The Herd Mentality on Herd Immunity: The COVID-19 Denier Catcall

We may not know for quite a while whether the three academics who wrote the Great Barrington Declaration are right or wrong; but it is very clear at the moment that the scientists and interest groups shouting them down, using ad hominem attacks and labels and trying to suppress debate on this issue are clearly in the wrong.

Readers of this site know I have been writing incessantly on the coronavirus outbreak since February. I identified then the failure of precaution as a tool to manage risks (the lockdowns were precautionary), I was urging authorities to prioritise protecting the nursing homes in mid-March (even in May, many countries like the UK and Sweden could not get basic PPE to their homes) and I felt that the zero-risk Docilian population needed to stop waiting to be kept safe and strengthen their immunity to face the virus (they washed their hands). In my Post-COVID-19 Blueprint series, I even delineated a path to return policymaking, particularly in the EU, toward a risk-based approach.

Somehow I would have never have expected to be called a COVID-19 Denier! But labels are used by the ignorant and the insecure so this catcall was both telling and inspiring.

Herd Mentality

The scientific method was not designed for the immediacy of social media and the speed at which factions (tribes) can emotionally manipulate evidence. As a collection of story-telling tools, the Internet favours anecdotes over evidence, allowing discussions to melt quickly into ad hominem attacks. These attacks, however, are wielded now not by cranks and activists, but more by “people of science” who herd themselves together into mobs marching under some (politicised) consensus banner.

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic exposes this weakness as scientists are still struggling to learn about the virus and the best means to manage it, but populations fed information via social media tools are too impatient and unforgiving while political opportunists have other (often more urgent) agenda. So while science learns, the scientific community burns.

Those who are most irrational (and insulting) are the scientists who prefer to huddle under the façade of a consensus. These are usually the ones who scream “denier” to anybody not falling in line with their community (ie, the self-proclaimed academic mob). “XYZ-Denier” is the new witch-hunt dollar holler in a world prone to react rather than read.

There is a very good reason the Risk-Monger logo is a sketch of a witch in Salem, Massachusetts holding a test-tube. More and more though the mobs with sharp pitchforks are not confused activists, but rather other scientists with sharpened egos. My last article lamented how many scientists have preferred to rely on social media to take dissenting views on vaccines down rather than better communicate their facts and data. Similarly the Great Barrington Declaration has been suppressed on social media (I also had a hard time finding the website).

There have been many attacks on these three academics by regulatory scientific advisers from Anthony Fauci to Martin McKee. One such scientific witch-hunt example was a rather unhinged article on “COVID-19 Deniers” by surgeon and science communicator, David Gorski.

She’s a Witch, Burn her!

Gorski’s latest is a tirade against the Great Barrington Declaration entitled “The Great Barrington Declaration: COVID-19 deniers follow the path laid down by creationists, HIV/AIDS denialists, and climate science deniers“. Reading through the manufactured outrage, Gorski did not really get into the details of the position of the three epidemiologists, choosing rather to label and insult them citing: “patterns in the strategies and technique used by those denying science to promote their pseudoscience or quackery”.

That these three academics (Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, Dr. Sunetra Gupta and Dr. Martin Kulldorff) come from Oxford, Harvard and Stanford must have enraged Gorski more since he resorted to an ad populum fallacy, ridiculing the people who were supporting their position rather than taking on the issue. The only credit he allowed the three scientists is the half insult that their position is “a little different” in that it isn’t completely like creationists, climate deniers, pro-tobacco lobbyists and anti-vaxxers because we have not yet reached a clear consensus on COVID-19 to use to categorically refute them. Sweet.

In this, the Great Barrington Declaration is only a little different, but at its heart it’s the same technique from the same old playbook, with that “little difference” being that COVID-19 is a new disease and the scientific consensus regarding it isn’t as solid as the consensus is in the case of, for example, evolution, climate science, and vaccines.

David Gorski

Whenever I see consensus-huggers, alarm bells go off. Allow me to generalise along the same fallacious route as the good doctor. Anyone who accuses others of being a “denier” is hiding behind the veil of a perceived consensus.

