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Thursday, August 26, 2021

STOP FOOLISH COVID-Based Restrictions in Schools! (Update 2)

Why Most All COVID Restrictions in Schools Should Cease:

1.) Kids are in virtually ZERO danger from COVID-19. We now have about 18 months of data that clearly demonstrate school-age children are in very little to no danger from COVID-19. Since early 2020 until now (as of this writing)—again that is a year and a half—according to CDC data, there have been a total of 385 deaths of 0-17 year olds “involving” COVID-19. In a recent report, the CDC itself admits that it could be vastly overestimating COVID-19 deaths in children, as over 35% of these deaths involved significant comorbidities. Nevertheless, again using CDC data, we see that five of the past eight influenza seasons were more deadly to children than COVID-19.

(Note: The “Covid 2020-21” total deaths do not include the entire 18-month period since COVID-19 entered the U.S. Also, a typical flu season in the U.S. is four to six months long.)

Recently, in an effort to promote vaccination against COVID-19, Northeast Georgia Health System put out the following graphic:

Note that, according to data from the Georgia Department of Public Health, the percent vaccinated who later died from COVID-19 was a miniscule 0.00058%. Yet, for Americans ages zero to 17 years old, the chances of dying from the COVID is smaller: 0.00051%. Given that the vast majority of COVID-related deaths in young people occur in those with significant co-morbidities, for healthy young adults, this number is even smaller. Why is this data ignored when making public policy on kids and COVID? As Bethany Mandel of the New York Post recently put it,
The vaccine offers a great deal of protection, but being a child offers even more. Children are less at risk of severe COVID risk and death than vaccinated adults, according to the vast amount of data we have gathered over the last year and a half of the pandemic, and the last year of vaccine research.
A recent Johns Hopkins study involving 48,000 children—with “Covid” listed in their health insurance information (which probably means that they “tested positive” for COVID-19, or were “exposed” to it)—found zero COVID deaths among healthy kids.

Using recent data, we see that a host of things are more deadly to children than COVID-19. Compared to COVID-19, children ages 5 to 14 are: 10-and-a-half times more likely to die from cancer; 9-and-a-half times more likely to die in an automobile accident; 7-and-a-half times more likely to take their own life; 3-and-a-half times more likely to die in a homicide; and more than twice as likely to drown.

The risk of hospitalization for children from COVID-19 is also extremely small. Joseph Allen, a scientist who works for The Lancet’s Covid committee, reported that, according to three major studies over the past year, “hospitalization rates for school-aged kids younger than 12 (the group that can’t yet get vaccinated, and thus one of the significant targets of foolish COVID-19 restrictions) hovered around three or four per million throughout the pandemic.” That’s between a 0.0003% and 0.0004% chance of hospitalization. Both of those numbers are much smaller than the NGHS data (again note the NGHS graphic above) that shows 0.0029% chance of requiring hospitalization if one is vaccinated.

But what about the “Delta Variant” of COVID-19? Given the media hype around this, one would think that the danger from COVID-19 for children has significantly increased, but again, the data tell a very different story. According to the CDC, the monthly number of deaths “involving coronavirus” for Americans age 0 to 17 are: Jan: 49, Feb: 22, March: 19, April: 25, May: 23, June: 11, July: 12, and Aug (as of this writing (8/26)): 20. Additionally, for the U.S. as a whole, for 0 to 17 year-olds, new hospital admissions for COVID-19 in Jan. was 0.30 per 100k. As of this writing (8/26), it is 0.43 per 100k.

2.) Kids are NOT significant spreaders of COVID-19. We knew as early as October of last year that schools were not significant spreaders of COVID-19. Even the CDC noted in December of last year that most COVID-19 cases in kids did not result from school contacts. Early this year, a peer-reviewed study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics found the spread of COVID-19 in elementary schools to be “extremely limited.”

Additionally, multiple studies have shown the asymptomatic are not significant spreaders of COVID-19. In late February of this year, The Federalist reported on “a meta-analysis of 54 household COVID-19 transmission studies that observed 77,758 participants” which showed the “asymptomatic or presymptomatic” index case rate to be only 0.7%.

On the transmissibility of the Delta variant, noted health care expert Kevin Roche—who has written hundreds of posts and articles on COVID-19—reports, “It isn’t apparent to me that Delta is inherently more transmissible.” He concludes, “At the end of day, just like with Alpha, viral load and transmissibility will turn out to be very comparable and fortunately, the severity of disease much lower.”

