Political coverage tends to cut only one way at the D.C.-based news website The Hill, and it's not the pro-liberty way. That's why it was more than a little surprising to see the site run what quickly became their top-trending article – a piece by Stanford University's Hoover Institution Senior Fellow Scott Atlas, MD.
Atlas's credentials include a stint as the head of neuroradiology at Stanford University Medical Center. In other words, he knows medicine, understands disease, and respects science. He also argues that the data we have now accumulated tells us that isolation must end, and the public fear-mongering about COVID-19 needs to stop now.
That's an angle I appreciate, because sadly it has become overly rare in this era of hyperpartisanship. There are plenty of voices engaged right now in Monday morning quarterbacking; that is, looking back in hindsight and saying you knew all along what we should and shouldn't do.
Perhaps those who are making such boasts really did guess right; or maybe they're just saying they guessed right because of the unfolding shift in current public opinion. Either way, the point is that they guessed. Remember, this was a "novel" coronavirus, meaning we hadn't seen it before, and therefore what we desperately needed was to collect as much information as possible so we knew what kind of response was warranted.
That's precisely what makes China's malfeasance and deception so unforgivable. Lab mistake or wet market chaos wasn't the pressing issue. We needed reliable data regarding its rate of spread, mortality rate, the effectiveness of mitigating strategies, and a host of other data points to put into our models so as to ensure the results that came out of those models would also be reliable. We just didn't get it, and as a consequence, the world was left vulnerable and unprepared.
But Atlas argues that after several difficult months, our high incidence of coronavirus in the United States has allowed us to collect necessary data for ourselves, and now we need to act on it instead of pretending that we still don't know what we're dealing with.
You can read the article for yourself, of course, but Atlas lists five key facts that we can't afford to ignore.
- The overwhelming majority of people do not have any significant risk of dying from COVID-19.
- Protecting older, at-risk people eliminates hospital overcrowding.
- Vital population immunity is prevented by total isolation policies, prolonging the problem.
- People are dying because other medical care is not getting done due to hypothetical projections.
- We have a clearly defined population at risk who can be protected with targeted measures.
Obviously Atlas expounds on each of those with data, numbers, studies, and science. Just as we wisely listened to science when we were ordering lockdowns and quarantines, we must be willing to now alter our approach according to the science.
Atlas's third point is particularly instructive. The original logic behind isolation and quarantine was to "flatten the curve"; that is, prevent a run on hospitals, overwhelming their resources. The logic was never to "wait out the virus," which would be crazy, unsustainable, and potentially impossible. If the curve has been flattened, as it certainly appears to have been in the United States, we must have the courage to ask our leaders why they are acting as though it hasn't.
Herd immunity, or at least healthy immune systems, require human interaction. Prolonging it not only fails to decrease the chance of eventually picking up this novel coronavirus anyway, it also dramatically increases the chance of picking up something else down the road due to weakened and underdeveloped immune systems.
Those who pretend our wisest course of action is to remain on house arrest indefinitely are not just giving in to fear and panic, they are willfully ignoring the science.