTube has removed a video of former minister David Davis MP giving a speech against Covid passports during Conservative Party Conference. The video was uploaded by the non-partisan civil liberties NGO, Big Brother Watch. 

"YouTube removed Davis’ speech, filmed at a conference fringe event held by Big Brother Watch, for violating its policy on 'medical misinformation' but did not specify what content had breached the rules. In a notification email to Big Brother Watch, the platform said: 'YouTube doesn’t allow claims about COVID-19 vaccinations that contradict expert consensus from local health authorities or the World Health Organization (WHO)'....

"In the censored speech, Mr Davis promoted the benefits of vaccination but warned that domestic vaccine passports are 'illiberal, demanding that we an ordinary British citizen produce our papers to do something which is normal in our daily lives.... We know from our history that a free society is a greater, a better, a more economically successful, a happier place to be,' Mr Davis said.

"Big Brother Watch, which is leading the national campaign against domestic Covid passes, said that the group ... is mounting an appeal.

"David Davis MP said:

This is an outrageous attack on free speech. Throughout the pandemic, we have seen blatant attempts by Big Tech to silence opposition voices challenging the conventional wisdom. This episode serves as a further example of the worrying trend of strangling free speech.
My speech at conference was carefully researched, wholly accurate and backed up with the latest scientific evidence.
This Government will shortly be bringing forward the Online Safety Bill. This harmful piece of legislation is nothing but a censor’s charter that only hands more power to these unaccountable Silicon Valley giants.
The unambiguous attempt by YouTube to censor my speech is a warning. If YouTube is happy to attempt to silence elected Members of Parliament, then they are also happy to censor anyone.... The Government must stop the erosion of free speech online. That starts with looking again at the wholly inadequate proposals in the Online Safety Bill.”

Mark Johnson, Legal and Policy Officer at Big Brother Watch said:

The removal of David Davis’ brilliant speech at our civil liberties event is a serious act of censorship from a platform with a growing track record of clamping down on free speech. YouTube has become increasingly intolerant of discussion around the pandemic.... The Government is doing nothing to tackle online censorship but stands to make the problem worse with broad rules clamping down on lawful speech in its new Online Safety Bill. This ought to be a wakeup call to politicians that freedom of speech is under severe threat in the digital world.

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[Update] YouTube U-turns over David Davis vaccination passports clip after protest | BBC News:
October 14, 2021 - "YouTube has reversed its decision to remove a video of David Davis arguing against Covid passports, following criticism from the ex-minister.... YouTube said the video was 'immediately reinstated following a review'. A spokeswoman for the company said: "We quickly remove flagged content that violates our community guidelines, including Covid-19 content that explicitly contradicts expert consensus from local health authorities or the World Health Organization. With millions of hours of videos uploaded on our site each day, sometimes we make the wrong call.'"
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Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Mask mandating for profit

Illustration courtesy

October 5, 2021 - "I was in a store the other day [where] the owner put on his mask when I walked in. I was the only person in the store. I said that he can take off his mask. He said that he despises masks but if he takes his off, he would get fined thousands of dollars just like the merchant next door. 

"He said that the same is true if he fails to enforce the mask mandate against me. I don’t get in trouble with the police. He does. I asked how in the world anyone would know. He said there are two ways. Another person could walk by the shop and see me without the mask and call public health who would then call the police. He could take a picture and the merchant would be fined. 

"He said that a second way is for the cops to directly enforce this. They come and sit in the parking lots, sometimes wearing plain clothes, watching for employees who fail to enforce the mandates. If they spot them, they walk in a few minutes later and issue all kinds of citations. They do this any time, any day. 

"What they are after is not public health. They want money. The average local government lost 6% of their revenue in 2020 after many years of anticipating 3-5% increases in revenue year after year. They are now desperate to make it up. Local and state governments don’t have little Federal Reserves to print money for them. They can only spend what they can tax or raise through bond sales.

