Covid Situation Continuing to Develop Not Necessarily to the Officialdom’s Advantage

It is both bizarre and telling to see evidence of increased intensity in enforcing the Panglossian “Shut up and get your vax, and you will be safe in the face of our ‘let ‘er rip’ policies,” even as more evidence comes in raising doubts about their wisdom and cost.

The wee problem is that emerging information continues to reinforce the idea that the West lacks choices it likes with respect to Covid. That is particularly hard to accept in our insistently optimistic, tech and expert obsessed culture, which has been reinforced by rule by MBA. A diseased managerialism has taken hold (our Clive reports that it’s even more pronounced in the UK) where if someone dares tell the higher-ups that there’s no way what they want can happen, they will suffer career harm for not being clever enough. he person who promised what can’t be delivered, and is good at finding scapegoats and excuses, will rise.

So in addition to demonizing just about everyone who isn’t enthusiastically on board with the “Go son, and get your vaccine, and resume your pre-Covid life” program (the “scapegoating” part), one of the common “excuse” reflexes is to depict the end of Covid as just around the corner. Unfortunately, so many people are engaged in this sort of behavior that it can’t be pinned on a single source, as the Friedman unit was.1

But it appears that the path the West has chosen, of focusing on vaccines and almost completely abandoning other ways to reduce contagion (everything from good masks to CO2 monitors at stores showing that they are not overcrowded relative to their ventilation level, and *gah* realistic quarantines, particularly at the border), we’re now seeing vaccines falling well short of their promise as more and more evidence accumulates of what scientist GM warned about from early on: that getting Covid is likely to do damage, even in supposedly mild cases. And because most people are going to get Covid multiple times, even assuming >90% effective vaccines and perfect compliance with boosters, there’s reason to worry that damage will compound.

Yes, we might get lucky and have Covid mutate into something really tame, but betting on luck is not a great way to manage public health.

With that disheartening pre-existing set of concerns, consider:

Vaccines Are Becoming an Inadequate Answer to Covid (Even Charitably Assuming Vaccines Alone Were Ever a Good Idea)

The disconnect between perceived political necessities (no lockdowns evah!) and the reality of falling vaccine efficacy is getting harder to finesse. But this does explain the screechy attacks on China and now Japan for having more effective Covid containment policies. The fact that a zero-credibility-in-the-Asian-tiger-countries institution presumes to lecture China about its internal affairs is both clueless and sure to win Chineses officials not only points at home but in wider Asia. What actual evidence is there that China’s lockdowns have harmed production more than the very high level of Covid cases in the US and resulting staff shortages? And how about the evidence that the refusal of workers to come back despite higher pay rates in many lines of work is due not just to early retirements (as in regarding job sites as representing too much Covid risk) but also Covid induced disability preventing many from returning?

But all of the criticism of China can’t hide outcomes like this:

Lambert flagged a similarly incoherent position yesterday in Links:

Japan’s immigration experiment under cover of Covid FT. The deck: “The country has introduced restrictions on foreigners that risk blunting its soft power.” From the body: “Japan’s self-isolation and other measures to protect its citizenry sit only at the fiercer end of a spectrum of national strategies. Its comparatively low Covid mortality rates in a country with almost 30 per cent of the population over 65, are a solid rhetorical shield.” Low Covid mortality rates are “a solid rhetorical shield”? They really do want to kill us all, don’t they?

Yours truly adds:

How better to look like a country worth emulating than to manage Covid well?

Japan isn’t exactly well liked in the region, but the flip side is aside from a minority of hard core right wingers, it does not aspire to having regional influence. And it’s quite happy being isolated, thank you very much.

It is a little too obvious why the top officials are promoting the Big Lie that Asian countries who have kept Covid pretty well at bay should open up and let more people have the freedom to get sick and die:

1. More aggressive efforts to paper over not-great vaccine efficacy. The results of the booster shots in Israel were showing declining protection after four months. Consider this headline from STAT last week, which ought to know better: Early data indicate vaccines still protect against Omicron’s sister variant, BA.2. As GM commented:

“This week, the U.K. agency estimated that, for people at least two weeks out from their booster shot, vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic disease was 63% against BA.1, versus 70% for BA.2. While that might suggest that BA.2 is less of a threat to vaccine protection than its Omicron sister, the full estimate ranges overlapped.”

That makes it sound as if:

1. VE reaches a constant value after 2 weeks, never to decline. In reality it goes down to below 50% in mere weeks
2. 60-70% against symptoms (never mind infection) is somehow good

Keep in mind that 50% effectiveness is the minimum level for a vaccine to be approved. Having looked at the recent neutralization studies, GM estimates that boosters protect again Omicron for on the order of ten weeks.

2. Boost, boost, boost is running up against real world and health issues. How much patience would members fo the public have for being boosted every three months, particularly since some have serious enough short-term side effects that they can’t go to work for a day or two? Despite being vaccine-fixated, the US still does not mandate days off for getting shots and possible required downtime.

The European Medicines Agency joined with the WHO earlier this month joined with the WHO in warning that frequent boosters could create health risks of their own. From Fortune:

On Tuesday, EMA vaccine strategy chief Marco Cavaleri said there was still no data supporting the need for a fourth COVID vaccine dose. And even if multiple boosters do prove to be necessary, they would need to be spaced out in the style of annual flu jabs, rather than delivered every several months. He also warned that overly frequent booster doses could potentially lead to “problems with immune response.”

“While use of additional boosters can be part of contingency plans, repeated vaccinations within short intervals would not represent a sustainable long-term strategy,” Cavaleri said at a media briefing. He also said boosters “can be done once, or maybe twice, but it’s not something that we can think should be repeated constantly.”

3. Getting Omicron may not confer much immunity either. Weird cheery stories about families feeling relieved about getting Omicron (see Wall Street Journal and NBC) would not be entirely crazy if Omicron were mild and those mild cases conferred decent immunity. Or to put it more bluntly, in terms of the interests of the public health authorities: “No need to be mad at us for the vaccines not helping much/at all against Omicron! Getting it didn’t really hurt you and now you have immunity.”

Of course, no one is coming out and saying that, but GM has been finding evidence in papers often pursuing other arguments. For instance, from a new MedRxIv preprint, Omicron infection of vaccinated individuals enhances neutralizing immunity against the Delta variant:

They did not focus on Omicron neutralizaiton by Omicron sera in that paper, but on Delta neutralization by Omicron sera (that study was used as a “proof” of how Omicron will end the pandemic because it will kill Delta). So you have to compare across panels and look at the absolute numbers. And they are weak — titers for Omicron in the unvaccinated Omicron-convalescent were 100-150 (with the limit of detection of 40 [40 is a zero on this scale]) compared to 5-6 times that in the triple vaxxed. And it is not as if the triple vaxxed were highly protected against getting sick, only against really serious outcomes.

And from another fresh but not well written preprint Neutralizing immunity in vaccine breakthrough infections from the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron and Delta variants (the story is in the charts, particularly Figure 2), a big finding per GM is:

Based on this data that the Omicron convalescent show much weaker titers against Omicron than the Delta/WT convalescent against Delta/WT.

So all these people who got infected now will be susceptible to reinfection even sooner than was true for previous variants…

Confirming anecdata:

Evidence Mounts That Getting Covid Is Harmful

The vaccines underperforming would not be a concern if it were actually true that all you have to worry about with Covid is its not-horrific death rate. But we’ve warned that is false, even just allowing for long Covid. And there’s more knock-on Covid effects to worry about.

An excellent one-stop wake-up call is an interview with Dr. Anthony Leonardi at WSWS. Leonardi, a top immunologist who studied at Johns Hopkins and a T cell expert, has had the misfortune to be one of Covid’s Cassandras. He’s a zero-Covid advocate and hence only zero-Covid allies like WSWS seem keen about amplifying his findings. He’s stepped even further outside the Anglosphere orthodoxy by warning against having children go to schools that are unsafe (by which I assume he means with poor/no masking and poor ventilation):

There’s publication that lists a lowered productive lifespan in kids, and it’s more of an attenuation in kids than adults. So, it’s a bad idea. We’re setting kids up to have chronic illness.

Yet more confirmation of the value of masking in schools:

This is an excellent interview and not at all dumbed down (WSWS had to insert what amounted to technical notes. Please read it in full. A few of many important observations:

I think Long COVID is going to be as diverse a problem as cancer. It’s hard to define, because, like cancers, they present as a very different spectrum of diseases depending on where they are and where they came from. Long COVID, I would say, for an easy definition, is a persistent sequela of SARS-COV-2 infection….

And not only that, but the immune system also goes haywire.

Now, the immune system is responsible for going into all the tissues in the body, except for a few immune-privileged sites. But SARS-CoV-2 doesn’t respect the immune-privileged site whatsoever. It brings T-cells into the brain. So, we can see the impact of the infection across every physiological system. Because if it distorts the immune system and the immune system is responsible for patrolling the body everywhere, then there are going to be problems everywhere.