Using the word “scientific” in front of the word “consensus” reveals a naïve understanding of how scientists work. Going back to Popper, the scientific method is meant to challenge all assumptions and confront any idea of a consensus (something craved by politicians). I expressed my views on this elsewhere – people using consensus numbers are not respecting the scientific method. They lay claim to “the science” while cheapening it with politics.

I am really disappointed when I see politics enter in and obliterate open scientific discussion on such an important issue. Gorski cites how the Great Barrington Declaration states it is important to invest more in protecting the vulnerable and applying strict risk reduction measures in nursing homes (good, but this is common sense, basic risk management and something I have been calling for since March). But then Gorski dismisses it with a sentence like this:

On the surface, this sounds oh-so-reasonable. However, saying that we should aim for “herd immunity” is a common trope of COVID-19 deniers.

First of all, ignoring the gratuitous COVID-19 deniers slur, who says we “aim for herd immunity”? Herd immunity is what is needed in order to allow societies to live with viruses. The issue here is not about intention but about the means: whether herd immunity is attained via a vaccine or through sufficient virus transmission (“how wide of a herd is wide enough” is also an issue).

The Great Barrington Declaration is not aiming for a cull on the elderly nor “eugenics”; it is not calling for irresponsible behaviour or chicken-pox-style COVID parties – this is bad journalism from someone who should be able to read and control his bias.

There are issues to discuss about how far to let the virus spread naturally (to avoid overloading healthcare systems, exposing those with unknown vulnerabilities), how much to manage the spread, where risk reduction measures and resources are best used… if a vaccine is not imminent, then the question of reaching herd immunity is simply a matter of “how fast”. To attack scientists who want to see more resources directed to the protection of the elderly and less for the healthy, young populations, and then to catcall them as “COVID-19 deniers” is just, well, ridiculous.

I suppose my 16 articles since February accepting that this is a very hard virus to contain, calling for more protection for the vulnerable, a more risk-based rather than hazard-based policy approach that should aim at enabling people to prepare themselves to better survive the coronavirus must, according to David Gorski, also make me a “COVID-19 Denier”. Pass the tinfoil roll please!

Denierism

Great… so now I’m also a COVID-19 Denier. Another ad hominem slur for people to use to label and pigeon-hole the Risk-Monger. This is indeed the Age of Stupid, but now these inane accusations are coming from politically-driven scientists who think their emotional rants and insults add to the body of knowledge.

This extensive use of the “D” word within the scientific community has to stop. It is abusive, political and shows an irresponsible aversion toward discourse and engagement. The three epidemiologists from Harvard, Oxford and Stanford are clearly not COVID-19 deniers like those on the streets shouting “hoax” while ripping people’s facemasks off and Gorski clearly knows this. He is merely playing this card because he thinks this insult will hurt enough to make them go away. What a disgrace.

I frequently get called a climate change denier not because I consider the present warming as a hoax, but because I fear that this urgent “renewables now” lobby campaign will cause great injustice on the poor. (Actually, social justice warriors accused me of being a climate-change denier because I am a white, middle-aged male who failed to fawn in front of Greta.) Once the insecure hide behind their so-called consensus, they can appeal to this authority (the science) and insult anyone who doesn’t sign on completely to the orthodoxy.

If you’re not with us, you’re against us… and anyone against us (the consensus) is handed the exclusionary slur: “-denier” (to be applied following words like “science-“, “climate change-” or “COVID-19-“). This is an overused rhetorical practice that should be given a name so allow me to adapt a word (borrowed from earlier Christian faith debates) into the Monger Lexicon: denierism.

Denierism is the unreasonable use of the suffix “-denier” to try to end discussions without having to address difficult arguments. It is usually applied against one who is challenging some perceived consensus. This person is considered a threat, excluded from the tribe and any further discourse via the use of a hurtful “-denier” charge – a verbal excommunication slur implying they are irrationally refusing to accept the said truth.

A “denier” differs from a “sceptic” who is lauded as rightfully challenging a perceived consensus that goes against the interests or beliefs of the tribe.

