Throughout the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, we've all grown accustomed to the slogans "follow the science" and "we're all in this together." The former denotes a presumed scientific consensus, and the latter promotes conformity to the alleged consensus. But is there really such a consensus? According to the Great Barrington Declaration and its professional signatories (59,632 and counting), there is no scientific consensus in favor of lockdowns, public face masking, or vaccine mandates. In fact, it would appear as if the majority of the scientific community actually opposes the public health messaging in spite of all its clout (see "The Unjust Condemnation of the Great Barrington Declaration," click here).
"The science" is not a true science but dogma founded on a biased assortment of facts. Science was used to gather these facts, but politics and media influence have been utilized to denigrate opposing scientific perspectives, conflating some with conspiracy theories in the process. The World Health Organization and the Great Barrington Declaration have both been criticized for not conforming to "the science." This political denigration is the antithesis of science.
Anthony Fauci, Director of NIAID, Chief Medical Advisor to the President, and the top public health spokesperson in the US during the Covid-19 pandemic, has repeated the phrase "follow the science" numerous times [click here]. In an HHS podcast [click here], he defended lockdowns, claiming the policy saved millions of lives, and he criticized the anti-science bias of others. "I mean, people get confused. And they say, 'Wow, you know, we shut down and we caused a great disruption in society. We caused great economic pain, loss of jobs," Fauci said, "But if you look at the data, now that papers have come out literally two days ago, the fact that we shut down when we did and the rest of the world did, has saved hundreds of millions of infections and millions of lives."
Dr Fauci may have been correct that the lockdowns prevented countless infections and therefore deaths resulting from these infections, but did this action save lives? It is also a possibility that the lockdowns postponed more infections than they prevented, which may have caused more hospitalizations and deaths. Fewer people had natural immunity to the novel virus when deadlier strains proliferated, and this likely put some at a greater risk of serious outcomes.
The United Nations Global Compact has explained how the breakdown of supply chains would escalate the preexisting crisis of global hunger, and more people could die from COVID-related hunger than from Covid-19 infection as a result [click here]. In addition, the UN World Food Program detailed how the rising cost of basic food prices impacted a dramatic increase in the number of people on the verge of famine, IPC phase 4/Emergency [click here]. The number of people estimated to be experiencing conditions of "extreme food shortages, acute malnutrition and [excessively high levels of] disease...and the [rapidly increasing] risk of hunger-related death" [click here] has increased from 27 million in 2019 to 41 million in 2021.
Starvation is not the only cause of death which has been affected by shortages and inflation. Malnutrition can also be a contributing factor that increases the likelihood of severe outcomes to infection. This factor seems to have been overlooked in the reports of disproportionate COVID hospitalizations affecting minority ethnic groups in the US. Disparity has forced some high-risk individuals to remain in the workforce, which is often a high-risk environment, and cramped living conditions increased transmission within low-income communities. In addition to these factors, inflation has led to the rationing of supplies, and this, in turn, has likely led to a degree of malnutrition.
Anna Filanowski (nee Mokritsky), an indentured servant from the age of 14, passed down her wisdom and experience of the Great Depression to her grandchildren. One example would be that while lard sandwiches can provide low-cost calories, thiamin-enriched bread can prevent vitamin B deficiencies, helping to prevent malnourishment in times of hardship. When people have to tighten their belts, nutrition becomes crucial. However, this is often one of the many things that are sacrificed. An event like a global pandemic makes nutrition of the utmost importance. Nutritious foods should always be evenly distributed, but this is particularly true for the duration of a pandemic.
Dr Fauci has asserted that he became a polarizing figure because he advocates science instead of conspiracy theories [click here]. This would imply that the entirety of dissenting opinions is based on an anti-science bias. In October, Fauci spoke at the POLITICO Health Care Summit 2021, where he said [.youtube.com/watch?v=3KEWuqHlRWc&t=836s 13:15; .eatthis.com/news-fauci-covid-science-message/], "I think if people do understand that, that you have- when you follow the science, science is inherently self-corrective. And when new information comes about, that's when you make changes." Dr Fauci, along with others who seem to have a "mainstream" bias, appears to be ignoring the social science of economics and the impact lockdowns and fear have had on supply chains, the global hunger crisis, homelessness and malnutrition [both domestically and abroad].
