Friday, December 31, 2021

Happy New Year. Let the good guys win.

Happy New Year from GD's Political Animal. May the good guys win in 2022.

Murray Mclauchlan, Tom Cochrane, & Paul Hyde, Let the Good Guys Win 

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Trudeau: Covid-unvaxxed are often racists

December 29, 2021 - "Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a Quebec television station people who do not get vaccinated against COVID-19 are often racist and misogynistic extremists. But he said the people of Quebec are not the problem and questioned whether the rest of Canada needs to 'tolerate' the unvaccinated.

"His comments prompted People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier to call Trudeau a 'fascist psychopath.'

"Trudeau also called unvaccinated Canadians science deniers.

"'We are going to end this pandemic by proceeding with the vaccination,' said Trudeau in French. 'We all know people who are deciding whether or not they are willing to get vaccinated, and we will do our very best to try to convince them. However, there is still a part of the population (that) is fiercely against it. They don’t believe in science/progress and are very often misogynistic and racist. It’s a very small group of people, but that doesn’t shy away from the fact that they take up some space.

"'This leads us, as a leader and as a country, to make a choice: Do we tolerate these people? Over 80% of the population of Quebec have done their duty by getting the shot. They are obviously not the issue in this situation.'

In Quebec, 84.5% of residents have received at least one COVID-19 vaccination.... Across Canada, 90% of people aged 12 and over have received one dose. A total of 87% have received two jabs. In Alberta, it’s 90% of the people with one jab and 85% of people with two. Federal COVID-19 stats show BC has vaccinated 84% of residents with one dose, 79% with two. Saskatchewan has 80% with one dose, 72% with two and Manitoba has 81.4% with one dose, 75% with two."

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Wuhan-style lockdown in Zero-Covid China

China expands lockdowns as COVID-19 cases climb | CNA:
December 28, 2021 - "Hundreds of thousands more people were ordered to stay home in northern China on Tuesday (Dec 28) as the country battled its worst COVID-19 surge in 21 months and locked-down residents took to social media to complain about food shortages. 

"China, where the virus emerged two years ago, has followed a 'zero-COVID-19' strategy of tight border restrictions, lengthy quarantines and targeted lockdowns as Beijing prepares to welcome thousands of overseas visitors to February's Winter Olympics. But authorities have faced a resurgent virus in recent weeks, reporting 209 infections on Tuesday, the highest single-day tally since March last year, when the pandemic raged through the central city of Wuhan.

"The surge, while low in comparison to rampant cases in Europe and the United States, has prompted authorities to impose what they have called the 'strictest' possible curbs in the northern city of Xi'an, whose 13 million residents are entering a sixth day of home confinement. As well as having undergone several rounds of testing, households are limited to sending out one person every three days to buy groceries....

"The Xi'an lockdown is the most sweeping in China since the similarly-sized Wuhan was sealed off. More than 800 coronavirus cases have been recorded in Xi'an since Dec 9, with the youngest case a 38-day-old infant, the state-run Global Times newspaper reported Tuesday."
Read more:

China punishes dozens of Xi'an officials as city grapples with COVID-19 lockdown | CNA 
December 24, 2021 "Dozens of officials have been punished over a virus outbreak in the locked-down city of Xi'an, China's disciplinary body said on Friday (Dec 24) - the latest state reprimands under Beijing's strict zero-COVID-19 approach. China, where the coronavirus was first detected in late 2019, is on high alert for new infections as it prepares to hold the Winter Olympics in February in the capital Beijing....

"The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said on Friday that 26 Communist Party officials had been punished for 'insufficient rigour in preventing and controlling the outbreak'. Chinese officials who are deemed to have failed at controlling the virus in their region are regularly sacked or reprimanded.... A party secretary in Inner Mongolia was sacked after his area was hit by a cluster of cases in October, while the head of Zhengzhou city's health commission was sacked in August after cases this summer."
Read more:

China's Xi'an marks first week of lockdown as COVID-19 cases persist | CNA:
December 29, 2021 - "A lockdown of 13 million people in the Chinese city of Xi'an entered its seventh day on Wednesday (Dec 29), with many unable to leave their homes and virtually dependent on deliveries of necessities as new COVID-19 infections persisted. Xi'an reported 151 domestically transmitted infections with confirmed symptoms for Tuesday, or nearly all of the 152 cases nationwide, bringing the total number of local Xi'an cases to nearly 1,000 during the Dec 9 to 28 period. No cases of the Omicron variant have been announced in the city....

"Since Monday, the Xi'an government has stopped granting permission to people seeking to leave their homes to buy essentials, as epidemic containment measures rose a notch. It said in-person shopping could be resumed for people in less risky areas once mass testing returned negative results, but it did not say exactly when stay-at-home order would be lifted.... Several district-level governments in Xi'an have started arranging grocery deliveries to residents, the city government said."
Read more:

Xi'an - Google Maps

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Lockdowns may increase terrorism threat, says UK security minister

Covid lockdowns may have increased UK terrorism threat, says security minister | The Guardian - Jamie Grierson:

December 27, 2021 - "The terrorism threat to the UK may have been made worse by Covid lockdowns, a security minister has suggested. Damian Hinds, the MP for East Hampshire who became security minister in August, told the Daily Telegraph that people spending long periods of time in their bedrooms during the restrictions could have pushed them towards radicalisation.

"His remarks echo similar warnings from the police and the UN’s counter-terrorism committee executive directorate (CTED).

"'Clearly, logically, when you have more people who are spending more time in their bedrooms at their computer … you are going to get a growth in that tiny proportion of people for whom that is a dark journey,' Hinds told the Telegraph.... 

"Since Hinds took on the brief, there have been two alleged terrorist attacks, the killing of the MP Sir David Amess and the attack outside Liverpool Women’s hospital. Counter Terrorism Policing said this month they had foiled seven 'late-stage' terror attacks since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. It took the total number of foiled terrorism plots in the UK in the past four years to 32....

"Hinds said it would be wrong to just assume this was Islamic terrorism.... 'Islamist extremism terrorism, though, remains a potent threat. And we also have quite a few people who you might describe as having a sort of mixed or unclear or unstable mindset. Sometimes [they are] looking at flirting with different ideologies, different groups, sometimes apparently mutually exclusive, very, very different types of ideology.'

"A CTED report this month warned extremists had 'sought to exploit pandemic-related sociocultural restrictions that have led people around the world to spend increasing time online, by strengthening their efforts to spread propaganda, recruit, and radicalise via virtual platforms'."

Read more:

Monday, December 27, 2021

Covid cases, restrictions roil western Europe

Europe faces its second covid Christmas with lockdowns, cancellations and rising cases | Washington Post - Perry Stein & Rick Noack: 

December 23, 2021 - "[W]ith the Netherlands in a national lockdown once more, ... [t]he mood in much of Europe reflects hopes briefly glimpsed — and then dashed. As in the United States, new cases of the omicron variant are quickly overtaking previously dominant delta variant. But many European governments have gone further than the United States in reimposing curfews, closures and travel restrictions. Ireland is shutting pubs at 8 p.m. Greece, Italy and Spain have reintroduced outdoor mask mandates. In Austria, people without proof of vaccination or covid-19 recovery can leave home only for essential reasons....

"Britain’s National Health Service reported Thursday that staff absences due to covid were up 50 percent from the previous week. Transport for London announced it was closing a Tube line until the end of the year over a lack of drivers. And the education secretary is calling for former teachers to return to classrooms, in anticipation of omicron-related staff shortages in January....

