Covidiocy: Cathy Young’s take

March 16, 2022 • 11:15 am

Cathy Young often seems to me a voice of reason in the same way John McWhorter is: someone who’s not afraid to call things as they are. In her latest piece at Bulwark (click on screenshot below to read), Young, while reminding us that Covid is still with us, and Ukraine has not ended the virus narrative, calls out the various “covidiots” who were either stupidly wrong and overly precipitous in their take on the pandemic, or, worse, exacerbated it with their pronouncements. While Young gives both Left and Right their lumps, the Right turns out lumpier.

Here’s an example of party-typical behavior that Young sees as business as usual, but not explicitly dangerous:

Almost from the very beginning, responses to COVID-19 in the United States were (like everything else these days) polarized along political lines. Being Team Blue meant that you saw COVID as a very serious threat and supported drastic measures to contain and mitigate its spread. Being Team Red meant that you thought COVID wasn’t that big a deal and that its danger was being overhyped by safety freaks, people who wanted to give the government extraordinary powers, and Democrats who wanted to weaponize the pandemic to bring down Donald Trump. Obviously, not everyone fell neatly into those categories; but the tendency was undeniable.

This kind of stuff, however, she considers politically-based prognostications that can sort of be excused. Then the lump-production begins:

Chronicling Team Red covidiocy could easily fill a book: The estimate from Hoover Institution senior fellow Richard Epstein, a law professor, that just 500 Americans would die of COVID—followed by his comically desperate attempts to say he had really meant 5,000. The claims by talk-radio king Rush Limbaugh that COVID was just “the common cold” and was being overhyped by the media as part of “an effort to bring down Trump.” Trump’s rant at a rally about the Democrats’ “new hoax” and about the flu being far worse. (Yes, if you pick apart his word salad, he technically didn’t call the disease a hoax, only claims that he was mishandling it; but it’s ridiculous to deny that such talk boosted the “COVID hoax” narratives.) The #PlanDemic and #DemPanic hashtags (which still exist, but don’t look if you want to avoid brain damage). The war cries to “liberate” locked-down states. The obsessions with alleged miracle drugs, especially hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin. The Anthony Fauci Derangement Syndrome. The anti-vaccine propaganda and scare tactics peddled by the likes of Tucker Carlson.

And she also indicts the Left for being so eager to blame Trump for everything, noting this:

Did Trump’s feckless rhetoric and lack of leadership encourage irresponsible behavior with regard to social distancing and vaccination and thus cost lives? Most likely; but counterfactuals are always iffy, and it’s difficult to say with any confidence how different the outcomes would have been under a different president.

As for lockdowns, school closings, and mask mandates, Young takes a judicious position, saying that perhaps the “elite”, who could work from home, were too eager to embrace lockdowns, yet there is some evidence that mask wearing was indeed effective. Her point is that even now we have no strong and unilateral answers to the efficacy of these actions:

How well lockdowns, mask mandates, and other pre-vaccination COVID-19 mitigation strategies worked in reducing the spread of the virus and the resulting deaths is a massively complicated question.

She cites evidence on both sides, but reserves her strongest opprobrium for those whose actions were positively dangerous, contributing to the spread of the virus.  These include the ivermectin-pushers and the anti-vaxxers—again, mostly people on the Right. Curiously, though, she includes among this group Bret and Heather Weinstein and Bari Weiss, who by their own lights are liberals. We’ve discussed some of their stands before.

Young says this:

But no part of Team Red COVID discourse has been more insidious than anti-vaccine propaganda, often abetted by the “anti-anti-vax” crowd. Some of this discourse comes from people who are not, strictly speaking, Team Red but are part of the “anti-woke” side in the culture wars (a side with which I broadly sympathize). Brett Weinstein and Heather Heying, husband-and-wife biologists who attracted a lot of support a few years ago when they were run out of Evergreen College for opposing an “anti-racist” exercise in which white people were asked to stay away from campus for day, have emerged as two leading voices of COVID vaccine skepticism—rejecting scientific evidence for quackery.

Former New York Times editor and anti-“cancel culture” dissenter Bari Weiss initially urged her newsletter readers last May to get vaccinated and start living a normal life (and advised the vaccine-hesitant to “consider the data” and get with the program); but later, she shifted toward platforming vaccine skeptics as a legitimate side in the debate and giving sympathetic coverage to vaccine resisters including the protesting Canadian truckers, with no balancing pro-vaccination message or criticism of anti-vax agitprop and conspiracy theories.

