Health News Digest

lockdown in California

January 11, 2021

California COVID Dreamin’ And More

By Michael D. Shaw

One of the most confounding things to come out of our COVID pandemic is the matter of efficacy of rigorous lockdowns. Taiwan (especially) and New Zealand are raised up as exemplars of how strict governmental control can achieve extremely low levels of infection. One wonders, though, if Americans could tolerate Taiwan’s approach.

After all, Dr. Fauci, referring to New Zealand, emphasized that the US is not an island with five million people that can easily be shut down. I would add that neither is it an island with 24 million people (Taiwan). And, to be fair, Americans have never been too comfortable with autocratic dictates, especially when they are vastly inconsistent from state to state.

At the same presentation, Fauci referred to our “independent spirit” as Americans, and stated that “I can understand that, but now is the time to do what you’re told.” However, in our American living laboratory, Fauci seems loath to explain one big, fat problem: The Golden state of California has simultaneously the strictest lockdown in the US, and the most active cases of COVID.

It has been implied that this glaring disharmony can be at least partially explained by non-compliance. Certainly, the “crying wolf” phenomenon and tone-deaf flouting of guidelines by political leaders doesn’t help either.

Moreover, on a per capita basis, California’s active cases are about 30 percent higher than that of Florida, which has virtually no restrictions. And, again, absent the success in relatively small island nations such as New Zealand and Taiwan, there is not much evidence to support the efficacy of lockdowns. Meanwhile, the collateral damage is undeniable. Or, as Jeffrey Tucker observes in his book Liberty Or Lockdown, Americans (and others) have been “subjected to a sadistic social experiment in the name of virus mitigation.”

Tucker also reminds us of the late Donald Henderson, MD, MPH, renowned as a leader of the international effort to eradicate smallpox. And, in fact, in 1980 the World Health Organization declared smallpox the first–and so far only–human disease to be eradicated globally. This is widely considered to be the all time greatest achievement in public health. (Chlorination of water is also up there.)

To coin a phrase, none of our current public health leaders are worthy to untie the straps of his sandals. So, maybe, we should listen to what Henderson had to say about pandemic disease mitigation.

He was concerned about ideas being promoted in 2006 calling for the bad old days of quarantines, closures, and measured lockdowns. In essence, it was based on some sort of medieval notion that we should just run away from viruses. But this was in contradiction to Henderson’s entire life experience. Now that we understood how viruses work, we need not flee, but rather build immunity through science–either natural immunity or via vaccines.

In response to the neo-medieval suggestions, Henderson et al. released an article entitled “Disease Mitigation Measures in the Control of Pandemic Influenza.” The work goes into detail regarding the mitigation measures, and their efficacy. Some highlights:

The authors are not sold on prohibition of social gatherings or quarantines; they are very cautious about widespread school closures (and unlike COVID-19, kids do get the flu); they acknowledge that social distancing can work, but are concerned about its impact on many normal daily functions; and they recommend the use of masks in medical settings, but are unconvinced about them in other occupancies.

viz. “[S]tudies have shown that the ordinary surgical mask does little to prevent inhalation of small droplets bearing influenza virus. The pores in the mask become blocked by moisture from breathing, and the air stream simply diverts around the mask.” They are more positive about N95 masks, but recommend that fit-testing be employed.

Pay special attention to the article’s final paragraph, “An overriding principle”:

“Experience has shown that communities faced with epidemics or other adverse events respond best and with the least anxiety when the normal social functioning of the community is least disrupted. Strong political and public health leadership to provide reassurance and to ensure that needed medical care services are provided are critical elements. If either is seen to be less than optimal, a manageable epidemic could move toward catastrophe.”