"Covid health passes — documenting vaccination, recovery or a recent negative test — have become routine in much of Europe and helped boost vaccination rates. Some countries are now tightening the rules: adding a booster requirement, dropping testing as an alternative. Italy on Thursday said unvaccinated people would no longer be able to partake in the ritual of having an espresso at a cafe counter. 

"Announcing that the French government intends to add more restrictions for the unvaccinated, Prime Minister Jean Castex lamented that hospital intensive care units 'are filled for the most part with unvaccinated people.' France has seen a problem with fake vaccination cards, too. Carole Ichai, a senior official at a hospital in Nice in southern France, said about 30 percent of patients in her hospital’s intensive care unit last week had counterfeit vaccination certificates....

"The Netherlands has the most all-encompassing restrictions at this point, with all but essential shops shut until at least Jan. 14. The sense that the worst of the pandemic is back may be most acute here.... In Amsterdam, the canalboats are docked. Dam Square is empty. Stores that were counting on strong Christmas sales are instead sending products back to their wholesalers, knowing they stand no chance of selling them now.... Some tourists, stuck with nonrefundable tickets, arrived in the city anyway this week but were disappointed they could no longer go to museums, restaurants or the famed Christmas markets....

"The restrictions across Europe have ruined yet another much-needed tourism season, said French travel agency operator Marie Vendroux-Deppe, who works with U.S. travelers. Most of her clients canceled their trips in the past few days, and now she doesn’t expect a return to normal until 2023."

Read more:

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Lockdown measures reintroduced in Canada

Ontario reduces capacity limits and announces a ton of new restrictions for indoor settings | BlogTO - Jack Landau:
December 17, 2021 - "Doug Ford just announced a long list of new restrictions for indoor settings to slow the rapid spread of Omicron.... Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said on Friday that 'the province is applying a 50 per cent capacity limits in indoor public settings such as restaurants, bars, gyms, pharmacies, grocery stores, shopping malls, and personal care services' ... [e]ffective 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 19.... 

"There are more restrictions that will go into place this weekend, and the province is hinting that additional, harsher measures could be coming soon. With the holidays just days away, social gatherings have been capped to a 10 person maximum starting Sunday.... If your holiday dinner plans included a night out, be warned that restaurants will be forced to stop selling alcohol at 10 p.m. and close their doors at 11 p.m. daily, effectively ending nightlife in the city. You also won't be able to eat or drink at most events and shows....

"Ford said during Friday's press conference, 'daily COVID cases will continue to accelerate,' and the province's 'decision to limit peoples' ability to gather, especially during holidays, is an extremely, extremely difficult one to make'. Premier Ford and Dr. Moore were careful to avoid the word 'lockdown' in the announcement of sweeping measures on Friday afternoon, but it's pretty clear we're headed back to the darkest days of the pandemic as case counts skyrocket."
Read more:

Omicron Threat Brings New Lockdown Rules | Toronto Star - Moira Wyton, The Tyee:
December 23, 2021 - "British Columbia is cancelling thousands of scheduled surgeries, shutting down bars and gyms and limiting gatherings in an effort to prevent the Omicron COVID variant from overwhelming hospitals ... said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry... All scheduled surgeries will be cancelled starting Jan. 4, or about 3,000 of B.C.’s approximately 7,000 surgeries performed each week. Emergency and urgent surgeries will continue, Health Minister Adrian Dix said. Henry said the measures are needed to ensure the health system can respond to an expected surge in cases. 'We have a very fragile health-care workforce right now,' she added.

"Indoor personal gatherings are limited to a maximum of one other household or 10 people, and all must be vaccinated. Unvaccinated people are not permitted to gather indoors outside of their household.

"Organized events like wedding receptions and New Year’s or holiday parties at venues of any size are prohibited, and restaurants are limited to tables of six people or less. Seated events of any size like concerts, sports games and movie theatres are limited to half capacity, with vaccine card checks. There is no restriction on non-essential travel within B.C. or Canada, but Henry said anyone travelling should be vaccinated and limit their contacts to only close family members.
Read more:

All Nunavut communities under strict lock down as COVID-19 surges across the territory | CBC News:
December 24, 2021 - "All Nunavut communities have entered into a full lockdown due to a surge of COVID-19 cases across the territory. There are eight active cases in the territory: one in Rankin Inlet and one in Sanirajak. Pangnirtung has one new case bringing the total in that community to three. Iqaluit has one more confirmed case bringing the number of cases in the city to three. 

"In a press release, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson said the strict measures are to try and break transmission of the virus.... Effective immediately in every Nunavut community: 

  • Outdoor gatherings are limited to five people. 
  • Indoor public gatherings are not allowed.
  • In homes there can be up to five visitors for essential or emergency services only. 
  • Gyms, libraries, swimming pools and arenas are closed. 
  • Places of worship are closed. 
  • All non-essential businesses and government offices are closed.
  • Bars and licensed establishments are closed.
  • Restaurants are open for takeout only. 
  • Long term and elder care facilities are closed. 
  • Personal services are closed. Such as hairdressers, massage therapists. 
  • All schools in Nunavut will remain closed until Jan. 10 or until advised by Patterson. Daycares can stay open for children of essential workers.

"All government offices are closed, along with non-essential business. It is unclear if Government of Nunavut employees will be working from home after the holiday closure, which ends Jan. 3. 

"Anyone who arrives in Nunavut from outside the territory, and who is not triple vaccinated, is advised to isolate for 14 days upon entry into the territory.... Residents of Rankin Inlet are able to travel home and essential workers can also travel to the community [only - gd] with an exemption letter from their employer or the chief public health officer. Travel is also restricted in Pangnirtung and Iqaluit." [stress added]
Read more: 

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Merry Covid Christmas 2021

Merry Covid Christmas, from GD's Political Animal. 

Let's start with an interesting parody medley from Shirley Serban:

England's Marsh Family adapt "The 12 Days of Christmas" to relate the UK pandemic experience

And, of course, it just wouldn't be a Covid Christmas without Boris Johnson: 

Friday, December 24, 2021

Manning calls for a Christmas Covid truce

Despite our differences on COVID, let’s call a Christmas truce this year | Globe & Mail - Preston Manning: 

Preston Manning 2014, Wikimedia Commons

December 23, 2021 - "It was around Christmas Day in 1914, five months after the start of the First World War, when a most unusual thing happened.... A temporary peace descended on the Western Front – one organized by rank-and-file soldiers, not by their officers who feared trickery by the enemy and not by generals and politicians far away from the front both physically and psychologically.

"Flash forward now to Christmas, 2021, with the world again at war – not a military war, but a war with a virus that has pitted the proponents of safety at all costs against those suffering the loss of their rights, freedoms, jobs and incomes as a result of the safety measures imposed. Communities, companies, charities, schools, churches, sports clubs and families have become increasingly divided – often bitterly – over whether to wear masks and social distance, whether to congregate or travel, whether to accept economic lockdowns and whether to be vaccinated and if so with what. In addition, the bitterness of these conflicts is intensified by the spread of a social virus – the so-called 'cancel culture'.... 