If that isn’t cheery enough, Leonardi next turns to a study (in preprint) that infected rhesus macaques with Covid. All showed Lewy bodies in their brains. If you know anything about Lewy-body dementia (I have two friends who each had a parent who died of it), it’s a really bad way to go. No treatments, and if anything more of a roller-coaster for the patient and loved ones than Alzheimer’s. The swings in cognitive and physical function are often rapid and large. And Leonardi does not mince words:

And the problem with this is the disease process is irreversible. It begets an irreversible neurodegenerative process…

They didn’t do follow-up of them [the monkeys, they couldn’t having killed them to look at their brains], but one could imagine that once you kick off this process, you go down a course of neurological degeneration. And that’s what the human experiences, at least, they know that Lewy bodies will end up proceeding Lewy body dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

Leonari is pro-vaccine but still aware of their limitations. He argues that they offer protection to T-cells. But he also notes:

This study showed that if you had a clinical reinfection with SARS-CoV-2 that you are at the same risk of developing Long COVID as someone unvaccinated. Meaning that with breakthrough infection, the virus can re-establish itself in the body.

And for another dose of sobering information about possible Covid costs

Yes, it isn’t pretty seeing that there are no good answers besides hunkering down and being super careful. Because I worked in the same large-ish room as a 93 year old with COPD, I wore a mask around her and insisted all the aides do the same (and not eat with her, which she hated, she did not like eating alone). But having a visibly fragile near you is a constant reminder of the risks. In Japan, the government encouraged families to wear masks at home during Covid waves. Hardly any Americans will go that far, or use next best measures like opening windows and doors whenever tolerable and installing a Corsi-Rosenthal box in every room that isn’t used only by one person.

And our lack of collective self discipline is and will continue to kill us. Go back and look at the life expectancy chart above if you doubt me.


1 For those too young to have been there, from Wiktionary:

(informal, humorous, neologism) A period of six months. From Thomas Friedman’s repeated use of the phrase “the next six months” as the time period when the outcome of the Iraq war will be resolved.

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    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Remember I worked for the Japanese inside the Japanese hierarchy, when virtually all gaijin are hired as “local staff” and well insulated from what is really going on. Anyone who thinks the Japanese are lovey-dovey must view the country through Hello Kitty.

      The fact that they deal with each other in highly coded language does not mean the power dynamics are not crystal clear. The language requires you to make a decision about your status relative to the other person to speak to them. And that means deciding whether you use the actual status relationship, diss them (say by using a form of address appropriate for being uncertain of their status when you clearly know what it is) or abase yourself. There are also forms of address for seniors versus juniors.

      I mean this comparison to be complimentary: The Japanese hear shadings of power that are way beyond Western ken, the same way dogs can hear frequencies we can’t.

      Japanese authorities are not nice. But their priorities IMHO went well beyond saving business. The reason the Japanese “care” about business is that they regard maintaining high levels of employment as fundamental to social stability. The lost decade, with its homelessness (trivial by US standards but very distressing to them) and the big rise in young men with only part-time roles (“freeters”) who usually wound up being unable to marry was also a big social issue they have yet to resolve.

      This tweet also skips over other things the Japanese have done well: masking and having a good medical system that they have not overtaxed (as in underlying healthy population). I recall reading the average Japanese citizen sees his doctor ten times a year.

      1. Basil Pesto

        This tweet also skips over other things the Japanese have done well: masking and having a good medical system that they have not overtaxed (as in underlying healthy population). I recall reading the average Japanese citizen sees his doctor ten times a year.

        To be fair, he has mentioned some of these things elsewhere, such as this tweet about masks and CO2 monitors. He’s gone to bat for ‘The 3 Cs’ quite a bit too. (I have nothing of value to add to your other observations, though I read them with interest)

      2. Synoia

        As you infer, my view after being there and observing, is that the Japanese are not polite, they are obsequious.

        The relationships similar to like the relationship between the farm laborers and the Lords of the Manor in the UK.

        My response in Japan was Aha Ha! I have seen this before…

        And to my enormous amusement, when a group of Vietnamese Women (My wife being one of them) were on a subway train, talking loudly as is their wont, the Japanese on the train took exception and told them to shut up.

        1. Louis Fyne

          In Japan, every subway car is the quiet car. Being loud is a big faux pas.

          The exception was that they were loud, national origin was coincidental/tertiary

          1. Tim C

            I live in Japan currently and I agree. Whenever someone is being loud on a train or bus, everyone is hoping someone else will have the guts to tell them to shut up. I myself don’t. I just move to another car.

    2. PlutoniumKun

      I’ve been trying to find as much information as I can on Japans response and I keep hitting various walls – so much in Japan operates on context and understanding certain unspoken rules. Japan expat twitter is full of whining complaints about people not being able to get visas to visit, and being ‘discriminated against’, because (shock, horror!) Japanese citizens are getting priority.

      But the Japanese system has certainly worked quite effectively, even if its very ‘Japanese’ in its approach and so maybe not replicable. They’ve kept the restaurant/bars open pretty much the entire time – the government seemed adamant that it would not interfere with the service sector. I’ve seen photos over this time of crammed izakaya with maskless people drinking and smoking in close proximity. But otherwise they’ve been extremely good at ensuring good air flow and masks nearly everywhere. And they focus on the health of the population as a whole – undoubtedly this has helped keep death rates down among the elderly. Clearly, they are doing something right, although its not obvious yet whether their existing policies will work against Omicron – rates are zooming up right now.

      What Japan has also gotten mostly right is the balance between economics and public health. They simply don’t care about soft power or tourism, but they do care about bars and restaurants (these are extremely important for soaking up unskilled staff and so keeping unemployment rates very low), and they care about keeping the key areas of the economy functioning at all times. The notion of paying people to stay home is entirely alien to the technocrats of Japan, so they find other ways to keep things ticking over.

      Of course, they have advantages – the absence of a big underclass in bad accommodation means that there aren’t the hidden reservoirs of infection that did for the various strategies of Sweden and New Zealand and Singapore. People are also very used to masks. Japanese people are also reasonably obedient when it comes to public exhortations (contrary to cliche, Japanese people absolutely love breaking rules if they can get away with it, they are just rarely given the opportunity to get away with it). In my experience many Japanese buildings are also surprisingly leaky, which may well be an advantage. Most regular Japanese prefer to warm themselves than warm the home they live in.

      1. Cocomaan

        Does anyone actually know what the ivermectin protocols are in Japan? It was a huge meme a few weeks ago that Japan’s health officials had embraced the idrug but I always felt there was something lost in translation and never could quite believe what I was being told.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          There are lots of unverifiable stories out there. I’ve asked friends in Japan to see if their elderly parents are getting it (I can’t find solid sources), but I can’t find any definitive answer.

          I suspect that, in a very Japanese way, its been given widely to the vulnerable, without necessarily it being official policy.

          1. cocomaan

            That’s interesting, thanks for the front line (once removed) report!

            Very much a “just go ahead and handle things” attitude. Interesting how bureaucratic/officialdom the USA has become.

        2. Tim C

          I live in Japan and can tell you that ivermectin is neither vilified nor glorified. In fact not much reaction about it at all, at least from the people around me. The news points to the authorities that say it’s ineffective against Covid, but without adding any layer of invective to the story. It’s kind of expensive, although it’s easy and entirely legal to get it shipped from countries where it’s cheaper. There’s also an alternative medicine, called camostat, that still needs a prescription, but is cheaper. Like ivermectin, it’s a medicine invented in Japan, but unlike ivermectin, is hardly known outside of Japan. Most of the research on it is in Japanese.
          Regarding the health officials you mentioned, it’s just one guy, the head of the Tokyo Medical Association. Not an official, but influential. Still not influential enough to get the Japanese medical establishment to go against the American medical establishment (just like in practically every other field, but that’s another story). The discoverer of ivermectin, himself Japanese, is rather lionized in Japan and while he hasn’t openly advocated for its use with Covid, he’s brought to attention all the studies which, if nothing else, call for more conclusive studies.
          I don’t know how much people are using either ivermectin or camostat, but I have a strong hunch it’s a significant number. Other than that, Japan has a low obesity rate, they eat Japanese food, i.e., healthy food, which includes fermented food, most notably natto, they don’t depend on cars as much, which means they walk more, which further means they’re outdoors more, they don’t talk loudly in public places, there’s an emphasis on ventilation, and the health care system comports with a civilized country, all relevant factors different from the U.S.

      2. JBird4049

        >>>Of course, they have advantages – the absence of a big underclass in bad accommodation means that there aren’t the hidden reservoirs of infection that did for the various strategies of Sweden and New Zealand and Singapore.

