CDC Reversal on Masks, Vaccinated as Covid Spreaders, While Boosters Look to Be Coming Late and Not Hugely Effective

The Covid situation has developed not necessarily to the CDC’s advantage. Let us count some of the ways before we turn to a new failure in the making, the vaccine boosters.

The CDC and the WHO were late to take Covid seriously despite China having to build new facilities on an emergency basis to house the afflicted and implementing hard shutdown on 70% of its economy. Part of that was discouraging the public from masking (even making home-made face covers), later justified as a Noble Lie to preserve supplies for medical workers

The CDC left public health officials in the dark during the crucial early months by botching its Covid test and then having trouble with assuring adequate supplies, and stonewalling its own responsibility (the first story was that contractors were to blame, but after months of reporting, it turned out that CDC scientists were)

The CDC refused to recommend putting teeth in quarantines

CDC chief Rochelle Walensky said “Vaccinated people do not carry the virus,” as did some public service commercials

The VAERS database is not only weeks behind in reporting cases of vaccine incidents, but multiple clinicians have submitted adverse events that are almost impossible to attribute to anything else that have not been included in VAERS

The CDC doggedly refusing to acknowledge aerosol transmission and continuing to recommend surface cleaning theater long after the careful and paradigm-shifting work of epidemiologists and aerosol scientists came up with a more convincing and complete theory

Walensky made a fool of herself by crying about how awful things were going to get, and later saying before Congress that her son wasn’t going to camp as the CDC had already finished its “Mission accomplished! Throw off your masks” guidance.

Now the CDC has done yet another flip-flop which only further undermines its and the medical establishment’s credibility. The lead item on national TV news this evening was conceding that vaccinated people could (as in are) spreading Covid and they should therefore mask indoors. Oh, but only where the horse has left the barn and is in the next county. As Lambert said in Water Cooler, quoting a Reuters recap:

“The recommendations to wear masks in some indoor settings will apply in areas with surging COVID-19 cases, they said.” • Awesome. Let’s mask up only after it’s too late. As I keep asking: What business is the CDC in, anyhow?

Biden had to rouse himself to apply porcine maquillage:

The CDC’s inability to get its new story straight isn’t encouraging:

The only goal we can fathom was that Biden was determined to have his July 4 “Freedom Day” whether or not that made any sense in light of vaccination levels and and variant infectiousness. And as Lambert and I have repeatedly bemoaned, treating unmasking as a reward doubled down on right wing messaging that masking was a horrible imposition. Help me. Bathing daily is much more hassle. Do you hear people whine about that?

This isn’t “Follow the science.” This is “Sell the hopium.” Encourage the masses to get out of the house and spend on travel and entertainment. Act like MBAs and make the data fit the PR, which in the CDC’s case meant the absolutely irresponsible act of not collecting data on breakthrough cases among the vaccinated unless they wound up hospitalized, and using that fabrication to maintain that of course nobody vaccinated was getting infected, and its was only crazy right wing anti-vaxxers who dared suggest otherwise.

Mind you, it was predictable that the “Mission accomplished” would blow up because we and others predicted it, starting with the two biggest nurses unions in the US, both of which condemned the CDC for telling the vaccinated to toss their masks.

Just as the implications of the original Covid infection in China were obvious if you weren’t invested in denialism, so too was the significance of new, nastier “variants of concern”. As of late last year, Delta was exploding in India and variants in South Africa and Brazil also were worrisome. It didn’t take long to establish that Delta was vastly more infectious than “wild type” Covid and was spreading rapidly in the UK and then in the US.

Yet the CDC played head in the sand. It acted as if these new developments were of no consequence and the US vaccine strategy would solve all problems. And the Democratic party and its media allies had already pre-positioned the blame cannons squarely at those horrible deplorables if anything did go amiss.

The CDC’s position became untenable as Israel, which had achieved high levels of vaccination early, was reporting lower and lower efficacy levels for the Pfizer vaccine, most recently admitting to only 39% against Delta. That level is too low for the Pfizer vaccine to have been approved had Delta then been the predominant variant.

So now we have the CDC in the middle of another embarrassing about face, doing a poor imitation of financial regulators’ “Whocoulddanode?” in 2008.

The CDC appears to believe it’s a reasonable defense to say they had no idea Delta was way more contagious. Huh? First, medicine is not financial markets. The precautionary principle, as well as having already observed in the first wave what exponential spread looks like, means that public health officials need to err on the side of caution, particularly after having been too slow to act before. Second, the CDC has no excuse based on extensive evidence that
Delta was much more contagious than the “wild type”. Very early estimates pointed to Delta contagion rates at least 40% higher, which should have sent the CDC back to the drawing board. More refined studies had dire findings, like a fresh article concluding viral loads in Delta patients were 1000 times higher than for “wild type” Covid.

The CDC appears constitutionally unwilling to exercise leadership. Admittedly, with a fragmented US health care system, its formal authority is less than ideal, but it has, or more accurately had, a powerful bully pulpit. Instead, the CDC looks unwilling to stick its neck out and will take a position only when it’s safe, which in disease and disaster management, is pathetically useless. As Taleb has warned, preventing ruin is the paramount concern, and pandemics have nasty downsides. With Covid, that may well include a high level of disability due to lasting damage suffered by survivors.

But the CDC, hewing to the bad values of the American professional-managerial classes, think that image and their feelers count for more than real world outcomes, even actual large-scale damage like the opioid debacle. They seem to believe that it’s better not to take grief for averting a crisis, since some will insist the bad results never would have occurred. They’d rather try to play fireman and run into burning buildings. Or more accurately, get others to run into burning buildings but take credit for having dispatched them.

But as the Wall Street Journal pointed out in a very long article and well-researched piece yesterday, Covid treatments are pretty much nowhere, so the alternatives are to do the equivalent of condemn dangerous-looking buildings or let neighborhoods and maybe even entire cities burn.

Now let’s turn to the next CDC train wreck in the making: the vaccine boosters. Remember that the CDC, and in fact the Biden Administration, has put all its eggs in the Covid vaccine basket. Yes, if we see hospitals on overload again, you will see lockdowns. It’s not acceptable for heart attack and stroke victims not to be able to get treated because Covid patients have taken up pretty much all the hospital and ICU beds. But the Biden Administration and the business community generally is so fixated on having Covid be over that that is deemed to be impossible except in places that are being punished for being vaccine apostates.

Having vaccines as the first line of defense requires having reasonably effective boosters and distributing them on a timely basis, as in when the vaccines wear off.

The CDC appears to be totally asleep at the switch on this issue. First, as we pointed out very early on, immunity to coronaviruses doesn’t last all that long. It ranges from six months for the common cold to 34 months for the very deadly MERS. Results from regular large-scale blood tests in the UK indicated that immunity to getting a case of Covid would last somewhere in the six to eight month range. Better data points to the shorter end of the range:

Experts thought vaccine-inferred immunity might last longer because the antibody levels started out higher, but no one really knew. As GM explained, the vaccines are way less effective against the variants, which translates into much shorter protection:

There may be “antibodies” but that’s just a signature of infection, not protective on its own. What matters is neutralizing antibodies, and those decay with a half life of 60-150 days. But that’s against the original variant, add an order of magnitude effective reduction in vivo due to the appearance of the newer variants, and all of a sudden 6-9 months after vaccination you are below the threshold (and with a natural infection it’s a lot sooner than that — vaccine-induced antibodies are 10 times higher and the vaccine does not lead to profound immune dysregulation the way infection does). To their credit, Moderna have been very open about this, but their papers on the subject have not received the publicity that the “lifetime immunity” headlines do.

The other distortion of the truth is about memory cells. Yes, memory cells are present and they can make antibodies, but they need to wake up, multiply and ramp up production, which takes time. But the virus has several layers of mechanisms for silencing the immune system, meaning that by the time those memory cells are alerted and have started waking up, runaway exponential viral replication may have already advanced beyond the point of containment.

Same thing for T cells.

Admittedly, earlier this month, both Scott Gottlieb and Fauci were discussing boosters. But do some simple math. Israel used Pfizer, the supposed best in breed. Most of its vaccinations were in January and February. Between natural decay and reduced effectiveness against Delta, efficacy five to six months in is down to 39%. It’s only going to get worse, as reduced protection (lower antibody levels) will translate into not just more contagion, but also more severe cases.

Recall also that the drug companies themselves have been saying the same thing. Pfizer cheekily reported its vaccine offered protection of “up to six months” at the start of April. As GM indicated,

Our high period of vaccinations was January to end of April. Given that how long vaccine conferred immunity would last was an open question, and that variants looked likely to shorten it, I was expecting boosters to be made available as of early fall, at a minimum to health care workers. Instead, the officialdom appeared to have convinced itself, with no factual foundation, that Covid boosters would be annual…just like the flu…because habit. You cannot make this stuff up. Although a toad did hop out of Scott Gottlieb’s mouth in the form of recently saying “annual or biannual vaccinations.”

However, given profit potential, one would also assume that the drug makers would be on top of the plot and would be taking the steps necessary to launch boosters soon. But that isn’t happening on what appears to be the required schedule either.

I hope regulatory experts will pipe up with any corrections or amplification, but the drug-makers are hostage to the EUA process. If the vaccines had gone through full regulatory approval, they could be prescribed for acne. Using them as boosters would be simply a matter of sending out more doses.

But for Pfizer and Moderna, the vaccines were approved because they showed high enough efficacy against the type then circulating. Recall that one defense of J&J was its lower apparent efficacy was at least in part due to being tested later and as a result against some additional variants. But the EUA regime requires that boosters get a new approval. We posted this section from a Reuters story yesterday:

Pfizer said it will be creating a booster shot to target the Delta variant. Trials for the booster shot began in Nashville on Monday. Moderna also announced it will be developing a booster shot, with trial results expected by September.

Studies by Moderna and AstraZeneca showed significantly diminished efficacy of a third shot against earlier variants; it’s not hard to imagine that results against Delta would be similar or worse.1 IM Doc had also heard about trials for Pfizer using the old vaccine from local investigators weeks ago. It’s not clear if the supposed Delta trial mentioned in the story is the same “material” but a different dose, or a new formulation. IM Doc had believed that Pfizer was attempting another two-shot regime, but that may have been unpopular with participants and with officials that heard about it too.

Nevertheless, the supposed advantage of mRNA vaccines was the ability to develop new ones in just a week or two in a lab. Delta has been raging in the UK and India, so why weren’t the trials in progress already, and with a targeted new formulation?

