Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said he would do “whatever it takes” to combat the spread of coronavirus within the country — including locking down the U.S. if deemed necessary. “I would shut it down; I would listen to the scientists,” Biden told ABC’s, David Muir. This puts Biden firmly in the extreme lockdown camp. It goes without saying, he must believe the first lockdown worked or why else do it again. While the country struggles to open up and get people back to work and our youth in schools, the Democrats are seen as dragging their feet. The Democrats have settled on a Narrative. The lockdown came too late, but it was still worth it. If we open up too soon, infections will rise. Until we control the virus, we can’t worry about the economy because it can’t recover until then. Trump puts dollars before people. This Narrative is echoed nearly verbatim throughout the Left and their media allies. This is the Left’s Great Narrative Machine. So far, it seems to have solidly contributed to Biden’s poll lead.
The problem with a narrative is that it’s a story or account of events, experiences, or the like, whether actual or fictitious. It may tell a story, but the information may not be valid. If you present the Narrative as non-fiction and it doesn’t ring true, you’re in real trouble. Just look at the Left’s portrayal of mostly peaceful demonstrations for “Racial Justice.” When it came up against widely viewed scenes of looted shops, burned buildings, injuries, and dead bodies, the story was exposed as fiction. Biden’s ignoring the situation for months before he woke up resulted in quickly narrowing polls.
The Left’s narrative machine may be making another major mistake with their Covid-19 story. The Narrative supposedly is grounded in science.. “The Experts” support their shutdown agenda. The problem is that experts don’t always agree. We already know the pain of double-digit unemployment, businesses going out of business forever, and utter disruption of our lives. The cost of delayed medical attention, depression leading to more significant substance abuse, and suicide are becoming evident. The harm to children being out of school is still being assessed, but it’s sure to be massive.
Let’s not forget how we got the first shutdown. “Experts”using computer models predicted over 2.2 million deaths US deaths if we didn’t take lock-down. This wildly overstated the danger and was immediately challenged by others for basic errors. Still, combined with constant video of Italy’s single payer health system being overwhelmed with people dying in hospital hallways, caused panic. The misinformation has lived on. Even President Trump still says he saved millions of lives by shutting down based on the faulty models.We forget our lock-down was to prevent our medical system from being crushed. It was never to stay locked down till the virus was conquered.
However, the Narrative morphed into a choice between lives or the economy. This never made sense to many. I surely didn’t buy it. In my series on this blog on Covid-19, I based recommendations on the actual data. The numbers told us who was most at risk from the coronavirus. Based on what was known, I argued against a hard lockdown. I was hardly alone. The alternate recommendation was to adopt a more targeted approach to limit collateral damage. I’m not considered an expert by the elite. Just somebody looking at the generally available data and drawing what I think is are logical conclusions. However, there were plenty of “experts” that came to the same judgment.
The lines were drawn. Once you totally disrupted the nation with the hard lockdown, proponents are stuck with the results. We can now look at it and determine whether it was worth the immense cost. If it wasn’t the best policy in the first place, why would you consider ever doing it again? Yet, Joe Biden says he’d do it again.
The question then is, was it worth it? There is a slew of studies that determined that it wasn’t. In the interest of space and to show how “credible “experts “have had to change there minds in the face of the facts, I’ll give you one example. Greg Ip, the chief economics commentator for The Wall Street Journal, initially gave us chapter and verse on why the lockdown on balance was worth it. At the time, I heartily disagreed with him. On August 24, Ip published another column. The Headline says it all, “New Thinking on COVID Lockdowns: They’re Overly Blunt and Costly.” In the lengthy article, Ip reflected the broad agreement in the world economic community. Anyone who takes the time to look will find a growing consensus hard lockdowns were a bad idea.
What might be worse, the Lockdowns might not have been effective in even slowing the spread of the virus. Donald L. Luskin chief investment officer at Trend Macro crunched the numbers. He report the study findings in a piece in the Wall Street Journal ,
Counterintintuitive though it may be, statistical analysis shows that locking down the economy didn’t contain the disease’s spread and reopening it didn’t unleash a second wave of infections. Considering that lockdowns are economically costly and create well-documented long term health consequences beyond Covid imposing them appears to have been a large policy error.
This puts the Left’s narrative machine in another wrong place. How to respond when the facts bite you again in the butt? Their answer is to attack Sweden and Dr. Scott Atlas, two of the most visible proponents of a more targeted COVID response. The NY Times, Washington Post, and even the WSJ OP-ED page have printed lengthy articles denouncing these two for being wrong. The rest of the Narrative Machine has followed across media.
This blog’s readers are no strangers to the Swedish less restrictive Covid-19 response or Dr. Atlas. The Doctor is an American neuroradiologist, professor, commentator, and health care policy, advisor. The senior fellow at the Hoover Institution was recently added to the President’s COVID team. I’ve made no secret, I’m a fan of the Doctor. Using the available data early on, he too opposed the crushing hard lockdown. I have advocated for someone with a broader policy perspective, and now we have one.
