The present COVID-inspired lockdowns and business and school closures are counter-productive, not sustainable, and illogical. Worst of all, this is all about a virus with a mortality rate (IFR) roughly similar (or likely lower when all infection data is in) to seasonal influenza. How in the world have we gotten to where we are, and what can we do to stop the harm we are doing by reversing the process? I provide below, my opinion on the lockdowns and school closures and I need to be clear up front, the lockdown and school closure polices (particularly extended or re-closures) were and are a complete catastrophe and have failed! They must be ended now!
Start with the basic fact that there are tremendous harms to these lockdown and school closure actions, and it is a strategy that has devastated the most vulnerable among us – the poor – and made them worse off. Lockdowns and especially the extended ones have been deeply destructive. Government bureaucrats, who may indeed mean well and depend on the public health and medical experts, are being misled at times, and are ill served by preening ‘camera hungry’ medical experts who have been confusing at best, and inaccurate and damaging at worst. These experts have lost all credibility and have caused a dramatic loss in credibility in our scientific institutions. They often demonstrate by their statements and what they call for that they do not understand what they are talking about. Government bureaucrats seem to have some type of infatuation or strange fetish, with these illogical experts. Bureaucrats are not doing enough to push back and challenge and shut down these experts who seem to be driven by factors other than the science.
Importantly and sadly for the vast majority of Americans, the elites and those more affluent have enjoyed their stock portfolios escalating in value. They have benefitted and gotten richer and many of these upper crust peoples and professionals have the type of careers and jobs that allows them to maintain their jobs while working remotely in their flannels in the basement sipping their caffe latte. These experts have been making societal policies and demands without them having to experience the effects of their policies. Devastatingly, it remains the nation’s impoverished and working-class households and especially those with children, who have been subjected to a disproportionate share of the burden. The fact is that lower-income Americans and other global citizens are much more likely to be compelled to work in unsafe conditions. These are employees with the least bargaining power, and tend to be female and hourly paid employees. This is horrible and presents a complete catastrophe to their lives! Moreover, there are reports of racialized groups being stigmatized because of the higher burden of severe illness and death among persons already struggling on the fringes of society. Reports of smears and slander on our Arab, Middle-Eastern populations, our West-Asian, Black, Latin-American, South-Asian, Caribbean and Indo-Caribbean, as well as Southeast Asian groups are increasing and are very disturbing. COVID-19 has troublingly revealed it is a disease of disparity and as such, sadly revealed the under-girth racism and sexism that often comes with this and exists in societies, at a time when there should me more social cohesion and compassion in our civil societies as we grapple with this situation. More so because our leaders and their experts have devastated the response.
The poorer among us have also disproportionately lost their incomes as businesses and schools have closed, as well as the children are unable to optimally learn remotely. In fact, they are dropping out in vast numbers. The fact is that the poorer among us have been at increased risk from deaths of despair (e.g. suicides, opioid-related overdoses etc.) due to the catastrophe lockdowns and school closures visit upon them. There is tremendous mental anguish from the lockdowns and loss of control in one’s life, and the collateral damage from the lockdowns and closures is immense.
The cost of the lockdowns must not be more than the infection and disease itself and already we are witnessing how future generations may be crippled by these lockdowns. The lockdown policies (especially prolonged) have been poorly thought out and are economically unsustainable and there is a massive cost to it as it is highly destructive. Our younger people are going to be shouldered with the indirect but very real harms and costs of these lockdowns for a generation to come. Poorer underprivileged people pay a much larger economic cost and the devastating burden is unequally distributed onto them. Our impoverished are hit with a double whammy via the unequal impact of COVID-19 which is an illness of disparity, and the nonsensical damaging lockdown and school closure policies. Populations must be adequately informed with the best, highest quality, most trustworthy, robust evidence, so that they can sensibly practice mitigation steps and make decisions. In providing evidence-based information to the public, this will help reduce the polarization and mistrust.
