It’s almost hard to remember how frantically and nonsensically people were acting in 2020, isn’t it? No cancer screenings were allowed for months. There was no in-person public schooling. There were no holidays with family. Some folks were even hugging each other through sheets of plastic hanging from the ceiling! Remember? I sure do.
It’s really important to ask two questions now that we’ve had some time away from peak COVID days: (1) why were people acting so crazy (or, in many cases, being forced to act crazy), and (2) which — if any — of those behaviors made a damned bit of difference?
It feels like the days of doing things blindly simply because the mascot says so are over. Time will continue to flush out the truth regarding how terrible our country’s COVID policies really were.
I think it’s easy to answer the first question: people were behaving insanely because they were scared. The risk of dying from COVID was — and still is — quite small for young and middle-aged people with no comorbidities, but it’s not quite zero. That point never seemed to break through in most media outlets during the height of pandemic coverage. When people are scared, they’re pliable, and they look for answers from those who know something that they don’t.
Enter life-long U.S. public health bureaucrats. Unfortunately, the anti-science, dogmatic — even oppressive — edicts that they recommended were truly a national disgrace. We’re still dealing with the fallout.
Thankfully, as the virus has predictably mutated to more indolent forms, much of the COVID-induced fear has subsided. Life is business as usual for the vast majority of people in this country. It’s tempting to just forget about 2020. It’s tempting to just think, “That was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.… Phew, glad that’s over,” as you stroll naked-faced through the grocery store (something that you couldn’t do back then, remember?).
But I’d argue that it’s incredibly important to remember 2020 and to look at those crazy edicts and examine how effective they were. I mean, if heads of state are going to throw away civil liberties with the stroke of a pen, it had better be for a good reason, don’t you think? Surely, the interventions must have been effective, right? Hugging your family through that plastic sheet better damn well have saved some lives — otherwise, it just feels silly, doesn’t it? Thankfully, the Republican-controlled Congress is asking pertinent questions about the COVID response.
I was delighted to see that the Committee on Oversight and Accountability’s Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic held a roundtable discussion entitled “Preparing for the Future by Learning From the Past: Examining COVID Policy Decisions.” The subcommittee, led by Rep. Brad Wenstrup, a Republican from Ohio, sought to do something that has been severely lacking in Washington, D.C. throughout this entire COVID saga: entertain opposing viewpoints (gasp!).
The approach up until this point — at least from the U.S. government — has been to quash and censor anyone who disagrees in any way with the edicts handed down by the anointed patron saint of COVID, Dr. Anthony Fauci. With a new GOP-controlled Congress, a sense of balance is being restored.
Tuning in to a congressional subcommittee hearing can be about as exciting as watching rainwater evaporate from a driveway, but this time it felt important, so I did. Public health officials in the U.S. got so much wrong regarding the COVID response that it’s actually very prudent for Congress to investigate their faulty recommendations and start holding people accountable.
Now, I’m a nice guy, and I don’t want to see our COVID mascot, Dr. Fauci, get tarred and feathered out on the National Mall. I do, however, want people to realize how wrong he and his cronies were about so many pandemic-related issues. Understanding their mistakes could have important bearing on future public health policy. This first subcommittee meeting proved to be a good starting point for that endeavor.
The invited speakers consisted of three dissenters: Dr. Martin Kulldorf, a Harvard professor of medicine (on leave); Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a Stanford professor of health policy; and Dr. Martin Makary, a professor and surgeon at Johns Hopkins. Dr. Georges Benjamin, the Democrat-invited speaker, is the executive director of the American Public Health Association.
You may recognize those first two names as coauthors of the Great Barrington Declaration, a watershed moment in the fall of 2020 when prominent epidemiologists and physicians publicly called for a more focused COVID mitigation strategy rather than draconian lockdowns. I wrote about it at the time. It truly excited me because, finally, prominent medical voices were pushing back against the government narrative. They were explicitly saying that edicts from Fauci and the like were causing more harm than good and weren’t even particularly effective at controlling COVID spread. They were espousing common sense based on hundreds of years of prior knowledge as it pertained to epidemiology and immunology. They rang a clear bell of reason at that time and did so at great personal and professional risk. It was admirable. (READ MORE by Reed Spaulding IV, MD: Follow the Science: Health Professionals Say Lockdowns Were a Massive Mistake)
They were right, by the way, and the government bureaucrats were mostly wrong. The COVID overlords have been shown to be wrong on a number of fronts — from the importance of natural immunity to the effectiveness of mask mandates, to the detrimental effect COVID school closures would have on children’s learning and overall well-being, to … well, you get the point. They’ve been wrong a lot! And, for the first time, those with informed-yet-opposing views are being invited to explain this on the record in the halls of Congress. Marvelous.
The subcommittee will have much to unpack in its future meetings, some of which was alluded to by its invited speakers. For example, many parents don’t see the point of vaccinating their children against COVID, even though the CDC recently added it to the childhood immunization schedule. Now, some physicians are afraid that vaccine hesitancy for COVID shots will negatively affect the administration of other childhood vaccines — ones that are actually very important for children to receive, like measles.
And, speaking of vaccines, why does the FDA need 75 years to release the Pfizer vaccine data? We’ll all pretty much be dead by then… Is there something to hide from us now? And what can we learn from Sweden, which had an effective and yet much more American-esque, freedom-preserving response to COVID than, well, America did? All of this and more was touched on during the session.
It feels like the days of doing things blindly simply because the mascot says so are over. Time will continue to flush out the truth regarding how terrible our country’s COVID policies really were. It took a while, but veracity is finally emerging in Washington, D.C., to ameliorate the current mess and, hopefully, give some better guidance for the next one. Reasonable people with reasonable ideas based on facts and science — not bureaucratic dogma — will win the day. Truth conquers. Veritas vincit. Always.
READ MORE by Reed Spaulding IV, MD:
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