One of the more confusing topics during the course of the pandemic has been the guidance for wearing masks in public. Early on, the CDC and WHO both recommended against public masking. On March 8th, 2020, three days before WHO declared Covid-19 a global pandemic, Anthony Fauci appeared on 60 Minutes and recommended against the widespread use of masks in the community [.youtube.com/watch?v=PRa6t_e7dgI]. This was after WHO had declared Covid-19 a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) on January 30th [click here]. Fauci made reference to "unintended consequences" like an increase in face-touching, an act that can actually contribute to the transmission of infectious disease. And he implied that masks should be reserved for healthcare workers, along with people who are ill to prevent them from spreading the infection. Dr Jon LaPook, who was interviewing Dr Fauci, chimed in and mentioned how public face masking could contribute to a mask shortage. Dr Fauci reiterated this, saying, "Exactly, that's the point. It can lead to a shortage of masks for the people who really need it."
Almost a month after this interview, on April 3rd, the CDC revised its recommendation to support the wearing of nonmedical masks in public [click here], and Dr Fauci complied with this recommendation. He later explained that the original justification against wearing masks was due to a potential shortage of medical masks and a lack of knowledge in regard to the extent of asymptomatic spread. The reasoning behind a shift in public health messaging based on a new development like asymptomatic spread makes sense. This was a novel virus, and it would be expected that scientists would make new discoveries along the way. Dr Fauci himself even said that things can change, and we should expect the unexpected. However, Fauci said [click here], "...what happened as the weeks and months came by, two things became clear: one, that there wasn't a shortage of masks, we had plenty of masks and coverings that you could put on that's plain cloth..."
More than three weeks after WHO declared a pandemic [and 9 weeks after it declared a PHEIC], the difference between MEDICAL MASKS and CLOTH confounded the public health experts in the US who recommended against wearing any mask in public, medical or nonmedical. And when the top public health spokesperson in the US discussed this discrepancy, he added a decent amount of filler about asymptomatic spread between the old thinking of mask shortages and the new thinking of cloth abundance [see video; click here]. It's important to make the distinction that asymptomatic spread and the abundance of cloth don't necessarily invalidate the unintended consequence of face-touching, which was originally cited by Dr Fauci as one of the reasons that he did not to support the use of masks in the wider community setting.
Three days after the CDC revised its recommendation on public face masking, WHO released its 3rd Interim Guidance, Advice on the use of masks in the context of COVID-19, on April 6th, 2020 [click here]. This report contradicted the CDC's recommendation, stating (pg 2), "As described above, the wide use of masks by healthy people in the community setting is not supported by current evidence and carries uncertainties and critical risks," in its advice to decision makers. The publication also said, "WHO will update its guidance when new evidence becomes available."
