–October 7, 2020 reading time: 5 minutes
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Earlier this week, three of the world's leading epidemiologists published itGreat Barrington Proclamation, a short treatise advocating a controversial approach to managing the coronavirus pandemic. Professors Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University, Sunetra Gupta of Oxford University and Martin Kulldorff of Harvard University argue that societies around the world must reopen immediately and completely.
Instead of adhering to measures to slow the spread of the virus, young and healthy people should continue their normal activity to generate herd immunity and thus protect those who are vulnerable to serious illness. The authors are pushing for the adoption of this strategy, which they call “Focused Protection,” in the face of growing evidence that “current lockdown policies are having devastating short- and long-term public health consequences. . . Maintaining these measures until a vaccine is available will cause irreversible damage, disproportionately harming the underprivileged."
At the time of writing, the statement has been signed by 3,089 other medical and public health scientists, 4,532 physicians, and approximately 70,000 members of the general public.
While these scientiststhey are not the firstGiven the extent to which their position conflicts with the prevailing wisdom that everyone has a moral obligation to participate in efforts to "stop the spread", it is not surprising that they have already encountered significant opposition to expressing such views . One of their chief critics is Yale epidemiologist Greg Gonsalves, who sees their proposal as akin to a proposition that society "slaughter  the herd sick and lame. It's grotesque.»
It's hard to see where Gonsalves reads in the Declaration, which attempts to balance the interests of all demographics, a call for "slaughter." . . sick and disabled.” This charge is just part of the drama in what has become a coronavirus theater.
Gonsalves' more measured and logically legitimate argument is that since about fifty percent of the United States' population is frail, those most likely to develop serious illness cannot simply be isolated from the rest of society. A version of this idea – that the strategy is logistically unfeasible and should therefore be rejected –is the most frequently heard criticismof the document. Gonsalves and others, e.g. Dr. Michael Head of the University of Southampton, also argue that the premise of the statement is false as no one in the scientific community is advocating extended or extended lockdowns.
But this last statement is simply not true.A lot of discreetscientists have askedextreme closurein the United States last month. While they claim this will completely eradicate the virus, it is becoming increasingly clear that such repressive measures will only last as long as they are in place.
Once removed, the virus just flares up again, as countries have shownlike Peru,which initially implemented one of the most extreme lockdowns in the world and is now experiencing one of the worst outbreaks. Melbourne, Australia has been under strict lockdown for over a month despite declaring an early victory over the virus. The UK has introduced various forms of closure for several weeks after it more or less opened for the summer, and the New York Mayor and New York State Governor are threatening to impose local lockdowns in the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens. which cases are increasing. So whether approved by the scientific community or politicians, the forced closure of schools and businesses is the default mechanism for managing rising cases in many parts of the world.
Lockdowns are not stooges, contrary to the claims of Gonsalves et al.
As for Gonsalves' most pressing concern, it's true that protecting the vulnerable members of society who don't live in nursing homes and letting the rest live their lives is no small feat.But the many scientiststhose who conclude that targeted protection is therefore untenable are hopelessly misguided. Initially, some of the huge resources that societies spend on locking themselves up could be used for this project. But more importantly, the critics' position drastically underestimates the damage lockdowns do to a society.
Oxfamrecently released a reportconclude that an additional 130 million people will be forced to the brink of starvation due to supply chain disruptions caused by lockdowns around the world. Ifyearmagazineexplains that exponentially more people than will succumb to the virus itself. The GGD hasappreciate itThis year likely more than 93,000 non-Covid deaths, including 42,427 from cardiovascular disease, 10,686 from diabetes and 3,646 from cancer. Much is due to the government cutting off non-essential medical care.” Only in this country.
Likewise, mental health deteriorates. Substance abuse, child abuse and domestic violence are on the rise. and children, especially those from resource-poor families, fall behind in school. Countless businesses closed their doors, many for good, representing financial disaster for their owners and hardship for the workers. All this is due to a lockdown, despite the common misattributions in the headlines to the "coronavirus" itself.
While Gonsalves and other critics are quick to argue that targeted protection is "grotesque," they fail to address the bottom line in any way, which is that the downsides of lockdowns and social distancing, especially among young people, outweigh the benefits. Their opposition stems from the myopic worldview that led to lockdown and social distancing strategies: that the pandemic is a uniquely horrific problem that justifies sidelining everyone else in the effort to solve it.
