July 22, 2021

HOW IT STARTED: The Panic Pandemic.

One in three people worldwide lost a job or a business during the lockdowns, and half saw their earnings drop, according to a Gallup poll. Children, never at risk from the virus, in many places essentially lost a year of school. The economic and health consequences were felt most acutely among the less affluent in America and in the rest of the world, where the World Bank estimates that more than 100 million have been pushed into extreme poverty.

The leaders responsible for these disasters continue to pretend that their policies worked and assume that they can keep fooling the public. They’ve promised to deploy these strategies again in the future, and they might even succeed in doing so—unless we begin to understand what went wrong.

The panic was started, as usual, by journalists. As the virus spread early last year, they highlighted the most alarming statistics and the scariest images: the estimates of a fatality rate ten to 50 times higher than the flu, the chaotic scenes at hospitals in Italy and New York City, the predictions that national health-care systems were about to collapse. The full-scale panic was set off by the release in March 2020 of a computer model at the Imperial College in London, which projected that—unless drastic measures were taken—intensive-care units would have 30 Covid patients for every available bed and that America would see 2.2 million deaths by the end of the summer. The British researchers announced that the “only viable strategy” was to impose draconian restrictions on businesses, schools, and social gatherings until a vaccine arrived.

This extraordinary project was swiftly declared the “consensus” among public-health officials, politicians, journalists, and academics. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, endorsed it and became the unassailable authority for those purporting to “follow the science.” What had originally been a limited lockdown—“15 days to slow the spread”—became long-term policy across much of the United States and the world. A few scientists and public-health experts objected, noting that an extended lockdown was a novel strategy of unknown effectiveness that had been rejected in previous plans for a pandemic. It was a dangerous experiment being conducted without knowing the answer to the most basic question: Just how lethal is this virus?

How it’s going: The Pressure Campaign to Restore Pandemic Restrictions Is Succeeding.

It’s hard to avoid the impression that we’re witnessing a pressure campaign designed to compel the CDC to reimpose COVID mitigation restrictions on the public. There’s more where this came from. The World Health Organization advises all adults to continue masking even if they’re fully vaccinated. Donald Trump’s surgeon general, Dr. Jerome Adams, insists that the CDC was “premature” to abandon its masking guidance. Ubiquitous public health advocate Dr. Leana Wen advises all parents of children under 12 to continue to avoid public indoor settings like restaurants even with a mask. But if you must go inside, masking should be mandatory. “With coronavirus infections climbing throughout the country and the pandemic worsening once more,” she wrote, “the Biden administration needs to strongly urge a return of covid-19 restrictions.” After all, the United States is on a much “different trajectory” than it was in May (when she also opposed the lifting of mask mandates).

To judge from the media landscape, the activists who favor a return of pandemic-related restrictions even despite the nation’s enviable immunization rate are winning the argument. Polling—an industry whose own professionals confess is hopelessly broken—suggests that the public overwhelmingly favors the reimposition of onerous mid-pandemic restrictions on social and economic life. It seems like a safe bet that the Biden administration will eventually agree with the loudest voices in the room—sacrificing its claim to have broken the pandemic and scuttling much of the progress toward a full economic recovery in the process.

It’s not at all clear what effect restoring mask mandates will have on localized rates of COVID infection. If, however, the Biden administration accepts the premise that the pandemic is back in full force despite all the sacrifices the public has already made over the last 18 months, the political consequences are far easier to predict.

QED: Michigan Legislature Eliminates Whitmer Emergency Power Law and She Can’t Veto.

That’s going to make a lot of FBI members quite cross.

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