        Then there is California’s underclass of Untouchables. IIRC, both Los Angeles and San Francisco have had epidemics of typhus, hepatitis, trench fever, tuberculosis, and other diseases. One would think that installing and maintaining as many of the portable toilets needed of the kind that you see in any very large public event would be done. Or showers. Or even public health clinics. But no, that doesn’t happen.

        If our ruling class is unable or unwilling to eradicate diseases that were previously eradicated by the 1920s in the United States, no one should be that surprised of the cavalier, even callous, attitude of the establishment. It is as if the people whose job is public health, and I put politicians especially local ones, are unable to comprehend and accept the existence of infectious diseases. Which gives us endemic COVID.

        Maybe they think they can hermetically seal themselves in their own little worlds safe from the masses.

      3. Hugh Ferguson

        “hidden reservoirs of infection that did for the various strategies of Sweden and New Zealand and Singapore”

        Do you actually know anything about New Zealand’s experience? I am living it, and from my point of view – 62, underlying conditions – it has been exemplary. Granted, only by the good fortune of having the centre-left Labour Party in power. (It’s a pity their performance on climate change is so abysmal.) Yes, things are worse under Omicron, and we have relaxed a lot of constraints. And I am still not sure how much that is due to pressure from business and how much it down to pragmatism. But the government has steered a careful course between factions, followed the (mainstream) science, been strong on lockdowns, and above all prioritised citizen’s health. The result has been very few deaths, a health system barely stretched, and even under Omicron so far, relatively little community transmission. Yet you list us along with Sweden?

        1. PlutoniumKun

          My understanding of the situation in NZ was that the original ‘zero covid’ aim was undermined by consistent levels of infection in certain deprived communities. Rightly or wrongly, the strategy changed because the government decided that it was not possible to eliminate this and opted for a control and suppression policy instead.

      4. c_heale

        Korea is similar in that everything is open but everyone is wearing masks. A lot of people are double vaccinated and have got a booster. But there was was a quadruplin with Delta and a further quadrupaling with Omicrom of the previous maxiumum daily infection rate.

  1. Steve H.

    Janet and I continue to wonder as we weather the emotional storms of everything-is-covid, when these news barely shift the half-dozen or so things we actually do in response to this environment.

    The best framework I’ve found for these is OSHA’s hierarchy of controls for toxic substances. Here’s the main page:

    The image is hard to see, here’s a larger version:

    (Elimination (physically remove the hazard), Substitution (replace the hazard), Engineering (isolate people from the hazard), Administrative (change the way people work), PPE (personal protective equipment).)

    This extends the hierarchy to our current situation.

  2. Basil Pesto

    Leonardi’s taken a bit of a hammering lately from more orthodox/less heterodox corners of the Covidsphere and it seems to be taking a bit of a toll on him. He gets attacked seemingly for being observant and attentive, even if those traits lead him to conclusions that nobody especially wants to hear. I feel for the guy. I doubt there are many with a superior predictive record wrt Covid.

    I found this little interchange yesterday interesting though. Leonardi (and a few others) have been saying for months (years?) that contra mainstream claims to the contrary, T cell immunity on top of vaccination is not going to be the road out of the pandemic, for various reasons. Eric Topol shared a paper and a separate article that he wrote yesterday which goes some way to confirming Leonardi’s hypothesis to that effect. Leonardi replied to it, shared further insight, which Topol thanked him for. It was all surprisingly gracious, and it didn’t have to be considering that Topol claimed the findings were “surprising”, which could easily be read as disingenuous (they weren’t surprising to me, basically an idiot). I can’t really tell whether getting more absorbed in twitter scientist soap operas is frying my brain or not.

    Anyway, another fine write-up, Yves.

    The situation is bleak. It’s hard to believe that Berejiklian’s replacement as NSW Premier is even more ghoulish than she was, and yet here he was on the weekend:

    “We expect those [death] numbers to stay pretty consistent,” he said. “This is the new world.”

    Referring to about 50 preventable deaths a day in NSW. And he goes out at press conferences boasting about what a great job he’s doing. Wild stuff.

    1. The Rev Kev

      If those 50 daily deaths in New South Wales are going to be a constant going forward, then the annual death toll for that State alone is going towards 20,000 people. I heard some big wig from NSW on the news tonight swearing that lockdowns are in the past and will not be considered again. So if my hypothetical virus variant develops that has a say, 10% death rate and it spreads across the planet with the speed of Omicron, will this turkey try to keep the borders open and the planes flying in because he does not want to put the economy at risk? Because that is self defeating that. As has been demonstrated with Omicron, if such an event happened people will ransack the supermarkets and will hunker down at home. They will not go to the movies, to the bars, to the restaurants, to the games or even recreational shopping. Then let us see how his economy goes.

      1. Tom Stone

        A 10% or higher death rate from a new variant is certainly plausible, Covid -19 is mutating randomly in every host and it’s simply a matter of luck that we haven’t seen such a mutation to date.
        Perhaps we will continue to be lucky, however a “Let ‘er Rip” approach to the virus does not improve the odds.

      2. jsn

        My suspicion is that it’s only when average life expectancy gets so low that Insurance, Med IC and Pharma see it hitting next quarters profits that we get a policy change.

        It’s everyones guess how far down they can ride that slope until its their turn.

        I’m trying to organize some “pro-social” business networks/coops to organize and disseminate pro-social information within the NeoLib context, so far not getting much traction, but just starting… The American “left” has been so destroyed that even life and death policy disasters can’t dislodge TINA.

        1. Samuel Conner

          In view of the plausible inference that “They really do want to kill us all”, the thought occurs that TINA could also be repurposed as “This is no accident.” (I hasten to add that by “this”, I mean “the public health response”, not “the virus itself”. I may be foily, but I’m not that foily.)

          1. Synoia

            Well yes an no to the “This is no accident” assertion to the creation of the Virus.

            It appears that Fouchi et al where funding gain of function research in China. Before eliminating any alternative, I believe we are owed a full disclosure of those efforts.

            Not making making unsupported accusations is good behavior – as is full disclosure.

            Although with all the fog of counter assertions, it might not be possible to identify the truth.

            What a tangled web we weave when we practice to deceive.

            1. ArvidMartensen

              In a real world crime, the abuse of children by church staff has been found to be legion in states around me. And the parents who believed their children (and many didn’t) found themselves ostracised and threatened by churches and their congregations if they pursued justice. Justice has taken decades because legal and police authorities were willing to give in to church powers to keep it all hidden.
              But there were a very few cops who also believed the children and tried to bring the scum to justice. They were warned against, and if they persisted then their careers were ruined. .
              And so we have the virus that started killing people in Wuhan. Evidence removed from databases. Access to a possible crime scene hindered until it was pointless to look. Denials aplenty. Demonization of scientists who looked for the evidence either way, by authorities and the media. Shaming, character assassinations, the usual stuff.
              So circumstantial evidence aplenty here. But once again, it appears that the vested interests of the two most powerful countries on the planet have come together to stop an open forensic investigation by the usual methods of deny, lie, hinder, demonise. Those with power will never hesitate to use it to coverup their sins. Who would be a whistleblower?

    2. PlutoniumKun

      I can’t claim to have wide exposure to what’s going on in the wider covid twitter sphere, but I didn’t think anything could be worse than the abuse thrown at Deepti Gurdasani. But its ramped up massively against Leonardi, which leads me to think that it is to some extent (even if informally) orchestrated. He may not always be right, but he has consistently been more right than most of the usual media science faces.

      As he doesn’t have the academic stature of someone like Gurdasani or Greenhaulgh or Paget then its unsurprising that he is buckling under the strain. These are really bad times for science. And thats mostly because of credentialed scientists.

      1. GM

        It has been a consistent theme of the pandemic that comfortably tenured senior scientists, who are the ones who should have been leading the charge for infection control and against the oligarchic business interests driving the current genocidal policies (because they are comfortably tenured and safe in their positions) have been either keeping quiet or worse, promoting the official party line.

        It has been young scientists trying to change things for the better, plus some very old emeritus ones like William Haseltine. And that’s it pretty much. In Leonardi’s case, he isn’t even formally academically employed at the moment if I am not mistaken. Which actually gives him more freedom to speak openly, but does leave him open to credentialism attacks.

        It is a really really depressing situation. Soviet academics had more real freedom if you think about it, and actually resisted more actively on a lot of issues. Even though they were supposedly totally suppressed by the totalitarian state, but in practice they just had the bureaucracy to deal with while in our oh-so-free capitalist world there is a business oligarchy that is more powerful than the bureaucracy and much more ruthless and efficient in its methods of ramming through harmful for everyone else policiies…

        1. Henry Moon Pie

          The response to Covid mirrors what is happening in climate change. “Let ‘er rip” began as a fringe reaction originating on the hard Right, but it’s now official policy of all neoliberals. Similarly, geoengineering schemes like shooting sulfur in the sky every two years began as fringe ideas, but last December, the Harvard Alumni Association along with the shiny new Vice Provost for Climate and Sustainability, featured David Keith, progenitor of the shoot-sulfur-in-the-sky-every-two-years solution.

