The head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control admitted Wednesday that her agency’s problems, magnified during its mishandling of the COVID pandemic, can only be remediated by what she called an ‘ambitious’ overhaul.- Sponsored –
Dr. Gail Walensky, former professor at Harvard Medical School and the one-time chief of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital said Wednesday that missteps during the most recent pandemic and the slow response to the spread of the disease known as “Monkeypox” have persuaded her significant changes are necessary.
CDC critics have long argued its COVID recommendations were often useless or counterproductive to stopping the virus from spreading. Sometimes both. One oft-cited example is its development of a test to detect the disease that failed to work after it was made available, potentially providing an inaccurate picture of the novel coronavirus’s spread.
The agency’s new focus, she wrote in an agency-wide email, would be on becoming “more nimble and responsive to needs that arise in health emergencies,” Statnews.com reported, while making it a priority to gather data “that can be used to rapidly dispense public health guidance, rather than craft scientific papers.”
Yet it is the issuance of exactly that kind of public health guidance, agency critics say, that led to confusion during the COVID pandemic, potentially making the situation worse by creating a false sense of security that left people feeling they were protecting themselves by utilizing measures that were ineffective in stopping the spread or preventing exposure to the virus. One of those, the social distancing guideline setting out the need for people to remain at least six feet apart from one another is now known to have been issued based on no scientific testing whatsoever. It was, people now feel comfortable acknowledging, a made-up number that did not come from, as it was popular to say at the time, “following the science.”
In her email, Walensky told the agency’s 11,000 employees, “For 75 years, CDC and public health have been preparing for Covid-19, and in our big moment, our performance did not reliably meet expectations.” Her new goal, she wrote, is to create “a new, public health action-oriented culture at CDC that emphasizes accountability, collaboration, communication, and timeliness.”
She has a long way to go. Jason Schwartz, a health policy researcher at the Yale School of Public Health told CBS News “We saw during COVID that CDC’s structures, frankly, weren’t designed to take in information, digest it and disseminate it to the public at the speed necessary.”
What the agency did do was assist in the politicization of the disease, confuse the public, and fight all efforts to be held accountable for its mistakes on Capitol Hill. Writing in the Washington Examiner, Zachary Faria – who acknowledged Walensky was not at the CDC when the pandemic began – nonetheless added to the confusion by misstating the president’s intentions regarding vaccine mandates.
“She confused the public repeatedly, saying that President Joe Biden was considering a vaccination mandate before backtracking to say that there ‘Will be no federal mandate.’ Not even two months later, Biden did indeed put a vaccine mandate in place,” Faria wrote.
The CDC director also helped inflame the public’s anxiety by appearing at congressional hearings wearing two masks despite having received several doses of the vaccine. Such displays of caution on her part conflicted with the messages public health experts were sending to the American people who, seeing things with their own eyes, saw that even they were not sure what they were telling everyone was correct.
“Worst of all was how Walensky and the CDC justified restrictions on children, who have never been at serious risk from COVID,” Faria wrote, explaining her repeated change in position about social distancing in schools and the need to vaccinate teachers and students helped keep schools closed for an unacceptable period.
“If your culture is not aligned entirely with what your mission is, it doesn’t matter how good the strategy is. It doesn’t matter what your org charts are. It is all about the workforce culture,” Jay Varma, who spent 20 years at CDC before becoming director of the Cornell Center for Pandemic Prevention and Response at Weill Cornell Medicine told Statnews.com.
“It’s an agency run by geeks. It’s run by doctors and Ph.D.’s,” Varma said. “What are doctors and scientists notoriously bad at? Managing. They’re really good at hypothesis-driven research and analyzing information and making predictions about what might happen. What they’re really bad at is managing people in an effective way.”
Walensky will need time to make the changes – but it is time the country may now have. The CDC has been slow to respond to the emergence of Monkeypox, an infectious viral disease occurring in humans and other animals marked by fever, swollen lymph nodes and a rash that forms blisters that eventually crust over. The fact that is spreading disproportionately “among men who have sex with men and their sexual networks,” as CNN recently put it, has heightened concerns that political sensitivities are being allowed to interfere with the steps needed to prevent it from spreading into the at-large population.
“Not wanting to reproduce the kind of anti-gay stigma seen during the early AIDS crisis, some argue that articulating which group is at highest risk for monkeypox infection might be dangerous,” CNN said, probably unaware that this was an almost exact description of how the CDC and other public health agencies failed in their reaction to COVID even before it reached the pandemic level.
Against the advice of many who suggested the primary objective should be the isolation of those at high risk for fatal outcomes following exposure to COVID, the CDC and others attempted to isolate and immunize the nation. This led to economic and social lockdowns from which it will take years, perhaps decades before America can recover. It can be said the CDC’s bad advice, politicization and lack of readiness cost the nation hundreds of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars.
For nearly two years the CDC and other public health agencies and administrators made pronouncements that infected the American way of life at every level, often without debate or examination. Efforts to call their dictates into question were ridiculed, even suppressed, at great cost to the nation. It’s helpful that Walensky wants to reform her agency, but the best reforms come only after we know what happened to cause the problems.
Somehow, Walensky and other public health policymakers want to skip over that critical phase. No one wants to acknowledge their mistakes in public, especially if people died because of them. Nonetheless, they should not be allowed to hide behind the banner of reform now without being held accountable. America deserves an explanation, post-COVID, of how things were allowed to get as bad as they did. Not just an explanation of where the disease came from and whether it was produced in some far-off biological research facility and somehow got away but why the response to the infection was met with so much inconsistent advice coming from the government agencies employing the well-paid, well-funded experts who were supposed to know it all.
They didn’t, and we deserve to know why.
Billions of dollars in taxpayer funds intended to keep schools open during the COVID-19 pandemic will instead be used to push Critical Race Theory on children.
$122 billion from President Joe Biden’s “American Rescue Plan” is slated for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund. Under the law, those funds are supposed “to help safely reopen and sustain the same operation of schools and address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the Nation’s students.”
Fox News reports schools in some states plan to instead spend those funds on “implicit bias” and “anti-racism” training, which teaches children that all white people are racist and global socialism is the only hope for racial reconciliation.
Fox News reports:
Applications were due on June 7, 2021, and at least $46.5 billion from the ARP ESSER fund has been allocated to 13 states, including California, New York and Illinois, that are planning to use the funds to implement CRT in their schools.
The California Department of Education was awarded $15.1 billion in ARP ESSER funding to implement its schools reopening plan, which included $1.5 billion for training resources for school staff regarding “high-need topics,” like “implicit bias training.”
The California DoE used funds to “increase educator training and resources” in subjects such as “anti-bias strategies,” “environmental literacy,” “ethnic studies,” and “LGBTQ+ cultural competency,” according to the plan.
[Secretary of Education] Cardona said in November 2021 that he was “excited” to approve California’s plan, and that it laid the “groundwork for the ways in which an unprecedented infusion of federal resources will be used to address the urgent needs of America’s children and build back better.”
The U.S. Department of Education claims the political re-education classes are necessary to “meet student and educators’ social, emotional, and mental health needs” and are part of a larger government-driven “culture shift” to ensure schools “reopen equitably for all students.”
The Chinese government has chosen to enforce its ‘Zero Covid’ policy with a degree of cruelty and zealousness the Chinese people haven’t experienced since the Cultural Revolution.
Reportedly responding to more infectious Covid-19 variants, the Chinese government has recently put 46 cities and 343 million residents under strict lockdowns. The ruthlessly enforced lockdown policies, empty shelves in grocery stores, and widespread food shortages have become a wake-up call for many.
After the Chinese Communist Party brutally cracked down on the pro-democracy movement in Tiananmen Square in 1989, it offered the Chinese people an unwritten grand bargain: exchanging their political freedom for economic growth. The last four decades of economic reforms have lifted China’s living standards.
“Many Chinese believe that the country’s recent economic achievements—large-scale poverty reduction, huge infrastructure investment, and development as a world-class tech innovator—have come about because of, not despite, China’s authoritarian form of government,” observe Rana Mitter and Elsbeth Johnson in Harvard Business Review. The party’s censorship, tight control of all aspects of Chinese society, and the rising nationalist movement have left little room for dissenting from this view.
The CCP’s genocide in Xinjiang against the Uyghur Muslims and other minorities and the party’s crackdown on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement were stories that either received no coverage or distorted coverage in mainland China. Many mainlanders chose to believe the Chinese government’s rhetoric that these stories were manufactured by hostile Western forces who sought to destabilize China and stop the nation’s inevitable return to its rightful place as a dominant power in the world.
