If I have learned anything from my kids’ homeschooling history lessons recently, it’s that the USA has a giant government, which has done nothing but grow since the election of Ronald Reagan, no matter the party affiliation of the president. Since this gigantic morass of money and power is largely allocated toward tax breaks (mainly for ultra wealthy corporate “citizens”), the military, Social Security and Medicare, plus paying interest on National Debt, it’s not surprising that USA Governmental Response to a pandemic has been so splotchy. You’d almost think that most folks in power, usually so busy prioritizing a Whole Bunch of things that _aren’t_ Public Health, have little practice Thinking This Stuff Through…
Facetiousness aside, COVID lockdowns have left me in the position of many millions of others who are fortunate enough to have homes in which to hunker down: I’m hanging out with my family, driving almost never, counting my blessings, and Doing a Lot of Thinking about Infectious Disease and Life and Ideals and Public Health. I’m not too thrilled with advice and actions coming from almost any sector of Official Public Health Response, and so I mull over relative validity of theories, and Seek A Variety of Ideas.
Some friends I respect pointed out carefully that questioning COVID lockdowns, like I do, could…align me with conspiracists or denialists. To which I responded: I’m not one of those! There are WAY more than two or three ways to make decisions about health, just like there should be way more than two political parties. (Also, a belief based on mostly careful, investigative thought is NOT the same as a belief based on fear-driven ideologies, even if both beliefs appear identical. Motivation matters! In my opinion.)
In sum: I possess a nuttiness all my own, and it isn’t a brand espoused by either of the current ruling political parties in America right now.
It turns out that many other people are putting careful thought into non-partisan COVID questioning. Thanks to M. for sending a bunch of interesting, off-beat articles, including this one.
The author is gentle and probing:
“…Keeping clarity and a sense of humor is a challenge, while trying to make sense of a morass of fear and language around this virus, which I know may be serious, but which I also think has been surrounded by a lot of panic and misinformation. I found a few anchoring facts that seem reliable – people with the virus have a recovery rate in the high 90 percents, and infection, or testing positive for it, does not mean you will get the disease…”
R. makes some valid points, so I am copying her entire e-mail here:
“This personal decision whether to stay quarantined is an important health decision. I will give you that some germs are quite scary. I saw a headline that most (working class, not retirees) people are out of savings this week--that is scary too. This week, Tucker Carlson pointed out that we are now part of the most expensive experiment, ever.
“This statistician's article seems to show that lockdowns don't actually have much benefit [he compared lockdown states and countries with those employing social distancing restrictions rather than lockdowns; he also adjusted for several factors which he shares in this article]! Now that is kind of annoying isn't it? When you think of your bills?
“I remember when my grandmother was in the nursing home (about 5 years ago now), I would go to visit sometimes and it would be locked down because of a virus plowing through. Having nursing homes locked down makes a lot of sense. Put the collective head down and let a scary wave pass.
“I’ve always believed that just because you are exposed to something doesn't mean you will get it. Dogs roll in poop, and sometimes they eat it too! The number of times they are sickened by this is almost nil. Nursing home patients, unlike your dog, are vulnerable. IMO, this is why lockdowns of THE SICK and lockdowns of EVERYONE show very little statistical difference.
“Those who are WELL will be well whether they are in quarantine or NOT. The sick are vulnerable to whatever is coming down the pike. Be it COVID, flu, or enterovirus.
“As for retirees, for them locking down might be the better choice, depending on their health. And they can afford it too…”
The exact hoped-for outcome was never clear at the beginning of the lockdowns, apart from the abstract concept of “flattening the curve,” which was a “goal” based on a few estimates and projections. And so of course it’s not clear what the hoped-for outcome will be after the lockdowns are lifted. It is a valid question to ask, now that uncountable millions of Americans have lost their livelihoods due to them: did lockdowns truly accomplish our vague goals better than other plans would have? And could we please, please define those goals a lot more clearly next time??
It’s important to keep thinking about this. Because there will be a next time, possibly as soon as next fall’s Sickness Season begins again.
Interesting ideas from a skeptical British perspective:
“Why is there a furious row about the Government’s failure to secure more ventilators when the evidence is clear that ventilators are largely ineffective at treating COVID-19? According to this letter published in the Lancet, 86% of patients put on mechanical ventilation in a Wuhan hospital died. An earlier study put the figure at 97%. For patients facing certain death without ventilation, there’s an argument for intubation, although it may just speed their demise when palliative care would be more appropriate. But for those not facing certain death, there’s mounting evidence that mechanical ventilation does more harm than good. This is the kind of gotcha journalism that has seen the public’s estimation of my profession plummet during the crisis…”
I understand in theoretical principle why an infectious disease has caused such a wholesale panic on many levels, but I continue to personally believe that humanity’s power and resources could be funneled in SOOOOOO many more productive and healing ways than lockdowns.