It’s hard to say whether this is contrarianism or audience capture. Either way—and I say this as someone who generally admires Bari Weiss—it’s, well, deplorable.

Note, though, that the link to Bari Weiss supposedly giving “sympathetic coverage to vaccine resisters” actually goes to an article by Suzy Weiss, Bari’s sister (it’s a family act now), and the link to sympathy with the Canadian truckers goes to a piece by Rupa Subramanya.  While one can assume that Bari Weiss sympathizes with their views, especially after her announcement on Bill Maher’s show that she was “done with covid”, it should have been more explicit that Weiss hosts posts by people she agrees with, and that these two posts were written by others. (Young does say she “platforms” vaccine skeptics.)

As for Weinstein and Heying’s vaccine skepticism and enthusiasm about ivermectin, this was and is unforgivable, especially in view of the very weak or nonexistent evidence for ivermectin as a “palliative” (except when worms are a comorbidity) and the fact that the best single-blind study we have shows no effect of the drug.

At this stage, a true scientist would admit that this advice was misguided, especially in view of this unchallengeable statement: during the pandemic, unvaccinated people who took ivermectin were much more likely to get sick, die, and pass on the virus than those who were vaccinated and didn’t take the de-worming drug.  This itself warrants an apology from people who consider themselves wedded to data. It is, in my view, reprehensible to question properly tested vaccines at the same time you promote ivermectin.

At any rate, let us remember that although the headlines are dominated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, covid is a problem that will remain with us for years to come.

39 thoughts on “Covidiocy: Cathy Young’s take

  1. Among the most insidious rules that came out of Covid-world, was the CDC guidance to use race as a factor in deciding treatment privileging persons of color to the detriment of white persons. Andthe racial regulation was adopted, and used, by a small number of states. But perhaps more places used that criterion, but wasn’t made public

    I also remember a very deliberate effort to play down the role of obesity vis a vis Covid, possibly because this too may have links to race issues………

    1. If you are trying to do the greatest good for the greatest number in the shortest time possible, as when vaccines in initially scarce supply were first rolling out, then priority for groups at highest risk of infection and highest risk of dying or needing ICU is defensible. If this maps to definable non-white social and racial groups, then public health officials get paid the big bucks to message this uncomfortable decision openly. If vaccination hesitancy is high among those same groups —it was— then even more indulgence of their particularities is justifiable. I say this as someone opposed to affirmative action in other walks of life.

      In the days when we thought we could eradicate Covid if only we could vaccinate enough people, the racial minorities and urban homeless were thought to be a bigger barrier to normal life than the MAGA-hat types are regarded today, when it doesn’t matter so much. But I’ll make a bet to the Red Cross that even in U.S. red states, Black and Hispanic residents make up a disproportionate share of the unvaccinated. (Like Trump himself, most Republicans over 50 have discreetly gotten themselves vaccinated. They just don’t like the government telling them to.) And in blue states, almost all the unvaccinated will be minorities. All three claims are part of the bet. Refute any one and I’ll pay up.

    2. They always mentioned obesity as a risk factor in COVID reporting that I heard. They probably didn’t emphasize it as way to fight the pandemic because people couldn’t do much about it quick enough to help, not because they didn’t want to offend them. This is one thing that Bill Maher kept harping on that made no sense to me. It sounded like pure virtue signaling to me.

  2. I think I might characterize Team Red’s response as not being that Covid isn’t a big deal, but that there are potential issues with all the responses to Covid including lockdowns, masking, vaccines, etc., and that we need to evaluate those against the danger of Covid. I would say that Team Blue’s response was to dig in their heels and say that there were no issues, and that anyone who said that there were was a Trump supporter, and, therefore, a racist, a fascist, and an idiot, not necessarily in that order. For my part I will be interested to see what the actual impact of Covid was; the other day Massachusetts cut its official death count from about 23,000 deaths to about 19,300, and that doesn’t even get into the question of hospitalizations from Covid as opposed to with Covid.

