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Sunday, May 16, 2021

Settled Science - Huh? The Grain Of Salt Heresy And The Great American Lockdown

The CDC today announced that fully vaccinated people no longer have to wear masks, inside or out. It was not long ago that the agency was saying, however, that not only could vaccinated people be asymptomatic and shed the virus, but they could catch and fall sick from one of the COVID variants. So masks would be necessary for vaccinated people, now, and perhaps for some time to come.

CDC also stated that children, while they rarely became ill, were prime vectors for transmitting the disease; but now they are not so sure, and probably not. CDC went on to insist that the six-foot social distancing rule was inflexible, but have since modified their position, suggesting that three feet is sufficient. Why the change of heart?   

dr fauci mask that could end all this duct tape

While there is room for new information in all scientific inquiry – the sun would still be revolving around the sun without Copernicus; little homunculi would be causing disease if it hadn’t been for Koch and Pasteur; and we would still be avoiding the Roman Coliseum because of its bad air – most scientific suppositions are no more than that.  Theories at best, hypotheses at worst.  If the history of science has shown us anything, it is that nothing is ‘settled’.

Image result for Images Copernicus. Size: 166 x 204. Source: www.britannica.com

However, scientific hypotheses and theories have consequences, and the past pandemic year has shown how disruptive they can be.  Schools were closed, families kept apart, friendships dissolved from disuse, censure and self-righteousness epidemic, government authoritarianism bolstered, and life made miserable. 

In fact science was ignored.  It was known from the very beginning that those most likely to suffer and die from COVID were those with compromised immune systems; and since most older people had some form of health compromise, they as a demographic group were the most vulnerable.  Rather than focus on them – enforcing quarantine and surveillance; and providing the necessary assistance for them to stay in place – COVID became everyone’s disease, presumptive science became the rule, and the country was locked down

If those most likely to get and die from the disease had been cloistered, then hospital ICUs would not have been overrun, medical facilities not taxed, and the economy not shuttered.  Young, healthy people would certainly have gotten the disease and transmitted it to each other, but the likelihood of serious illness was always very slim indeed.

So ‘the science’ – and here the facts were known quickly and accurately – correctly identified the epicenter or demographic heart of the disease, but scientists still insisted that COVID was ‘everyone’s’ disease, a fallacy promoted thirty years ago at the heart of the AIDS epidemic.  The science was ignored – that the locus of the the disease was in promiscuous homosexual populations and drug users – and widespread public information campaigns suggesting that anyone could get the disease were created.  

It was the aggressive, well-organized, powerful gay lobby which, hoping to forestall the expected prejudice against gay men, influenced public policy.  A former CDC Director confided to a journalist that he had never in his long career ever seen classic epidemiological evidence so ignored and public health responses so distorted.

See the source image

In other words there is neither any such thing as settled science nor politics-free science, and to assume so – as progressive Democrats have done for a year –  is to once again distort public health responses. Not only have political activists turned a public health issue into a political one.  

Wearing a mask – even under the most unreasonable conditions – has become a political statement; and worse, in the words of many like Governor Cuomo of New York, a moral one.  Not wearing a mask, he implied, was tantamount to murder.  New President Biden wore a mask even when no one was around.  He was videoed walking up a long, empty corridor, flanked by flags and escutcheons, and masked.  In an embarrassing  international moment he sat alone in front of large Zoom screen before other world leaders, only he wearing a mask. 

Neighbors turned informers and vigilantes.  Anyone not wearing a mask was called out, shamed, and marginalized.  

Perhaps as importantly common sense was ignored or dismissed.  No disease has been transmitted in the wide open spaces, no errant breeze infecting runners.  Tight, airless, crowded places should be avoided.  Reasonable hygiene should be practiced.  By flouting ‘scientific’ assumptions and by promoting its communitarian moralism, progressives did far more harm than good.

J'accuse Zola

As part of the progressive political decision-making was an automatic arrogation of authority to the central government.  Progressives in general distrust individual enterprise and ability to make rational, reasonable decisions; so, they say, government must act in their stead.  Yet personal responsibility is at the heart of any community.  A combination of appropriate government authority (i.e. targeting, isolating, and surveilling older Americans) and personal responsibility (we who are most prone to the disease, get sick from it, tax public resources, and infect others, must self-quarantine without exception) could and should have been the appropriate  approach.

So the perfect storm – an epidemic which never was treated like an epidemic, ‘scientific’ assumptions which were made which turned out to be wrong but which adversely affected personal, social, educational, and economic life, communities made fearful and uncharitable, and billions lost from productive enterprise and in taxes, and a woeful pall cast over the nation.

China, of course, had none of these problems; and quickly, decisively, and absolutely controlled the virus and went back to work.  While America fussed and bothered, China did what was necessary.  It began massive testing programs and official, inflexible  quarantines for anyone testing positive.  Those in quarantine were surveilled and anyone breaking it were subjected to fine and/or imprisonment.  All those who entered China or moved from one province to another were automatically quarantined. 

Image result for images chinese flag

In other words, the Chinese knew that the virus was real, deadly, and infectious and that they had the authoritative powers to stop it in its tracks.  There was no need to be epidemiologically sophisticated and to isolate only some as would be required in more democratic societies.  Why bother?

Now, despite fits and starts, the virus seems to be getting under control in the United States; but there are still those who, largely because of government’s ‘we are all at risk’ campaign, still have the willies.  The South Africa and Indian variants might well make their way here.  Vaccine immunity might be not be as high as touted, and the country could go into freefall.  Better to keep wearing masks, socially distance, and stay away from all social gatherings just in case.  It will take them a long time to return to normal.

Those who have made their progressive bones by being on the frontlines of pandemic heroism and right behavior are resting on false laurels and in search of other causes.

All the rest of us who took everything with a grain of salt, who expected ups and downs, political posturing, and facile assumptions, fared best of all.  We were inconvenienced, frustrated, and at times angry, but went about our business with a good sleep at night.  Human folly has been the meme of history.

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