Regardless of what each company is up to, if you make simple-minded assumptions, starting with the Pfizer trial just having started, it’s hard to see how a vaccine is approved before the end of September.2 And even though Pfizer had its vaccines all prepositioned in regional warehouses to be released immediately upon getting the green light, we know from the first go-round that getting patients injected takes time. It’s possible to implement what amounts to bulk distribution at nursing homes, to workers at medical centers, and at drive in sites, but those were in effect only in the early months. Will state and local governments gear up again, or will they just hand the process over to drugstores? Planning should be starting by mid-late August at the latest. What do you think the odds are of that happening outside at most a few places very hard hit in previous waves, like New York City?

And just as important, what will the demand be? It would take a full bore campaign to create an appetite for boosters. But that would require telling those who’ve been vaccinated early in 2021 in no uncertain terms that they are or will soon be at risk again. That messaging, particularly in the late summer, would throw a damp squib on Labor Day vacationers. And again, it’s such a big change from the recent happy talk that it won’t make the CDC or the Biden Administration look very good either.

But events may create the sense of urgency all on their own. A fresh e-mail from GM:

The increase overall in hosptializations in the US is truly frightening. This is most definitely not the UK situation where they got a lot of cases but it was mostly young people so hospitals did not get slammed as before (of course, it remains to be seen what will happen there when schools restart).

Yesterday, to the extent that the data can be believed given how it is no longer being properly collected and reported, hospitalizations jumped by almost 4,000 in a single day.

I went through the data from the previous waves and it looks like there was only one day in mid-November 2020 when they rose by more than that.

In total it is still at 40,000 compared to the 120,000 at the peak. But we know it will keep rising because people are still out there unmasked and the exponential phase of case growth shows no signs of slowing.

So this looks like how B.1.617.2 has been behaving in India, Nepal, Russia, Indonesia, etc., and most definitely not like the UK situation.

Worst of all, we have all these derivatives of B.1.617.2 that are now spreading in the US and a massive rise in hospitalizations in an otherwise fairly highly vaccinated population, which has not really been observed so far — every massive B.1.617.2 surge elsewhere has been in a largely unvaccinated population — so is it because in the US a lot of older people did not get vaccinated while in other countries nearly everyone vulnerable did get vaccinated, is it because vaccines are fading, or is it because these derivatives are even worse than OG vanilla B.1.617.2? Well, we will have to wait for these variants to spread in Europe to figure it out, because in the US nobody is tracking or looking at this question…

How did we get to this sorry state? No one seems willing to make decisions, particularly the really important ones that entail saying “no” to those who don’t want to hear it. The Republicans’ excuse is that they want to fob everything off to the private sector. The Democrats sold themselves as paragons of managerial competence and sound decision-making. They are coming off like actors whose telepromoter has frozen.

Lambert’s take:

The CDC has proved utterly incapable of assessing and communicating risk to public health during a pandemic. And that assumes “genocidal elites” theory has been ruled out, which I’m coming to think in fact parsimonious.

GM also has to concede that malevolent intent by our better can’t be entirely ruled out, but he sees hubris and incompetence as the drivers:

The part about the willing self-deception of the elites is also very important. I too have come to the conclusion that either there is some absurdly nefarious grand conspiracy behind this (not really likely) or it is just stupidity and shortsightedness all around. COVID has shown, again and again and again, that you can ignore it for some time, but eventually you will pay for it. Wuhan CCP officials, Trump, the Tanzanian president, and many others learned that lesson the hard way. And it’s been 18 months of that. And it’s not like it was not known there is antigenic drift with these viruses, or that they have all sorts of tricks up their sleeve yet to be played, or that the vaccine was not going to last (was talked about from the start), or that we were never going to vaccinate enough people to reach herd immunity, etc.. So why would you possibly spend half a year blatantly lying when it was crystal clear from the start that it will backfire eventually? Unless you are indeed that deluded and unable to think rationally about the long term.

After the financial crisis, I took to saying that Washington DC had a Versailles circa 1788 air about it. That’s now looking charitable. Lambert’s been studying the last years of imperial Russia, and finds it a much closer parallel to our rot at the top. That isn’t at all encouraging, since the Romanovs made the Bourbons look good.


1 From GM via e-mail:

There were two concerning observations there:

1. No neutralization activity left against P.1 and B.1.351 after 6-8 months
2. The booster worked, but only increased the neutralizing titers to ~40% of what they were originally against the Wuhan variant and what they are against it when boosted.

Based on the fact that the booster “worked”, OAS was dismissed by most, but this would in fact consistent with an OAS effect — nAbs only got boosted to less than half of the previous level.

But then the AZ booster preprint came out:

They saw the same <50% boosting against B.1.351, and they also analyzed neutralization against B.1.617.2 and saw that it was even worse against it (B.1.617.2 is antigenically more different from B.1.351 than it is from the wild type). But they also did several more important experiments: 1. They immunized naive mice with a WT and with a B.1.351 vaccine, single dose 2. They immunized naive mice with a mixture of the two And the neutralization against B.1.351 was still half of what it is against the WT [wild type]

2 Back of the envelope:

Two weeks after vaccination to reach peak efficacy (Pfizer and Moderna did not include information on infections before that time frame last time).

Four weeks to have enough infections and results from placebo and controls to determine efficacy

A week to compile and polish findings and send them in

FDA at a bare minimum has to do a statistical review, which takes a minimum of two weeks.

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  1. PlutoniumKun

    One academic I follow on twitter has made the reasonable point repeatedly that one reason democracies have generally proven more robust than autocracies is that while democracies often screw up badly in the face of a threat at the first time it faces it (for example, in 1939), they have the capacity to change quickly and ultimately adjust their systems, while autocracies are good at ‘instant’ responses, but lack internal flexibility which usually leads to their downfall.

    Sadly, the virus is proving that if this was true, its no longer true for most modern democracies, at least outside Asia, as we’ve seen politicians – and often public health agencies – repeatedly make the same stupid mistakes, over and over again. They seem to have the memories of goldfishes. Over and over again we’ve seen restrictions that work relaxed far too soon, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

    To change topic, just a short report here from Ireland. I’m working right now from a small non-touristy town in the West (it so happens to be the birthplace of Biden’s Irish ancestors), 2 days after a significant lifting of restrictions, meaning pubs and restaurants can open indoors, but they must ask for a full vaccine cert. I had a stroll around the town last evening to see how people were responding. It was noticeable that old style pubs serving hardened working class drinkers (you can tell them from the sound of the horse racing commentary) were clearly more relaxed than the slightly nicer places. The restaurant I went to was very careful, scanning my vaccine card and ensuring masking when people were moving around. The guesthouse I’m staying in is clearly going through the motions, nothing more, a few older people were wandering around unmasked. Most people are observing masking and being relatively safe. Delta was surging the last two weeks, mostly among young people, but seems to have levelled off and gone into slight decline the last few days. It remains to be seen if the lifting of restrictions makes a difference.

    The government here announced that they will start allowing vaccination (voluntary) for 12-18 year olds from this month. Mostly RNA vaccines, although they are encouraging 18-30 year olds to go for Jannson. They have said specifically it will not be a requirement for attending school or college. For some reason the UK is not following suit, they seem to want everyone under 18 to get it ‘naturally’.

      1. Cocomaan

        Hah, had not scrolled down before I started writing a response to PK in my head.

        Nobody voted for the United States to be the world empire, the reserve currency, the center of so called Pax Americana. There’s no democratic process for who gets veto power on the UN Security Council.

        The United States is a oligarchic gerontocracy at the moment, so the sometimes anemic, sometimes strong arm response is precisely in keeping with the mental state of the powers that be.

      2. The Rev Kev

        The problem arises with the term “representative democracies”. A quick glance would suggest that it is the people that are being represented whereas in modern democracies, it is actually the wealthier class represented as revealed in that Princeton study.

        1. Lambert Strether

          > in modern democracies, it is actually the wealthier class represented as revealed in that Princeton study

          At least the elites in the England in the 1830s, where wealth overtly determined the franchise, had just defeated Napoleon. Reactionary though they were. Our elites have no such “mandate from heaven.” Biden v. Wellington? Really?

          1. Bazarov

            Napoleon defeated himself by invading Russia.

            Once the European powers made clear they would not allow Napoleon to reassert control of France upon his escape from Elba–even with his promise to “play nice” by confining his ambitions to France’s national borders–it was over. Had Wellington lost at Waterloo, Napoleon would’ve been overwhelmed by the various other European powers, all of which had armies and military leadership made far more formidable by the experience of losing so many times during the Napoleonic Wars.

            In other words, giving credit to the UK’s reactionary elites for Napoleon’s downfall feels a bit like Americans taking credit for “winning WWII” when in fact it was the Soviet effort that was decisive.

            I would also add, per Hobsbawm’s “The Age of Extremes,” that liberal republics are poor at governing by design–being structured to divide civic power and therefore disperse political strength, which in turn leaves the field open for concentrated private influence. They’re fine during good times, when little government is necessary, but during a crisis, their weakness is laid bare, which perhaps explains why they disappear during emergencies or assume rather unrepublican characteristics. Take, for example, the Great Depression.

            I do not think the republican form of government can move decisively enough to, say, address global warming. It’s obvious that “communism with Chinese characteristics” has the advantage in an emergency (see covid). I expect, sooner or later, republican structures in the US to completely wither away into Napoleon III-style plebiscitary despotism to combat an ecological crisis that requires fully concentrated political power. Either that or balkanization here and perhaps abroad in the other large republican countries.

          2. duffolonious

            Has short term corporatism done this damage? So no one in govt even understands long term thinking.

    1. Michael

      All forms of indirect rule are Great Attractors for corruption and a kind of inbred agreement about the boundaries of what constitutes “common sense,” generated and sustained within a limited peer network such as defines a ruling class. Eventually, both also reach critical levels resulting in precisely what we see today, regardless how one chooses to characterize the central decision-making authority(ies). The only differential between one group and another is how much time has passed from origin to toxic to the social system.

      At least, this is the best explanation for why almost no one is chosing the hard but fast elimination path over the slow boil ’em alive approach to achieve some mythic herd immunity, short of nefarious grand conspiracy, that matches up with historical precedent.

    2. jsn

      We need to be honest about the systemic implications of Furgeson’s and others research on the relationship betweeen votes and policies. It’s been 20 years or more since the relationship was statistically meaningful, IIRC.

