Biden to End Orders Declaring Covid a National Emergency on May 11, Because Why Not?

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

So Biden is declaring that Covid is no longer a national emergency (and never mind that Covid is now a leading cause of death among children and adolescents. That’s just a statistic, as Stalin is wrongly said to have remarked).

Why not? Biden declared that “the pandemic is over” on September 18, 2022, or [breaks out calculator] 136 days ago. Even the dunderheads at the Heritage Foundation can see this is “mixed messaging.”

But why? Tim Kaine is puzzled:

“I’ve yet to hear, ‘Okay, here is the rationale,'” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), a member of the [Senate’s] health committee. “I’m sure that they have one, I just haven’t heard it.”

So why now? Here we are on firmer ground. FOX:

The House Rules Committee, which takes direction from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on the scheduling of legislation, will meet Monday to set up floor votes on four pieces of legislation that would eliminate the emergencies that have been maintained by the Biden administration, even though President Biden himself said last year that “the pandemic is over.”

The White House response to McCarthy’s gambit came in the form of an OMB memo, “STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY” (PDF):

The COVID-19 national emergency [here] and public health emergency (PHE) [here] were declared by theTrump Administration in 2020. They are currently set to expire on March 1 and April 11, respectively. At present, the Administration’s plan is to extend the emergency declarations to May 11, and then end both emergencies on that date. This wind-down would align with the Administration’s previous commitments to give at least 60 days’ notice prior to termination of the PHE. To be clear, continuation of these emergency declarations until May 11 does not impose any restriction at all on individual conduct with regard to COVID-19. They do not impose mask mandates or vaccine mandates. They do not restrict school or business operations. They do not require the use of any medicines or tests in response to cases of COVID-19.

Some remarks on the memo:

(1) “[D]oes not impose any restriction at all on individual conduct.” Libertarians won, didn’t they? They didn’t just win; they won overwhelmingly.

(2) Both emergencies were declared by the Trump Adminstration, and yet Republicans aren’t claiming any success as a result. Can’t they construct a coherent narrative any more? (Benghazi: No.) The rhetoric is all about “executive over-reach” by Biden, who — bless his heart — wasn’t even in office when the emergencies went into effect. Perhaps (2) has something to do with (1).

(3) The OMB PDF was ridiculously hard to find. The mainstream sources quoted from it, but never linked to it; they never do. Meanwhile, the White House website is an omnishambles where you can’t find anything (as I have discovered on other occasions; it’s also very cellphone-friendly, so there are one or two hits on each page of results, in ginormous type. It’s like they’re trying to make us stupid and ignorant.)

So then Biden traipses out of the White House and steps on his own [male reproductive organ], not unheard of for him. The video:

And in prose, from FOX:

As he walked in front of the White House on Tuesday, he was asked by NBC’s Kristen Welker, “What’s behind your decision to end the COVID emergency?”

Biden came over to grasp her hand as she held an umbrella and replied, “The COVID emergency will end when the Supreme Court ends it. We’ve extended it to May the 15th to make sure we get everything done. That’s all.”

Some remarks on this episode:

(1) Biden gets the date wrong; the emergencies (see STATEMENT above), are to be ended on May 11, not May 15.

(2) Biden doesn’t answer the question. As even the New York Post sees:

[Biden] didn’t say Tuesday what specifically he wanted to accomplish by extending the emergency declaration[s until May 15].

(3) The pandemic must certainly be over, as an unmasked Biden is breathing right in the face of the reporter whose umbrella he grasped, which looks pretty odd, come to think about it.

(4) Everybody is puzzled about “the Supreme Court ends it.” The Supreme Court doesn’t have anything to do with anything! Fox: “Twitter users baffled by Biden claiming ‘Supreme Court’ will end COVID emergency.” And they’re right to be baffled.

Without wishing to put words in Biden’s mouth thoughts in Biden’s brain, he may have been thinking of two PHE-related cases before the Supreme Court, one on so-called Title 42 (important to border-adjacent advocates) and the other on the HEROES Act (important to student debt forgiveness). In essence, the Biden Adminstration treated the PHEs as a legal Christmas tree, upon which it hung these two decorations. But now the holiday season is over, and it’s time to drag the dead tree out and leave it with the rest of the trash on the street (along with the immunocompromised, etc.). But what to do with the baubles? Time will tell.

* * *

Since the press perfervidly and simultaneously believes that “Covid is over” and that “everyone will get it,” there’s not much coverage of the actual health effects of lifting the PHEs. One impliction is that Federal Workers may be forced back into poorly ventilated workspaces:

Roughly half of federal employees are still working from home, which has drawn the ire of politicians ranging from Democratic Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser to House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-KY). That, too, was initiated at the outset of the pandemic and has largely remained in place even as private companies bring workers back in person.

A second implication is that Biden’s policy of mass infection will continue to move from strength to strength, as things Covid become more expensive and people lose Medicaid coverage:

The public-health-emergency designation allows for certain Covid-19 measures, such as the suspension of eligibility renewals for people on Medicaid and the prescription of controlled substances via telehealth. States are bracing for an expansive effort to redetermine individuals’ Medicaid eligibility once the designation is lifted. Public-health leaders say millions of beneficiaries could lose coverage.

Finally — and this the serious part, if you are at all concerned you should go read this — Kaiser Health News put together an enormous, multi-tabled brief that oddly, no other source is quoting: “What Happens When COVID-19 Emergency Declarations End? Implications for Coverage, Costs, and Access.” Here is the list of topics covered:

This brief provides an overview of the major health-related COVID-19 federal emergency declarations that have been made, and summarizes the flexibilities triggered by each in the following areas:

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of all federal policy and regulatory provisions made in response to COVID-19 emergency declarations. For example, we do not cover the entire range of federal and state emergency authorities exercised under Medicaid Disaster Relief State Plan Amendments (SPAs), other Medicaid and CHIP SPAs, and other state-reported administrative actions; Section 1115 waivers; Section 1135 waivers; and 1915 (c) waiver Appendix K strategies. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services maintains a more complete list of coronavirus waivers and flexibilities that have been exercised since early 2020; some state actions to respond to the emergency may have expiration dates that are not tied to the end of the federal emergency declarations. This brief also does not include all congressional actions that have been made affecting access to COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and treatment that are not connected to emergency declarations, such as coverage of COVID-19 vaccines under Medicare and private insurance (see Commercialization of COVID-19 Vaccines, Treatments, and Tests: Implications for Access and Coverage for more discussion of these issues).

My reaction when I encountered this: “Holy hell!” I know we have readers who assist others in navigating the health system; perhaps they can comment.

* * *

I collected a great number of very stupid comments on Biden’s policy shift, but on reflection we already know the sort of creatures Bob Wachter and Ashish Jha are, so why even bother. So from the great cloud of witnesses, let me pick two. First, an anonymous official:

“This decision is based on what is best for the health of our country at this time,” the senior official said. “We’re in a pretty good place in the pandemic, we’ve come through the winter, cases are down dramatically from where they were the past two winters.”

The “pretty good place” is a high plateau, as high as some previous surges — granted, not as high as Biden’s enormous Omicron jouissance — and that goes for case counts (such as they are), transmission, postivity, and deaths, and all before we get to vascular and neurological damage even from mild cases, and Long Covid (note that the “winter” talking point implies that Covid is like the flu. It’s not). We are not in a “good place.” I have no doubt that the senior official is in a “good,” Davos-like place, but “we” are not.

Second, let’s consider the words of the engineer driving the Covid train: Pfizer. From “Fourth Quarter 2022 Earnings Conference Call Prepared Remarks January 31, 2023″ (PDF). CEO Albert “Cui Bono” Bourla running through his slides:

Now, let me turn my attention to our COVID-19 portfolio. At the JP Morgan Conference earlier this month, I spoke about expecting 2023 to be a transition year, representing a low point in our COVID-related revenues. Let me provide a little more color on that.