The majority of Chinese supported Beijing’s “Zero Covid” policy between 2020 and 2021, which relied on mandatory vaccination, testing, quarantines, and border control to isolate the entire nation from the rest of the world for more than two years. They point to China’s low Covid case numbers and deaths (many outside of China found those numbers highly questionable), in contrast to high case numbers and fatalities in the West, as evidence that China’s political system is superior to Western democracy.
Some in the West agreed. Early last year, New York Times China correspondent Li Yuan gleefully tweeted her piece, “In a Topsy-Turvy Pandemic World, China Offers Its Version of Freedom.” She claimed that “the pandemic has upended many perceptions, including ideas about freedom. Chinese don’t have freedom of speech, freedom of worship, or freedom from fear, but they have the freedom to move around and lead a normal day-to-day life,” thanks to the Chinese government’s aggressive response to the pandemic.
But the Chinese people and overseas cheerleaders of the CCP regime had a rude awakening this year thanks to the lockdown in Shanghai, a city of 26 million people known for their wealth and sophistication. The Chinese government has chosen to enforce its “Zero Covid” policy with a degree of cruelty and zealousness the Chinese people haven’t experienced since the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).
For example, residents have been locked inside their apartments like animals, and some even have metal barriers and fences outside their homes. One foreigner in Shanghai told the BBC, “No one can get out, and I feel helpless.”
There’s widespread hunger because people are not allowed to go grocery shopping and the government-run food delivery has been meager. Guards in white protective gear beat residents who attempted to sneak out to buy some food or even tried to dig up herbs in the yard.
People with chronic illnesses or medical emergencies couldn’t get timely treatment. After a video showing a community worker in a white hazmat suit beating a corgi to death, pet owners have additional concerns.
Chinese social media is full of posts of desperate Shanghai residents pleading for food, medical help, or someone to take care of their pets. Adults have been taken from their homes and forced to spend weeks in poorly run mass quarantine camps, and young children have been cruelly separated from their parents.
Some of the Communist regime’s overseas cheerleaders have changed their minds following the brutal Shanghai lockdowns. Yuan of The New York Times, who lectured Americans that the Chinese version of freedom is more preferable than the freedom in the United States, recently wrote, “China’s ‘Zero Covid’ Mess Proves Autocracy Hurts Everyone.”
More importantly, what happened in Shanghai has evoked the older generation’s memories of the horrors of the Cultural Revolution, and shattered younger generations’ confidence in the government. More and more Chinese people have shown they’re losing faith in the Chinese government’s policies and narratives.
Some chose to speak out. Zhong Hongjun, a professor at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, said the government’s actions are so “inhumane” that he regretted supporting the “Zero Covid” policy.
Some chose to protest. In one residential compound, residents clashed with health authorities and police in a desperate attempt to block the government from turning their housing complex into quarantine camps for Covid patients. Police arrested several protesters.
Since speaking out and protesting in broad daylight are dangerous in an authoritarian regime, others chose more discrete ways to express their anger and frustration. A six-minute video titled “The Voice of April” went viral in China on April 22. It included voices of Shanghai residents complaining about food shortages and lacking medical care and revealing the human toll of the government’s Covid policies.
The video had millions of views, and Chinese netizens tried many creative ways to preserve and share it before the censors took it down, including saving copies on blockchains. Zeyi Yang, a writer for Technology Reviews, calls the Chinese netizens’ actions an example of “digital protesting.”
There are other signs that more Chinese people are losing faith in the Chinese government after witnessing what has happened in Shanghai. China’s capital city Beijing is facing a Covid-19 outbreak. Worrying that Beijing would undergo a Shanghai-style lockdown, Beijing residents stocked up on food and wiped grocery stores clean, despite government officials’ repeated announcements of no food shortages.
There are indications the lockdowns will result in an exodus of people and capital. An online survey revealed that about 85 percent of Shanghai’s expat residents were considering leaving China due to its lockdown policies. Shanghai-based immigration consultants reported that immigration inquiries from wealthy Shanghai residents have skyrocketed.
One consultant received more than 200 immigration inquiries in one day. He explained that “The authorities are making people sacrifice their basic needs to fight a disease that’s a bit more severe than seasonal flu. Our clients chose to vote with their feet.”
Since the Chinese government has put hundreds of millions of residents under lockdown, Shanghai residents’ torment has been repeated in many other parts of China, so many share Shanghai residents’ anger and frustration. Not surprisingly, more Chinese people have woken up from the government’s lies and cruelty. Beijing’s insistence on harsh “zero Covid” measures may become the regime’s undoing, as more and more Chinese have finally learned that their health, safety, and prosperity are not secure without political freedom.
Two years ago, millions of Americans were summoned into lockdowns, throwing families into financial crises and kicking kids out of school. And it was counterproductive, finds a new study, not only not reducing Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths but inflicting additional harms such as millions of missed cancer screenings, increased suicide and anxiety, and ruining children’s educational futures.
“The correlation between health and economy scores is essentially zero, which suggests that states that withdrew the most from economic activity did not significantly improve health by doing so,” says the National Bureau of Economic Research study out this month.
According to the study, a stricter lockdown in states was correlated with the worst Covid outcomes, exactly opposite of what the corporate media and public health establishment told Americans. Fittingly, these freedom-restricting states were mainly Democrat-run. In contrast, the Republican-governed states with shorter and looser lockdowns showed lower Covid mortality while reducing the harms lockdowns cause people.
The study found the worst outcomes were found in New Jersey, Washington DC, and New York state, and the best in Utah, Nebraska, and Vermont.
Due to ill-advised lockdowns, many young Americans were deprived of a consistent education for nearly two years. Even when Covid cases dropped, numerous leftist school boards across the country voted against in-person learning. The study found in-person learning to be safer than remote learning both for children’s mental health and Covid prevention. This is because Covid poses a very low risk of danger to children, while lockdowns a high degree of risk.
“School closures may ultimately prove to be the most costly policy decision of the pandemic era in both economic and mortality terms,” says the NBER study. “One study found that school closures at the end of the previous 2019-2020 school year are associated with 13.8 million years of life lost… The OECD estimates that learning losses from pandemic era school closures could cause a 3% decline in lifetime earnings, and that a loss of just one third of a year of learning has a long-term economic impact of $14 trillion.”
According to a study published by Fair Health, during lockdowns children under the age of 18 showed an increase in anxiety disorders, major depressive disorder, and intentions to self harm. Despite such evidence, Democrats refuse to take responsibility for damaging Americans’ health and well-being.
The NBER study also notes that Florida, a state that reversed its lockdown early and faced years of media criticism for it, had better outcomes than many severely locked down states.
“Although sometimes criticized as having policies that were ‘too open,’ Florida proved to have average mortality while maintaining a high level of economic activity and 96 percent open schools,” the study notes.
Even today, after dozens of studies finding similar results visible as early as April 2020, just one month into U.S. lockdowns, the Biden administration is still reluctant to officially waive Covid restrictions and give kids the childhoods they deserve. The administration recently renewed the face mask requirement for airplane travel and is keeping more Covid restrictions on the table.
Governments and employers also continue restricting economic activity and damaging public trust by mandating certain Covid treatments for people to participate fully in society.
For a party whose representatives cried for the children at the border, what about American children who were robbed of an education and locked inside for nearly two years?
The lockdowns mark the start of a ride we can’t get off.
Two years ago this week, the United States shut down. Churches, schools and businesses went dark. Weddings, funerals, and birthdays went silent. City streets stood empty, with an eeriness closer resembling occupied Paris than the bustling hubs they’d been just days before.
Two years later, as the last of the mask mandates for school children falter and crack, it’s tempting to believe our nightmare is finally over. Just as the disease is going to haunt us a long while, however, so too will the effects of how we tried to fight it.
Americans’ relationships with our politicians, bureaucrats, schools, media, police, and churches are fundamentally altered. Indeed, the entire West’s relationships with these major segments of society are forever remade. As we look out on the wreckage of two years of Covid policies, as well as our spiking fuel prices, rocketing inflation, a contested election, a Chinese Olympics, and a land war in Europe, it’s increasingly clear that, far from standing at the end of a dark era, our civilization teeters unsteadily at the very beginning of one.
It’s hard to notice at first. The modern West has become so accustomed to a slow, steady decline — the kind Merle Haggard sang about, and Ronald Reagan ran against — that complaining about it has become cliché; like the angry old man waving his cane.
More than that, it’s very tempting to view the past two years as separate from our other major problems. But just as Black Tuesday began an era marked by the Depression, the Dust Bowl, the New Deal, the Second World War, and a fundamental reshaping of the American life, so too will the Lockdowns mark the start of a ride we can’t get off.
