On America’s moral compass in the face of COVID.
At long last, media censorship of the scientific debate during the COVID-19 pandemic has become undeniable. Censoring portrayed an illusion of consensus and intimidated scientifically valid disagreement. Policymakers and citizens were deceived by those suffocating scientific data and perspectives on risk, mitigation effectiveness, biological immunity, lockdowns, and especially the impacts of COVID and the policies themselves on children.
Perhaps censorship explains why the standard recommendations fifteen years prior to this pandemic remain unknown to the public. Henderson’s 2006 classic review clearly stated two related, but separate, conclusions: lockdowns were not effective, and lockdowns were extremely harmful, including: “Closing schools for longer periods (greater than ten to fourteen days at the beginning of an epidemic) in hopes of mitigating the epidemic by decreasing contacts among students is not warranted”; “There are no historical observations or scientific studies that support the confinement by quarantine of groups of possibly infected people for extended periods”; and “The negative consequences of large-scale quarantine are so extreme . . . that this mitigation measure should be eliminated from serious consideration.”
All honest leaders, all individuals with integrity, should acknowledge that people were directly damaged and even died from the censorship of truth.
But as important as the censorship revelations have been, we may be witnessing yet another misdirection. Focusing on social media as the main culprit permits a flee from responsibility by lockdown advocates, including Drs. Fauci, Birx, Walensky, and countless academics filling America’s “expert class.” If that deflection of responsibility is swallowed by the public, then reintroduction of similarly reckless, destructive, and morally indefensible policies by those in power remains a viable possibility.
The factual record must be clarified, or history will undergo an Orwellian rewrite and the truth will vanish. The United States has been a shameful outlier among its peer nations. America uniquely sacrificed its children by closing in-person schools in 2020 and 2021, forcing testing and quarantining of asymptomatic, healthy students and requiring injection of experimental drugs in schoolchildren with no clear benefit to them.
Uncertainties existed in early 2020, but one fact was already clear—healthy children did not have significant risk of serious illness or death from this virus. Since spring 2020, CDC data had shown those under twenty years of age have a 99.997 percent chance of survival. From studies from early 2020 and through today in Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Spain, the Netherlands, Ireland, Switzerland, France, Australia, Germany, Greece, South Korea and the United Kingdom confirmed the miniscule risk to children and further that almost all coronavirus transmission to children comes from adults, not the other way around. And opened schools never showed significant dangers to children, the community, or teachers—a demographically low-risk group with half its members younger than forty-one and 82 percent under fifty-five. Known in 2020, those facts were verified in multiple studies, including from Brown University, Duke University, Norway, and others.
At this point, no one should need to cite the January 2023 analysis of the pre-vaccination period, until the end of 2020, also corresponding to when the virus was in its most lethal form. It showed the median IFR (infection fatality ratio) was 0.0003 percent for those zero to nineteen years of age, meaning a survival rate of 99.9997 percent. Consistent with the very low IFR, Levitt et al. (2022) showed no excess deaths among children and adolescents during the pandemic in almost any country that has reliable death registration data. For perspective, analyzing only the younger age groups, Iuliano et al. (2018) estimated the absolute numbers of fatalities were lower than seasonal flu fatalities based on data from ninety-two countries over pre-pandemic years (Ioannidis, 2022). Perhaps our university scientists will admit in one of their signed group letters that the IFR of the flu is higher for children—it is deadlier—than COVID, even in this virus’s most lethal form and before any vaccination, according to CDC data over ten years?
After the first two months of closures in March and April of 2020, data also showed what was common sense to any parent—distance learning was already a proven failure, and closing schools severely harmed children, especially in low-income and single-parent families. Reading and math losses approached 30 to 50 percent after spring 2020 closures. In Fairfax, Virginia, F-grades increased by 83 percent; two F-grades were up 300 percent in middle school and 50 percent in high school. Failing grades surged in Los Angeles, especially among disadvantaged kids. Losses beyond learning were predictable, because schools are where we often first detect hearing/vision impairment; nutrition is a key need for poor children that is met in school; conflict resolution, language, social skills, physical activity, and more are learned from in-person schooling.
From the spring 2020 social isolation, serious health harms were already inflicted on our children—noted by the CDC itself, including spikes in mental illness, drug abuse, and suicidal ideation. That’s besides the nearly 300,000 cases of child abuse, unreported to authorities in spring 2020 because schools are the number one agency where child abuse is noticed. Longer-term harms were also recognized back in 2020, especially for kids in lower income families.