But the reality is people are suffering. Look around you. Lives are being destroyed for once a business is closed and jobs lost, once someone is laid off, there is long term devastation to all those involved. Business owners are losing everything they worked for and have poured all their investment into. Complete multiple generations of sacrifice being ruined by insane specious medical experts and ‘deer-in-the-headlight’ bureaucrats. People are dying due to the COVID restrictions. Time to turn off the irrational medical experts and actually follow the data and science, for the first time. Time to for the first time, think through these policy decisions and look at what they are doing to the people. You do not just enact a policy and leave it in place if it is destroying the society. You stop it, you revise it! You do not implement policies and force edicts onto the society just to be seen as to be doing something. That is pure insanity and near criminal if it is leading to destruction! We do not need to destroy our societies, the lives of our people, our economies, or our school systems to handle COVID-19. We do not ‘stop COVID at all costs’! At some point this madness must stop and be grounded in sane thinking!
The truth is that many of these more vocal talking-head “medical experts” do not represent the tremendous numbers of bread-and-butter clinicians and nurses at the forefront of the COVID-19 battle. These are our real heroes. The information these unempirical medical experts feverishly spew at the public 24/7 is relentless, and at times intellectually dishonest, absurd, being untethered from reality and common sense. They have not considered the consequences (even unintended) of their actions/statements and bureaucrats are simply following along, decimating their societies. Their lockdown decisions and input have created policy disasters! With hubris and self-righteousness, these experts run around from media show to media show hurling near vomitus at the public, constantly validating each other, patting each other on the back, praising each other, and seemingly detached from the devastation they are causing.
These showcased ‘medical experts’ seem unable to read the science and do not seem to understand the data, are blinded to it, and what they say at times is unsubstantiated, conflicting, and makes absolutely no sense. The available data and what we know about COVID-19 often does not match the health policies they advocate for. These ‘vocal experts’ exhibit a kind of groupthink, deceptiveness, academic sloppiness, and cognitive dissonance that ignores data or facts, while driving a sense of hopelessness and helplessness among the public. They act as ideological enforces attacking anyone who disagrees with them and have the media as their attack dogs once you disagree and question the policy. Then attacks and smears begin by the media with no real focus on the data or technical issues, and most importantly, no interest or debate on the crushing harms on societies. They have driven societies now into a blame game, where neighbours and friends and strangers blame each other for infections. Now friends and neighbours attack each other and this is ripping our societies apart. These experts cite research studies that are often very methodologically flawed and junk science. They are apparently driven by craven politics and use fear mongering and it seems at times deliberately, to paralyze the populace and recklessly disregard the problems the protracted lockdowns visit upon the lives of Americans (and really, on any global society).
There is no logic and these unhinged experts recklessly disregard the fact that the virus has attenuated and death rates are substantially decreased. They have driven populations into turmoil and a fearful frenzy for a virus with an almost 99.9% chance of survival if infected. Let us wrap our minds around this last statement before we read on, “a virus with an over 99% chance of survival and more certainly for persons under 70, especially if reasonably healthy. The vast majority of people who contract SARS-CoV-2 will not get ill or die from it”.
We are also left to question, did governments and their ‘experts’ do this to drive deep fear initially so as to coerce people to readily accept the lockdowns and closures? Do they need more lockdowns now to justify the initial catastrophic lockdown mistakes (or extensions)? These are the type of questions we cannot discount given what we have now seen play out. It is way past time to end the lockdowns and we got life back to normal for everyone but the higher-risk and the elderly among us. It is way past time we target efforts to where they are beneficial. Such age-targeted measures can protect the most vulnerable from COVID-19, while not adversely impacting those not at risk. Why? Because we can actually target the higher-risk based on age and risk. We know how to do this. We know better who is at risk and should take sensible reasonable steps to protect them. We know better what to do now and how to treat COVID-19 patients. We have hospital systems geared up now. We need to stop grabbing our pearls and the never-ending convulsions and vapours each time an irrational expert spews partial or inaccurate information to get us fearful. We need to stop the hang wringing and go on with life. There are far more devastating pathogen out there and which will emerge at some point in time. What will we do then?