      We have a managed political economy still clinging to useless democratic protocols as a final figleaf for Oligarchic / Corporate rule.

      Because both economy and politics are now “managed narratives” of the PMC, and the PMC maintains an increasinly delusional belief in its own competence, both economic and political information reaching or nominal rulers are so distorted by the biases, interests and self delusions of those managing it, even if limits free campaign finance regieme hadn’t delivered corrupt sociopaths to our leadership cadre, those leaders wouldn’t be able to rely in the information they’re receiveng. Looking at the behavior of that leadership cadre, they obviously have no knowledge of what actual leadership is, or even looks like, they still think they’re doing just fine.

  2. dao

    I’m a holdout on the vaccine because my gut says “don’t trust it”. I am not an anti-vaxer and I am not a Republican (lol). I will take may chances even though I am older (57).

    I am the only one at work who has not been vaccinated and I still have to wear a mask. I have worked throughout the whole pandemic in a job that can’t be done remotely. I may have already had it, but if I did it was mild or asymptomatic.

    I do not like the messaging that if we are all vaccinated, the virus will die out. It never will. It will always be around like the flu. The experts said that from the beginning.

    1. Basil Pesto

      The experts said that from the beginning.

      That’s a bit too general. Which experts and when?

      Elimination could have been achieved, if the response had been serious (and if the appropriate experts had been listened to at the appropriate times). Obviously, the more countries it spreads to, the less likely a consistent response and we seem incapable of a coordinated international response too.

      I *think* a more serious response would have been more
      likely and/or easier if the disease were more viscerally virulent, like if it were flesh eating or something. That, needless to say, is cold comfort.

      1. chuck roast

        In the beginning there were the experts here at NC. It was certainly clear to everybody here that this was a coronavirus like the flu, and it wasn’t going away. This is from an old folk tune by way of Ry Cooder. Sub Covid for mortgage…

        We worked through spring and winter, through summer and through fall
        But the mortgage worked the hardest and the steadiest of us all
        It worked on nights and Sunday, it worked each holiday
        It settled down among us and it never went away

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          GM is of the completely different view, that the virus could have been contained:

          Yes, unfortunately, that seems to be the path forward that has been decided by the powers that be moving forward — “personal choice” on how much you can protect yourself, but nothing will be done to stop transmission aside from vaccination. The US will easily tolerate 100-200K deaths a year, probably even more, as long as hospitals do not collapse. And the truth is that while they were close to collapsing on several occasions, at no point did it become an India-like situation.

          And that is fine as far as the powers that be are concerned — the only real constraint there ever was was that there should be no people dying on the street outside of hospitals because that is very bad PR and it runs the risk of the public waking up and demanding that an elimination program be implemented (which is fundamentally impossible without the absolutely abominable idea of taking from the rich and giving to the poor). How many people die overall does not matter (especially given that we know very well which people will be doing the dying and which people will be living comfortable secluded from it all lives). BTW, this has a corollary — expanding hospital capacity is something that we do not want in the West, because what it means is a lot more people dying and becoming disabled for life in absolute terms, as it raises that tolerance limit. This is one reason the late-2020 wave was met with a lot less restrictions than the Spring 2020 one. Even though it killed 2-3X as many people. Hospitals were “prepared”. Again, this perverse logic works in the West. In less privileged places people will be left to die on the streets.

          This also highlights the more generally perverted logic of Western medicine and healthcare systems — we only care about “treatment”, not about the actual health of people.

          I wrote a number of articles, since the start of the pandemic, explaining how the old Soviet system — both the healthcare one as designed by N.S. Semashko in the 1920s, the foundational principle of which was prevention of disease and infection, and the overall societal one too — would never have allowed things to unfold as they did over the last 16 months. Transmission would have been stopped at all cost….

          For the record, to those of us in the molecular biology world, what the CDC was doing in January and February 2020, when it simultaneously could not put together a working test for the six to eight long crucial weeks of silent undetected spread, while preventing others from developing their own, looked like deliberate sabotage of containment. It was hard to explain in any other way — I’ve mentored high school students who were successfully doing much more complex designs of molecular biology reagents in 9th grade, it is not rocket science, plus there were already working designs from other countries, and it was quite literally a copy-paste matter to adapt those. And then there is the question of why would you possibly not allow others from working out their own tests and also demanding that samples be sent across the country to Atlanta, when literally every minute was of the utmost importance?

          In any case, whether it was malfeasance (if it was, the extremely important question of what its source was immediately follows) or mind blowing incompetence, hundreds of thousands died and millions were left disabled as a result (and there were also many times that as collateral damage elsewhere in the world — ZeroCOVID was never an option for those parts of world controlled by the US without the US pursuing that, so the US refusal to contain it meant that many millions were sentenced to die in other countries too), so there should have been someone punished for that, and, of course, there wasn’t.

          1. Basil Pesto

            Might GM be so kind as to provide a link to one or more of the articles he mentions? I’d be genuinely interested to read them. I understand if he’d rather not in order to preserve his anonymity as a commenter.

    2. Cocomaan

      I see no reason to not wait it out and see what happens, if you can remain careful in your conduct and the conduct of your “bubble”.

      If delta is breaking through today, by next year there will be variants that ignore the vaccine entirely.

      1. chad

        The purpose of Covid vaccination is to stimulate cellular immunity so you don’t progress to severe disease. I suppose you can gamble on infection providing you with the same. The correlates of protection are still not settled. We are all going to get infected by SARS-2 eventually.

        1. cocomaan

          That’s why I’m saying that if you are okay socially distancing, wait as long as you need to wait for the vaccines to get sorted out.

          1. chad

            Now you need to get down to brass tacks. How long do you wait? How will you social distance? Those mandates will be lifted and we will all be forced back out soon. Unless you are a hermit, your risk of exposure will only increase.

            Here’s a conspiracy that I’ve not heard yet. Perhaps the carrots and sticks are done and soon all restrictions will be lifted as a way to punish the unvaccinated. Remember, it’s okay to lose if your enemy loses more. Better yet, if things go sideways and a worse VOC arises, guess who gets the blame?

            1. Brian Beijer

              It’s funny that you mention

              Perhaps the carrots and sticks are done and soon all restrictions will be lifted as a way to punish the unvaccinated.

              Sweden now has no restrictions, or none that I am aware of. No masks, no restrictions in stores, no limit on the amount of people on public transportation. I believe they are restricting large public events to only those with the “pass”, but I’m not sure because I have absolutely no interest in any large public gathering, even pre-Covid. In the part of Sweden I live in, everything is like traveling back in time to the summer of 2019.

              I had Covid twice in 2020, and yet I have chosen not to get the vaccine. How do I live my daily life surrounded by “deniers”? That’s what I like to call them. Pretty well actually. I wear my mask and try my best to maintain distance when in public. At my job, I have to meet with clients in person multiple times a day and I have frequent contact with my (mostly vaccinated) co-workers. Am I scared of getting Covid? Absolutely. Any more scared than I was in 2020? Definitely not. What I’m saying is that it’s definitely doable, so I wouldn’t use that hypothetical scenario as a threat of “what if”. You would be surprised at how quickly one can adapt to an insane situation.

    3. kareninca

      I, too, am 57, also not an anti-vaxxer and also not a Republican. Maybe we should start a club. I’m waiting until the case fatality rate goes up before getting vaccinated; that will make the risk/benefit calculation work for me. I expect that it will, but I don’t yet have a sense of just when.

      I don’t want to be vaccinated yet because I know too many people who have been vaccinated who seem to be experiencing mental decline. I realize that that is anecdotal; nonetheless they are my anecdotes and I’m not ignoring them. But I am taking Ivermectin and using nasal spray and of course a mask.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Do you actually read this site? Talking about fatalities straw mans our work.

        We’ve pointed out repeatedly that long term health damage among Covid patients is serious and lasting.

        People who get Covid can get long Covid, which is debilitating.

        Four studies found that 50%+ of asymptomatic cases suffered serious lung damage.

        UK data shows Covid patients suffer from brain loss:

        I could go on but it’s tiring to be forced to do this again and again.

        1. kareninca

          Oh, I’m sorry. I did not mean to minimize long covid and covid side effects, which I think are going to be common and terrible.

          I’m having some trouble figuring out what to use as a signal that it would be better to take the vaccine than not to. I don’t know that taking the vaccine will prevent long covid.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            Search engines are your friend.

            The vaccines appear to considerably reduce long Covid risk:

            Breakthrough infections resulting in long Covid-19 are “quite rare,” said Dr. Greg Vanichkachorn, an occupational medicine specialist who works with post-Covid-19 syndrome patients at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

            Vanichkachorn’s observation, while based only on what he’s seen in the clinic, is echoed at other post-Covid-19 clinics.


            1. kareninca

              Thank you, I will definitely take that into account. I am not eager to end up with long covid.

  3. Anonymous2

    I have a contact in an organisation responsible for medical innovations. His hope is that by 2023 it may be possible to develop a vaccine which copes with all possible variants. Let us hope he is right.

    It looks like it’s going to be a rough two years, though

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      See GM on the half life of neutralizing antibodies. Even if there is a vaccine that is broader spectrum, the immunity won’t last for years the way it does for say measles and tetanus.

      1. Anonymous2

        Yes. Clearly that is a very important point. Trying to be hopeful for a moment (unlike me normally) perhaps we could hope that as the vaccine-generated immunity fades, people will get infected/reinfected but suffer mostly mild/moderate varieties of the disease, boosting immunity ‘naturally’? Likely to leave us with deaths among the most vulnerable and long Covid for others, I imagine.

        It really is an awful situation. I think it is going to cause major political and social dislocation.

    2. Big River Bandido

      I have zero medical qualifications whatsoever, but comments like this make my heart sink. The level of basic medical knowledge among the general public — I’m talking of the high school physiology variety — is so frightfully low that I think even the best communication efforts by public health officials would have been for naught, for lack of fertile ground for understanding.

      Knowing the difference between “bacterial” and “viral” infections —  that one is responsive to antibiotics, while the other most decidedly is not — is really basic stuff. And especially important in an age of increasing bacterial resistance and the likelihood of “super bacteria” evolving due to over-prescription of antibiotics by doctors and veterinarians alike.

      The term “vaccination” is an unfortunate misnomer when applied to the flu and viral infections like COVID-19.

    3. tegnost

      I hope I win the lottery
      If I really focus on it, I think 2 years is sufficient time.
      Total drag that I have to scramble through those 2 years…

    4. WhatdoIknow

      Pfizer working already on a booster shot.
      This thing is really starting to look like a windows update, cant make this stuff up.

