The Volokh Conspiracy

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Looking for an Off Ramp on COVID Policy


The Omicron wave of COVID has many institutions scrambling. Depressingly, many are acting as if there have been no advances over the past two years. Despite requiring that everyone on campus be fully vaccinated, including boosters, my own university continues to impose aggressive masking requirements, comprehensive asymptomatic testing, extended isolation for asymptomatic individuals who test positive, and draconian restrictions on normal campus activities. In an effort to create some modicum of quarantine conditions, students are prohibited from leaving the county except when engaged in university approved activities. Some of those decisions are being driven by government policies. Princeton is hardly alone in partying like it is 2020. Enough already.

Two years ago, I thought that even libertarians should endorse some pretty intrusive policies early in the pandemic. When confronted with a novel airborne respiratory infection that was fairly contagious even in asymptomatic stages and frequently fatal and for which there were no effective vaccines or therapies, the government had an important role to play in trying to limit the spread of the disease. But I also warned

The machinery of government can be vastly expanded and strengthened during these periods to the detriment of liberty and civil society in the future. We should be cautious about putting in place anything other than temporary measures for addressing the current crisis. If there are long-term reforms that need to be considered in the aftermath so as to better prepare for future epidemics, there will be time to carefully consider them later.


That was two years ago. The scientific community has responded to the pandemic in incredible ways. Extraordinarily effective tests, vaccines and therapies have been developed at a miraculous rate. The government has responded in pretty terrible ways. Public health officials have demonstrated that they must be kept on a short leash and are too often willing to let their personal political preferences and risk aversion affect their policy judgment. Public health institutions have done more to impede and confuse than to facilitate an appropriate response to the pandemic. The FDA and the CDC are due for some fundamental reform. Executive branch officials have demonstrated that they are more than happy to make policy by arbitrary diktat. Politicians and the media have contributed to polarizing issues that should not be polarized and stoking fear for short-term gain. Goalposts are constantly being moved, when there are any goalposts in evidence at all.

We are well past the point when political and institutional leaders need to explain the exit strategy. It is now clear that COVID will remain with us well into the future, and it is also clear that we can reasonably manage the damage with vaccines and therapies and taking appropriate steps to accommodate the most vulnerable when infections are surging. There are plenty of opportunities to take full advantage of an information economy to support remote work when appropriate, and not just for the sake of minimizing the spread of workplace illnesses. It is past time to be doing the cost-benefit analysis on marginal policies.

I am no COVID skeptic and through personal experience understand just how devastating the disease can be. It was ridiculous to say that COVID was like the flu in 2020 when there were no vaccines, no therapies, lots of unknowns, and bodies being stacked in the hallways. I lined up for a vaccine as soon as it was available precisely because that was the obvious path for putting the crisis behind us (and, you know, reducing the risk of slowly suffocating to death).

But it no longer makes sense to maintain emergency measures for a routine situation. It is no longer 2020, and we need to be prepared to say what normal life is going to be like going forward. Normal life should be focused on mitigating the prospects of death, not minimizing the prospects of getting a positive test result.

NEXT: The "Tipsy Coachman Rule" (in Florida)

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  1. "and bodies being stacked in the hallways."

    Covid was the third most common cause of death in 2020, and not a close third, either. It did edge into #1 at the peaks, I suppose.

    But, "bodies being stacked in the hallways"? That's just stupid.

    1. Based on the incremental death rate (the least bad proxy for 'deaths of covid' rather than 'deaths 'with' covid), I agree that it's in third place. But I'll clarify that it just barely edges out the 4th place cause of death (which in the latest reliable data I could find was accidents, though there is enough year-to-year variability that 4th in 2020 could also plausibly be non-covid lung disease or strokes. It's less than a third the annual death rate from cancer and just over a quarter the annual death rate from coronary disease.

    2. That was absolutely the case in NYC = bodies stacked in hallways. And refrigerated trucks on the street.

      1. Yes, NY had an incompetent governor at the time. Was good on TV though. It was no the norm anywhere else.

        Trump sent Mercy hospital ship, Cuomo never used it.

        1. That’s not true. Military rules, the federal government’s (Trump’s) and not NY’s (Cuomo’a), prohibited anyone with COVID, or a host of other common conditions, from entering, so as not to put the crew at risk.

          That is why almost no patients came on board.

          1. Bullshit. It was all about the money. New York State's Health Department is run and funded by a consortium of health and medical companies. The same consortium who donated $1 million to Cuomo's election fund. There were no "military rules" preventing the Mercy from treating COVID patients. As a matter of fact they did treat some. Some who were taken there by accident. No this was all about the consortium making money. The patients sent back to nursing homes happened because members of the consortium owned the nursing homes that they were sent to. The Consortium already had their Medicaid money, but, these people were taking up hospital beds. Hospital beds that could generate more money by having patients with private insurance. They didn't want those revenue generators to go to the Mercy where they couldn't make any money off them. That was also why Bloomberg was slamming the tent hospital set up by a religious group.

            The problem right now is that the Democrats played up COVID so much to use it to their political advantage, that they can't figure out a way to get out of it. Yes, Democrats. Just take a look at what is happening, where it is happening and who's in charge there. Democrats.

            1. You guys are misrembering, or are unfamiliar with, what happened.

              The Mercy was intended to provide services to non-COVID patients who couldn't use the hospitals overflowing with COVID patients. Same with the Javits Center.

              What actually happened, though, was that nobody was going outside, to a hospital or anywhere else (except maybe to buy food), so those facilities sat unused.

              Then, when the situation looked like it was going from really, really bad to absolutely castastrophic, we peaked, and the COVID hospitalizations and deaths started to decrease.

              You have to remember that the situation in early Spring 2020 was in the NYC metro area was far worse than what anyone else in the country experience then or at any time since.

      2. Yeah, I suppose NYC, the Platonic ideal Covid worst case, did see that. It was hardly a national thing.

        1. You're right: It was not a nationwide phenomenon. But it was definitely was the case in The Big Apple. I have staff who live in Queens and they told me at the time it was a madhouse, Brett. Like crap you see in movies kind of stuff.

    3. People react to different kinds of death different ways.

      A new source of death is going to be highlighted.
      You may argue that isn't properly utilitarian, but that's because people aren't that.

      1. Why are you going with a third person narrative, like you are talking about someone else? Embrace the "I".

        1. I am talking about humans generally.

          We spend different amounts to mitigate death risks for different kinds of death; this is not some radical statement.

        2. Hey, lay off the illeists, of whom the recently deceased Bob Dole was a most honorable one. So sayeth neurodoc.

      2. If government policy isn't going to be 'properly utilitarian' or even marginally rational, I don't see why we need the government involved in the first place. I'm pretty sure the free market can handle the demand for moral panics, with less damage to the economy on account of people who don't panic being permitted to opt out.

        1. Brett, see below my reply to Sarcastr0.

          Also, consider this note just as a personal suggestion. None of us—you especially included—will discover, or create, "free market," ideology to replace a need for collective response to pandemic disease. We could perhaps imagine a medical-science utopia which could enable it—far in the future, when that had not only happened, but also had been combined with whatever social corrections it would take to make its medical miracles universally accessible, and universally desired.

          It seems unlikely that anyone now alive will live long enough to see anything like that. Please shut up about the, "free market," and COVID. Talking like that encourages the spread of stupidity.

        2. Rational does not mean utilitarian. It's never meant that.

      3. S...0, The more-common sources of death—cancer and heart disease—are generally regarded now as neither contagious, nor within reach of suppression by potential public health policies. If they were, you could expect public support for even draconian policies to wipe them out. Brett's comparison is inapt.

        Beyond that, present ranking of COVID as a cause of death greatly understates its death-dealing potential. Had that ranking been done in the Northeast, during the initial stage of the pandemic, and without public health interventions, it would have been found the leading cause of death, and it would not have been a close comparison.