          Of course, I don’t think it would take much investigation to learn that the shutdown rebels of 2020 were astroturfed by billionaires. Meanwhile, Keith is funded by Harvard dropout Gates.

        2. PlutoniumKun

          I see it even in the medics and scientists in my own family that there is a strong tendency to just roll with the current orthodoxy, even if they are aware of a lot of the problems bubbling away. Sometimes its just their inclination – some people will always by nature go with the flow. Others are just overworked and disinclined to read beyond the abstracts and whatever the official guidance might be.

          I used to think that this was solely a problem in the humanities and soft sciences (although Lee Smolins book ‘The Trouble with Physics’ has always been a touchstone for me to show that even the hardest of sciences can have serious problems with groupthink), but I find it disturbing how few people are willing to go against the flow. I think that structural employment problems are a key issue – there are few jobs now that provide security for naysayers. Its far easier to go with the flow if you have a mortgage that requires you to keep your mouth shut.

          1. juanholio

            Doctors are an odd bunch. Medical training is mostly about rote learning. Thinking outside the box is frowned upon, possibly due to the liability issues that arise when “standard of care” is not adhered to?

          2. Kevin Carhart

            the if you have a mortgage:
            David Harvey pointed this out explicitly: “debt-incumbent homeowners don’t go on strike.”

        3. jsn

          Turns out Soviet scientists had “substantive” freedoms where ours only have “formal” ones.

          The Predatory Precariat is a self regulating enforcer for the boundaries of acceptable neoliberal thought.

          To take a principled stand, one must either forsake livelihood and ones dependents or have the personal resources to survive whatever market pressures are imposed on your life and the lives of those you love. The system has taken everyones family hostage.

        4. haywood

          While organizing an academic union years ago, I found the same dynamic play out where junior faculty and contingent faculty were much more willing to stand up and assume risk than the group who had security and safety in their positions.

          Foundations are the same. They have no shareholders or membership or voting base or much of any constituency at all to be accountable to and thus are theoretically in the best position to take risk. Yet, they’re some of the most risk averse institutions in politics.

  3. Samuel Conner

    I’m starting into the Leonardi interviews (there are two).

    This item is from November, about 2 weeks after Omicron started attracting attention of US news media.

    Just wondering — it seems odd that something as important as this didn’t cross our radar screens sooner. I’m curious whether Big Search may have been suppressing it.

    Two other thoughts

    * I daily check AE through the NC ‘blogroll links. I have not yet seen a single linked item about long COVID. At this point, I’m not hoping to encounter useful stories; just wondering when that ‘blog’s proprietor will notice long COVID.

    * while the roots of the problems go back much farther, the thought occurs to wonder whether in the not too distant future DJT and JRB will become widely regarded to have been the proximate causes of the collapse of US power. I don’t see how a country remains powerful when a significant fraction of its population becomes as sick as it appears is going to happen in US.

    1. Samuel Conner

      To be fair, I did find something linked (today) that IMO may be useful

      There is no detail, but granting the assumption that the claim is true, I think that the favorable outcome ‘signal’ may be quite strong given that this has to be very recent test results (efficacy against Omicron is asserted), and one would think that for a signal to be statistically significant in a matter of a few weeks of study, it would need to be a strong signal.

      but the flip side is that there are other things that look dubious to me. Some weeks ago there was a link to a testing lab proprietor blaming anomalously high rates of new cancer detections on the vaccines. I have not seen anything there about COVID-induced T-cell exhaustion and derangement.

      So it looks like a very mixed bag.

      1. Samuel Conner

        Well, that was fast. The Reuters item has been corrected to make it sound like the reported study is not a Phase III trial but is something more like in vitro study in cell cultures (which is not newsworthy; that has been known for quite a while).

        1. Rod

          Thanks SC
          I daily check AE through the NC ‘blogroll links.
          I learn something new every day, and it thrills me.
          and your garden/growing initiatives are inspiring also.

          1. Samuel Conner

            > garden/growing initiatives

            I’m hoping that I can build enough “garden muscle memory” to allow me to remain usefully and cheerfully occupied after I am cognitively disabled with Lewy dementia. :(

            I really hope that primate study doesn’t generalize to humans. What a nightmare.

    2. valdo

      One of the interviews is on the World Socialists, which have already been vocal about drastic drops in traffic following changes on Google’s algorithm (a previous episode of the misinformation thing)

  4. Jason Boxman

    I’ve been saying for two years everyone (or a random sampling) needs to get lung function tests like quarterly, for everyone that tests positive, so that we can see what’s going on in the wild. I guess that might not have shown anything given this kind of stealth damage, but at least we’d have been practicing public health in the US, and collecting data!

    We should be doing the same for renal and cardio function.

  5. Carolinian

    The WSWS article doesn’t seem very definitive with lots of “I don’t know” from the interviewed scientist. And he also seems to be an advocate of the vaccine as a precaution against long Covid while showing no concern about whether we should show precaution about the vaccine and the more or less established risk it poses to some of the recipients. One might also point out that the number of victims claimed by the Chinese has been challenged and, given that it’s China, there’s no way to know what the true numbers are.

    But I’d say the main point is that whether or not Covid is over, the notion that we can stop it is as hubristic as it always was. And that giving governments vast new powers based on limited medical knowledge is something that the public very rightly opposes. Those who are concerned about long Covid should take the appropriate precautions. If they feel their concerns are being ignored they should make their case and have it peer reviewed.

    But imposing those precautions on everyone else is a completely different proposition. People want to live their lives. Opposition isn’t just about capitalism wanting its work force back.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Huh? He had all of three “I don’t know” and one was in a response to a question by the interviewer that was off base (re the monkeys that clearly had been killed to look at their brains; no way to follow up on dead animals). The second was discussing the possibility of PCR testing another doctor’s thesis, which is not a top line issue. The third was for him to say that imaging has shown that Covid produces brain hypometabolism and he said he did not know how long it persisted.

      As for your statement about eradicating Covid, it is false. China and Japan, large countries, have it down to a level vastly lower than the US. Australia has gotten infections down to zero, as did New Zealand. The idea that we have to live with it and suffer extensive health damage is false. But we’ve had terrible leadership in terms of going for the seemingly easiest way out and not devising policies to ameliorate hardship (like losing days from work to quarantine) and call for everyone to do their part. For instance, what if you’d seen all TV talking heads and most national politicians wearing masks when on TV? What if we didn’t have repeated displays of officials partying while servers were masked? Rich people doing that would have been a sign of selfishness and would have been decried if we didn’t have lazy and entitled leaders.

      So it’s not not possible, it’s that we are too undisciplined and badly led to do so. This country sent millions to WWII and endured rationing and mass conversion of private industry to military production, and you didn’t hear whinging like we have over masks. Help me.

      Having said that, Leonardi’s promotion of vaccines in the young is weirdly the recommendation that will earn him the most props with the orthodox types (see GM) when he may not yet have worked out that they’d have to get multiple Covid shots a year and be subject to immune exhaustion. I’d like to see that posed to him as the tradeoff v. their greater exposure to loss of healthy years, as he put it.

      1. Synoia

        The life expectancy chart is quite telling.

        Telling what?

        a) Our governance system is filled with incompetence.
        b) Our governance system is working well to cut population in the face of climate change and resource depletion.
        c) or both.

      2. NB

        Hi Yves,

        you say “Australia has gotten infections down to zero,”

        That was before Delta. Even with the longest lockdown in the world and some ridiculously harsh lockdown policies plus thuggish police violence, Melbourne never got close to eliminating its delta outbreak.

        I don’t see how zero covid is possible for something this infectious.

        1. The Rev Kev

          Not quite true your comment. Melbourne thoroughly eliminated their first wave of infection and got it down to zero. It was only when the Federal government decided to open up the country and let ‘er rip – aided and abetted by New South Wales – that defeated all measures to do the same with Delta. The second Delta wave was caused by a coupla movers that went down to Melbourne on a job and never took the virus seriously. Well, it soon killed their mother so maybe they did then. Plus knowing that the deaths that followed was all on them. It’s damn hard to keep the zombies getting into your home in the middle of a zombie apocalypse when you have someone in your house insisting that there is a need to open the windows for fresh air and the back door open in case you have visitors.

          1. Richard

            If all it takes is a “coupla movers” to defeat months of lockdown, lockdown was a waste of time and effort. Unless the plan is to make lockdown permanent.

            1. The Rev Kev

              Case point for you. Most of the other States are taking part in Operation Let ‘er Rip and are suffering tens of thousands of cases and scores of deaths daily. Western Australia isn’t and their case numbers are in single digits. How about that!

