Editor’s Note: Part 2 of a five-part series challenging the conventional wisdom and media/government response to the Wuhan virus. Click here for Part 1.
We continue with a procession of thoughts, facts and links which have not received a fair hearing amid the orgy of closures, restrictions and hype surrounding the Wuhan virus…
3. Governments around the world are using a sledgehammer when a scalpel is what’s needed.
There is an excellent column written by a pair of doctors, Dr. Neil Rau and Dr. Susan Richardson, at Canada’s National Post on the current global movement toward closing off economic and social activity as a means of preventing the spread of the Wuhan virus which everyone should read.
An excerpt, though we strongly encourage you to read the entire thing…
But can COVID-19 really be contained? COVID-19 stopped following the SARS script weeks ago and appears similar to many respiratory viruses. COVID-19 along with the four “common cold” coronaviruses spread easily from person to person with mild disease, and sometimes from people before they develop symptoms. It is practically impossible to contain a virus that readily spreads early in the course of infection and circulates in the community. The highest concentration and therefore transmissibility of COVID-19 in nasal secretions peaks in the first few days of infection. SARS was different: it was transmitted most efficiently late in infection. Therefore, using the SARS model to identify patients with the symptoms of COVID-19 is bound to fail. Moreover, it’s hard to pick out COVID-19 cases from those caused by other respiratory viruses also seen at this time of year. Testing and tracking down contacts is ultimately futile for this virus, as it devotes enormous resources to finding cases that are largely mild and spontaneously resolving.
Now quarantine in its various forms, is being deployed as an ever-expanding strategy, from “self-isolation” to broad travel restrictions and school closures. This sledgehammer approach will affect mainly able-bodied workers, children and students, for whom a COVID-19 infection will be nothing more than a cold. It will put a huge segment of the workplace out of commission, including health care workers, at a time when we need them most.
The WHO containment ideal requires a huge societal sacrifice from those at low risk to prevent spread to those at high risk. Sacrifices include the avoidance of foreign travel (strangely this continues even after the disease is locally present) in addition to the cancellation of large events such as concerts, cultural events, sporting events and conferences. Tourism and service industries suffer. The stock market plummets. School closures are disruptive and costly to the parents who really cannot work from home. Higher education closures affect students’ abilities to complete or pay for their education if their exams don’t finish on time. Disinfecting surfaces at random in public places is resource intensive, costly and promotes a false sense of security.
We should instead be targeting significant resources toward the protection of those at highest risk (the elderly, those with underlying chronic disease, and those with immune compromising conditions) and maintaining a healthy, robust, responsive health care system that can handle a potential surge. The economic and social costs of pursuing quarantine are staggering and actually counter-productive.
Rau and Richardson address the “flatten the curve” strategy we talked about in Part 1 of this series, and they are less than convinced…
Having failed to stop the virus completely, the WHO has revised the containment strategy to a novel one: to “flatten the outbreak curve.” This new strategy is being used to invoke severe restrictions to movement and liberty at an early phase of the pandemic in North America, although the effectiveness of this approach is unproven. Even China’s valiant efforts with unprecedented mass quarantine were only partly successful, and required a huge sacrifice of individual liberties. Great Britain is taking a more nuanced approach to containment, waiting to consider school closures and self-isolation of the elderly and other at-risk people, until the epidemic is on the upswing. They recognize that the goal of complete containment is not possible and that “containment fatigue” will result in failure to adhere to policies, if those measures are instituted too early and applied too broadly. We propose that WHO should abandon the containment ideal and urge countries to focus on how to best identify, prevent and treat infection in the population at risk of severe disease, in addition to protecting staff and patients in hospitals and the broader health care community. Once community disease is present locally, the vulnerable should avoid mass gatherings, and limit contact with visitors/family members who may unwittingly expose them to the virus. Nursing homes and hospital should limit, if not screen, visitors as well.