    5. Jeotsu

      FWIW, I have a friend (here in NZ) who is a civilian working at Defense, and his team has been told to expect another year of closed/controlled borders at minimum, with 2-3 more likely.

      With that in mind, I look at the messaging coming from thePM, finance minister, and covid-response minister, and I think the political leadership here is relatively clued in and realistic, but also have to manage public expectations. They’ve been very mum in response to all the demands for a ‘roadmap to reopening the borders’ from various industry sectors.

      We are pushing ahead hard with the Pfizer vaccine, with the hope of having nationwide vaccination done by the end of the year. I can see the virtue of this, as when delta inevitably breaks through the border, even a marginally-effective jab will make containment more feasible. Masks and lockdowns might not stop a R0 of 6-8, but we’ve established already we can stop a R0 of 3 or so.

      Watching Australia struggle with delta is also very much in the minds of Kiwis. Both because of the shutdown of the travel bubble, and the reality that this could happen here. Looks like Australia is hoping to vaccinate their way out of that outbreak, I’m not sure how well that is going to work for them. And Fiji is falling apart, and the outbreak is running away, though that does not make the international news much.

  4. Anon

    I have lost all faith in the CDC. After experiencing an adverse neurological reaction to my first vaccine, I was hospitalized. I tried to report my reaction to the CDC and could not. The red tape involved made it impossible. I can only speculate that this is true for countless others who have experienced adverse reactions. Recently, three people I know have developed symptomatic Covid breakthrough infections after being fully vaccinated. One is hospitalized. Have any of these breakthrough infections been counted by the CDC? Who knows? It is a scary situation. I would like to be told the truth by the medical establishment. I’m a grownup and can handle the truth. Obviously, I am living in a dream world if I expect this to happen.

    1. lordkoos

      As we were shown 15 years ago with the government’s response to hurricane Katrina (or the lack of it), we the people are on our own. We are seen as little more than opportunities for profit, and our ruling class are not interested in “saving” anyone other than themselves.

      Additionally, the implications of millions of long-term COVID cases being a drag on the economy doesn’t seem to be priced in.

    2. kareninca

      I’m very sorry about your neurological reaction and your hospitalization. I hope that you make a full recovery. Thank you very much for posting; it helps others to try to figure out what to do, since we can’t rely on official information. I just wish it weren’t at such a cost.

    3. Mantid

      Hi Anaon, Get well soon if you can. Nothing wort than being sick. To answer one of your questoins, “Have any of these breakthrough infections been counted by the CDC? “. The answer is no. I think since March they have chosen not to count them. By not counting, it doesn’t exist, at least that’s their mantra.

  5. Tom Stone

    “Trust the Science”.
    I have been chided for not having faith in the CDC by quite a few who consider themselves “Liberals”.
    They are scared and they are putting their faith ( And that’s what it is, faith) in Authority as personified by Dr Tony and the CDC because the alternative is terrifying.
    I do not think they will be happy campers when that illusion is shattered.
    On a more personal level I am still experiencing side effects from the Moderna vaccine after 4 months.

    1. Objective Ace

      >I do not think they will be happy campers when that illusion is shattered.

      I’m getting more and more convinced it will never be shattered for some. Just like the Jonestown Massacre, some will prefer to maintain the illusion all the way to the bitter end rather than acknowledge they were deceived.

    2. lordkoos

      I hear you Tom. I seem to be having long-term effects from my Pfizer shots since my second dose in late March. Or possibly I had a mild case of COVID, who knows, as AFAIK I cannot be tested unless I present certain symptoms. At this point, the idea of a booster is a non-starter for me.

    3. Jeff

      My wife had symptoms after the 2nd Moderna jab for 45 days. I called, emailed and tweeted moderna asking for help and to report the side effects. No one from moderna ever responded. That was 5 months ago.

  6. Louis Fyne

    There really needed to be a passenger groundstop in domestic and international air travel (like post-9/11). But that’ll never happen for a host of reasons.

    Compare/contrast performance of countries with strict border control/quarantine measures with the US. Strict quarantine for inbound passengers is completely responsible for mitigation, but yet another tool in a holistic approach.

    1. Lupana

      I agree! What is the point of defeating Delta if we let the rest of the Greek alphabet in?

      1. Eustachedesaintpierre

        Yes…quite a bit of talk in the UK about the possibility of vaccine escape which may or not happen here, but with around 200 countries on the planet unless the science relating to VE is incorrect, a new potentially vaccine resistant variant would likely occur somewhere at some time & basically just hop on a plane courtesy of it’s carrier.

        Talk also of C-19 being endemic for possibly a decade so unless it is eradicated, then time is on it’s side.

    2. Expat2Uruguay

      Uruguay closed its borders when the first cases were detected. They remain close to this day except for permanent residence and citizens. We still ended up having a huge wave. (It could have been partially due to a more transmissible variant such as the Brazil area or the Lambda variant)

  7. Basil Pesto

    I got around to watching Soderbergh’s Contagion a few weeks ago after it was name-dropped last year and in many respects it’s a very well researched bit of speculative fiction (albeit, as a film, a bit too sterile for my liking, if you’ll excuse the pun). In other respects though, it’s interesting to see what it gets wrong. The miracle vaccine that everyone is on board with is one you can accept as part of the narrative exigencies of a Hollywood picture. On the other hand, there’s an almost touchingly naïve belief in the essential competence of the CDC (and WHO to a lesser extent) and its leadership which just has not come to pass in the real world at all. Interesting to note as well is the CDC staff in the field are on board with masks immediately and unquestioningly once they have a handle on what’s going on. Ructions within society itself aren’t reallllly hinted at (it was 2011 after all), but again this may be down to the exigencies of the form (one only has so much time to choose and tell one’s story).

    The more relevant film in those other respects, incidentally, was the HBO miniseries Chernobyl. It came out in 2019 mid-Trump hysteria and was lauded inter alia for its ~timely~ and ~urgent~ depiction of official state lying, particularly in the name of saving face in a crisis. Then 2020 happened irl and it was summarily forgotten.

    1. GM

      On the other hand, there’s an almost touchingly naïve belief in the essential competence of the CDC (and WHO to a lesser extent) and its leadership which just has not come to pass in the real world at all.

      The CDC and the WHO weren’t always just another political tool and the epitome of incompetence that they have been since late 2019.

      In the glory days when they were fighting Ebola in Africa and working on smallpox eradication it was a lot more like what you see in the movies (and 1995 was closer to that time than it is to ours).

      But then the combined onslaught of neoliberalism and the MBAification of everything completely eroded those once venerable institutions

    2. cocomaan

      I agree with you, Chernobyl is the much more realistic depiction of disaster mitigation.

      If you’re into this genre (bureaucratic disaster-response thrillers?!!), another one that was totally unexpected was Shin Godzilla. Yes, a Godzilla movie.

      It’s from the Japanese perspective, and most of it occurs in board rooms. People with increasingly long official titles argue over how best to respond to a large dinosaur. Idiots clamor for primacy. People who know how to solve the problem are ignored and eaten up by the officialdom. You can tell that the writers were skewering the awful government response to Fukushima. It’s one of my favorites.

      1. Basil Pesto

        I agree with you, Chernobyl is the much more realistic depiction of disaster mitigation.

        To be fair, I think that’s eminently reasonable given that Chernobyl was an historical event with lots of historical primary sources, and the other was predictive.

        I’m trying think of more entries in this new sub-genre of ours. Maybe Z? More about a straightforward
        murder than a disaster, though.

    3. Soredemos

      Oh man, I find the Chernobyl miniseries fascinating, because its writer, Craig Mazin is a right-wing idiot (he’s a topic that’s come up on the West Wing Thing a few times; he’s one of that breed of WGA member who openly hates unions and undermines the WGA at every opportunity) and a hack (his previous oeuvre consisted of Scary Movie and The Hangover sequels). So Chernobyl is the long-planned passion project of a fundamentally untalented and not particularly bright guy. A weird thing.

      That he’s attached to the upcoming The Last of Us adaptation doesn’t fill me with much confidence in that project.

      About the most I positive I can say about the Chernobyl miniseries is that it impressed me at first, until I read multiple books on the subject, after which I came to loathe how much it invents and gets wrong (there was no bridge of death, there was no old bureaucrat who made an impassioned speech about the need for information suppression, Legasov never made a defiant speech at the trial…because he wasn’t even there, etc). So many of the ‘good moments’ of Chernobyl are of the tired Hollywood style of writing where “SHOUTING = DRAMA”. The best and most memorable parts for me, the ones that actually hold up, are the actual recreation of the meltdown and explosion, and the scene where liquidators have to clear the roof of the reactor building and can only stay for 90 seconds, after which they’ve had a lifetime’s worth of exposure.

      A lot of Chernobyl, underneath the veneer of an admittedly impressive aesthetic recreation of the era, is typical Hollywood anti-Russian/anti-Soviet cliches. Everything is color-graded gray (because heaven forbid we ever show the USSR as a place with color that anyone might actually want to live), the KGB is hiding around every corner, and the people are all fundamentally incomprehensibly devoted to their miserable, backwards hovel-country.

      When the show originally aired Mazin did an episode-by-episode podcast with NPR, which I’ve listened to the entirety of. It’s a shockingly uninformative way to waste five hours, but it reveals a lot about both Mazin and the level of intellect that NPR hires. Among other things Mazin decrees the USSR was ‘a joke’, and that when he couldn’t find out how the Legasov tapes left the country, he simply invented an element of subterfuge (because of course his understanding of the USSR is all cliches, with the nefarious KGB eager to disappear anyone and anything at the drop of a hat).

      I’m not saying, by the way, that the Soviet Union did nothing wrong in regards to Chernobyl, because very obviously they did. But to do the topic justice would require a degree of nuance that Mazin doesn’t even begin to possess, and the intellectual honesty to recognize that many of the points of failure were in fact not unique to the USSR.

      1. Basil Pesto

        Thanks for this interesting post and the background

        Oh man, I find the Chernobyl miniseries fascinating, because its writer, Craig Mazin is a right-wing idiot (he’s a topic that’s come up on the West Wing Thing a few times; he’s one of that breed of WGA member who openly hates unions and undermines the WGA at every opportunity) and a hack (his previous oeuvre consisted of Scary Movie and The Hangover sequels). So Chernobyl is the long-planned passion project of a fundamentally untalented and not particularly bright guy. A weird thing.

