One of the most maddening aspects of the coronavirus pandemic has been the abject failure of the scientific community to get a handle on some of the most basic facts surrounding this new respiratory virus – which is alleged to have originated in Wuhan, China last fall.
Seriously, people keep telling us we need to “trust science.” And put our faith in “reason.”
Okay … we do not necessarily disagree with those recommendations, but the fact remains “scientific reason” in response to the coronavirus has been all over the map. And continues to be all over the map.
This ongoing lack of directional certainty has yielded borderline apocalyptic results … particularly for the American economy.
Remember when conventional wisdom dictated the coronavirus was so contagious that asymptomatic carriers could infect people merely by touching something in a room they had been in days earlier? Or those reports of airborne transmission from asymptomatic carriers which led to draconian government shutdowns of American society – as well as our new “masked culture?”
With no hard evidence to dispute these early doom-and-gloom pronouncements, a pervasive uncertainty emerged … which soon turned into a full-blown fear gripping our nation and its leaders (a fear which hasn’t entirely departed).
Those who argued against the lockdowns were literally voices crying in the wilderness …
Was “science” right, though?
No. As we have previously addressed, the lethality of this virus was dramatically overstated. Simply put, our leaders led us to believe Covid-19 was going to kill millions of Americans if we did not bring our society to a full, screeching stop … which is pretty much what happened.
Don’t get us wrong: The coronavirus is still a very dangerous virus. We are not saying it isn’t. Even if we assume that a large percentage of the deaths attributed to it have been misdiagnosed (i.e. were the result of another condition) – we would still be looking at tens of thousands of lives lost in our nation and hundreds of thousands of lives lost around the world. And the meter is still running.
As a result, individuals who are of advanced age – or who have an existing, underlying medical condition – clearly ought to take precautions. And the rest of us should keep washing and sanitizing our hands regularly – and refrain from going out in public unnecessarily if we develop symptoms.
Still, though, the more we learn about this virus the more convinced we become that the societal shutdowns accompanying it were totally unnecessary.
For example, the theory that asymptomatic spread was fueling the virus was thoroughly debunked during a briefing held this week by Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove – who runs the World Health Organization (WHO)’s emerging diseases and zoonosis division.
According to Van Kerkhove, it turns out asymptomatic carriers are not driving the spread of the virus after all. This is a huge revelation and one that (as our headline suggests) would have been nice to know before our leaders implemented a societal shutdown that cost the nation more than 42 million jobs.
“From the data we have, it still seems to be rare that an asymptomatic person actually transmits onward to a secondary individual,” Van Kerkhove told reporters on Monday. “It’s very rare.”
She also poured cold water on the massive (and massively expensive) “contact tracing” efforts still underway across the nation.
“We have a number of reports from countries who are doing very detailed contact tracing,” Van Kerkhove said. “They’re following asymptomatic cases. They’re following contacts. And they’re not finding secondary transmission onward. It’s very rare.”
Again, that would have been useful information back in mid-March …
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Just a month ago, however, a widely publicized study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) totally contradicted this assertion. In fact, it explicitly warned that “asymptomatic people and those with minimal or fewer symptoms early in infection are those most likely to transmit Covid-19.”
Because, you know, “science …”
Accordingly, the study’s authors argued in favor of “maintaining social distancing and having people wear face masks to reduce the potential for transmission.” They also endorsed an ongoing investment in contact tracing for asymptomatic coronavirus carriers.
How much of an investment? In late April, a pair of former health officials representing Republican and Democratic administrations sent a letter (.pdf) to congressional leaders calling for a massive $12 billion appropriation to support contact tracing (and another $30 billion in daily stipends for individuals who self-isolated due to being identified as ‘at-risk’ as a result).
“The existing public health system is currently capable of providing only a fraction of the contact tracing and voluntary self-isolation capacity required to meet the COVID-19 challenge,” the officials noted in their letter.
Well, that is true … unless of course the “challenge” has been dramatically (deliberately?) overstated.
Again, we are not trying to minimize the danger associated with the virus or diminish the need for responsible efforts to combat it. The coronavirus is real. It is serious. And it is potentially life-threatening (especially if you are an elderly resident in an assisted living environment). Precautions must continue to be taken until a vaccine for it is available. And for God’s sake, don’t drink bleach.
But with each new revelation (like the one made by Van Kerkhove on Monday), we are learning the threat level posed by the virus certainly appears to be far less than any of us originally feared.
Which is in and of itself compelling evidence of an abject (and ongoing) failure on the part of science … and correspondingly, of reason.
At a time when the world needed its scientists (many of whom are subsidized by taxpayer-funded grants) to provide us with accurate information as to the origins, nature, transmission, lethality and trajectory of the virus … we instead got confusion, inconsistency and chaos.
And as a result, consequences …
What do you think? Vote in our poll and post your thoughts in our always-lively comments section below …
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