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Ignorant of What They're Most Assured
The price of pandemic moral certitude has been shouldered by those least equipped to pay it.
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I’m tired of all things covid, as I'm sure you are, too. But I try to write about what's important, and, well, this qualifies.
I’ve talked in-depth about the echno-pharmaco-politico-corporate authoritarianism that continues to strain the bonds of civility integral to maintaining the American experiment, the pandemic charade we’ve been forced to bear witness to at the hands of politically-motivated officials catering to irrational fear. But the myopic obsession with one highly age-discriminatory illness continues to have devastating consequences, and I think it’s worthwhile to highlight realities that are either downplayed or outright ignored.
Slowly but surely, it does appear as though people are finally beginning to understand that the risks posed by covid have been greatly overblown relative to the costs, both tangible and not, of shutting down society and turning it into a science experiment with no off-ramp, establishing vaccine apartheid in an already deeply fractured nation, and indulging people incapable of subjugating the tyrannical impulse of self-preservation.1
The imbroglio we find ourselves in today, a morass that goes beyond singularly economic woes, was not inevitable; it could’ve been avoided had our noble overlords carried out your standard cost-benefit analysis of lockdowns and other restrictions. Record gas prices, inflation, supply shortages—this is what happens when you print trillions of dollars, shut down society, and say the economy doesn’t matter. Public health and the economy are inextricably linked. More on this anon.2
There have now been numerous high-profile studies showing how utterly pointless our non-pharmaceutical interventions were (and in some cases still are), which makes it all the more difficult to stomach that we’ll be paying for them for decades thanks to the powers that be inexplicably rejecting time-tested public health principles in favor of an unprecedented, untested biosecurity surveillance model necessitating massive state expansion.
Let's be clear: The lockdowns went against decades of research in preparation for a pandemic exactly like the one we now find ourselves mired in. Indeed, speaking to reporters on January 24, 2020, Our Lord and Savior Tony Fauci himself said that shutting down the country wouldn’t work: “That’s something that I don’t think we could possibly do in the United States, I can’t imagine shutting down New York or Los Angeles. . . Whether or not it does or does not [work] is really open to question because historically when you shut things down it doesn’t have a major effect.”
Correcto. Lockdowns — the quarantining of healthy people — have no prior precedent other than city-wide measures taken in the 1600s to manage plagues. And covid is no plague. In fact, a comparative study of covid relative to the bubonic plague might do a lot of people a lot of good. It killed 30% of Europe, folks; were the "Black Death" to occur today, it'd kill 2 billion.
My opposition to our non-pharmaceutical interventions has never been about comparing covid deaths to economic prosperity or capitalism. Rather, it stems from the need to weigh covid deaths versus regressive deaths; it's about advocating for the fewest people to die as possible. Forgive me, but I believe huge, life-altering, society-wide decisions should require a rational cost-benefit analysis framework and a bit of perspective instead of catastrophizing like a bunch of mindless marionettes in a Manichean drama.
But, as David Wallace-Wells pointed out in December’s London Review of Books, it seems not all deaths are created equal. A 2017 Lancet study estimated that almost seven million people a year die from air pollution. “More recent estimates run higher,” writes Wallace-Wells, “with as many as 8.7 million deaths every year attributable just to the outdoor particulate matter produced from burning fossil fuels. Add on indoor pollution, and you get an annual toll of more than ten million.”
I know that covid can have devastating effects among a small proportion of those who become symptomatic, but my view is that the risks posed by the virus have been overstated when compared with the risks that were also involved in paralyzing society for a year. Vested interests used propaganda to convince the public that sneezing, coughing, and runny noses are deadly risks while heart attacks, blood clots, and autoimmune diseases are nothing to worry about. Heart disease deaths here in America, which usually number around 700,000 a year, were revised upward by the CDC with nary a mention. For context's sake, consider that on May 16, the media reported (with much gravitas) that 287 Americans died from covid, but nothing was said about the approximately 2,000 Americans that died from heart disease that very same day.
Contextualization remains largely taboo, however, while elaborate enabling justifications and retroactive rationalizations are the norm, in large part because mainstream discourse is still regulated by the same regime that long ago decided contraventions of prevailing left-wing orthodoxies are morally unacceptable. In much the same way that debating covid's origins was deemed impermissible for the first 18 months of the pandemic, so too have discussions in which The Science™ — the unassailable top-down policies characterized by discrepancies, the dissemination of contradictory edicts, and the withholding of other vital information — is scrutinized or challenged. Things are improving in this regard, but for over two years the consensus narrative might as well have been inflexible Holy Writ, unchangeable without the approval and stamped imprimatur of Our Lord and Savior Tony Fauci.