        Yeah I have to say this doesn’t surprise me at all. Certainly I approached the show with something of a hermeneutic of suspicion, as I was expecting some
        naff clichés – the anti-Russia hysteria having been at a peak while the show was in production (I’m all for ripping the piss out of the Soviet Union though – not a fan).

        I didn’t get into the weeds with it like you did, beyond learning that he apparently used this as one of his sources (he has a jacket quote on the reprint). I’m not especially bothered by historical accuracy in dramatic art (see: Shakespeare). If you want history, read and/or do history; that’s what it’s there for. So for the fact of Legasov not actually being at the trial etc,, I couldn’t really care less.

        What I think Chernobyl (the miniseries) speaks to is the inherent uselessness (which has been well documented by better writers than me) of social commentary in art, and social commentary is the dominant mode of liberal storytelling (‘timely’ and ‘urgent’ were words I chose carefully in the above post – keep an eye out on how often you see them in film marketing). It’s not just that it’s usually artistically bereft (a good counterexample here is David Simon’s shows, which don’t subjugate the art – straightforward but robust – to the commentary. Therefore those shows will still be worthwhile long after their commentary is relevant, like Dickens. I think Chernobyl probably has merit along these lines as well). Even if the commentary is worthwhile, as it often is, it is socially next to useless. The example here is the lack of critical lens turned toward the bureaucratic response to a crisis from the same class of people who were lauding this show which turned a critical lens toward the bureaucratic response to a crisis. Orwell’s fiction, which is thoroughly mediocre literature, is another example. For all of its general prognostications about the future, adopted and appropriated by just about everyone on the political spectrum for whatever point they want to make at a given time, 1984 might as well be a political horoscope, or Ouija board.

        But I have to say

        and the people are all fundamentally incomprehensibly devoted to their miserable, backwards hovel-country.

        probably speaks to my intuition on the Covid-era relevance of the show to the US more than anything ;)

        (As to being attached to The Last Of Us, he certainly sounds like a gamer. I hold TLOU, narratively, in considerably lower regard than most gamers apparently do. It has a certain formulaic quality that it seems Mazin will be drawn to and, to his credit, as a showrunner, he certainly seemed to be able to hire very capable heads of department, so I’m sure the film will have some merit. Good game tho. I haven’t played 2 yet but I suspect my reaction to it will be more or less the same.)

        1. Soredemos

          From the sounds of it you might really appreciate Last of Us II. If you end up also considering it ‘formulaic’, it’s at least a completely different formula from the first one. It absolutely refuses to be a traditional sequel and to give the audience what they wanted. A lot of people clearly just wanted it to be another Joel and Ellie adventure, with lots of father-surrogate-daughter bonding, and it doesn’t do that at all.

          This helped to cause the worst gamer backlash I’ve seen since Mass Effect 3 almost a decade ago. People who hate Last of Us II are practically frothing at the mouth with hatred. And, just as with the Disney Star Wars movies, there’s the bizarre spectacle of people basically inventing nonsense criticism when there’s plenty of valid critiques that go ignored. Someone will make up some hyperbolic nonsense point of criticism that isn’t actually supported by the text of the film or game itself, and then a much greater number of people will bandwagon off the invented critique and it becomes internalized among the haters as valid. In the case of Last of Us a lot of people who hate the sequel, in the process of voicing their hatred, also reveal that they don’t seem to have understood the first game. A lot of people seem to genuinely think Joel was a good guy, even when the game literally, almost word for word, tells you that he isn’t.

          For my part, I wouldn’t say Last of Us (the original) was formulaic, but I have always had the persistent thought in the back of my mind that maybe it isn’t as sophisticated as it thinks it is. That maybe it’s actually a quite dumb story that is so slickly produced and so self-confident in its own intelligence that it can convince you that it’s much smarter than it actually is (the most cutting critique of Last of Us as a franchise I’ve ever heard was someone summing up and dismissing it entirely in a single sentence to the effect of that it all boils down to a faux profound exploration of “maybe killing people is bad?”).

          1. Basil Pesto

            thanks again. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it as a game, but as narrative art? Meh. I’m pretty much in agreement with all you wrote, and if I don’t like TLOU2 narratively or as a piece of writing, it’s not going to be because I’m having a sooky tantrum about the characters not doing what I wanted them to do. What you wrote here in particular:

            For my part, I wouldn’t say Last of Us (the original) was formulaic, but I have always had the persistent thought in the back of my mind that maybe it isn’t as sophisticated as it thinks it is. That maybe it’s actually a quite dumb story that is so slickly produced and so self-confident in its own intelligence that it can convince you that it’s much smarter than it actually is (the most cutting critique of Last of Us as a franchise I’ve ever heard was someone summing up and dismissing it entirely in a single sentence to the effect of that it all boils down to a faux profound exploration of “maybe killing people is bad?”)

            gets a “yeah, pretty much” from me, except to add that I think beyond that self-confidence, it was externally validated by pretty vapid trade-press criticism when it came out, by people who are seem desperate to validate games-as-art so they can point out to their parents that yes, games journalism is a real job, actually (which it is, that’s just a poor reason to rationalise it, and consequently exalts some pretty sophomoric material, like TLOU, or, say, the GTA games whose satire I find to be pretty terribly executed).

  8. Mikey Joe

    in February, the CDC recommended wearing 2 masks. Then no mask in May, and now July back to masks. God help us.

    1. tegnost

      I’ve been recommending masks to myself for most of the covids.
      Lucky for me I have a crafty friend who made me 9 or so masks, 2 layer, flannel outer and t shirt inner, made from thrift store remnants, ragfinery remnants, and fabric store flannel. I really like them, full coverage and the string goes around the neck so donning is easy, string over the top of my head, cinch back the strings and I’m masked, pull it down when not needed. Nose wire. Washable. I’ll see if I can get the pattern from her and post it…but it’s basically one shoestring (boot lace) goes through a channel by each ear and over the head to the other channel. We started with long strings but that proved to be an industrial hazard, best if string comes down to about the collarbone, mask stows under shirt when you pull the string off the top of your head. And Stylish!

      1. juliania

        Mine’s like that, tegnost, and the great thing about making one yourself is that you know what the layers consist of and you can adjust it to your own size (make it a bit large at first then pin it in place.) Mine has a multilayer inner part I made by cutting up an old t-shirt I had been wearing and washing for eons. I don’t have a wire for my nose, but I compensate on that by wearing a very well made commercial cloth version under my homemade one. The commercial one does great to fit my nose, and my homemade one is generous under the chin. There’s one continuous long tie (made it from the aforementioned t-shirt ) which threads down one side, around the back of my neck and up the other side. It then ties over my head. Once I got used to making sure the behind-neck part was tight enough to keep the chin covering tight against my throat, it can all be secured with a bow top of the head. (The threaded through sides are tunnel-like so they gather.)

        I don’t have a sewing machine – a mask is small enough to make by hand. I trust it because I made it myself.

  9. Mikel

    “Let’s mask up only after it’s too late.”

    As long as it spreads, it can mutate. As long as it mutates vaccines can be sold.
    Missing anything?

    1. saywhat?

      According to an article in Nature, n95 masks are AT MOST 90% effective = 10% ineffective. So, 10% ineffective (exhaler) x 10% ineffective (inhaler) = 1% ineffective for both masks in series = 99% effective.

      So even if everyone masks up properly with n95 masks it’s still Russian Roulette with 1 bullet in a 100 round cylinder.

      I’d say that everyone is going to get this bug sooner or later. The question is which is better, sooner or later? I guess we’ll see…

      1. Dagnarus

        We are dealing with exponential growth curves here.
        If a mitigation strategy reduces daily viral replication by 5%, the amount of viral spread 14 days later will be 50% of what it would have been. 90% reduction, the disease doesn’t exist in 14 days, unless the r0 is 20.

      2. jr

        I wear a surgical under a N95, the surgical definitely helps it to seal better if properly positioned. For tight spots you can add a bandana…

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I still have leaks. Depends on your face shape. Glasses fog big time. Only real solution is a badger seal.

          I suspect all these masks are designed for men. Women’s faces are shorter from the eye to the jawline.

  10. The Rev Kev

    Hard to see which this post is more – extremely outraging or infuriating. When you have the whole sorry saga laid out like this, you wonder how people cannot be baying for the blood of the CDC. One point that infuriates me is how Fauci initially lied about masks so that they could be saved for medical personnel. Or so he said. But since most ask were manufactured overseas, the federal government could have just confiscated those masks at the border entry points and told people to manufacture their own. Just had the thought. If you tried to email this post to 2019 as an outline for a possible book, it would have been reject as absolutely ridiculous and totally unbelievable because of all the improbable plot lines.

    1. GM

      They could have also DPA-ed 3M.

      Trump in fact, in a now long forgotten yet another abominable episode of the pandemic, did try to do exactly that in April 2020. But guess what happened? 3M told him to get stuffed, they were going to keep exporting regardless.

      As far as I know that was the end of it, 3M did not change their practices

      Meanwhile a DPA order that was in fact implemented was the one that mandated that meat packing plants keep working regardless of outbreaks. Which is why the limits on meat purchase that were being imposed in grocery stores in May 2020 quickly went away.

      I doubt we will ever know how many people died because of that.

    2. Mark Ó Dochartaigh

      “But since most ask were manufactured overseas, the federal government could have just confiscated those masks at the border”.
      In fact the “federal government” did just that. But we aren’t talking about just any old “federal government” here, we are talking about a YUGE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, the BEST FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, THE MAGA FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. They seized the masks and all sorts of other “health” care supplies (henceforth known as “profit-making” supplies) to sell to their cronies or to simply stockpile to maintain price levels and maintain control.

    3. Ping

      As Jerri-Lynn Scofield’s article yesterday detailed, the focus has been on protecting investor property rights and profits producing billionaires instead of rapidly deploying vax technology and medicine globally— even though much research has been produced by public funds and many groundbreaking medical discoveries were never patented by scientists. Yet now our “health” (disease) system is captured by a narrow monopoly.

      And our authorities are allergic to the concept of effective generic repurposed drugs with decades of safety data. In an interconnected global world, the US can’t function in a bubble but the US population is considered a fenced-off market for endless boosters and expensive new treatments.

      The ruthless profit motive of pharma has been glaring for decades and incentives are clear. The fact that Fauci with his abysmal conflicts-of-interest, many lies and misinformation, including to congress, is still propped up as health authority is abysmal.

