The Covid Regime’s Cassandra
In the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Scott Atlas of Stanford’s Hoover Institution was puzzled by the overreaction from public health officials. There was insufficient evidence to justify the policies being recommended. Lockdowns almost always cause more harm than good, and the projections of high mortality were based on notoriously faulty computer modeling. The World Health Organization’s initial minimization of the danger to hide China’s culpability shifted to fearmongering when the cover-up could no longer be sustained. Having spent fifteen years as a health-policy scholar following a successful career in academic medicine, he knew something was wrong. Atlas resolved to find epidemiologists who understood the true nature of the threat so the pandemic could be brought to an end without causing more unnecessary hardship.
John Ioannidis of Stanford University was an early collaborator. He had analyzed the cases from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in March and concluded that the WHO case fatality rate of 3.4 percent was a gross exaggeration. The case fatality rate for this population of mostly elderly passengers with comorbidities, a high-risk group, was 1.0 percent. The fatality rate for the whole country had to be much lower. Furthermore, since coronavirus is not “novel” as the WHO claimed, Ioannidis raised the likelihood that other viruses in the same family were circulating in the population. Having been infected previously and generated antibodies (and longer-lasting memory T cells) to ward off the illness, many would necessarily be immune from new infections. This hypothesis was confirmed in April when Ioannidis, Jay Bhattacharya, and other epidemiologists published a study that tested people for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in Santa Clara County. They found that the infection had been circulating much earlier than previously believed and that the frighteningly high fatality rate reported in the media was off-base by a factor of fifty.
Had public health officials used the more accurate infection fatality rate—a number based on all who had been infected, whether or not they had symptoms—rather than the case fatality rate, less public hysteria would have been generated. But for many government officials and media executives, generating hysteria was the goal. Covid only threatened the old and sick, but public health officials declared without evidence the existence of a grave danger to the entire population. Because of an exaggerated fear of rising cases, many hospitals were told to postpone “non-essential” procedures and surgeries to prioritize Covid patients. Atlas did not report what happened next: When Covid patients did not materialize in the numbers predicted, hospital administrators pressured doctors to exaggerate the fatalities on death certificates to receive government money and avoid financial bankruptcy. Doctors and nurses were furloughed in many parts of the country while thousands of sick non-Covid patients were denied life-saving treatment. Virtually everyone admitted to a hospital received the highly-sensitive PCR test. The higher the “cycle threshold,” the greater likelihood old virus fragments were detected, producing upwards of 90 percent false positives. In other words, patients who went to the hospital for a non-Covid illness were often classified as a Covid case even though they were not contagious. These patients, who died of non-Covid illnesses, were officially classified as SARS2 deaths, inflating the death toll with false data. Atlas alerted the White House coronavirus Task Force about the faulty PCR test, but nothing was done.
From the early days of the pandemic to his time in the White House as Covid advisor to the president, Atlas devoted much of his time to ending the lockdowns that were literally killing people. So-called “non-essential” treatments denied to patients turned out to be necessary for life. Cancer sufferers were denied chemotherapy; brain surgery procedures were postponed; stroke and heart attack patients were not treated; cancer screenings were skipped. Lockdowns advocated by affluent elites disproportionately harmed working class and poor communities. They destroyed livelihoods, and the catastrophic economic consequences were calculated to have caused millions of lost years of life. These “deaths of despair” included clinical depression leading to suicide, especially among the young, domestic and child abuse, as well as drug and alcohol addiction. School closures caused immense harm to children who had zero risk from Covid and almost never transmitted the virus to adults. Moreover, teachers, a relatively young and healthy cohort, were never at high risk of death. This was known the world over by the spring of 2020. Yet in the United States, politicians and teacher unions sacrificed children to protect adults against an imaginary threat.
A Plague Upon Our House identifies the fundamental obligation of every public health official: to account for all the potential harms of every policy proposal before implementation. The single-minded attempt to eradicate an ineradicable virus regardless of the human costs was causing untold devastation without actually protecting the most vulnerable. Lockdowns, writes Atlas, “were a massive mistake, a hugely destructive policy, an irrational overimposition on the public that needed to stop.” President Trump knew that lockdowns were a mistake and repeatedly called for reopening schools and businesses. He was repeatedly contradicted by the three architects of the American lockdown strategy who sat on the White House coronavirus Task Force: Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Deborah Birx, and CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield. These three “pseudoscientists,” writes Atlas, “were cut from the same cloth.” All three were government bureaucrats whose most notable experience with public health disasters involved the pursuit of a vaccine for HIV/AIDS, which has to this day never materialized.
Government officials, in defiance of the president, delayed or blocked, “clinical trials and approvals of safe, widely available drugs.” If not for this disastrous failure, 80 percent of Covid deaths could have been prevented, according to Dr. Peter McCullough, the world’s leading authority on early coronavirus treatment. While monoclonal-antibody therapy was a positive result of Operation Warp Speed, vaccination was never the most effective or safest way to protect the public as President Trump now claims.
Before vaccines became available, ineffectual lockdowns were the only acceptable response according to Fauci, Birx, and Redfield. Every time Atlas challenged their destructive policies with hard data from around the world, they could not respond. On one occasion in the Oval Office, President Trump asked Atlas if Birx really did agree with his recommendation to limit testing to high-risk populations rather than test everyone including the young and healthy. Atlas’s truthful response elicited an angry reaction from Birx who blew up at him for exposing her dishonesty in front of the president. It would not be unreasonable to suspect that some powerful oligarchs supported and implemented policies intentionally designed to inflict the greatest harm for financial or political gain. In the case of government “experts” like Fauci, Birx, and Redfield, Atlas prefers a less damning explanation: incompetence.
He reports how some presidential advisors pushed masking because it polled well. They did not consider that masking the entire population—especially children—was scientifically fraudulent and thus merely fed an irrational and destructive fear. The corporate media and their social media co-conspirators launched a politically motivated propaganda campaign of fear to undermine Trump’s reelection. Anyone who dissented from the lockdown narrative was smeared or censored. The president’s advisors were petrified of the media—a “despicable group of unprincipled liars,” writes Atlas—and feared a public backlash if any of the three stooges were removed from their government sinecures. Mark Meadows and other senior advisors were laser-focused on the upcoming election and reminded Atlas on more than one occasion to not “rock the boat.” In the meantime, more people died from a failed lockdown strategy the president opposed but could not stop.
John M. Vella served as editor of Crisis magazine and managing editor of Modern Age: A Quarterly Review.