Even in states that have long since shrugged off the bureaucrats’ Covid demands, trust is broken. The people had believed in March 2020 that if they did their parts, all would soon be well. As President Calvin Coolidge famously said, “The chief ideal of the American people is idealism… [and] the chief business of the American people is business.”
Neither Americans’ idealism nor our industry were rewarded, however. From March 2020 on, ours was rule not by people, but by bureaucratic diktat.
Our politicians betrayed us: flying abroad, getting haircuts, going maskless, holding parties, and dining out while also closing schools, forbidding gatherings, banning amenities, and demonizing all who resisted — or even questioned — their orders.
Our corporate media betrayed us: propping up liars and fools, tearing down all who spoke against their champions, and spreading fear and hatred of dissent as far and wide as their words would carry.
Our teachers betrayed us: using Covid to gain a grab bag of vacation time, control over parents, wage hikes, and other unrelated perks, all while punishing school children with years of masks, separation — and the educational and developmental retardation those rules cost.
Even our much-vaunted hospital workers betrayed us: keeping dying husbands from their dying wives, grown children from their elderly parents, brothers from their sisters, and babies from their mothers — all to ensure “Covid safety.”
As hard as it seems, much of this might be good. Not that our politicians, media, teachers, and health care are broken — as the most important essay of 2021 laid bare — but that Americans now recognize just how broken they all are.
Other betrayals, however, are fresher. While corruption among our most powerful religious leaders is older than the Bible itself, when our government declared religion a disposable pastime, many of our religious leaders publicly obeyed. When they bowed before the bureaucrats, a trust was broken, and America was left with one more central civil institution weakened when we needed it strengthened.
The family — the political unit as old as the body politic itself — also suffered greatly. While American political fights have frayed blood relations since Benjamin Franklin fought his loyalist son, the past two years have seen so marked an increase in familial destruction that few of us are left untouched.
This past Christmas, for example, people across the country told their relatives they would not be welcome if they hadn’t taken the vaccine. You probably know more people this hurt than you realize; many of them, sad and embarrassed, hid it, claiming they simply couldn’t make the trip this year.
Then there are the grandparents across the country who have never seen their grandchildren. In the past month alone, I’ve met two different couples seeing theirs for the first time ever — provided they quarantined for two weeks first, and then took a test.
The kind of fear and intolerance it takes to bar your mother from your children extends to broader society, too. Cops, hospital workers, and many others have lost their jobs over refusals to take the shot, while corporate media and its viewers loudly cheered for even harsher penalties. Confronting and reporting on businesses and people who break Covid restrictions is actively encouraged by both government and media.
Our inability to dissent from the latest Covid decree penetrates our society so deeply, liberal comedy show “Saturday Night Live” is now openly mocking how closely American liberals have had to monitor even their private conversations with friends.
We’re now so comfortable with the concept of censoring “disinformation,” it’s extended well beyond Covid. These days, it’s not surprising to see the hosts of a daytime TV show for women casually call for the investigation (and possible imprisonment) of journalists and politicians who express opposition to something they support — in this case, an American war in Ukraine.
This sort of thing has become actually monotonous: Censorship, investigation, and even arrest are offered daily as solutions to problems as mundane as political or medical disagreements. Has the phrase “We’re all in this together” ever rung so hollow?
As in past eras of marked trouble, struggle, and decline, not all our problems are plainly linked; but they coalesce in their effects.
We find ourselves more divided than we’ve been in 150 years, and so less able to handle what comes our way. Many of our civil institutions — long sick — now seem terminally ill. Distrust and enmity run high, and why shouldn’t they?
The result of these divisions: As we plunge into the next series of crises — rapid inflation, destabilized fuel prices, the real prospect of world war in Europe — we have fewer tools to handle them, less willingness to try, and more suspicion of our fellow Americans than any time in over a century.
Taking it all in, we know that we’re weaker than when we began 2020. Taking it all in, we know that far from returning to normalcy, we’re entering a period of deadly turmoil, with enemies foreign and domestic intent on taking advantage of our divisions, our distrust, and our dangerously unsteady economic situation.
We’ve been challenged before, even in modern times. The Sept. 11 attacks rocked us like we hadn’t seen since Pearl Harbor, yet we soldiered on. What’s finally missing, however, is that general feeling of confidence.
We no longer share an understanding that no matter the monsters we’d face — and we face many, here and abroad — that everything would be OK; that the American Way will go on.
“Overriding everything else,” Walter Lord wrote in his 1955 book on the sinking of the HMS Titanic, “the [disaster] also marked the end of a general feeling of confidence.”
“Until then men felt they had found the answer to a steady, orderly, civilized life. For 100 years the Western world had been at peace. For 100 years technology had steadily improved. For 100 years the benefits of peace and industry seemed to be filtering satisfactorily through society.”
“In retrospect,” he continued, “there may seem less grounds for confidence, but at the time most articulate people felt life was all right. The Titanic woke them up. Never again would they be quite so sure of themselves.”
Within two years of the sinking, the First World War began. By its end, its hubris, violence, and indifference to personal suffering destroyed a generation — and cut our civilization so deeply, the damage inflicted is still seen written on our world today.
The men who, in relative peacetime, placed supreme confidence in their steel ship against the great blue sea might only chuckle at the hubris of their successors, who had supreme confidence they could master a disease they didn’t know.
We in the West, though, can be confident of one thing only: These past two years have cut us deeply, and will haunt us for many more to come.
What’s not yet written is whether we overcome. That will be up to us, and God.
Pray for America.
The pandemic has revealed Americans to be tacit Social Darwinists, while trapping the Chinese in a vast Panopticon.
Authoritarian regimes tend to boast about themselves and denigrate their rivals. President Xi Jinping’s China is no exception. “As the Covid-19 epidemic takes away hundreds of lives every day in the U.S.,” wrote Hu Xijin, the former editor-in-chief of the Global Times, on Jan. 14, “that country’s propaganda machinery is engaging in vicious smears against China’s dynamic zero-case policy of epidemic prevention … Think about it. More than 800,000 Americans died from Covid-19 in the U.S. Behind these numbers, how many sad and desperate stories are there?”
“The experience and facts of the past two years,” wrote Guo Yan in the Economic Daily five days later, “have shown that China’s general strategy of ‘foreign defense against imported [cases] and domestic defense against breakouts’ and the general policy of ‘dynamic clearing’ are the Covid prevention policies best suited to China’s own national conditions on top of being beneficial to the world … It is the inaction and chaotic actions of some policy makers that have caused the American people to fall into the epidemic crisis time and time again.”
Might the Chinese be right? As we reach the second anniversary of the Covid pandemic, perhaps the most surprising thing is how many Americans have lost their lives compared to how few have perished in China. How are we to explain this astonishing divergence?
The simple answer is that, despite being the source of the virus that caused the pandemic, the Chinese managed containment very successfully, while the U.S. bungled everything from testing to mask-wearing to quarantining.
Some people go even further, arguing (as does Chinese Communist Party propaganda) that the difference in death tolls illustrates the superiority of China’s political system over America’s corrupt and self-indulgent democracy. However, I have never bought this second argument. And I am no longer satisfied with the first.
We now have a U.S. death toll of between (depending on your source) 860,000 and 883,000 deaths due to Covid, the 20th-highest mortality relative to population globally. Actual mortality is running at 19% above the expected figure (compared with 5% in Canada). We are heading for a million deaths by May. According to the Economist, we may already be there.
True, in relative terms — deaths per million — U.S. mortality is not the worst in the world (it ranks 19th). In terms of excess mortality, too, the U.S. has fared better than a number of Latin American and Eastern European countries. The puzzle remains that on paper — according to the Global Health Index published in 2019 — the U.S. was better prepared for a pandemic than any other country.
Even more remarkable is how few Chinese the new coronavirus has killed: Fewer than 5,000, meaning a death rate three orders of magnitude smaller than the U.S. rate. Considering that the pandemic originated in Wuhan, this is an astonishing achievement. Of course, skepticism is always warranted where Chinese statistics are concerned. But even the Economist’s estimates, which suggest that there may have been significantly higher excess mortality in China, point to a far lower relative death toll than in the U.S.
Two things explain the remarkably high mortality the U.S. has suffered in this pandemic. First, the American public health bureaucracy failed utterly. Initially, when we knew very little except that it was contagious and dangerous, the relevant agencies were staggeringly complacent when they should have been frantically testing, tracing and isolating.Sponsored ContentWhy Decisions Made Now Will Steer the Net Zero TrajectoryUBS
Then, in March 2020, the official mind flipped from complacency to panic, partly on the basis of a paper by the British epidemiologist Neil Ferguson (no relation), who argued that we had to lock people in their homes until vaccines were available or 2.2 million Americans would die.