Governments had nine to ten months to secure the elderly and higher-risk persons, so why are they locking down each time there is a new case or cases rise? Logically, the elderly would be secured by now, so are they really acknowledging tacitly as a government and medical experts that the reason they are rushing to lock down again is because the elderly are not optimally secured? And hospitals are not geared up. So, what did they do as a high paid and privileged government with their ‘experts’ over the last nine months while society was under perennial house arrest and being hollowed out? Being devastated. Is this more a failure of governments and public health systems and not the general population that did their part?
There is absolutely no reason to lock down and constrain an ordinarily healthy “well” society, a younger society, in the first place. Never in human history have we done this, constraining an entire society. We always lockdown/quarantine the cases and vulnerable, not the well. It has never been done. Why do this here then, especially prolonging now, when we know the at-risk sub-population clearly, and can gear and target our response to them? What is the underlying corroborating science to do this? Initially, it was understandable to gain an understanding in the first few weeks of what we were dealing with. But why would we continue this way for so long? Are we going to kill off the entire country or world to stop every case of COVID-19? Is this the goal or policy now, to “stop COVID-19 at all costs?” This is destructive, illogical, and unsound policy if this is the new policy.
Moreover, we have never asked the experts like Dr. Fauci to provide us their underpinning data. Show us the evidence, do not just stand there and spew nonsense that you cannot back up. You are destroying lives, whole communities, whole nations. Populations must demand this now from the camera-hungry preening medical experts: “where is that evidence for what you just said” and “at what cost to society are we going to implement that public policy?” The issue is what is the trade-off and we must take those trade-offs into account when making policy and make evidence-informed decisions. Has any expert completed a cost-benefit analysis of lockdowns using data we have now? The answer is ‘no’. Our governments are being informed by ‘experts’ seemingly driven by ideology/politics, and thus we are being subjected to ideological policy and not science-based policy, yet they are telling us they are following the science, and we as the public, are realizing they often talk nonsense and drivel. None of this makes sense anymore, even if it initially made some sense. Still running after a ridiculous Imperial College Ferguson modelling that has been discredited. Utter junk science by a researcher (s) that has been proven wrong time and again. They have been flat wrong and these inept experts keep pointing to these models and assumptions when we have actual data now. Who would refer to models when there is data to inform us? What has been the impact and has our response been proportionate and scientific based on confirmable data? ‘The answer is an emphatic ‘no’. Have we matched COVID-19 public policy to data? The answer is ‘no’.
My thinking many months now is that we must end lockdowns and school closures because of the devastating consequences and the fact that this benefits the well-off and upper class in our societies. Immunity from ‘natural’ exposure (once the elderly and at-risk and those with co-morbidities are fully secured) is a secondary effect of opening up. This is a good thing. Look, I get it. Theoretically, if we quarantined (locked down) any society 100 percent completely in a prolonged manner, and just kept it closed, there is a chance it may stop spread. Cases will go down. However, we would then achieve two outcomes: First, no economy or life to emerge to, and, second, we would not have moved any closer to population-level immunity (often known as herd immunity), which should be the ultimate goal. Importantly, susceptible persons would remain ready and ripe for a virus that is laying in wait. We would be delaying the problem, even as we also cause a host of devastating lockdown consequences. We are witnessing these now. We can never eliminate COVID-19 with a lockdown in any nation! This can never be done and the experts know this. We absolutely need the “low-risk of illness” portions of the populations to be exposed to the virus so as to build immunity and stop the spread.
Population immunity will come via natural exposure, taking a vaccine, or a combination of both (usually the case). Moreover, we are seeing evidence now that there is some level of cross-reactivity immunity that may also confer some immunity (exposure to other corona viruses, common cold corona virus etc). It is important to also understand that we are not referring to allowing a society to ‘run free’ and everyone get infected. This would be disastrous and has never been the call. Rather, as we await a vaccine that may or may not be entirely effective or may have limited immunity (remember the yearly influenza vaccine has not been entirely effective) or may be delayed or even may have adverse effects that need to be studied, the optimal approach is to secure the at-risk (elderly etc.) fully in their private homes, the society, and in nursing/care homes (this is a necessary component), as well as prepare hospitals to prevent overcrowding and also to allow other medical illness to be dealt with. This will allow the ‘low risk of illness’ portion of the population, this being the healthier, the well, the younger without comorbid conditions, to face the pathogen ‘naturally’ and to develop some level of immunity. Face it naturally via normal day-to-day living. This can be regarded as an age-targeted approach, where constraints increase with age, with the youngest (e.g. children, young people at very low risk etc.) being allowed to live lives pretty much freely and as such, the elderly with medical conditions being at the other end of the spectrum, being fully secured. Younger persons/adults and middle-aged adults who are healthy in the society could thus go on to live reasonably normal lives with reasonable common-sense precautions. It is destructive to employ a ‘one size fits all’ strategy to a society.