"So Covid compliance enforcement has, to some extent, become a form of taxation done in the name of public health. Even at the federal level. 'If you break the rules,' says Biden, 'be prepared to pay.' Last month, the White House announced a doubling of fines for non-compliers, as high as $1,000 for first offense and $3,000 for the second offense. 

"At this point, hardly anyone really pretends that these things are somehow slowing or stopping the spread. They don’t do anything but they provide great opportunities for government to further pillage private enterprise. It’s a remarkable example of how a bogus practice hatched in the name of health became captured by special interests hoping to make a buck. 

"What matters here is that the merchants don’t have to actually believe in these mandates. They really don’t care either way. They would mostly rather see the faces of the customers and they would probably like to enjoy the freedom to breathe. But they ... mask up and make others do the same to avoid the tax.... They cannot just engage in civil disobedience because doing so threatens their very existence. They are barely hanging on as it is. And when they tell you to strap one on your face, even if you know it is dumb, it is not just a simple matter of asserting your right to breath. The merchant is being threatened and blackmailed to elicit your compliance."

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Theaters, clubs challenging NYC vaccine mandate

NYC Theaters Sue Bill de Blasio, Claiming Vaccine Mandate Obstructs Free Speech | Reason - Rikki Schlott: 

September 22, 2012 - "A group of small theater and comedy club operators filed a lawsuit against New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on September 16, claiming disparate enforcement of vaccine mandates unfairly discriminates against their venues and violates constitutional protections provided by the First and 14th Amendments. Represented by Pacific Legal Foundation and Mermigis Law Group, the Theater Center, the Players Theater, the Actors Temple Theatre, the Soho Playhouse, and Broadway Comedy Club are challenging de Blasio's 'Key to NYC' proof of vaccination order in federal court.

"In effect since September 13, the mandate requires many indoor businesses to allow entry only to employees and customers able to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination. The order applies to indoor dining, recreation, fitness, and entertainment establishments. Failure to comply can result in fines to the businesses of up to $5,000 and possible criminal charges.

"The lawsuit claims that unequal enforcement of the 'Key to NYC' mandate amounts to discrimination based on content of speech and type of speaker, citing exemptions provided for religious services and performances at community centers and schools. 'A theatrical production put on by a community center or high school drama department is treated more favorably than a production put on by one of our clients,' the theaters' lawyer Daniel Ortner said in a September 17 statement. 'This violates the First Amendment.'

"Religious services are regularly held without restriction in the very same theaters within mere hours of other performances subject to the mandate. In fact, the Actors Temple doubles as a nondenominational Jewish synagogue and the Orbach Theater rents its facilities to a religious group for Sunday morning services. While theatrical and comedy performances are subject to enforcing proof of vaccination under the 'Key to NYC' mandate, attendees of religious services are not required to be vaccinated, and mask mandates are reportedly only loosely enforced despite congregational singing....

"'Plaintiffs seek only to be allowed to operate on equal terms as other similar venues, without regard to the content of the speech or to the identity of the speakers that they host," [the suit] reads.'"The same rules should apply to all speakers, regardless of their message.' They also challenge the restrictions from a logistical basis. The long shutdown has stretched their budgets thin, and the theaters have been struggling to issue refunds to those who bought tickets before the mandate went into effect.

"The suit also claims that the mandate unfairly 'stigmatizes businesses that are already struggling to bounce back.' Very few cases of COVID-19 have been traced to theaters. Meanwhile, other countries, like South Korea, opened theaters before other businesses because they were deemed safer than most forms of gathering....

"The theaters are requesting injunctive relief of $1 plus attorney's fees, seeking merely to end what they consider arbitrary restrictions on their freedom to practice comedy and the arts. Al Martin, owner of the Broadway Comedy Club, put it simply: 'We're not the TSA of vaccine cards, we're a comedy club.'"

