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As the COVID pandemic reaches the three-year mark and the public’s perception of a pandemic mentality finally fades, it is time to revisit the mistakes made. We can find a pattern to learn from, especially as it applies to the government’s response. Issues that unfortunately characterize the response are dogma, maxim, mandate, censorship and so-called misinformation, as well as insensitivity to the collateral damage of interventions.
The public was infected, not just by a virus, but by fear and loathing as the division grew. I and others who warned of these errors three years ago have been largely sidelined and our voices drowned out.
The origin of COVID.
I had unlimited access to Dr. Robert Redfield, former director of the CDC and one of the leading virologists in the US throughout the pandemic through multiple interviews and conversations. Redfield was curious about the possibility of a laboratory origin of SARS COV 2 from the beginning.
But the prevailing narrative came from Dr. Anthony Fauci, who I also interviewed about this several times, and others who thought that COVID probably came from nature, by a generally slower process known as zoonotic transfer. Redfield showed the furin cleavage site and associated genetic sequences that appeared to come from a human virus and wondered how they got there, especially since they made human-to-human transmission so much easier.
JAPANESE CONTINUE TO WEAR MASKS AFTER 3 YEAR REQUEST
Redfeld thought that Gain of Function research (where a virus is manipulated to measure its capabilities) might well have been at the heart of the origin of COVID in Wuhan, and he wasn’t alone. Although our CDC was not allowed into China for research in early 2020, our intelligence agencies such as the State Department, FBI, and Department of Energy are increasingly concerned about the possibility of laboratory origin.
And if SARS COV 2 was made or modified as part of a Gain of Function program in China, that could blow holes in the argument that Gain of Function research was protecting the world by keeping us ahead of nature. As Redfield said during his testimony to the House last week, “unleashing a new virus on the world with no means of stopping it and leading to the deaths of millions of people.” The real failure was the lack of a true and open debate, with an emphasis on pushing China to be more transparent about what happened.
Orders, Mitigation and Closures.
I wrote about the limited effectiveness of masks for the Wall Street Journal in May 2020. Even in the OR, where they are routinely used, the evidence is scant. But as the pandemic continued, studies from Mass General Hospital, in Bangladesh and elsewhere, showed some effectiveness of masks in population control of the spread of the virus. The Department of Defense used a simulation study to show that it reduced the spread on airplanes. But there were limitations.
First, there have been few prospective randomized controlled trials. Second, there was no uniformity in mask use. And third, there was no reason for the virus itself to evolve as it mutated into an increasingly contagious form that could probably evade even the best facial barrier.
And when masks were studied as part of a mitigation strategy in schools, for example, there was no way to tell whether the improved results were due to a testing strategy, improved ventilation, distancing or masking. Masks had a huge disadvantage in terms of socialization and communication between children, but this was not taken into account when it came to arbitrarily superimposing commands. Certainly businesses had the right to a mask policy, but in general the mandates did not prove to work and caused resentment.
Vaccine mandates also proved problematic, especially as the virus evolved and the vaccine became much less effective at stopping the spread while remaining effective at reducing the severity and risks of long-term COVID. Vaccine mandates helped fuel the backlash of anti-vaccination sentiment. The vaccine remained effective and safe, but it became a political as well as a medical weapon.
Rapid testing was long delayed until the pandemic. It never made sense for a sick person to have to go to a pharmacy or hospital to get tested, a carrier of more diseases. Rapid home tests should have been available and widespread early in the pandemic. Closing schools also never made sense, not only because of the substantial damage to learning, but because the risk of community spread proved to be greater when children were out of school.
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Natural immunity after infection.
As I wrote in USA Today in January 2021, the US was extreme in not counting immunity from infection as a form of protection.
In fact, Israel and the European Union allowed proof of infection (as well as vaccination) as an entry card to crowded places for six months afterwards. Historically, this made a lot of sense, and it turned out that the strongest immunity of all was the so-called hybrid immunity, a combination of vaccinated and natural immunity. Banning and firing people for vaccine non-compliance after a COVID infection was a decision that will reverberate across all levels of government.
Dr. David Oshinsky, renowned medical historian at NYU Langone Health, told me on Doctor Radio on SiriusXM that this pandemic will be remembered most for technological advances, including vaccine and therapeutics. I hope he is right, unfortunately there is a large layer of government overreach and public backlash that historians have to consider as well.
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