"The political and media arena in Canada has become so polarized that discussion of almost any measure intended to alleviate that condition can easily become polarized as well. Let me therefore be more clear that what I mean by 'the proponents of safety at all costs' are not the adherents to those safety measures – not those who willingly consent to such measures including vaccination mandates – but the well-intended governmental decision makers and health officials responsible for devising and implementing those safety measures. And what I mean by 'those suffering the loss of their rights, freedoms, jobs and incomes as a result of the safety measures adopted' – are not just those who may resist some of these measures but anyone and everyone affected by them.... 

"How about striking a genuine truce – just over the Christmas season – as those First World War soldiers did so many years ago? Especially at the community and family levels, how about just deciding to stop arguing ... and to seek a renewal and strengthening of personal relationships rather than cancelling them?

"If such a truce is to be struck, it is unlikely to be initiated by senior public officials or politicians who are preoccupied with waging the COVID-19 war at the macro level. Nor is it likely that such a truce will be initiated by the mass media, for whom conflict and war are much more newsworthy than co-operation and peace. No, if such a Christmas truce is to be struck it will be initiated by rank-and-file Canadians at the family and community levels – by ordinary folk who simply decide to emerge from the isolation of whatever COVID-19 trench they find themselves in and extend the hand of friendship to those with whom their relationships have been strained or broken by the crisis.

"A 2021 Christmas truce would be short and temporary. But, if enough Canadians participate in it, maybe the desire to return to the trenches will be lessened to the point where Armistice Day will follow sooner rather than later."

Read more:

Thursday, December 23, 2021

NB gov't drops Covid-vax pass for food stores

NB Government and farmer’s market back down on mandating vaccines for grocery shopping | Lake Superior News - Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (news release): 

Art: Lake Superior News

December 21, 2021 - ""On December 7, 2021 the Justice Centre sent a demand letter to the Minister of Justice of New Brunswick warning that the government’s new December 4 public health Order, which allowed private businesses to deny services to Covid vaccine-free Canadians, was unconstitutional. The Order implicitly invited grocery stores to make any conditions of entry including requiring vaccination of customers as a condition to shop for food and essentials. The ... letter also noted that the right to food is a fundamental human right enshrined in various international instruments including Article 25 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights amongst other human rights instruments.

"On December 15, the Justice Centre sent the City of Fredericton a demand letter in relation to its vaccinated-only policy at the Fredericton Boyce Farmers Market demanding it be immediately reversed for its unprecedented unconstitutional and human rights violations. These warning letters were the first step in what would have proceeded to legal action, had the government not immediately reversed what the Justice Centre views as discriminatory and unconstitutional policies.

"As of today, the New Brunswick public health order has been revised. The government news release announcing this change states: 'An option allowing stores that sell groceries to ask patrons 12 and over for proof of vaccination, instead of implementing distancing requirements, is being removed from the province’s mandatory order.' In the news release, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard now states that “the original intention was to give stores a choice, and that those choosing the proof-of-vaccination option would offer delivery or curbside pickup; it was never the intention for anyone to believe they could not access groceries.'

"The Justice Centre is pleased to report that the Fredericton Boyce Farmer’s Market also following the province’s reversal in Order and made their own announcement today on Twitter, rescinding its mandatory vaccination policy. The market, owned by the New Brunswick Government, and leased to the City of Fredericton at a nominal rate announced a mandatory vaccination policy on December 11, 2021, stating, 'proof of double vaccination (or medical exemption) will be required to shop indoors, for all visitors 12 and over.' No offer for delivery or curbside pickup was offered when this policy was announced....

"'This Order which served to segregate citizens ... would have been the first attempt by a government to  deny essential services and food to Canadians who decide against receiving a Covid vaccine, as is their constitutional right,' states Andre Memauri, Justice Centre Staff Lawyer. 'Today the Government of New Brunswick and the City of Fredericton have corrected their vaccination policies in relation to grocery sales to accord with the Charter and Human Rights legislation and this is a positive step. However, there is work to be done as the revised New Brunswick Order still infringes the Charter as it relates to faith-based venues, by requiring anyone that attends religious services to be fully vaccinated with the new Covid shots for certain events. We will continue our legal work in this regard. The Government has no legal or scientific justification to tell churches and faith based groups who can be allowed to attend services and on what grounds,' adds Mr. Memauri.

"'The Justice Centre will continue to ensure that vaccine-free citizens are not discriminated against by being denied essential services, such as purchasing food at markets and grocery stores. Denying a minority population in this manner is a reprehensible and unlawful act of cruelty and discrimination.'"

Read more:

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Netherlands locked down again for Christmas

Covid: Dutch go into Christmas lockdown over Omicron wave | BBC News

December 19, 2021 - "Netherlands has announced a strict lockdown over Christmas amid concerns over the Omicron coronavirus variant. Non-essential shops, bars, gyms hairdressers and other public venues will be closed until at least mid-January. Two guests per household will be allowed - four over the holidays. Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the measures were 'unavoidable'....

"The new rules in the Netherlands - the strictest to have been announced over Omicron so far - come into force on Sunday. Under the new rules, people are being urged to stay at home as much as possible. 

"Strict limits will be placed on the number of people who can meet - a maximum of two guests aged 13 and over will be allowed in people's homes, and four on 24-26 December and on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. Events are not permitted other than funerals, weekly markets selling groceries and professional sports matches with no spectators. 

"All schools will be closed until at least 9 January, while other lockdown measures will remain in place until at least 14 January. Restaurants can continue to sell takeaway meals, and non-essential shops can offer click and collect services.

"The BBC's Anna Holligan in The Hague said the announcement was being met with disbelief and dismay.... Earlier on Saturday, people rushed to do their Christmas shopping amid reports that new measures were about to be introduced....

"The Dutch National Institute for Public Health ... says the Omicron variant currently still accounts for a minority of coronavirus cases in the Netherlands, but is spreading rapidly. Officials say it is expected to become the dominant variant by the New Year. The head of the Dutch outbreak management team, Jaap van Dissel, said the new measures would 'buy time', allowing more people to get booster shots and for the healthcare system to prepare for a possible rise in infections.... More than 85% of all adults in the Netherlands have been vaccinated, but so far fewer than 9% have had the booster shot.... 

"France, the Republic of Ireland and Germany have also announced measures designed to curb the infections.... France has imposed strict travel restrictions on those entering from the United Kingdom - the hardest hit country in the region, with nearly 25,000 confirmed Omicron cases on Saturday."

Read more:

Santa arrested. Global News, 2013 video still..

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Lockdown protest organizer acquitted in UK

Judge clears woman of breaching lockdown regulations | BBC News:

Debbie Hicks. BBC News photo.

December 20, 2021 - "A woman who helped to organise a rally during lockdown has been found not guilty of breaching Covid regulations.

Debbie Hicks attended the Freedom Rally in Stroud, Gloucestershire, in November 2020 ... was arrested on the day and faced two charges relating to lockdown regulations.

"A district judge has found her not guilty and said police were incorrect to act as though there was a blanket ban on protests at the time.

"Cheltenham Magistrates Court was told the Freedom Rally took place in Stratford Park on 7 November, two days after the latest round of lockdown regulations had come into effect. Those regulations banned gatherings of more than two people. More than 50 people attended the rally and police, who identified Ms Hicks as an organiser – something she denied – approached her and told her she might be arrested if she did not leave. Ms Hicks, who said she was not against vaccinations but wanted to take part in the rally to support 'freedom to protest', remained at the scene and was eventually arrested.