Confused yet? Me too, but there is a logic in there somewhere and it lays within a closed herd mentality.

In the rest of his article, Gorski simply melts down into an embarrassing denieristic tirade comparing the three epidemiologists to a wide range of irrational science deniers (evolution, 9/11, vaccines and, of course, climate change). He found it necessary to supply endless screenshots showing how some Declaration signatures were fictitious (jokes played no doubt by those from his tribe) and citing sources that are more conspiracy-theory laden than any QAnon and Trump tricks combined. How is this in any possible way “science-based”?

Did you know the building where these academics met in Great Barrington had received funding from the Koch Brothers? Therefore, these epidemiologists are climate deniers too.

OK, time to unfollow Gorski and his denieristic tribe – they’re adding nothing positive to this scientific discussion.

I’m Proud to be a “COVID-19 Denier”

The Risk-Monger did indeed sign the Great Barrington Declaration for many reasons:

  • I am offended that farmers protect their livestock better than Western societies treat their elderly, the generation that fought to secure our freedom in World War II. We knew in January the elderly were high risk and yet even in May, government authorities from Croatia to Sweden to the UK to Belgium were still unable to provide adequate risk reduction measures for their nursing homes.
  • Our authorities need to manage this crisis through a risk-based approach and give up the hazard-based precautionary impulse to shut, ban or prevent anything that may require basic risk management skills.
  • The lockdowns unfairly punish the poor. Middle-class Western populations easily shifted to working from home and maybe had to deal with having their kids around (but they stayed mostly in their gardens). Those less fortunate paid a much bigger price (often with their lives) for a virus that the more wealthy travelling classes brought into their communities. Don’t even get me started at how this affects the less affluent in developing countries where most of the vulnerable earn a meagre living on the streets. My hypocrite gauge turns red when people like Gorski question whether the lockdowns caused any economic pain.
  • Twenty years of precaution as the only Western health policy tool has created a Docilian population demanding zero-risk and expecting to be kept safe. They are not safe and expecting them to stay indoors, wash their hands and hope the virus passes further weakens resilience. We should be empowering people, trusting them to manage exposures and do what’s needed to protect themselves.
  • Without a vaccine, lockdowns prolong the process to reach a reasonable level of herd immunity, forcing the vulnerable to shelter in place much longer and leave businesses, livelihoods and economies more likely to be shattered beyond repair.
  • Concentrating all resources on wide lockdowns puts strains on other public services from policing to general healthcare. With numbers in decline, the UK government had to urge parents to keep to their children’s vaccination schedule. Preventative cancer tests are down in many countries including Belgium. This year I had three appointments with my cardiologist changed.
  • The scientific advice most governments get is badly imbalanced (often, like the UK SAGE body, centred more around mathematicians than immunologists). Sadly, in most European countries, the summer pause was wasted and the public has little trust or patience left for their pronouncements. Simply put, populations won’t listen to regulators they don’t trust so at least try to protect the vulnerable.
  • Before COVID-19, 25% of students faced mental health issues. I have been forced to witness a depression demolition in my student body. I am supposed to provide our next generation with inspiration and the best I can do is offer them a sympathetic ear. What our leaders have done to the young is almost as sickening as what they didn’t do for the elderly. While I am at high risk myself to this coronavirus, it would be immoral and indefensible for me to promote a lockdown policy that might lead to half a dozen of the young people in my lecture hall committing suicide so that I can enjoy maybe ten more good years.
  • The coming economic collapse horrifies me. The breakdown of supply chains, crop failures, locusts and likely widespread famines horrify me. The increase in domestic violence due to lockdown measures imposed by the comfortable classes horrifies me. The irrational and awful ad hominen attacks on free thinkers by smug, affluent piss artists in the sci-comm world horrify me.

Damn right I signed that declaration.

The Great Scientific Pissing Contest

There was nothing in the Great Barrington Declaration that I disagreed with – it was well-articulated common sense that anyone involved in health risk management could clearly understand. One thing I didn’t think was necessary was making the document open to signatures, not only because it opened the Declaration up to cranks and immature opponents. It reminded me of the time of REACH in Brussels where opposing lobbying groups put out letters or impact assessments and they counted the signatures thinking that would change the facts. Science is not democratic, you can’t vote out evidence or facts.