              1. ArvidMartensen

                Victoria called a “Code Brown” a couple of weeks ago because hospitals are overrun with Covid.
                Did the bureaucracy that came up with this Code have a sense of humour? I personally think it’s hilarious.
                And certainly gives a most accurate picture of how the politicians are feeling, given they made the choice to let-er-rip.

        2. Basil Pesto

          Melbourne never got close to eliminating its delta outbreak.

          Melbourne never tried. The long 2021 Melbourne lockdown, in contrast to the long 2020 lockdown, was merely to buy time to vaccinate the population prior to letting er rip, which Victoria allowed to become a fait accompli after NSW abandoned containment the month prior to lockdown. This was done to prevent mass death and hospitals from being overwhelmed (which is happening now anyway, lol, although I’m sure the death rates are lower than they would be in an unvaccinated population), in accordance with the tendentious, politically self-serving reading of the Doherty Report by state and federal politicians. The 2021 Victorian lockdown was never designed to eliminate the disease as the 2020 lockdown was, and the calibration of public health messaging clearly indicated this to be the case.

          I live in Melbourne and wrote extensively here at the time that in the long 2021 lockdown that, while there was a mask mandate, masking standards had declined and moreover were inadequate to the task as they were not respirators (in contrast with the 2020 wild type lockdown where I believe weak masks were sufficient for the general population as source control to contain the contagion). The Vic government is now boasting about supplying RATs to residents. All very well, but if they had done this with N95/P2s and improved their messaging on how covid is transmitted and why respirators are important, instead of placing all their bets on vaccines and misleading the public about what they’re capable of, then the 2021 lockdown would have been successful and need not have lasted as long.

          In fact, prior to the long lockdown, there was a snap 1-2 week lockdown that did contain a Delta outbreak in Melbourne. QLD also contained Delta outbreaks.

          1. GM

            I don’t live in AU but I was following as closely as I could because what happened there was indicative of how it was going to be handled into the future elsewhere, and I was noticing the same trends.

            They never really tried.

            Also, there was a lot of talk about how hypercontagious Delta is, and shortly after it became clear that this was all PR to provide an excuse for letting it rip — “See, we tried, but what could we do, it’s too contagious”.

            But they never really tried.

            BTW, the same happened in Vietnam — they started with isolated clusters in May, refused to lockdown or start mass testing, instead they started talking about how good the virus was at jumping around PPE, which was a huge red flag in retrospect. Then clusters grew to 200-300 cases a day (which is the point where nothing but a hard lockdown will stop it), then the clusters got into the export-oriented hi-tech factories, Apple and Samsung made it clear they won’t be happy with shutting those down, government did not shut them down, eventually there was a lockdown that lasted quite some time too, but it was not for elimination, just to prevent the system from collapsing, and then elimination was given up officially.

            Granted, when you have a long and porous land border with countries that have also given up, it is much harder than in Australia, but the point is that a common theme in the countries that let it rip after they had eliminated it was to overhype the contagiousness of the new variants in order to excuse letting it rip because containment is somehow impossible.

            Never mind that in the past there have been lockdowns for measles (which is the gold standard for hypercontagiousness) and nobody thought twice about letting it rip.

            Also, in Australia there was never any real attempt to stop the disinformation campaign in the media, and that prepared the population for let-it-rip — once you have sufficiently many people convinced it is no big deal/BS/conspiracy/etc., compliance will drop and containment will become much harder.

            So you have to clamp down on disinformation, but not only was that not done, it was in fact encouraged.

            It is still a mystery to me why elimination was allowed to proceed in the first place in 2020, and how the decision making went.

            I fully expected the local oligarchy to let it rip from the start, given what odious figures most of the Australian billionaires are and that Rupert Murdoch is Australian. What is happening now is what one would have expected to happen.

            So why did the state governments invest so much effort in 2020 to keep it out?

            1. The Rev Kev

              As much as I respect your opinions, from this and previous comments suggests to me that you do not have a handle of what happened with Australia. The majority of people here wanted the virus kept out and made a lot of sacrifices to make it so but our own federal government, boosted by the business community, betrayed us and let it run rampant. Most of the State governments were all for keeping it out and my own Premier won a thumping victory when she campaigned on this while her opponent was for letting it run. The two biggest populated States – New South Wales & Victoria – were all for letting it in but that may have been a function of the amount of businesses concentrated there. The media lined up right behind Scotty from Marketing and all voices for keeping it out were shouted down or were never allowed to be held. Sure there were some big protests to let it rip but they were not the majority and you could tell by their signs and what they said was very strongly influenced by American movements. As I said in another comment, when you are in the middle of a Zombie Apocalypse and are trying to keep the zombies out of your house, it is hard when there is somebody in your house opening up the windows and unlocking the back-door ‘for your own good.’

              1. GM

                I’m not sure where the disagreement is.

                I never thought the population was for letting it rip, quite the opposite. But nowhere has this been decided by the population, so I was puzzled why public opinion was not trampled/manipulated earlier. As it was elsewhere. Notice that I said “I fully expected the local oligarchy to let it rip from the start”

                The media lined up right behind Scotty from Marketing and all voices for keeping it out were shouted down or were never allowed to be held.

                Precisely, but that happened in 2021, not in 2020. While in the USA, UK, etc. it happened in 2020

      3. Shom

        Leonardi’s advocacy of vaccines in the linked-to interview is from mid-Nov 2021, so it was before Omicron came on to the scene and showed up the vaccines.

        He may also be cryptically positing that the vaccines are a safer mechanism to develop immunity because we expose ourselves only to the spike protein vs the entire nasty thing when COVID takes hold in our body. In other words, vaccines may be sparing us the real nasty stuff from the rest of the proteins coded for by virus’es RNA.

        The current vaccines are however turning out to be woefully inadequate protection likely because of the IgG vs mucosal IgA issue. He does give a shout-out for nasal vaccines.

        Would nasal vaccines produce IgA antibodies that would stick around longer or would they too fade like today’s vaccine produced IgG antibodies? It seems fewer IgA may be needed since they will be fighting against a smaller newly arriving viral load. So we might have to “boost” in the form of nasal sprays only every 6-8 months, and hopefully that would not tax our immune system as much as frequent boosting using current vaccines seem to indicate.

        Lotsa questions arise, but the central point that COVID is a way more complex disease than the minimal form presented in MSM is self-evident by now.

    2. Basil Pesto

      People want to live their lives.

      Except they will no longer be able to live their lives as they’ve known it, no matter how much you want to imagine that’s not the case by claiming ‘limited medical knowledge’. By appealing to this fundamental desire for people to live their lives, people are being mugged off into sacrificing their lives and their health.

      You said something similar the other day about Australians wanting to ‘live their lives’. In fact what I suspect most Australians want is to maintain their really very nice – generally speaking – standard of living. If they understood that “living with Covid” as the propaganda goes means sacrificing said standard of living for a “return to normal” that’s clearly never going to come – that is far less normal than the periods of time where we had the disease eliminated while the rest of the world was suffering – then they would never accept it, because why on Earth would they? Especially when we proved elimination was possible with collective action, commitment & sacrifice (and, of course, government support), before the vaccines, which seem to have dulled everyone’s wits. So we’ve been shuffled into a cul-de-sac of learned helplessness. But apparently that’s not the distressing thing, it’s states successfully containing the virus that’s distressing? what?

      The ultimate purpose of covid containment and elimination as an aim has always been to maximise life-living, freedom, liberty, health, and all those feelgood things that we like even if that requires sacrifices to those things in the short term. And now we in the west have to sacrifice those things for the foreseeable future for the weak facsimile version of them that we have now, because the very thought of government Doing Things – like meaningfully fighting a crisis – gives people the vapours. So now we’re trying to propagandise our way out of a pandemic and pretend the virus is nbd, or “oooh gosh, we just don’t know much, really, do we? Better to just do nothing” or, in some corners, “long Covid is activist-driven psychosomatic attention-seeking”. This is worse than silly and self-defeating, it’s craven.

      1. Governor Odious

        You seem to be oblivious to the fact that since spring 2021 life has continued as it was pre-2020 across large swathes of Europe and the US. Perhaps you live in Asia or one of the more risk averse Canadian jurisdictions. Vacations, nightclubs, restaurants, school, friends over on the weekend – all back. Like it or not we are approaching a societal acceptance of living with covid.

        1. Carolinian

          I think that’s what I’m trying to say and, while I’m no fan of Bill Maher, what he was saying. It’s not over because he or officialdom say it’s over but because it just is as far as the public are concerned and ultimately they are in the driver’s seat. Me, I still wear a mask, avoid restaurants.

          Perhaps it will start up again if a more deadly variant appears. What may also be over is trust in health authorities and that too works against any Zero Covid policy.

          1. megrim

            I’m starting to get Black Knight (Monty Python) vibes from the “it’s over” crowd. “‘Tis but a scratch!”