"PC Tim Burch, from Gloucestershire Police, told the hearing that officers had been briefed that the rally was 'not reasonable' because of the lockdown restrictions coming in.

"Ms Hicks ... faced two charges; holding or being involved in a gathering of more than 30 people, and participating in a gathering of more than two people. She said she was exercising her rights under the European Convention of Human Rights articles 10 and 11 – that deal with freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. 'I felt human rights superseded that [lockdown] and it was my right to be there to protest,' she told the court, adding that she was 'shocked' by the level of policing on the day.

"Clearing her of both charges, District Judge Nicholas Wattam said while the evidence proved she was one of the event organisers, he found the police response to the rally was 'not proportionate'. 'I'm concerned that the understanding of police officers on the ground was flawed,' he said, adding that it was not the fault of the police at the event as they were taking their instructions from senior officers. The judge added that a blanket ban on public gatherings was not in place at the time, and if it had been it would have been a breach of human rights."

Read more:

Monday, December 20, 2021

NIH boss planned 'takedown' of Great Barrington Declaration scientists

Fauci, Emails, and Some Alleged Science | American Institute of Economic Research - Phillip W. Magness & James R. Harrigan:

December 19, 2021 - "From October 2-4, 2020, the American Institute for Economic Research hosted a small conference for scientists to discuss the Covid-19 lockdowns. Just four days later, Dr. Francis Collins, the retiring Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), would call ... three of the scientists in attendance 'fringe epidemiologists,' in a directive he sent to Anthony Fauci and other senior staff of his agency.... Those three, Martin Kulldorff of Harvard, Sunetra Gupta of Oxford, and Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford were simply doing what any good scientist would do: They were following the evidence. They wrote the Great Barrington Declaration [GBD] as they parted company at AIER, posting it for all to see.

"So why was Dr. Collins so intent on impugning these three scientists? It’s hard to know exactly, mostly because any scientist worth his salt should have been happy to see further research being done. That is, after all, how ignorance is replaced by knowledge. But Collins ... was pretty sure he knew all he had to know... In an email obtained by AIER through a Freedom of Information Act request, Collins told Anthony Fauci, CCing Lawrence Tabak, Deputy Ethics Counselor at NIH, that he wanted 'a quick and devastating published take down (sic)' of the Great Barrington Declaration’s premises. One wonders why he would CC the Deputy Ethics Counselor on this, given the trouble these people seem to have with ethics, but here they were in October of 2020. 

"Fauci wrote that same night to let Collins know that there was already a devastating take down of the Great Barrington Declaration…in that august scientific publication Wired.... There, science reporter Matt Reynolds told us there was no 'scientific divide' over herd immunity, but that’s not the funny part. The funny part came when Reynolds declared quite confidently that we no longer had anything to worry about, as lockdowns were – as of October 2020 – a thing of the past. 'The problem [with the GBD] is that we aren’t in lockdown,' Reynolds explained. '[I]t’s hard to find people who are advocating for a return to the lockdown we saw in March. When the Great Barrington Declaration authors declare their opposition to lockdowns, they are quite literally arguing with the past.'  This Fauci-endorsed passage may be one of the worst takes of the entire pandemic. Less than a month later, lockdowns came roaring back with a vengeance.

"Fauci wrote to Collins again the next day, this time referencing a breathless op-ed by Gregg Gonsalves*, a public health professor at Yale, in The Nation. And here we arrive at yet another funny part. Gonsalves’ article was not exactly a critique of the Great Barrington Declaration. Instead, Gonsalves went after Martin Kulldorff, who in an interview with the leftist magazine Jacobin quite reasonably pointed out that the lockdowns hurt the poor more than most talking heads were willing to admit. Gonsalves’s grievance was that by interviewing Kulldorff, Jacobin had broken the lockdown 'solidarity' of other far-left websites including the Nation and the Boston Review.

"By October 10, the lines were well drawn, and Fauci thrust himself into the middle of the media hootenanny that was clearly emerging. Collins emailed again to boast about calling the three scientists 'fringe' in the Washington Post, although he told Fauci that their ongoing campaign to take down the GBD 'will not be appreciated in the W[hite] H[ouse].' The White House, Fauci retorted, was 'too busy with other things to worry about' the GBD. There was an election to deal with, after all.

"As the bedfellows became more strange, Gregg Gonsalves wrote directly to Collins, thanking him for his undiplomatic approach. For his part, Gonsalves became ever more hostile and profane, in his remarks on the GBD. 'This f*****g Great Barrington Declaration is like a bad rash that won’t go away,' Gonsalves tweeted, shortly before reaching out to Collins. A day earlier, the Yale professor also began promoting unhinged conspiracy theories about the GBD and AIER that traced to the blog of a former 9/11 Truther movement activist. 

"Some of the emails between Collins and Fauci sent in response to AIER’s FOIA request have been redacted, but surrounding context makes it pretty clear that they were looking for a way to impugn the GBD further if it came up at the White House Covid Task Force meeting on October 16. That morning, Fauci emailed Deborah Birx, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator. He pressed the need for her to oppose the GBD, and set the stage for an attack on Scott Atlas, who was the most friendly champion of the GBD on the Task Force. Fauci, it turns out, had to miss the October 16 task force meeting, though he likely breathed a sigh of relief when Collins emailed him two days later. 'Atlas did not take part in the [task force] meeting on Friday,' Collins wrote, 'and the Great Barrington Declaration did not come up.' Another partially-redacted email hints that Fauci celebrated this outcome. Atlas’s opposition to the lockdown faction on the task force 'is driving Deb [Birx] crazy,' he continued.

"Fauci and Collins were not done, though.... Our story picks up again in earnest on November 2, when Fauci’s chief of staff Greg Folkers replied to an email that was not made public in pursuance to AIER’s FOIA request. It seems pretty clear, though, that Fauci asked Folkers for a list of sources that would allow him to argue effectively against the GBD. The email’s subject line references a previous correspondence from Fauci 'as discussed,' noting that Folkers had 'highlighted the three i found most useful' (sic).

"Multiple sources, and particularly Scott Atlas’s recently-published account of his time on the task force, have noted that Fauci often relies on aides to curate lists of sources in advance of his many media appearances. He seldom reads the scientific literature on Covid-19 himself, and instead arrives at meetings with staff-prepared talking points. It appears that Folker’s email was an answer to one such request for talking points to attack the GBD scientists.... 

"Fauci frequently portrays himself as a staunch defender of science who stays above the political divide and remains outside of partisan debates. In light of that, you might expect that Folker’s response to Fauci’s request would yield a small sample of scientific analysis on the logic behind lockdowns, even if only in a format bullet pointed by his staff. But you’d be wrong. Folkers sent Fauci a list of seven political op-eds and articles opposing the GBD from popular media outlets.

"So yeah. Science."

Read more:

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

* - signatory of the John Snow memorandum

Sunday, December 19, 2021

US struggles with at-home Covid test shortage

Where Are All the At-Home COVID Tests? | New York - Margaret Hartmann, Intelligencer:

Updated December 10, 2021 - "On February 21, the Washington Post published a story titled, 'A fast, at-home coronavirus test will be available to Americans this year.' At the time, public-health officials had been calling for fast, widely available at-home COVID-19 tests for months.... As the Post reported, the White House was finally making that a reality.... But as we approach the end of 2021, pharmacy shelves in the U.S. still aren’t teeming with COVID tests, even though President Biden announced in a televised September 9 address that he was making at-home testing a major element of his plan to manage the pandemic and using the Defense Production Act to increase test availability.... So why are these at-home COVID tests still sometimes hard to find — even if you’re willing to pay the full retail price?... 