As it became clear that this approach would wreck the global economy, the public health officials resorted to improvisation, alternately tightening and loosening restrictions on economic and social life in a reactive and mostly ineffective way. Masks were at first dismissed as unnecessary, then became mandatory even in some outdoor locations, where they served no purpose.
When some skeptical scientists challenged the wisdom of lockdowns, the public health establishment was dismissive. The Great Barrington Declaration, published in October 2020 by Harvard’s Martin Kulldorff, Oxford’s Sunetra Gupta and Stanford’s Jay Bhattacharya, offered a persuasive critique of blanket pandemic lockdowns, arguing instead for “focused protection” of vulnerable groups such as the elderly or those with medical conditions.
“This proposal from the three fringe epidemiologists … seems to be getting a lot of attention,” Francis Collins, head of the National Institutes of Health, emailed Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases. “There needs to be a quick and devastating published take down of its premises … Is it underway?”
Now that we have vaccines with high efficacy and a variant that causes mild flu-like symptoms in most vaccinated people, the official mind remains wedded to its playbook — in the parts of the U.S. where most people are vaccinated, such as northern California, where I live. Educational institutions have reverted to remote learning (an oxymoron, as everyone knows); masks are ubiquitous, even outdoors; a host of petty regulations persist.
Meanwhile, in the states with significant numbers of unvaccinated and vulnerable people, almost no precautions are taken. Consequently, the intensive care units are filling up once again. I make this the fifth wave of Covid in the U.S., and already mortality relative to population is higher than in South Africa, Denmark and the U.K., where the omicron variant struck sooner.
Yet there is a second reason for the relatively high American mortality during the pandemic, which has to do with public attitudes and behavior. I have come to the conclusion, after observing my fellow Americans for two years that — whatever our public health officials may tell us, and whatever some of us may say — in practice and in aggregate we are a nation of Social Darwinists.
Social Darwinism is a contentious term, I know, but its history is illuminating. A century ago, the ideas that came to be summed up as Social Darwinism by historians such as Richard Hofstadter were not limited to a far-right lunatic fringe. They derived from the writings of some of the era’s pre-eminent proponents of social progress.
Herbert Spencer (1820–1903) was the English philosopher who did most to import ideas derived from Charles Darwin and other evolutionary theorists (notably Jean-Baptiste Lamarck) into the study of contemporary human societies. In works such as “First Principles” (1862), “Principles of Biology” (1864) and “The Man Versus the State” (1884), Spencer sought to discern universal laws of evolution.
One of his key contentions was that most social interventions by government were harmful, no matter how well-intentioned, because they interfered with the natural laws of evolution, which were the main driver of progress.
Some Social Darwinists went even further, arguing that infectious disease had a role to play in promoting the survival of the fittest. Franz Ignaz Pruner, a German physician, anthropologist and racial theorist, wrote “The Global Cholera Pandemic and Nature’s Police” (1851), based partly on his observations in Egypt. Wherever Europeans and Americans established colonies in the tropics, officials would periodically muse that the terrifyingly high mortality rates arising from disease — and of course from poor sanitation and malnutrition — must, like famines in India, be part of some providential design.
It was a relatively short step from Social Darwinism to eugenics — the theory popularized by Francis Galton, Karl Pearson and others that government should actively promote the reproduction of the “fit” and limit the reproduction of the “unfit.”
It is easy to forget today how influential such notions were a century ago, when they appealed almost as much to progressives as to proto-fascists. Chicago sociologist and reformer Charles Henderson opposed immigration of the “unfit,” proposed that the “feebleminded and degenerate” be banished to rural labor colonies and sterilized to “prevent their propagation of defects and thus the perpetuation of their misery in their offspring.”
As Spencer had made clear, it was a guiding principle of Social Darwinism that public-health legislation “defeats its own end” and “favours the multiplication of those worst fitted for existence, and, by consequence, hinders the multiplication of those best fitted for existence.”
In “Social Statics,” he used language echoed today by American libertarians:
If … it is the duty of the state to protect the health of its subjects, it is its duty to see that all the conditions of health are fulfilled by them. Shall this duty be consistently discharged? If so, the legislature must enact a national dietary: prescribe so many meals a day for each individual; fix the quantities and qualities of food, both for men and women; state the proportion of fluids, when to be taken, and of what kind; specify the amount of exercise, and define its character; describe the clothing to be employed … and to enforce these regulations it must employ a sufficiency of duly-qualified officials, empowered to direct every one’s domestic arrangements.
Like many of today’s critics of the public-health agencies, Spencer argued that the medical profession and bureaucrats were actuated by self-interest rather than altruism and had an “unmistakable wish to establish an organized, tax-supported class, charged with the health of men’s bodies, as the clergy are charged with the health of their souls.”
Reading “Social Statics” today, you see how completely Spencer lost the argument. As we enter the third year of the Covid pandemic, the public-health clergy have established themselves in precisely the kind of well-paid positions of power that Spencer foresaw, leaving a motley array of lockdown skeptics and anti-vaxxers to rehash his old arguments.
I have tended to steer clear of the lockdown skeptics and to heap opprobrium on the anti-vaxxers. But what we really see in both cases is a kind of revival of Social Darwinism that extends beyond the militant opponents of lockdowns and vaccines to include the many millions of Americans who over the past two years have simply flouted the pandemic rules. Ignoring the prescriptions of an intrusive nanny state, or complying with them so carelessly as to render them ineffective, they have tacitly given free rein to the principle of the survival of the fittest.
Compared with Western Europeans and especially with East Asians, Americans have a remarkably high tolerance of excess mortality, especially when it is heavily concentrated in politically underrepresented social groups. The same is true with respect to the relatively high death toll from firearms that Americans tolerate, not forgetting the staggering mortality caused by opioid overdoses in the past decade, which has no parallel in any developed country.
Now contrast the American experience of the pandemic with the Chinese. If Americans resemble modern-day Social Darwinists, the People’s Republic is a utilitarian Panopticon worthy of the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham’s idealized penitentiary of the late-18th century, which relied on prisoners’ uncertainty about whether they were under observation to incentivize good behavior.
No country has more effectively used non-pharmaceutical restrictions on social and economic life to control the spread of SARS-CoV-2 than China. True, these restrictions were widely imitated, as in New Zealand. But the reason they were more effective in China than elsewhere is precisely that the Communist Party’s system of surveillance creates what Bentham called “the sentiment of a sort of invisible omnipresence.”
And yet there turns out to be a catch, in the form of a new and much more infectious variant of the virus. In omicron, Xi Jinping’s Panopticon faces a new and ghastly challenge. Not only does the Chinese population have essentially no natural immunity from previous infections, thanks to the Zero-Covid strategy; the inferior Chinese-made vaccines also offer little protection against omicron. As a consequence, China must impose tighter restrictions than ever before.
Currently, over 20 million people are under some form of lockdown in half a dozen cities, notably Xian and Tianjin, because small numbers of people tested positive. Traditional Lunar New Year celebrations are being restricted. The Beijing Winter Olympics will take place with almost no foreign spectators. The volume of international flights to China has been reduced by more than 90%.
In some ways, China’s reversion to being a closed society is of a piece with Xi’s attempt to revive other aspects of Maoism: his reassertion of the Communist Party’s dominance over the private sector, his call for more egalitarian social outcomes, his intolerance of domestic dissent and ethnic minorities, his readiness to threaten war. But it is not at all clear how any of this helps the Chinese economy grow sufficiently fast to overtake that of the U.S.
By contrast, the American propensity to ignore (or at least honor mainly in the breach) the bureaucracy’s rules and regulations — combined with the opening of the fiscal and monetary floodgates — has meant that paradoxically, the public health disaster of the pandemic has been accompanied by an economic recovery so red-hot that U.S. inflation has jumped to a rate not seen since 1982.
In the eyes of today’s Western public health experts, none of this makes sense. Neil Ferguson gave an interview last year in which he described how he and his fellow scientific advisors to the British government realized that they might be able to copy the Chinese strategy for containing Covid. “People’s sense of what is possible in terms of control changed quite dramatically between January and March ,” he recalled. “They [i.e., the Chinese] claimed to have flattened the curve. I was sceptical at first. … But as the data accrued it became clear it was an effective policy.”
The question was: Could the West copy China’s lockdown? “It’s a communist one-party state, we said. We couldn’t get away with it in Europe, we thought,” said Ferguson. “And then Italy did it. And we realized we could.”