        2. The Rev Kev

          Well, yeah. Life has continued as normal, That is, except for 908,500 dead Americans alone and the several hundred that join them each and every day. But the dead don’t complain. Otherwise it is just like 2019 all over again. You and I have very different ideas of what normal look like. Suppose that there was a wave of sniper killings. Every day several hundred people are being killed by random snipers across the country and in about two years, these unidentified, random snipers had shot about one million Americans dead. Should we then have a societal acceptance of living with sniper deaths? Just keep on having vacations, nightclubs, restaurants, school, friends over on the weekend and ignoring the random sniper deaths? I can see it now-

          ‘Hey, where’s Jerry? He’s late.’

          ‘Shot in the head by a sniper bullet.’

          ‘Oh, so he’s not coming then? OK then.’

        3. Basil Pesto

          No. Learn to read:

          The ultimate purpose of covid containment and elimination as an aim has always been to maximise life-living, freedom, liberty, health, and all those feelgood things that we like even if that requires sacrifices to those things in the short term. And now we in the west have to sacrifice those things for the foreseeable future for the weak facsimile version of them that we have now

          It ain’t life as we knew it when thousands of people are dying weekly, to say nothing of getting really sick in the short, medium and long term, of a preventable infectious disease that didn’t exist two years ago.

          Like it or not we are approaching a societal acceptance of living with covid.

          I don’t like it, as I think I’ve made clear, because it’s unconscionable, and unnecessary.

    3. HotFlash

      People want to live their lives.

      Oh, most likely. But are they/we OK with not living them for so long? Or so well? It seems that this decision is being made for us without consent.

    4. Radical Joe

      >given that it’s China, there’s no way to know what the true numbers are.

      lol maximum cope

      1. CoryP

        I mean, frankly, I live in Ontario and with their testing and reporting changes, there’s no way to know what the true numbers are.

  6. Dave in Austin

    Today the NYT had available to non-subscribers on the website a nice chart showing that un-vaxed people in the US were dying at a rate almost ten times higher the rate for the vaxed.

    Great chart. Very convincing as was the explaination of the data. But in fine print on the chart the Times said. “Based on November, 2021 data”.

    Thank guys.

    1. FluffytheObeseCat

      The Times has had Covid infection rate and death rate charts up for many weeks. The infection rate chart is more up-to-date; it’s based on data from late December 2021 per their website. It took them a loooonnng time to update it however, and as you note, the death rate chart is months behind where it should be given the available data.

      The Times is clearly reluctant to show their readers just how much vaccine protection has dropped vis-a-vis omicron. However, the infection rate chart makes it very clear that Covid vaccines do still provide some degree of protection against infection. A vaccine that “only” cuts your likelihood of infection in half isn’t something that deserves the level of scorn that is commonly directed at it here, and across the web in general.

      If the haute doyens of the NYT weren’t such supercilious idiots they’d keep the death stats chart up to date as well. If the comparative death rate chart was as current as the infection rate chart it would most likely show a somewhat proportionate reduction in protection against death…. which would still rough out to a ~10 times higher death rate for the non-vaccinated. Oh, possibly vaccinated death rates would not be reduced quite as well as infection rates. The rate of reduction might “only” be 5-fold, not an order of magnitude.

      One needs to be intensely devoted to trashing the vaccines to sneer at these levels of benefit.

      1. JBird4049

        The narrative has been the vaccines are all protecting. The illnesses and deaths of the vaccinated, even if they are reduced, kills the fantasy, which is why the NYT is behind on posting the deaths.

      2. Pat

        I have a mixed reaction to the vaccines. They are experimental, and there is little or no interest in really examining them, data is not being collected. There is far too much effort being made to keep any dismaying information from the public. Adverse reactions to them should be being studied not dismissed. Considering the very real problem of long Covid even in mild and asymptomatic cases our country’s refusal to count those breakthrough cases is unforgivable. While there may be little doubt that the vaccines can lower your chances of hospitalization and death, there is far too much burying that sometimes they are deeply problematic for people.
        So for the vaccines themselves is acceptance with doubt and severe caveats.

        For our public health system and the officials who oversee them, that is where my scorn lies. They have not just oversold these vaccines, they have flat out lied about them. People honestly believe they cannot get Covid or infect someone else if they do get it. This is garbage that was done not as a noble lie but to restart the economy. The NYC school system just lowered their time frame to five days out for positive Covid for staff and most students based on I m sure the CDC guidance which has never come up with any evidence supporting it. Excuse me I forgot in NYC you do have to be fever free, but I have to wonder if they would have included that caveat if fever was common in Omicron. The vaccines only do so much, the infected running around Willy nilly are a danger even if you are vaccinated.

        It is quite clear that the vaccines are limited, but they are largely the only tool and defense we are allowed to have without pulling teeth and that does deserve scorn.

      3. urblintz

        “makes it clear”
        “most likely”
        Yeah, well… I’m looking for accurate and unchanging definitions of “vaccinated” and “unvaccinated” before I trust any stats based on those terms.

    2. Eris377

      Sounds profoundly implausible when the entire population 0 to 4 is unvaccinated and from 5-20 very much below average vaccinated.

    3. Mtnwoman

      I wish our scientists included more categories of study besides just “vaxxed”/”unvaxxed”.
      Millions have had the infection with no vax.
      There doesn’t seem to be much interest in studying how the prior infected/no vax fare or how prior infected plus vax fare.

    4. Barry

      The NYT are clear about their ongoing graphical reports on deaths and their sources.
      The ratio of unvaccinated deaths versus vaccinated deaths has varied between 14X as high and 20X as high
      in their graph which dates from april 4 2021 to december 4 2021

      Their sources “These charts compare age-adjusted average daily case and death rates for vaccinated and unvaccinated people in the 26 states and two cities that provide this data.”
      and “About this data
      Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This data was made available on Jan. 21, 2021, and is expected to update monthly. The C.D.C. releases the data as a weekly figure per 100,000 and is presented here as a daily average per 100,000 for consistency with other population-adjusted figures on this page. See the notes on the C.D.C.’s page for more information.”

    1. JBird4049

      I think it’s a riff from Emperor Hirohito’s announcement to the Japanese public of Japan’s surrender at the end of the Second World War. Fleet sunk. Most cities destroyed. Mass hunger. And the situation might not have developed to their advantage says the Emperor.

  7. Sutter Cane

    Not a tankie, but watching China’s handling of covid vs. that of the west is making me tankie-sympathetic.

  8. Mikel

    “And how about the evidence that the refusal of workers to come back despite higher pay rates in many lines of work is due not just to early retirements (as in regarding job sites as representing too much Covid risk) but also Covid induced disability preventing many from returning?”

    And it would be never said that death from communicable disease caught on the job contributed to worker shortage and supply chain issues.

    For all of what is considered over hype in the media about Covid, actual news about viruses and the many treatments being studied and tried was never over-hyped. There have been over hyped press releases from big pharma and strings of human interest types of stories.

    No dangers were exaggerated to the extent that dangers were under reported.
    From early 2020 and “don’t need to wear a mask” Fauci, the Covid response was headed to be akin to those propaganda films telling kids to dive in a ditch or duck and cover if a hydrogen bomb is dropped on you city.
    What’s more hysterical: the stupid, nonsensical drills or that the suggestions given in the films was the best the govt could do for you with the destruction they were nurturing?

  9. Dean

    “This does NOT happen in nature.”

    I am not sure what you base that statement on. Especially considering this paper highlighted in this morning’s links:

    “Persistent SARS-CoV-2 Infection with Accumulation of Mutations in a Patient with Poorly Controlled HIV Infection”

    A 22-year-old female with uncontrolled advanced HIV infection was persistently infected with SARS-CoV-2 beta variant for 9 months, the virus accumulating >20 additional mutations. Antiretroviral therapy suppressed HIV and cleared SARS-CoV-2 within 6-9 weeks. Increased vigilance is warranted to benefit affected individuals and prevent the emergence of novel SARS-CoV-2 variants.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Thanks for your rebuttal. Removed the offending comment (which I don’t like doing but it should not have been approved, so this was correcting a mistake) for flagrant Making Shit Up.

      1. Dean

        I think I was just lucky to get there before you. I know that you have consistently reported on the potential of variants with multiple mutations to occur during long term infections of immunocompromised individuals.

        And thank you, GM, Ignacio, IMdoc, and the entire brain trust for these timely covid updates.

    2. T_Reg

      I feel like J in Men in Black III. ” It’s either evil scientists working for genocidal politicians to create it in a lab or..” SLAP! “Damn. It’s not evil scientists”. “Damn it’s NOT evil scientists?”. The idea of new variants happening via incubation in sick people, living who knows where in who knows what numbers, is REALLY scary.