Instead, as we've seen over the past seven or eight months, the coronavirus is just one of a myriad of difficulties facing the world. If we deal with it impartially, we won't stand out as, say, a nuclear war or a truly apocalyptic pandemic. With 1.05 million deaths in the past nine or ten months, the coronavirus appears to be a problem if, say,traffic accidents, which cause 1.35 million deaths annually, ortuberculosis, resulting in 1.5 million deaths per year.
Most of us understand and accept that the prevention of these deaths must be balanced against other interests. For example, if we banned driving to prevent road deaths, but caused 130 million deaths from supply chain disruptions, we would immediately recognize this as a failed proposal. Of course, the same logic applies here.
Critics of the Great Barrington Declaration rightly point out that we will not be able to prevent every death from the coronavirus among the vulnerable. But their argument rests on the flawed premise that preventing deaths from the coronavirus is more important than anything else, and while efforts can be made to mitigate collateral damage, ultimately everything must yield to that primary goal.
Rather, like everything else in life, harm reduction efforts must be weighed against the harm these measures cause. As the lockdowns are likely to cause more deathsonly from hungeraside from the coronavirus, let alone the myriad of other ailments, the critics' position simply does not stand up to scrutiny. Instead, the authors of the Great Barrington Declaration explicitly recognize both sides of the equation and seek to minimize coronavirus deaths among the vulnerableInsuffering caused to the non-vulnerable. It should be clear what the best approach is.
Jenin Younes is a graduate of Cornell University andNew York University Faculty of Law.
Jenin currently works as a civil liberties attorney in Washington DC.
In her spare time she enjoys running, dining and reading.
Stay tuned for new articles from Jenin Younes and AIER.
The Great Barrington Declaration. The Great Barrington Declaration – As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies, and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection.Who supports the Great Barrington Declaration? ›
The declaration was supported by the American Institute for Economic Research, a libertarian, free-market think tank headquartered in western Massachusetts, known for its attacks on climate change.What is the John Snow Memorandum? ›
ABOUT THE JOHN SNOW MEMORANDUM
In 1854, he famously persuaded authorities to remove the handle of a water pump to try to curtail transmission of cholera during an outbreak in London.
Charles Murray - CEO - American Institute for Economic Research | LinkedIn.What did John Snow do in the ghost map? ›
Synopsis. The work covers the 1854 Broad Street cholera outbreak. The two central figures are physician John Snow, who created a map of the cholera cases, and the Reverend Henry Whitehead, whose extensive knowledge of the local community helped determine the initial cause of the outbreak.What is the political affiliation of the American Institute for Economic Research? ›
The American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) is a conservative think tank located in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. It was founded in 1933 by Edward C. Harwood, an economist and investment advisor. It is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.Who funds American Institutes for Research? ›
American Institutes for Research (AIR) is funded by U.S. Department of Education .Who funds the Institute for New economic Thinking? ›
Janeway) established an advanced institute for economic thinking at the University of Cambridge, The Cambridge-INET Institute was endowed with $3.75 million grant from the Keynes Fund for Applied Economics, Isaac Newton Trust, and the University of Cambridge Faculty of Economics.What is the contagion theory in The Ghost Map? ›
Some doctors believed in the “contagion theory”—that cholera was caused by an “agent” that passed between its victims. Others advocated the “miasma theory”—that cholera was caused by unsanitary spaces and bad odors.Who was patient zero in The Ghost Map? ›
Patient zero was a baby girl living in London. She contracted cholera on Aug. 28, 1854.
Patiently they mapped the patterns of victims and survivors and narrowed down the most likely source of the cholera plague to the Broad Street pump.Who is the CEO of American Institutes for Research? ›
David Myers - President & CEO - American Institutes for Research | LinkedIn.Who runs the American Enterprise Institute? ›
|The AEI building near DuPont Circle in Washington, D.C.|
The Institute is entirely independent of any political party or group, and is entirely funded by voluntary donations from individuals, companies and foundations who want to support its work, plus income from book sales and conferences.Is American Institutes for Research a nonprofit? ›
The American Institutes for Research® (AIR) is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance to solve some of the most urgent challenges in the U.S. and around the world.