"In many Asian and European countries, at-home COVID-19 tests are cheap and easy to find in stores. CBS News reported that home antigen tests are now used routinely in the U.K., where they are free and 'readily available at pretty much every pharmacy in the country.' The situation is drastically different here.... While some foreign governments moved quickly to encourage screening and subsidize the cost of at-home tests, the Food and Drug Administration’s approval process moved much more slowly. The FDA said it needed to ensure that the tests were accurate, but many scientists countered that the agency was letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. Rapid tests can quickly identify around 98 percent of infectious COVID cases; they’re not as sensitive as PCR tests, which can catch even noninfectious cases but need to be sent to a lab for processing.... 

"Harvard epidemiologist Michael Mina, who has been one of the most vocal proponents for mass testing throughout the pandemic, argued that U.S. officials focused too much on the accuracy of rapid antigen tests versus PCR tests, which obscured the former’s tremendous value. 'If the target is infectious people — which is really the most important public-health target — then these [rapid antigen] tests become extremely accurate,” 'Mina told Intelligencer in December 2020. “And that’s the issue — we shouldn’t be using a medical target, we should be using a public-health target. If they are being used for medical diagnostic purposes, they might not be as accurate as you would like, but as a public-health tool, they’re very accurate.'

"Due to these regulatory and messaging hurdles, the market for at-home antigen tests has been slow to develop in the U.S. For much of the last year, Americans couldn’t obtain the pricey tests, and their diagnostic value wasn’t clear to the public. Demand for the tests dropped even further in the spring of 2021, when ... the CDC said vaccinated people did not need to get tested if they were asymptomatic, even if they’d been exposed to someone who was COVID-positive.... Thus, when the Delta variant, breakthrough cases, and people returning to work and school drove up demand for at-home testing ... the U.S. was unprepared, and stores couldn’t keep the tests in stock....

"In September, the Biden administration responded with a new push toward making rapid tests more accessible and affordable, saying it would invoke the Defense Production Act and spend another $2 billion on about 280 million rapid tests.... However, the tests remained in short supply over the coming weeks, prompting the White House to announce on October 1 that it would invest an additional $1.2 billion to obtain millions more rapid tests from Abbott and Celltrion. In addition to ramping up production of tests already on the market, the government is also working to speed up the approval process. On ... October 25, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that the FDA will streamline its authorization process, and the National Institutes of Health will spend $70 million on a new program to 'establish an accelerated pathway' to aid test makers seeking approval for their products.... 

"In early December, President Biden announced plans to ramp up at-home testing by ensuring that the tests will be essentially free for Americans with health insurance, as part of a broader plan to combat emerging variants. (The Department of Health and Human Services will release formal guidance by January 15.) 'More than 150 million Americans on private health insurance will be able to submit receipts for at-home tests directly to their health insurance plans,' Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 coordinator, said. 'They can go to their local pharmacy, they can order online and then get reimbursed.' For those who don’t have health insurance, there will ostensibly be 'thousands of locations' such as clinics, health centers, and pharmacies where COVID-19 test kits are available for pickup.

"When White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked at a press briefing on December 6 about why they administration chose such a complicated route for making free at-home tests more widely available, she gave a glib response, asking 'Should we just send one to every American?' In other, albeit much smaller, countries the government does mail out free tests. An anonymous HHS official also offered Politico an illogical answer on whether there’s much demand in America for at-home rapid tests. 'The primary channel people are getting tested isn’t at home,' the HHS spokesperson said. 'Samples are taken primarily at pharmacies and health care providers... [A]nother anonymous senior administration official offered a defensive response on why the U.S. does not have a clearer and more consistently available testing system.... 'Our pathway is multiple paths for people to get free tests. It’s less of the single, easy-to-grasp solution that people on Twitter like to hold up as a model'....

"Zients said the Biden administration’s latest $1.2 billion investment would quadruple the number of rapid tests available in the U.S. in the following weeks. That means that sometime in December, American consumers should have access to 200 million rapid at-home tests per month.... Still, in the U.S., at-home COVID testing may never be as cheap or as widespread as it is in places like the U.K. Dr. Michael Mina told NPR in October that while he’s happy to see the Biden administration devoting more resources toward rapid testing, 'it’s not enough, and it’s not fast enough. America is so far behind our peer nations.'"

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Photo: Decky, UK Covid home testing kit, 2020. CC BY-SA 4.0Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

UK government flip-flops on vaccine passes

England vaccine passport plans ditched, Sajid Javid says | BBC News - Marie Jackson:

September 12, 2021 - "Plans to introduce vaccine passports for access into nightclubs and large events in England will not go ahead, the health secretary has said.... No 10 stressed the plan – which had been set to be introduced at the end of this month – would be kept 'in reserve' should it be needed over autumn or winter.... The Night Time Industries Association ... welcomed Sunday's announcement, saying it hoped businesses could now plan with some certainty and start to rebuild the sector. The Music Venue Trust, which aims to protect grassroots venues, also said it was glad vaccine passports would not be going ahead, describing them as 'problematic'....

"Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show, Mr Javid said: 'We just shouldn't be doing things for the sake of it or because others are doing, and we should look at every possible intervention properly.' He said he had 'never liked the idea of saying to people you must show your papers' to 'do what is just an everyday activity.... We've looked at it properly and, whilst we should keep it in reserve as a potential option, I'm pleased to say that we will not be going ahead with plans for vaccine passports,' he added."

"The move to scrap vaccine passports appears to be a sharp U-turn by the government. On the same TV programme last week, Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said the end of September was the right time to start the vaccine passport scheme for sites with large crowds because all over-18s would have been offered two jabs by then and it was the 'best way' to keep the night industry open."

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Brits will need three jabs for a vaccine passport: Javid says booster shots will be needed for passes once Brits have had a 'reasonable chance' to get them | Daily Mail - Jack Wright & James Tapsfield: 

December 13, 2021 - "From 6am on Wednesday, people will need to show proof of two jabs or a negative lateral flow test in order to enter nightclubs and large venues. Under the new regulations, published barely 24 hours before tomorrow's vote, people could be fined £10,000 if they try to falsify a Covid pass or test result....

"Mr Javid told Parliament that it is the Government's intention to include proof of a booster jab, once all adults have had a chance to get theirs. He said: 'From Wednesday – subject to this House's approval – you'll need to show a negative lateral flow test to get into nightclubs and large events, with an exemption for the double vaccinated. Once all adults have had a reasonable chance to get their booster jab, we intend to change this exemption to require a booster dose'....

"He said it is 'misleading' to say MPs are being asked to vote on 'vaccine passports'. He told the Commons: 'The Government has been absolutely clear ... when it talks about access to nightclubs or to very large gatherings ... that the requirement is to take a free lateral flow test and make sure it's negative. And if you don't want to do that then you can prove your vaccine status. It's up to that individual. That's not a vaccine passport and the sooner we get rid of this misleading description of what the Government is proposing, the better.'.... 

"NHS Covid passes showing full vaccination or a recent negative test will be required for entry to indoor venues containing more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people, and any venue with more than 10,000 people, from Wednesday."