    1. Looking at the excess death rates, it looks as if the official Covid deaths numbers are an underestimate, but of course, Massachusetts may be an exception, although we do not know why..
      The power of masking is in combination with social distancing and hand hygiene. The failure of these measures in the US (and some other places) is that one or more of this threesome were flouted.
      I think ‘masking’ has not been understood. Outside, with some soft breeze, it is unnecessary, in closed quarters, cloth masks reduce the ‘danger area’ around one from 2m to about 1m, hence social distancing remains necessary. N 95’s are of course more effective.
      The lockdowns were probably too much and an overreach in many cases. In South Africa they involved the absolute lockdown on the sales of alcohol, tobacco and even vapes, completely overboard. And yes, that should have been handled with more thought.
      As far as vaccines go it was, until omicron, indeed seriously reducing the probability of spreading, even a 30 to 40 % reduction within families, and much more in other situations.
      The sabotage by the anti-vaxxers is responsible for the bad death rates in the US.
      Biden had a great vaccine roll-out, but many didn’t heed. It is estimated that this vaccine roll out saved about a million lives. The overwhelming majority of those that died were unvaccinated. If only they had listened to Uncle Joe, most of them would still be alive.

      1. A moderate take similar to mine: I’m pro-vax but anti-lockdown and anti-cloth mask. The data on the efficacy of the latter two is weak at best.

        Indeed, one of the only real-world clinical trials of masking (Abaluck et al) showed that cloth masks don’t significantly reduce symptomatic infection (control 0.67% vs masked 0.61%). N95 masks are better but are onerous to wear and are almost never fitted properly. As for lockdowns, I’d speculate based on my observations that the cost far exceeds the benefit.

        1. I don’t think mask efficacy against spreading droplets or reducing infections is interesting outside of the crowded areas where masks do work for many airborne infections. What we want to know if it is useful in pandemics, and the observational evidence is scant – see my response to the article for references.

          In general masking is insignificant in preventing the pandemic spread or death or severe disease damage compared to social distancing and efficient vaccines. The problem is that it is rarely mentioned that mask use can be judicial, evidence is weak and benefits may be marginal (if they exist at all). And so the fuzziness in evidence and recommendations has been a double whammy that populists have locked on to.

          It may have weakened vaccine use, it may not (reminding of one method may boost use of others). But I think we should endeavor to make information correct at all times, I can’t see how that would hurt the pandemic response.

    2. Jeez, nothin’ tendentious about that take, DrBrydon.

      You ask me, Ms. Young and our host’ve got the balance of covidiocy about right.

    3. Sorry, I don’t buy that the Red response was a reasonable discussion. I live in a red state. The response overwhelmingly here is ‘Freedom! I’m not gonna do anything I don’t want to do! No masks, no vaccine!’. It is almost entirely selfish and self-interested, and completely in denial of any real evidence that masks and vaccines do work. No chance for a reasonable discussion.

      This is where those parents verbally attacked and threatened with violence school board members over mask mandates. I’m thoroughly disgusted with these people.

      1. Yep. Not to mention the whining about how ‘unfair’ it was that food stores could stay open but churches and gun stores had to limit occupancy. That isn’t questioning efficacy, that’s failure to acknowledge a difference so clear that anyone should see it.

  3. I think that all of what Young says about Bari Weiss’s blog is unfair. She says:

    … she shifted toward platforming vaccine skeptics as a legitimate side in the debate …

    The link is to a debate about vaccine mandates. Being against vaccine mandates is not at all the same as being a “vaccine skeptic”. And

    … and giving sympathetic coverage to vaccine resisters including the protesting Canadian truckers, …

    The pieces linked to are trying to understand why some people disagree and resist vaccinations. That is worthwhile! Understanding those opposed to your way of thinking helps you formulate a policy that might placate and persuade them.

    Too many on the left seem to think that the way to prevail over those who don’t agree is to attribute to them the worst possible motives and then hurl insults at them.

    Note also that the “done with covid” comment meant that, in her opinion, we are all now sufficiently vaccinated (anyone who wants to be, anyhow), that we should end all restrictions and return to normal. Whether one agrees or not, that is a pro-vaccine attitude to take, based on trusting them to work.

    1. If Bari Weiss was really splitting that hair, it didn’t come across clearly when she was on Bill Maher’s show. Being simply “done with COVID” is irresponsible when so many people are still unvaccinated.

      1. But (for adults in the West at least) everyone who wants the vaccine can have it, so if people refuse it and die as a result, well that’s up to them.

        [There are a small number of people who cannot have the vaccine for medical reasons, and those I sympathise with, but it’s unrealistic for society to keep up covid precautions indefinitely for that reason.]