I will start with Comirnaty in the U.S. as an example..

In 2022, 31% of the population — or 104 million Americans — received on average 1.4 doses of COVID-19 vaccines for a total of 144 million doses. Comirnaty’s share was 64% — or 92 of these 144 million doses. In 2023, we expect about 24% of the population – or 79 million people – to receive vaccine doses during the year. This drop is due to expected fewer primary vaccinations and reduced compliance with recommendations. We expect they will receive about 1.3 doses per person on average in 2023 as fewer people are expected to receive their primary doses and, for the most part, only those who are older or at higher risk are expected to continue receiving more than one booster per year. This should result in about 102 million total vaccine doses administered in 2023..

We believe Pfizer will maintain at least its 64% market share and therefore expect about 65 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to be administered in 2023..

In 2024, we expect the utilization rates and market share figures to stabilize and come in roughly the same as in 2023..

Then starting in 2025, and continuing in 2026 and beyond, we expect to see an increase in COVID-19 vaccination rates, assuming the successful development and approval of a COVID/flu combination product..

A successful introduction of a COVID/flu combo could over time bring the percentage of Americans receiving the COVID-19 vaccine closer to the portion of people getting flu shots, which is currently about.

Remarks on Bourla:

(1) A permanently high plateau of Covid infection is very, very good for Pfizer, By extension–

(2) Biden’s policy of mass infection without mitigation is very, very good for Pfizer.

(3) Anybody who says or implies that Covid is “like the flu” has been talking to a pharmaceutical salesperson. That’s the product Pfizer wants to sell you, and the talking point is being backfilled (as, for example, by that anonymous senior official (Klain? Zeints?).

So that’s where we are! And now, I’m going to dig up a copy of Ionesco’s Rhinoceros, and read it again. Stay safe out there!

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. John R Moffett

    It is going to become clear over the next year or two what the real injury rate is after multiple infections. For some, there will be little in the way of health effects, but for others the damage will be cumulative. We just don’t know the percentages yet. But we will know much more by the end of this year as the virus runs its course. The oddest part for me as a biologist is that we have gone back to the policies of the plague times, and decided that the only modern mitigation needed is a marginal vaccine that reduces symptoms and somewhat lowers the death rate. Time will tell.

    1. vao

      The signals to look for are rates for health insurance and for life insurance, as well as itemized questions in insurance application forms regarding past SARS-Cov-2 infections. Insurance companies are usually the first ones to acknowledge the impact of reality on risk calculations, and hence on their business model.

      Once the medium to long-term impact of repeated SARS-Cov-2 infections has been properly ascertained (e.g. increased susceptibility to contagious diseases or cancer, and reduced life expectancy), some health risks will become uninsurable. Look at what has been happening regarding flood insurance, for instance.

      1. Louie Mathman

        You’ll have to look to companies, perhaps Anthem for example who might have took little to no COVID related pricing actions in 2021 and 2022. They maybe thought they could weather it and in the mean time eat up a large chunk of the commercial employer market until it passed. Well it’s not passed and average level of premium needed to maintain the profit margins shareholders expect doesn’t change. Other companies may have been pretty aggressive and with an average trend increase slightly higher than pre-COVID may be good for awhile.

      2. hoonose

        Maybe life, but health insurance costs are very much muddled by governmental supports. For instance neither Medicare and Obamacare can refuse you or charge you more based on your past medical history.

        1. vao

          Very true, but in many countries healthcare systems comprise both a universal, fairly comprehensive government-regulated insurance (where individual medical history does not play any role), and private, complementary health insurance — whose scope of applicability is totally at the whim of the insurance companies: depending on individual medical history, they can increase rates, limit reimbursable costs, restrict or entirely deny coverage for specific ailments or body parts in advance, whatever.

          Needless to say, for decades now governments have tended to reduce the scope of the public healthcare part and shift coverage to private health insurance.

    2. hoonose

      Unlikely as repeated milder infections + vaccines provide for a better immune response. We might all know people with multiple infections, and the later tend milder with less chronic implications. My wife and I were some of our first local cases. Very serious for me and early killed her. We both had another case 2022, much milder. And she has been a very high medical risk due to her stem cell transplant.

      1. Yves Smith

        Huh? Did you miss the recent and frequent news and academic study reports stating that recent Covid variants largely escape prior infections and vaccination?

        Long Covid is hardly a sign of a good immune response. It’s estimated as the outcome of 10% to 30% of your pet “mild” cases. Per Nature:

        Long COVID is associated with all ages and acute phase disease severities, with the highest percentage of diagnoses between the ages of 36 and 50 years, and most long COVID cases are in non-hospitalized patients with a mild acute illness6, as this population represents the majority of overall COVID-19 cases.

        Moreover, your comment about immune response is nonsense. If that were true, people would show less susceptibility over time to the common cold, another coronavirus. For all coronaviruses, immunity wanes, period. The length of the period of immunity varies with the particularly virus. With the omicron variant, there were reports of reinfections within weeks of the original infection.

        And as we have repeatedly pointed out, there is strong evidence that repeat infection damages the immune system via T-cell depletion and derangement.

        Making Shit Up is against house rules. You are accumulating troll points.

          1. Yves Smith

            First, these are nearly all opinion pieces. The supposed study is garbage in, garbage out because it does not control for variants, nor was it controlled for other behaviors of the medical workers (as in rigor of mask use and quality of masks; surgical masks of little value with Omicron). More vaccinated and infected medical workers could easily be expected to be more careful in their personal conduct.

            Second, you completely ignored my point regarding T-cell depletion (which increases the risk of other infections and may explain the huge uptick in serious RSV this past winter, as well as the rise in all sorts of oddball cancers) and other damage of repeat infections. A much bigger study than the medical worker study found a material rise in all-cause mortality after a second Covid infection, and an even bigger rise after a third. Other studies have found widespread organ damage that the patient might not recognize but shows up in imaging, including brain effects that look similar to early Alzheimers.

            Third is every time you get Covid you also run the risk of getting long Covid.

            I am extremely opposed to anyone seeking to minimize the danger of getting Covid. Your milder later case anecdata was most likey wild type v. Omicron.

            As our GM said:

            “Hybrid immunity” had never been a thing prior to the pandemic.

            Just like “immunological debt”

            Those were rationalizations invented to justify uncontrolled transmission.

            In terms of repeat infections, there is no real controlled comparison at this point, because the virus changed in a major way with Omicron. That is not really accounted for in any of the studies looking at reinfections in 2022.

            And it is a really scary aspect of the VHA study — all of their third infections were Omicron, and yet the risk went through the roof with those.

            Anyway, just because someone had a mild case on round 2, that does not mean it will be a monotonous trajectory towards asymptomatic after that. Empirically that is clearly not the case — lots of people are dying and getting maimed on Round 2, 3, 4 and at this point even 5. Per-infection risk might be reduced somewhat (and again — how much of that is “hybrid immunity” and how much the difference between Delta and Omicron?), but with rampant uncontrolled transmission, it is just playing Russian roulette. Eventually you lose.

            1. hoonose

              “I am extremely opposed to anyone seeking to minimize the danger of getting Covid.”

              Never once in my professional and now online life! This is like telling a Priest he says his prayers wrong.

              Now that I’m retired, part of my daily purpose is to inform and encourage those online about what is in their best medical interests. Covid has been most of that since 2020.

  2. agent ranger smith

    If Candidate Trump were to offer ( believeably ) to have a change of heart and mind about covid, and were to promise to re-instate all levels of covid emergency if elected, and if elected would roll out and use the combined methods which worked the best so far in the countries they worked the best in; would that make Trump a better President than Biden in 2024?

    If all those ” if ” conditions were to be believably and trustworthily fulfilled?