        Finally, now—amidst an episode of skyrocketing cases—hardly seems the time for a conclusory summary of the nation's public health policy, or for evaluation of the overall danger of this pandemic.

        1. "S...0, The more-common sources of death—cancer and heart disease—are generally regarded now as neither contagious, nor within reach of suppression by potential public health policies."

          Actually, both would be within the reach of suppression if public health policies as extreme as were resorted to for Covid were on the table. That's what frightens me: If they ever start reasoning about those two causes of death, (If reasoning is the right word.) the way they do about Covid, we'll end up in a medical police state.

          If the third cause of death justifies lockdowns and mandates, what couldn't the 1st and 2nd justify?

          1. Well they are already talking about permanent lockdowns to stop the cause of the least significant cause of death on the entire planet, climate change.

          2. Brett, do you need all caps or something? THEY AREN'T CONTAGIOUS. Even if you are a smoker, no one is coming after you.

            By the way, now that I mentioned it, I suspect that a lot of the resistance to mask mandates comes from smokers. Someone ought to look into that. If it were nicotine addicts behind the resistance, it would explain a lot of the panicky feeling that radiates from the mask resisters.

          3. If the third cause of death justifies lockdowns and mandates, what couldn't the 1st and 2nd justify?

            It's not where some cause of death comes in in the race, Brett, it's the marginal benefit of the proposed policies.

            1. No, obviously it's not, because they casually crashed the economy over Covid.

              What we've been looking at all along is a moral panic. They started freaking out in the beginning because they quite reasonably suspected Covid was an escaped biowarfare agent, and by the time they figured out it wasn't, the panic had set in, and nobody dared to roll anything back.

              1. Brett, are you a smoker?

                1. Don't know where you got that idea. Not only am I a life long non-smoker, I'm literally allergic to tobacco. The slightest whiff and I'm coughing up phlegm. Smoking becoming unpopular hugely improved my life, I can tell you.

              2. They started freaking out in the beginning because they quite reasonably suspected Covid was an escaped biowarfare agent,

                No. The people who freaked out about that are the same people who called it a hoax.

                1. Why do you think that's a contradiction? The last thing you'd tell the public if you thought a biowarfare agent had gotten loose is that a biowarfare agent had gotten loose. Then you'd have a biowarfare agent AND a panic to deal with.

                  1. I think it's a contradiction to say both that covid is an escaped biowarefare agent and that covid is just the flu, a nothingburger that is going to blow over if we'd just stop testing for it.

              3. "they quite reasonably suspected Covid was an escaped biowarfare agent, and by the time they figured out it wasn't"


                Man that's good to know. Thanks for making me feel better that all of this nonsense is now justified because they say so.

                I mean, now that they have tons of evidence and proof that it jumped from some kind of unspecified animal... with unusual and unrelated genetic sequences... and just happened to show up first in a place where these kinds of viruses are researched and manipulated... in a totalitarian workers paradise that has an aversion to any kind of transparency... it feels really good to know that it was all totally a coincidence and for the first time in recorded history the government is engaging in tyranny out of genuine concern for the safety of its citizens.


        2. Yup,
          as long as the Administration's passions for the politics of hysteria match the R's love of the politicx (yes the x is on purpose) of paranoia, there is not going to be any off-ramp.
          Besides, mandating people what to do is so much fun.

    4. Y’all don’t remember the temporary storage trailers being brought it to handle the bodies? Technically not “in the hallway” but close enough.

      I don’t understand why there’s an insistence among one side to minimize this and on the other side to overdo it. Why can’t we just deal with what is?

      1. Yeah, the pandemic threat summarized in two words: THERMO KING. But the hallway stuff, (and closet stuff) involved overwhelmed nursing homes in the Northeast.

      2. How much of that was a supply chain problem. Once the lockdowns and panic started, the places that accept the bodies likely responded by slowing down rather than picking up the pace.
        If the mortuary guy's stopped showing up at any major city hospital, the morgue would be at capacity within a couple days.

      3. re: Trailers and Hallways

        I don't know about other jurisdictions but it was explained pretty clearly here in Texas is that there were special rules put in place requiring county coroners to examine and investigate every covid dead body before it could be released for burial, therefore bodies were piling up because of the throughput of the coroners.

        In other words, bodies were piling up not because there were that many more extra bodies, they were piling up because the state wouldn't let the hospitals send them on their way within the usual 24-48 hour period as usual.

    5. But, "bodies being stacked in the hallways"? That's just stupid.

      Whittington shows he's willing (maybe even anxious) to swallow news media hype. That puts his credibility at the same level as the news media's: very low.

      1. Whereas Ben is too smart to believe the things that the news reports! He gets all his information from Tiktok and Gab!

        1. I have never looked at either

  2. It all comes down to power and fear is the fuel that powers government and institutions world wide. They are certainly not going to give it up easily. It will hopefully lead to legislation preventing such overreach but that may take a few years to materialize

  3. If we had perfect information, perfect knowledge of what actions correlated with what risks and what consequences...we still should not grant the government the authority to mandate actions that destroy our choices. Cigarettes are extremely well understood as a health risk and yet people are allowed to purchase them. Alcohol creates a grave risk of DUIs but people are allowed to drink. These concepts are well understood and the risk factors well described.

    With COVID the variables, the numbers, are constantly changing. Omicron is much less deadly than its predecessors and the vaccines do little to prevent infection. Vaccinated people can easily spread the virus, seemingly just as easily as the unvaccinated. So mandating a vaccine seems pointless since it's not a proven prevention, merely a prophylactic, historically like fortifying with Vitamin-C supplements.

    So if vaccinated are just as able to spread the disease and also catch it, why are only the unvaccinated mandated to undergo weekly tests? Because the policy was written based on incomplete understanding and it's why you shouldn't have a centrally planned answer. The policy rushes to act before information is known, even when the facts are actively changing and more information is coming in. You need a decentralized answer where employers and individuals can set their own rules and be responsible in making decisions for themselves instead of relying upon consensus and central management.

    1. Yea so the idiot politicians should just back off

    2. Hey, thinking mind, are you conscious? Cigarettes and alcohol are not contagious.

      Also? You are mistaken about proven prevention. The NYT publishes on that every day. Recent figures showed unvaccinated cases at about 5 times the rate of vaccinated cases.

      1. The problem with COVID isn't that it's contagious; we're not passing mandates to stop the spread of herpes or rhinoviruses. The problem with COVID is the hypothetical threat it poses to others' health and safety, much like the effects of second-hand tobacco smoke or drunk drivers.

      2. "Cigarettes ... are not contagious. "

        We had a panic about "second hand smoke", which is a theory that they are in fact "contagious", that one can get cancer from someone else's smoking..

        1. It wasn't a panic, you bigoted, half-educated, superstitious goober. Better people sought to spare children some of the adverse consequences of having substandard parents. I would not expect a backwater, disaffected clinger to understand. Fortunately, society is past caring what right-wing misfits think about that issue.

      3. "Cigarettes and alcohol are not contagious. "
        Never heard of peer pressure, have you?

  4. The restrictions will end when the people, not the government, decide they will end. Government never willingly gives up power.

    1. BillyG, at least try to wake up. Haven't you noticed? Politicians all over the nation—even the Governor in Massachusetts(!), even Joe Biden—are trying as hard as they can to shun public health policy-making.

      It is pretty clear that the U.S. political process, far from lusting to turn a pandemic into a power grab, has become paralyzed by pandemic aversion. All the politicians want now is to pretend COVID has gone away—while cases skyrocket to record counts.

      I do not understand why so many—let alone so many ideologues—embrace imaginary future dystopias, despite overwhelming evidence from both history and present experience that those futures are not headed this way.

      1. Let me know when California stops arresting people for not showing a vaccination card. Let me know when New York stops mandating vaccination for eating out. Let me know when people ask over the country can act the same as the free state of Florida. Until then, those who "shun public health policy-making" are perpetuating restrictions. They were elected to lead, not sit back and silently follow the beuracracy. If, as you claim, they are trying to avoid making policy then they have abrogated their elected position. It is within their power to end restrictions today with a pen. That they instead choose to perpetuate restrictions instead is their choice.