Unlike the CDC, WHO did not confuse medical masks with nonmedical masks (cloth), as their April 6th Interim Guidance specified that policy makers should differentiate the two (pg 2). WHO also acknowledged evidence for pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic transmission in the Guidance (pg 1). When its April 6th Guidance was published, the World Health Organization was very much aware of the two details cited by Anthony Fauci as the justifications that changed the CDC's recommendation on wearing cloth masks in public. Nonetheless, WHO recommended against universal community masking based on the evidence that was available at the time. Additionally, some of the potential advantages and risks were outlined for policy makers to take into consideration. Five bullet points seem to lay out the only justification offered by the Guidance to oppose the use of masks by healthy individuals in community settings (pg 2). These bullet points are quoted below:
* self-contamination that can occur by touching and reusing contaminated mask
* depending on type of mask used, potential breathing difficulties
* false sense of security, leading to potentially less adherence to other preventive measures such as physical distancing and hand hygiene
* diversion of mask supplies and consequent shortage of mask for health care workers
* diversion of resources from effective public health measures, such as hand hygiene
Two of these points stand out as justifications against public masking that were made in public statements at the time, self-contamination and a false sense of security. "There is no specific evidence to suggest that the wearing of masks by the mass population has any potential benefit," Executive Director of WHO's Health Emergencies Program Dr Mike Ryan said at a press-conference on the 30th of March 2020 [click here], "In fact, there's some evidence to suggest the opposite in the misuse of wearing a mask properly or fitting it properly." This justification is remarkably similar to Anthony Fauci's quote from the March 8th 60 Minutes interview [.youtube.com/watch?v=PRa6t_e7dgI], "And often, there are unintended consequences--people keep fiddling with their mask and they keep touching their face." The WHO Interim Guidance and Anthony Fauci both made reference to local customs/culture as well. In the same 60 Minutes interview, Fauci said, "When you look at the films of the foreign countries and you see 85% of the people wearing masks, that's fine. I'm not against it."
The April 6th Guidance also mentioned "uncertainties and critical risks" associated with masking although it did not specify what was meant by this phrase. One can only speculate, but these CRITICAL risks might have something to do with cultural repudiation and the repercussions of this alienation, the elephant in the room that no one is willing to address. The unwarranted criticism of Australia's Prime Minister illustrates why some people might not want to discuss this elephant directly [click here], which could prove to be a disastrous mistake. Sympathizing with nonviolent protesters and differentiating them from violent extremists with similar viewpoints is not the same thing as condoning or supporting violent extremists, regardless of the movement (e.g., BLM; anti-lockdowns; anti-vaccine-mandates/passports).
Roughly two months after WHO released its April 6th Interim Guidance, the organization published its 4th Interim Guidance, Advice on the use of masks in the context of COVID-19, on June 5th, 2020 [click here]. This Guidance complied with the CDC's recommendation for the general public to wear masks. The publication updated information on asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission although the April 6th Guidance took these possibilities into consideration as well. The June 5th Guidance recommended governments encourage the public to wear masks based on studies of pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic transmission, "a growing compendium of observational evidence" on the effectiveness of public masking, "individual values and preferences," and the impracticality of social distancing in some situations (pg 6).
Conversely, the Guidance states (pg 6), "At the present time, the widespread use of masks by healthy people in the community setting is not yet supported by high quality or direct scientific evidence and there are potential benefits and harms to consider." The "growing compendium of observational evidence" mentioned in the Guidance has certain limitations, namely, the potential for extensive confounding biases [click here] which can be caused by confounding variables [ine.stat.psu.edu/stat500/lesson/1/1.1/1.1.4].
After making the following statement (pg 7), "The decision of governments and local jurisdictions whether to RECOMMEND or MAKE MANDATORY the use of masks should be based on the above criteria, and on the LOCAL CONTEXT, CULTURE, availability of masks, resources required, and PREFERENCES of the POPULATION," the June 5th Guidance reiterated some of the potential benefits and harms mentioned in the April 6th Guidance (advantages and risks), including self-contamination and a false sense of security (pg 8). It also recommended that policy makers "evaluate the impact (positive, neutral or negative) of using masks in the general population (including BEHAVIORAL AND SOCIAL SCIENCES)."
Evidence that seems to support the effectiveness of masks at reducing severe outcomes could very well be an example of a spurious correlation. Other variables like the development of natural immunity to SARS-CoV-2, previous exposure to similar coronaviruses, and local demographics (age, obesity and other factors that can elevate a risk of severe outcomes) could all have an impact. Additionally, focusing on infection-related deaths and ignoring hunger-related deaths (or conflating the two) creates an inaccurate depiction of the overall number of lives lost (or the true cause of some deaths). The concealment/distortion of negative consequences can elevate certain policies that do more harm than good.