      1. jsn

        For some reason, apparently the hive mind can’t contain these facts: COVID is a corona virus and corona viruses mutate all the time; prior infection AND vaccination only provide short term immunity if they provide it at all (see Omicron); that allowing large populations of the immunocompromised to be exposed to a highly mutable virus like COVID dictates that there will be wild and aggressive mutations; that “recovery” is often to a degraded state, not like new; that degradations from sequential infections are cumulative; until you die.

        It really doesn’t seem that hard. So, for now, 20% of the worlds population is trying to contain the virus.

        80% isn’t. How long do we suppose the 80% can stay 80% with this policy disparity?

        1. Synoia

          Yes the 80% are gambling with a lower possible win percentage than the 20%.

          Is that deliberate or is it the best the 80% can achieve? Or is it a combination of both?

          I am unable to filter out the noise from the information.

        2. Kevin Carhart

          What I’m not clear on is what is going on with the accruing problems drip by drip in the 80%. There’s an argument here in comments and other places that you can do it from one end, or you are going to end up doing it from the other end anyhow. Paraphrasing Rev, if you engage in “let it rip” to protect capital, the economy is going to become full of holes from the other end, from the de facto end. And Basil on “people want to live their lives,” , “Except they will no longer be able to live their lives as they’ve known it,” If you don’t want to contain the virus formally in the interest of the economy and living your life, those things are getting undermined de facto anyhow, by long covid in the brain and by people doing as-though-a-lockdown through declining to go.

          Terry Flynn pointed out a while ago that a UK hospitals CEO stepped down from her job because of long covid. (“Eric Morton, Chair at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust said: ‘Chief Executive Tracy Taylor has been very unwell with Covid-19 since July and has made the difficult decision to step down from her role to focus on her recovery and getting well again.'”)

          I’m curious about the well known figures. I think that Terry was suggesting that over time there will likely be more people sidelined by brain fog to the point that there is a formal consequence. It will transcend dissembling and spin if they just can’t function. Possibly could the Overton window move when so-and-so gives an interview to the Today Show or Oprah about how they are a long covid truther since it hit their own life? Self-defense and self-preservation from long covid may be a political constituency. I expect a variation on press coverage of someone testing positive (Tom Hanks tests positive, Donald Trump, Jen Psaki, Sarah Palin, Justin Trudeau, Boris Johnson, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker…) except the focus of the story will be that a given person steps down for long covid recovery because it has screwed them up too badly to work.

          I would expect this to have happened more, by now. Maybe I’m overlooking something. What have they got to ameliorate any of this, not just in terms of perception management but for real at their own bathroom mirrors? Boosters, but they are subject to the short durations same as for everyone. Extra boosters? The expensive treatments, evusheld as a PREP? Ivermectin, go to town, if they think it’s good, they’re getting it. Well, I think for a subset of the subset the game of missile command is not going to block something, one will get through, and that person may become a prominent public example. When Magic Johnson contracted HIV and told the press, was this the kind of thing that can send a shockwave and move an Overton window? There was a big magazine cover at the time that said “… Even me … “

          1. Basil Pesto

            I used to think there might be one trigger of the sort I think you’re describing but now I’m not
            so sure. Conversely, though, I think if “the powers that be”/mainstream media formed a gradual consensus that we should move towards elimination using NPI’s & other known techniques, and began messaging to that effect, most people would probably go along with it (contingent on gov’t support). It’s certainly not any more batshit crazy than what we’re doing right now.

            I suspect – and this is strictly conjectural on my part – that the biggest example of a long covid retiree at the moment is Sergio Aguero, who retired from football 6 months after signing for Barcelona and ~10 months after contracting Covid, when he was suffering chest pain and shortness of breath on the pitch. Now, this was never publicly disclosed as long covid (and no one asked as far as I know) and it’s pretty reckless, not to say obnoxious of me to be doing an amateur diagnosis, but, on the other hand, come on.

            iirc, IM Doc has also mentioned a couple of examples of professionals retiring early.

          2. CuriosityConcern

            The 80% don’t want to acknowledge that let’er rip could lead to a real ripper, vis-a-vis the immunocomprimised. My thoughts are certain quarters don’t(can’t?) want to consider because of the response that would require. But the 20% that are fighting it now will have practice and muscle memory to perhaps better address whatever a future variant may bring.
            Margie’s old adage should be updated, there is no such thing as western society.

          3. jsn

            I think yours is the point I was trying to make upthread when I said, “My suspicion is that it’s only when average life expectancy gets so low that Insurance, Med IC and Pharma see it hitting next quarters profits that we get a policy change.”

            The problem is people don’t perceive logarithmic effects, they just see small problems simmering until they suddenly have a huge problem. The media narrative of each wave of COVID has played out on exactly this model. And each time the media ignores the lag time between hospitalization and death to claim it’s getting better when its getting worse.

            And each time, the backlog of incipient Long COVID and associated disabilities grows with an as yet unknown lag, but you can start to see bounds: we could be lucky and have mortality just permanently bump a little; we could be unlucky and have the China and US mortality chart in the post extrapolate linearly from where we are now until it shows up in Pharma’s next quarter profit projection.

  10. Olivier

    I seriously doubt that officialdom will suffer much. Robert Malone just wrote: “Remember when everyone knew pro wrestling was fake and they finally admitted it and the fans didn’t care and continued to watch anyway? We’re almost there with politics and the media.” and I think he is spot on. I’d love to be proved wrong but…

    1. Samuel Conner

      I’m not sure.

      If Lewy body dementia turns out to be a common long COVID sequela, I think that one could imagine a lot of people getting really upset with the public health authorities.

      What are they (the public health people) going to say? “That’s just a side-effect of Americans’ fondness for fast food”?

      OTOH, Pharma will thrive; perhaps they could repurpose the new, costly, Alzheimer’s drug.

      But at some point, I think that demand destruction in the rest of the economy has to have some bad consequences.

      1. jsn

        It seems to me the thing most people miss is systemic consequences. Systemic issues: vax/exposure provides only short term immunity; Corona virus mutates regularly/quickly; immunocompromised populations square the speed of mutations; reinfections impose cumulative damage; cumulative damages continue to accumulate until fatal.

        And it’s all logarithmic, starting gradual until the slope inverts to parabolic growth: slow decay of economic potential until sudden collapse.

        This is what our “quarterly” “path of least resistance” policies are leading to.

        1. Medbh

          I don’t understand why there’s not more caution relating to medical staff. It takes over a decade to make a doctor, and a couple of years to become a nurse. Even if you lose 10% annually to burn out, disability, or death, it’s not going to take that long to have noticeable consequences.

          And if we’re “living with” covid, who’s going to go into those fields anymore? My best friend is an emergency department nurse, and her hospital is again doing mandatory overtime and no vacations for months on end. She put in a request for vacation for this summer, and said very clearly that they either approve it, or she will quit.

          I wonder if we’ll get to the point that medical staff are conscripted. My friend said she is one of two nurses left from when she started 2 years ago. Everyone else either quit to a new field, retired, or became travel nurses. It seems like the medical system is slowly falling apart, but no one seems to care.

          1. jsn

            Follow the money.

            Shortages give PE pricing power.

            If the goal is public health, it makes no sense. If the goal is making money, this is what is demonstrably happening right now and has been for 2 years. I doubt anyone set out with this intent, but with the system as it had come to be by the time COVID hit, well, the profit opportunities just kept presenting themselves and if thats what your in it for that’s what you do.

    2. valdo

      Wrestling being fake or not there’s not much skin in the game for the populace. They might take issue with being lied to this time. Unless the officialdom successfully indoctrinates TINA for let it rip (or TWNA, as for past tense)

  11. megrim

    I just talked to someone (a member of the PMC) whose response to the news that life expectancy dropped in 2020 was “it was only a couple years though.” I’m still kind of gobsmacked about it. I hate this timeline!

    1. tegnost

      Dare I say it’s killing people this person wants to die?

      If I had a dime for every time I heard someone say they want all the trumpsters to get it and die I’d be rich.

    2. LifelongLib

      I remember reading IIRC in the 70s about falling life expectancies in the Soviet Union and thinking “that place has about 10 years”.

      Never thought I’d be thinking it about the U.S.

  12. Arizona Slim

    Although I no longer have the medical records to back up what I’m about to say, I’m pretty sure that I caught the pandemic flu that was circulating during the winter of 1968-69.

    Let me tell you, I was S-I-C-K. As in, sick enough to be taken to the doctor.

    Shortly after the doctor’s exam started, the doctor expressed relief that WE had caught it early. (Nice use of the papal “we,” doctor.)

    Any-hoo, I was ordered to stay home. I don’t recall what I was prescribed, if anything, but I was not allowed to return to school until I was better.

    And there you have it. My early treatment story.

    Why early treatment is being overlooked at the current time is beyond me. If it can work for a sick sixth grader in the late 1960s, I’m sure it can work now.