        1. Let me know when California stops arresting people for not showing a vaccination card.

          Do you mean arrests of people making fake vaccine cards? Google turns up some of those. Nothing that I could find like what you say.

          1. This time I have to agree with SL. I have not heard of any arrests for not showing a card in CA.

      2. " Politicians all over the nation—even the Governor in Massachusetts(!), even Joe Biden—are trying as hard as they can to shun public health policy-making. "
        Another of your usual counter-factuals

        1. That was not even close to being a counter-factual, Nico. Ask esteemed Gov. Charlie Baker (in some polls the most popular governor in the nation, at least recently) about any Covid policy question at all. The answer will come back, "Mumble, snerf, mumble, local jurisdictions." (Or, plug in: private employers; individual choice; federal standards; anything at all, except the buck stops here.) Governor Baker has taken himself out of the Covid policy business.

          1. Sure SL,
            And MA public health is absolutely silent. Spin me another yarn. Why should Baker put himself on the spot when he has a whole bureaucracy to take the hits for him.
            Had the Orange Clown realized that ploy early on, he'd still be president.

      3. And I forgot to mention Bidens executive orders and OSHA mandates.

      4. If they are trying to shun public health policy making, then they should try a little harder. Because vaccine mandates doesn't make it seem like they are trying.

  5. After two years of public health and media foolishness about the pandemic, I shouldn't be shocked by anything, but I have been very surprised by the number of people who thought that the vaccine would prevent them from getting Covid. None of the US approved vaccines were designed for that. They were designed to reduce symptoms such that infected individuals wouldn't be sick enough to go to the hospital or die (see the clinical trials design and results). In that regard they have been and still are very effective. The breathless talk by the CDC last summer about "breakthrough" cases was silly and unscientific. They should have continued to emphasized the ability of the vaccines to prevent severe illness and death. Biden, even this week, is still talking about a "pandemic of the unvaccinated" even though the data shows that you are more likely to get infected by the Omicron variant if you are vaccinated (see the Danish and UK public health data). So, regarding "off ramps", our public officials are going to need a vaccine for the pandemic of stupidity that has infected them since March 2020.

    1. Why are you surprised? All the talk about effectiveness was basically saying it'd would keep you from getting COVID. The problem was effectiveness didn't mean what we were told.

      1. Either they misused the word "vaccine" or these "vaccines" work a shit ton worse than those for other illnesses.

        Even if (for example) "nobody ever said the measles vaccine would stop you from getting a mild case of measles", the fact remains that measles outbreaks are very rare and most people don't catch it anymore.

        So the covid vaccines are really shitty vaccines compared to others or they are not vaccines at all.

        But what is going on right now does not compare to what we used to think of as "vaccines".

    2. How could you be surprised? The government and media are and have been spewing nonstop disinformation.

    3. even though the data shows that you are more likely to get infected by the Omicron variant if you are vaccinated

      No, it doesn't. Please stop making things up.

  6. We should be cautious about putting in place anything other than temporary measures for addressing the current crisis.

    Keith, have you come around yet to the realization that you just can't have it both ways with government? When granted an inch, they took a hundred miles.

    Government Covid policies will melt away as other issues like crime and inflation and resulting recession sell more media ads than soon-to-be-boring hospitalization and death statistics.

    But they never should have had the power to begin with. Individuals exercising their own God-given individual rights and making their own decisions would have handled this whole thing FAR better than any government could ever do.

    1. Hospitalization and death statistics have been boring for months, that's why all the media has talked about since April has been case numbers

      1. Tru dat

  7. Ha ha two years ago I said you can't have an permanent majority with out an off ramp because those in power will keep a permanent emergency ion place to bypass the constitution.

    All the cool law folks stated yes you can. And they still are.

    1. The problem here in Texas, which has been mitigated somewhat by the legislature and the courts, is that the local politicians in the blue cities and counties have legitimate "emergency" powers, but the governor couldn't suspend the emergency declaration because then the state wouldn't get that sweet sweet federal money.

      So the "emergency" persisted and the local tinpot tyrants did too (or at least keep trying). What was intended to be short term natural disaster powers (i.e. hurricane recovery) has turned into a nearly two year permanent state of crisis.

  8. Conservative Justices on SCOTUS have been grilling (and often disagreeing with) the US attorneys defending Biden's OSHA vaccine mandate.

    I'll be shocked if the SCOTUS upholds Biden's unscientific, totalitarian, discriminatory and counterproductive covid vaccine mandate.

    1. Meanwhile, the lefty justices (because I can't call Kagan properly liberal) keep just shouting numbers and proclaiming how dangerous things will get if there's no action.

      1. Sotomayor claiming 100,000 children in hospital for COVID.... I'd like to know where she got that from.

    2. Well the good news is that they will uphold Biden's new policy:

      There is no Federal solution.

  9. An extended rant that does not mention the antisocial, belligerently ignorant, selfish, disaffected jerks who flouted the virus with respect to masks, vaccines, distancing, and other points?

    Clingers gonna cling.

    1. Always stupid. Like you have a stupid pact with Tony

      1. It must pain guys like you and Prof. Whittington that your betters have won the culture war and will continue to shape our national progress against your preferences and efforts . . . but you will find respite. At replacement.

        Now get back to toeing the line, and to whining about it incessantly.

        Oh, no! There's a stop sign!


  10. Professor Whittington, first blog post in a while where I found myself in wholehearted agreement.

  11. Politicians think they are god, nothing is beyond their ability to control.

    I was sympathetic to temporary voluntary measures, but things got so ridiculous so fast that it was clear they were just spitballing. Home Depot is OK, but the local hardware store is verboten. BLM riots ok and casinos Ok, but church services will get you killed. Jogging alone outdoors on the beach will get you arrested, but breaking windows and looting downtown gives you a free pass.

    1. Politicians think they are god, nothing is beyond their ability to control.

      Nice libertarian bona fides, but also nonsense.

      And you appear to be comparing different jurisdictions different policies and finding they're not the same. Which is not a double standard, it's how our federated system works.

      1. Arbitrary exercises of authority based on nothing more than "gut instinct" were the norm for the better part of 2020. And they manifested themselves in a variety of ways all over the land.

        Are you denying that?

      2. Come on, man. You know perfectly well that several of the early cases about restrictions on religious services were entirely about the same jurisdiction treating activities with comparable risk differently. Federalism had literally nothing at all to do with it.

        1. Oh, I'm not saying every state has been great in it's exceptions and tailoring.

          But the specific case Kazinski is making - the examples he is choosing - are not comparable. It's nonsense.

      3. Well take for instance Nevada which kept churches at 50 people, regardless of their capacity, while the capacity ratio of casinos was set at 50%. And people don't need to routinely remove their mask while eating or drinking at a church either.

        There really wasn't a rational basis for that distinction.

        1. Do you see how there is no longer a double standard, no longer a chaos of standards as your first bullshit rant had, but rather a standard you disagree with?

          I disagree with it as well, but it's not 'Politicians think they are god' anymore, is it? It's just 'politicians are wrong.'

          You took too big a swing, Kaz.

          1. Really? Then tell me any problem that politicians aren't proposing some boondoggle to fix?

    2. Home Depot is OK, but the local hardware store is verboten.

      That was literally never a thing anywhere. Why do right wingers keep making this bizarre claim?

  12. The liberal Justices on SCOTUS sound like moralistic partisan Democrats who are deceitfully portraying covid (i.e. the omicron variant) as more harmful worse than ebola in defense of Biden's vaccine mandate. Breyer and Kagan have been greatly exaggerating the current risks of covid (i.e. omicron) and defending Biden's authority to do anything he believes might protect public health.

    1. They are also citing facts and stats that the must be getting from the Martian CDC:

      "Why is a human not like a machine when it is spewing bloodborne viruses?"
      "We have over 100,000 children, which we’ve never had before, in serious condition, and many on ventilators.”

