Misinformation Makes Pandemic Worse

 

Last year was a year like no other in my lifetime; perhaps in no one’s lifetime since the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. I lost my maternal grandmother in that one, so I’ve heard a lot about it. It infected 500 million in the world, about one third of the world’s population at that time. Death counts for that flu vary from between 17 million and 50 million, making it one of the deadliest pandemics in human history.

That was over a hundred years ago and modern medicine has come a long way since then. Today, we have antibiotics to treat the pneumonia that so often complicates influenza. We have much finer critical care units with sophisticated equipment and better trained doctors and nurses. This puts us in much better shape to handle a pandemic, but misinformation has often stymied attempts to control the spread of the virus and led to unprecedented economic harm.

Dr. Scott W. Atlas, of the Hoover Institute at Stanford, served from August through November as a special adviser to the Corona Task Force of President Trump. He says, “the politicization of the pandemic has made things worse by adding misinformation and vitriol to the mix. With vaccines finally being administered, we should be entering a joyous phase. Instead we endure still more inflammatory rhetoric and media distortion.”

 

Atlas says Americans need to understand three realities:

  • First – All 50 states independently directed and implemented their own pandemic policies. In every case, governors and local officials were responsible for on-the- ground choices – every business limit, school closing, shelter-in-place order and mask requirement. No policy on any of these issues was set by the federal government, except those involving federal property and employees.

 

  • Second – Nearly all states used the same draconian policies that people now insist on hardening, even though the number of positive cases increased while people’s movements were constrained, business activities were strictly limited, and schools were closed. Governors in all but a few states – Florida and South Dakota are notable exceptions – imposed curfews, quarantines, directives on group gatherings, and mask mandates.

 

Gallup and YouGov data show that 80 – 90% of Americans have been wearing masks since early August. Lockdown policies had horrendous impacts on local economies, families and children, and the virus spread anyway. Those who promote more lockdowns are ignoring these results.

 

  • Third – The federal government’s role in the pandemic has been grossly mischaracterized by the media and their Democratic allies. That distortion has obscured several significant successes, while undermining the confidence of ordinary Americans. Federal financial support and directives enabled the development of a massive, state-of-the -art testing capacity and produced billions of dollars of personal protective equipment. Federal agencies met all requests for supplemental medical personnel and hospital-bed capacity.

 

The federal government also expedited development and delivery of lifesaving drugs, such as novel antibody treatments that reduce hospitalizations of high-risk elderly by more than 70%. According to HHS, more than 200,000 doses of these monoclonal-antibody drugs have been delivered to hospitals in all 50 states. Under Operation Warp Speed, the federal government took nearly all the risk away from private pharmaceutical companies and delivered highly effective vaccines, hitting all promised timelines.

President-elect Biden has warned that more lockdowns may be necessary. Bill Gates has called for lockdowns for another six months. Dr. Anthony Fauci has suggested lockdowns may be needed until more people are vaccinated. Yet empirical data from the U.S., Europe, and Japan show that lockdowns don’t eliminate the virus and don’t stop the virus from spreading. They do, however, create extremely harmful health and social problems beyond a dramatic drop in learning, including a tripling of reported depression, skyrocketing suicidal ideation, unreported child abuse, skipped visits for cancer and other medical care.

Stanford’s Dr. Jay Bhattacharya says, “For younger people, the lockdowns are so harmful, so deadly, there’s really no good justification, especially when considering their extremely low risk from Covid-19.” (see Covid Update Simplifies Strategy).

Dr. Atlas says, “States and cities that keep their economies locked down after highly vulnerable populations have been vaccinated will be doubling down on failed policies that are destroying families and sacrificing children, particularly among the working class and poor.”

The real culprit in this pandemic of misinformation is the media. Atlas says, “The media has done its best to misinform the public with political attacks about who is to blame for this pain and misery even as it diminishes the great achievement of the new vaccines. The decline of objectivity in journalism has been evident for years. Now we see that even respected scientific journals, which are supposed to vet and publish the best objective research, have been contaminated by politics. Social media has become the arbiter of allowable discussion, while universities intimidate and suppress the free exchange of ideas necessary to uncover scientific truths.”

I couldn’t have said it better, myself. This same conclusion was reached by Dr. Marc Siegel in his recently published book Covid: The Politics of Fear and the Power of Science. For more on this see my recent post The Political Discreditation of Hydroxychloroquine.

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