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MPs back Covid passes in England amid large Tory rebellion | The Guardian - Heather Stewart & Aubrey Allegretti:

December 14, 2021 - "Boris Johnson has suffered a humiliating rebellion ... with 99 Conservative MPs rejecting plans for vaccine certificates.... The vaccine certificates measure passed comfortably by 369 votes to 126 – but only with the backing of Labour. The number of rebels far exceeds Johnson’s parliamentary majority of 79 – and the 56 MPs needed to trigger a vote of no confidence in his leadership. Thirty-five Tory MPs abstained though only 19 were authorised, meaning a further 16 appeared to have refused to vote – a number that included the former prime minister Theresa May. Rebel MPs suggested the final tally voting against could have been 100, suggesting at least one vote had initially been missed....

"Votes on all four Plan B measures proposed by the government passed on Tuesday night. There was a more modest rebellion on the reintroduction of mandatory mask-wearing in shops and on public transport, with 40 Conservative MPs voting against. MPs also voted to make vaccinations compulsory for NHS workers, with 61 Conservative MPs voting against.... Keir Starmer suffered his own rebellion on this issue, with 22 Labour MPs voting against, including frontbencher Rachael Maskell.... 

"Sajid Javid insisted the measure did not amount to a 'vaccine passport', saying it was 'really important to me as a point of principle that people have a range of different routes to show that they are eligible'."

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Friday, December 17, 2021

Most NB food stores not banning Covid-unvaxxed

Raysonho, Sobeys, Richmond Hill, Ontatio, 2020. Public domain, Wikimedia Commons

N.B. COVID-19 roundup: Single-day high of 174 new cases, 2 more deaths | CBC News - Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon:

December 09, 2021 - "All major retailers in New Brunswick ... plan to enforce physical distancing instead of starting to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination, says Public Health. Under the new COVID-19 Winter Action Plan, physical distancing is required in public spaces where proof of vaccination is not required.... 

"[G]rocery stores, retail stores and salons must now enforce physical distancing between patrons, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard announced last Friday. 'Alternatively, they also have the option of requiring proof of vaccination from all patrons, but we will leave that decision up to individual businesses,' she said.... But 'at this time, all major retailers have indicated they will enforce physical distancing instead of requiring proof of vaccination,' Public Health said Wednesday.

"Sobeys will not be asking customers for proof of vaccination at its New Brunswick stores, confirmed spokesperson Paul Wyke. 'We have followed Public Health requirements and mandates every step of the way, and should the rules from provincial governments change we will always adjust,' he said in an emailed statement. 'The health and safety of our customers and store teammates continues to be our top priority and we have many health and safety measures in place to help keep our customers and teammates safe.'

"Retail businesses can ensure physical distancing of two metres is enforced through measures such as using directional arrows, reducing their capacity and preventing groups from congregating, Public Health said. They can further reduce contacts by offering delivery and curbside pickup options."

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Pandemic restrictions are due for a rethink, civil liberties group says | CBC News:

December 14, 2021 - "Cara Zwibel, ​director of the fundamental freedoms program with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said the suggestion that the unvaccinated won't have access to essentials such as food and medicine is worrisome. 'We've been concerned for a long time about premising access to public spaces on vaccination status and what the objective has been throughout,' Zwibel told Information Morning Moncton on Monday.... 'I don't know whether these changes are going to increase vaccination rates or just cause the people who are still hesitant … to dig in and be more resentful,' Zwibel said. 

"'I also wonder at what point people are not going to be willing to live under these conditions,' she said. 'We do still have a situation where governments are dictating how many people we can have in our homes. That's a big departure in a liberal democracy … and I think people may be starting to lose patience with that and really wonder how much longer we can do this.' Given that it seems clear that the virus isn't going away anytime soon, Zwibel said, people should be thinking about 'what we're willing to live with for the long haul'.... 'We have to give people the tools to protect themselves,' she said. 'And we do need to put more power in people's own hands to make decisions for themselves.'"

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Justice centre demands NB grocery store reverse ban on unvaxxed customers | Western Standard:

December 16, 2021 - "The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is demanding a New Brunswick grocery outlet reverse its policy that bans unvaccinated people from shopping there. The JCCF sent the City of Fredericton a demand letter in relation to its vaccinated-only policy at the Fredericton Boyce Farmers Market. The New Brunswick government owns the landmark farmer’s market and leases it to the city at a nominal rate. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies because this is not private property, but property owned and managed by government, said the JCCF in a release.

"The farmer’s market announced that as of Dec. 11, 2021, 'proof of double vaccination (or medical exemption) will be required to shop indoors, for all visitors 12 and over.' The policy, which is the first of its kind in Canada that excludes citizens from purchasing grocery essentials on the basis of vaccination status, claims it relies on 'public health guidelines.' The JCCF already sent a demand letter to the Minister of Justice of New Brunswick warning the government’s new public health order of December 4 — allowing private businesses to deny services to vaccine-free Canadians — was unconstitutional....  

"'Our position remains the same in relation to any government denying or inviting private businesses to deny Canadians who have not taken the COVID vaccine to an essential service, such as the purchase of food. Any such act is an unconscionable violation of the Charter and has no scientific or legal justification,' said JCCF lawyer Andre Memauri. 'Vaccine-free citizens have a right to purchase food, including at markets and grocery stores, and the denial of such essential service is a reprehensible and unlawful act of cruelty and discrimination.'

"The three [Conservative] Members of Parliament representing New Brunswick, John Williamson, Rob Moore, and Richard Bragdon, released statements condemning the province’s winter action plan which gave retailers and grocery stores permission to refuse vaccine-free Canadians."

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Thursday, December 16, 2021

2 European states legalize personal-use cannabis

Luxembourg first in Europe to legalise growing and using cannabis | The Guardian - Daniel Boffy: 

October 22, 2021 - "Adults in Luxembourg will be permitted to grow up to four cannabis plants in their homes or gardens under laws that will make it the first country in Europe to legalise production and consumption of the drug. The announcement on Friday by Luxembourg’s government was said to deliver fundamental changes in the country’s approach to recreational cannabis use and cultivation in light of the failure of prohibition to deter use.

"Under the legislation, people aged 18 and over will be able to legally grow up to four cannabis plants per household for personal use. Trade in seeds will also be permitted without any limit on the quantity or levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the principal psychoactive constituent. The government said it would be possible to buy seeds in shops, to import them or buy them online....

"Justice minister Sam Tanson described the change to the law on domestic production and consumption as a first step. 'We thought we had to act, we have an issue with drugs and cannabis is the drug that is most used and is a large part of the illegal market,' she said. 'We want to start by allowing people to grow it at home. The idea is that a consumer is not in an illegal situation if he consumes cannabis and that we don’t support the whole illegal chain from production to transportation to selling where there is a lot of misery attached. We want to do everything we can to get more and more away from the illegal black market.'"

"For home-growers, the place of cultivation of their four plants will be limited to the usual place of residence, indoors or outdoors, on a balcony, terrace or garden. A legal prohibition of the consumption and transport of cannabis or cannabis products in public will be maintained and trade in cannabis or cannabis products other than seeds, whether free of charge or in return for payment, remains prohibited. Under a softening of the law, however, the consumption and transport of a quantity of up to 3 grams will no longer be considered a criminal offence, but classified as misdemeanour. Fines would be reduced to as little as €25 for possession of under 3 grams, down from €251 to €2,500 today. 'Above three grams, nothing changes, you will be considered a dealer,' Tanson said. 'Nothing changes for car drivers either: there is still zero tolerance.'"