    1. cocomaan

      It’s an interesting question for people concerned about Covid, since Trump was the one that allowed society to be mostly closed down in March of 2020, Trump approved the fast track of the vaccines, etc.

      To me it’s quite obvious why Biden is declaring mission accomplished. The Democratic primary takes place about a year from May of 2023, in the summer of 2024.

      This way, there’s a nice long lull in Covid antics before the primary season really kicks off. Whether that means Biden is running or not, can’t be sure. But it’s a nice way to act as if the books are closed on Covid ahead of the election.

  3. Fiery Hunt

    Am I wrong that the vaccines were only “allowed” to be used based on the Emergency Declaration and not regular approval?

    1. Verifyfirst

      I can’t go look just now, but at one point I remember reading that the manufacturers were continuing to sell under the EUA, even though they now had a regular approval, because the EUA granted them immunity.

      Which would be smart, not least because they still have not released the basic data they used to get the approvals (is that still true?).

      1. Yves Smith

        I believe that is correct. Even though they are chemically/biologically identical, Pfizer and Moderna are not selling the approved version. Do not ask how they can finesse that. But Comirnaty was not available in RX distribution chains through at least July of 2022. Have not checked if still true but assume it still is.

  4. playon

    Having had COVID twice I take this personally. I have never liked Biden but this is making me hate the guy, although I realize he’s not the one behind the decision, he’s just doing the will of the oligarchy.

    “Roughly half of federal employees are still working from home, which has drawn the ire of politicians”

    Yep it’s better for people to work in person where it’s easier for their bosses to harass them.

    I really hate the idea of COVID vaccines being combined with the flu shot as it effectively removes your freedom to choose which of them you want.

    1. Jen

      To the best of my knowledge, I have never had COVID, and I hate Biden with the fire of 1000 suns. Thankfully, due to the workforce challenges in my area, my employer is treading softly on any requirements to be on site for work that can be done elsewhere.

    2. Bart Hansen

      Hate is appropriate. After all, he gave us Clarence Thomas as replacement for Thurgood Marshall.

  5. Hank Linderman

    As some of you know, I have been running against Brett Guthrie, a safe seat R in KY-02. He’s gotten wealthy since being in Congress, got the largest PPP loan of any elected official ($4.37M), friends with big pharma, silicon valley, etc. Here’s the take on Biden’s announcement:

    Guthrie sponsored it, Biden’s response might be a you can’t fire me, I quit sort of thing.

    Our family recently got covid, we lasted until December, still recovering our energy. This thing remains no joke, no hoax, a real danger. But, hey, aren’t you all sick of dealing with it? It’s OVAH!


  6. KLG

    For the past nine months the US has averaged ~400 COVID deaths per week, or about 150,000 per year at the current plateau. Given that reporting is lousy, the number is surely higher. For comparison, ~40,000 deaths per year in motor vehicle accidents. Nothing to see here, move along. And I thought eugenics had died a necessary death 100 years ago. Silly me.

    1. JBird4049

      The total number of all deaths by gunshot listed from lowest to highest proportions are accidents, murder including mass shootings, and suicides is 45,000 per year. That is ⅓ of Covid.

      This is all about power and not about the welfare of people. Drumming up gun deaths and lying about crime is all about installing fear in people. Fear of other, of Republicans, of Democrats, of the supposed barbarian hordes coming over the border with the “need” to fund more police, more jails and prisons, more or less guns with more or less right on them, and the elimination of what rights we have left all to keep us “safe;” then there is Covid and its keeping the proles out of the office and away from being controlled and terrorized, which is why, unlike gunz, it’s called something harmless like the flu even though that is a lie. Power and control.

      Whatever you think should be done, what the elites are having done benefits themselves usually by profitably hurting (and murdering) everyone else. Money, power, privilege, ego gratification…

      To paraphrase what Joker once said about Gotham, this country needs an enema.

    2. Jason Boxman

      It is quite astonishingly, truly, that scale of this eugenics program. Without any citizen protest at all. And this will continue in perpetuity. This will be one of the most common ways to die in America perhaps for generations. Completely normalized. Unfathomable, in fact.

      And that’s before we get to the disease burden, which shall become increasingly apparent by the end of the decade, too late to act in any meaningful way to prevent.

      This country has collectively committed suicide. As I’m fond of saying, every American is part of an unwitting suicide pact.

  7. Rip Van Winkle

    That’s fine.

    My estimated day of returning to work in the Chicago office is “never”.

    I always check the box on the HR email for “would you feel safe returning to the office?”
    “No”. Honest answer!

  8. IM Doc

    I find it absolutely hysterical that Mr Bourla refers to his product as COMIRNATY. “I will start with COMIRNATY in the US” – that is an absolute lie – right off the bat in his statement.

    The United States of America has never had the COMIRNATY product. We are still using the same vaccine doses and preparations as approved under the EUA. COMIRNATY was approved by the FDA in the summer of 2021 – and to this day is not being used in this country. There has got to be something screwy going on with this behavior – what it is exactly, no one knows.

    Secondly, I am assuming the end of the emergency will be the end of telehealth authorization by Medicare. This will be a horrible development for a large chunk of the population that has become accustomed to this kind of service.

    1. ChrisPacific

      I looked this one up. The fact checking sites claim it’s false, because the formulation of the vaccine didn’t change, and the EUA vaccines are the same as the ones sold as COMIRNATY.

      This strikes me as odd, because I thought it wasn’t just the vaccine composition but the protocols governing their use, legal framework and patient rights and protections etc., which I believe are different between the two.

      1. IM Doc

        Interestingly, the consent documents you must sign to be vaccinated – just checked this AM – still state the product is not approved and is being used under emergency status. It is also clearly stated on the document that it will PREVENT Covid. Comirnaty is simply not available in the USA.

        I have never seen this type of thing before in 30 years. It is clear that something screwy is going on. We will likely not know until the Matt Taibbi recap of the fiasco years from now. Games are being played. They are manipulating something, just not exactly clear what it is.

        My question is also what will happen when the emergency is taken away? Will these vaccines even be usable at that point OR what kind of pretzels will we create to continue on status quo.

  9. Realist

    Does anyone know if this means tourists will be able to enter without being “fully vaccinated” against Covid?

    *Fingers crossed!*

    1. lambert strether

      If vaccination prevented transmission, this might matter. Whatever variants get introduced into the country might matter, but we don’t do any testing, so we’ll never know that either. Until it’s too late, of course.

      1. Realist

        Exactly. It just seems bloody minded of them to continue to insist upon it, when it’s totally pointless from a public health perspective, and quite possibly counter productive for travelers from a risk/benefit perspective.

  10. The Rev Kev

    It’s time to end all these authorizations because all the big players have cashed out their positions already. I believe that Bill Gates for example made back fifteen times his investment. The guy that was saying everybody should get vaccinated is now saying that they don’t actually do much for you. Probably if you complained to him about that he would tell you to get over it and stop living in the past.

  11. agent ranger smith

    Someone with photoshop and meme-making skills could photoshop the head of Biden onto the Body of Shrubya Bush in flight suit on the carrier deck. They could even change the wording on the Mission Accomplished poster to read Pandemic Emergency Over.

    1. Chet G

      No one has done that already? It is such a natural and fits so many “Biden Moments,” from covid to Ukraine and to unions.

      1. agent ranger smith

        If someone has, I haven’t seen it. If no one has, I hope someone does.

        I give away the idea for free. I Copyleft the idea. If I had any such skills, I would do it myself. But I don’t, so I can’t.

  12. Steve B

    A dissenting voice
    Can I be the first to say that I agree with Biden that it’s time to end all the emergency powers associated with the Covid lockdown. Naked Capitalism is still an indispensable source of good information in the present crisis, but its continuing obsession with Covid (enough already with the graphs and stats and the ‘I’m not calling it but I am calling it’ pontification) is a bit cranky. A form of archive mania? There I said it.