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Monday, October 11, 2021

Biden misleading about Covid, Johnson suggests

Sen. Ron Johnson Drops Truth Bomb on True Number of ‘Fully Vaccinated’ People Dying with Covid | Becker News - Kyle Becker: 

October 1, 2021 - "Senator Ron Johnson [R-WI] took to the Senate floor on Thursday to unveil some Covid facts that the mainstream media have been censoring.... Johnson referred directly to public health figures from England, because health authorities in the United States are obfuscating the facts or misleading Americans with their Covid reports.

"'Let’s look at some data,' Sen. Johnson said. 'The type of data we are not getting from our healthcare agencies, so we have to look, unfortunately, to England and Israel, that are more transparent.... I will give you the highlights ... from Public Health England [PHE].... 

"'This is from [PHE's] Technical Briefing number 23, dated September 17th, 2021. It covers cases for about seven-and-a-half months,' he continued. 'What the data shows for that seven-and-a-half month period in England, there were about 750,000 new Covid cases. About a little under 600,000 of those were Delta variant – about eighty percent. The number of deaths associated with those 600,000 Delta cases was 2,542,' Johnson added. 'Which gives us a Case Fatality Ratio of about 0.4. Now, again, case fatality is higher than infection fatality because these are actually registered cases and there are all kinds of infections that never get registered.... [T]o put this in context, an infection fatality rate for a bad flu season is slightly under 0.2,' he went on. 'Half of this. Just to put things in perspective.'

"'Now, President Biden – and this has been parroted by media and news media – said that what we are currently experiencing is a "pandemic of the unvaccinated",' Johnson said. 'They don’t really give us any data to back that up. They just proclaim, pronounce that 99 percent of people with Covid now are unvaccinated. But they don’t give us the data.

"'Well, we have data from England,' he went on. 'And here’s the data. So, of the 600,000 cases in England, 43% were the unvaxxed, 27% were with the fully vaxxed, another 30% were with partially vaxxed, or just undetermined.'

"'Here is another quote from President Biden,' he continued. 'President Biden said, "if you’re vaccinated, you’re not going to be hospitalized. You’re not going to an ICU unit. You’re not going to die. You’re not going to get Covid, if you have these vaccinations".... I kind of doubt it,' he said. 'Because in England, of the 600,000 new cases of Delta, of the over 2,500 deaths, 63% of those deaths, 1,613 people, were the fully vaccinated. Twenty-eight percent were with the unvaxxed.'

"A fact check of Public Health England’s technical briefing shows that he is right. Here is the information that was reported. The circled number cited by Sen. Johnson is in the category '>14 days post dose 2' which means 'fully vaccinated' as it is commonly used.

Courtesy Becker News

"'Now, this is information the American people have probably never heard,' he said. 'This information, by conveying it, I will get attacked. I will be vilified. I will be censored. I will be suppressed. So, that is one of the reasons I come to the floor of the Senate to reveal this information that the American people need to know,' he concluded."

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Sunday, October 10, 2021

Genesis of the Great Barrington Declaration

A Short History of the Great Barrington Declaration | Brownstone Institute - Jeffrey A. Tucker:

July 17, 2021 - "Laura Ingraham on her Fox television show in July 2021 correctly celebrated the re-opening of the US economy, so long as it lasts.... What actually drove the opening of the economy, she continued, were the red states of South Dakota, Florida, Texas, Georgia, South Carolina, and others.... She further pointed out that it was not only the governors. It was business people who protested through letters and sometimes opened their shops in defiance. It was parents who demanded the schools open during impassioned speeches at school-board meetings. It was also brave scientists who dared risk their reputations and professional standing by speaking out....

"That latter group is not given nearly enough credit. The reference is to the Great Barrington Declaration that appeared on October 4, 2020. It was this document that had a decisive effect in challenging the lockdown narrative and causing tens of millions to take a second look. It was one of the proudest moments of my life to be part of its appearance. My experience has convinced me that good ideas — strategically timed and placed — can make a huge difference in the world.