      1. Mark Ó Dochartaigh

        “Yet now our “health” (disease) system is captured by a narrow monopoly”. Exactly. The US doesn’t have a “healthcare” system. The US has a profit making system which produces as much profit as possible while producing as little health care as possible as a byproduct.

      2. Kris Alman

        Frankly, I want the EUA to end so that liability is part of our “informed” consent.

        That will be a while since Phase 3 study completion seems to be a moving goal post. I am waiting to see Moderna’s moved forward. In April of this year, Reuters reported “For Pfizer, this estimated date is listed as Jan. 31, 2023.” Now it’s May 2, 2023!

        Pfizer Estimated Study Completion Date : May 2, 2023

        Moderna Estimated Study Completion Date : October 27, 2022

        J&J (Janssen Vaccines & Prevention B.V. is a Janssen pharmaceutical company of Johnson & Johnson) Estimated Study Completion Date : January 2, 2023

        1. Kris Alman

          The study completion date is “the date on which the last participant in a clinical study was examined or received an intervention/treatment to collect final data for the primary outcome measures, secondary outcome measures, and adverse events (that is, the last participant’s last visit).”

          Dose the FDA generally fully authorize vaccines (without EUA) before a phase 3 study is completed?

          Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna have already submitted a Biologics License Application, or BLA, to receive the FDA’s full approval. Pfizer began the process on May 7. Moderna applied later, on June 1.

          On July 16 this press release from Pfizer:

          Today’s news: Pfizer expects to generate $33.5 billion in Covid-19 vaccine sales in 2021

          1. Kris Alman

            Liability for adverse effects from vaccines. Under EUA, we can’t sue the vaccine manufacturers for damages.

            In December, this was the thinking of mandatory vaccinations. Hmmm…
            “Mandatory vaccination protocols, however, may not happen until the FDA formally approves the vaccines and grants Pfizer and BioNTech or Moderna a license to sell them, which will take several more months of data to show their safety and effectiveness.”

  11. BrianM

    I was listening to Micheal Lewis being interviewed about his book on the US preparation and response to COVID. One thing that surprised me was to what extent people making plans over a decade ago were trying to work out ways of keep the CDC out of things because it was institutionally broken. Sadly, looks like their fears have come to pass.

    1. Lambert Strether

      > One thing that surprised me was to what extent people making plans over a decade ago were trying to work out ways of keep the CDC out of things because it was institutionally broken.

      If (I do hope “if” not “when”) Trump runs again, he can say the unsayable and unpalatable truths about the CDC that he said about Iraq in 2016. And the CDC will have fully earned it. What a Charlie Foxtrot.

        1. jen

          In order to blame Trump they’ll either have to have a plausible other way out of this mess, or “better” vaccines. I’m not sure how many times they can go back to the “vaccinate and we will all be back to normal” well. Might not even work for the booster. Fool me once, etc.

        2. Screwball


          I bet the articles are already written, waiting to get rolled out.

          And it will work.

          1. Mantid

            Just like the Patriot Act, written and printed just before 911. That worked for many people, not the public in general, but many people.

        3. WhatdoIknow

          You will now when the narrative in the media starts to switch by calling the vaccine the Trump jab, but before that the effectiveness of the vaccine will be questioned, then blamed on him.

          1. Mantid

            Just like in Amer. Football, “when in doubt, punt”. In politics, “when in doubt, Putin”

          2. Eye 65

            Doesn’t Putin run around with his shirt off a lot? Plenty of Vitamin D for immunity.

            Not many politicians in U.S. could pull that off.

  12. Socal Rhino

    The world according to CNBC from recent sampling: mostly the broad assumption that this is behind us, the economy is going to boom on, and from the usual suspects (Romanoffs might be a good descriptor), it’s time for the democrats to stop paying lazy freeloading waitstaff not to work. But cracks are starting to appear. One investment analyst yesterday, when asked to opine on future direction from the Fed, said he thinks Powell will correctly remain dovish because COVID has a long way to run yet.

  13. antidlc

    “As I keep asking: What business is the CDC in, anyhow?”

    Is there a business for sowing chaos?

  14. dave in austin

    Re Yves excellent article which says: “And that assumes “genocidal elites” theory has been ruled out, which I’m coming to think in fact parsimonious.” Gulp.

  15. Mark Ó Dochartaigh

    Another important way in which the tRump-hobbled CDC failed is the incredibly meager contact tracing effort. A robust contact tracing program has been one of the corner stones of successful covid19 policy in those few countries in which the virus has been contained. Perhaps it was not seen as profitable enough for the US “health” care system to utilize.

  16. TomFinn

    “Humanity: Playing Russian roulette with a fully loaded cylinder.”
    1788 Versailles?, Czarist Russia? I’ve been using 4th Century Rome but could also reference the early stages of the numerous BCE into CE Chinese revolutions as to where we seem to be in the societal cycle. (All & more initiated primarily by a disparity and flaunting of wealth)
    Was thinking to get the J&J this week, basically only to comfort the “believers” in my circle. My ambivalence is growing…Peace

    1. philnc

      Russian roulette with all cylinders loaded is American roulette, a game the US public has been playing for decades with health care, retirement, debt and income.

      We really got started in earnest in 1980, and from that point on just kept passing the revolvers around. Clinton made sure they got fully reloaded, and everyone who followed kept the supply of firearms and ammo flowing. All Trump did was start passing out the gasoline cans (which had been preordered by the narcissistic nihilists in the previous administration and didn’t degrade from neglect the way our emergency cache of PPE did).

      The US is a gambling nation with a venal , mostly self-deluded, population. It’s not a coincidence that half the country put a womanizing failed casino owner in the White House, and that our religious right still worships him like a graven image of old.

      Let’s admit it. This is the oligarchy’s fault. If they’d let us elect 2016’s most popular politician, we might have had a fighting chance. Instead we got a crypto fascist imperialist and now a crypto neoliberal imperialist. If you listen carefully you can hear the first few notes from Nero’s fiddle (or is that the failing compressor in Nancy’s freezer?).

      1. Eye 65

        Those presidents between Lincoln and Wilson that nobody remembers were the best – for that very reason.

  17. Carolinian

    is it because in the US a lot of older people did not get vaccinated

    Didn’t I read here the other day that 85 percent of the vulnerable elderly segment have been vaccinated in the US? Then there’s the unfortunate fact that many others have succumbed and are no longer available as victims.

    I’ve stopped trying to figure out any of this, but I do still follow the daily death numbers here in SC and they are way down from a year ago–almost always in the single digits and sometimes none at all. And there’s the question of just how deadly Delta is and how much better we are at treating compared to a year ago.

    All of which is to suggest that perhaps the crisis is in a different phase, and a lesser phase, than in 2020 and we shouldn’t be acting as though nothing has changed. That’s not my call, thank goodness, and I do still wear a mask in stores (with increasing company lately). But Biden’s loose talk isn’t helping and the forced vaccination threat is just going to generate defiance.

    1. Carolinian

      To add–just back from the grocery store and a middle aged man was coughing up a storm, not covering his mouth, no mask. Quite likely that if I had confronted him he would say he was vaxxed so no problem.

      But even if covid spread is about aerosols and masks have limited effectiveness, they surely do prevent active coughing and sneezing from spreading even more virus than would occur from simple breathing.

      Arguably my symptomatic fellow customer shouldn’t have been in the store at all (I kept my distance). However I believe this is an example of why masks are not mere covid theater and should be worn as, if nothing else, a courtesy to other shoppers. The honor system doesn’t particularly work.

  18. Joe Well

    Could someone on Twitter please share this post with one of the living human beings I most admire, Glenn Greenwald?

    He keeps repeating the nonsense that vaccines are all that’s needed to curb the pandemic and that somehow it’s a liberal (?!) delusion to suggest otherwise.

    Editing to make clear the relevance of this to someone who has never heard of Greenwald: It is amazing to encounter this “hopium” from someone who is not only intelligent and well informed but brilliant and a new addict. He has no dog in the fight one way or another since he isn’t tied to either party or Pharma or any other kind of economic interest. I have to assume he genuinely has some kind of blind spot on this issue.

  19. anonymous

    The PITCH study in the UK looked at dosing intervals for Pfizer and found that a longer dosing interval (6-14 wk interval, median 70 days) gave higher neutralizing antibody titers than did the shorter 3-4 week dosing interval. The longer dosing interval also gave a lower T cell response, but with a greater proportion of helper T cells.

    additional figures: (NAb titers against variants, including Delta, on p. 4-5)

    The US allows a 17-day interval with Pfizer, recommending 3 wks, but giving a 4-day grace period for which the vaccination is still considered valid. The US and Israel have followed the Pfizer guidelines, while some other countries (UK, European countries, Canada) have used a longer dosing interval, which I realize was not solely with Pfizer or even mRNA, so not exactly comparable. I wonder how significant the impact of dosing interval is on country differences. One would expect a little slower drop in efficacy when starting from a higher antibody titer.

  20. Thistlebreath

    Sarcasm, Glasgow style–The CDC changed their middle initial to “O” as in “chamber of commerce.”

    Mordant, ironic, fatalistic, tha’s Glesga.

    (Try any Billy Connolly performance or see if you can scare up a copy of “The Patter, A Guide to Current Glasgow Usage.”

    Centuries of brutal exploitation created the English speaking world’s most biting anti authoritarian barbs. And a lot of fist fights).

  21. albrt

    Very good and comprehensive post. Only one quibble with the statement that the CDC “get others to run into burning buildings but take credit for having dispatched them.”

    My brother in law is a fairly high level professional in the CDC. Very early in the pandemic he was dispatched to nursing homes to figure out how the virus was spreading and how it could be stopped. He and others ran into the burning buildings at a very scary time.

    I think the problem is not a lack of real-world courage. It is more a case of neoliberal West Wing-itis, an unshakable belief that clever maneuvering is the better part of valor. Fauci and the CDC leadership appear to have completely bought into the premise that truth must defer to “realism,” meaning whatever political PR line their handlers are insisting upon.

  22. WhatdoIknow

    Your question: What business is the CDC in, anyhow?
    Politics, like imposing an unconstitutional nation wide eviction moratorium.

  23. Jason Boxman

    Honestly, this whole thing brought to mind the scene from Independence Day, when the president confronts the captured alien invader:

    President Thomas Whitmore: What do you want us to do?

    Captured Alien: Die. Die.