    1. cpm

      inter of 68. Hong Kong flu.
      Killer, I think 2+ million died worldwide.
      Flat on back for 3 days except when I had to..

      I was young and strong and recovered immediately.
      Finals were coming at Georgetown and as usual I was not prepared.
      Flu didn’t help.

      So we pulled a prank and called local media late one night pretending to be Jesuit head of Georgetown and said school was canceled.
      It worked. Next morning DC newspaper headline said Georgetown canceled.

      Administration denied of course. But too late. Commuters didn’t come in and later that day Admin canceled classes. Finals to be held after Xmas break.

      I still didn’t study…oh well

      1. upstater

        Today you would be arrested 10 minutes or less after making that call and be charged with a federal crime. That was hilarious!

        I got the 1968 flu while in high school and recall being very, very sick and visiting the doctor. BTW, those doctors didn’t live in McMansions, have multiple vacation homes or drive the 1968 version of a Maserati. They might have had a backyard pool and perhaps a 3 year old Cadillac.

        1. LifelongLib

          My doctor back then lived next door and drove a Volvo, no pool or vacation home (granted, the previous owner of his house was a banker, but the doc had 4 kids and needed space).

        2. Katniss Everdeen

          Also BTW, those doctors’ kids went to the same public schools that my father, the blue collar machinist’s kids did, which is why, while I was never quite as well-dressed, I got the same high quality public education that those doctors’ kids did.

    2. T_Reg

      In some cases it’s being overlooked, in others it’s being brutally suppressed. Doctors are still being threatened with the loss of their license for horrific crime (/s) of prescribing Ivermectin, and the all-out propaganda war against it has been highly successful. Same kind of lies being spread about HCQ. In the overlooked category are vitamin D, zinc + quercetin, and other treatments and prophylactics.

      Also, I’ve been wondering a lot lately whether early treatment results in less long-term damage.

    3. Pat

      My mother got it. She was in bed or on the couch for over a week. I started to say flat out but there was a period where she slept sitting up. I don’t think she would have ventured out to the couch except that she could then keep half an eye on me as I did the cooking for the family. We were very lucky, she was it for the family.
      She also saw a doctor. The main thing I remember from that was my father having a written list of things that meant get her to the hospital.

  13. flora

    re: But all of the criticism of China can’t hide outcomes like this:


    Um… was China using early out patient treatments in 2020?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      To my knowledge, no. Locked down hard, would not let people leave apartment building without temperature checks, quarantined the infected in special facilities. Did not end lockdown (region by region) until infection #s down. Did aggressive contact tracing.

      1. Outsider

        Through work, colleagues and I have had contact with frontline physicians in China at various points throughout the pandemic and read some of their reports: they were using outpatient treatments in 2020, but not the sort that would be considered credible in the West. They very quickly developed herbal (plant-based) protocols for prevention / exposure, early stage, middle stage, and severe stage SARS-CoV-2 infection. The formulae can be used as one-size-fits-all if necessary but are also adaptable based on individual symptoms / disease presentation and according to Chinese medical diagnoses. From what I’ve heard and read, the government’s initial approach was to go exclusively for Western medicine. When they realized that didn’t work, they moved into traditional Chinese medicine and, where indicated, a hybrid approach. That has been highly successful to the point that a colleague who ran a large Covid ward took the prevention / exposure formula regularly and gave it to all his staff; they also used various formulae with patients. Not one doctor or nurse got infected nor did they lose a patient during the “first wave”.
        So were they technically using early outpatient treatments, yes. Would those count as treatments to the rest of the world, unlikely.

        I remember early in the pandemic a report in some paper about how the Chinese were “forcing” citizens to take Chinese herbs. While that is possible, it’s also the case that in China, especially among the older population, Chinese herbs are just a part of life as is using them for disease prevention (and treatment where necessary). I wonder now, what with vaccine mandates for experimental drugs that do not do what they were claimed to do and may cause other problems of their own, which I would prefer to be “forced” to take: herbs with 2000+ years of history behind them, or big pharma’s offerings?

  14. bassmule

    David Leonhardt in the NY Times today:
    As you can see, vaccination without a booster provides a lot of protection. But a booster takes somebody to a different level.

    This data underscores both the power of the Covid vaccines and their biggest weakness — namely, their gradual fading of effectiveness over time, as is also the case with many other vaccines. If you received two Moderna or Pfizer vaccine shots early last year, the official statistics still count you as “fully vaccinated.” In truth, you are only partially vaccinated.

    Once you get a booster, your risk of getting severely ill from Covid is tiny. It is quite small even if you are older or have health problems.

    The Power of Boosters

    I confess, I am as confused (and suspicious) as I’ve ever been. Refutation, anyone?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      You are not at full protection for the first two weeks. And as we said, the effectiveness is not great, lower than from the original two shot regime and fades to below the level considered acceptable for a vaccine to be approved in 10 weeks.

      US data is crap. If the analysis is based on US data, you can toss it. IM Doc himself and many patients who were vaxxed (and quite a few boosted) are reported as unvaxxed. IM Doc tried to get his own records corrected and was unable to. So his county shows many vaxxed patients who were hospitalized that were counted as unvaxxed hospitalizations.

      Finally, even assuming this were all as good as Leonhardt says, it misses the two key points in the post:

      1. Vaxxing every 3 months will overtax the immune system, which means other bad consequences (like T cell exhaustion, which = increased cancer risk). And you need to be vaccinated that often to be “fully” protected.

      2. Letting people get Covid also looks to produce bad long term health effects.

      Absent different types of vaccines (a nasal vaccine might produce more durable immunity and thus require less frequent boosting) or the virus mutating to be nicer, there is no way out of this dilemma.

  15. John k

    Trying to read the us/China life expectancy chart…
    It seems the data ends at the center of the number 2020. Is this Jan. 1, 2020? Or mid-year 2020?
    In either case it doesn’t seem to me the Covid death count should have at that point had such a dramatic affect on us life expectancy over (what looks like to me) a one-year period, though I don’t have any other candidate.
    As an aside, about 129k Americans died in the first 6 months of 2020.

    1. Eris377

      Nonsense. If 129K Americans died in the first 6 months of 2020 American life expectancy would have turned up, not down.

  16. eg

    I’m with jsn’s comments above. Unfortunately, it’s looking like the “live with Covid” narrative is about to eat what little remains of the Ontario government’s brain, so we’ll be on our own very soon.

    I’m hopeful that the excellent coverage here can continue to act as an early warning system of new variants emerging from around the world so that I can govern myself accordingly.

  17. Bart Hansen

    “Go son, and get your vaccine, and resume your pre-Covid life”

    So now we are all being ‘sonned’, black and white alike.

  18. George Phillies

    News buried in News “Vice Provost for Climate and Sustainability” Would someone care to guesstimate how many student tuitions went to pay for that title? And all the other Vice Provosts?

    The alternative is Essential University.

    1. ambrit

      A lot of former college bound will have to settle for matriculating at the UL:SHK. (University of Life: School of Hard Knocks.)

  19. djrichard

    With respect to “resume your pre-Covid life” this seems to fit neatly within the thesis Rusty Guinn is bringing up over at Epsilon Theory, What Do We Need To Be True?. The article is targetted to finance and macro economics, but it applies here equally well.

    At it’s simplest, “pre-Covid life” is what people want to be true. Therefore not much propaganda is needed to reach that equilibrium. Where the propaganda is needed is actually the opposite, to get us out of that equilibrium because that’s where the walls (resistance to change) are really high.

    The authorities (the missionaries, to use epsilon theory parlance) went all-in on vaccines-or-bust. Which paid out some dividends, but it didn’t pay off as promised (truly enabling us to get back to the equilibrium we want). Problem is they seem to be one-trick missionaries; they’re not pivoting. Which suggests that there’s another equiibrium / wall of inertiia and that’s the equilibrium of their own messaging – they’re stuck. At least until something comes along to dislodge them. Which probably needs to come in the form of pushback from other missionaries. Problem is, the authorities have been doing a good job of shutting down dissent. Not only shutting it down, but demonizing it. Seems we need a sacrifice. I recommend sacrificing whoever made the call to demonize dissent. And maybe then we can move on to better playbooks.

  20. Yves Smith Post author

    LifeSite News is not a great source, and anything that quotes Mercola is dubious. That presentation statement the chairman of the Medical Association has been misrepresented and that headline is egregious. In general, Japanese don’t like being definitive. The chairman was not speaking in an official capacity and as I’ve read remarks, he was very cautious, along the lines of ivermectin has some positive-looking data and looks worthy of further study and probably no harm to try with patients. The Japanese are masters of nebulous statements.

  21. Mikeyjoe

    When I read about the use of propaganda and see how it works even today I am reminded of Vance Packard’s book The Hidden Persuaders. It is a very chilling book.

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