    2. I believe I am justified in interpreting “done with Covid” as I”I’ve had enough of dealing with this”…it is a standard expression when you want to just forget something and move on. it is a semi slang expression that is widely used in this sense, nowhere near “we are sufficiently vaccinated”, which is a complete misapprehension. It is a very colloquial expression, used mostly in writing rather than in conversation. it is dismissive, period. Very common at least in NYC and environs, maybe more urban than rural.

      1. But in that very “done with covid” statement she said “We were told you get the vaccine, you get the vaccine and you get back to normal. And we haven’t gotten back to normal”, and then went on to argue that continued restrictions (she mentioned ongoing, indefinite online schooling for example) were doing more harm than good.

        I don’t see how that is an anti-vaccine point of view, it’s a pro-vaccine standpoint, arguing that we should trust the vaccines and return to normal now that we are vaccinated.

        I fully accept that people can disagree with her on this, but you can’t sensibly describe it as skepticism about vaccines.

        1. Thanks for reminding me of what she actually said. She’s being disingenuous in suggesting that once you get the vaccine, you’re done. She’s too intelligent to actually believe that and I don’t believe health experts claimed that anyway. She and Maher seemed to join the ranks of those who somehow feel that they don’t deserve to suffer from the pandemic and pretend to live in a world that matches those feelings. It’s as if to say, “How dare the world prevent me from living the life to which I have been accustomed.” Maher virtually said as much at the beginning of every show without an audience. Instead of joining together and fighting the pandemic as it presents itself, they play the victim.

        2. It may be obvious, but the virus doesn’t care if you’re ‘done with covid’. But I realy shouldn’t expect nuance from late night TV

  4. Richard Epstein’s ridiculous prediction of Covid deaths was followed up by an additional absurd comment. Paul Campos quotes Epstein saying “Clearly, if the vaccines were undeniably as safe and effective as the government claims, there would be no need for any mandate at all.” Campos says that this “sentence by itself proves beyond a reasonable doubt that nobody should ever listen to Epstein about anything. It is possibly the most asinine, absurd, and ridiculous thing I’ve ever read actually written by a law professor, which is kind of like picking out Michael Jordan’s most impressive dunk.”

    There is a larger lesson to garner from Epstein’s statements. One must exercise extreme caution when listening to people making assertions in areas they know little or nothing about. Somehow there are people that have expertise in a certain areas of knowledge, who because of this feel they can pontificate about any other area. I find this situation all too often in the field of history. People that have expertise in areas such as engineering feel confident in talking about American history although they have zero training in it. Over the past few years I have become particularly sensitive to learning about the source of particular viewpoints asserted with the air of authority. To clear, I am not criticizing non-experts quoting experts or non-experts giving opinions (which in most cases are worth no more than the “man on the street”), but rather non-experts in a particular field, who magically think they are experts and that the public should give special attention to what they assert.

    https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2022/01/richard-epstein-has-yet-more-thoughts-on-covid

    1. If “mandate” meant jackbooted government agents grabbing people off the streets or out of their homes to strap them on a gurney and stick a spike in their arms — well, then anti-mandate people would have an ally in me.

      But if what it means is employers or places of public accommodation taking a reasonable precaution to prevent their other employees and customers from being exposed to the health and safety risks posed by those who unreasonably and vexatiously refuse to get vaccinated — well, then they can cry me a freakin’ river.

      1. The rationale for vaccination mandates was eminently defensible through the first 22-odd months. [Edit: not 22 months obviously. Make that “since vaccines appeared.”]. The failure of vaccination to abolish transmission of Delta in the Provincetown outbreak last summer could be regarded as a peculiar setting akin to the Bergen County mumps outbreak in a highly vaccinated population of adolescents. (In both outbreaks, the vaccine prevented serious disease as advertised, and still does.)