And sure enough the precautionistas came out with a document of their own to challenge the Great Barrington Declaration called the John Snow Memorandum. Science will now be decided by whose consulting firm can garner more signatures. Welcome to science in the Age of Stupid.

The John Snow Memorandum was written to refute the position of the Great Barrington Declaration. But this reactionary document broadly misrepresented the Declaration suggesting they were proposing “allowing a large uncontrolled outbreak” and that vulnerable populations were too large to feasibly be protected.

I’m really not sure why the John Snow Memorandum authors felt it was unethical and unfeasible to lock down certain populations (but that it was OK to lock down entire populations). The Risk-Monger has his second home in Manila where those over 60 years of age are required to shelter in place. This is largely followed in a country where the Titos and Titas are respected and supported.

The most ridiculous claim in the Memorandum is that the lockdown policy will work – just look at Japan, Vietnam and New Zealand. I live in Belgium and while it would be a dream to have hygiene and cultural practices like the Japanese, that won’t happen anytime soon. Nor do we have the centralised control and military precision of a Communist government (we just got a new government after only 500 days of negotiations … again). And finally, Belgium is surrounded by large mobile populations that drive its economy – we are not a remote island that can easily lock down and keep exporting agricultural products. To cite these three “success stories” doesn’t convince me to trust these consensus-mongers.

So this scientific pissing contest is confusing and, well, not helpful to building public trust in scientific advice (which I fear will collapse far below the UK decline in pubic trust in regulatory science post-BSE). One of the problems is that the public thinks all scientists are the same (even after 12 seasons of the Big Bang Theory). In this case of duelling declarations, epidemiologists have triggered virologists and biologists. When I worked in the research centre of a Belgian chemical-pharmaceutical company, I used to watch the open animosity between chemists and biologists (although both were equally detested by the chemical engineers who had to clean up after them).

It would be nice though if these different branches of science could be more polite in their disagreements. But then politics enters (with an extra ad hominem sauce).

Who is John Snow?

Why was the rebuttal of the epidemiologist proposal called the John Snow Memorandum? Who is John Snow? He didn’t sign the article.

During a cholera outbreak in London in the 1850s, John Snow identified the source as the Broad Street well pump. Against the prevailing belief that cholera was an airborne infection, removing the pump handle put an end to the outbreak. Importantly, many activists claim John Snow to be the father of the precautionary principle. The Memorandum website even has a pump as its icon.

In other words, the John Snow Memorandum rebuttal of the Great Barrington Declaration is just another hazard-based precautionary attack on a risk-based approach – in this case on how to manage the COVID-19 coronavirus. There is uncertainty and for them, the only way to manage uncertainty is to stop all activity and remove all exposures … regardless the consequences.

Now I know why these scientists are so aggressive and intolerant. Now I know why it was so easy to recognise the stronger argument from the risk management perspective. Now I know why there won’t be a fair, open discussion on the facts and evidence.

How much longer will we allow these precautionistas to rule the policy process with fear and emotion? How much will societies have to lose before these arrogant zealots themselves start to wake up?

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26 Comments Add yours

  1. Actually, if the precautionary principle had been applied to lockdowns, they would not have been initiated – too many potential [and now – sadly! – realized] side effects.

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    1. RiskMonger says:

      Thanks John – this is why my Post-COVID-19 Blueprint called for a more diverse body of policy advisers – different experts will be uncertain about different unknowns (and certain about different consequences).

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  2. Andy West says:

    David, I think you are exactly right about ‘Denierism’. It is indeed an expression only of in-group / out-group status and the policing of cultural consensuses. This generic type of behaviour has occurred essentially forever, and is a standard feature of cultural belief systems, plus less entrenched but just as emotive waves of apprehension / fear that can sweep through populations, often triggering cultural entanglements. In both cases rationality is emotively bypassed, in the former case at least due to deep instincts (inherited via group selection). Unfortunately, academia over the years has encouraged highly inappropriate ‘denierism’ via a deeply flawed framing; see https://judithcurry.com/2016/04/21/the-denialism-frame/ .

