From October 2-4, 2020, the American Institute for Economic Research hosted a small conference for scientists to discuss the harms of the Covid-19 lockdowns, and maybe hint at a path back to normal life. Organized by Martin Kulldorff, Sunetra Gupta, and Jay Bhattacharya, the conference made a scientific case for shifting away from the heavy-handed lockdowns of the initial Spring 2020 outbreak. On their final day together in Great Barrington, the scientists wrote a short statement of principles, calling it the Great Barrington Declaration. This Declaration, their Declaration, touched a nerve well beyond the scientific community, and well beyond anything they or AIER could have expected. So here we are, a year later. Where do we stand?
The aim that our guests had in offering the Great Barrington Declaration was to spark scientific dialogue that had been missing from the lockdown discussions until that point. It was AIER’s goal to facilitate this dialogue. The Declaration was a success in bringing, for the first time since the pandemic started, an anti-lockdown voice to mainstream policy discussion. The signatories’ stance was generally in line with the pre-pandemic plans that many, if not most mainstream authorities, (the World Health Organization, the epidemiology center at Johns Hopkins University, and the Centers for Disease Control to name just three) held. People tend to forget what the pre-2020 conventional wisdom on pandemics even was.
As successful as we think the Great Barrington Declaration was, it failed in a number of respects as well. We did not, for example, anticipate the vilification the Declaration would receive from any number of people, ranging from the progressive left to self-described libertarians.
Immediately after the website launched, it was hit by a hoax signature campaign instigated on Twitter by pro-lockdown journalist Nafeez Ahmed. Most of the fake signatures were caught within hours and removed, but not before a hostile news media used them to manufacture a false story about their own self-created controversy over signatures from “Dr. Johnny Bananas” and similar easily-caught pseudonyms.
Related: Catholic schools will sue Dane County Madison Public Health to open as scheduled
Notes and commentary from Scott Girard:
“While Heinrich allowed schools to use their premises for child care and youth recreational activities, the government barred students from attending Mass, receiving Holy Communion at weekly Masses with their classmates and teachers, receiving the sacrament of Confession at school, participating in communal prayer with their peers, and going on retreats and service missions throughout the area.”
“Reasonable” should mean that the public health authorities followed their own internal guidelines for evaluating regulations. These include posting the scientific evidence leading to the regulation, receiving community input, and studying the effectiveness and sustainability of the regulation. In the case of Covid and the schools all this was ignored in Dane County. There was no evidence of transmission in children of school age at the start, the community’s wish to have the schools open was ignored and, over time, it was seen that surrounding counties kept their schools open without increasing Covid transmission – and this last point was completely ignored by Dane County. But the Supreme Court didn’t address the issue of irresponsible public health officials. Perhaps it cannot as Owen pointed out. Perhaps dereliction of duty must be addressed by criminal courts. Instead the Supreme Court answered a different question which might be put as follows: suppose a majority of children in a given community refused the regular vaccines – or refuse the covid vaccine – can the public health authorities close the school? The answer was no. This is significant because racism has been defined as a public health issue. Suppose a majority of parents refused to allow their children to attend a CRT seminar defined as immunization against racism and required for admittance to school. Could the public health authorities close that school. No. In the past certain religious tests have been required before attendance at universities was allowed and non-conforming universites have been closed. If racism is a public health issue the Test Acts may return as public health tests and if that happened we may be sure Dane County would adopt Test Regulations closing non-conforming public schools if it could. Then this Court decision, barring such Test Regulations, would seem far-sighted.
which pushed Dane County this week not to calculate its percentage of positive tests — a data point the public uses to determine how intense infection is in an area.
While positive test results are being processed and their number reported quickly, negative test results are taking days in some cases to be analyzed before they are reported to the state.
The department said it was between eight and 10 days behind in updating that metric on the dashboard, and as a result it appeared to show a higher positive percentage of tests and a lower number of total tests per day.
The department said this delay is due to the fact data analysts must input each of the hundreds of tests per day manually, and in order to continue accurate and timely contact tracing efforts, they prioritized inputting positive tests.
“Positive tests are always immediately verified and processed, and delays in processing negative tests in our data system does not affect notification of test results,” the department said in a news release. “The only effect this backlog has had is on our percent positivity rate and daily test counts.”
Staff have not verified the approximately 17,000 tests, which includes steps such as matching test results to patients to avoid duplicating numbers and verifying the person who was tested resides in Dane County.
All 77 false-positive COVID-19 tests come back negative upon reruns.