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Malta to legalise cannabis for personal use in European first | The Guardian - Daniel Boffy:

December 13, 2021 - "Malta will this week become the first European country to legalise the cultivation and possession of cannabis for personal use, pipping Luxembourg to the post, as the continent undergoes a wave of change to its drug laws. Possession of up to seven grams of the drug will be legal for those aged 18 and above, and it will permissible to grow up to four cannabis plants at home, with up to 50g of the dried product storable. 

"A vote in favour of the legislation in the Maltese parliament on Tuesday will be followed by the law being signed by the president in order for it to be enacted by the weekend, Owen Bonnici, the minister responsible, told the Guardian.

"The move by Malta, the EU’s smallest member state, is likely to be followed by reform across Europe in 2022. Germany recently announced a move to establish a legally regulated market, following announcements from the governments of Switzerland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. A referendum in Italy is planned.... The change in approach by a number of European governments follows a decision by the UN last December to remove cannabis from a listing of drugs designated as potentially addictive and dangerous, and having little or no therapeutic use.

"The Maltese approach seeks to avoid criminalising any cannabis use while regulating to ensure harm reduction, Bonnici said. Possession of up to 28 grams will lead to a fine of €50-€100 but with no criminal record. Those under the age of 18 who are found in possession will go before a commission for justice for the recommendation of a care plan rather than face arrest. Those who consume cannabis in front of a child face fines of between €300 and €500. Beyond allowing people to grow plants at home, albeit out of sight of the public, it will be legal for non-profit cannabis clubs to cultivate the drug for distribution among their members, similar to organisations tolerated in Spain and the Netherlands. Club membership will be limited to 500 people and only up to 7 grams a day may be distributed to each person, with a maximum of 50 grams a month." 

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Chart courtesy Statista

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

SCOTUS won't block NY Covid vaccine mandate

Vaccine mandate protesters in New York, August 2021. Photo: New York Times

Supreme Court rejects move to block New York vaccine mandate | Politico - Shannon Young:

December 13, 2021 - "The U.S. Supreme Court has denied a request to block New York’s vaccination mandate for health care workers because it doesn't have a religious exemption. The court announced its ruling Monday afternoon in a brief, unsigned order. Three of the court's six conservative justices — Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch — dissented, saying they would grant relief. Gov. Kathy Hochul lauded the court’s decision....

"More than a dozen medical professionals and We the Patriots USA, Inc. sued the Hochul administration over the mandate, which covers patient-facing staff in hospitals, nursing homes and other medical facilities. They asked the court last month to block the state from requiring those who were previously granted religious exemptions to get vaccinated or show proof of a medical exemption. A federal appeals court previously ruled that the mandate could move forward even though it did not allow for a religious exemption.

"Gorsuch wrote in his 14-page dissent that the health care workers who filed the suit and a companion case are not '"anti-vaxxers" who object to all vaccines,' but say they can’t receive a Covid-19 vaccine 'because their religion teaches them to oppose abortion in any form, and because each of the currently available vaccines has depended upon abortion-derived fetal cell lines in its production or testing'....

"Gorsuch also noted New York made changes to its mandate for health workers. Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo promised limited religious exemptions in August, but the policy took effect in September without such an exemption under Hochul’s new administration.

"'Six weeks ago, this Court refused relief in a case involving Maine’s healthcare workers. Today, the Court repeats the mistake by turning away New York’s doctors and nurses,' he wrote. 'We do all this even though the state’s executive decree clearly interferes with the free exercise of religion — and does so seemingly based on nothing more than fear and anger at those who harbor unpopular religious beliefs.'"

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Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Natural immunity outperforms Pfizer in new study

Another Study Finds That Natural Immunity Protects Better Against Infection Than the Pfizer Vaccine | Daily Sceptic - Noah Carl:

December 10, 2021 - At the end of August, a study was published showing that natural immunity provides much better protection against infection than the Pfizer vaccine. It was described by  UCL[University College London]'s Francois Balloux as 'a bit of a bombshell'.... However, as I noted in my write-up of the 'bombshell' study, its findings still needed to be replicated. After all, certain datasets or methods of analysis can sometimes yield quirky results, which don’t survive independent empirical tests. Encouragingly, the findings now have been replicated – by another team of Israeli researchers, using a different dataset.

"In the latest study, Yair Goldberg and colleagues tracked all the individuals in their dataset (of people in Israel) who had tested positive or received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine before 1st July, 2021. They then compared the number of infections in previously infected versus vaccinated individuals from August to September of 2021. The researchers also examined the number of infections among those with so-called ‘hybrid immunity’ – i.e., previously infected individuals who got vaccinated.  

"For each of the three groups, they counted the number of infections and the number of days ‘at risk’ (i.e., the total number of people multiplied by the number of days on which they were ‘at risk’ of becoming infected). Adjustments were made for age, sex, ethnicity, calendar week and a measure of risk exposure.

"Results are shown in the chart below. Each bar corresponds to the infection rate per 100,000 ‘risk days’. The reason the researchers used ‘risk days’, rather than just ‘people’, is that the composition of each group changed over time. For example, some previously infected people chose to get vaccinated.

"Notice that the labels for the horizontal bars are not the same for each group. Since we want to compare apples with apples, look at the bars labelled 'Recovered 6–8 months' and 'Vaccinated 6–8 months'.... 6–8 months after the corresponding event, infection rates were more than six times higher among vaccinated individuals – 89 per 100,000 versus only 14 per 100,000 among previously infected individuals.

"The chart also shows that infection rates were lower still among those with hybrid immunity, which is consistent with what the earlier study found. However, the difference between the hybrid group and the recovered group was relatively small. For example, infection rates at 6–8 months were only 20% higher in the recovered group.

"Goldberg and colleagues’ study confirms that natural immunity does wane, though much more slowly than vaccine-induced immunity. Anyone claiming the contrary now has to contend with not one, but two, high quality studies."

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Monday, December 13, 2021

Natural immunity should be legally recognized, say some lawmakers and doctors

GOP embraces natural immunity as substitute for vaccines | Denver Post - Anthony Izauirre, Associated Press: 

Illustration: Chad Crowe, Wall Street Journal

November 21, 2021 - "Republicans fighting President Joe Biden’s coronavirus vaccine mandates are wielding a new weapon against the White House rules: natural immunity..... Florida wrote natural immunity into state law this week as GOP lawmakers elsewhere are pushing similar measures to sidestep vaccine mandates. Lawsuits over the mandates have also begun leaning on the idea. Conservative federal lawmakers have implored regulators to consider it when formulating mandates.... 

"The immunity debate comes as the country is experiencing another surge in infections and hospitalizations and 60 million people remain unvaccinated in a pandemic that has killed more than 770,000 Americans. Biden is hoping more people will get vaccinated because of workplace mandates set to take effect early next year but which face many challenges in the courts. And many Republicans eager to buck Biden have embraced the argument that immunity from earlier infections should be enough to earn an exemption from the mandates.

"'We recognize, unlike what you see going on with the federal proposed mandates and other states, we’re actually doing a science-based approach. For example, we recognize people that have natural immunity,' Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican who has been a chief critic of virus rules, said at a signing ceremony for sweeping legislation to hobble vaccine mandates this week. The new Florida law forces private businesses to let workers opt out of COVID-19 mandates if they can prove immunity through a prior infection, as well as exemptions based on medical reasons, religious beliefs, regular testing or an agreement to wear protective gear. The state health department, which is led by Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo, who opposes mandates and has drawn national attention over a refusal to wear a face mask during a meeting, will have authority to define exemption standards.