While most peer nations in western Europe opened schools for the 2020–21 school year, even during their otherwise stringent lockdowns, the vast majority of America’s governors closed in-person schools for the school year. Ignoring all the data and the August 12, 2020 White House public event I helped organize with experts, parents, and educators detailing the importance of children returning to school, America’s officials followed the extreme views of White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Deborah Birx and NIAID Director Anthony Fauci. As of September 10, 2020, only 18 percent of U.S. K-12 students were attending in-person schools, while over 60 percent of U.S. students were attending schools that were virtual—only during that period, according to Burbio. Only 15% of California’s more than 6 million children in public elementary and secondary schools were in-person that 2020 school year. That contrasts to Florida, where 100 percent of students were offered in-person school.
Inept government bureaucrats and academics doling out guidance contrary to science were not the sole impetus for the malfeasance. The largest teachers’ unions actively pressured schools to remain closed for in-person learning in the fall of 2020, even in the face of low local case rates. It was not until spring of 2021 where more than half of America’s K-12 schools offered full-time in-person learning, according to Burbio school tracker, although California still lagged, ranking dead last of all fifty states for in-person schooling through 2021–2022. Pressure for school closure continued even into 2022 by the Chicago Teachers Union and New York Federation of Teachers. Teachers who insisted—even back in the fall of 2020—that they were at higher risk than other professions were either lying or simply did not understand the facts; either way, they proved wholly unworthy of being entrusted to teach children.
A March 2021 nationwide analysis of insurance claims revealed the horrifying toll on our children from that uniquely American school closure policy of 2020. Mental health care visits for teenagers and college-aged children skyrocketed; self-harm visits by teenagers to doctors (e.g., extinguishing cigarettes on skin, slashing wrists) doubled to tripled versus 2019; manic-depressive and anxiety disorder visits to doctors by college-aged kids skyrocketed; overdoses and substance use disorders in teenagers increased by 40 percent to 120 percent. Our college-aged kids now have an obesity crisis—more than half reported an unwanted weight gain during the 2020 lockdowns, and it averaged twenty-eight pounds, according to the American Psychological Association.
The scandalous legacy of those who convinced officials to close schools was highlighted in the October 2022 NAEP Report Card on America’s school performance, reporting the largest score drops in math since the initial assessments more than thirty years ago, worse in children from low-income families. UNICEF’s The State of Global Learning Poverty: 2022 Update confirmed that sinful outcome: “The increases (in learning poverty) have been especially large in . . . the regions where schools have been closed the longest”; “remote learning was largely ineffective and a poor substitute for in-person schooling. . . . Widespread school closures have disproportionally affected students from disadvantaged backgrounds”; and “recent analysis suggests that learning losses are concentrated among poor students.” Was I mistaken when I thought we especially cared about poor children in this country?
In what might be the most unforgivable action to date, more than one thousand universities forced healthy college students to receive experimental vaccines for a disease that poses miniscule risk to young people. That went well beyond forced testing of students—what the CDC itself had already declared “illegal and unethical” in its now-removed post of October 13, 2020. Then, in a frightening illustration of the unethical extensions of science denial, several top academic medical centers—Duke, Johns Hopkins, Stanford—ran a clinical trial injecting the financial sponsor’s COVID vaccines into healthy infants and toddlers for an illness from which those subjects have miniscule risk for serious consequence. The researchers justified the drug’s success on indirect evidence of serum antibodies, rather than true clinical protection, because it prevented infection in only 37 to 51 percent, and because no subject, not even in the placebo group, had serious illness or death.
In Kafkaesque fashion, the America’s FDA granted an emergency use authorization, or EUA, on December 8, 2022, at a time when there is not a public health emergency from COVID for children. Do most Americans realize that dating back to 2021, several other countries did not recommend, and some even forbade, COVID vaccines in children without underlying illnesses—Finland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and others? Has the United States become a society that wants to use children as shields by injecting them with experimental drugs? It is not an overstatement to suggest that university scientists today have become this century’s Flat Earthers, but with an added dose of serious ethical and moral failure.
Finally, many elite American universities disqualified themselves on the most basic requirements of conduct for being trusted with our nation’s most precious assets—the minds of our younger generation. Professors engaged in censure, bullying, and character assassination to win arguments by comparing scientifically valid ideas, all of which have been proven correct, including targeted protection, to “eugenics” and the “Tuskegee syphilis experiments.” While this is not the first episode in American history to remind us of Joseph Welch’s famous lament “Have you no sense of decency?”, to many it illustrates today’s most disturbing deficit in our country—a lack of simple civility to others.
Nelson Mandela observed “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” America failed the test. From school closures to the reprehensible injection of experimental drugs into our own children as shields for adults, the heinous legacy of all who recommended and implemented those policies is serious physical and psychological damage to our children, especially the poor, the totality of which will not be known for decades. We urgently need to restore moral leadership of our nation’s institutions across the board, or the free and ethical society ideal of the United States has lost its legitimacy.
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