    1. agent ranger smith

      If you don’t want to read it, you don’t have to read it. Those who want to read it will continue reading it.

      If you don’t want others to read it, the question is . . . ” why ” ? And if you don’t want Lambert Strether to write it, the question is also . . . ” why” ? As in . . . ” who sent you here and whom do you work for?”

    2. cnchal

      Biden broke your logic function.

      Your association of emergency powers with Covid lock downs misses the point.

      Ending the ’emergency’ means that you are going to wracked with serial infections eventually leading to your wrecked life but in the “mean” time you are nothing moar than an animated, electrified bag of protoplasm to be used up, by the psychos in charge for their profit, unless you take your personal risk assessment as seriously as DavosPsychoMan and make jawb one not getting it and jawb two not passing it on if you do get it.

      > Naked Capitalism is still an indispensable source of good information in the present crisis, but its continuing obsession with Covid (enough already with the graphs and stats . . .

      Moar evidence that Biden broke your logic function. The ‘present’ crisis will be with us for a decade at least, so a minimum of six or so years to go or until sterilizing vaccines are available, which will never happen because curing sick people is not profitable. Follow the logic . . . er, money or just sit back and relax and listen to Bourla brag about massive profits to come when humanity is monetized for his personal gain. Perhaps that will reboot your logic function?

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Naked Capitalism is still an indispensable source of good information in the present crisis, but its continuing obsession with Covid (enough already with the graphs and stats…

        If I understand this, and I’m not sure I do, Steve B like the outcomes (“information”) but just doesn’t want to look at the evidence (“graphs and stats”).

        Obviously the very reverse of critical thinking.

        1. Avalon Sparks

          Thanks for all the hard work and the charts and stats Lambert. I appreciate it very much, you’re the BEST!!

    3. Ignacio

      Problems in the US are 2, I believe (apart from the damage it causes as per the data KLG provides above) One is extreme politicization of the issues around COVID and 2 is more complex and has to do with healthcare provision. As IM doc says above the end of emergency might sign the end of services that are important to keep when COVID is still damaging. I would say that if the end of emergency was accompanied by new measures to cope with the existing problems it might be OK. Keeping emergency as a permanent feature is not sane, IMO but vigilance should be kept in place as nobody knows how exactly this epidemic will evolve in the near future.

    4. lambert strether

      Sorry to harsh your mellow but the Covid pandemic is an enormous story in terms of politics, political economy, sociology, before you get to the death and suffering.

      You may not be interested in Covid, but Covid is interested in you. I hope you find the serenity you seek elsewhere.

      Adding… I don’t enjoy doing the charts. It’s tedious and grim and takes time away from other things I would rather write. But whenever I mention cutting back, readers say they use them. So, duty calls!

  13. Tom Doak

    I love the fact that the emergency will be declared “over” three months from now, as if they have any idea what will be the situation on the ground [and in the air] at that future moment in time. This is all the confirmation we need that everything about the decision is political and not medical.

    To Steve B: which emergency powers in particular are stuck in your craw? We all understand that all the powers that be want to move on, and that’s what’s going to happen, regardless of how many people get sick or die. The government no longer has our back on COVID, if it ever really did anything more than want it to go away. But what emergency powers are ruining the country right now? Do you work in the student loan industry or something?

    1. Chris in OK

      I’m not Steve B but I am thrilled that the declaration is ending. It did nothing for improving outcomes. It was a colossal cash giveaway to the medical industrial complex. They were paid to send people home until they were at death’s door. They were then paid again to fill nearly dead people with toxic medicines (remedsivir never saved anyone and only killed their kidneys) and then they were paid AGAIN when they died “of COVID.” Of course they really died of incompetence.

      The govt has prevented effective prevention and therapies at every turn. Thinking they will somehow become competent is a fool’s errand. Getting them out of the way will be better for everyone.

    2. Steve B

      Re: emergency powers. I don’t have a problem with Biden’s emergency debt relief for students – in fact, I think it’s a good thing (and there should be more of these debt jubilees as per Michael Hudson). I do have a problem with restrictions on people’s entry into the US and curtailment of their right to mobility (I agree with Agamben’s proposition that the epidemic was promoted in order to secure a suspension of civil liberties).

  14. JBird4049

    >>>1) “[D]oes not impose any restriction at all on individual conduct.” Libertarians won, didn’t they? They didn’t just win; they won overwhelmingly.

    For now, yes. But eventually?

    It has been far too long since I did the reading but I recall quarantines and vaccinations, often done against the will of the people that they were imposed on, were a thing from colonial times all the way into the middle of the 20th century before widespread use of antibiotics as well as the general acceptance of effective vaccines.

    Really, some of people in charge are old enough to remember the tail-end of the various epidemics that killed or crippled so many people each year. If not, they might have talked to their parents about it. Maybe, it has all gone down the memory whole. We are talking about many people who lived during the Cold War as adults. The Boomers and the immediate subsequent generation who are pushing open war with Russia.

    What I am saying is if Covid is allowed to proliferate and mutate without any interference, enforcement of quarantines and masks will eventually become mandatory. It might require truly mass deaths and more years, but just like climate change is s-l-o-w-l-y becoming generally accepted because it really can’t be ignored, so will Covid. Funerals are harder to ignore. And ignoring multiple plagues just means a lot more funerals and many more questions. As will the disappearance of half of Florida.

    But maybe they do want to recreate the disease burden of 1910, against all opposition, only without even the disease fighting abilities, or the birthrate, of the time, which would crash the population considerably. This would get of the surplus population.

  15. ChrisRUEcon

    I will be very interested in what White House COVID policy will be for folks visiting our gerontocrat president May 12th and beyond. I wouldn’t be surprised if the WH and its denizens continue to observe “Davos protocols” while the rest of us get LivingWith™ …

    Thanks again for shining a light in the dark.

  16. Stephen

    I have no idea what the situation in the US is. Nor do I profess to understand everything about Covid. Nor does anybody else from what I can see.

    For what it is worth my view is that we do not know what causes it. Virus Theory is a theory and ignores the possibility of environmental factors that viruses are simply a by product of. In the 1918 Flu Epidemic all attempts to induce person to person transmission seem to have failed, for example. Viral transmission has never never been proven other than by the circumstance of many people contracting a disease together. That happens with scurvy too and we used to think it was transmitted but we know it is not. There is an underlying cause: a whole ship of sailors with vitamin C deficit.

    So I am much more inclined to Terrain Theory and have very limited trust in a lot of what constitutes modern medicine. Especially vaccines, whose effect seems generally over hyped and the alleged benefit of which often correlates with environmental changes that have reduced disease over time. But I am open minded. The science is simply not settled.

    If we do not actually know the real cause though then that is arguably a worse place to be, of course. For example, chemical fertiliser usage has been linked with certain diseases in the past. Is there a similar issue with respect to Covid. The mainstream is not looking. Happy that it found “the answer”. And as commenters point out, a lot of money has been made in the process and no doubt more will be.

    Pre Covid I never questioned the orthodoxy but that era caused me to do so.

    Am in South Africa right now again and on the surface you would hardly know that Covid has ever existed. Have seen precisely two masks the whole time I have been here. Not sure what the situation in hospitals is but travel is back to normal and nobody checks vaccination status at the airport. When I was here back in February 2020 there were temperature checks at Cape Town Airport, for example. Not that it seemed to help.

    I think victory is being declared too soon on Covid but for quite different reasons to the ones in the article. I am far more cynical that we have understood anything about this illness. Sorry for an unpopular view about viruses. Uncertainty is not something that we typically like.

    1. Bugs

      Viruses are not a theory. They exist and some infect the body and cause disease in humans. Covid-19 is the manifestation of infection with the SARS‑CoV‑2 virus, which is airborne. If you’re not seeing people in masks in SA, it’s because they’re just not wearing them. Jeez Louise. Unbelievable.

