Sunday, April 18, 2021

Panic, Politics or Power?

One of the most common responses of human beings to an emergency situation is to panic.

When you panic your brain naturally starts to be controlled by your emotions rather than rational thinking.

For example, if someone catches on fire the natural instinct is to want to run.

Of course, that is the worst thing you can do as it makes a bad situation even worse.

The only way to avoid panic in an emergency situation is to plan, prepare and practice. You need to plan and prepare for your response in advance as it is unlikely you will be thinking straight if an emergency occurs.

That is why we are taught to drop and roll if we catch on fire.

That is why there are fire drills in schools and businesses.

That is why the military constantly plans and drills on what to do if our nation is attacked.

That is why basketball coaches practice plays with their teams on what to do when the other team scores with 3.3  seconds to go and they need a basket to win the game.

It is also why the Center for Disease Control produced a planning guidance and strategy document on what the responses should be if we found ourselves in a pandemic influenza situation. That planning document was based on a Pandemic Severity Index that provided guidance on the interventions and mitigation  efforts that should be utilized in different scenarios. The document dates back to 2007.

The focus of the document was primarily on the rationale, utilization and length of time that Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPI's) should be used to slow the pandemic. It included all of the things we have all now become very familiar with---social distancing, bans on mass gatherings, school closures, etc.

Since Covid spreads like the flu and shares many of the same symptoms, this planning document seemed to be the obvious place to look for the recommendations to deal with this pandemic.

This excerpt from the document summarizes the essence of the planning guidance.

This interim guidance introduces a Pandemic Severity Index to characterize the severity of a pandemic, provides planning recommendations for specific interventions that communities may use for a given level of pandemic severity, and suggests when these measures should be started and how long they should be used.

This graph in the document should look familiar to anyone who has heard the phrase "flatten the curve" during this pandemic.


This is the Case Severity Index from the CDC planning document.

For well over a year it was generally known that we were looking at a pandemic with an overall case fatality rate of less than 1%. This would place the Covid pandemic as a Category 2 or 3 on the severity scale developed by the CDC.

The Spanish flu pandemic would be an example of a Category 5 pandemic.

What were the recommendations made in the planning document to deal with these various scenarios?

There was no recommendation for lockdowns even in a Category 4 or 5 pandemic.

It was recommended that schools and colleges might want to close for no more than 12 weeks in Category 4 and 5. The limit suggested for school closures was no more than 4 weeks for Category 2 and 3.

The only mitigation measure that was definitely recommended for a Category 2 or 3 pandemic was the "voluntary isolation" of the ill at home.

In fact, never in human history has there ever been a pandemic in which the healthy were told to quarantine. Not once.

Why was it done with Covid?

You will notice as well that the document also does not recommend the use of face masks in the community.

Why was that done with Covid? 

It was done despite the fact that the CDC stated in their planning document that they did not know that masks worked and that more research was required before that recommendation could be made. Notice that they did not even consider the potential use of homemade masks. They were talking about the use of surgical masks and respirators.

The only thing suggested in the planning document is that more research and study should be done regarding the effectiveness of masks.

Since the planning document was written in 2007 it is fair to consider the fact that research between 2007 and 2020 could have answered the question about the effectiveness of masks found that they had no significant effect on the transmission of laboratory confirmed influenza.

However,  the most recent research study cited by the CDC in May, 2020 (shortly before masks mandates became common place) on the efficacy of masks as a NPI came to this conclusion.

Disposable medical masks (also known as surgical masks) are loose-fitting devices that were designed to be worn by medical personnel to protect accidental contamination of patient wounds, and to protect the wearer against splashes or sprays of bodily fluids (36). There is limited evidence for their effectiveness in preventing influenza virus transmission either when worn by the infected person for source control or when worn by uninfected persons to reduce exposure. Our systematic review found no significant effect of face masks on transmission of laboratory confirmed influenza.

If that study is not current enough I suggest you read the the more recent study that was published by Stanford University physician Baruch Vainshelboim that concluded the following after reviewing the scientific evidence regarding the use of face masks specifically in the Covid-19 era. 

Face masks have proven ineffective in blocking human-to-human transmission of Covid. Moreover, wearing face masks has been demonstrated to have substantial adverse physiological and psychological effects.

The existing scientific evidences challenge the safety and efficacy of wearing facemask as preventive intervention for COVID-19. The data suggest that both medical and non-medical facemasks are ineffective to block human-to-human transmission of viral and infectious disease such SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19, supporting against the usage of facemasks. Wearing facemasks has been demonstrated to have substantial adverse physiological and psychological effects. These include hypoxia, hypercapnia, shortness of breath, increased acidity and toxicity, activation of fear and stress response, rise in stress hormones, immunosuppression, fatigue, headaches, decline in cognitive performance, predisposition for viral and infectious illnesses, chronic stress, anxiety and depression. Long-term consequences of wearing facemask can cause health deterioration, developing and progression of chronic diseases and premature death. 


What is also striking in the planning document is that the CDC did not conceive of any of the measures lasting more than 6-8 weeks with the possibility that it might require NPI's of at most 12 weeks in the case of a Category 4 or 5 pandemic that involved mitigation efforts.

Considering that we will soon be at 60 weeks of NPI's in this pandemic suggests to me that our public health response has been better at prolonging the pandemic with its recommendations than it has in curtailing or containing it.

How did we get here?

There was a detailed plan sitting on the shelf when this all began.

Why did our public health experts not follow the plan that had been established?

Did they panic?

Did politics outweigh good policy?

Was it all about the public health "experts" enjoying their new found power?

I don't know the answer.

However, it is clear to me that the public health people establishment has caused greater damage to mankind in its response to Covid than anyone else has ever done in human history short of causing a World War.

I hope we some day find out the answer as to why the CDC and other ignored their own planning document in responding to the Covid pandemic.

Panic. Politics. Power. What was it?

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