    Which doesn’t mean that there is no such thing as (genuine) ‘denialism’, albeit the term is now so abused one can’t use this anymore to label it. I think confusion comes from the fact the apt public scepticism of an overweening consensus that’s for instance later shown to be wrong (which scepticism we tend to applaud), and inapt public scepticism of a consensus that is dominant simply because it can be demonstrated time and again, so is true, (which scepticism we tend to deride), both stem from *the same* behavioural root. The benefits of the first cannot exist without the cost of the second. Publics are typically not literate on the detailed topic matter, be this covid or climate-change or whatever else, so can’t be rational either (rationality requires knowledge). Their behaviours are based on cultural mechanisms.

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    1. RiskMonger says:

      Thanks Andy for the comment and the interesting link – I loved the line: “Yet there is no acknowledgement of the difference between a scientific consensus and a social consensus, or that the latter can pose as the former7. Influence from an enforced social consensus increases the chances that scientists too will straddle the rift between sides, or maybe even end up mostly on the ‘wrong’ side. ” – I tend to think most consensus building has a political motive or demand. I like the term “enforced social consensus” – in my day we used to call this lobbying.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Andy West says:

    P.S. scientists who *are* supposed to be much more informed than the public, of course ought not to fall to emotive biases and end up policing arbitrary consensuses via ‘denierism’. But time and again, history has shown that scientists do fall prey to such biases.

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    1. gnikolich says:

      Yes, scientists are people too, but scientific skeptism or just skepticm is a science-based process that is supposed to weigh all credible evidence and consider prior plausibility before one forms an opinion or proposes a conclusion. Far too often, I have seen science and scientists criticized for what news and media say they have said, not what they have actually said.

      In my opinion, The Declaration authors crossed the line into denial because I do not think a reasonable person would come to those conclusions without ignoring or cherry picking evidence.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. scott perey says:

    The Scarlett Letter.”D”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Andy West says:

      Gnikolich, unless you have expert knowledge to weigh both sides, how could you (or I, or anyone) know? If the Declaration authors have strayed out of bounds, the best way to deal with this is as much openness / discussion as possible, and demonstrate it’s wrong. Circling the wagons and suppression and calls of denialism will obscure the arguments and also increase polarisation, in the scientific community and even more so in the public, who are not deeply knowledgeable and so more subject to biases both for and against as ‘sides’ develop.

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      1. gnikolich says:

        Is “denialism” a cancelled term now? The Declaration is what it is, and when one ignores and cherry picks evidence to support their claims as the authors have done, that’s denial, not just an alternative interpretation of facts.

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      2. Andy West says:

        Gnikolich, at best it’s a hugely abused term, very frequently deployed in support of cultural leanings / biases instead of objective assessment. The way to argue objectively is not to call denier, but to demonstrate the weakness of their position, why relative to other data why you think cherry picking has occurred and what the alternatives outcome would be minus same. Calling denier is an emotive term (holocaust denier echoes) that says you put them beyond the pale, that they themselves are so emotively biased or consciously but nefariously motivated, that to any audience this turns them off from any true consideration of the Declaration lines of argument. So it both polarizes and obscures. Say not denier, instead assume they are acting in good faith and attempting to be objective (even if you believe this has failed), then bring down their argument, not their (assumed!) motives. This is a powerful way to expose the true issues on all sides, not reduce the debate to slugging match of opposing biases.