      The current national pediatric COVID census per HHS is 3,342.

      1. Kazinski
        January.7.2022 at 1:40 pm
        Flag Comment Mute User
        They are also citing facts and stats that the must be getting from the Martian CDC:

        "Why is a human not like a machine when it is spewing bloodborne viruses?"
        "We have over 100,000 children, which we’ve never had before, in serious condition, and many on ventilators.”

        The current national pediatric COVID census per HHS is 3,342."

        Concur - nearly 100% of the child deaths have been children who had serious health issues separate and apart from covid. Probably less than 10 child covid deaths were from healthy children. The annual deaths of healthy children is usually 100+.

      2. Kazinski: " The current national pediatric COVID census per HHS is 3,342. "

        American Academy of Pediatrics: "For the week ending December 30th, over 325,000 child COVID-19 cases were reported. This number is a 64% increase over the 199,000 added cases reported the week ending December 23rd and an almost doubling of case counts from the two weeks prior.

        Nearly 7.9 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic, representing over 1 in 10 US children. For the 21st week in a row child COVID-19 cases are above 100,000. Since the first week of September, there have been over 2.8 million additional child cases."

        These is the blog you have built, Volokh Conspirators. These are the commenters you have cultivated. You and they deserve each other.

    2. I can't even call Kagan and Breyer liberal. Maybe Sotomayor if I'm being generous. They've gone full leftists. The word "liberal" still means something to me.

      1. The word you are looking for is "progressive"

        1. You misspelled fascist.

  13. This morning during the OSHA case oral argument, in response to a question from Justice Barrett, the U. S. Solicitor General did not deny that this grave emergency could continue for years requiring additional OSHA mandates without certain timelines for actual agency rulemaking notice and comment requirements except post facto.

    1. Sounds like the moment in the CU litigation where the assistant AG admitted to thinking the government could ban books.

  14. The thing is that, if you look at a graph of the ebb and flow of this pandemic, it's hard to see any indication at all that it's being influenced by lockdowns or vaccines. Rather, it looks like a seasonal bug that's just spiking when people congregate indoors, and dying out when the weather is nice.

    Probably the best thing we could have done would to have skipped lockdowns, and invested all that money on upgrading HVAC systems to do more frequent air changes, and sterilize the air.

    1. Said that from the beginning, perhaps retrofitting HVAC systems with some sort of inline UV sterilization system which would have a had a whole host of benefits from COVID to Legionnaires Disease.

    2. Brett, your speculation is completely without basis and contradicts the SRS-CoV-2 statistics in a very large number of countries.

      1. Where did they try upgrading HVAC systems nationwide in other nations?

        1. Nowhere so far as I know. The HVAC lobby isn't especially powerful in most countries.

    3. What indications would you expect? The vaccine rollout cratered Covid worldwide.

      1. S_O,
        Try plotting the Ro for whatever variants are at play in various countries against vaccine rates and you will find that in much of the world that is completely false and in Europe the decrease in Ro is small.
        If you plot the CFR vs vaccination rate, the decrease is significant, all over, but hat might be due to the big decrease in fatality rate for omicron

        1. CFR pre-delta absolutely cratered after the vaccine rollout.

          1. Not really S_O,
            There is a seed of truth, but like most generalities about SARS-C0V-2 they are confounded by many complexities. In the UK, the fatality rate peaked to over 2.5% with the Alpha wave and remained high until mid April when it dropped dramatically to less than 0.5% where it remain throughout the Delta wave. In the US, the rate oscillated between 1.2% and1.5% until the Delta wave when to climbed to 2% as the vaccination rate reached 50% there was a decline again that reserved and climbed back to 2% as vaccine efficacy waned.
            Throughout this period we saw an Alpha wave in the US that was more transmissive and more virulent, wiping out statistically the ameliorative effects of the vaccine on virulence.
            One can see the same stories in Italy, Israel which saw a long steady decline because of the vigorous program of vaccination that allowed ameliorative effects to kick-in before efficacy began to wane. Once the vax rate reached 50%, Israel saw an increase in fatality rate as efficacy became lower and lower fatalities until the delta wave arrived in September '21 and the vigorous booster campaign was begun.

  15. In the US, we're currently averaging about 1400 COVID deaths per day. That's >40% of the peak COVID death rate of ~3200/day that we saw last Jan. It's also ~18% of the average daily deaths from all causes in 2019.

    That's far from a "routine situation" in my book!

    @ChrisC: No, the Danish & UK data do not show that the risk of contracting omicron is higher in the vaccinated than in the unvaccinated. At least, not in any fundamental way.

    The Danish preprint showed a higher risk only when comparing those who'd received only 2 doses at least 3 months earlier to those who were unvaccinated. But people who'd received 2 doses 3 months ago are actually more susceptible, but the more likely explanation (as noted by the preprint authors) is that vaccinated people engage in riskier behaviors because they think they're protected. Initially that's true, but we know that vaccine protection wanes after 3 months. If their behavior continues to be riskier (relative to unvaccinated behavior), then that would explain the higher omicron infection risk in that group. (And in any case, getting boosted dramatically reduced infection rates, as noted.)

    As for the UK study, their data for the Pfizer showed protection against omicron at all times after the second dose (out to 25 weeks), and also saw a significant benefit from a booster. They saw no indication of higher infection risk with the Pfizer vaccine even among people who received only 2 doses and no booster. The UK data for the adenoviral vaccine (with no boost) was more comparable to the Dutch data, although the error bars are much wider. But again, adding a booster to the adeno vaccine restore protection to high levels.

    1. The thing is, we're averaging 40% of the peak death rate, while being at something like 200% of the previous peak case rate.

      So, why are we freaking out over cases? Cases are basically the worst possible measure of severity, it just means number of positive tests.

      1. True, but there's a lag between cases and deaths. Looking at the relative timing for previous peaks of cases and deaths suggests we're right on the cusp of when deaths could start to climb.

        Hopefully omicron really is less fatal and we won't see a big jump in deaths.

        In any case, I agree that we shouldn't freak out over case numbers alone. We should care about serious illness, hospitalization, long-term debility, and death. So, *if* someone agrees that COVID was a serious concern last January, when it was killing 3200/day in the US, I don't understand how they can think it's routine and under control now when it's still killing 1400/day.

        1. That much should be obvious. 1400/day << 3200/day. Less than half, actually. It's actually quite routine to relax about something when it declines.

          And, who said "routine". I said we shouldn't be freaking out about cases.

          1. Whittington's second-to-last paragraph called the pre-vaccine situation a "crisis." His final paragraph called the present "a routine situation."

            Obviously, the difference between a crisis and a routine situation is ultimately a matter of opinion. I was just pointing out that there's only about a 2-fold difference in death rates between then and now. I don't personally consider that difference consistent with a crisis versus a routine situation. If it was a crisis before, then IMO it's still at least a serious issue. Or if it's a routine situation now, then it was never a crisis. Of course, YMMV.

            I fully agree with you that we shouldn't be freaking out about case numbers per se.

          2. A small point Brett. Most scientists reserve << for a factor of 3 or greater.

            1. Fair enough, we can use << in a few weeks, then. Because the Omicron surge has been going on long enough that we should have seen a BIG jump in death numbers by now, if it were as severe as the earlier strains. And it's peaking so fast it's inevitably going to die out in a few weeks more for lack of victims who haven't already had it.

              Here are the numbers where I live, South Carolina. Sure looks to me like Covid is ignoring all public health measures, and just showing up based on the weather; A small surge in the summer air conditioning season, and a large surge in the winter heating season, and going away when the weather is nice enough people go out to enjoy it.

              It's a seasonal virus, probably driven by crowding on the plus side, and sun exposure on the negative side. Most cost effective thing we could have done was to upgrade HVAC systems, and subsidize tanning salons.