    2. agent ranger smith

      Two theories can both be true at the same time, each at their own level of application.

      Einsteinian Relativity Theory did not make Newtonian Gravitational theory false. It merely went beyond Newtonian limits. Einstein Theory allowed us to make atom bombs, photovoltaic cells and etc. Newtonian Theory allowed us to reach the moon and back, launch satellites, etc.

      Terrain theory is good for some things and virus theory is good for some things. If virus theory didn’t work, how come smallpox/ polio/ measles/ etc. vaccines work?

      The Indian Nations of North America lived very healthy lives before Columbus, and had very good internal biophysiological terrains. So how come they were so vulnerable to European viruses ( and bacteria too, I believe) brought by the Europeans?

      I will continue to live out some personal cautions based on the airborne virus theory of covid. And of course why not improve my terrain with nutrition, vitamineral supplements, etc. at the very same time?
      Both . . . and beats either . . . . or.

      1. Stephen

        There is a lot of confounding data on historical vaccine effectiveness. Unfortunately. Smallpox vaccines were controversial right from the start. When the U.K. introduced theoretically compulsory vaccination in 1853 (yes, even in a so called liberal era) death rates did not fall. The historiography then goes back to such events as Leicester in the late nineteenth century abandoning the compulsory small pox vaccination and then doing better than many other U.K. cities. In fact, U.K. smallpox vaccine rates fell in the late nineteenth century just as smallpox declined. Allegedly, the vaccine coverage rate was 90% in 1872 and fell to 40% in 1909. But smallpox deaths fell at the same time to practically zero by 1906. As well as the incidence falling, the disease itself became less virulent. Some accounts link this to the late nineteenth century sanitation revolution. Scarlett Fever also declined precipitously at the same time too but nobody used vaccines. They existed I believe but were too dangerous. Antibiotic or anti viral treatments were also not available of course.

        As a further anecdote, Edgar Hope-Simpson, a British GP in the 1950s noticed that exactly the same new strain of flu would break out in Wincanton and Prague on almost the same day in winter. Which could not be caused by simple transmission. Nobody traveled behind the Iron Curtain then! He posited dormant viruses rather than environmental causes but still not fully consistent with “settled” science.

        These examples are not valid control studies and so do not prove that viruses are harmless, nor that inter human transmission does not happen. Obviously. But most of the evidence cited in the opposite direction is not of the nature of a valid control study either and is often circumstantial in nature too.

        An argument that gets put forward is that viruses as the prime cause of illnesses were a good thing for the nascent pharmaceutical industry in the early twentieth century and for doctors to have cures to dispense.

        Hedging personal bets is probably smart though but the science really is less robust than we are told. In my view. I happen to be Covid vaccinated but will not take boosters and I do take daily Vitamin C plus Vitamin D supplements. They latter may not help but difficult to see if they can cause harm.

        The failure to look for non viral causes of Covid is a consequence of the fixation on pure viral causes. Are more people suffering because scientific orthodoxy refuses to dig further? It would not be the first time in history. You may be hedging your personal bets, which is smart, I am too. But science is not doing that. That is less helpful.

        The whole Covid thing prompted me to read quite widely on this topic and to seek out precisely the material that mainstream medicine would discount. Having seen various relatives pass away from cancer, and been amazed at how non holistic modern medical practice is, with everything placed in compartments rather than assessing the patient as a whole, I am not as in awe of it as many people seem to be.

        1. Basil Pesto

          The failure to look for non viral causes of Covid is a consequence of the fixation on pure viral causes.

          what the hell are you talking about?

          1. Stephen

            Very simple. How do you know Covid is caused by a virus? Have Koch’s Postulates been fully satisfied?

            Heresy to push back on the narrative, I know. But the science associated with Viral Theory is not quite as robust as popular belief would suggest. Much of it is based on association and correlation, rather than proof of causation.

            My view is that we simply do not know what caused the illness of Covid that tragically killed so many people. It may be viruses or there may be another underlying cause. So if we are not looking for the latter then that will mean we never solve it.

            But, of course, the “science” is perfect and settled.

          2. Bugs

            Reminds me of the crank who thought sniffing poppers caused AIDS, not HIV. There were even credulous articles in the popular press at the time. Having lost close friends and loved ones to it in the 80s and 90s before the good antivirals, I highly resent this nonsense and the spreaders of it need to be called out.

  17. Ben Joseph

    The Kaiser news article was enlightening. Louisville physicians mostly ignored IN gov Holcomb cancelling out- of-state exemption last year, but most states don’t treat punitively, it’s the liability that could bite them.

    12/24 is long enough away to support the adoption of telehealth coverage as imminent, perhaps at lower reimbursement.

    Ryan Haight Act suspension ending all of the sudden? They will have to grandfather in the patients who started controlled substances during the pandemic, but Suboxone treatment suddenly needing in-person will be a major shock to the profession. Unlike stimulants, this could have life or death implications by catching providers without a transition plan. Yikes.

  18. Anon

    Wait, something is odd about what Boula is saying. Unless something has drastically changed, I thought that actually getting Cominarty was impossible (at least, as of Dec 2021), according to this page here:

    Bait and Switch

    From the site:

    On August 23, the FDA granted full approval for a COVID-19 vaccine to Pfizer-BioNtech for a specific product sold under the brand name Comirnaty. The landmark moment — the “full approval” endorsement from the FDA — was heralded by the Biden Administration and countless states, and quickly leveraged to coerce millions into taking the shots. This product, Comirnaty, was fully authorized for the “prevention of COVID-19 disease in individuals 16 years of age and older.”

    Yet Comirnaty itself has never made its way into the United States. The fully-approved version is nowhere to be found within our borders.

    A separate product, which remains under emergency use authorization (EUA), is the only “Pfizer shot” available in the United States.

    Early on, Pfizer and its government allies seemed to have a reasonable explanation for this issue. They claimed that Comirnaty was not yet available because the EUA shots were still lining the shelves, and claimed that the FDA-approved version would be available to all soon.

    Now, it’s been over 4 months since full approval, and Comirnaty is still not being distributed.

    Now, back to the trillion dollar EUA question.

    Is Pfizer refusing to make the fully authorized version available, while continuing to sell an EUA product because doing so could open up Pfizer and BioNTech to legal liability issues?

    Pfizer and an HHS spokesperson talked to The Washington Post in a previous “fact check,” and claimed that there’s no additional legal immunity benefits between the EUA product and Comirnaty. However, these entities have never explained why Pfizer and the federal government would go through the trouble of recognizing two legally distinct products.

    An EUA fully protects the drugmaker and grants zero legal recourse to the patient. This surefire protection measure was bolstered by the PREP act and other measures implemented to shield COVID companies from liability.

  19. Onward to Dystopia

    I think anti-mask/covid denial is very important to the Dems, unspoken of course, it’s to their benefit to have a large chunk of the population who not only refuse to mitigate for themselves and those around them, but will be out there in society castigating anyone who does mitigation for themselves alone in a fashion that has no effect on anyone else. Then duh libz can point at them, throw up their hands and say, “We’d love to do more, but those barbarians at the gate just won’t cooperate, so we just have to give in and ‘return to normal’.” They’re an obvious bulwark against doing anything. Of course, they won’t say that out loud or acknowledge this hand-in-hand agreement, because those people are very gauche, I mean, they even don’t believe SCIENCE™!!!

  20. MJ

    As somebody that had to go through lockdowns in Melbourne, Australia, plus all the insane kinds of controls and gaslighting, I for one don’t want to even think about public health officials ever again. They could fire every single one of them tomorrow and I would cheer.

    The options are not ‘sane recommendations and measures vs we all die’.