It continues to puzzle me that so many smart people were convinced that the People’s Republic of China should be the role model for a free society faced with a pandemic (as opposed to the East Asian democracies like South Korea and Taiwan that have contained the virus with minimal lockdowns). But that was the road we attempted to go down, inflicting immense economic disruption until we realized that it was unsustainable — that not even Ferguson (or, it turns out, the government he was advising) could adhere to a system of universal house arrest, much less don’t-tread-on-me Americans.
In the U.S. today, Covid has become as much a bureaucratic as a medical condition. Having had omicron in December, I and my family remain subject to a plethora of rules that make absolutely no sense, as we can neither catch nor transmit the virus again so soon after having been infected. I pointlessly wear a mask at meetings and on planes. I pointlessly submit to regular Covid tests. I pointlessly fill out online forms attesting to my children’s health.
Perhaps at some point this year a new variant — Pi, Rho, Sigma, take your pick — will emerge that I can catch and that will give me and others something more than a mild cold. But until that time comes, I shall feel a sense of individualist resentment — that I now realize is very American — about the whole dysfunctional edifice of rules and regulations. When (if?) they are finally swept away, I shall rejoice.
And, if the Chinese Panopticon finally loses control of Chinese virus in this, the third plague year, I’ll recall that, in the history of struggles between rival empires, the fitness that determines survival is seldom correlated with a state’s power over the individual — or its propensity to boast.
The COVID bureaucracy preaches lies, censors anyone who challenges the lies, and eventually admits the same truths they previously denounced.
The COVID bureaucracy has spent two years now preaching lies, censoring anyone who challenges the lies, and eventually coming around to admit the same truths they previously denounced.
In the case of masks and vaccines, the flip-flop was even more elaborate: They insisted masks didn’t work (when they were scarce) and that the vaccine was suspicious (under Trump), only to spin around and tout both. And now that neither works effectively against the omicron variant, the narrative is falling apart again.
Over the weekend, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky appeared on numerous news shows and bluntly admitted some big truths that critics of COVID mania have been saying all along. Another admission of hers from August resurfaced on social media, after months of the media memory-holing it.
It’s about time the COVID bureaucrats come clean — and Walensky’s comments don’t cover the half of it — but we’re old enough to remember what the same group of bullies was saying not too long ago.
“Our vaccines are working exceptionally well … but what they can’t do anymore is prevent transmission,” Walensky told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in August, in a clip that made the rounds anew over the weekend.
But that’s not the narrative we’ve been inundated with for the past year. USA Today ran a “fact-check” with the headline “Vaccines protect against contracting, spreading COVID-19” in November 2021, quoting health “experts” who insisted that getting the jab makes people “much less likely to be infected therefore much less likely to spread the virus.”
President Joe Biden went even further, claiming in July, “You’re not going to get COVID if you have these vaccinations.” In October, he said, “We’re making sure health care workers are vaccinated because if you seek care at a health care facility, you should have the certainty that the people providing that care are protected from COVID and cannot spread it to you.”
He continued to parrot the claim just last month, implying that vaccinated people couldn’t spread COVID when he asked, “How about making sure that you’re vaccinated so you do not spread the disease to anybody else?”
In a “Good Morning America” appearance, Walensky admitted that “the overwhelming number of deaths, over 75 percent, occurred in people who had at least four comorbidities.” That’s what we’ve been saying all along: that response efforts should focus on protecting vulnerable populations (i.e., not sending COVID-positive patients into nursing homes) and maintaining normal activities for populations that are at low risk (i.e., not shutting down schools for semesters on end).
But it was Walensky herself who confessed last February that the CDC’s guidelines for reopening schools were influenced by the vehemently anti-in-person-learning teachers unions, which Walensky admitted resulted in “direct changes to the guidance.” Emails uncovered in September further showed that the CDC had changed its school masking policy under pressure from the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union.
And it was the coalition of power-hungry lockdown advocates and fawning media who put disgraced former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on a pedestal, despite his decision to force COVID-positive patients into nursing homes, causing thousands of unnecessary deaths among the most vulnerable.
This coalition also worked with the CDC to push months of lockdowns, business closures, mask mandates, travel restrictions, and now vaccine mandates on Americans, despite the fact that the average healthy American is at low risk of dying from COVID.
“How many of the 836,000 deaths in the U.S. linked to COVID are from COVID or how many are with COVID?” Fox News’s Bret Baier asked Walensky on Sunday. “Those data will be forthcoming,” Walensky promised, acknowledging the distinction Baier pointed out.
But a bureaucracy that was intent on maximizing COVID panic (and death counts) to undermine Trump and stir the popularity of tyrannical policies wasn’t so keen on admitting this distinction in the past.
In Washington state, for example, a May 2020 report found that the state’s health department was “overreporting COVID-19 cases by up to 13 percent by counting anyone who ‘tests positive for COVID-19 and subsequently dies’ as a coronavirus death.” A subsequent investigation found that Washington health officials appeared to be doing it again in December of the same year.
In Colorado, gunshot victims were also counted among COVID death tallies if the victims had “tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 30 days.” And local authorities in Florida counted a man who died in a motorcycle crash as a COVID victim in July 2020. But that didn’t stop media outlets and bureaucrats like Dr. Anthony Fauci from using inflated death tolls to stoke fear and panic as justification for more restrictions and mandates.
What COVID factoid — that anti-lockdowners have been insisting all along — will Walensky and the CDC admit next? Who knows.
But it’s safe to say there won’t be any apologies or honest acknowledgments of error. There weren’t with masks, the ineffectiveness of lockdowns, vaccines, the lab leak theory, or schools, after all. Instead, you can expect them to use half-truths and flat-out lies to try convincing you they’ve never been wrong — all evidence to the contrary.
The United States Supreme Court is scheduled this week to take up two cases critical to the survival of President Joe Biden’s executive orders mandating, separately, that businesses that employ more than 100 people and healthcare workers all be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus commonly called COVID-19.
Advancing American Freedom, an organization founded by former Vice President Mike Pence, announced Monday it had filed an amicus brief opposing the vaccine mandate and in support of the petitioners’ requests for a stay.
In its amicus, AAF argues that OSHA’s vaccine mandate published as an “Emergency Temporary Standard” is a means to “shortcut normal rule-making requirements” established by Congress and should be stayed in order “to prevent the irreparable harm to Americans, to jobs, to constitutional governance, and to our cherished freedoms.”
The mandates are a thorny issue, pitting the individual’s freedom of choice against the government’s responsibility as regards the general welfare of the American people. Most observers expect the court to rule against the Biden mandates but only because that’s what the tea leaves say a conservative court should do.
“America is about freedom and the ability to make the best decision for your family or business, and Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate must be stopped in its tracks in order to preserve freedom, protect American livelihoods and businesses, and to safeguard our constitution,” Pence said. “Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate is not the American way.”
Most other conservative commentators seem to be siding with Pence. Comments published Monday by highly regarded author Andrew McCarthy – a former chief assistant U.S. attorney – on the National Review website, echoed some of the points the former vice president made.
“Very simply, Biden is in violation of the Constitution. We have a republic, not a monarchy, and there is nothing inherent in the executive power conferred by Article II that authorizes the Biden decrees. So, the president lacks even arguable authority to coerce people into being vaccinated absent statutory authorization. Indeed, I must say “arguable” because it is doubtful that even Congress itself has power to force private citizens to submit to an invasive medical procedure, much less to delegate that authority to the executive branch,” McCarthy wrote.
The Biden workplace mandate is scheduled to take effect soon, affecting as many as 84 million working Americans. Last Thursday the administration asked the Court to leave the mandates intact because they were essential to helping public health officials contend with the continued number of COVID-19 cases still spreading across the United States.
President Biden’s approval rating has plummeted, and Democrats wonder why. The United States is facing hardships, but hardships alone don’t make a president unpopular. Leaders who are honest about the problems we face and forthright about the solutions they offer tend to do well (think, say, of Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan). Unfortunately, that is not the leadership Americans are getting from this president.
Instead, the Biden administration has tried to convince the public of things that are not just untrue but implausible. To note a few, Biden did not (and does not) have a “national strategy” to defeat COVID; our southern border is not “secure;” the Afghan withdrawal was not an “extraordinary success”; the current bout of inflation is neither “temporary” nor “a good thing”; and government spending never takes “the pressure off of inflation.”
Of course, politicians often overstate things and sometimes outright lie. Nothing new there. It’s the in-your-face nature of the administration’s falsehoods that is stunning.