        2. In South Africa, one could scarcely see a peak in the number of deaths, but what did appear was at about 14 days after the peak in number of new cases.
          Overall that led to the case fatality rate dropping from 2% to 0.3%.

    2. The Danish raw statistics show that despite a very high vaccination rate, Omicron spike harder and faster than in South Africa. Moreover, the booster binge to get to high booster rates has done nothing to slow the spread. Infections increased by 200x (20,000%) and hospitalizations have increase 4x to 5x.
      The present vaccines do rather poorly in protecting against infection from this variant. But I'd get a 4th shot for a factor of 2 protection.
      The booster binge in the UAE has also done rather poorly in slowing infections. So I don't buy your concluding sentence.

      1. I should have been more clear. I only meant to refute ChrisC's claim that those studies show that vaccinated people are more susceptible to omicron than unvaccinated people. The studies did not show that.

        While both studies reported data suggesting that 3 doses of mRNA vaccine are protective against omicron, I completely agree with you that we don't really know if that's true. A couple of preprints are not enough to make any firm conclusions, and as you point out, there are good reasons for doubt.

  16. Welcome to six months ago. Should Covidians have to answer for every useless, unscientific ritual they forced on everyone for two years? How about just the last 6 months after it became clear that Covid will still be around in 10 years?

    How about now? We still have ridiculous Covid testing for travelers entering the US, as if one more person with Covid in the US changes anything.

    It could be much worse. We could be like China, still fighting a completely hopeless battle to limit the spread. Every victory by the Chinese authorities to limit the spread prolongs a fight they can never possibly win. And their approach is often victorious against the outbreaks. So they face many more years of it.

    1. Stupid, bigoted, superstitious, virus-flouting right-wingers are among my favorite culture war casualties.

    2. Ben_,
      China is doing just fine with its policies of martial law with the Red Army on the streets plus lying about case statistics, ll the while keeping the population within firm control.

  17. I guess this should convince parents of university students to spring for off campus apartments. Universities think the Kung Flu has empowered them to imprison their students.
    Not sure how the “don’t leave the county” rule will be enforced.
    Despite one’s hopes that students would rise up in protest, occupying administration buildings while hugging and kissing each other, and burning their vaccination cards en masse, they seem more like terrified, obedient sheep.

    1. Not sure how the “don’t leave the county” rule will be enforced.

      Snitches. Seems like snitch culture is now virtuous. Kids these days.

    2. I'm wondering if it will make parents rethink their choice in universities. Why pay so much for what amounts to tele-schooling? What's the point of even being in the city of all classes are online?

      Heck, at the gradeschool level, what's the difference between remote learning and homeschooling?

  18. Some marketing genius said "democracy dies in darkness".
    The statements and questions from the members of the supreme court today have shown it should have been "democracy can be murdered in broad daylight".

    1. Most Americans take the pandemic seriously.

      Most Republicans, however, are virus-flouting, science-disdaining, belligerently ignorant, lethally reckless drains on our society.

  19. I don't quite understand this post. A description the idiocy of the Princeton administration--what else is new?--is followed by a complete non sequitur attacking the government. In fact, most state governments at present are not behaving anywhere as idiotically as Princeton. My two conclusions are: (i) this post should be written as a letter to the president of Princeton, with a copy to the student newspaper and each member of the board of trustees, and (ii) university administrators, and maybe faculty, are so ignorant and so irrational that they should probably be barred from voting, lest democracy itself be imperiled.

    1. Princeton policies are being mirrored in most universities. Hence a general post not just a letter to the Princeton president

      1. Your betters will keep Princeton (and nearly all of the other strongest schools in America).

        Clingers should stick with Liberty, Regent, Bob Jones, Grove City, Biola, Hillsdale, Ouachita Baptist, True Light Bible College And Faith-Healing Camp, Oral Roberts, Anydirectional Baptist, King's, Messiah, Wheaton, and the hundreds of other fourth-tier, nonsense-teaching, conservative-controlled schools that right-wingers have driven into the ground. Oh, and you get South Texas College Of Law Houston, too!

      2. Outside the Ivies and their equivalents, I really don't care or pay any attention at all, so I wouldn't know about "most" universities. I was under the impression, admittedly based on following the news very superficially, that Yale and Princeton were notable for COVID idiocy even relative to their peers.

        1. "so I wouldn't know about "most" universities"
          Why don't you check before responding about the Ivies. Do you put state universities among their ilk?
          I guess you prefer the policies of the Un. of Pheonix.

          1. Are you saying that Princeton's policies are in line with those of Harvard, Dartmouth etc.? That was not my impression. I truly have never thought about the Univ. of Phoenix, and don't intend to. Cal, U.Va. and Michigan are worth of attention, however.

  20. Here in New York, we got a brand-new indoor mask mandate from our new governor, to deal with Omicron.

    We'd had a mask mandate previously, under Cuomo. At the time, he had emergency authority to issue directives, so there was at least a patina of authority to require people to wear masks. But that authority expired a while back. So how does Hochul have the authority to require it?

    Well, ostensibly, it's an exercise of the state Department of Health's authority under regulations they adopted earlier this year. The problem is that the regulations don't apply to all indoor spaces. The regulations allow the DOH to require masks in schools and healthcare facilities. Not everywhere.

    That limitation can be explained by looking back to the authorizing statute, which generally permits the DOH to act to prevent the spread of communicable diseases in situations where there is a public health risk - such as restaurants, healthcare facilities, schools, and the like. Nothing in the statute apparently authorizes the DOH to regulate apartment buildings, retail establishments, or the like. (And interpreting it to do so would render clearly limiting language in the statute as surplusage.)

    So Hochul's order, by extending to all indoor spaces, appears to be unauthorized by statute or regulation. But she seems to be banking on its being short-lived, to evade scrutiny. Initially, the mask mandate was set to expire on January 15. It's been extended now until the end of the month. I have no doubt it'll be extended yet again soon. She seems to be trying to evade any serious challenge by mooting them before they can get before a court.

  21. . . . and it is also clear that we can reasonably manage the damage with vaccines and therapies and taking appropriate steps to accommodate the most vulnerable when infections are surging.

    No. The primary protect-the-most-vulnerable steps to take when infections surge, are whatever steps it takes to knock down the surge the fastest. What changes the ordinarily-vulnerable into the most-vulnerable is their notably reduced ability to benefit from any protections except non-exposure. The most vulnerable live in the same world as everyone else, so actually protecting them means knocking down exposure levels.

    Like a lot of others, Whittington seems to have decided that actually protecting the most vulnerable is just too inconvenient, so screw 'em.

    1. "The primary protect-the-most-vulnerable steps to take when infections surge, are whatever steps it takes to knock down the surge the fastest."

      Then based on seasonality, the appropriate step is to get outdoors. We seem to be having two annual surges without regard to measures taken: One in the summer during air conditioning season, and one in the winter during heating season.

      Which is why I said we probably should have forgot about the lockdown, and just spent a ton of money on improving HVAC systems to increase air changes and filter and sterilize air more.

      And maybe get more sun exposure.

      1. "protect the most vulnerable"?!--What on earth does that have to do with Princeton students? Healthy young people are the least vulnerable.

    2. "whatever steps it takes to knock down the surge the fastest"
      Sure. But what are they?
      Nothing that Old White Joe has suggested. Facts are that many countries are trying but with much less that stellar success.

      1. Exactly.

        I'd be willing to try their prescription for halting covid, just like I masked up for a year and got vaccinated. But it is clear none of that is working anymore.

        Never say die is an admirable trait, but in this case it's approximating the definition of insanity, and at a great human cost.

  22. It's not effective, It never was 95% effective against the early strains and seems to be a big zippo on Omicron. Good news Omicron is less severe. Natural immunity will do.

  23. The courts' cowardly deference to executive power was a significant part of the problem here. Listening to the Supreme Court oral arguments on the Biden mandates today, I was amazed by the fundamentally misinformed questions of some of the justices (e.g., Sotomayor).