    The options are ‘dystopian government hellscape of crazy people vs take your own precautions’

    It’s why we can’t have nice things.

    So now onto the next insane thing, war with Russia.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > take your own precautions

      The problem here is that airborne protections improve for everyone — including you — the more people are involved. The individualism is a recipe for boarding the failboat of mass infection. I mean, seriously, are you recommending that people build Corsi-Rosenthal boxes only for themselves? If so, you’re recommending a rollback of what helpers are actually doing, on the ground.

      1. MJ

        No. Your only option is insane government control lead by power hungry, poll driven morons or … do your own thing.

        I don’t mind what your choice is, but the middle ground was eliminated by the doomers. Own it.

        The problem I see is that most people become fixated on a disease, rather than looking at life as a whole. We will all die, maybe from covid, maybe not, but just accept and let others live please.

        After four months of staring at walls, I made my choice. I enjoy this site but Yves’ perspective on this issue always makes me laugh out loud at its demented hysteria. I am sorry Yves, but it’s true.

        Since the restrictions have dropped here in Victoria, no one talks about covid although there are still some mask wearers (although it varies by suburb). I don’t know anyone who even is worried about catching it and apparently this radical individualism is a great way of preventing covid as only the doomers seem to get it.

        Now the costs of lockdowns and other authoritarian BS are being dealt with, although of course, but no one will talk about it anymore than they will talk about NATO/Ukrainian losses or certain ideologies prevalent there.

        Andrei Martyanov is right: we are dominated by absolute morons.

        I suggest that everyone smoke a cigarette.

        1. Basil Pesto

          I don’t mind what your choice is, but the middle ground was eliminated by the doomers. Own it.

          There is no middle ground. Either you solve the problem or you don’t. I don’t like thinking in absolutes but that is precisely how this works. Both those outcomes have consequences. The consequences of failing to solve the problem are clearly far more serious than not. 20 million people dead is a viable estimate per Economist’s excess death count. Millions more will die unnecessarily and preventably in the decades to come, your “everyone dies!!!” debating point for libertarian teenagers notwithstanding. and, in spite of all that, the primary burden of the disease to date is clearly morbidity (which will also lead to premature death). There is of course no way that mass quarantine of ~4 months, with strict border controls and appropriately socially supported, could lead to outcomes anywhere near as bad as what the virus has caused to date, and what it will cause in the future.

          Meanwhile your faux concern over “the costs of lockdowns” are shown up as feeble dross in the context of your pissweak “nobody talks about covid anymore lmao” anecdata bullshit, as many dozens of bushfires worth of Australians are killed by Covid every month, many before their time. They and the chronically ill who have had their lives ended or crushed by the disease will no longer get to “live their lives” as they had hoped or planned. But they don’t count because you don’t notice them. Small wonder, then, that you have to deflect from your pathological selfishness and vapid bastardry by lashing out at those who go to the trouble of engaging with reality and the human cost of our failure of “demented hysteria”.

          Andrei Martyanov is right: we are dominated by absolute moron

          true enough; we have ended up with absolutely everything your heart desires.

          What the simpletons like you overlook is that containment and elimination has always been, and will always be the position that is the most maximally in favour of freedom, of human prosperity and thriving and happiness, and of enabling people to live their lives as fully, as heartily as possible. But because you’re a spoilt brat unable to pass the civilisational equivalent of the marshmallow test, you have to pretend that it is not the fact that the governments of the world killed ~20 million people and counting through their negligent inaction without facing any consequences that is frightening or dystopian, or even just augurs extremely fucking badly, but instead the deliberately meagre, sec-sabotaged attempts to stanch that wound. The stupidity of this amazingly common line of thinking among those who proudly claim the mantle of being independent thinkers in the realm of news and current affairs never fails to take the breath away. You have to laugh sometimes.

          1. MJ

            The problem is “solved”. It has been solved … badly. But it turned out that solving it badly is better than the incompetent and insane restrictions that still weren’t solving it.

            For example, there was a time when going to the optometrist was prohibited but visiting a prostitute at the local brothel was fine and dandy. Because that made perfect sense and was supremely effective. Solving problems!

            Month after month of this kind of idiocy proved that the authorities didn’t have a clue; even though a pandemic plan had been prepared prior by the Australian government … and then abandoned at the moment of truth. They had a carefully presented plan created by experts and it was ignored.

            So that means the real choices became: insane authoritarian and ineffective controls by incompetent and irrational governments guessing at solutions that were politically popular, or do your own thing. There was no other option. Is it so irrational to choose the do nothing option when the other option is worse?

            As a society, Australia, and many others, have chosen to just let people die. I’m fine with that. Most others are too. Did you know that 8 million people die from smoking and no one even knows this fact, and won’t care if you tell them? Not because we really want people to die, but there is no way a tiny group of people can solve this problem.

            The truth is my concern for human life is not false. I just value the life of the 99.7% of people that will survive over the 0.3% that will die. Of course, you don’t care about the people that suffered as a consequence of lockdowns and other stupid and ineffective restrictions. It’s not even something you will concede.

            People like you wanted a perfect approach in a pandemic. It’s a pandemic – people were always going to die.

            Call me heartless; I can’t afford to care when stupid governments destroy lives (just like they are doing now in Ukraine and around the world as a consequence of morally virtuous sanctions). So I say, put another body on the bushfire mate.

            Do you want a ciggie?

        2. lambert strether

          > We will all die, maybe from covid, maybe not, but just accept and let others live please

          How odd that “letting others live” is precisely what anti-maskers refuse to do.

    2. OliverN

      It is a shame that the Australian government did not finetune the lockdowns over time. People were getting fined for driving around by themselves in their own car – we know for a fact that this doesn’t spread covid. Also so much wasted effort over handwashing and little effort given to hand out N95’s to everyone, just “face covering” was enough.

      It would have been good to have a clever thinking opposition party champion changes like this, but they were never able to move on from “GRAAAH ANDREWS IS BAD” and this is where we got to. At least they got trounced in the polls a few months back.

      The real shame here is that lockdown is now politically unviable, it was too hard, too long, and I think if Melbourne tried to implement it again (even if there was genuine need), we would have mass public disorder and it would fail.

        1. Basil Pesto

          Mate, that link is embarrassing. Only the most braindead American libertarians could insist that governments imposed strict measures during [monumental pandemic crisis that has killed millions of people around the world] because deep down they have secretly been yearning to impose very enjoyable and politically popular lockdowns on people just for the sake of it, because, really, this is just what governments employees yearn to do with every fibre of their being. Come on.

          1. Henry Moon Pie

            The vast WEF conspiracy to take our stuff away. That’s always my question too. Why? What happened to profit as the goal that drives our society at the top? It seems to me that policy in the WEIRD countries has followed that easily understandable and publicly proclaimed goal of profit-uber-alles from nearly the beginning to the end, or what they wish was the end.

            Maybe it’s guilt talking. I ran across a psychiatrist talking about the grief and guilt he’s finding in people about what we’re doing to the Earth. Maybe there’s something to it. Rather than confronting the fact that affluent Western lifestyles can’t be maintained without threatening the capacity of the planet to support human civilization, people turn it into a conspiracy to take away my stuff.

            They started early with us Boomers. I want my Maypo.

          2. Willie

            The comments at that aggregator embarrass me.
            Indeed, no one has created a computer model yet for deliberate intent.

      1. Basil Pesto

        People were getting fined for driving around by themselves in their own car

        Was it for that, or for exceeding the 5km travel radius? Because driving around in your car seems to be in keeping with the “5 exceptions” we had in Melb (going to essential work, going to medical appointments, shopping for necessities). The 5km radius I think made sense by limiting the potential maximum reach of transmission chains, and theoretically making the (heroic) work of contact tracers easier.

        The real shame here is that lockdown is now politically unviable, it was too hard, too long, and I think if Melbourne tried to implement it again (even if there was genuine need), we would have mass public disorder and it would fail.