WHO has been criticized for its so-called "contradictory statements" in regard to Covid-19 [click here], but the organization's statements were based on the contradictory information of an unbiased collection of facts. This is how, according to Anthony Fauci, "science is inherently self-corrective." When the facts aren't cherry-picked, they will often appear to be inconsistent with one another. "In the WHO's Coronavirus Stumbles, Some Scientists See a Pattern," an article published in The New York Times, claims [click here], "Virtually all scientists and governments have been recommending masks for months." However, as mentioned above, the 15,091 medical & public health scientists and 44,541 medical practitioners who have signed the Great Barrington Declaration do not support masking the general public [click here].
Some of the criticism of WHO has even come from within. Lawrence Gostin, a WHO official, said [click here], "And when they come out with things that are clearly contradicted by the scientific establishment without any justification or citing studies, it significantly reduces their credibility." It's quite possible that the studies referenced by the so-called "scientific establishment" may overlook significant factors that are obvious to reason, and the significance of these factors could be difficult to prove with research. Mounds of evidence prove nothing if there are confounding biases, and observational evidence is highly susceptible to confounding variables.
The innuendo and criticism in regard to the semantics of pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic were intellectually dishonest. Maria Van Kerkhove's tweet about asymptomatic transmission was made on June 8th, 2020. The tweet was split into two parts, and part-one distinguished the three types of transmission [tter.com/mvankerkhove/status/1270081494552281094]. WHO clearly distinguished symptomatic, pre-symptomatic, and asymptomatic in its April 6th Guidance as well (pg 1). Additionally, the footnote on page-one states, "An asymptomatic laboratory-confirmed case is a person infected with COVID-19 who does not develop symptoms." WHO officials did not "walk back" the claim about asymptomatic transmission. The agency capitulated to harassment and apologized for a misunderstanding that was caused by the "scientific establishment" referring to "pre-symptomatic" as "asymptomatic," long after WHO had distinguished the two.
Unfortunately, pressure from the US seems to have had an impact on WHO messaging. Whether or not it was intentional, when the Director-General of WHO omitted natural immunity from the definition of herd immunity in a 2020 press-conference [click here], Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus' definition generated the closure principle of gestalt theory, a phenomenon where the mind subconsciously fills in gaps of information [click here click here]. This omission inevitably led to some people making the false assumption that natural immunity does not exist or that it does not have a significant impact on herd immunity, which it does [click here].
The H1N1 strain of influenza was responsible for the deadliest pandemic in the modern era, the so-called "Spanish flu." The pandemic of 1918 was estimated to have been responsible for 25-to-100-million deaths when the global population was a mere quarter of its current magnitude. Natural immunity is the sole reason this virus became endemic, a tolerable state of infection. Moreover, referring to focused-protection as a "herd immunity strategy" mirrored the mischaracterization that had been utilized in the media [click here]. In the same press-conference mentioned above, Dr Ghebreyesus said, "Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak, let alone a pandemic."
[For more information about focused-protection, please read "The Unjust Condemnation of the Great Barrington Declaration," another article in this series click here or go to the Great Barrington Declaration website; Focused Protection page: eclaration.org/focused-protection/ FAQ page: eclaration.org/frequently-asked-questions/ "Magnitude or Mortality," click here another article in this series, provides the missing context from Dr Ghebreyesus' statement above]
During the two-month period when the CDC and WHO were not in agreement about masking the general public, some strange things started to happen. Media pundits began to criticize WHO relentlessly, and some even said the organization was not following the science. The media was choosing which experts represent science and which ones do not. While this form of elevation may not have been a new development, the target and intensity of the disparagement certainly were. WHO was bombarded with such attacks until it published its 4th Interim Guidance, Advice on the use of masks in the context of COVID-19, on June 5th. This publication complied with the CDC recommendation, to a degree. Some outlets continued to criticize WHO for lagging behind the science and making "contradictory statements" but not to the same extent as before when WHO and CDC recommendations were not so harmonious.