In addition, the key metric is not the number of new active cases being reported and misrepresented by the vocal corrupted experts, but rather what are the hospitalizations that result, the ICU bed use, the ventilation use, and the deaths. What is the severe illness as a result? This is the issue. Not case counts for this is driving needless fear when the risk of illness often is near zero and this causes people to rush to the hospital and this creates the blockage and overcrowding. We test and you may have immunity from prior colds or even prior COVID yet the diagnostic test used often has high false-positive rates. We admit you under suspicion when in fact the test was too sensitive and picks up old or non-viable, non-culturable virus, fragments or viral dust, and inconsequential COVID. See the problem with the fear driven by the cases. The real issue is what is the excess mortality beyond regular baseline? Incident case data, while an important piece of the puzzle, is not the key piece of the puzzle at this time. Specifically, it is not the number of hospitalizations or ICU visits, but it is understanding these numbers so that we can plan and make sure we have the capacity to handle hospitalization and ICU needs. When we flattened curves, it was to prevent overcrowding, as this was to slow hospitalizations to the point where we could have handled the cases and administer important care to others too. Not just COVID-19 patients. All this to say we cannot rush to a lockdown or a school closure every time there are new cases, not now, not based on how far we have come in preparation and what we know now about who COVID-19 targets and how to treat it. This is an insane policy. Not when we know that the tests generate a high number of false positives.
Look at the utter catastrophic mess our leaders and experts have made. For example, do we shut a school down for one new case? Is this fair to the rest of the students – especially when we know children are at very low risk of spread to other children, to their teachers, or to the home, and are at very low risk of severe illness or death? Influenza is more lethal to children than COVID-19 is, and children take it home, yet there were never any school closures or masking of children to prevent transmission of influenza. When has there been? Additionally, the less advantaged among us cannot work from home, as they often have low paying in-person jobs. Who will take care of the children being sent home? Should the working parent have to quit his or her job, and the family go without income? The less advantaged among us cannot afford tutors, pod schools, or private schools. Lockdowns are essentially a boon, favoring the rich and well off who do not feel the effects in the same manner as the poorer and underprivileged. This is a catastrophe and result of the lockdowns!
The devastating consequences resulting from lockdowns and school closures are far more detrimental than the COVID-19 virus itself. So, is the choice death from the disease versus devastation and death from the lockdowns? Businesses have closed as destroyed forever and many are never to return, jobs have been lost, and lives ruined and more of this is on the way; meanwhile, we have seen an increase in anxiety, depression, hopelessness, dependency, suicidal ideation, and deaths of despair across societies. Can you grasp the devastation to the business owner and all involved? Preventive care has been delayed and has catastrophic consequences. Life-saving surgeries and tests/biopsies were stopped. All types of deaths escalate and loss of life years increased. Over half of Americans on chemotherapy (650-700,000) stopped getting chemotherapy due to being scared and the hospitals ceased non-essential procedures. Hip replacements and knee replacements were stopped. Children vaccinations for vaccine-preventable illness declined by half with a risk of re-emergence. How many people may have died, by the thousands likely, who may have survived an injury or heart ailment or even acute stroke but were too scared to access the clinic or hospital system (did not call the ambulance)? Or procedures pushed off.
Sadly, the very elderly we seek to protect the most are being decimated by the lockdowns and restrictions imposed at the nursing/care homes they reside in. Reports are that the restrictions from visitations and normal routines have accelerated the aging process, with many reports of increased falls due to declining strength and loss of ability to adequately ambulate. Dementia is escalating as the rhyme and rhythm of daily life is lost for our precious elderly and there is a sense of hopelessness and depression with the isolation from restricting loved ones. We are making the final time for our elderly very painful and anguishing by all of this insanity.