The British strategy is a far less invasive and far more plausible one. Rather than lock down an entire society over a respiratory ailment which presents as a very bad cold with the vast majority of the population (as Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health notes, unless you’re elderly, are immuno-compromised, as in the case of HIV-positive people for example, have diabetes, are obese or have pre-existing respiratory dysfunction this virus is highly unlikely to cause you more than relatively small inconvenience), the British have decided to focus their efforts and resources on saving the at-risk population.
It is actually a societal good if everyone gets a mild case of this virus, because over the long haul that means everyone will have antibodies to fight future infections of it. This is what’s known as a novel coronavirus, meaning it’s something none of us have had before – or at least that’s the thinking of the medical community. They’re thinking that because nobody had done the genetic sequencing for this virus before. It’s actually quite possible this had existed in nature before its outbreak in Wuhan, China, just as it’s also possible it originated from the bioweapons lab in that city and/or its wet market where animals nobody outside of China eats are regularly slaughtered and sold in highly unsanitary conditions.
The point being, your own immune system is your best defense against this thing. Where we want to be is on the other side of that curve, whether it’s flat or not. The British model is intended not to flatten that curve, it’s to jump to the other side of it by isolating the people most likely to put us toward the top of it and then let everyone else get the virus, process it and then be no longer contagious with it.
Which brings us to another point…
4. What are the costs of this “lockdown” we keep moving toward?
You’re seeing it every day – a new state or local government progresses from shutting down events carrying 250 guests, to 100, to now 50, they’ve closed colleges, then K-12 schools, and now in some cases they’re shutting down casinos, bars and restaurants.
You’re being told this is for your safety, and the safety of those most at risk from this virus.
But this is a very, very limited view of public health.
Less than 100 Americans have died from the Wuhan virus. More than 100 Americans per day die from other causes which could very easily be exacerbated by the lockdown our politicians are moving toward.
Heather MacDonald, writing at The New Criterion, has an outstanding piece on this issue…
By comparison, there were 38,800 traffic fatalities in the United States in 2019, the National Safety Council estimates. That represents an average of over one hundred traffic deaths every day; if the press catalogued these in as much painstaking detail as they have deaths from coronavirus, highways nationwide would be as empty as New York subways are now. Even assuming that coronavirus deaths in the United States increase by a factor of one thousand over the year, the resulting deaths would only outnumber annual traffic deaths by 2,200. Shutting down highways would have a much more positive effect on the U.S. mortality rate than shutting down the U.S. economy to try to prevent the spread of the virus.
There have been 5,123 deaths worldwide so far—also a fraction of traffic deaths worldwide. And unlike coronavirus, driving kills indiscriminately, mowing down the young and the old, the sick and the healthy. The coronavirus, by comparison, is targeted in its lethality, overwhelmingly striking the elderly or the already severely sick. As of Monday, approximately 89 percent of Italy’s coronavirus deaths had been over the age of seventy, according to The Wall Street Journal. Sad to say, those victims were already nearing the end of their lifespans. They might have soon died from another illness. No child under the age of nine has died from the illness worldwide. In China, only one individual in the ten-to-nineteen age group has succumbed.
Comparing the relative value of lives makes for grisly calculus, but one is forced to ask: are we missing the forest for the trees? If the measures we undertake to protect a vulnerable few end up exposing them, along with the rest of society, to even more damaging risks—was it worth the cost?
An example: there were 34,200 deaths in the United States during the 2018–19 influenza season, estimates the cdc. We did not shut down public events and institutions to try to slow the spread of the flu. Yet we have already destroyed $5 trillion in stock market wealth over the last few weeks in the growing coronavirus panic, reports The New York Times, wiping out retirement savings for many.
Feel free to read the entire thing.
Locking down the economy, which has already crashed the stock market and destroyed a staggering amount of wealth sitting in retirement accounts and other vehicles depended on by Americans for their livelihoods and incomes, has immediate, severe and far more general effects on everyday folks than the Wuhan virus will.