        This is an open question, but an interesting one. On the one hand, setting aside a handful of voluble bitchers and moaners, the amateur “muh freedoms” dystopia fearmongerers, and the Bill Gates/Great Reset WEFposters, and some Murdoch press bloviators and their enablers who were following their UK/US counterparts in their divide and conquer/Merchants of Doubt culture war tactics, there was a very strong communitarian spirit and civic solidarity among Australians through 2021 (as we see through other natural disasters like bushfires and floods). This in part explains our very high vax rate, in spite of the public being misled about what the vaccines would be capable of.

        But after a solid year of overbearing vax-and-done/pretend the problem is over propaganda (Australia had one of the most disastrous years in its history last year, and that was more or less completely unaddressed by pretty much all politicians), it’s an open question. Lockdown fatigue was definitely more widespread in 2021, but that’s also in part because it was made materially more difficult for people after the government got spooked that, with the measures of 2020, it was inadvertently resuscitating the welfare state that it has spent the last 50 or so years carefully trying to gradually destroy (this happened in many countries beyond Australia, obviously: CARES, as outrageous as it was in many respects, saw a huge material improvement for many poor people in the United States. That had to be shut down). Thus, Jobkeeper was revoked and not re-implemented for the 2021 vax theatre lockdown.

        Beyond that, for the future, one problem is that Australians have forgotten/don’t realise how badly many countries of the world had it in 2020 when we were having a pretty normal, death/illness-free time of things. Another is they don’t understand that 2022 was a terrible year in part because we did avoid those worst outcomes of 2020/21 (morgue trucks and dead bodies in the streets are hard to ignore), and in part because the ambient suffering of last year was low-level enough to be ignorable if you weren’t directly affected. And plus, now you can go on an overseas holiday again. Bali and Berlin, here we come!

        To date, even at its worst, SC2 has been a bit of a “dark goldilocks” virus. Transmissible and serious enough to have a huge impact on a global scale, but of a low enough Infection Fatality Rate and variable severity at time of infection that many, particularly the terminally incurious and stupid, can shrug it off as no big deal – if they just “had a cold”, what’s the bfd? Plus, now they have “natural immunity” and are safe 5eva, per the many reprehensible shitkickers that have sold them that lie. The problem (well, aside from Long Covid/viral persistence) is that from what I understand, there’s absolutely nothing that prevents the virus from evolving into a considerably more dangerous pathogen. In that context, I think more lockdowns are inevitable, it’s just a question of when. For example, if a virus emerges that is between 10% IFR (SARS1) or 30% IFR (MERS), but is as transmissible as Omicron, then that is, without question, a virus that will end human civilisation as we know it unless and until it is stopped (we won’t get on top of it early, as the cock-ups and idiotic politicisation of the last three years show). Of course, if such a pathogen emerges, if governments don’t impose a lockdown, then people will just lock themselves down.

        Scientist GM, who contributes to/informs the blog’s Covid coverage has very savvily argued that Omicron should be thought of as a second SARS pandemic, in the same way that we have multiple influenza pandemics, with Wild Type and subsequent variants thru Delta (and Mu and a few others, but they never became dominant) being the first, and Omicron and all its subvariants to date being the second. The question is less whether there will be a new serotype representing a third SARS pandemic in that paradigm, but when. And what will it (or SARS5, 6, 7 etc.) look like? There’s no natural law that says it is destined to go progressively easier on us. This is perhaps the one thing I wish I could impress upon laypeople the most, particularly those of the vax-and-done stripe: but for sheer evolutionary chance, we could have been back to square one in 2022 or even worse off: If Omicron ended up having its turbo transmissibility, but kept Delta’s pathogenicity (including fusogenicity and LRT rather than URT tropism) instead of Omicron BA.1’s attenuated pathogenicity, then 2022 would have been absolute chaos. We can all hope that Covid will peter out into benign nothingness in the next year or two, but we can hardly count on it, and the fact that we don’t have to accounted or planned for the contingency of even moderately worse eventualities than that is deeply disconcerting.

    3. Basil Pesto

      The 2020 Victoria lockdown was a consequence of the Andrews’ govt’s hotel quarantine cock-up. Nonetheless, it saved tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of Australian lives at a time when we were seeing mass graves and ad hoc freezer truck morgues in the rest of the world. real dystopian stuff.

      Australia ex Victoria was of course hardly locked down at all between May 2020 and May 2021 when the ”lockdown to vaccinate” (as opposed to solve the problem) took place in the eastern states. Life was largely normal, and masks were unnecessary, as going unmasked carried no risk of infection. This lead to superior economic and health and comparable “freedom/liberty” outcomes compared to the hellscape that was the rest of the world circa 2020/21. Had the world followed our example or that of a number of other countries (including western europe until summer 2020 when they just gave up), instead of that bulwark of rational competence, the United States (in collaboration with the pharmaceutical lobby), then this problem would’ve been nipped in the bud as SARS1 was. Now, life will never be the same again, and humans will live shorter and more miserable lives as we remain locked into this outcome of slow, inexorable degeneration, to say nothing about the externalities (the complete and universal shredding of the concept of public health itself). Very liberating stuff.

      1. MJ

        But what won’t be talked about, or tallied up, is all the non covid lives that are lost due to increased alcoholism, drug use, sexual and domestic violence, marriage breakdown, missed cancer and other health problems, unemployment or hey why not, patented Victorian police violence against protesters. And I am one of the lucky ones that didn’t suffer with my uber cool tech job.

        It’s easy to focus on ‘saving lives’ when your saving lives only measures covid deaths and nothing else.

        As for Daniel Andrews: he’s a corrupt, authoritarian gaslighting pig.

        1. Basil Pesto

          They have been. There’s robust actuarial data of excess deaths, for example, in Australia in 2020 and 2021. They were in expected ranges, which they most assuredly wouldn’t have been if SARS2 had been let loose, as was the case in the rest of the world.

          It has also, contrary to your bitching, been talked about repeatedly: tossed out as a lazy and hackneyed high-school debating point by many segments of the punditocracy and their unthinking regurgitators, in spite of the fact that your spurious overarching argument, that the cost of elimination and containment in lives and heath is greater than the costs of the pandemic virus itself would have been, have been shown up as complete bullshit, which is really pretty obvious.

          It wasn’t easy for Victoria, of course (it was easier for other states: my father is unwell but received his regular medical care because he lives in Adelaide, where there were essentially no lockdowns after the national lockdown of March – May 2020). But as a general rule, there are no frictionless, soapy tit wank outcomes to crises that pose a threat to human populations of entire nations, where everybody emerges unscathed with a simpering grin on their face (although, again, SA, WA and others came pretty damn close to that until capitulation time). It’s surprising that this needs to be explained to anyone who isn’t literally a child. It’s amazing that anyone other than a child would feel entitled to any such outcomes in such a scenario. Going to war is not easy, either for those on the frontlines or for the civilian population. But sometimes a common, relentless and remorseless threat is worth strenuously fighting, as Covid clearly was (and, indeed, remains, in spite of the fact that this is now politically impossible under current conditions).

          But to add to your list of negative externalities associated with meaningfully confronting the problem head on – many of which are clearly not an exclusive problem of confronting a pandemic and clearly relate to accompanying underlying social problems (Victorian police violence clearly
          precedes the pandemic for example, as you seem aware), and could have been ameliorated in various ways with helpful government programmes (and in some cases were, in various countries – see eg the “superdole” in the USA, this made a significant material difference to the unemployed in ways that were completely foreign to them based on their prior experience of being unemployed in America, and which has of course since been abandoned), there were also positive externalities to the temporary radical conditions of 2020/21: marriages strengthened, new families started, meaningful career/life changes, a rediscovery of free time and use of that time to dedicate it socially, to other people, or to various healthful leisure activities (booms in cycling and golf, for example, the ones that I’m aware of). Following Graeber in Bullshit Jobs, this was another reason some of the radical measures of 2020 had to be so disproportionately propagandised against: the ruling class absolutely hates the idea of the lower classes rediscovering free time. And of course this is borne out by the rhetoric we’ve seen in 2021 and 2022: back to work, back to the office or you’re fired or won’t get promoted. Doing the work you’re paid for and not going “the extra mile” for nothing except the vague promise of improving your career prospects by selling your labour for free because, actually, you realised in the last year or two that there’s more to life and you prefer doing other things? That’s “quiet quitting”.