    The one benefit of the pandemic is that exposed deep levels of corruption and incompetence in all levels of society.

  24. I agree with the thrust of this post (we need a plan for getting back to normal which includes cost-benefit criteria for passing through each step on our way), but we have too many deaths now to characterize the current situation as rotuine.

    1. You do realize that, even with Covid, the current life expectancy has been set back to what it was in... the dismal year of 2000?

      Yup, things weren't at all routine in the year 2000.

    2. An average of ~8000 people die in this country every day. It's sad, and we do what we can to reasonably prolong life, but it's not a reason to fundamentally change everything about our society, is it?

      If it is, may I suggest we start addressing heart disease, maybe with mandatory liposuction (with an exercise option).

      1. Heart disease isn't infectious.

        1. No, but it's more lethal. I thought that was the point?

          1. High mortality is necessary but not sufficient to justify mandating people to take action. Such mandates also require that third parties are impacted which is only the case for an infectious disease.

            1. Josh tell us a plan that will work, mandatory vaccines and severe lockdowns aren't working anywhere.

              Not Australia, Austria, NY, etc.

              If FL is just as safe as NY, then I prefer Florida's approach.

              But I suppose what you would say is NY's vaccine passports and masking mandates aren't enough and we need to go to Chinese and Australian style 24 hours lockdowns. Which also aren't working.

              1. I'm not qualified to offer up a plan. I'm just saying we aren't yet at the point where we can classify the situation as routine. That being said, neither are we at the same level of emergency that we were at prior to the vaccine. So as layperson, I would expect the current plan to be less stringent than the initial one but more stringent than the final one.

              2. The Chinese lockdowns work. That’s why they are still going to doing them two or three or four years from now, after the US and Europe have long since started treating Covid like just another seasonal flulike illness.

                1. "The Chinese lockdowns work."
                  Yup, martial law with the Army on the streets does keep the population in line.

              3. Josh tell us a plan that will work, mandatory vaccines and severe lockdowns aren't working anywhere.

                Not Australia,

                Really? Have you bothered to look at their death rates?

                1. They delayed a lot of Covid cases. Long term death rate from Covid and Covid mitigation measures there remains unknown.

                  Some 95-year-olds will be forced to spend their last couple years of life cooped up away from the people they care about. But when their time comes, the death certificate might not say "Covid 19". Congrats.

                  1. And Don wonders why people call Trumpkins the pro-disease party.

                    The anti-lockdown argument used to be that we should protect the most vulnerable people and allow everyone else to go about their lives and develop herd immunity. This was the (failed) Swedish model that Trumpkins used to tout in 2020. Now Ben argues, hey, no, we don't even need to protect vulnerable people. Just let 'em die now.

                    1. I muted Don a long time ago.

                      Dems have nothing to offer on Covid except years and years of house arrest for all.

                    2. I also muted Ben a long time ago. The last thing the fellow is interested in is ground truth.

                    3. David,
                      My objection is that the comment is usually at the head of a partisan rant and accomplishes nothing except to let the ranter feel good.
                      Actually the description of the Swedish model as "failed" is an exaggeration that does not stand up to scrutiny. Okay, total cases and deaths re higher than Norway, but they are a hell of a lot better than Italy which has imposed draconian measures at great damage to its economy.

    3. "we have too many deaths now"
      Josh R,
      I'll refer you to what captcrisis called the Concorde fallacy.

      In moving forward, sunk costs should be considered irrelevant to cost-effective decision making.

      1. By "deaths now," I mean those ongoing. Those aren't sunk costs.

  25. I've been telling people this - something absent being a full blown war that is going on for two years is simply not an "emergency" any longer. Probably after six months especially with something like a contagious disease it is time to resume normal operations. It doesn't mean that it is still not a public policy issue, just does not need to be treated as an ongoing emergency any longer.

    1. I would say that an "emergency" is over as soon as the legislature is able to be back in session.

  26. I suggest that the problem we are facing is that the Covid pandemic was allowed to become political. Had the previous administration taken the opportunity to unite the country rather than divide them over the issue we might be better able to work out compromises at this time.

    Professor Whittington noted that the Covid19 made sense initially and he supported them and that he is himself vaccinated. Well at that time, and with some support from the former administration, people opposed those sensible measures. Now the tables have turned, and the sensible measures are the off ramp. Now the other side is taking it opportunity to resist that off ramp.

    I see this as the cost of turning non-political things political.

    With regard to the two SCOTUS cases. I do think the employer mandate is overly broad and not defensible. The vaccination requirements for health care workers is very sensible and should be a no brainer.

    1. The former administration is the one that got the vaccine developed, approved, and produced in record time. The current administration started with doubting the vaccine and ignoring that it existed before they came into office. What's this about "opposing sensible measures" now?

    2. Why didn't Obama unite the country? Then we would have had a united country when we needed one.

      Why didn't Pelosi unite the country? Remember the Ukraine hype? Where was the attempt to unite the country?

      Why didn't Feinstein unite the country instead of her bad faith smear attempt against Kavanaugh?

      Why didn't the Biden campaign unite the country? Why doesn't Biden unite the country right now?

      1. Yeah, you sure seem interested in unity.

        1. All Biden has to do is unite the country. Why doesn't he? Please explain why he doesn't.

          1. You.

            You are the problem.

            You are not interested in unity, because you demonize Biden and all who support him to the point of dehumanization.

            1. Obama and Biden can’t accomplish anything and it’s all everyone else's fault.

            2. "you demonize Biden and all who support him to the point of dehumanization."

              We learned it from you.

              1. Demonization, like I said.

                1. The complete fantasy that Trump could have waved a magic wand and united the country but decided not to, and it caused Covid deaths. That’s demonization.

                  You guys routinely make up those sorts of fantasy stories to demonize anyone not like you. Everything that doesn’t go 100% perfectly is because of the villainy of people who aren’t like you. Even the weather.

            3. Actually, what was striking to me after the 2020 election was that it was clear that Trump wanted to do deals with Democratic pols. That's what he's done most of his life. And it appeared that Schumer had a reciprocal desire. So as a downpayment, you will recall, Trump retained Preet Bharara as US Attorney even when he was replacing most of the Democratic appointees, as is usual when there is a change of presidential party. But Schumer clearly heard from his constituents and colleagues that deals with Trump were off the table, that the agenda was to be full-blown resistance forever and ever; Bharara was dismissed; and Sarcastro and his Democratic friends kept their hands unsullied.

              1. Sorry, I meant 2016 election.

              2. No, he made it quite clear in his inauguration he was ruling on behalf of only part of the nation.

                And then he did the Muslim ban and started knee-jerk rolling back everything Obama did regardless of reason.

                How soon you forget.

                1. "he was ruling on behalf of only part of the nation"

                  Just like Obama then.

      2. I would suggest that President Obama tried very hard to unite this country, but a small number of people objected to a black President and those people took over the Republican party. Remember the party's nominee in 2016 started his political career by claiming that Barrack Obama was not a citizen.

        1. If you actually think that the only reason Republicans opposed "I won; you lost. Deal with it" Obama was because of his skin color, you may be a bit bigoted. I suggest you may want to actually find a Republican and speak to them, rather than dealing only with the strawmen in your head.

          1. Not every Republican is a bigot, but every Republican is an appeaser of bigots and bigotry.

            And plenty of them are unreconstructed bigots (racists, misogynists, gay-basher, xenophobes). Which is not entirely bad, because it is a major reason conservatives have lost the culture war, and will continue to be largely irrelevant in shaping our national progress.

          2. I did not say all Republicans, but some small number were, and those Republican were not challenged.

            May 2014 a small town police commissioner called President Obama the n-word. You think he was the only one?

            1. Did Obama deserve better treatment than Bush?

        2. He should have just united the country. You’re pretending Trump had the option to unite the country. That must mean any President can simply accomplish uniting the country at will.

          How many lives could have been saved if Obama or Biden had opted to unite the country?

          1. 'Just unite the country' even as you are very clearly invested in disunity.

