By Kevin Roche
Many people must now be wondering how the COVID-19 epidemic ever ends. The approach adopted by the current federal administration, and echoed in Minnesota, relies on demonizing the unvaccinated and doubling down on largely futile actions. There is no reason to have confidence in this approach, as it fails to address the underlying problem, which is the vaccines’ failure to meet inflated expectations.
Misinformation provided by governments has also created an inaccurate picture of the epidemic and of the steps which likely do create a rational and reasonable exit strategy.
Our current problem is not that large numbers of people aren’t vaccinated, but that notwithstanding extremely high levels of vaccination, we see ongoing significant numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths and renewed epidemic waves in different regions.
Governments emphasize the unvaccinated as the source of transmission, and we frequently hear that it is now an “epidemic of the unvaccinated.” This is not true and we are actually headed toward an epidemic, if it even remains an epidemic, of the vaccinated.
In Minnesota and other states a high and growing percent of cases, hospitalizations and deaths are among persons who are fully vaccinated. The research clearly and uniformly shows rapidly declining vaccine effectiveness against infection after a few months. More alarmingly, effectiveness against hospitalization and death in the most vulnerable — our frail elderly — similarly is greatly diminished.
As I have noted before, nothing is surprising about this in regard to a respiratory virus vaccine, although the speed of the decline in effectiveness is disappointing.
The Minnesota Department of Health is slow to identify and report breakthrough events and the data it does present is misleading and incomplete.
Gov. Tim Walz stated on Oct. 18 that “the highly effective vaccines … in almost every instance will keep you away from death.”In response to a question regarding fully vaxxed Gen. Colin Powell’s death from COVID-19, Walz said: “It is a very rare occurrence for someone to die [after being vaccinated]. … I am willing to bet … of those 111 deaths over the last four days there won’t be more than one or two that were vaccinated.”
This is simply not true. Since Oct. 4, the Department of Health has announced 671 deaths in its regular reporting — and 323 of those have been in fully vaccinated persons, including 111 announced this week. This is 44% of all deaths announced in this time period. And over 7,000 new breakthrough cases were announced in this week’s report.
Despite government messaging to the contrary, the public is aware of the inadequacy of the vaccines to prevent transmission or serious illness, as now everyone either knows someone with a breakthrough infection or has read of their occurrence among athletes, politicians and other prominent figures.
In light of the reality that vaccines are not performing as we were told they would, an exit plan that ends our coronavirus obsession must primarily be attitudinal in nature. The true state of the epidemic and the damage being done by our misguided efforts to suppress a virus that cannot be suppressed must be acknowledged. We have seen several European countries take the more enlightened approach that all epidemic restrictions must end and the total well-being of all citizens must be the primary concern, not a monomaniacal focus on preventing COVID-19 cases, which cannot be accomplished in any event.
We have done what we can. It is time to move on and accept this as yet another pathogen with which we will live.
Some specific steps that would be part of a more rational approach include:
1. Either stop the incessant reporting of every event related to the epidemic, which only serves to maintain a high level of anxiety, or provide the public with complete and accurate information about the epidemic, including more details about who is getting infected, and what actually causes many hospitalizations and deaths.
2. Stop over-testing. It serves no purpose to constantly test people who are asymptomatic. The result of excessive testing is large proportions of false and low positives which overwhelm contact tracing efforts and lead to unnecessary quarantines.
3. Stop quarantining children and adults who have not tested positive. Only symptomatic persons who have tested positive or who suspect they may have been infected should isolate themselves. Asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic transmission is actually low. Most transmission occurs from a few persons who are symptomatic, have large viral loads and substantial contact networks. Forced isolation disrupts education for children, hinders parents’ ability to work and damages business operations.
4. Stop wasting money on ineffective contact tracing. Minnesota has spent tens of millions of dollars on contact tracing and still can’t identify the vast majority of transmissions. This experience occurs everywhere.
5. Refocus public policy on overall public health and well-being. The restrictions put in place and the campaign of terror around COVID-19 have severely damaged educational and social attainment for children, led to financial stress for many, imperiled our public finances, led to increases in serious illness and deaths due to missed health care, increased rates of drug and alcohol abuse and overdose, and caused large rises in mental illness.
The threat posed by the virus itself to our total social well-being is far less than the damage done by our ongoing ineffectual actions to suppress it.
6. Most importantly, declare the epidemic over, declare victory if you are a politician and need that win, and celebrate that we survived this epidemic.