Interesting to see early reviews of this era. And none of them are particularly nice.
Francois Balloux, an infectious-disease epidemiologist and computational geneticist at the University College of London, goes further. “It’s not obvious that different measures taken in different places have clearly led to different outcomes,” he says. “There’s a lot of idiosyncrasy, and I think it’s simplistic to say that the countries that have controlled or eliminated the virus did things extremely differently. If you just list, for instance, the interventions that places like New Zealand or Australia have implemented, they’re not drastically different — in stringency nor duration — than in some other places. The country that had the strictest lockdown for longest in the world is Peru, and they were absolutely devastated. I think the slightly depressing message,” Balloux says with a sigh, “is that there is not just a set of policies that will bring success and can just be applied to any place in the world.”
Through the devastating fall surge, a poll found that 90 percent of American adults were wearing a mask “sometimes, often, or always.” Close contacts in states with heavy restrictions were not dramatically higher than in laissez-faire places, and even draconian lockdowns produced, typically, plateaus or slow caseload declines, not rapid descent to zero. There are, within the U.S., a few relative success stories—Hawaii, notably, has registered almost no excess mortality. But death rates in Florida, proudly one of the loosest states, are hardly any higher than they are in California, self-flagellatingly one of the strictest.
None of this is especially surprising to epidemiologists, who have spent whole careers swimming in viral uncertainty.
The recent collapse in American case numbers, for instance, came right after the New Year, in the middle of what the country had just been warned — by epidemiologists and the new president, in his inauguration speech — would likely be the pandemic’s darkest season.
We have physicians running the show — that’s a consistent thing, medical doctors across the western European countries, driving the decision-making.” The result, he says, has been short-sighted calculations that prioritize absolute knowledge about everything before advising or designing policy about anything.
Public health and epidemiology over sold and under delivered. When they really didn’t know what they were doing nor the expected outcome, saying “Trust Science” was the wrong solution.
Our “expert” pandemic response is looking to be among the greatest screw ups in human history.