by Elle Seybold
on Sunday, November 22nd, 2020 at 6:19pm.
I am deeply troubled by the state of our community and country. I fail to understand why the crackdowns continue. Curfews, policing businesses to ensure they are not operating, imposing massive fines on businesses for violating trivial rules, harassing families to avoid spending time together and attempting to shut down our celebrations of life or death are deeply disturbing. The rational is pure politics - you can’t attend a funeral but you can attend a protest march, you have to quarantine if you travel to visit a loved one, but not if you travel on business. No rational person can argue those make good sense.
The mere fact that bureaucrats think they can make a distinction between essential and nonessential businesses illustrates that they do not understand the interconnectedness of the economy.
I have to ask myself, what is the purpose of our government? The purpose of government is to protect our freedom. That’s different from saying the purpose of the government is to prevent early death from any given cause. If you believe that, then you believe the government should control all aspects of your life. Should we lock people down to decrease death rates from auto accidents, saving about 40,000 lives a year? Is that justified? In exercising our freedom, we decide how to make different kinds of risk/reward tradeoffs.
The present approach does not respect any of the values in life that are achieved via freedom. Hundreds of millions of people’s lives are being destroyed – and by destroyed, I mean that people’s plans and hopes and dreams have been disrupted for decades to come, if not forever. Ruining lives matters. If that doesn’t matter to people and they think the only thing that does matter is that we not die of this particular virus, well, there’s something off with that.
According to the American Cancer Society, there will be an estimated 606,520 deaths due to cancer in the United States this year. As of today, the John Hopkins tracking website states that 254,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the U.S. We must remember that this one thing is not the only thing to contend with, nor is it the deadliest.
In fact, the consequences of the lockdowns are so devastating and far-reaching that all decent and humane people must reject the strategy. Universal isolation is completely indefensible morally and cannot be the optimal way to achieve any kind of management. How can anyone say: even though this virus is overwhelmingly targeting certain demographics, we are going to isolate everybody universally? There is no justification for the oppression that is being practiced.
In New York City, the hardest-hit part of the United States, we’ve seen 11 deaths per 100,000 people aged 18-44. For people 75 and older, the rate is 80 times that. For people under 18, their death rate per 100,000 is zero. Yet we’ve closed schools? How many people over age 75 are in the workforce?
The consequences are glaringly obvious. If we measure them in terms of human suffering, those consequences include:
An additional 6,000 children could die every day from preventable causes over the next six months as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt routine services, (UNICEF).
In June, the National Cancer Institute projected that SARS-CoV-2 will lead to 10,000 additional deaths from breast cancer and colorectal cancer. The estimated excess deaths for other cancer types are currently not known. Thus far, it is estimated that more than 22MM screening tests in the United States have been delayed due to COVID-19 (NCBI).
In the UK an independent analysis carried out by Professor Sikora, former advisor to the WHO on cancer care, has estimated that over the next six months up to 60,000 cancer patients will die and approximately 15,000 patients – of all ages – will suffer illness or be forced to undergo unnecessary invasive treatments due to the loss of cancer services.
A study published in JAMA that examined the number of deaths reported in the U.S. in March and April, when the pandemic began to take hold, compared with preceding years showed there were 87,000 "excess deaths" – that is, more than would have been expected during the two-month period – but only two-thirds of the total were attributed to COVID-19. In 14 states, more than half of the excess deaths were from causes other than COVID-19. The evidence abounds that people are dying because of government actions taken – the cure is worse than the disease.
There will be 110,000 additional tuberculosis deaths due to COVID (London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Lancaster University).
Recent modelling has estimated that a six-month disruption in HIV treatment could lead to more than 500,000 additional deaths from AIDS-related illnesses. If services to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV were similarly disrupted for six months, the estimated increases in new child HIV infections would be 162% in Malawi, 139% in Uganda, 106% in Zimbabwe and 83% in Mozambique, (UNAIDS). As of November, we know that 80% of HIV programs have reported disruption to service delivery.
Imperial College London estimates “in high burden settings, HIV, TB and malaria related deaths over 5 years may be increased by up to 10%, 20% and 36%, respectively, compared to if there were no COVID-19 epidemic.” For perspective, TB kills 1.5MM people per year, an increase of 20% means an additional 300,000 people will die. HIV kills 1MM people each year, an increase of 10% would add 100,000 deaths. Malaria kills nearly 500,000 people annually, add 36% and you have an additional 150,000 deaths.
Researchers say people are more than twice as likely to die from a heart attack during the COVID-19 pandemic because many aren’t going to the hospital after experiencing symptoms of heart trouble. (JAMA Cardiology)
A major new study has identified 2,085 excess deaths in England and Wales due to heart disease and stroke during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. On average, that is 17 deaths each day over four months that probably could have been prevented. (University of Leeds)
Hundreds of thousands of children could die this year due to the global economic downturn sparked by the coronavirus pandemic and tens of millions more could fall into extreme poverty as a result of the crisis, (United Nations).
