Candidate Joe Biden claims that his future decisions to either reopen or repeat shutdowns of American businesses and lives will follow the advice of medical “experts.” He stated during the first the presidential debate that “You can’t fix the economy until you fix the virus.”
Neither Biden nor his running mate Kamala Harris have ever explained either what they would do differently to “fix” the virus, or how long they might expect to oblige more than 330 million people to disrupt their return to some semblance of former normalcy.
Compare Biden’s social and economic recovery approach with the one enunciated by President Trump immediately upon returning from Walter Reed Hospital when he tweeted, “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life.”
The contrast between the two perspectives couldn’t be more evident nor consequential.
So which one is right?
Consider that despite the development of reasonably effective vaccines, future coronavirus flare-ups will likely be inevitable for many years, especially in places where there have previously been few cases – thus lacking “herd immunity.” Under such event circumstances, do most top medical experts really agree with Biden that blanket shut-down policies are warranted?
More than 2,300 medical and public health scientists and 2,500 practitioners recently signed a petition calling for a balanced “focused protection” approach which would allow “those who are at minimum risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk.”
Organized by infectious disease experts including Harvard’s Martin Kulldorff, Sunetra Gupta of Oxford and Stanford’s Jay Bhattacharya, their “Great Barrington Declaration” recommends essentially what Sweden has already done, and what even the World Health Organization now endorses.
The declaration cites serious forms of collateral medical damage from government lockdowns which include lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings and deteriorating mental health. These conditions lead to greater excess mortality in years to come, with the working class and younger members of society carrying the heaviest burden.
As the Great Barrington Declaration authors explain, “vulnerability to death from COVID-19 is more than a thousand-fold higher in the old and infirm than the young. Indeed, for children, COVID-19 is less dangerous than many other harms, including influenza.”
Sixty-seven children under age 15 in the U.S. have died from COVID-19, and therefore keeping students out of school is described by the document as “a grave injustice.” In addition to stunted learning and emotional growth, reported cases of child abuse have risen, as have incidences of adolescent depression leading to increased suicidal tendencies and numbers of drug overdoses.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported surveys also show that a quarter of 18- to 24-year-olds in June said they had increased substance abuse to cope with the pandemic.
The CDC estimates that there have been 93,814 non-Covid “excess deaths” from delayed medical examinations and responses this year. Included are 42,427 casualties from cardiovascular conditions, 10,686 from diabetes and 3,646 from cancer. Many are due to government shutdowns of non-essential health care.
Authors and signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration emphasize that “Our goal should therefore be to minimize mortality and social harm until we reach herd immunity.” This, they write, means protecting the elderly and other high-risk individuals – for instance, frequent testing of nursing-home staff – but also reopening schools, colleges, restaurants and businesses with reasonable precautions.
Nobody knows how long it will be before herd immunity occurs, nor are any responsible medical officials suggesting that this will occur without further tragic casualties. Nevertheless, there is a tradeoff whereby the Covid shutdown cure is literally proving worse than the disease.
Meanwhile, we should all take some relief in valid expectations that new Covid infection preventatives and therapeutics will soon be available.
Promising vaccines are being developed at a brisk pace, with widespread use on track for next year.
President Trump is a poster child for optimism regarding Covid recovery, thanks to a cocktail of pharmaceuticals including Regeneron, a synthetic antibody treatment developed through his administration’s massive “Warp Speed” operation Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC). Eli Lilly, Amgen and Vir Biotechnology have similar drugs in advanced development. Such drugs can rescue patients when vaccinations don’t work, as well as those who get sick after declining to be vaccinated.
Predictably, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have accused Trump of leaning on health officials to rush the release of a COVID-19 vaccine before the election. Mike Pence responded to Harris during the V.P. debate at the University of Utah, “That fact that you continue to undermine public confidence in a vaccine, if a vaccine emerges during the Trump administration, I think is unconscionable.”
“Senator, I just ask you, stop playing politics with people’s lives,” Pence added. “Your continuous undermining of the vaccine is just not acceptable,” he said, also accusing Biden of leaving the strategic national stockpile of antibiotics and vaccines depleted after serving as Barack Obama’s vice president.
Harris replied that she would be the first person in line to take the vaccine if doctors, not Trump, told her to take it.
Regardless of partisan tilts, the policy goal of any government administration should be to mitigate damage while allowing Americans to return to some semblance of normalcy.
Unfortunately, the prevailing “crush the virus” at all cost policy of many Democrat leaders such as House Speaker Pelosi is analogous to the apocryphal Vietnam War phrase that it is necessary to destroy the village in order to save it.