"The world locked down in mid-March 2020. There were oblique suggestions coming out of the White House that this disaster could last until August, which I simply could not fathom. Sure enough, by August the lockdowns were not only still in place, but disease panic was everywhere and worse than ever. I was living in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. The streets were mostly empty. The shops were closed by law. No concerts. No movies. No school. No church. People huddled in their homes.... When you did see people at the store, they shuffled like penitents at a medieval burial, covering their bodies in wool, wearing huge masks, gloves, and sometimes even goggles.... The one thing on everyone’s mind was avoiding this one pathogen that they could not see. So it was throughout the whole country in various degrees. 

"In September, I was scrolling through Twitter and bumped into some posts by an epidemiologist at Harvard University. He was writing against lockdowns. I thought, wow, this must be the loneliest man in the world. I dropped him a note and invited him for dinner. He gladly accepted. The next weekend I met the man who would become a great friend over time: Martin Kulldorff. I invited a few other people in the region who had been writing anti-lockdown posts. We gathered and all became fast friends. In the midst of disease panic, we not only interacted like normal people; we had huge discussions on the pandemic and policy response. All of us learning from Martin about the dynamics of viruses and how to deal with them. The meetings ended up lasting the entire weekend.

"Soon after, Martin called me with an idea. The problem, he theorized, is that the mainline journalists out there who are writing about Covid know absolutely nothing about the topic. They, therefore, defaulted to medieval superstition. Let’s have a meeting, he suggested, that includes several scientists, plus journalists so that we can at least provide an alternative. When should this take place? In two weeks.

"Sure enough, it all came together. The participating scientists were Martin, plus Jay Bhattacharya from Stanford University and Sunetra Gupta from Oxford University. There were only three journalists, but they were important people. We filmed the event for posterity. It became clear the next day, however, that something else needed to be done.

"Following interviews and discussions, Martin suggested that the three scientists draft an open letter. With a mind toward marketing, I told him that open letters always struck me as slightly lame. They seem aggressive just from the naming. It would be better to write a short statement of principles, a declaration of sorts. He liked the idea. It was his thought that it be called the Great Barrington Declaration after the town of its drafting. My first thought was: There will be some people in this town who will not like this but, whatever, no one has intellectual property in the name of a town.

"That evening, it was written. The statement was not radical. It said that SARS-CoV-2 was primarily a threat to the elderly and infirm. Therefore, it is they who need protection. The virus otherwise would be extinguished via herd immunity obtained through exposure, same as any respiratory virus in history. Society should be opened in the interest of a holistic view of public health.

"My friend Lou Eastman put together a website, pretty much overnight. The next morning, the interviews began. I’ve never seen anything go so viral, so quickly. The site alone ended up being viewed some 12 million times. Thousands of news stories appeared the world over. Eventually, 850,000 plus people signed the declaration, among which were tens of thousands of scientists and medical practitioners.

"Looking back at how and why this happened the way it did, my theory is that the lockdown had frozen debate and speech. Everyone in a position to oppose them had become afraid to speak for fear of shaming. Media was working 24/7 to say that lockdowns were the only option, so anyone against them was a 'Covid denier.' It was brutal. It went on for months. Someone needed to stand up and say the unsayable. That is what these scientists did.

"The Great Barrington Declaration changed everything. The negative press backfired. Why would these famous scientists risk everything to write this Declaration if there was not some truth in what they said? Among those who were interested was Ron DeSantis who had already opened the state of Florida to great howls of media protest. He eventually invited the scientists to a public forum to reach the entire nation.

"The rest unfolded as if scripted by a great novel. The good sense of the Declaration gradually overwhelmed the nonsense idea that destroying markets and society was good for health. The document came to be translated to dozens of languages, and the signatures poured in. The smears got worse by the day. Even the town council jumped into the fray and denounced the document....

"Still, the effect was realized. The openings cascaded through the country, slowly at first and then faster and then all at once. I rarely see the Great Barrington Declaration credited for this, but I know the truth. I was there with a front-row seat at a great philosophical theater. I saw how a simple idea can change the world."

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