For a recent example, take Biden’s efforts to promote his Build Back Better bill. The administration often claims that the legislation really “costs zero dollars” because it is “paid for.” Most Americans realize that paying for something doesn’t make it free. Otherwise, literally everything would be free. Seriously, people get this.
In fairness, Biden was attempting to state that BBB wouldn’t add to the deficit because taxing the rich would pay for it. But even that claim didn’t pass the smell test. Just about everybody outside of Washington, D.C., knows that government programs are never actually “paid for.” We are already borrowing from our great-grandkids just to cover our current profligate spending.
So, the Democrats resorted to various accounting tricks and budgetary chicanery to make it appear as though taxing “the rich” would pay the BBB bills. Few were fooled. Analyzing the bill using realistic assumptions, the Congressional Budget Office found that it would result in around $3 trillion in new deficit spending.
In yet another implausible claim, Biden said that BBB’s massive government spending would take “the pressure off of inflation.” No less an authority than former Clinton and Obama economist Larry Summers warned in February that profligate government spending would “set off inflationary pressures of a kind we have not seen in a generation.” The Democrats ignored him and passed a $1.9 trillion COVID relief boondoggle. In hindsight, Summers was prescient. In November, he recommended that the administration “not compound errors” it had already made “with far too much fiscal stimulus and overly easy monetary policy” and reject Build Back Better.
To counter these concerns, Biden claimed that BBB’s massive government spending would bring down inflation because government would pick up the tab for certain household expenses, such as child care. Of course, this ignores the impact that the bill would have on the supply of – and demand for – child care.
Child care providers are already in short supply. According to Sen. Richard Burr, ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, the bill would shrink the supply further “by killing off faith-based providers, small family child care homes, [and] kinship care,” while increasing the demand for child care with massive government subsidies. Not surprisingly, a study by the Progressive Peoples Policy Project, a think tank as left-leaning as its name implies, found that the bill would actually increase the cost of child care for middle-class families by about $13,000 per child annually.
The supply-and-demand dynamic and its impact on inflation seem to be mysteries to the administration – but not to most Americans. According to the Penn Wharton Budget Model, the average American family will incur an additional $3,500 in expenses this year solely because of already-surging inflation. It’s the kind of thing people notice.
Of course, the administration made this implausible claim only because the bill needed West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin’s support to pass. Manchin, however, made it clear that, with inflation already at a 40-year high, he wouldn’t support legislation that added to the deficit or further swelled prices.
Like most Americans (including Larry Summers), Manchin refused to be fooled. He announced that he won’t support the bill – effectively killing it in its present shape. Rarely deterred by reality, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer then announced that the Senate would move forward with a vote on the bill nonetheless.
Progressives have long lived in a bubble that cuts them off from the concerns of the “deplorables” in “fly-over America.” During the pandemic, the left hermetically sealed that bubble, shielding its leaders from the discontent that runs across political, geographic, racial, and ethnic lines. Otherwise, they would have foreseen the declining popularity of a president who repeatedly makes patently implausible claims and attempts to advance policies at odds with basic common sense.
The lesson here is not a new one. As someone said long ago: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”
The 10-page plan, which Vanity Fair has obtained, would enable the U.S. to finally do what many other countries had already done: Put rapid at-home COVID-19 testing into the hands of average citizens, allowing them to screen themselves in real time and thereby help reduce transmission. The plan called for an estimated 732 million tests per month, a number that would require a major ramp-up of manufacturing capacity. It also recommended, right on the first page, a nationwide “Testing Surge to Prevent Holiday COVID Surge.”
The antigen tests at the center of the plan can detect the virus when patients are at their most contagious.
Three days after the meeting, on October 25, the COVID-19 testing experts—who hailed from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the Rockefeller Foundation, the COVID Collaborative, and several other organizations—received a back channel communication from a White House official. Their big, bold idea for free home tests for all Americans to avoid a holiday surge, they were told, was dead. That day, the administration instead announced an initiative to move rapid home tests more swiftly through the FDA’s regulatory approval process.
The rapid-test push, in particular, seems to have bumped up against the peculiar challenges of fighting COVID-19 in the 21st-century United States. Difficulties include a regulatory gauntlet intent on vetting devices for exquisite sensitivity, rather than public-health utility; a medical fiefdom in which doctors tend to view patient test results as theirs alone to convey; and a policy suspicion, however inchoate, that too many rapid tests might somehow signal to wary Americans that they could test their way through the pandemic and skip vaccinations altogether. “It’s undeniable that [the administration] took a vaccine-only approach,” said Dr. Michael Mina, a vocal advocate for rapid testing who attended the October White House meeting. The U.S. government “didn’t support the notion of testing as a proper mitigation tool.”
President Biden, before departing on Marine Force One, Monday:
Q President Biden, why did your administration reject the holiday testing surge in October? Does the buck stop with you there — rejecting the surge?
THE PRESIDENT: We didn’t reject it.
We’re left with the same feeling after President Biden insisted no military adviser recommended to him to keep 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, after U.S. Central Command General Frank McKenzie and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley told Congress under oath they had recommended that action. Or Biden’s claim that he himself had predicted that the Afghan government would collapse by the end of the year. Or Biden’s claim that his late son Beau served in the U.S. Navy in landlocked Afghanistan, or his claim to have been opposed to the war in Afghanistan from the beginning. Or the number of times Biden stated that vaccinated individuals cannot spread Covid-19, or that “you’re not going to get COVID if you have these vaccinations.”
Sure, maybe Biden is just lying when he says his administration didn’t reject a holiday testing surge. But what if the president genuinely doesn’t remember what he’s been told in briefings, conversations, and decisions?
Or in the case of the rejection of the massive expansion of testing, was this decision made without Joe Biden’s involvement?
Twitter blue checks across the Northeast are utterly divorced from the reality of pandemic life in the rest of the country.
Omicron is here, and with it comes death and destruction — unless, that is, you cancel Christmas, hide in your homes, get all the boosters, double mask, and demand to see negative Covid tests and proof of vaccination for anyone who darkens your doorstep. Any precautions, no matter how seemingly outlandish, are seen as justifiable to protect yourself from this new and terrifying variant.
So it is, anyway, with a disturbingly large number of reporters and commentators in the corporate press, whose coverage and individual responses to Covid have become increasingly divorced from that of the rest of America. To watch CNN or read The New York Times, you’d think omicron was the most deadly strain of the virus to date, poised to overwhelm hospitals and leave a trail of death behind it.
The reality, which most Americans have readily grasped, is just the opposite: omicron appears to be the least dangerous strain of the virus yet. After five weeks of omicron’s spread in South Africa, where the variant first appeared, the news is encouraging: mild to nonexistent symptoms, hospitalization rates nine times lower than previous surges, and extremely low rates of severe illness and death even though only about a quarter of the population is vaccinated. Here in the United States, only one person has died from the omicron variant thus far, even though omicron cases accounted for nearly three-quarters of new infections nationwide last week.
Rather than return to lockdowns and school closures — to say nothing of canceling holiday gatherings — there’s every reason to believe we’ll be able to weather this surge with minimal disruption.
Unless you’re a member of legacy media. In that case, you’re probably going to cancel your own birthday party like The Atlantic’s Ed Yong did, even though all his birthday guests were vaccinated and boosted, and probably would have been tested before showing up at his house. But no, it was just too great a risk.
Yong, you see, covers science. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of Covid. He’s written too many stories about the pandemic to be dissuaded by mere data about omicron. For him, isolation, masking indoors, and eating outside are normal and necessary, and really what everyone should be doing.
He’s not alone. Former GOP communications director and CNN contributor Tara Setmayer blurted out on Twitter last week that she hadn’t been on a plane or gone to a movie since March 2020, and has only eaten indoors twice this entire time, even though her family is vaccinated and boosted.
This isn’t a healthy or sane response to the pandemic, especially not after nearly two years of Covid. Judging by how busy airports and movie theaters and restaurants are across the country, it’s also not normal. It’s borderline psychotic. Only people who have convinced themselves that the worst thing that could happen to them is get Covid would go to these absurd lengths.
Yet that’s exactly what many Twitter blue checks have done. CNN’s Chris Cillizza confessed on Twitter last week that the omicron surge has really hit him hard because it made him realize, for the first time, that “the vaccines don’t, really, prevent you from getting the virus,” and that they “can never do what I had hoped: Ensure no one I loved will become infected.”
Imagine being so impervious to reality — to say nothing of science and data, or even just stories about Covid in the news — that you’d still think, in December 2021, that the Covid vaccines could prevent all your loved ones from getting infected. I know we all joke about how bad Cillizza’s takes are, but come on.