            1. It doesn’t matter to the story. The fantasy story is that the President can accomplish uniting the country whenever he wants.

              Are you saying that’s a completely bullshit narrative?

              Because it’s either that or Obama and Biden have the blood of hundreds of thousands on their hands for not deciding to unite the country.

        3. Clearly false. You have only to compare how Bush II went about forging his educational reform--he called Teddy Kennedy and commenced negotiations with him--with the establishment of Obamacare where Obama totally froze out the Republicans and worked solely with members of his own party. Admittedly, there may be an issue of cultural insensitivity here: urban Democrats with fancy educations, like Obama, typically go their whole lives without meeting any Republicans, so they have trouble working with them due to cultural incompatibility. But cultural incompatibility does not justify abandoning the principles of civility and compromise that are necessary to make democracy work.

          1. "You have only to compare how Bush II went about forging his educational reform--he called Teddy Kennedy and commenced negotiations with him"

            Yeah, that sort of thing was WHY you got Trump. Republican voters were sick of electing people who personally agreed with Democrats, and would leap at the opportunity to implement the Democrats' ideas of what should be done, instead of Republican ideas.

            1. As I said above, it's clear that Trump would have been happy to make deals with the Dems, if they had been interested. Obama was simply incapable of dealing with the Other in that way.

            2. No, Brett. George Bush did not "personally agree with Democrats." He was just a decent human being who didn't regard them as the enemy. And NCLB was a Republican, not Democratic, idea of what should be done.

              1. He was a guy who thought that decency involved agreeing with the Democrats on a lot of issues. That's why Democrats thought he was a "decent" guy. He said "a kinder, gentler conservatism", and meant by it 'a more Democratic conservatism'.

                NCLB was a Republican implementation of Democratic notions of what should be done, and Republican voters wanted a Republican implementation of Republican notions of what should be done.

                I've said before that I preferred Rand Paul. Not enough Republicans agreed with me.

                1. And I've said before that you mean Ron Paul.

                  But no. You're wrong about NCLB. You have this habit of defining one particular conception of Republicanism as True Republicanism, and then declaring anyone with a different conception to be No True Republican, whether you use RINO or apostate or Democratic as your chosen epithet. You can be a fan of Ron Paul all you want — it fits, a paleocon falsely calling himself a libertarian — but Bush, not Paul, was the Republican voters' choice.

                  ("Kinder, gentler" was the father, by the way. Bush 43 said "compassionate conservatism.")

                  Democrats mostly didn't think Bush was a decent guy. But he was, because unlike modern Republicans his goal wasn't to pwn the libs.

                  1. Just for clarity: I am aware that Ron Paul never ran directly against GWB. Paul ran for the nomination in 2008 and 2012, not 2000 or 2004.

    3. Trump's Honeymoon was Comey giving CNN cover to leak the fabricated Russian dossier Hillary paid for.

      But he missed his chance to unite the country.

      I'll allow that uniting diverse factions will never be Trump's strong suit, but don't pretend he was offered half a chance.

    4. " Well at that time, and with some support from the former administration, people opposed those sensible measures. "

      The people who opposed those sensible measures -- the ignorant, antisocial, superstitious, reckless rubes -- were mostly Prof. Whittington's political allies.

      So he doesn't want to talk about that.

      Which makes his arguments relatively easy to discount, if not to dismiss.

  27. Normal life should be focused on mitigating the prospects of death, not minimizing the prospects of getting a positive test result.

    Dr. Fauci will be happy to hear that Professor Whittington agrees that case counts should no longer be the targeted statistic. Fauci wants to watch hospitalizations instead, on the theory that if death rates skyrocket it will result from overwhelming the health system's capacity to treat severe cases. Since hospitalizations now have matched the peak from a year ago and show no signs of slowing growth I tend to agree that it is too early to end the emergency, as much as I wish we could.

    1. Hpe can an emergency last two years?

      1. Define the emergency, and the definition tells you how to recognize how long it lasts. Put a time limit on it, and you might prove it isn't an emergency.

      2. Whether you consider it a two-year emergency or the fourth in a series of emergencies, it lasts as long as the circumstances require extraordinary responses.
        We aren't living in a Disney movie, where if we all closed our eyes and wished really hard magic would happen. We have to deal with reality as we find it when we find it, whatever the clock says. "Two years is long enough" is no more a valid argument for surrendering to COVID today than it was for surrendering to Japan in 1943.
        That doesn't mean we shouldn't pursue new solutions that better meet the Omicron threat than doubling down on yesterday's tactics. I have heard reports that most Omicron hospitalizations require monitoring and supplemental oxygen, and only last a few days. If so then the ability to deliver that level of treatment outside a hospital setting would go a long way toward getting us through this wave, then maybe we would be better positioned to establish the new normal that Whittington advocates.

        1. We may not be in a Disney movie, but we are living in a country where the legislature, where rules are supposed to originate, has been meeting in normal sessions almost the whole while.

          An "emergency" is a situation where decisions have to be made so quickly that normal procedure can't be used. Covid hasn't been an emergency in that sense for a couple years now.

          And you can't say, "The legislature is meeting, but paralyzed." just because the legislature isn't doing what YOU want. The hole point is that the legislature is normally supposed to be calling the shots, and calling the shots includes saying "don't shoot".

          1. I usually try not to encourage threadjacks, but three years ago you insisted repeatedly that the President had the unilateral authority to declare an emergency and build his wall in response to a situation that had been ongoing for years, and despite Congress having not simply failed to act but actively considered his funding request and denied it. And now here you are on the opposite side of the argument. Have you come around?

  28. The COVID Panic was fomented for the sole purpose of removing Trump from office. There was no plan for what to do afterwards.

    1. Weird every other country went along with it!

      1. Why let a "crisis" go to waste?

      2. Not really weird. Every other country is ruled by rulers, and rulers are always on the lookout for an excuse to crack down, they didn't go to the trouble of getting those jobs in order to let people alone.

        I don't think most of those countries went crazy to get rid of Trump, that was a US thing.

        1. Leaders worldwide don't much like a pandemic on their watch.

          Tyrants are not everywhere.

          1. Sarcastro, your threshold for admitting that somebody is a "tyrant" is so high that only a Stalin or Pol Pot would clear the bar in your view.

            The point is, you don't go into politics or government administration if you don't enjoy issuing orders, so when people in such jobs are deciding whether ordering people about is justified in any particular case, there's a really heavy thumb on the scale on the side of "tell people what to do".

            Not a lot of live and let live people in government. Plenty of control freaks, though.

    2. a bizarre theory Norman. COVID-19 could have made Trump an easy winner had he behave with only a modicum of humility and good sense. It was a gift from G-d to the Orange Clown.

      1. Trump's re-election was dependent on the state of the economy. COVID hurt the economy, hurting Trump's re-election chances.
        I agree, he did not handle it well, and the media magnified his misteps.

  29. Well, great show VC.

    Even when the OP makes a good policy case, the comments are all Covid conspiracies, completely wrong numbers, and knee-jerk attacks on the government.

    1. I'm sorry we disappointed you.

      But what is the benefit of having a great policy case for government action when there is no effective policy for the government to deploy.

      And in our system of government, which requires the consent of the governed there is no precedent or black letter law giving the government such authority.

      You may trust government implicitly, but you are on the wrong blog to find a concensus on that.

    2. Even Whittington doesn’t think policy makers do real cost-benefit analysis:

      "It is past time to be doing the cost-benefit analysis on marginal policies."

      1. No, he's talking about marginal policies with a change in the facts on the ground.

        1. If he thought policy makers did cost benefit analysis he wouldn’t be calling for it to start happening

          1. Do you think once cost-benefit analysis is done, you never have call to do it again?

            Don't be obtuse.

            1. I don’t think they did an honest job of it the first time, if they attempted it at all. So it makes no difference if they phony up a new set of spreadsheet numbers.