Nearly 369MM children across 143 countries who normally rely on school meals for a reliable source of daily nutrition have been forced to look elsewhere, (United Nations).
Per the counts detailed above, 1.2MM additional people will die each year (not counting the child deaths which are so large they have not been quantified) because of our response to COVID. But those people don’t matter – all that matters is who might die from COVID. Even more horrifying, we have de-facto chosen to kill children to save the elderly. When in human history has this ever been deemed the right course of action. Do you think the elderly would make that choice themselves?
What about the economic consequences? Let’s measure those consequences in terms of economic deterioration in the U.S.:
Loss of over a third of GDP, (U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis).
Over 18MM people lost their jobs and the unemployment rate remains over twice the level pre-lockdown, (U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics).
We are creating massive government dependency by paying people more to stay home than to go to work. It used to be that people were paid proportionate to their contribution to the economy. Now it seems you are paid simply because you are alive. These policies erode productivity and will contribute to a major weaking of global U.S. competitiveness, not to mention the colossal debt burden incurred.
So let’s talk about the debt burdens… the current account deficit nearly doubled to $171B. The U.S. is no longer producing, yet productivity is key to future economic success.
The budget deficit in 2020 was $3.13 trillion, more than triple last year’s shortfall of $984B and double the previous record of $1.4 trillion in 2009. This cannot be made up in tax revenues. For perspective, deficits over the last 50 years have averaged just 3% of GDP. Even during the Great Recession, the largest deficit recorded (in 2009) was just 9.8% of GDP. The COVID-19 recession and the congressional response to it have caused the deficit to balloon to 18%.
Government debt is roughly $27 trillion – the highest level since WWII – and more than the economy’s annual output.
Federal debt is now over 100% of GDP. There are only 12 other countries in the world with that august statistic. The U.S. joins the ranks of such countries as Djibouti, Mozambique, Bhutan, Angola, Italy, Japan and Greece. Did you not see the riots from the austerity measures in Greece? Have you heard of Japan’s lost decade (or two)?
Let’s not ignore the effective interest rate that must be paid on all this debt. The effective interest includes all government obligations not just interest on debt, but also social security, veterans benefits, Medicaid, etc. Rising interest costs will crowd out other spending. Entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security will have to be re-engineered, as they consume $2 out of every $3 dollars in spending.
The Congressional Budget Office projects that Social Security will become insolvent in 2031. This is no longer a “future generations” problem since most retirees currently receiving Social Security will still be alive in 2031.
Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) will consume its remaining funds by 2024.
Remarkably, despite a downgrade in credit quality and faltering demand, the U.S. government can borrow for 30 years below 1.5%. But who wants to buy that? Who is stupid enough to earn only 1.5% over 30 years?
For perspective, the Congressional Budget Office projects that the federal government will pay $664B in interest costs in 2030, with the average interest rate at 2.1%. If interest rates were to double to 4.2% interest spending would require $1.2 trillion in tax revenues in 2030. At an annual cost of $8,350 per household, interest costs are set to exceed what the average household spends on food. This country simply does not have the money to finance the government’s largess.
The above serves to highlight the enormous economic dislocation our response to COVID has wrought. These are not possibilities, these are realities. It seems these facts have not sunk in yet for most people, as most people continue to support the lockdowns.
COVID Fatality & Infection Rates
Why would you tolerate the human misery incurred to combat a disease with a 99.8% survival rate? People like to harken this to the plague or the Spanish Flu – this is nothing like those diseases. The bubonic plague is fatal in about 50-70% of untreated cases, or 10-15% when treated. The Spanish Flu was around 2.5%. As COVID progresses, the fatality rate keeps dropping. The most recent data from the CDC and the WHO both indicate a fatality rate of 0.2%. This is in stark contrast to the earlier estimates of a 3% fatality rate. Yet has the government changed its tactics? Not in the least. Its as if it doesn’t matter.
We have weathered other pandemics - and did not cripple our economy or our society. The 1968 pandemic caused by an influenza A (H3N2) virus killed about 1MM people worldwide and about 100,000 in the United States. Most deaths were in people 65 years and older. The H3N2 virus continues to circulate worldwide as a seasonal influenza A virus.
In February 1957, a new influenza A (H2N2) virus emerged in East Asia, triggering the Asian Flu pandemic. It was first reported in Singapore in February 1957, Hong Kong in April 1957, and in coastal cities in the U.S. in summer 1957. The estimated number of deaths was 1.1MM worldwide and 116,000 in the U.S. – roughly the same percentage rate as COVID. Remember that while the number of absolute deaths is smaller - so was our population.
Of particular obsession is the infection rate, which has been climbing markedly. Why is that surprising? Testing has become more prolific. Over half the people who have COVID are asymptomatic. Many of those who test positive have only viral debris and are not infectious nor have they suffered the disease. In fact, the vast majority of positive tests are subclinical. (Frankly, if we tested for the flu as we have this one, I think we would find very similar infection results). With all this infection, the decline in the severity of this disease has been highlighted. Yet we should still be ruled by fear? Also, with all this exposure sure seems like we are well on our way to herd immunity, wouldn’t that be nice?