        But Omicron changed the science. The roughly 65% reduction in risk of transmission conferred by three doses, the third recent, does not translate into any meaningful probability that the vaccinated will escape infection going through some reasonable time frame. It just slows down the rate at which infections propagate. Imagine going into a restaurant or the subway. Each time you go in, you draw a card from a deck. If you are unvaccinated, you will get infected it’s an ace, king, or queen. If you are vaccinated, only if it’s an ace will you get infected. If you get exposed often enough, drawing a card each time, how long before you eventually draw an ace? Obviously the likelihood that there are contagious people in the restaurant or subway car in the first place affects the baseline risk. This risk is reduced if they are vaccinated—maybe only the red cards, or only the diamonds, would count. But eventually you will still draw that ace, especially if you go out to eat a lot.*

        Canada’s provincial governments stopped their vaccination mandates as soon as this became apparent. The other reason to get vaccinated, to protect yourself from severe or fatal illness, is left as an individual health decision, not a mandate—like tetanus shots. The rationale for the continued federal requirement to be vaccinated to enter Canada seems unclear, except to spite the truckers and deny them a win.
        ———-
        * I adapted this analogy from a recent NY Times article discussing masks. The principle is the same. Reduction in snapshot risk does not reduce cumulative risk unless the exposure period has a definite end where it’s Ollie Ollie oxen free.

  5. I wouldn’t criticize lefties for mask mandates in the absence of definitive evidence about masks. This was a rapidly developing and dangerous situation, and if that was entirely an error, it was an error on the side of caution. Between us, I do think it reasonable that good masks (N95s and similar), fitted properly, should offer protection in conjunction with social distancing. But their effectiveness becomes nullified by the more common low quality masks, loose fitting masks, and proximity and duration of exposure. It’s those factors that undermine what effectiveness they probably have.

  6. There was just recently a piece in the WP using those awful things, statistics, to show the death rate per capita for the top 10 red states vs. the top ten blue. It was not even close and continues in this same direction with many more deaths in places like Florida. I hope all those dead folks are enjoying their freedom. They will never know freedom until they turn off Fox and make an attempt to join reality. I wonder if they have Fox in heaven. That would be red heaven.
    (

    1. To that I would reply, Beware the ecological fallacy. Just because red states have higher death rates and lower vaccination rates, it does not follow that the actual dead are Republicans. Every red state has many thousands of people who didn’t vote for Trump. The dead folks in red states are likely to be unvaccinated racial minorities heavily represented among those blue voters. That’s who dies of Covid. Their deaths may well be blameable on the Republican governments of those states, but the dead in those numbers are probably not Fox fans. The dead are probably invisible to Fox fans.

  7. In regard to Bret Weinstein, Wiki reports as follows: “In August 2021, Weinstein said he had misstated that a study had shown a 100% effective ivermectin protocol for the prevention of COVID.[52][59] Weinstein considers himself a supporter of vaccines in general; he believes mRNA vaccines have promise despite what he claims are “some clear design flaws”.[41] The footnote refers to one of the Weinstein/Heying podcasts. I don’t know if this counts as a full retraction, but it seems better than nothing in that department.

    Long ago, I advanced a hypothesis about a lab phenomenon the details of which need not detain us. In his PhD thesis, one of my grad students completely demolished my pet theory. When he later
    emigrated to New Zealand, some thought I had sent him there because he demolished my theory.

  8. I used to like Bari Weiss and appreciate her writing. I cheered for her when she quit the NYTimes to start her own Substack. A few days ago I ambled over to her Substack, and… well…

    The article itself (by a guest author) wasn’t that bad, but the comments were a giant steaming pile of “the progressives are a bigger threat to Real Americans(TM) than Russians!!11!eleventy!!111” It was appalling. If this is the kind of company Weiss keeps, I can’t respect her anymore.

    1. I quit Weiss a while ago when it became clear that she had succumbed to audience capture. And her audience, what a bunch of wingnuts.

  9. No, it isnt better than nothing. Bret and Heather interviewed skeptics and anti vax doctors and scientists. Early on they both expressed doubt about mRNA vaccines. Their skepticism has legitimized the fears of the paranoiacs and anti vaxxers and lunatic libertarians, and confused everyone else. Nor have they addressed the flawed ivermectin trials and statistics done in foreign countries. This is the minimum they should have done. Sorry, I used to worship them but they have now politicized everything, and I have no idea why. They should have stuck with the free speech issues. And PS: they have never shown the statistics on blue vs. red states, much less those for the whole world, that show that the unvaccinated died by orders of magnitude more than the vaccinated. Nor have the rebutted the absolutely false rumors about the vaccine being more dangerous than Covid. Their guest Peter McCullough outright lied as did other guests. Vaccine deaths are minimal compared to Covid deaths. The facts on this are known and in every government report including CDC. In this country maybe, maybe 10,000 (and these reports do not include details of comorbidity)
    vs. millions of deaths. Nor did they compare vaccination deaths (i.e. known to be due to vaccination) to the vaccine deaths from measles, polo, DPT and other childhood vaccinations. In all, they have
    ignored the science that differs from their views and allowed false information and fears to spread in this country. I no longer trust them. And I have no clue about their political motivations.

