Just when you thought civil unrest and other concerns had taken COVID-19 out of the public eye for a while, Dr. Anthony Fauci pops up again. Because you were not sufficiently panicked over a more contagious strain of COVID-19 found in the U.K., he has some more news. On Meet the Press, he told host Chuck Todd that “more ominous” strains have emerged out of South Africa and Brazil.
What does that mean? He can’t tell you, because they are still being studied. So, without articulating the risks these strains could pose, he injects this warning into the national consciousness. That is flat-out irresponsible in a nation that has been dragged through nearly a year of conflicting information, dystopian mitigation measures that affect the mental and economic health of millions, and the personal destruction of anyone offering any dissenting view to Fauci’s.
Viruses mutate. This is not news. A significant body of research posits that viruses most often mutate to become more transmissible and less virulent. The 1918 influenza that killed millions of people still circulates today. According to researchers from Yale, we needn’t worry unnecessarily about virus mutations, even in COVID-19 (emphasis mine):
It is time to reshape our conception of mutations. Mutations are not indicative of outlandish and devastating new viral characteristics. Instead, they can inform our understanding of emerging outbreaks. Any claims over the consequences of mutation demand careful experimental and epidemiological evidence. Mutation is an inevitable consequence of being a virus.
Dr. Fauci offered no reason to refer to these new strains as “ominous,” or his claim that the U.K. strain is now dominant. There has been no corresponding spike in COVID-19 deaths in states that have been open since early summer. Looking at Georgia’s data, the trend is just the opposite. Despite a higher number of positive tests than in the early days of the pandemic, the deaths with COVID-19 are about half of what they were in the spring. This could be the result of an improvement in the treatment of the virus or because of a mutation to a less virulent strain. We don’t know and won’t without in-depth study.
The new panic porn comes just as President-elect Joe Biden has announced science’s primacy in his administration. He is reportedly elevating the director of science and technology policy to a cabinet-level position:
“We’re going to lead with science and truth,” Biden said at a speech introducing his new appointees in Delaware on Saturday. “We believe in both.”
The last year has been a preview of what happens when science rules all other considerations. There has been incredible pressure to do exactly what the scientists in the federal bureaucracy prescribed. Any outside points of view were quashed by the media, research institutions, and government employees. Letting only science dictate policy has had devastating results because the scientists have narrow expertise and a few goals related to it. Here are a few highlights from a list of the deleterious effects on personal health compiled by Tom Elliot from Grabien:
Deaths increasing among those on waiting lists whose treatment were displaced by COVID-19 lockdowns
Rising suicides nationwide
Drug overdoses in the U.S. have increased by 18%, with 40 states reporting an increase in opioid-related deaths
Lockdown measures for the pandemic could result in an additional 6.3 million cases of T.B. and 1.4 million deaths
25% of Americans 18-24 have contemplated suicide during the pandemic
Delays in treatment and screening for cancer that are forecasted to lead to avoidable deaths that could rival the pandemic
Death tolls from non-COVID-19 causes such as diabetes, heart attacks, and treatable cancers on the rise
This does not even consider the economic damage caused by the closure of small businesses and the effects that may last years for children deprived of in-person learning. This is the fundamental problem with letting science from the narrow field of epidemiology almost completely govern the response to COVID-19, excluding all other concerns.
Science is the pursuit of knowledge and is rarely “settled.” It is also best accomplished outside the government, where the process is not as vulnerable to political and other pressures. Science is not a religion you have faith in. Rather, you believe in the validity and utility of the scientific method. This distinction matters, and the results will be tragic if the distinction is not made.