As for the lockdowns, I’ve already highlighted the economic damages and the human suffering it has wrought. But infection rates have been unaffected. Still governments continue to impose upon us. Most people do not seem to know that the lockdowns are ineffective. In an article in the WSJ, scientists ran a simple one-variable correlation of deaths per million and days to shutdown, which ranged from minus-10 days (some states shut down before any sign of COVID-19) to 35 days for South Dakota, one of seven states with limited or no shutdown. The correlation coefficient showed no correlation.
Do a correlation study of your own:
California: Heavy lockdown, 4.6 deaths per 100,000;
Iowa: No lockdown, 4.3 deaths per 100,000;
Texas: Light lockdown, 2.4 deaths per 100,000;
Washington state: Heavy lockdown, 10.0 deaths per 100,000;
Colorado: Inconsistent lockdown, 12.2 deaths per 100,000;
Georgia: Late Lockdown now lifted, 10.0 deaths per 100,000.
Maine: Heavy Lockdown, 3.8 deaths per 100,000;
Massachusetts: Heavy Lockdown, 45.7 deaths per 100,000
Ironically, Sweden has one of the least restrictive lockdown regimes in the world – schools, businesses, restaurants and retail have remained open – yet its mortality rate of 22 per 100,000 is half that of the heavily locked down state of Massachusetts.
Governor Andrew Cuomo himself noted that 66% of a survey of 1,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations involved people who had been staying at home. “This is a surprise: Overwhelmingly, the people were at home,” said Cuomo. “We thought maybe they were taking public transportation, and we’ve taken special precautions on public transportation, but actually no, because these people were literally at home.”
When the risk of death from COVID-19 infection is nearly 1900X higher for the octogenarian population relative to those 29 years and under, then the point of across-the-board house arrest is self-evident. Governor Cuomo has taken the 7.5MM New Yorkers under 30 years of age hostage and made them involuntary instruments of a state-imposed maneuver to protect the elderly and infirm by stopping the contagion. Stated differently, up to 20% or more of these 7.5MM New Yorkers under 30 years have already been infected based on the state’s own antibody studies, and doubtless 50-80% of those so infected have been asymptomatic, while most of the rest have recovered from a mild illness in the normal course of shaking off the flu. Actually, there have only been 78 reported COVID deaths in this entire age cohort. So even if only 10% of the under 30 population has been infected, the implied IFR (infected-fatality rate) is just 0.01% (78 deaths/750,000 cases) – or barely more than the odds of being struck by lightning. Yet we commit economic suicide and feel entitled to enact martial law? This is frightening, my friends.
Prior to the COVID insanity, studies have been done on the effectiveness of lockdowns. A 2007 meta-analysis by Rand Corp found that there was little evidence for the efficacy of non-pharmaceutical interventions. “In an effort to inform decision-making in the absence of strong scientific evidence, the experts ultimately endorsed hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, surveillance and case reporting, and rapid viral diagnosis in all settings and during all pandemic phases. They also encouraged patient and provider use of masks and other personal protective equipment as well as voluntary self-isolation of patients during all pandemic phases. Other non-pharmaceutical interventions including mask-use and other personal protective equipment for the general public, school and workplace closures early in an epidemic, and mandatory travel restrictions were rejected as likely to be ineffective, infeasible, or unacceptable to the public.” Now, of course, the politically motivated (we need justification) studies show some, possible, positive impact from lockdowns yet even these note weak efficacy.
There is more to life than the avoidance of death.
It feels a bit like some sci-fi apocalypse movie where everyone ends up fleeing a government takeover. Why do you think the government knows better than you do? Corruption is pervasive, ignorance rampant, most politicians have never had a real job, and most are not scientists. Take charge of your own decisions, do not hand over your intellect.
I am disgusted by the position politicians have taken with respect to Thanksgiving. In their infinite wisdom they have decreed that a family meal is dangerous and we should not indulge, yet in a single day of quarantine you probably encounter more people than you would having a normal Thanksgiving. We all still have to go to the store, maybe to FedEx, maybe the pharmacy, gas station, you name it to simply survive. Those encounters expose you to dozens of people. Yet a meal with 10 relatives is more dangerous? Seriously? Who do they think they are kidding?
I will not accept being kept in hiding until we have a miraculous vaccine (which we may never have). What’s more, I won’t be one of the initial vaccine Guinea pigs. After all, we do have some history here, hundreds of people died from the last rushed government vaccine – the 1976 Swine Flu vaccine which unnecessarily vaccinated about 45MM citizens. The government feared another Spanish Flu epidemic and, to avoid an epidemic, the CDC believed, at least 80% of the United States population would need to be vaccinated. Politicians jumped on the potential good press of saving their constituents from the plague (politics is often about looking like you are doing something). It resulted in needless loss of life.
If we are to have an economic future we must stop this nonsense.
If we are to live as a free people then we must end the government oppression.
We must acknowledge our own mortality. And we must be allowed to make our own choices.