A comprehensive analysis of studies concerning the impact of lockdowns on covid mortality was recently released by a team of researchers at Johns Hopkins University, and their conclusion is stark:
“Our study finds that lockdowns had little to no effect in reducing COVID-19 mortality. However, lockdowns during the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic have had devastating effects. They have contributed to reducing economic activity, raising unemployment, reducing schooling, causing political unrest, contributing to domestic violence, loss of life quality, and the undermining of liberal democracy. These costs to society must be compared to the benefits of lockdowns, which our meta-analysis has shown are little to none.” — A Literature Review and Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Lockdowns on COVID-19 Mortality - II
Yours truly has written pretty extensively on the idiocy of lockdowns, but it seems like every week brings with it more proof of just how idiotic these ill-advised non-pharmaceutical interventions were. I’ve taken the liberty of collecting some of the more salient examples:
There are now multiple studies from around the world that indicate lockdown policies have doubled, and perhaps even tripled, mental health problems. The prevalence of substance abuse and suicidal ideation also skyrocketed, with the worst impact hitting young adults and racial/ethnic minorities.
Millions and millions of people were unable to receive the medical care they needed. Consider tuberculosis, for example, which kills 1.5 million people each year. Not only did lockdowns and supply-chain disruptions threaten progress against the disease, they created insurmountable barriers to patients who needed transportation to obtain diagnoses or drugs. Restrictions on air and sea travel halted or severely delayed medication deliveries to regions most in need.
The hyper-focus on covid distorted its importance in relation to other diseases and encouraged an exaggeration of risks. In many cases, people were too scared to go to a hospital, or their access to treatment and screening tests was greatly inhibited due to clinics shuttering, or disruptions to normal care meant issues went unnoticed. Diagnoses for other even more life-threatening diseases than covid plummeted.
Many, if not most, of the 50 million American adults suffering from chronic pain were no longer able to effectively manage their conditions. Physical therapy, acupuncture, meditation, electro-stimulation, in-person counseling—the lockdowns disrupted the strategies they’d long relied upon. Surgeries were postponed, appointments canceled, services halted. Research conducted before the pandemic found that social isolation exacerbates chronic pain, and the lockdowns were often debilitating for many people, especially those with depression and anxiety stemming from their pain cycles.
According to one World Bank study, more than a quarter of a million infants are estimated to have died due to pandemic [response-induced] poverty. If you add up all global covid deaths, the total is still less than the number of children age 5 and under who've died from malnutrition during the same time period.
The Kids Are Not Alright
Remember when the New York Times published a story with the headline, “Parents, Stop Talking About the Lost Year” that explained why it was silly to be upset about remote learning, and then the paper’s lead covid reporter tweeted (and later deleted): “Could not agree more, children are far more resilient than we think, especially when we don’t ourselves panic”?
And remember when the American Academy of Pediatrics wrote: “Being around adults wearing masks doesn’t delay babies’ speech or language development . . . Young children will use other clues like gestures and tone of voice”?
Or how about these doozies?
‘Cause I do.
The entirely predictable second and third order consequences of nonpharmaceutical interventions — namely, lockdowns and masks — have been devastating for kids, for whom the risk of covid “is so low as to be difficult to quantify” (with a survival rate of roughly 99.995%).
According to one study, “children, on average, learned almost nothing in the weeks they received virtual education,” with the effect “particularly pronounced in less educated homes, where the negative effects for children with low-educated parents were 60 percent greater than those from well-educated homes.” The researchers in the John Hopkins analysis mentioned supra found similar conclusions in numerous other studies. “The losses in early development are significantly greater among poor and poorly educated families,” they reported.
It’s important to understand something: These years of learning loss represent years of life stolen. Literacy and education levels are linked to longer lifespans. This correlation is not purely economic—better health is also associated with the behavioral and social impacts of education. Research published in the United Kingdom in May found similarly troubling trends: Teachers of children in the lowest primary grades reported an increase in behavior such as biting and hitting, as well as in difficulties being in large groups. The 4- and 5-year-olds studied were less likely to meet the expected levels of development in 2021 than before the pandemic, the authors concluded. Moreover, in addition to academic damage, childhood obesity, which has profound long-term consequences, also increased severely when students were confined to their homes.3
I don't have kids, but I don't need to be a father to be furious at the fact that nearly all the things people warned about — things for which they were pilloried, fired from jobs, banned from social media, and more — have come to fruition. For reasons of both import and length, I intend to write another post highlighting the impact on teenagers and young adults because believe me, it's been rather less than great. For now, let's discuss adolescents.