Thus, the widespread testing of school populations should also cease. This also means any and all “contact tracing” should end. If school-age children are at little to no risk from COVID-19, and if they are not significant spreaders of the virus, and if the asymptomatic are not significant spreaders of the virus, NO STUDENT should be removed from school due to “contact tracing.”

3.) Masks (and social distancing, and the like) DON’T WORK!

When it comes to studies on masks, Jeffrey Anderson at City Journal notes that,
It’s striking how much the CDC, in marshalling evidence to justify its revised mask guidance, studiously avoids mentioning randomized controlled trials [RCTs]. RCTs are uniformly regarded as the gold standard in medical research, yet the CDC basically ignores them…
According to Mr. Anderson, there are 14 RCTs “conducted around the world that have tested the effectiveness of masks in reducing the transmission of respiratory viruses.” Anderson continues,
The only RCT to test mask-wearing’s specific effectiveness against Covid-19 was a 2020 study by Bundgaard, et al. in Denmark. This large (4,862 participants) RCT divided people between a mask-wearing group (providing “high-quality” three-layer surgical masks) and a control group. It took place at a time (spring 2020) when Denmark was encouraging social distancing but not mask use, and 93 percent of those in the mask group wore the masks at least “predominately as recommended.” The study found that 1.8 percent of those in the mask group and 2.1 percent of those in the control group became infected with Covid-19 within a month, with this 0.3-point difference not being statistically significant…

In sum, of the 14 RCTs that have tested the effectiveness of masks in preventing the transmission of respiratory viruses, three suggest, but do not provide any statistically significant evidence in intention-to-treat analysis, that masks might be useful. The other eleven suggest that masks are either useless—whether compared with no masks or because they appear not to add to good hand hygiene alone—or actually counterproductive.
Numerous noted doctors have concluded that children should not be in masks. Dr. Makary—an American professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and editor-in-chief of Medpage Today—and Dr. H. Cody Meissner—chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Tufts Children’s Hospital—together recently penned an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal arguing against mandating masks for children.

In their Wall Street Journal piece, Dr. Makary and Meissner also note the dangers of masking children in schools. Additionally, a recent study out of Germany and Poland found that masking children was not only unnecessary, but also dangerous. The study found that, within just minutes of putting on a face mask, the kids were inhaling carbon dioxide that was up to more than six times the acceptable limits for adults. The study also found that, the younger the children behind the masks, the higher the concentration of carbon dioxide.

On masks, and other attempted COVID-19 mitigation measures taken in U.S. schools, David Zwieg of New York Magazines’ Intelligencer recently reported,
At the end of May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a notable, yet mostly ignored, large-scale study of COVID transmission in American schools…[The findings of the study] cast doubt on the impact of many of the most common mitigation measures in American schools. Distancing, hybrid models, classroom barriers, HEPA filters, and, most notably, requiring student masking were each found to not have a statistically significant benefit. In other words, these measures could not be said to be effective.

In the realm of science and public-health policy outside the U.S., the implications of these particular findings are not exactly controversial. Many of America’s peer nations around the world — including the U.K., Ireland, all of Scandinavia, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Italy — have exempted kids, with varying age cutoffs, from wearing masks in classrooms. Conspicuously, there’s no evidence of more outbreaks in schools in those countries relative to schools in the U.S., where the solid majority of kids wore masks for an entire academic year and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. These countries, along with the World Health Organization, whose child-masking guidance differs substantially from the CDC’s recommendations, have explicitly recognized that the decision to mask students carries with it potential academic and social harms for children and may lack a clear benefit. To date, the highly transmissible Delta variant has not led them to change this calculus. (Many experts I spoke with told me that while the Delta variant represents a major and concerning new development in the Covid pandemic, it probably shouldn’t change our thinking on a mask requirement for schools.)