  24. Onward to Dystopia

    First time posting, long time lurker — I am wondering what the side effects will be of a THIRD covid shot. The second shot knocked me on my backside for a couple of days and I’m not exactly eager to repeat the experience. I imagine other people who are slightly vaccine hesitant (but got it anyway) would be even more so than I am. I rarely hear this discussed.

    1. AndrewJ

      My reaction to the J&J jab in May was 24 hours of very unpleasant flulike symptoms. Better than ending up in the hospital, but I’m not exactly chomping at the bit for another one. Possibly because I may have been exposed to Covid by a housemate last summer. Especially now, feeling like any claims of efficacy or lack of side effects will need to be taken with a truckload of salt.

    2. Mantid

      Onward, Your intro sentence reminds me of Karzi Talk on Harry Shearer’s Le Show. Nice line mate.

  25. Michael McCartney

    I am having a hard time understanding why Emory and Washington University’s natural immunity findings are not being publicized. One was published in Nature, and the other Cell. MIT also published similar findings in January. 3 pretty prestigious universities. Thoughts? Maybe it does not fit the “vaccine” narrative?


    1. chad

      I don’t think a robust immune response after infection is controversial. OTOH, if by vaccine narrative, you mean a simple just do so and so and it’s done narrative, then yes, that’s it, but that’s been it from the beginning, from every quarter. You just have to ask yourself which is riskier, exposure to the virus or vaccination.

      1. HotFlash

        I do ask myself that, and answer myself with a big don’t know. And what passes for science these days isn’t looking likely to tell me.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      6 months immune response is not news and not impressive. UK data suggested 6 to 8 months.

      You don’t want to risk the very serious Covid morbidity if there are less bad options. And neutralizing antibodies are higher with the vaccines.

      And contradicting that, there are documented repeat infections at much shorter intervals from the wild type Covid, in the 2-4 month range.

  26. chad

    Here is a review from 2014, Human coronaviruses: Viral and cellular factors involved in neuroinvasiveness and neuropathogenesis.

    Much of the scary, surprising stuff about SARS-2 is not new and is rather well known, just specialized. Hopefully, vaccination and/or prior infection will stave off the worst of the long-term sequelae. I think that is the most we can hope for at this point.

    Time to call it “Flu and Covid Season.”

  27. Antagonist Muscles

    Great post, as per usual. The implied anger from Yves in this post is stronger than usual and entirely justified since many lives will be lost due to government incompetence and corporate greed. Is Yves quoting herself at the beginning of the article, “The CDC and the WHO were late to take Covid seriously…”?

    Besides Naked Capitalism, I seldom read any news anywhere on the internet. So this summary of reckless incompetence at the CDC is certainly galling but not entirely surprising since I have read a lot of the coverage here about Covid-19. What I am surprised about is how Americans can’t see how the CDC’s non-actions and messaging – which by extension implicates the federal government – is criminal.

    Once every three or four weeks, I take a peek at mainstream news, and I do not get the sense that other journalists and ordinary people are angry at the political and financial elite for causing this disaster. The MSM is heavily pushing the belief that the conservatives, vaccine refusers, mask refusers, social partiers, Covid-19 deniers, or some group with this or that political affiliation is to blame for further infections. And maybe those people are slightly at fault, but I am really disappointed that we (as in Americans, Canadians, humans…) have not realized that the media and the government are capitalizing on pandemic confusion and misinformation by further dividing us.

    What IM Doc said yesterday in Water Cooler was important. Forget about the blame the unvaccinated debate or the blame the registered Republican debate. Taibbi wrote in Hate Inc. that top down messaging from the political elite (via the media) is really dividing us and getting normal people to direct their energy and anger to other normal people. What we really ought to exert our energy on is the corruption at the top. Alas, if I knew a way to defenestrate Fauci, Walensky, Gottlieb, etc., I would offer it.

    1. Mantid

      Yes, “Divide and conquer” a tried and true technique. Hey 2 Q’s in one sentence. I win :-)

  28. TBellT

    A close family member’s workplace is supposed to go from a 3 day in hybrid work week to full in office work week. Although she is vaccinated shes in her 60’s and I’ve been trying to tell her she needs to at least push back on this reopening plan and that there is still risk out there. She doesnt disagree but she is too meek to counter management. She thinks she’s protected because she wears her mask when there are people around her, but I remember studies posted here early in the pandemic showing how far the virus could go in office spaces even if youre not right next to someone. Just today, they reported that the office across the hall from hers reported two cases, they claim unvaccinated. Yet no plans to rethink the “back to office” plan in light of this or the new CDC guidance, even though most of the administrative staff can do their jobs remotely.

    I blame this White House just as much as the last one for giving people such a false sense of security in the interests of freaking stock tickers.

    1. Jen

      My employer is likely to return to indoor mask mandates in the near future. I was probably the only person on the zoom call who was happy to hear it.

      1. Brian Beijer

        Wow. You have a sensible employer. My employer did allow for a hybrid work week until a few weeks ago. Now, it’s everyone back in the office, and that won’t change short of marshall law. Not at any moment during this pandemic did management even consider that we wear masks while in the office. Around half of our employees have had Covid, including our boss who worked on-site until the test result came back positive. No one has spoken up about the non- mask policy being a factor in the employees getting Covid. Science is a poor combatant against power and ideology..

        1. Jen

          I work for a university that has a tricky relationship with the town, whose leading demographics are a) college students and b) old people – largely faculty and alums. The college cannot afford to let this run rampant on the campus, which is right in the middle of town, and springboard into the large retirement community down the road. The faculty who teach the undergrads also wield an unusual amount of power in this day and age.

          Politics aside, one of the leaders of our task force is an infectious disease doc who spent her early career dealing with epidemics in Africa. She’s very good.

      2. petal

        Jen, this came up in discussion today with a coworker. We were wondering when it would come back. Thank you.

    2. lambert strether

      > how far the virus could go in office spaces

      A Korean call center, IIRC. Your friend should consider getting detailed information on the ventilation system.

      1. Mantid

        And: “how far the virus could go in office spaces” …. did anyone else grow up as a child with chain smoking parents? Remember the “aerosols” of smoke floating like an inversion layer in the room? Us kids would wave an arm slowly and time how soon the smoke wave would go across the room to a sibling. That smoke would literally “float” in the air seemingly forever.

        That’s what I think of when I imagine Covid aerosols.

  29. Val

    This fine, incisive essay will go unread by those emotive authoritarian non-adaptive goldfish who need it most.

    Gratitude and admiration to Yves.

  30. Basil Pesto

    The medium term future here in Australia seems rather fraught. To date we have been quite lucky. I suspect we will get lucky as well as far as vaccine reliance goes. For months the public (particularly the bobos) have been clamouring for increased vaccine uptake, especially because the unliked and mediocre federal government have cocked up vaccine supply. Many gov’t officials nevertheless say that the vaccine is ‘the route out of the pandemic’, completely failing to understand, still, that humanity is not in control of this thing, and has shown no signs that it’s getting in control of this thing (even with the hugely impressive work done in the last 18 months by all kinds of people in many fields, I should add). Now that the vaccines are revealing themselves to not, in fact, be a silver bullet, it seems like Australia will eventually understand this before having had the chance to become vaccine reliant, which we surely would have tried if we’d been able. Maybe I shouldn’t be overly certain of that; technical advice seems to be at least a cut or two above the CDC here, and more circumspect. More broadly, I gather that our contact tracing regimes are first rate. The CovidSAFE app didn’t really help afaik (h/t Jerri-Lynn), but I’m sure the QR code (or handwritten) check-ins for retail and hospitality venues have.

    Aside: I’m no expert in the understanding whole taleb/risk/fat tail thing, so my understanding may be way off here, but is it fair to conceive of vaccine reliance as a public health strategy as a fat tail risk? With unlikely (?) adverse outcomes to the strategy that are so bad that nobody really wants to take them seriously, and indeed prefer to go the other way and imagine a panglossian “everyone will be vaccinated and the vaccines are perfect” future instead?

    But anyway, the worry I have comes from the following uncertainty: if the rest of the world gives up on getting rid of Covid, treating its ongoing circulation as a fait accompli, where does that leave Australia? As has been pointed out here (at NC) repeatedly, travel is indisputably how the virus spreads geographically. We (Australians) love travel and we love visitors. The refrain is: we can’t stay closed forever. We just can’t, we’re told. Okay, so how, then, will immigration be handled? An adult vaccination rate of 100% is obviously impossible, so if we do open up, people are going to suffer and die. Is this to be our reward as a country for largely managing and even at one stage eliminating the virus? (this is me making the assumption that NSW will eventually get on top of their current wave in the way Victoria did last year) To just eventually at some unspecified point say “fuck it”, throw our arms up and hope for the best? Speaking personally, vaccinated or not, I desperately don’t want to catch the virus. Ditto my family, especially my parents. The risks of negative outcomes, even with our incomplete understanding of those risks and outcomes, are piss poor. It’s not a bet I want to take.

    Part of me hopes that ultimately a less risky, more technocratic compromise will be arrived at (including the mooted purpose built quarantine facilities for returning travellers, which should just be built whether it’s for this pandemic or the next one). I’ve hypothesised for a long time in comments here that Australia’s longstanding pre-occupation with biosecurity/introduced species has given us an innate understanding of the necessity and effectiveness of many of the restrictive measures we’ve taken thus far, but the clamour for reopening from business, the media and the population could become enormous, and politically difficult to withstand. Already the return of expatriates who are struggling hugely to return to the country, which I sympathise with, is becoming a cause célèbre (and they’re deploying my own personal bugbear: specious, self-serving invocations of human rights law) – but many of them seem to be making the mistake that they’re vaccinated so it’s fine, they couldn’t possibly spread the thing once they get here. Again, fat tail risk analysis would seem to be appropriate in this scenario into but the concept fails to come into their analysis at all.

    This future dilemma has crystallised for me in the last week or two and it has me quite deeply concerned. I apologise if this post is overly discursive, lots on my mind (after 6 months of plain sailing – Britain’s ‘freedom day’ was something to be looked upon with bemusement here, after enjoying something of a freedom year).

    1. Rob Sopenlehto

      As another Australian, I feel compelled to say that this post reeks of the ‘fortress Australia’ mentality. The normal number of inwards and outwards travellers to Australia per month is more than 1.5 million people in each direction. There is no way the government could operate a system of facilities to quarantine this many people. That leaves severely restricting the movement of people in and out of the country. I’ve had friends trapped in other countries for more than a year, other friends separated from their partners. Just because you don’t like the invocation of ‘human-rights law’ or seem to reject the entirely valid argument that an Australia passport and citizenship inherently entitles you to return to Australia doesn’t mean it isn’t valid. The current gov policy has a large human cost.