    1. I view Weinstein’s and Heying’s surrender to nonsense as a function of what we might call “post Woke trauma trauma syndrome.” What happened to them at Evergreen is insane, and they seemed to slowly sink into a siege mentality. Why they chose such a manifestly unscientific hill to die on, I cannot say.

      1. As my post revealed, I keep hoping for better from Weinstein and Heying (which may be whistling in the dark). You are probably right about post woke trauma syndrome. Another example is James Lindsay’s appalling decision to vote for Trump, in reaction to wokery. I know at least one other case
        like these—an individual who was chased out of academia by woke bullshit, and then reacted by ricocheting from old-fashioned Liberalism to Breitbartish gullibility about Soros conspiracies. There may be many more cases of this unfortunate trajectory than we realize.

      2. “Why they chose such a manifestly unscientific hill to die on, I cannot say.”

        Have they found a way to monetize their stance on things like covid? That would explain a lot.

  10. Jerry,

    “… ivermectin-pushers … again, mostly people on the Right … very weak or nonexistent evidence for ivermectin … no effect of the drug”

    As one of the anthems of the 70’s – The Pusher by Steppenwolf – put it, “God damn The Pusher Man”.

    However, I’m not sure that “very weak or non-existent” is all that tenable, or at least it’s not entirely accurate: the questions are at what concentration levels, and whether there’s any benefit at all at levels below those that are toxic.

    For instance, over at Science-Based Medicine – even if that claim is somewhat suspect given that author Harriet Hall there has insisted that “Science has not been able to categorically distinguish a male from a female” (gametes, baby) – David Gorski has argued that:

    “Ivermectin does inhibit the same protease that PF-07321332 [Pfizer’s new anti-viral] does, but, as is the case for viral replication, it requires a concentration that is not achievable by oral dosing.”

    https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/pfizer-new-covid-19-protease-inhibitor-drug-is-not-just-repackaged-ivermectin/

    Gorski’s article is of course fairly thorough and comprehensive by itself, but of some interest is a review by Scott Alexander of the “evidence” for ivermectin’s supposed efficacy:

    https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/ivermectin-much-more-than-you-wanted?s=r

    Of particular interest is what he considers one of the better studies (Mahmud) which provides some answer to the second question above by suggesting that ivermectin “may” have reduced “the mean time to recovery” by a day or so; not much to write home about:

    https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/03000605211013550

    However, what seems a little bit “iffy” at best is that that study may have had its thumbs on the scales by giving doxycline – a known anti-inflammatory antibiotic with some anti-viral effects – to the “treatment group”, along with the ivermectin, that they apparently didn’t give to the “control group”. Maybe a stretch then to argue or even suggest that the benefits were due to ivermectin alone – even if it may have some benefits at the reduced levels present in the study.

  11. … social distancing and vaccination … As for lockdowns, school closings, and mask mandates, Young takes a judicious position, saying that perhaps the “elite”, who could work from home, were too eager to embrace lockdowns, yet there is some evidence that mask wearing was indeed effective.

    Cathy Young presents the best take I’ve seen so far in general media, but while the Jonas Herby, Lars Jonung, and Steve H. Hanke paper she refers to may explain why nations with lockdowns fared no better than those without, it’s metaanalysis on methods is debatable.

    Additional methods like general mask wearing has still no evidence based study results, and the limited good studies (one, in fact) on masks doesn’t say much. I have written about the most recent result before here:

    ‘It’s misinformation at worst.’ Weak health studies can do more harm than good, scientists say …

    Haber and his co-authors agree that health measures such as wearing masks or school closures are difficult to study. That’s because of the complexities of studying human behavior—such as whether people wear masks routinely and correctly—and because small effects require huge populations, Haber says. A high-quality trial on mask wearing is possible, he says, noting a massive trial in Bangladesh, released as a preprint in May and published in Science today. The trial, which had a large sample and careful design, reported small benefits. But it, too, has been criticized for its analysis methods and for overstating its findings.

    The pandemic has shown both “the best and the worst” of science, Kimmelman says. Vaccine trials and the large-scale Recovery trial of treatments have been “unbelievable,” he says. But questions about mask wearing or the ideal timing of booster shots haven’t had the same resources or attention: “We’ve discovered how piss-poor we are at answering certain kinds of questions that are of paramount importance for public health.”