It would be one thing if this insanity were confined to the Acela corridor, but it’s not. Thanks to the hysterics of our media elite, a certain segment of the American people have lost their minds over Covid and essentially become some version of the mask-sealed-with-surgical-tape, “Shitton of Xanax” lady.
Now, where would this poor woman get the idea that all this is necessary to protect her from the omicron variant? Maybe she read Washington Post health reporter Dan Diamond’s latest column, in which he warns his readers not to expect a mild case of Covid from the omicron variant, to “brace yourself” for a positive test even if you’re vaccinated, to “expect hospitals to be pushed to their limits,” and to “upgrade your mask and think twice about taking risks.”
Understand that none of this advice has much to do with the science or data we have so far on omicron. Indeed, the South African doctor who first reported the omicron variant wrote earlier this month that she was “astonished by the extraordinary worldwide reaction” to the new strain of Covid, which she says is “out of all proportion to the risks posed by this variant.”
That reaction is being pushed by a small cohort of elite journalists and talking heads who live in large cities in the northeast, and whose entire approach to Covid and the pandemic are way out of step with the rest of the country. What’s more, their fear-driven approach hasn’t yielded better outcomes. Places that have imposed draconian lockdowns and school closures have fared no better (and sometimes worse) than places that have remained mostly open.
It’s time — long past time — to stop listening to these people.
Joe Biden is one of the more complex men to ever be president. Is he, as his carefully crafted public persona suggests, a regular guy who rose from humble beginnings to the highest office in the land? Or is he a consummate insider, driven by a thirst for power and recognition?
It may not matter. Voters put him in office to do several very specific things—things which he is now failing to accomplish. If the current polling is any indication, the Biden presidency is dashing the hopes of his fellow Democrats who thought they were on the cusp of a period of transformational change.
Voters trusted Biden to provide stability, predictability and, above all else, competence. He offered the voters a choice between his years of experience in making the machinery of the nation’s capital work and his opponent’s inability to address effectively the most pressing issue of the day.
Now, more than a year later, with more people dead from COVID-19 in 2021 than in 2020, the voters are having second thoughts. Biden promised a comprehensive response to the pandemic, but has thus far failed to deliver. It may be beyond his or anyone’s reach, but he allowed the electorate to believe, aided by those who covered his campaign, that he could do it.
He’s also created a sense of “buyer’s remorse” among independents and others who believed his approach to governing would be moderate. Remember that, when pressed, Biden promised he would temper the radicalism of Bernie Sanders, AOC, “The Squad” and the activist groups that rallied to his side once it was clear he would win the nomination. “I am the Democratic Party,” he said at one point.
The American people are disappointed he has gone so far. Biden’s latest presidential approval rating hovers around 43 percent—not exactly a Nixonian number, but a far cry from the 60 percent or more who gave him high marks at the start of his term. The radicals who threw in with him, though, are likely equally disappointed because he has not gone far enough. They won’t say it, but they cannot understand why he has not put his political capital at risk and tried to rally the nation to his side in the important fights for Build Back Better, the abolition of the filibuster and the fulfillment of the Democratic agenda as set forth by the party’s left-wing leadership.
It may have been a fellow Democrat who delivered the knockout punch to Build Back Better, but there were others besides Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) who didn’t like it all that much. Sen. Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) also threatened to withhold her vote unless specific changes were made to the legislation—changes the progressives in the House would have opposed.
Other Democrats in Congress had problems with the bill as written, but all that is inside-the-Beltway baseball. What Biden and company missed, as Build Back Better was going down, was bigger than the opposition of congressional Democrats: They never explained to the American people why the bill would make their day-to-day lives better.
Pollster David Winston has been following the progress of Build Back Better “in its various forms” for most of the year. He’s identified four key reasons why it stalled and then died. The most important reason was that voters outside the Democratic base “never believed” what Biden and others said about the bill—that it would “cost zero,” that it “would reduce costs for everyday essentials” and that it would “help relieve supply chain problems.”
Second, the tax hikes and spending increases, never popular with most Americans, made Build Back Better look like just another “government spending bill with too many unrelated spending priorities” that would not make things better.
Third, Winston says, voter concerns about inflation were “real, and were validated by official sources,” and that when the White House “tried to blame other factors for inflation and price increases,” it lost control of the issue.
Finally—and this is where the president’s missing-in-action approach to the bully pulpit was most damaging to his ambitions—Biden was never able to make the passage of Build Back Better a priority for the American people like Reagan and Trump did with tax cuts, and Obama did with health care reform. It was “too far left,” Winston observed, “for a center-right country.”
America does not want to be transformed, at least not yet. Build Back Better failed because it was ill-conceived, not because one senator opposed it. Joe Manchin may have twisted the knife, but Joe Biden put it in his hand.
While President Joe Biden and his administration tout what they say are successes as the end of the president’s first year in office looms, the spin from Psaki and others just doesn’t match the reality being experienced by Americans from coast to coast.
To highlight the breadth of the issues caused by Biden policies, the RNC released a video series on Biden’s “12 Days of Crises” to coincide with Christmas and highlight the pain being felt by Americans.
“Crisis, lies, and failure are the hallmarks of Biden’s presidency,” noted RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel. “In less than a year under Biden’s watch, there has been a catastrophic withdrawal from Afghanistan, historic price increases, and a crisis at the border.” And that is where Biden’s 12 Days of Crises — as outlined by the RNC — begin, all of which have been covered by Townhall this year.
On the first day of crises Joe Biden gave us a border crisis.
Our own Julio Rosas has reported extensively from the U.S.-Mexico border in Del Rio, Texas and Yuma, Arizona — and several locations in between — showing the Biden administration’s lack of action to stem a record-setting number of illegal border crossings, apprehensions, and “gotaways” in addition to increasing human and drug smuggling operations. When Julio confronted Biden’s DHS secretary about the situation, Alejandro Mayorkas still wouldn’t call the status of America’s southern border a “crisis.” Biden continues to claim that the border is closed, but Julio’s reporting proves it’s just one of Biden’s many unmitigated crises.
On the second day of crises Joe Biden gave us a disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal.
As our loyal readers know, Townhall led the charge warning that what Biden said was going on in Afghanistan was little more than wishful thinking. While the White House claimed there was no diplomatic evacuation taking place in Kabul, Townhall reported that embassy staff were shredding documents and destroying computers. When Biden claimed that the Afghan government’s potential fall to the Taliban was anything but certain, Townhall told the truth Biden surely knew but wouldn’t say. We also warned that Biden’s withdrawal was setting up the largest hostage crisis in U.S. history, and when Biden and his administration lied about how many Americans were left behind, we kept telling the stories of those Biden stranded. Following the Kabul drone strike Biden’s defense officials called a “righteous strike,” Townhall warned that it may have been a botched attack. And it was.
On the third day of crises, Joe Biden gave skyrocketing gas prices to every American.
The pain felt by Americans at the pump is something Biden has also ignored, and his supposed fix of tapping into America’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve intended to be used in emergencies like natural disasters or disruptions caused by foreign wars did almost nothing to help the American people. Making things worse, Biden has spent his first year in office turning the United States from an energy independent country to one dependent on foreign supplies. One of his first acts after being sworn in was to kill the Keystone Pipeline, just part of his work to make fossil fuels so expensive that suddenly less-reliable “green” energy seems appealing.
On the fourth day of crises, Joe Biden gave us an unconstitutional vaccine mandate.
After saying that he wouldn’t issue a federal vaccine mandate, Biden — somewhat predictably — went back on his word and levied a requirement on federal employees, federal contractors, and tens of millions of Americans who work for private companies. His mandate was announced as an attempt to distract from his disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, and it was so haphazardly put together that it quickly encountered legal challenges from states’ attorneys general and companies who wanted to fight for their employees’ healthcare freedom. And, after many companies implemented Biden’s mandate, a growing number have also reversed the mandate, including Biden’s beloved Amtrak.
On the fifth day of crises, Joe Biden gave Americans a reckless tax and spending spree.
No matter how many times Biden, Psaki, Schumer, and Pelosi claimed that the cost of Biden’s Build Back Better budget was “zero dollars,” it’s just not true. As Townhall covered, the Congressional Budget Office — which Biden used to praise until it no longer served his purpose — confirmed what we’d reported for months: Build Back Better is really a plan to make America’s economy even worse.
On the sixth day of crises, Joe Biden put parents and students last.
One needs to look no further than Biden’s relationship with teacher unions to see he doesn’t value students or their families. School closures and remote learning? No problem for President Biden. Mask mandates for young children? It’s necessary. Terry McAuliffe thinks parents shouldn’t have a role in their kids’ education? Full endorsement from Biden. And don’t forget Biden’s Department of Justice took the National School Boards Association’s lead and directed the FBI to go after parents who are speaking up and demanding accountability from their school boards.