…The study published by the CDC was both ambitious and groundbreaking. It covered more than 90,000 elementary-school students in 169 Georgia schools [many of them in our area] from November 16 to December 11 and was, according to the CDC, the first of its kind to compare COVID-19 incidence in schools with certain mitigation measures in place to other schools without those measures.
On masking students, Vinay Prasad, an associate professor in University of California, San Francisco’s Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, summarizes the CDC studies’ conclusion: “[A] masking requirement of students failed to show independent benefit.” Mr. Zwieg continues,
After the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics issued their student-mask guidance last month, I contacted both organizations asking for the evidence or underlying data upon which they had based their recommendations. The AAP did not respond to multiple requests. The CDC press office replied that since children under 12 cannot be vaccinated, the agency “recommends schools do universal masking” and included links to unrelated materials on vaccines and a recent outbreak among adults. Over the course of several weeks, I also corresponded with many experts — epidemiologists, infectious-disease specialists, an immunologist, pediatricians, and a physician publicly active in matters relating to COVID — asking for the best evidence they were aware of that mask requirements on students were effective. Nobody was able to find a data set as robust as the Georgia results — that is, a large cohort study directly looking at the effects of a mask requirement.
According to the data from this study (see here)—again, performed by the CDC—the number of COVID-19 cases per 500 students where masks were required was 2.44. Where masks were optional it was 3.81. That is a difference of only 0.274%! That’s less than three-tenths of one percent! Hardly an indication that masks are effective. Social distancing (≥6 ft.) had even less of an impact. Schools where it was employed had 3.02 cases per 500 students. Schools where it was partially or never employed had 3.09 cases per 500 students. That’s a difference of only 0.014%!

And note, we’re talking about the ambiguous designation of “cases.” This is happening with Hall County schools as well. This past Friday, when reporting that “more Hall County schools to require masks,” Access WDUN stated, “On Friday morning [8/13], the Hall County School District reported a total of 245 COVID cases among students and staff. That’s up from 43 cases confirmed after the first day of classes for the new school year, which was just 10 days ago.” [Emphasis mine.] (By the way, that’s 245 cases out of a total 30,596 students, faculty, and staff. That’s an overall “case rate” of 0.8%.)

Reporting on “cases” without context is a foolish and irresponsible exercise. Most often, a “case” is merely a positive test, and not someone who is actually sick. And when someone is sick, almost always that person recovers without hospitalization. Also, notice how the media—and oftentimes school systems as well—keep a running count of “cases.” This is also misleading. If “cases” are positive tests, once someone tests negative or recovers, shouldn’t they be removed from the case count? In other words, case counts should not be a number that only continuously grows.

UPDATE 2: The CDC study mentioned above concludes: “COVID-19 incidence was 37% lower [when 'adjusted for county-level incidence'] in schools that required teachers and staff members to use masks...” However, the study also reveals that, in schools where staff and faculty were required to wear masks, COVID-19 cases were 2.44 per 500. In schools where masks were optional, COVID-19 cases were 4.42 per 500. Though some might deem this “statistically significant,” it certainly is NOT practically significant. The percentage difference in cases where masks were required vs. those where they were not is only 0.39%! What’s more, the CDC premises this report on the false notion that “Preventing SARS-CoV-2 transmission in schools is imperative for safe in-person learning.” See part one of this article for plenty of evidence to the contrary. 

On COVID-19 “cases” and schools, note this data from last September (courtesy of Dr. Andrew Bostom):

From this we can see that, last year, after most colleges and schools had been in class for weeks, with over 48,000 reported COVID “cases” at 37 different U.S. universities, there were only two hospitalizations and zero deaths! Based on what we already know about young healthy people, such data is totally unsurprising. Yet the media virtually ignore this type of data, and reported (and almost always continues to report) only on “case” totals.

UPDATE 1:(8/28, from American Greatness):
Surgical masks were designed to protect patients’ wounds from becoming infected by medical personnel, not to prevent the spread of viruses. When COVID-19 hit our shores, the CDC initially recommended that most Americans not wear masks. On April 3, 2020, the CDC abruptly reversed this position. Surgeon General Jerome Adams explained that “new evidence” had revealed that “a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms” and “can transmit the virus to others before they show symptoms” (emphasis added).

As a rationale for wearing masks, this did not entirely make sense. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “potentially pre-symptomatic transmission . . . is a major driver of transmission for influenza.” Yet the CDC does not (yet) recommend that seemingly healthy people wear masks during flu season. It seems likely that the CDC panicked in April and wanted to be seen as doing something. Plus, public health officials are naturally enthusiastic about public health interventions. Here was an opportunity to introduce an intervention that would previously have been unthinkable to Americans. Granted, the research on masks’ effectiveness, or lack thereof, had not changed to suggest healthy people should wear masks. But why quibble about evidence in the interest of a good cause?

The day after the CDC endorsed nationwide mask-wearing, President Trump announced, “I won’t be doing it personally.” From that instant, the mask quickly became a symbol of civic virtue—a sort of Black Lives Matter flag that could be hung from one’s face. For many it conveyed a trio of virtues: I’m unselfish; I’m pro-science; I’m anti-Trump. What it also conveyed, incidentally, was rejection of longstanding Western norms, unhealthy risk-aversion, credulous willingness to embrace unsupported health claims, and a pallid view of human interaction.