    [ https://www.science.org/content/article/it-s-misinformation-worst-weak-health-studies-can-do-more-harm-good-scientists-say ]

  12. In my mind, Cathy misses the mark on her article by not stating categorically, that the biggest COVIDIdiots, and by far, where the bumbling duo of the CDC and FDA – the blue and red stripe tribes come out smelling like roses in comparison.

    China locked down Wuhan, a city of 10 million people, on January 9th, and the dimwitted government organizations, in charge, with a specific duty to have a testing plan ready to go, did not, and further and incomprehensively, monopolized the development of testing kits, rather than release the strength of private organizations towards developing rapid test kits. PCR tests are next to useless guarding against viral exponential growth, and failing to quickly flood the market with free and quick rapid tests, is the biggest self inflicted blunder by anyone anywhere. I think it is in the same ballpark as shutting down nuclear power and worrying about carbon induced climate change. Darwin awards at their finest.

    1. elissa,

      “… that the biggest COVIDIdiots, and by far, were the bumbling duo of the CDC and FDA”

      Can’t say much if anything about “developing rapid test kits”, but I’m certainly sympathetic to “bumbling duo” – a case in point being their frequent volte-faces on mask policy. First it was no mask, then masks, then two, then back to one.

      “experts” in general not coming out of the Covid crisis covered in a lot of glory; many don’t seem to know whether they’re on foot or horseback. Somewhat apropos of which:

      “Is lifting COVID-19 restrictions in New Brunswick the right move? 2 experts disagree

      Epidemiologist Colin Furness warns we’ll ‘pay a heavy price,’ but Raywat Deonandan [epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of Ottawa] says it ‘makes sense’ …”

      https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/new-brunswick-covid-19-restrictions-lift-monday-masks-epidemiologist-1.6382308

      But relative to the mask issue, I’m rather disappointed at the dearth of scientific studies on exactly how, and how well, masks might work.

      Although a notable exception to that is an article at Forbes that clearly showed that cloth masks are rather leaky indeed – moot how they might produce any particularly significant reduction in the “basic reproduction number”:

      https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2020/07/10/ask-ethan-what-is-the-science-behind-wearing-a-mask/?sh=22cdfa9f5f3c

  13. James Lindsey started out being anti-woke and later went bananas – voting for Trump on that one issue. That blows his cred as I see it, before I even read his anti-vaxer rant herein.

    As for Bari Weiss – I’ve never been a fan. Her performance on Bill Maher’s show was grotesque and stupid, but then I never trust ANYBODY whose opens with their identity/racial group and trades on it. Usually it is a sign of deep insecurity and/or the person has little of intelligence to share. Professional Jewish Person Weiss personifies this.
    D.A.
    NYC

  14. Meanwhile, South Korea (pop ~52M), which up to the last month or so had been an exemplar of COVID-sanitation, is on fire with new cases (currently 8.2M cases, ~400K of which in the last 24h, to give you a sense), and somehow it has barely received any attention. IIRC, their vaccination rate is ~85%, boosted ~62%. The coverage that does exist attributes it to relaxation of restrictions. More than that?

    1. The reason South Korea is on fire with new cases is that thanks to their zero-Covid policy of the past two years they have zero natural immunity to backstop their only half-decent vaccine coverage. All the unvaccinated are fully susceptible—that’s a lot of fuel for the fire. No free country can stay a hermit country forever, especially when they see other countries able to travel and interact with the world. So when they open up they just have to weather the storm, which will pass as it always does.

      Island (or practically island) hermit countries that attempt zero-Covid policies have only themselves to blame when the highly contagious variant arrives and infects all the unvaccinated—which is still millions of people in a crowded country—all at once. At least they are better off than Hong Kong which has low vaccination rates especially among elderly who don’t believe anything the CCP in Beijing says.

      To me, “being done with Covid” is that you are acknowledging that it is becoming endemic. It will never go away and it remains a serious disease to some people, especially the poor and the old, but it is no longer an existential threat to society as a whole. Policing, electricity generation, sewage disposal, trucking, food supply chains, the Internet, none of these vital services will collapse under any conceivable Covid scenario. Getting vaccinated (how often?) is about all you can do. Wringing one’s hands about Covid not being over because many people are no longer terrified of it does not actually help anyone, so why bother?

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