The most direct of the many attacks on Sweden came from Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former Food and Drug Commissioner. This was in his WSJ OP-ED entitled “Sweden Shouldn’t Be America’s Pandemic Model.” The article made four points. Stockholm is doing better because “Stockholm, the country’s single large population center, also has a much lower density than most American cities. That reduces Sweden’s risk of continued epidemic spread,” Sweden’s economy is worse off than its neighbors. It suffered a high death rate, and any Swedish hoped for Herd Immunity is far off. The first two are out and out falsehoods. In World City Density, Stockholm is 93rd. New York City is ranked is 114. Needless to say, most American Cities are less dense than Stockholm. The following chart says it all about Sweden’s economic comparison with its neighbors.
Sweden early on did have a relatively high death-rate. However, there may have been because of particular circumstances. More of Sweden’s population is over 80. Like other single-payer health systems, Sweden has to ration some care. In Sweden, it falls on those over 80. As I’ve pointed, few places have done a great job of protecting the elderly. A recent American Institute for Economic Research paper found other reasons specific to Sweden. Foremost, Sweden was a “dry tinder” for the pandemic. The previous years’ recorded below-average deaths from flu-like symptoms. This left a larger number of older people vulnerable. In any case, Sweden has seen 576 COVID-19 deaths per 1 million people, virtually the same as the U.S.’s 570.
What Dr. Gottlieb totally ignores is the positive benefits of Sweden’s plan. Grade school children won’t suffer the ill effects of a prolonged shutdown because schools never closed for them. This was done with comparable results with Finland that did shut down their schools. By allowing most social interactions, the depression from isolation was largely avoided. Health services were never overwhelmed, so other medical attention wasn’t delayed. This prevented deaths and illnesses from other causes. Ignoring everything beyond Covid-19 repeats the much too narrow focus of lockdown proponents.
Herd Immunity has been portrayed in the Left’s Narrative as some far-out idea expoused by Sweden and Dr. Atlas that would endanger everyone. First of all, Dr. Atlas or Sweden, for that matter, has never advocated the “let ‘er Rip” idea of letting the virus run wild. Just a more targeted approach. But it is silly to ignore the concept of Herd Immunity. What is it really? “Herd immunity (or community immunity) occurs when a high percentage of the community is immune to a disease (through vaccination and/or prior illness). In other words, it’s how any epidemic ends. The only question is, what level does it need to achieve to work? A widely publicized figure is 60%, but there are different opinions on this and everything else about it. What constitutes Immunity? At what level does it begin to weaken a pandemic?
In a August 17 (updated 8/31) New York Times article titled, “What if ‘Herd Immunity’ Is Closer Than Scientists Thought?” It pointed out,
Now some researchers are wrestling with a hopeful possibility. In interviews with The New York Times, more than a dozen scientists said that the threshold is likely to be much lower: just 50 percent, perhaps even less. If that’s true, then it may be possible to turn back the coronavirus more quickly than once thought….in parts of New York, London and Mumbai, for example, it is not inconceivable that there is already substantial immunity to the coronavirus, scientists said.
Reason Magazine reported, “Surprisingly, in August, Sweden’s cases and deaths dropped dramatically. On August 8, the Financial Times quoted Anders Tegnell, the author of the Swedish coronavirus policy. He argued that “there is a relationship between the rapid drop of the last few weeks and the increasing immunity in many parts of Sweden.” One reason given for the abrupt change in certain areas could be T-Cell Immunity. Recent research suggests that people who have been infected with the milder coronaviruses that cause the common cold also have developed some immunity to the COVID-19 virus.
This could explain the strange case of the Brazilian city of Manaus. The Amazon river city never locked down or did much of anything to prevent the disease’s spread. It spread widely and tragically, but suddenly in August, the cases and deaths dropped precipitously. A Washington Post Article title again tells the story, ” In the Brazilian Amazon, a sharp drop in coronavirus sparks questions over collective immunity.”
Do we know whats going on? Not entirely, but it shows there is no consensus about Covid-19. A broader view is warranted. Should we be putting down Sweden and Dr. Atlas because they pointed to a path with better results just because it will make you look bad? This has nothing to do with science. Dr. Atlas pointing out locking up healthy young people when the CDC confirms they are at little risk shouldn’t subjugate him to endless ridicule. As I pointed out in my post “Is This Trip Necessary?” in the COVID series, the data on who and doesn’t get really sick has been there almost from the very beginning. Suggesting we act in accordance is just common sense.
Yet, Joe Biden says he’ll follow the “experts,” and if the” science ” says so, he’ll lock us down again. It is only reasonable to ask who he would listen to? Will it be his top medical advisor, Dr. Ezekial Emanuel? The Obamacare Author, who in a February 20 interview said there had been an “overreaction.’ He added, “warm weather is coming, and just like the flu, the coronavirus will go down.” In fact, there is nothing on the record showing Biden, and his advisors had any better ideas on the pandemic than the Trump Administration. Biden has to tell us precisely who the “experts” are he would rely on to lock us down again. We would need the facts and the data, not just some Narrative.