The most reliable science on whether masks are effective in stopping the transmission of viruses comes from randomized control trials (RCTs), almost all of which were conducted before COVID-19 began. RCTs, in which researchers assign subjects randomly to different groups and study how those groups react to various forms of treatment, are the gold standard in medical research. They make it very hard for researchers to produce their own preferred outcomes. Observational studies, so called because researchers merely observe outcomes in pre-existing scenarios without being able to isolate one specific cause of those outcomes, are as much sociology as medical science. They introduce more bias and are far more apt to be politicized. Anyone doubting that researchers in the COVID-19 era have been more likely to benefit from generating pro-mask findings than anti-mask findings, might also be interested in some oceanfront property in Wuhan.

Randomized control trials have found little to no evidence that masks work to prevent viral transmission—either from the wearer to others or vice versa. In fact, some significant evidence from RCTs indicates that masks increase transmission. One team of researchers, led by Raina MacIntyre at the University of New South Wales, explained how masks could actually be counterproductive: “The virus may survive on the surface of the facemasks” and “transfer pathogen from the mask to the bare hands of the wearer.”

Forcing children to wear masks is particularly unreasonable. Minors are far less apt to spread the virus, and CDC statistics show that 99.9 percentof COVID-19 deaths in the United States have been of adults. Few spectacles are more ridiculous than that of school kids, outside, playing sports, wearing masks. Moreover, the WHO guidance on mask-wearing for children is comical in its implausibility: “Before putting on the mask, children should clean their hands . . . at least 40 seconds if using soap and water . . . Children should not touch the front of the mask [or] pull it under the chin . . . After taking off their mask, they should store it in a bag or container and clean their hands.” Sure. Got that, kids? 
A 2020 study by Professor Henning Bundgaard and his team in Denmark is the only RCT that has tested the effectiveness of mask-wearing against COVID-19. It found that 1.8 percent of those participants in the group wearing masks, and 2.1 percent of those in the unmasked control group, became infected with COVID-19 within a month. This difference was not statistically significant. The study must have had difficulty getting published, since it appeared months after it was conducted. Once it was eventually released, Vinay Prasad, a medical doctor at the University of California, San Francisco, described it as “well done” but noted (critically) that “[s]ome have turned to social media to ask why a trial that may diminish enthusiasm for masks . . . was published in a top medical journal.”

In attempting to justify its mask guidance on its website, the CDC has relied almost entirely on observational studies while studiously disregarding RCTs—aside from criticizing a couple of the more revealing ones, like Bundgaard’s, that do not support the agency’s guidance or goals. Anyone who thinks the CDC is an impartial, politically neutral agency, dedicated solely to the pursuit of scientific truth, should perhaps consider the recent email evidence that the teachers’ union and Joe Biden’s White House effectively rewrote sections of the agency’s return-to-school guidance. Like so many unelected leaders, CDC officials consider themselves more accountable to “stakeholders” than to the American people. That is why the founders vested power to make policy decisions—of all sorts—in elected legislatures rather than in remote bureaucrats.
Mask mandates—and the like—aren’t foolish and dangerous only because of their ineffective and unhealthy outcomes, but also because of the social and financial devastation that results. If widespread masking were really a necessary and effective means of stopping, or even slowing, the spread of COVID, there are countless human activities—as much of the past 18 months have well demonstrated—that simply cannot take place.

If there really is a need to wear masks, restaurants cannot be allowed to operate fully with indoor dining. Likewise with indoor gyms, bars, concerts, sporting events, movie theaters, churches, and the like. Thus, mask wearing means widespread lockdowns and shutdowns must occur. In other words, as ineffective as masks and lockdowns have been at stopping or slowing the spread of the COVID, they have been just as effective at destroying lives and livelihoods.

Finally, masks, as a means of slowing the spread of COVID-19, are used because the CDC says to use them. Anyone in authority over COVID-19 policy needs to stop acting like the CDC is an infallible authority on matters concerning this pandemic. They have been wrong numerous times since COVID-19 entered the U.S., and they continue to get things wrong. The CDC has long been politicized, and their health recommendations often reflect this politicization. They can’t even properly tell us who is a male and who is a female! Thus, why should they be widely trusted on any healthcare issue?!

Copyright 2021, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor is the author of the The Miracle and Magnificence of America

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