Yes, when things go back to normal, assuming they do, the stock market will recover. But for those bars, restaurants and other businesses being locked down by state and local governments, recovery is anything but assured. Those are small businesses, and a day or two out of business, much less a couple of weeks, could be fatal to many of them.
Knock a restaurant out of business and now the staff at that restaurant, none of whom are rich, are out of a job. The supplier to that restaurant then takes a hit. And so on.
Put a bunch of small businesspeople out of their businesses, and what’s the health outcome of that? How many of them might have hypertension and be subject to a heart attack or stroke? How many of them might become despondent at being ruined? What might that do to the suicide rate? How many might take to drinking, and what effect might that have on DUI fatalities or other alcohol-related deaths? What about drug overdoses? Domestic violence incidents?
Don’t dismiss those factors. Each of them takes far more lives in a year than the Wuhan virus has taken to date and, quite possibly, will ever take in this country.
Some 140,000 Americans die from strokes each year.
Some 647,000 Americans die from heart attacks yearly, which is a similar number to all Americans killed by the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic.
There were 47,000 Americans who died from suicide in 2017.
There were 10,511 Americans dying from drunk-driving accidents in 2018. That’s a drop in the bucket considering some 88,000 Americans die from alcohol-related causes every year.
And there were 70,000 Americans killed in drug overdoses in 2017.
Domestic violence incidents took 2,340 American lives in 2007, a number we’re sure has gone up since then.
So far 71 people have died from the Wuhan virus according to the official numbers.
Is it so hard to believe that the disruption of everyone’s life would result in more deaths than would be prevented by this quarantine?
Particularly when Italy has locked their whole country down and the virus is still spreading there. Why? Because Italians aren’t complying with the lockdown. Nor will Americans.
That brings us to the other cost no one in a position of power seems to be trying to calculate – how much damage are you doing to the society you purport to be saving?
Yes, you’re killing businesses and destroying wealth. You’re also introducing a level of government no American should ever be comfortable with.
For example, look at what the insanely incompetent mayor of New Orleans put out on her Facebook yesterday…
No, that’s not OK. Having people call 3-1-1 to inform on their neighbors who might be exercising a First Amendment-protected right to freely assemble is far, far more dangerous than the Wuhan virus. We really shouldn’t have to explain that giving people like LaToya Cantrell the power to control who can meet with whom can lead to far worse negative consequences, particularly if this kind of thing becomes accepted by the populace.
Now – a voluntary self-quarantine? Of course. Encouraging people to stay home until we’re on the other side of this curve is perfectly understandable and in accordance with a free society. But draconian measures like Cantrell and others are taking cannot be allowed to become the norm even under these circumstances, lest she or others become comfortable with them.
You don’t have to look far to find examples in the mainstream media where the Chinese government, which physically welded people into apartment buildings and turned them into prisoners in their own homes, is being praised for the actions it took to control the spread of this disease. That’s the government which lied for weeks about the virus and allowed it to spread internationally, and they’re actually being praised by some on the Left for their actions. Why? Because there are Americans who at the least have so little regard for individual liberties and the civil society which flows from them that they’d gladly throw those away in favor of government power to accomplish what they believe are civic goods.
Many of those same people are passionate about tackling climate change. What steps would they favor were they ever to succeed in convincing Americans global warming was a pandemic threat the way the Wuhan virus is becoming?
Another way to put this is, what’s the price of freedom? If the only concern you have is preventing the spread of the Wuhan virus, then sure – you can do that if you’re willing to go far enough. But that isn’t the only aim a responsible adult in a position of authority is duty-bound to pursue.
We aren’t willing to destroy the village to save it. We place a high value on our freedom, and you should as well. The full-on assault on civil society and liberty here might seem like a prudent response to a public health threat, but it should never be pursued as a first option and that is precisely what we’re seeing from far too many of the people who’ve sworn an oath to uphold the founding principles of the country.
As the measures taken to protect you from a respiratory infection more than 98 percent of people who get it walk away from with no serious ill effects become more and more stringent, consider how meekly you accept them. Your freedom might depend on it.