And yet now is not the time to “re-open” and go back to our “normal” monetized economy that let so many slip through the cracks well before COVID. Re-opening without major re-structuring will see many more millions of Americans, plus the quite-important-for-the-health-of-humans state of our Environment, slip even further through the cracks.
What happens to the folks who do not have the financial or other resources to weather a major recession? How will we approach healthcare in a country that spends twice as much as any other on a hopelessly Big Pharma Centric privatized “system” which dogmatically confuses “health” with Disease Management? How will we confront our Big Government’s bigotry and discrimination, and the sacrifice of our civil liberties to fear-based rationale? Will we collectively turn some attention back to other Big Issues facing world populations, Issues with relative mortality rates equal to if not greater than COVID, which (like climate change) additionally threaten to exacerbate deaths from COVID and other infectious diseases?
It appears that after Lockdowns are lifted, these problems will remain unaddressed by federal policy, our fantastical, exponential-growth-dependent economy will continue with no changes, and now that many millions of people have no jobs, things will be orders of magnitude worse than they were before. This is not a conspiracy theory; this is my [hopefully turns out to be wrong] observation.
Also, have I mentioned how utterly and intrinsically important it is to improve the poor health and chronic disease status of the Average American? Oh goodness, I guess I haven’t mentioned this for several paragraphs!! Well: if we don’t begin to address this issue in a seriously thoughtful way, we aren’t addressing COVID with any degree of rationality. In my opinion.
Therefore, I am not at ALL ready for lockdowns to be lifted.
On a purely selfish level I am also not ready to go out of my bubble. Will people be suddenly less scared of contracting the virus simply because lawmakers have decided that hospitals have enough beds to handle the subdued summer COVID caseload? Will people be doing the surreptitious I’m Social Distancing Better Than You dance? What is the toxicity of the anti-viral substances being sprayed around inside the stores and institutions that will soon be open for me to frequent? How will I know whether a person wants to talk with me, or would rather I take my germs elsewhere? How will I coach my children on proper social etiquette? How will I accept my own privilege if Jeff’s job/our financial situation remains intact? How will we maintain our lifestyle if it does not?
No, I am definitely not ready to go out.
M. forwarded another extremely relevant article concerning Groupthink. Three snippets:
“…thus far, talk about the virus has been focused on the medical and epidemiological facts – about which there seems to be an astonishing lack of agreement. We still have no real idea of how dangerous the virus is, nor how easily it spreads, nor how many people at the moment have it. Yet, the absence of real information hasn’t caused governments to move extra cautiously. On the contrary, it has encouraged them to take ever more radical steps…
“…The result was what social scientists call ‘an information cascade’. A radical shift in ideas and beliefs driven not by carefully assessed and evaluated data but rather by uncritically embraced observation and reinforcement of the views of others. In an information cascade, the actions and decisions of everyone else become more important than evidence you are directly acquainted with, let alone your own judgement…
“….John Ioannidis, professor of Public Health at Stanford, says, that if you project the evidence of the mortality rate from the virus from the only real ‘case study’ of the virus that we have so far, the infamous cruise ship the Diamond Princess, onto the age structure of the U.S. population, the death rate among people infected with Covid-19 would be 0.125%. A death rate that is, in fact, rather similar to flu.”
The rest of this article is highly, highly worth perusing.
Have I recently mentioned how important I think it is to take Health into account when discussing Public Health??
Here are some theories concerning the ways Use of Common Drugs may cause increased susceptibility to COVID death:
Presence of chronic disease continues to be at least as predictive of high COVID mortality risk as advanced age.
More sent by M., from Privacy International - how COVID policies are impacting privacy laws worldwide:
Jill Carnahan, a functional M.D., on possible reasons why COVID isn’t behaving like a typical respiratory virus - and what alternative treatments may work a lot better than ventilators (which aren’t working well at all):
Letter to the editor of BMJ by Anthony Mawson, concerning his interesting theories about liver involvement during COVID infection:
I hope that you and your loved ones are staying nourished and well during these unusual times. Thank you for the wonderful e-mails last week! I loved getting them all, and am grateful for the shared information and support through our magical Internet Better-than-nothing social grapevine. What are you thinking about this week? Totally okay if you don't agree with my nearly totally rational thoughts. :)