          There are, however, no positive externalities associated with pretending the problem is fixed and not a big deal, as is now the plan. We get a simulacrum of the 2019 status quo ante but, in fact, everything is worse now, even if you are unable to perceive it in your daily existence. That includes the very serious negative externalities in healthcare alone in Australia and indeed the world, that have been a direct consequence of unmitigated mass infection, including an overwhelmed and exhausted healthcare workforce (many of whom left their jobs), hospital/ambulance ramping, and bed shortages. The acuteness of these externalities in this sector around the world have been exacerbated by decades of neoliberal hollowing out, sure, but there’s no doubt infinite mass covid is the precipitating cause that helped push capacities over the edge, hence hospital capacity crises that I saw being reported on throughout December and January in, variously, just from memory: Peru, Ireland, England, France, Australia, Sweden – all happening on a scale, at a breadth, that simply was not happening before 2020 (seriously, NC is exactly the kind of site where you would have found news stories about such developments). Very cool stuff, very positive developments, very humanist outcomes.

          1. Willie

            Nit picking, really; I’d contend that “medical staff shortages” , from my narrow, US view, that has churned out medical graduates, technicians and clerks at an exponential rate over decades, are indeed self-imposed – assuming they did actually exist. I won’t argue anecdotes or MSM quotes. I’d just be adding to the diversion.

            As for trying to quietly walk back intentions and consequence, I’d wager, at least from a political/institutional perspective, it has to be damage control.

            To which I would reply, “OK, sure. See you in court.”

          2. MJ

            I actually can’t even be bothered reading your response. I know that academics will study it, and we are going to be counting the costs for years to come. I know that no one will ever issue an apology or offer compensation for the stupidity. I know you won’t ever admit it.

            All I can say is I know many people who suffered immensely for this stupid nonsense and the fact that life is finally going on like normal proves that no one cares about saving every life but they do care about having a chance to live their own life, on their own terms. Call it stupid, call it heartless, but no one cares.

            Are you right? Am I right? Who cares? The restrictions have gone away and you can cry if you want. I’m not. No one has time for the doomers any more.

            Have a ciggie mate.

    4. eg

      Good thing your “take your own precautions” ethos didn’t prevail when the Victorians decided to tackle Cholera and Dysentery via public sanitation, eh?

      1. lambert strether

        I always put a spoonful of shit on my children’s cereal, as part of the personal risk assessment I make on their behalf. That way, their immune systems will be tough enough to beat cholera when they’re adults.

        1. Willie

          My grand daughter’s free range through the muck and detritus of suburban America.
          Then I take them to public school.

          I have yet to identify a control group. The only thing that might come close was a school board meeting I intended.

      2. MJ

        Yeah but cholera has a fatality rate of 25-50% whereas covid is 0.3% and that’s heavily skewed to people with co-morbidities. And if the solution to cholera was as ineffective (remember when brothels were open while optometrists closed?) as the Victorian governments, I would still advocate “take your own precautions”. Superstitious feel good measures that don’t work doesn’t solve cholera. Water management/sewage management do…

        What was your point again?

        Doesn’t matter, have a ciggie mate.

  21. OliverN

    The link at the top of this article that covid is a Top 10 leading cause of deaths among kids is an important one, I think, because if parents start worrying about the health impact of covid on their kids, we might see some changes for the better (ventilation etc).

    See in that top 10, the leading cause of death is perinatal causes (10,387) and congenital malformations etc (5,286). If you take those two out (let’s change the scope to “healthy born children” instead of “all 0-19”), covid is 4.7% of the cause of deaths of the remainder.

    So could we reasonably infer from the above paragraph and say “covid is causing a 5% increase in the death rate of healthy born children under 19”?

    I mean there are so many other things to worry about with covid, not just the death rate, but it seems to be the only metric people care about.

    1. Willie

      You’re right about that. After FDA approval, I asked the school board superintendent to clarify the liability issues with offering covid shots to kids on school grounds. He told me directly he refused to discuss it. It was a state department of education directive, more or less. And then, just as abruptly, the practice was suspended in its entirety.

  22. John

    By my count from a website that has tracked Covid numbers since the beginning, the death toll last year was c. 271,000 in the US. Is there any other cause of any kind that kills that many people on a year? As of 31 January the cumulative toll since the beginning of the Pandemic is 1,118, 000. Is there any other cause of any kind that has killed that many people in the last three years? We did not manage to kill that many in all of our 20th century wars. We did not kill that many in four years of civil war.

    But it is over. The emergency is over. Why is it over? Because Pfizer? Because markets? Because those-who-must-be-obeyed do not give a f—?

    1. hoonose

      Basically the acute phase of the Pandemic is over, and we are into the endemic phase. Endemicity is a whole different ballgame as it relates to the medical, social and governmental implications.

      Very similar to Influenza in the longer term, except Covid 19 is still more uncertain, and significantly more deadly.

  23. VH

    Ok let’s see. Businesses – restaurants, hotels, airlines, etc. want us back in the office so we give them our money. No more Covid work at home? But you can’t totally put that genie back in the box. Most know there is no need to suffer through and pay for a commute that is unnecessary! Let’s not forget student loans – ha! If no Covid, no emergency pause on loans, no need to do anything but let debtors start paying again and have a nice day. The SC will take up Biden’s sad student loan cancellation policy on Feb 28 I believe with a decision or actions from that decision to come around June. Perfect timing to end Covid in May. I’m so excited for the future (sarcasm). Trump was a crazy clown nightmare but Biden is so feeble and demented it makes me want to cry. But anyhow it’s not just him – Congress shambles on taking money and doing f-all. Oh well, I gotta go back to work. That’s all we do in the USA.

  24. Maha

    All the more reason to be angry with The Squad for not “forcing the vote” on Medicare for All. There was an outside chance of public mobilization 2 years ago that could have resulted in passage or, at the very least, we would have known more clearly who is and who is not on the side of the people.

  25. Camelotkidd

    curing sick people is not profitable. Follow the logic . . . er, money or just sit back and relax and listen to Bourla brag about massive profits to come when humanity is monetized for his personal gain. Perhaps that will reboot your logic function?
    Lambert you have said it many times but it applies in spades–Because markets. Go die

  26. NorD94

    Santa Clara County CA (silicon valley) joins team “living with IT”

    Santa Clara County to Close Mass COVID-19 Vaccination, Testing Sites by End of Month

    While county health officials emphasized that the pandemic is not over and COVID has not been eradicated, a high local vaccination rate and a relatively low rate of viral spread have made it easier for the county to sunset its large-scale testing and vaccination sites.

    “We’ve now gotten to a point where at least 90 percent of the population of the county has gotten at least one vaccine,” County Executive Dr. Jeff Smith said Wednesday. “So because of that, the urgency for the county to have mass vaccination sites and testing sites has disappeared.”

    “We are still in the middle of a pandemic, but we are transitioning from a full-blown response where we have a sense of urgency every day to one where we are adapting to living with COVID,” county Health Officer and Public Health Director Dr. Sara Cody said.

    Cody noted that the county announced its first case of COVID three years ago Tuesday. On Friday, it will be three years since the county declared a health emergency about the virus.

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