As the COVID pandemic reaches the three-year mark, and the public perception of a pandemic mindset finally fades, it is high time to review the mistakes that were made. We can find a pattern to learn from, especially as it applies to the government’s reaction. Themes that unfortunately characterize the response are dogma, dictum, mandate, censorship and so-called misinformation, as well as an insensitivity to the collateral damage of interventions.
The public was infected, not just with a virus, but with fear and loathing as divisiveness grew. I and others who warned of these errors three years ago were largely marginalized, and our voices drowned out.
I have had unfettered access to Dr. Robert Redfield, former CDC director and one of the top virologists in the U.S. throughout the pandemic via multiple interviews and conversations. Redfield was curious about the possibility of a lab origin of SARS COV 2 from the beginning.
But the prevailing narrative came from Dr. Anthony Fauci, who I also interviewed about this many times, and others who felt that COVID most likely came from nature, by a generally slower process known as zoonotic transfer. Redfield pointed to 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 much easier.
JAPANESE CONTINUE TO WEAR MASKS AFTER 3-YEAR-LONG REQUEST ENDS
Redfeld felt that Gain of Function research (where a virus is manipulated to gauge its potential) could well have been at the heart of COVID origins in Wuhan, and he was not alone. Though our CDC was not allowed into China to investigate in early 2020, our Intelligence agencies including the State Department, the FBI, and Department of Energy have grown increasingly concerned about the possibility of lab origin.
And if SARS COV 2 was engineered or altered as part of a Gain of Function program in China, that could blow holes in the argument that Gain of Function research protected the world by keeping us ahead of nature. As Redfield said during his testimony to the House last week, “unleashing a new virus to the world without any means of stopping it and resulting in the deaths of millions of people.” The real failing was the lack of a true and open discussion, with a focus on pushing China to be more transparent about what happened.
I wrote about the limited effectiveness of masks for the Wall Street Journal back in May 2020. Even in the OR, where they are used routinely, proof is scant. But as the pandemic wore on, studies from Mass General Hospital, Bangladesh, and elsewhere, did show some effectiveness of masks at population control of viral spread. The Department of Defense used a simulation study to show they decreased spread on planes. But there were limitations.
First, there were few prospective controlled randomized trials. Second, there was no uniformity of mask use. And third, there was no accounting for the evolution of the virus itself as it mutated to a more and more contagious form that likely could evade even the best facial barrier.
And when masks were studied as part of a mitigating strategy at 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 downside when it came to the socialization and communication among children, but this was not taken into account when it came to arbitrarily superimposed mandates. Certainly businesses had the right to a mask policy, but across the board mandates were not proven to work and bred resentment.
Vaccine mandates also proved problematic, especially as the virus evolved and the vaccine became much less effective at stopping spread while remaining effective at decreasing severity and risks of long COVID. Vaccine mandates helped fuel a backlash of anti-vaccine sentiment. The vaccine remained effective and safe but became a political as much as a medical weapon.
Rapid testing was delayed far into the pandemic. It never made sense for a sick person to have to go to a pharmacy or hospital to be tested, a vector for spreading more disease. Rapid home testing should have been available and widespread early on in the pandemic. School closures also never made sense, not just because of the essential damage to learning, but because the risk of spread in the community was shown to be greater when children were kept out of school.
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As I wrote in USA Today in January 2021, the U.S. was an outlier when it came to 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 a pass for entry to crowded places for six months afterward. Historically, this made a lot of sense, and it turned out that the strongest immunity of all was so-called hybrid immunity, a combination of vaccinated and natural immunity. Banning and firing people for non-compliance with the vaccine following a COVID infection was a decision that would come back to haunt all levels of government.
Dr. David Oshinsky, renowned medical historian at NYU Langone Health, told me on Doctor Radio on SiriusXM that this pandemic would be most remembered in terms of technological advances including the vaccine and therapeutics. I hope he is right, unfortunately there is a large layer of government overreach and public backlash for historians to consider too.
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