SADOW: Shape Policy For Endemic, Not Pandemic, Virus

To understand the uselessness of the virtue signaling made by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards by the extension of his face covering mandate now in effect, it is necessary to comprehend his entirely mistaken conception, widely shared on the political left, of the course run by the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic.

At an instrumental level, policy studies tell us mask mandates do little to slow the spread of this virus relative to their absence (and much evidence suggests these overall hurt children, who have a greater chance of dying through a lightning strike sometime in their lives than from a virus in their childhood that has an infection fatality rate for the population hardly higher than seasonal influenza). The only thing that does work to a significant degree are economic and social lockdowns, which Edwards is unwilling to do because of the severe public reaction that inevitably would occur.

And the reason this reaction would happen is because, unlike Edwards and many of his leftist friends in power, the public has grasped or is willing to admit the reality why at the theoretical level such policies do more harm to society and the polity than good. This is because such draconian policies misalign with the realities of the present situation.

Policy options regarding the pandemic have emerged over three distinctive phases. The first occurred very early on, in the country about the beginning of Feb., 2020 and in Louisiana a month later. Then, it was thought the believed relative geographic isolation of the virus made it possible for government fiat to stamp it out, so by rigorous identification and contract tracing and lockdowns where needed, government could extinguish it.

That hope quickly evaporated in the U.S., and even with countries (basically, the western Pacific rim) that very rigorously and diligently tried to achieve this and haven’t. That’s because, as we now know, the alert went out way too late. In all likelihood, a lab escape in early October, 2019 from the Wuhan Institute of Virology loosed the virus nearly three months prior to the Chinese government acknowledging its existence.

This fits the scientific and observed data, what little available as China continues to resist revealing more. Slowly but surely, officials are changing causes of deaths in the U.S. to the virus, so far a month earlier that what once was believed. Serologic evidence points to virus presence in America by November, 2019.

In other words, the cat was out of the bag long before the realization came to try to snuff out the virus. That strategy never had a chance, since it already had infiltrated the country, much less the world, but policy-makers didn’t know that.

Regardless, this led to the second phase of managing the pandemic while buying time for vaccine development. The idea here looked to achieve herd immunity through the natural process of virus spread supplemented by intervention with vaccination. Policy along these lines varied between two poles of thought: since the certain subpopulations exhibited vulnerability to it while for everybody else it threatened hardly at all, at one end to protect the vulnerable while leaving the activities of the remaining population largely unaffected, and at the other end to institute invasive protection measures largely applying to everybody.

As it has turned out, virus deaths appear largely unrelated to the policies pursued along this continuum, although if any relationship seems to exist higher per capita death totals appear a bit more likely in states with stricter policy. But not in dispute is that where policies were stricter higher levels of excess deaths occurred.

Unfortunately, Louisiana under Edwards tended to the stricter side. Worse, just as with the first phase of thinking, the second was just as doomed because herd immunity in any significant sense, we now know as opposed to a year ago, was chimerical. This is because this coronavirus is a coronavirus, and these change over time with new variants, and enough so that antibodies, whether acquired naturally through infection or unnaturally through medical intervention, don’t work as effectively against new variants and especially so as time proceeds from the initial introduction.

Ironically, Edwards’ approach and those policy-makers who made similar decisions increased the chances of this outcome. By sheltering the population too much, they lengthened the amount of time available for variants to develop – by flattening the “curve,” they extended it. This is why, despite a third of U.S. residents having become infected by the end of 2020, herd immunity wasn’t reached.

It never will be, just like with other coronaviruses and bugs like influenza, which is why in the case of the latter vaccinations are distributed yearly, based upon a guess about what the dominant strain will be. However, these never go away, and humans have to live with that fact.

Edwards and others emulating his policies and more need to understand the pandemic has transformed into being endemic as the virus can’t be stamped out (and the hits just keep on coming). Making everybody wear a mask never has been policy to combat all these other similarly-acting viruses and rightly so, because it won’t lead to eventual eradication of those or this particular one, much less the far more drastic measures employed by zero tolerance countries who only now have started to recognize the unsustainability of that policy.

This third phase means acquiescing to the virus as a feature of life. It may mean a regime similar to combatting the flu, voluntary shots annually. But it cannot mean mask mandates and even more ridiculous and injurious policies such as vaccine passports to engage in commerce or to hold jobs. These only attenuate individual choices and serve as an affront to human freedom, particularly as these won’t protect anybody nor will they bludgeon the virus into nonexistence. Policy-makers who stupidly impose these strictures forfeit their right to lead governments.

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