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      3. RiskMonger says:

        Exactly. A denier implies that someone is refusing to accept basic facts. It is a trigger than only the political-based rhetoricians would resort to (and just why would they?). To label me a denier shows a disregard for dialogue – in February I predicted that Europeans would have to learn to use facemasks, in March I was screaming for our authorities to protect the nursing homes and adopt a risk-based approach rather than precautionary lockdowns. I don’t think that is a term that should be used by respectable scientists. I also don’t think accusations of cherry-picking is really scientific when the data is evolving and the impacts not clearly understood. How are the precautionistas not cherry-picking by ignoring the socio-economic consequences of prolonged lockdowns (in Spain they are looking at opening up next May)? Is cherry-picking even a credible term when so little is known. It is not a valid scientific argument … but if you want to engage in politics, that is different.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. gnikolich says:

        So you do wish to cancel a perfectly good word. Denial has a rather specific meaning. Sure, some abuse it, but that’s not a good enough reason not to use it where appropriate. “Precautionistas” is an emotive and polarizing term, but I know what it means and who it describes. If someone were to abuse it, I would blame them, not the word. The discussion should be about whether the word is used in proper context, not whether it should be used at all. In this case, I disagree with our host, I do think denial is an accurate description of The Declaration, not a catcall.

        The claim that nursing homes should be staffed by those with acquired immunity completely ignores the fact that we simply do not know how long immunity lasts. The concept of Focused Protection ignores the large, vulnerable population out in the wild upon which one cannot focus, and the entire claim that the harms of “lockdown” are greater than the benefits ignores the fact that we don’t have an effective vaccine and ignores the added millions who would die on our way to natural herd immunity. Furthermore, lockdown vs no lockdown is a false dichotomy and ignores the fact that governments everywhere are adjusting restrictions in an attempt strike a balance between social harm and public health in the face of great uncertainty surrounding a novel pathogen and naïve population. There may be some who ignore the socio-economic consequences of prolonged lockdowns, but I think they represent an extreme view, same as those who consider COVID19 to be a hoax. As for cherry-picking, it is independent of certainty, it occurs when one only cites evidence that supports their argument as the authors of The Declaration have done.

        I agree, our skepticism should be based on science and fair consideration of evidence first and foremost, however, and examination of motives can contribute to a more thorough understanding of a claim and need not be excluded as irrelevant. For instance, understanding the ideologies and motives that drive anti-technology eNGOs help us understand the biases that may influence their claims. Likewise, when I read something as biased as The Declaration appears to me, I am curious as to why, and so I find it informative that AIER is behind it.

        I also agree that one should always assume others are acting in good faith until they prove otherwise, and that includes those who would call other denialists. That’s what cancel culture is all about, singling out one word or one idea and assuming a whole constellation of motives and ideologies. I am disappointed that our host signed on to The Declaration, but I know he is acting in good faith, and I agree with much else he has to say, so I will continue to listen.

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      5. RiskMonger says:

        Denier is a politically-charged word. It was used against me when I found it offensive that groups were using a teenage girl to reinvigorate a climate campaign – science communicators then added, because I was white, male and middle-aged, that the attack was credible. It implies an unwillingness to accept a truth whereas a sceptic is scientific.
        I made a casual reference to the conflict between chemists and biologists when I worked in a research centre but I am feeling more and more that assessment of the different branches is at play in COVID-19 response debate. A chemist would look at the dose and manage exposures (RM) whereas a biologist would look at complex systems and lean towards precaution. Is this the same with disagreements between virologists and epidemiologists? Not to play with labels obviously, but with cherry-picking on both sides, there is an animosity and outrage that goes beyond a disagreement on data.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Andy West says:

        Gnikolich: “Denial has a rather specific meaning. Sure, some abuse it, but that’s not a good enough reason not to use it where appropriate.”

        The abuse is rampant, and the nobly intended but wholly mis-framed efforts of academia have unfortunately acted as a big amplification of same. See my link above for an example.

        “I am disappointed that our host signed on to The Declaration, but I know he is acting in good faith, and I agree with much else he has to say, so I will continue to listen.”

        Sounds good 🙂

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      7. gnikolich says:

        “Not to play with labels obviously, but with cherry-picking on both sides, there is an animosity and outrage that goes beyond a disagreement on data.”

        Bemoan polarization and the animosity and outrage that flows from it, but continually frame the issue as two-sided. In an attention economy, no surprise that polarization is such a common lament, but that does not mean there are only two sides driving COVID19 public health decisions, there is a whole spectrum of thought on the issue, and for the most part, what I see are reasonable people trying to make reasonable decisions based on limited information. The more limited the information, the wider the range of justifiable actions. Ultimately, depends on how risk-averse one is.

