The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Criminally Irresponsible

It appears that those of us who warned against the near-hysterical reaction to COVID-19 in March (e.g., here, here, here, here, and here) have been vindicated. We were correct in suggesting that the resulting draconian economic and societal shutdowns would do far more harm than good. Throughout the last weeks of March (remember the "Two Weeks to Flatten the Curve" meme) we warned that a continuation of the shutdown would accomplish little and cost a lot. Although there were only 1,900 reported COVID-19 cases in the USA at the end of March, researchers now estimate that there were in fact well over 100,000 infected people already in the USA, far more than could be controlled by a hard shutdown. Greg Ip reports:

In response to the novel and deadly coronavirus, many governments deployed draconian tactics never used in modern times: severe and broad restrictions on daily activity that helped send the world into its deepest peacetime slump since the Great Depression.

The equivalent of 400 million jobs have been lost world-wide, 13 million in the U.S. alone. Global output is on track to fall 5% this year, far worse than during the financial crisis, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Despite this steep price, few policy makers felt they had a choice, seeing the economic crisis as a side effect of the health crisis. They ordered nonessential businesses closed and told people to stay home, all without the extensive analysis of benefits and risks that usually precedes a new medical treatment ...

“We’re on the cusp of an economic catastrophe,” said James Stock, a Harvard University economist who, with Harvard epidemiologist Michael Mina and others, is modeling how to avoid a surge in deaths without a deeply damaging lockdown. “We can avoid the worst of that catastrophe by being disciplined,” Mr. Stock said.

Stock and Mina along with many, many others are now suggesting that the lockdown-free approach used by Taiwan, Sweden, Hong Kong, and other countries is the most sensible and least damaging strategy when faced with a pandemic. Ip looks at Sweden:

Sweden took a different approach. Instead of lockdowns, it imposed only modest restrictions to keep cases at levels its hospitals could handle.

Sweden has suffered more deaths per capita than neighboring Denmark but fewer than Britain, and it has paid less of an economic price than either, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Sweden’s current infection and death rates are as low as the rest of Europe’s. That has prompted speculation that it is pursuing herd immunity—the point when enough of the population is immune, due to prior exposure or vaccination, so that person-to-person transmission declines and the epidemic dies out. There is no consensus on where that point is, in Sweden or elsewhere.

Unfortunately, many other western countries reacted differently. Our rush to a lockdown occurred because deeply flawed epidemiological models predicted that millions would die, even as early data indicated that nothing of the sort would happen. In the ensuing panic, absolutely no organized risk analysis was conducted. Health care "experts," a dishonest and biased media, and the politicians who made shutdown decisions were all too ready to believe bad models that predicted catastrophic outcomes. After all, many of those same politicians and media types readily quote climate change models that repeatedly have been proven to be grossly inaccurate, yet are continually cited as reasonable drivers for public policy.

Ip goes on to quote the go-to media oracle on the subject:

“The virus is going to determine when we can safely reopen,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in April. The Federal Reserve said in late July that “the path of the economy will depend significantly on the course of the virus.”

As Alex Berenson, one of the few honest and thorough media analysts reporting on COVID-19, says: "Virus gonna virus." We can no more stop it than we can stop a tsunami, and suggesting that we keep our economy, our schools, and our society closed until the virus abates is astonishingly irresponsible. Yet, members of Team Apocalypse insist on that course of action. 

Some of this can be attributed to simple hysteria, but a non-trivial percentage of it is much more sinister. The Democrats and their trained hamsters in the media have decided that the virus is their path to the White House and power (think: the non-stop drumbeat blaming Trump for virus deaths at their convention), so they need to encourage fear, uncertainty, and doubt throughout the public.

At first their strategy seemed to be working, but like many things that come out of the Left, their ideas are unsustainable. Now the public has had it. Sure, catastrophists will remain hidden in their basements, but the rest of us are out and about, stores are getting busy, traffic is picking up, the world is re-starting. 

It's only Joe Biden, cheered on by his Democrat supporters, who suggests that he'd close it all down again if "scientists" suggested he should. I don't blame Joe—he's cognitively disabled and cannot process information well—but the mere suggestion of another shutdown is breathtakingly stupid. Worse, from what we now know, it damn close to criminally irresponsible.