On the seventh day of crises, Joe Biden gave himself another vacation in Delaware.
It wasn’t a secret when he took office that Joe Biden loves Delaware. Almost more than he loves ice cream cones and Amtrak. What Americans may not have counted on was just how much time he would spend there, even amid some of his other crises. Perhaps most notably, his botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, during which Biden would return to the White House from the beach in Delaware to give a speech and then immediately get back on Marine One to go back to Delaware.
On the eighth day of crises, Joe Biden gave all Americans rising prices.
It seems as though every month brings a new record-high for inflation numbers under President Biden. At first, he said it was transitory, then members of his own administration killed that theory, but Biden still isn’t taking any action to alleviate the pressure. Prices on basically everything, from gas to grocery and utility bills, continue to rise. And while Biden keeps trying to tout wage growth as proof that his economic policy is helping Americans, he conveniently neglects to mention that inflation has wiped out any gains in wages. In fact in months such as October, the impact of Biden’s agenda meant that Americans actually saw real wages decrease by 0.5 percent.
On the ninth day of crises, Joe Biden created a nationwide supply chain crisis.
Here’s to hoping all your Christmas and holiday shopping happened without incident, but if you’re waiting for some goods on a ship from Asia, your gift might still be floating in the boat parking lot off the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, or sitting in a container awaiting transport. Shortages caused rations on certain Thanksgiving meal items at grocery chains and, according to Biden’s statement earlier in the holiday season, Santa was the only one who could guarantee the tree is surrounded by gifts on Christmas morning.
On the tenth day of crises, Joe Biden put China first.
China, one of Biden’s first forays into foreign policy as president, went poorly from the start. Despite signing the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act into law on Thursday, the Biden administration was hesitant to support the legislation and reports suggested that the White House was urging a delay on the bill. And don’t forget how often Biden and his administration have dismissed concerns about China’s rule in the outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus.
On the eleventh day of crises, Joe Biden did nothing to address crime surges across the country.
In case there wasn’t already enough data to prove that America is getting less safe under President Biden, this week’s armed carjackings of an Illinois state Senator and member of the U.S. House Representatives should send a message to Biden and other Democrats that their defund-the-police agenda is endangering lives across the country. Homicides, carjackings, brazen smash-and-grab robberies, and other crime continue to hit records not seen in decades, but yet again Biden won’t take action
On the twelfth day of crises, Joe Biden’s approval rating plummeted lower and lower after each crisis.
So yes, there’s a lot of bad caused by the Biden administration, but within that is a silver line emerging for Republicans ahead of the midterms: Biden’s tanking favorability means the GOP’s fortunes are rising when voters across the country have — many for the first time since 2020 — a chance to register their opinion of Joe Biden at the ballot box. Things have gotten so bad that the White House is now frantically announcing new Biden pets in an attempt to change the narrative.
Looking to the year ahead, RNC Chairwoman McDaniel pledged to “continue to hold Biden and Democrats accountable for their failed policies and refusal to take responsibility” and predicted that “voters will soundly reject Biden and his failures, and we look forward to taking back the House and Senate in 2022.”
Amid rising inflation, an ongoing border crisis, and a stalled legislative agenda, Biden is looking for someone to blame.
few days after the 2020 presidential election, President-elect Joe Biden pledged to be “a president who seeks not to divide but to unify,” a theme he’d campaigned on. “Let this grim era of demonization in America begin to end here and now,” he said in his victory speech. “It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, see each other again, listen to each other again.”
So much for all that. As Biden’s first year in office comes to a close, he has proven to be one of the most divisive presidents in generations, surpassing even Donald Trump in his vindictiveness and willingness to demonize Americans who disagree with him — even if it means lying about COVID-19.
Consider the events of the past few days. Following a White House briefing last Thursday on the spread of the omicron variant, Biden said, “We are looking at a winter of severe illness and death for the unvaccinated — for themselves, their families, and the hospitals they’ll soon overwhelm.”
The next day, White House COVID response coordinator Jeff Zients repeated this line, saying, “We are intent on not letting omicron disrupt work and school for the vaccinated. You’ve done the right thing, and we will get through this,” he said. “For the unvaccinated, you’re looking at a winter of severe illness and death for yourselves, your families, and the hospitals you may soon overwhelm.”
So that’s the official administration line: opened schools and businesses for the vaccinated and “severe illness and death” for the unvaccinated, who will overwhelm hospitals with the omicron variant and, by implication, bear responsibility for the pandemic from here on out.
It’s one of the most bizarre and appalling statements from a presidential administration in American history, breathtaking in its dishonest scapegoating and shocking in its callous disregard for the millions of Americans who have decided, for reasons of their own, not to get the Covid shots.
Bullying these people will not persuade them, and neither will lying about the omicron variant. There’s no evidence right now that omicron is going to bring “severe illness and death,” or that it’s even going to cause a surge in hospitalizations. The evidence so far suggests just the opposite.
In South Africa, where omicron first emerged last month, hospitalization rates have fallen by 91 percent amid the current wave. Just 1.7 percent of all Covid patients were admitted to a hospital in the second week of the omicron surge, compared to 19 percent in the same week of the delta surge, according to South African health officials.
What’s more, the omicron variant appears to be milder than earlier strains of Covid-19. “We are really seeing very small increases in the number of deaths,” said Michelle Groome, head of health surveillance for South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases. Others have also noted a decoupling of new Covid cases and deaths in South Africa, whereas in past surges they have been closely aligned.
More evidence of this decoupling comes from the United Kingdom, where Covid deaths haven’t surged along with a rising case count from omicron. Indeed, there is no data anywhere to suggest that the omicron variant is anywhere near as deadly as previous strains of the virus, or that it causes more severe illness. The data so far show just the opposite.
Indeed, if omicron is a more contagious but also a milder strain (as we would expect with a mutating virus in a pandemic), then it makes sense that cases would surge but severe illness and death would not.
Here in the United States, that appears to be what we’re seeing so far: a surge of new cases but a slight decrease in hospitalizations. So instead of freaking out about omicron, prognosticating death and doom for the unvaccinated, maybe it’s time to do what some states, like Florida and Texas, have been doing all along: work to protect the most vulnerable and prevent deaths, ensure hospitals don’t get overwhelmed, and keep schools and businesses open.
In other words, manage the pandemic, which at this point is looking increasingly endemic. (Even The Atlantic has at last come around to this way of thinking — except for science writer Ed Yong, who bizarrely canceled his own birthday party over omicron. Sad!)
So much for Biden’s dishonesty about what a winter surge of the omicron variant will bring to the United States. What about his callousness and contempt for unvaccinated Americas?
It’s hard to imagine a message more calculated to divide the country than what Biden’s White House has put out, essentially diving Americans into an ingroup of vaccinated and an outgroup of unvaccinated, then blaming the entire pandemic on the outgroup — including whatever happens this winter.
The only possible explanation for such messaging is that Biden feels his presidency is in chaos and his legislative agenda has stalled out. If that’s the case, he’s not wrong. Over the weekend, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, announced he won’t support Biden’s Build Back Better legislation, a massive entitlement expansion that would cost some $5 trillion over the next decade. It was the signature piece of Biden’s agenda, and now it’s dead.
On the border, illegal immigration is still surging at historic levels, with the promise of another surge and an ever-deepening crisis this coming spring. Biden has done his best to ignore the crisis, even as a growing number of Americans say they disapprove of his handling of the border.
The economy is struggling, inflation remains high, and Biden’s popularity is sinking to dangerous lows just a year into his presidency. So his last resort, it seems, is to scapegoat the unvaccinated.
Never mind that many of the unvaccinated have already gotten and recovered from Covid, and have foregone the shot because they have natural immunity (a reality that never seems to factor into the Biden administration’s pandemic policies or messaging). Never mind that some people, having seen over the course of nearly two years that Covid is not as dangerous as the media and political elites have made it out to be and that Covid treatment has vastly improved, have assessed their risk and decided not to get the shots.
Never mind any of that. For Biden, blaming the unvaccinated is a way to deflect from the manifest failures of his administration on almost every other important issue.
These are not the actions of a great “unifier,” or even a marginally competent leader. After his inauguration, Biden embraced comparisons to Democratic presidents like Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson, who enacted titanic government welfare programs amid great changes in American society.
But more apt comparisons, at this point, would be to inept 19th-century presidents like Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan, one-termers whose blundering tenures were marked by chaos, division, and dangerous incompetence.