        If someone makes a rational case based on evidence and advocates for greater restrictions than I think are necessary, then we probably only differ in the weight we give certain bits of that evidence, it doesn’t make them a “lockdowner.” But if one ignores evidence and argues that they are persecuted mavericks and victims of censorship and conspiracies as those at AIER do in defending The Declaration, I’m afraid they are simply not credible.

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  5. Scotty Perey says:

    “Karen.” ~David Gorski

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    1. Andy West says:

      Oops wrong place, meant above for Gnikolich.

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  6. gnikolich says:

    What’s been going on in Belgium over the past month? Cases and deaths per million shooting past those in the US. I live in California, and we seem to have reached a reasonable equilibrium between “lockdown” policies and new cases, for instance, some schools open, some not. However, there is certainly legitimate concern over how quickly things turn around when risk-based policies are relaxed too much. One needs a very steady hand on the knob to dial in just the right amount of control.

    Gorski may be a bit strident at times, but I think he does have a point. From The Declaration: “Indeed, for children, COVID-19 is less dangerous than many other harms, including influenza.” What is the evidence to support that claim? It is my understanding that COVID-19 may not be any worse in children than the flu, not that it is less dangerous. Furthermore, it still represents additional illnesses, and flu can be a very serious illness, even in children. https://bit.ly/2HhjEXT

    And this: “Schools and universities should be open for in-person teaching. Extracurricular activities, such as sports, should be resumed.” Sounds intemperate to me. No qualifications, just a blanket statement to open all school doors and invite crowds to gather where we know social distancing is impossible and mask use is not 100% effective. Seems like they are ignoring, or dare I say, denying the evidence for risks associated with those activities.

    Yes, a balance must be struck and risk-based policies are best, but I think The Declaration does go to far in that it does “not fairly assess the scientific evidence, but will cherry pick the evidence that seems to support their position.” https://bit.ly/31p8UO5

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    1. RiskMonger says:

      Belgium has had bad luck in both waves. Almost 50% of our rather high mortality rates happened in nursing homes and many of the these are large complexes with open spaces. The reporting approach has also been more assumptive (including suspected cases in the tallies unlike other countries like France I believe). For the second wave, I do not think Belgians flout the social distancing guidelines any more than other countries. I am surprised that my university is still open – it seems the virus is ripping through the student body with the number of my students in isolation – so perhaps there is a tacit policy within the Belgian government to accelerate the herd immunity process.
      I would interpret the Declaration line on schools and universities as saying they should not be shut down if there is a COVID-19 positive student (as was the case in March for us). Now do we let the virus then rip in the schools? I hope they did not imply that.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. João Duarte Ferreira says:

        “I would interpret the Declaration” I think that is the problem with the Declaration. Some of its statements are way too open to interpretation and can be (and are) used by the “those on the streets shouting “hoax” while ripping people’s facemasks off”.

        But I do have to agree with you that once again, like in february, Europe wasted time. We knew the pandemic was not over but still we didn’t get ready as we should

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  7. Scott Perey says:

    “OK, Karen.” ~David Gorski. 7/25/20

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  8. Carina Harkin says:

    Great article thanks. The precautionary principle of course is only supposed to apply when a lack of medical evidence exists, after 7 months have evidence. Medical ethics supposedly includes the principles of beneficence, non-maleficence, justice and autonomy yet our human rights which we value so, above self autonomy and include the right to be protected, whether we like it or not. I always wondered after John Snow turned off that pump where did the people get their water from?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. RiskMonger says:

      Indeed, we had evidence in February which vulnerable populations were at risk – no risk reduction measures were taken. I’ve written elsewhere that precaution should be applied after such measures fail, not in place of them.

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  9. cheriewhite says:

    Great post! It’s sad that COVID19 is being politicized at the expense of the people. My opinion is that these lockdowns are more harmful than the virus itself. Thank you so much for posting.

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