              Clearly, whatever he thinks they do, Whittington thinks policy makers are now failing.

  30. “Public health officials have demonstrated that they must be kept on a short leash and are too often willing to let their personal political preferences and risk aversion affect their policy judgment. Public health institutions have done more to impede and confuse than to facilitate an appropriate response to the pandemic. The FDA and the CDC are due for some fundamental reform. Executive branch officials have demonstrated that they are more than happy to make policy by arbitrary diktat.”

    None of this is true.

    1. All of that is true.

    2. Well there was the banning of any tests other than the CDC's, and the CDCs test didn't work during the first crucial month if the pandemic.

      Then there was telling us we just needed two weeks of lockdowns to slow the spread.

      There was telling us all surfaces has to be sanitized between uses, then it turns out covid doesn't spread that way.

      They told us we had to come all the beaches and parks, but that was the safest place to be.

      There was also Fauci telling us masks don't work, then weeks later telling us we all had to mask

      There was denying there was any possibility Covid was created in a laboratory in Wuhan, then it turns out the CDC and Fauci gave out contracts to fund gain of function research in that same Wuhan lab.

      1. And then there was Fauci and the public health establishment telling us that BLM protests are fine, COVID or no COVID, while later condemning motorcycle rallies. Total partisan hackery and fraud.

        1. Can you cite the time when Fauci said "BLM protests are fine"?

          1. There were idiot doctors' groups making exceptions for protests, but it wasn't Fauci.

            His lies are sufficient, they don't need to be exagerated.

          2. He was absolutely silent on that topic, but vocal on the motorcycle rallies. It isn't justice when you say X is evil when done by A, and say nothing when X is done by B.

  31. When confronted with a novel airborne respiratory infection that was fairly contagious even in asymptomatic stages and frequently fatal

    Remember that cruise ship, lots of old folks isolated together for a week? I don't remember the details, but it sure put the lie to "fairly contagious" and especially "frequently fatal". Again, I don't remember the details, but it was something like half DID NOT catch it, and there were only a few deaths.

    That should have been a clue to everybody, but all the lockdowners want to ignore it.

    1. Yes,
      BUT the experience at the beginning of the pandemic in Europe and especially in Italy showed death rates exceeding 10%. Quit cherry-picking information.
      800,000 Americans did not die of a magical spell.
      Virology doesn't seem to be a good career path for you.

      1. I'll pick all the evidence I want if it refutes the received wisdom of Faucists. You are cherry picking what to ignore to back up the narrative.

        800,000 Americans did not did FROM the virus. There are CDC directives that any death with COVID symptoms is to be recorded as a COVID test even in the absence of any test confirming it. Hospitals are bribed exorbitantly to report COVID deaths, but not flu or pneumonia or other respiratory deaths. It's not a coincidence that flu and other respiratory deaths are remarkably low while COVID deaths are high.

        1. s/COVID test/COVID death/

        2. You were not providing a counterexample; Don was. He gets to pick cherries.

          You don't. Well, you don't if you care about truth. And considering your abuse of the term fascist, it seems like facts are secondary to your ideology.

        3. What you say isn't completely wrong - early in the epidemic our state health honcho acknowledged that, e.g., some dude who was in a motorcycle wreck and died of his injuries at the hospital was reported as a covid death. And that they were fixing those kinds of errors.

          But I think you are mostly wrong. It would have to be a pretty big conspiracy. For example, I know of some doctors who happen to frequent a gun forum. Prior to the pandemic, no one cared what their job was, but since the pandemic there has been a long running thread where they answer people's questions. Some of them are working in ER's full of covid patients. They agree, more or less, with the conventional line: lotsa people are dying *of* covid. Vaccines substantially reduce risk. They are pretty lukewarm about cloth masks, but looking out from a ward of really sick covid patients, they aren't going to turn down a small benefit that has a small cost. Etc.

          It seems kind of hard to ignore what they are saying.

          1. Absaroka, I know that last sentence came out by accident. It is simplicity itself to ignore what they are saying. Look around. What is hard is explaining why so many people are doing that.

          2. It is true that there are errors in death reports. Could there be 1% systematic errors? Yes, in every country and it is likewise true that they have been being corrected throughout the pandemic. Hence one can observe "negative deaths" in the British statistics.
            No measurement is perfect, but that does not mean that measurements have no validity. Statistically you can estimate that US death statistics are valid to 0.1%. I have never seen any credible (ie., non partisan) attempt to estimate systematic errors in the U.S., but they could be as large as 1 or 2%. Unless, one is a believer in the Orange Clown who puts systematic errors at 50%.
            Even in that case 400,000 American killed by COVID-19 is no small number

        4. Nonsense,
          I review all the information available from around the world. I have had as many specific negative comments abot the CDC as anyone on thhis blog.
          I also do not know what a faucist is and neither do you except as he is a hate-target.
          And your, from or with is a bullshit distinction. Regardless of what you think that CDC distinctions are. Furthermore more you're thinking that COVID deaths were flu is simply delusional and more importantly based on no medical evidence. The two diseases are very different and highly distinguishable.
          I realize that I am wasting "my breath" on you, as I have never seen you back away from a preposterous statement.

        5. 800,000 Americans did not did FROM the virus.

          That's a rough number of the excess deaths. (Actually, I'm out of date; the number is substantially higher, closer to about 950,000, now.) Excess deaths, meaning deaths above and beyond the normal death tolls. Above and beyond the normal death tolls which already include flu and pneumonia and other respiratory deaths.

          Which is more likely, that flu and pneumonia suddenly started killing hundreds of thousands more people than usual, or that the new viral strain out there is killing those additional people?

          1. David,
            I'd remind folks that "excess deaths" is a notoriously misleading statistic.
            Around the world, many countries saw a negative number of excess deaths during the pandemic.
            It is only one small piece of a jigsaw puzzle, not the Rosetta stone.

          2. Yeah, there's a new virus out there killing people. There are also new, badly thought out, policies killing people.

            Hospitals canceling elective procedures like chemotherapy and heart surgery. Phoning in physicals. Closing parks when they were probably the safest place to be. Suicide rates spiking. Crashing the economy when poverty kills. And that's not counting what might have been deliberately deadly policies, like forcing nursing homes to accept people with active cases of Covid.

            I don't know how many of those excess deaths were due to covid responses, not Covid, but it seems pretty certain to have been a substantial fraction of them.

            1. You list costs, without concrete numbers, and assume they must outweigh the costs on the other side.

              Everyone from public healthcare workers to politicians to scientists disagree with your analysis. Which makes sense, because you don't add any numbers.

            2. I mean, setting aside that closing parks is really not likely to have killed hundreds of thousands of people, suicide rates have been down since the pandemic began. But keep repeating those talking points.

              1. I'd seen statistics that suicide was up in younger people. I admit to having not noticed that it was down among the elderly. Maybe because you don't need to commit suicide if a virus does the job for you?

                1. I dunno. I couldn't find any U.S. suicide numbers after 2019 (for the general population, DoD has some for the military). Where has all the data gone?

    2. I don't remember the details,

      You can say that again!

  32. Bodies in the hallways? Please. This was hardly a zombie apocalypse and never resembled one. As I recall, it was apparent from the very beginning that this is overwhelmingly a mortality threat to people who are feeble in some way, and we didn't need to tear society apart to address that. 

    It is a certainty that the government will both mismanage and overreach 100% of the time in these circumstances, and they will screw it up even worse when Democrats are in power. There was never a good reason to trust them to do otherwise. The results Professor Whittington laments now are hardly surprising.

    1. The entire world disagreed with you, and seems to continue to mostly disagree with your 'screw the feeble' idea.

      1. What he is actually saying is, "Screw the victims, and call them feeble."

      2. Well whoever did agree with me was right it seems, and they will be right again next time this happens.

        I am not saying screw the feeble. I'm saying that it was always apparent where resources need to be directed regarding prevention of covid as well as treating it once contracted. And that never came close to requiring a bunch of dystopian insanity.

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