In addition to the media barrage of denigration, President Donald Trump threatened to defund the World Health Organization. On April 14th, 2020, eight days after WHO released its report that contradicted the CDC's recommendation, Trump announced that he would be suspending WHO funds [click here]. This seemed like a deflection from Trump's own apparent mistake, his administration's slow response to the pandemic. Trump criticized WHO for being too soft on China [click here], and the president halted funding while a review of the organization was conducted into its alleged "role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of coronavirus." The US provides WHO with more than $400 million annually, a significant portion of the organization's funding [click here]. A little more than a month later, on May 18th [click here], Trump raised the stakes and threatened to permanently defund WHO if the organization did not "commit to major substantive improvements in the next 30 days." Two-and-a-half weeks later, on June 5th, WHO complied with the CDC recommendations on public masking in spite of its "contradictory statements" [.bbc.com/news/health-52945210].
Trump continued his attacks on the World Health Organization, and on July 6th, 2020, he sent a formal notice of withdrawal to Congress and to the United Nations, effective July 6th, 2021 [.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-53327906]. In order to withdraw from WHO, the terms of a 1948 joint resolution passed by Congress require the US to give a year's notice and to pay any outstanding fees [click here]. Giving a year's notice may have been political theater, as the president doesn't have the authority to make such a decision without Congressional approval.
President Trump might have been able to get away with redirecting funds for a border wall, but this was based on a technicality of semantics WRT appropriated funds. He still might have lost that battle in the long run. On the other hand, if Congress approves funding for the World Health Organization, the president does not have the authority to divert such spending. It may have taken some time, but the judicial system would have ruled against Trump eventually. Regardless, Joe Biden won the election and reversed Trump's withdrawal from WHO on January 20th, 2021, the day that he was inaugurated [click here]. But if the election had gone the other way, WHO would not have permanently lost its funding, and Trump would have been able to maintain his reputation by criticizing the courts.
Donald Trump's image as an anti-establishment, rightwing populist and his controversial statements have contributed to the dichotomy of beliefs in the US and around the world. This is true for most hot button topics but especially so for the Covid-19 pandemic, which is probably the only event in recorded history that became politicized before it was even known to have been eventful. Does Trump really oppose the so-called establishment, or is it just an act to hinder critical thinking and the favorability of certain ideas? For more information on this subject, please read the supplemental article, "Should Donald Trump's Persona be Taken at Face Value?" [click here].
Ironically, "the science," with its dogmatic approach, has contributed to the public distrust of actual science, namely vaccination. This can also lead to the denial of other well established scientific theories like climate change. Dr Martin Kulldorff, one of the three authors of the Great Barrington Declaration [click here], believes the people who are urging vaccine mandates "have done much more damage during this one year than the anti-vaxxers have done in two decades."
Update: another article in this series (Get the Shot... click here) states, "The 'self-proclaimed inventor' of the mRNA vaccine is being accused of spreading misinformation about vaccines. But is it really misinformation? While Dr Malone may have overstated his expertise, an article in the Atlantic entitled 'The Vaccine Scientist Spreading Vaccine Misinformation' [click here] insinuates the doctor based his assessment 'on a botched sentence in a USA Today article, ONE THAT WAS LATER DELETED.'"
Meryl Nass replied to my email, and she had the following to say:
"Malone however is a good guy, did invent mRNA as a vaccine, and is wicked smart"
My sincerest apologies to Dr Robert Malone. I should not have disparaged you with such implications, parroting the disinformation that I was trying to deconstruct (MAY HAVE OVERSTATED HIS EXPERTISE). Not that it excuses my false statement, but that's how effective the manipulation is. I was actively trying to distinguish fact from innuendo, and it still got me.
Thank you, Meryl, for setting the record straight, on so many levels.
(Article changed on Dec 01, 2021 at 10:40 PM EST)