There is a reported one percent (1%) increase in suicides for each 1 percent increase in the unemployment rate. One in four Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 had suicidal ideations in the last months due to the lockdown, not COVID-19. These include College and University aged students across the US, the strongest among us. Reports from England indicate that deaths by suicide in persons under 18 years old markedly increased during lockdown. Children are being locked out of school when they are at incredibly low risk. Our children are failing in remote learning, and being irreparably damaged in many regards, dropping out and not getting the chance to meet their social and maturational milestones when outside of the school setting.
Many children – and particularly those less advantaged – get their main needs met at school, including nutrition (often their only daily meal), eye tests and glasses, and hearing tests. Importantly, schools often function as a protective system or watchguard for children who are sexually or physically abused and the visibility of it declines. Due to the lockdowns and the lost jobs, adult parents are so angry and bitter, the stress and pressure in the home escalates due to no income and loss of independence and control over their lives as well as the dysfunctional remote schooling that they often cannot help with, and some sadly are reacting by lashing out at each other and abusing their children. There are reports by experts that children are being taken to the ER with parents thinking they may have killed their child who is unresponsive with multiple broken bones. This is real. This is happening because of lockdowns and extended ones. The mental health impacts are staggering.
In early October, among tens of thousands of students (18-24 years old) on approximately 30 university campuses who tested positive, not one student was hospitalized – yet students were sent home. These are among the most-healthy among us, with very low risk of severe illness if infected. By sending them home (which is an incredibly flawed policy), they could spread the virus to their communities. Is this not placing the ones you sought to protect (elderly) at high risk? See the nonsense and how these ‘experts’ misguide the government bureaucrats? The real question now is are we anywhere ahead today? The answer is no. In no way are we better off! In fact, we are much worse off, so why not allow people to make common sense sensible decisions and take precautions, and go on with their lives? The US data shows that around 95 percent of those over 70 years survive COVID-19. We know that persons 0-19 years have an approximate 99.997 percent risk or likelihood of survival, those 20-49 have a 99.98 percent risk of survival, and those 50-69/70 years an approximate 99.5 percent risk of survival. Nearly all persons under 70 years recover. This virus is less deadly for younger people (far less deadly in children) than the annual flu and more deadly for older people than the flu. We must not downplay this virus and it is different to the flu and can be catastrophic for the elderly. But the ‘good news’ data is never reported by the “experts.” The vast majority of people do not have any substantial risk of dying from COVID-19. The fact is that most COVID-19 positive persons have no or very mild symptoms and do not develop severe illness. What does this all mean? It means the risk of severe illness and death under 60 to 69 years or so is vanishingly small. It means that we do not lock a nation down for such a low death rate for persons under 70 years of age, especially if they are reasonably healthy peoples.
We must take common-sense mitigation precautions as we go on with life. This does not mean we stop life altogether! This does not mean we destroy the society to stop each case of COVID! We now know how to treat COVID-19 much better, and we have therapeutics that, while each on its own is not a silver bullet, we seem to be able to treat with a cocktail approach that is apparently working. We can target and double and triple down protection of the elderly in our private homes and in old aged/care/nursing homes, while at the same time ensure the hospital system is not overwhelmed and can respond. This includes proactive responding to our higher-risk populations (at home or in nursing homes) who test positive by intervening much earlier (offering early outpatient ambulatory treatment to prevent decline to severe illness while the illness is self-limiting with mild flu-like illness) with available inexpensive treatments (off-target antivirals, corticosteroids, and antiplatelet/antithrombotic-early oral multidrug therapy in an attempt to avoid hospitalization and death). The aim of early treatment before hospitalization is to prevent hospitalization and severe illness, and as such, to save lives. Early home treatment has been shown to drop hospitalization by 85% and death by 50%.
