Almost two years ago, when I first saw the government response to the epidemic I was so horrified that I spent my own money to run ads in the local newspaper attempting to sound the alarm about the likely consequences of the road we were headed down. I was of course ignored, as I expected, but not deterred and my blog changed course to attempting to be a source of data and research that would help people be rational about the epidemic and how to respond to it.
Here is some of what I said in the original March 28, 2020 ad. I called the lockdowns and school closures economic suicide. I should have focused more on the social and health care consequences of those measures. You will recall that at this point we were in the “two weeks to flatten the curve” phase of the epidemic. Here are some quotes from the ad: “These measures (lockdowns) have been taken in light of a feared worst case effect of the virus and with no balancing of the harms the measures are themselves causing.” “First, we need to be more realistic about the actual threat of this virus. We all have coronaviruses present in our daily lives, so they are not some new threat. While this coronavirus appears more virulent, particularly to the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions, it is clearly a minimal threat to the vast majority of the population.”
“The average person has basically a zero chance of having a serious illness from the virus, even if they were in heavy contact with it. So the threat is actually low, consistent with a serious flu year. Yet we are rushing into relatively severe reactions with the goal of virus suppression, reactions that are wreaking economic havoc.” I then compared the reaction to how we handled flu epidemics even in the recent past and I detailed the damage already done at that point by the lockdowns. I went on:
“The real tragedy is that all these efforts to completely suppress the virus are likely futile. Like the influenza virus, coronaviruses, including this variant, are here to stay. While it makes sense to attempt to limit the surge in demand on the health system, continuing suppression efforts only spread the economic pain out further and further, without creating any meaningful overall decline in the eventual total number of illnesses and deaths.” I went on to describe what I thought be a better, more targeted strategy.
“Open the schools. Let bars and restaurants open. Encourage stores to be open. Encourage businesses to keep employees and get them back to work. Continue to mandate careful hygiene. Continue testing and enforce quarantine of the infeted. Close senior residences to visitors, keep their staff infection free, and take other steps to protect vulnerable populations. And people who have reason to fear becoming infected or are just afraid to go out in public can stay home, that should be their choice.”
I went on to ask people to contact the Governor and legislators and demand a real debate and different course of action, and one decided by the legislature, not one individual.
I was wrong about testing and limiting visitors to senior residences. Testing has become a monster which makes things worse and we forced many of our elderly at the end of their lives to die in isolation. But even I had no idea how prolonged this attempt to stop a virus that can’t be stopped would go on. It continues among some even today. I firmly believe that what I said then about a balanced approach and being realistic is even more true today, as we can see that two years of actions that were supposedly going to end the epidemic have basically done nothing. And the toll is likely as bad or worse that if we had just let the original variant run through the population.
Live and don’t learn is the motto of today’s politicians and public health experts. Just keep making the same dumb mistakes.