"The Republican-led New Hampshire Legislature plans to take up a similar measure when it meets in January. Lawmakers in Idaho and Wyoming, both statehouses under GOP-control, recently debated similar measures but did not pass them. In Utah, a newly signed law creating exemptions from Biden’s vaccine mandates for private employers allows people to duck the requirement if they have already had COVID.

"And the debate is not unique to the U.S. Russia has seen huge numbers of people seeking out antibody tests to prove they had an earlier infection and therefore don’t need vaccines.... [Russia, the European Union, and virtually all European governments recognize natural immunity as equivalent to vaccination in their health passes and mandates. - gd]

"'The shot is not by any means the only or proven way out of the pandemic. I’m not willing to give blind faith to the pharmaceutical narrative,' said Idaho Republican Rep. Greg Ferch. U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall, a Kansas Republican and physician, along with 14 other GOP doctors, dentists and pharmacists in Congress, sent a letter in late September to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, urging the agency, when setting vaccination policies, to consider natural immunity.

"The White House has recently unveiled a host of vaccine mandates, sparking a flurry of lawsuits from GOP states, setting the stage for pitched legal battles.... In separate lawsuits, others are challenging local vaccine rules using an immunity defense.

"A 19-year-old student who refuses to be tested but claims he contracted and quickly recovered from COVID-19 is suing the University of Nevada, Reno, the governor and others over the state’s requirement that everyone, with few exceptions, show proof of vaccination in order to register for classes in the upcoming spring semester.... Another case, filed by workers of Los Alamos National Laboratory, challenges their workplace vaccine mandate for civil rights and constitutional violations, arguing the lab has refused requests for medical accommodations for those workers who have fully recovered from COVID-19. A similar lawsuit from Chicago firefighters and other city employees hit a bump last month when a judge said their case lacked scientific evidence to support the contention that the natural immunity for people who have had the virus is superior to the protection from the vaccine."

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Sunday, December 12, 2021

How stress shuts down reasoning

Dr. David Potter, Stress and Coping Skills, 2013. CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons.

Neural circuits responsible for conscious self-control are highly vulnerable to even mild stress. When they shut down, primal impulses go unchecked and mental paralysis sets in | Scientific American - Amy Arnsten, Carolyn M. Mazure, & Rajita Sinha:

April 2012 - "For decades scientists thought they understood what happens in the brain during testing or a battlefront firefight. In recent years a different line of research has put the physiology of stress in an entirely new perspective. The response to stress is not just a primal reaction affecting parts of the brain that are common to a wide array of species ranging from salamanders to humans. Stress, in fact, can cripple our most advanced mental faculties....

"Older textbooks explained that the hypothalamus, an evolutionarily ancient structure lodged at the base of the brain, reacts to stress by triggering the secretion of a wave of hormones from the pituitary and adrenal glands, which makes the heart race, elevates blood pressure and diminishes appetite. Now research reveals an unexpected role for the prefrontal cortex, the area immediately behind the forehead that serves as the control center that mediates our highest cognitive abilities — among them concentration, planning, decision making, insight, judgment and the ability to retrieve memories.... The new research demonstrates that acute, uncontrollable stress sets off a series of chemical events that weaken the influence of the prefrontal cortex while strengthening the dominance of older parts of the brain. In essence, it transfers high-level control over thought and emotion from the prefrontal cortex to the hypothalamus and other earlier evolved structures....

"The prefrontal cortex is so sensitive to stress because of its special status within the hierarchy of brain structures. It is the most highly evolved brain region, bigger proportionally in humans than in other primates, and makes up a full third of the human cortex. It matures more slowly than any other brain area and reaches full maturity only after the teen years have passed. The prefrontal area houses the neural circuitry for abstract thought and allows us to concentrate and stay on task, while storing information in the mental sketch pad of working memory.... As a mental-control unit, the prefrontal area also inhibits inappropriate thoughts and actions.

"The neurological executive center functions through an extensive internal network of connections among the triangular-shaped neurons called pyramidal cells. These neurons also send out connections to more distant reaches of the brain that control our emotions, desires and habits.... Keeping this network firing as it should can be a fragile process — and when stress hits, even small changes in the neurochemical environment can instantly weaken network connections. In response to stress, our brain floods with arousal chemicals such as norepinephrine and dopamine, which are released by neurons in the brain stem that send projections throughout the brain. Elevated levels of these signaling chemicals in the prefrontal cortex shut off neuron firing, in part by weakening the connection points, or synapses, between neurons temporarily. Network activity diminishes, as does the ability to regulate behavior. These effects only worsen as the adrenal glands near the kidneys, on command from the hypothalamus, spritz the stress hormone cortisol into the bloodstream, sending it to the brain....

"Our research clarifying how easily the prefrontal cortex can be shut down started about 20 years ago. Studies in animals by one of us (Arnsten), along with the late Patricia Goldman-Rakic of Yale University, were among the first to illustrate how neurochemical changes during stress can rapidly switch off prefrontal function. The work showed that neurons in the prefrontal cortex disconnect and stop firing after being exposed to a flood of neurotransmitters or stress hormones. In contrast, areas deep within the brain take a stronger hold over our behavior. Dopamine arrives at a series of deep-brain structures, collectively called the basal ganglia, that regulate cravings and habitual emotional and motor responses. The basal ganglia hold sway not only when we ride a bicycle without falling but also when we indulge in addictive habits....

"After dopamine and norepinephrine switch off circuits in the prefrontal area required for higher cognition, enzymes normally chew up the neurotransmitters so that the shutdown does not persist. In this way, we can return to our baseline when stress abates. Certain forms of a gene can weaken these enzymes, making people more vulnerable to stress and, in some cases, mental illness. Similarly, environmental factors can increase vulnerability; for example, lead poisoning can mimic aspects of the stress response and erode cognition.

"Still other research focuses on what happens when the assault on the prefrontal cortex lasts for days or weeks. Chronic stress appears to expand the intricate web of connections among neurons in our lower emotional centers, whereas the areas engaged during flexible, sustained reasoning — anything from the philosophy of Immanuel Kant to calculus — start to shrivel. Under these conditions, the branching, signal-receiving dendrites in the primal amygdala enlarge, and those in the prefrontal cortex shrink. John Morrison of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and his colleagues have shown that prefrontal dendrites can regrow if the stress disappears, but this ability to rebound may vanish if the stress is especially severe.... This chain of molecular events makes us more vulnerable to subsequent stress and most likely contributes to depression, addiction and anxiety disorders, including post-traumatic stress....

"One question that still perplexes researchers is why the brain has built-in mechanisms to weaken its highest cognitive functions. We still do not know for sure, but the triggering of these primal reactions may perhaps have saved human lives when a predatory wild animal was lurking in the bushes.... Absent our slow, deliberate higher-brain networks, primitive brain pathways can stop us on a dime or ready us to flee. These mechanisms may serve a similar function when we face danger in the modern world — say, when a reckless driver cuts us off and we need to slam on the brakes. If we remain in this state, though, prefrontal function weakens, a devastating handicap in circumstances where we need to engage in complex decision making about a loved one’s serious medical condition or organize an important project on a tight deadline."

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