This week, USA Today published a piece on how children born before or even during the pandemic are talking, walking, and interacting later and less frequently. They're also more prone to certain behaviors, like outbursts, physical aggression, and separation anxiety.
“It's unclear how much the COVID-19 pandemic and related economic fallout are to blame,” writes Alia Wong. “But experts note many young children in recent years have had uneven access to health and child care and relatively little exposure to the outside world.”
How could it be any more clear? I mean, correlation is not causation, sure; but when you mess around with the well-being of kids during the most pivotal years of development, the consequences are bound to be both inevitable and profound.
“From birth to age five, a child’s brain develops more rapidly than at any other time in life. And research has shown that a child’s experiences in these early years — positive or negative, nurtured or neglected — directly affect how the brain develops, with long-term impact on the child’s health and ability to learn and succeed in school and life.” — First Things First
At least 85% of the brain’s development occurs before age 5, with the majority occurring in the first few years of life. Literally every interaction a child has gives instructions to neural connections. One need not be an expert to ascertain that if you continually expose the adolescent brain to stress and fear, it's going to wire neurons in less than ideal ways. And needless to say, a constant sense of danger stemming from parents and adults enslaved to extremely irrational fear is very pernicious.
“Indeed, children who have had chronic and intense fearful experiences often lose the capacity to differentiate between threat and safety. This impairs their ability to learn and interact with others, because they frequently perceive threats in familiar social circumstances, such as in their home or neighborhood.” — Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University
Per several studies that've been completed over the past few months, children born during the pandemic are scoring lower, on average, on tests of gross motor, fine motor, social, and problem-solving skills compared with those born prior. Meanwhile, researchers have also found that babies born during the pandemic vocalize and engage in verbal interactions much less than their pre-pandemic counterparts did. Why?
“Some experts point to increased screen time,” Wong throws out there rather gratuitously, “while other research has suggested that mask-wearing is a factor.”
Wait. You mean babies and toddlers watch the way adults’ mouths move as they learn how to form the sounds of letters and pick up on facial expressions. . . which are restricted when the face is covered by a mask!? 'Tis heresy!
Until very recently, the entirety of the pandemic had witnessed mainstream U.S. public health experts dismissing concerns about the long-term effects of masks despite developmental research pre-pandemic consistently affirming the importance to children of the human face. Mere minutes after exiting the womb, babies show a preference for looking at faces above anything else. And look folks, I’m no doctor or expert, but you don't exactly have to be the brightest star in the intellectual Orion to gather that, were you to be dumped in the middle of the Amazonian jungle and make contact with a primitive tribe of some sort, chances are you’d have to largely rely on facial expressions — a universal language — to understand one another, however liminally.
It follows, then, that face time is absolutely essential for young kids. In educational settings, young children practice recognizing expressions from their teachers and classmates in order to learn empathy and social skills, and, as aforementioned, when children begin to read, they look at their teacher’s mouth to see how he or she makes new sounds.
“The costs are worth it,” said the people who didn't have to pay.
The prolonged, severe disruptions adolescents have had to deal with thanks to the widespread inability among adults to demonstrate the bare minimum courage it should take to decide that mitigation efforts for an extremely age-stratified disease with a 99% survival rate5 should not dictate life at the expense of everything else are infuriating even for someone childless like me. But it's all the more maddening when you consider that even after it became undeniable that the covid cult was more or less psychologically destroying kids and that repercussions would echo into the future for God only knows how long, nothing changed. In fact, you could easily argue that things progressively worsened.
It’s both ironic and tragic that what was portrayed with great fervor to the public as the “moral response” to a crisis has had entirely predictable consequences that many would consider immoral—consequences directly tied to widespread egocentric bias, the primary reason why the burden of this pandemic has been borne by the people least equipped to carry it. The capsizing of educational structures due to the pervasive, tribalistic refusal to assign any costs to the harms caused by covid policies has been especially ruinous for impoverished students, the group that can least afford to have its education messed with. High-poverty schools had the lowest levels of in-person instruction, causing low-income students to fall even further behind their more affluent peers. As but one example, in Baltimore, 93% of students are no longer proficient in math.