      Saying this isn’t to ignore that opening Australia also has a large human cost, though is this cost really avoidable? Our quarantine system is failing repeatedly and consistently, as evidenced by the lockdowns in every state aside from WA and Tasmania in the last two months. I also want to correct that it isn’t vaccinated arrivals who are enabling the escape of the virus here. Most of the recent outbreaks have resulted from airborne transmission inside of quarantine hotels to people at the end of their quarantine period. They catch the virus on day 13, test negative, leave quarantine, and infect people.

      We are, ultimately, part of the world, and their fate will be ours, one way or another.

      1. Basil Pesto

        The normal number of inwards and outwards travellers to Australia per month is more than 1.5 million people in each direction. There is no way the government could operate a system of facilities to quarantine this many people.

        That’s right!

        (I hate to break it to you though, but I don’t think those in- and out- flows are coming back anytime soon. See Hubert Horan’s recent aviation industry analysis on NC)

        Saying this isn’t to ignore that opening Australia also has a large human cost, though is this cost really avoidable?

        That’s right! I used the word dilemma deliberately! You can hopefully see why I’m so troubled! But when you say “is this cost really avoidable?” it seems like a rhetorical question. Is it actually? It might be. To date it largely has been avoided, though. It doesn’t seem right to me that the answer should be “no, it isn’t” just because so much of the rest of the world fucked up its response (and I reiterate, I think most of the reason we haven’t fucked up is through Hornean luck. That we benefit from this luck is no reason to turn our back on it and sling lame epithets like ‘Fortress Australia’). Much is contingent on this idea of ‘going back to normal’, which is something people seem very attached to conceptually with minimal regard for the consequences, or even just feasibility.

        I also want to correct that it isn’t vaccinated arrivals who are enabling the escape of the virus here.

        I didn’t say that was the case currently. I know that quarantine leaks have been the cause of outbreaks here, with the exception of the limo driver. I am saying that as the information about the vaccines and their limitations becomes clearer, as outlined in the post we’re commenting on and much NC coverage in recent weeks, the greater the risk that returning vaccinated, who seemingly believe they can’t spread the disease, are in fact wrong in that assumption and can then spread the disease upon returning home. That is the fat tail risk that I’m referring to. If that happens, what then? More lockdowns? They work but what’s the tolerance for that? Or do we just get to a point where we’re happy with the number of vaccinations and ‘open up’ again and do our best to deal with the sickness and death that follows?

        They’re troubling questions that I don’t know the answers to, and that I’m also worried will not be answered in good faith. And, going to the raison d’etre of this website, I don’t automatically trust those decisions to be made in good faith or in the public interest in the current political-economic context, where many of those who make these decisions are informed by, for want of a better word, neoliberalism.

        I’ve had friends trapped in other countries for more than a year, other friends separated from their partners. Just because you don’t like the invocation of ‘human-rights law’ or seem to reject the entirely valid argument that an Australia passport and citizenship inherently entitles you to return to Australia doesn’t mean it isn’t valid. The current gov policy has a large human cost.

        That’s right! but

        don’t misunderstand me. I’m a pretty strong believer in human rights law. I do not at all reject the idea that Australians are entitled to return to their country. Of
        course they are. But human rights law is rarely so absolute. You misquoted me; I don’t like specious and self-serving invocations of human rights law. I’ve seen the UDHR cited in this case, specifically article 13.2:

        Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

        But the UDHR is not a binding legal instrument and was merely an important guideline and starting
        point for the post-war human rights law regime. Far more relevant is the ICCPR, as it’s a binding instrument, article 12 of which reads in full:

        1. Everyone lawfully within the territory of a State shall, within that territory, have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence.

        2. Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own.

        3. The above-mentioned rights shall not be subject to any restrictions except those which are provided by law, are necessary to protect national security, public order (ordre public), public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others, and are consistent with the other rights recognized in the present Covenant.

        4. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.

        Pretty much every operational post-war human rights law instrument has just such ‘public health and morals etc’ carveouts (with the exception of eg jus cogens norms, which are absolute), which were included in their drafting in anticipation of exactly the kind of situation we find ourselves in. To pretend that any adjudicatory body of human rights law wouldn’t take this into account when judging the conduct of the state in question is spurious, ignorant and/or dishonest.

        I’m genuinely sorry for your friends. It’s an awful situation. At the same time, and I’ve submitted this in comments here recently, it is perhaps time to recognise that expatriation carries with it inherent risks (and the very existence of speaks to that), and that those unwilling to bear those risks, including an unforeseen inability to return to their home country during an international emergency, shouldn’t do it (and especially not if their understanding of the issues rests on a very superficial and erroneous understanding of human rights law). I’m sure that writing that makes me seem like a giant asshole to you, but is it really unreasonable? Having said it, I’ve been an expat and I’m not sure I’d take such a big picture view of the situation if I were in the situation your friends and many others are.

        We are, ultimately, part of the world, and their fate will be ours, one way or another.

        Wouldn’t it have been nicer, though, if our fate up until about May this year had been theirs? Easy and bland to say in hindsight, I know, but it would be equally so to assert that the way the situation developed up to now globally was inevitable. There is something unsatisfyingly defeatist, not to say exculpatory and uncritical, about that line of thinking. That augurs poorly for future crises.

        1. ChrisPacific

          From the New Zealand perspective, I share all of your concerns. I don’t think there’s any avoiding the conclusion that mass vaccination brings with it a new and insidious public health risk if it’s coupled with a strong desire by businesses and consumers to ‘get back to normal’ (which I view as misguided and dangerous, since the approaches taken by other countries and especially the US have ensured that the old normal is gone forever). I would expect a massive resurgence in the chorus of the usual voices to open up and ‘learn to live with Covid’ in the interests of quarantine-free travel with our long-time allies, pointing to the reopening of the US as evidence of the success of this strategy. If the US is able to memory-hole annual Covid death rates into six figure territory (which I would have to say, based on past experience, they are more than capable of doing) then it’s possible it may indeed look quite successful from the outside.

          Set against that we have the voters, who know damn well who saved their butts in 2020 and whose support for the strategy was lukewarm and vacillating at best. I think ‘reopen and learn to live with Covid’ is likely to be poison at the ballot box here for the foreseeable future. That still leaves us wondering what the heck we are going to do, though. What about those of us with family in ‘hot’ countries? Are we stuck with MIQ indefinitely? Absent some kind of drastic change, it’s clear that Covid in countries like the US and UK is here to stay. I had been hoping that having a really good contact tracing system might allow for outbreaks to be quickly traced and controlled with minimal impact to society, but Australia’s is supposedly one of the best, so the recent NSW experience pretty effectively torpedoes that theory. So we’re left with the choice of returning to the embrace of NATO and accepting Covid as the price, or becoming a geopolitical exile and trying to chart a future with the other elimination countries in Asia. Neither is particularly appealing, but I’m not sure what other choices there are.

          1. Basil Pesto

            Thanks, somewhat reassuring I’m not the only one whose head has been made to hurt from this whole situation in the antipodes. Just one thing I’d like to add:

            I had been hoping that having a really good contact tracing system might allow for outbreaks to be quickly traced and controlled with minimal impact to society, but Australia’s is supposedly one of the best, so the recent NSW experience pretty effectively torpedoes that theory.

            I think it varies from state to state, though I’m sure the public servants in different states communicate with one another. But having good public health servants (in this case, contact tracers) can only get you so far without the co-operation of the governments they serve. I can only speak for Victoria but I have high confidence in our contact tracing, and believe “a really good contact tracing system might allow for outbreaks to be quickly traced and controlled with minimal impact to society” to be true, and evinced by Victoria’s (and other states’ but I’m less familiar with them) snap
            lockdowns. Now, if NSW’s contact tracing team had been exactly as competent as Victoria’s, it
            wouldn’t really matter in the face of their intransigent and silly government who might have got good information but refused to adequately act on it in time.

  31. anonymous

    Re: Pfzier boosters

    Albert Bourla was on Andy Slavitt’s “In the Bubble” podcast today. Bourla claimed that a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine produces neutralization titers against Delta that are 10-fold higher than those achieved after the second dose. After the drop in titers 6 months after the second dose, the third dose gives titers 100x higher than those at that lower 6-month baseline. Data to be submitted. Bourla joins the podcast just under 12 minutes in and gets to the booster shots quickly.

    Also, Pfizer posted 6-month efficacy data, but it predates the rise of Delta:
    From NYT:
    “In a study posted online but not yet peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal, Pfizer and BioNTech scientists reported that the vaccine had a sky-high efficacy rate of about 96 percent against symptomatic Covid-19 for the first two months following the second dose. But the figure declined by about 6 percent every two months after that, falling to 83.7 percent after about four to six months.
    Against severe disease, however, the vaccine’s efficacy held steady at about 97 percent.”

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      This seems a pretty impossible claim since the Pfizer clinical trials started this past Monday. If it’s in vitro, we’ve regularly seen that that regularly does not translate into in vivo.

      And the Israel real world data renders any Pfizer claims moot.

  32. juliania

    On the question of vaccine reliance, and being told that you must take a booster because TINA, I will just tell the following true anecdote. The same was said to a family member as far as the new super wonderful test drugs to combat mental illness – you will take this for the rest of your life. He took it for two weeks at most, hated how it made him feel (totally zoned out was the comment) and so he stopped taking it. For the next two years he was on the street recovering from having taken that strong medication. But, he did finally recover. He came back to his youthful optimism and mental competency.

    The body has an ability to heal itself. With help from many strangers, and simply being out ‘in the desert’ so to speak, that did happen to my family member. So, even if you have been vaccinated with something you might wish you hadn’t taken, nothing is set in stone as far as your personal health is concerned. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

  33. drumlin woodchuckles

    ” What business is the CDC in anyway?”

    The population stealth-reduction business, perhaps?

  34. Eustachedesaintpierre

    An opinion piece from the WSJ questions the FDA’s stance on Ivermectin –

    Of the two scholars/authors, Mr. Henderson is a research fellow with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He previously served on President Regan’s Council of Economic Advisors as a senior health economist. While Mr. Hooper currently serves as president of a pharmaceutical consultancy called Objective Insights.

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