The reality is that we did not protect our nursing home populations early on as well as we might have (while we did an excellent job with the hospitals), and this has to be acutely focused on. We must fix the nursing home situation immediately and we have learnt that the core breach is the nursing staff who bring infection into the homes. Why has it been 10 months and this has not been solved? We have to immediately cauterize that breach! We also know more now that COVID-19 strikes in an age-specific manner and as such, we should gear resources and efforts in an age-specific manner.
From where we started 9-10 months ago in the US, between the therapeutics, a potential vaccine (s), an early outpatient treatment approach in COVID positive symptomatic persons, replenishing empty stockpiles, and revived US supply chains, this is very good news societally. What has been learnt from COVID-19 will help dramatically for coming respiratory epidemics and pandemics as this back-and-forth with pathogen will rage on. Our battle and co-existence with pathogen will continue as long as there is life. We also cannot discount the potential damage to normally healthy immune systems that have not been sheltered in place or locked down like this before. We are effectively isolating ourselves and this is potentially dangerous to our immune systems. Immune systems especially of our children function optimally daily by being taxed and ‘tuned’ up We are engaging in a policy that we have no idea how healthy immune systems will react long term and be downregulated so much so that typically benign opportunistic pathogen will be a challenge once persons emerge from lockdowns. This is potentially very dangerous as we have no experience with it and we may set healthy, well populations onto a path of vulnerability to existing and new pathogens.
Certainly, no effectiveness evidence that children should be masked exists and in fact, masks can be very harmful to children as per evidence, and particularly in terms of potentially weakening their immune systems against usually benign opportunistic pathogen. Children drive seasonal influenza into the home yearly and suffer devastatingly from influenza, including death. Children do not drive COVID-19 home and COVID-19 has largely spared our children from severe illness or death (the risk if very small), unlike the flu. But there has never been a school closure for influenza or masking of children during the influenza season. Why? Why the different children mask policy (and even school closures) with COVID-19 that is less lethal to children and children are at much lower risk of spreading it as well as getting severely ill or dying? Why, when nursing homes have been secured over the 9-10 months since COVID-19 inception. Why? This is the key question and medical experts have so far failed to provide any explanation for this.
In closing, these ‘experts’ are costing futures and lives by their insane and baseless advice and guidance to bureaucrats who appear to have no idea what they are doing. This is an economic disaster, that is causing more harm to physical and mental health. It is time to end these lockdowns, they have a very limited benefit! There is no basis for prolonging the lockdowns, and people must be allowed to live their normal lives once again, making common sense decisions. Lockdowns (particularly extended or re-lockdowns) cause irreparable damage and bureaucrats have been often misled by illogical and often unscientific experts. “One-size” does not fit all, and responses must be targeted to those at greatest risk.
Turn off these politicized biased experts with their pseudoscience nonsense, only spewing what we do not know, wringing their hands, and failing to showcase the good news and what we do know already about what works. We must demand that they showcase the good news, there is lots around us! There is so much hope nationally and globally for we can beat COVID-19 and similar pathogen to come. We have before and can again. Inform the populace with both the benefits and the costs (harms) of these kinds of societal lockdowns and school closure polices, so that they can make the trade-offs. Nothing is risk free. Consider what the population will optimally want. Polices must be based on a consideration of the implications of the policy societally, traded off and balanced accordingly whereby the population does not face more harms than benefits.
A vast lot of information and data has accumulated now and we know lots more on COVID-19 and thus we can take these into account in our decisions. All we seek as societies are the facts, the data, the science as they exist, with pure honesty as to the risk so that we can be informed and empowered to make our own personal decisions and choices. We want this fear mongering and near terrorizing of us to end, at the hands of our governments and insane medical establishment. We want to be informed always of the risks versus benefits and allow us to make decisions with our personal clinicians. We have the pandemic management tools, allow us to use them optimally. Inform populations properly, and allow populations to exercise their personal responsibility and to live free once again, as they take all the necessary risk-reduction steps (following relevant guidance) as a cohesive people to safeguard the vulnerable among!
Dr. Paul Alexander, PhD (University of Oxford, University of Toronto, York University, and McMaster University) graduate and postdoc educated in a combination of epidemiology, research methodology, biostatistics, and evidence-based medicine/EBM)