Per ZERO TO THREE's most recent "State of Babies Yearbook" report, nearly 1 in 5 of America’s more than 11 million babies are now being raised by families in poverty. And when parents are preoccupied with obtaining basic needs and dealing with the stress of having to cut work hours or leave jobs entirely because their kids are stuck at home when they’d normally be in school — many of which schools provide free meals — the ability to provide a nurturing environment and supportive care is drastically reduced. As Alicia Wong puts it, “For many, the emotional and financial stress grew exponentially as their ability to buffer dropped, enabling stressors to saturate their babies’ spongey brains.”
The response to the virus shows a very polarized approach to risk, to put it mildly. The covid spaz faction that clung like carrion to a pre-vaccine paradigm until it was no longer fashionable (though in many circles it still is) are overwhelmingly white, liberal, urban, and affluent. That they've been allowed to dictate “the price worth paying” for our collective covid policies despite not having to pay that price themselves says everything you need to know about their morals; and their ignorant, obstinate solutionism — the assumption that every problem can be solved if the right means are employed and the right people put in charge — most definitely played a role in prolonging the most catastrophic public health response in American history.
“By far, the two biggest predictors of whether a given school district during the pandemic has been open or closed, masked or unmasked, have been the size of the local vote margin for or against Donald Trump and the comparative strength of teachers unions. There are 13 states that still have mask mandates for schools; all but Nevada favored Joe Biden in 2020 by at least 10 percentage points.” — NY Post
It bothers me when vulnerable people are forced to suffer or bear disproportionate burdens because the better off have tiny hearts. Your neuroticism does not mean you get to push people below your caste to the side; and you do not get to pretend that it’s only thanks to “new research” that the overwhelmingly negative consequences of your refusal to allow for basic cost-benefit analysis are known.
It's beyond argument that covid cult activists participated in the political gamesmanship that turned the pandemic into a tribalistic, concerted effort to suppress and demonize Americans who believed there was a better way forward; this politics-before-country approach is what gave rise to the massively disingenuous dichotomy between “saving lives” (AKA the benevolent left-wing approach) and “caring about the economy” (AKA the heartless right-wing approach).
The reality is that, rather than saving lives, the lockdowns created an economic depression that will contribute to expanding future mortality rates because of the ways in which economic and physical health are so intimately connected. Given the demographics of covid mortality, lockdowns might as well have been a policy decision of generational health inequity: They were essentially prolonging the lives of predominantly elderly people by, on some estimates, four or five years, and reducing the life expectancies and increasing the premature mortality of young people soon to be affected by the economic depression.
A study by a team of economists and medical scientists from Duke, Harvard, and John Hopkins suggests that “the long-run effects of the COVID-19 economic depression on mortality and life expectancy. . . [would result] in a 3.0% increase in mortality rate and a 0.5% drop in life expectancy over the next 15 years for the overall American population.” The researchers found that, in the U.S. alone, this would translate into “a staggering 0.89 million additional deaths over the next 15 years.”
Collateral damage, indeed.
Inflation 101: Eye-watering sums of money were spent during lockdowns; a lack of spending opportunities (combined with multiple stimulus checks) led to a build up of personal and corporate savings; as restrictions eased, people began to spend this money. Add in supply chain issues, and sustained inflation was inevitable.
The perspectives and ideas of the social sciences were resolutely ignored by our noble overlords and the mainstream media. Social science practitioners — economists, social psychologists, political scientists, sociologists, anthropologists, historians — have long been aware of the ways in which, far from being distinct, health and the economy are intimately intertwined.
Obesity is the number one risk factor for being hospitalized with severe covid. The proportion of U.S. children who are obese was rising by 0.07% a month before the pandemic, but by 0.37% a month — 5x faster — after it began. Good call on locking people in their homes for months at a time.
Guess what makes stability, routine, and predictability all but impossible? Poverty and fear.
This was known as early as April 2020, per the British Medical Journal. And as a point of comparison, according to the WHO the average fatality rate for Ebola is around 50%. Covid’s mortality impacts on Western society are less than those caused by cancer or heart disease; while its impacts in the Global South have been a fraction of those brought about by hunger, malaria, and other tropical diseases. Facts like these are why people like me have zero reservations about calling those who've demanded heavy-handed mitigation measures cowards.