Fauci

POLITICS: We still need to learn the right lessons from America’s disastrous COVID response

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More than a century ago, Mark Twain identified two fundamental problems that would prove relevant to the COVID pandemic. “How easy it is to make people believe a lie,” he wrote, “and how hard it is to undo that work again!”

No convincing evidence existed at the pandemic’s start that lockdowns, school closures and mask mandates would protect people against the virus, but it was remarkably easy to make the public believe these policies were “the science.”

Undoing this deception is essential to avoid further hardship and future fiascos, but it will be exceptionally hard to do. The problem is that so many people want to keep believing the falsehood.

Adults meekly surrendered their most basic liberties, cheered on leaders who devastated the economy and imposed two years of cruel and unnecessary deprivations on their children. They don’t want to admit these sacrifices were in vain.

They’re engaging in what social psychologists call “effort justification,” which has been observed in studies of painful initiation rituals for fraternities and other groups. Once people endure the pain, they convince themselves that it must have been worthwhile even when their reward is actually worthless.

If one brief bad experience can transform people’s thinking, imagine the impact of the pandemic’s ceaseless misery. It’s been a two-year-long version of Hell Week, especially in America’s blue states, with Anthony Fauci and Democratic governors playing the role of fraternity presidents humiliating the pledges.

Dr. Anthony Fauci warned Americans that the pandemic isn’t over, as things head back to normalcy.
AP/ Susan Walsh

Americans obediently donned masks day after day, stood six feet apart, disinfected counters and obsessively washed their hands while singing “Happy Birthday.” They forsook visits to friends and relatives and followed orders to skip work and church. They forced young children to wear masks on the playground and in the classroom — a form of hazing too extreme even for Europe’s progressive educators.

To undo the hazing’s effects, we need to not only present the facts but also reassure people that they’re not to blame for the useless suffering. They submitted to it because they assumed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention knew how to control disease and scientists and public-health officials would provide sound scientific guidance about public health.

Those were reasonable assumptions. They just turned out to be wrong.

Children
Many parents are still struggling on whether or not their children should wear masks in school.
AP/Marcio Jose Sanchez

CDC leaders terrified the public with worst-case scenarios based on computer models — and then used those blatantly unrealistic projections to claim unprecedented powers and experiment with untested strategies. They ordered lockdowns without even pretending to weigh the hypothetical benefits against the tangible economic, medical and social costs — not to mention the intangible costs in emotional hardship and lost liberty.

Randomized clinical trials conducted before the pandemic had repeatedly shown that masks did little or no good at preventing viral spread, but the CDC proclaimed them effective against COVID and promoted mask mandates nationwide. Federal officials stubbornly ignored the hundreds of studies around the world showing that, except in a few isolated places, lockdowns did not reduce COVID mortality and mask mandates were generally ineffective and senselessly harmful in classrooms. Instead of heeding all this evidence of their mistakes, officials did their best to suppress it and silence dissenters.

The public needs to learn what went wrong during the pandemic, but they’re not going to hear it from the Biden administration. For now, the best opportunity for a public airing of the facts may be the 2022 election campaign. Some candidates are already attacking the lockdowns and mask mandates, and pandemic strategies could become a major issue in the 2024 presidential race, especially if Ron DeSantis runs on his success as Florida’s governor.

Florida employed some of the least restrictive COVID policies, avoiding lockdowns and mask mandates, and it still fared as well or better than the national average in measures of age-adjusted COVID mortality and overall excess mortality (how many more deaths than normal from all causes occurred during the pandemic).

DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is strongly against wearing masks.
TNS/ Joe Burbank

Florida flourished economically by comparison with other states, especially California, which imposed singularly strict COVID mandates and suffered one of the nation’s worst surges in unemployment. Yet California’s overall death toll has been slightly worse than Florida’s.

If California’s cumulative rate of excess mortality equaled Florida’s, about 5,000 fewer Californians would have died during the pandemic. And if California’s unemployment rate equaled Florida’s last year, 500,000 fewer Californians would have been out of work.

Those are the hard truths that Americans need to hear after two years of COVID hazing. It won’t be easy convincing them that they fell for a deception, but it can be done, as DeSantis demonstrated at a recent appearance when he urged a group of high-school students on the podium to take off their masks. “We’ve got to stop with this COVID theater,” he said. “If you want to wear it, fine, but this is ridiculous.”

Some students on the podium kept their masks on, looking like meek pledges during Hell Week, but a few were emboldened to uncover their faces and breathe fresh air. At least for the moment, they were free to wonder whether this ridiculous fraternity was worth staying in anymore.

Excerpted with permission from City Journal.



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