Oh joy, another book by a hero of lockdowns! This time it is from Andrew Cuomo, who rode the disease-panic wave to the heights during the confusion of Spring 2020 before falling to the depths a year later. The adoring crowds, the fawning media, the enthralled masses all went away in a seeming flash, entirely due to some alleged untoward romantic gestures about which some complained.
Cuomo accomplished the deed and then was thrown to the dogs. He went from angel to devil practically overnight. One day he was saving New York from Covid – surely he will soon be president! – and the next he was waking up with nothing to do but look over his royalty checks.
Let us see what he has to say in his memoir. The book was written when he was at the height of his fame, but then withdrawn by the publisher when he crashed to the ground. But as it happens, there are contracts and advances and royalties at stake, so here we are now: American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic. The tone is confident, aggressive, sure-footed, and completely wrong.
We know for sure that he will not admit to having abused his power, personally or politically. He will not say that he had any part in wrecking New York, its commercial culture, its citizens’ sense of self-worth, or its religious freedoms. He will nowhere say that he went too far. He will not admit that he was a craven media tool or that he followed the mania in order to position himself for higher office. He will say none of that, any more than the rest of them have said that.
What does he say? Well, the book is more self-effacing than I expected, even disarming. He tells a good story concerning his personal life and struggles. It seems even sincere, and readers can connect with his professional rise then fall then rise again…and his subsequent fall again. His ideology is on display to the max: a progressive who believes strongly in government in its ideal but is always disappointed in its practice.
But the book is also strange for what it takes for granted, namely that locking down is the proper path to deal with infectious disease. Viruses in all times and places arrive, infect some portion of the population depending on prevalence, bear responsibility for the death of others, and eventually become endemic, which is to say, something we live with. This one was no different in any of its properties. What made this one different was its politicization and the casual but universally held view that life itself had to be fundamentally disrupted by government because of it.
Cuomo himself sneaks this presumption in from the start:
An airborne virus was one of the nightmare scenarios envisioned as a terrorist plot. It is easy to create chaos and overwhelm society with fear when people are afraid to breathe the air. There would be no good news with this virus and no good outcome. Schools and businesses would be closed. The economy would suffer. People would die. Nothing we could do would be enough. There was no possibility for victory, and even FDR and Churchill had at least the possibility of a successful outcome.
Really? No good outcome at all? Failure was baked in? Also, what is this passing mention of schools and businesses being forced to close? That did not happen in South Dakota, Sweden, Nicaragua, or Belarus. Why this concession to massive coercion when such had never been done in past pandemics? Where does this come from? And why did the governor just toss that in there? Why did he never rethink in the midst of his most egregious actions?
Keep in mind that he put this book to bed in the fall of 2020, just before his resignation following his call to open up New York. Here he writes that he defeated the virus. “New York State, a microcosm of the nation, has shown a path forward. We have seen government mobilize to handle the crisis. We have seen Americans come together in a sense of unity to do the impossible. We have seen how the virus is confronted and defeated.”
Remarkable. Consider the following two charts.
What these charts show is what one might have expected from any new virus of this sort with this risk profile. It killed. Then it infected more. Then 99.8% of those infected shook it off and obtained an upgraded immune system, no thanks to the vaccine that stopped neither infection nor spread. Then life got back to normal. Every bit of this trajectory was easily predictable regardless of what government did or did not do.
The virus did not need Cuomo to battle it: the human immune system does the hard work and governments are mere spectators. Public health knew that for decades until suddenly they did not. The temptation to be a hero was too great for vast numbers of people holding public office, Cuomo among them.
What government did was wreck much more than was necessary in the name of doing something. What’s worse is that the things government did reversed the higher-level knowledge that the one group that needed protection from the virus was the vulnerable population, in this case, the elderly and infirm.
Cuomo, on the other hand, signed an order, replicated in many other states, to force nursing homes to accept Covid patients in the extra rooms. No choice. They had to. This led to tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths. More on that in a moment.
On lockdowns, Cuomo simply bakes into the prose the idea that they had to happen. They began in New Rochelle, NY.
“No one was ready to accept that they needed to change how they were living…. As we saw in Westchester that day, local parochial concerns would butt up against major, wide-ranging changes that had to occur in order to combat the virus. As we were instituting this lockdown on New Rochelle, one Democratic assemblywoman who represented Westchester came to my office demanding a meeting; then she simply sat in the second row at a press conference and scowled at me.”
And that’s it: lockdown is the whole scheme. He never doubts it, never even argues for it.
The day after our first COVID case, the legislature passed the law giving the governor emergency powers to handle the crisis. If the legislature had not passed the law, I would not have had the power to do what I would soon do. There would be no executive order closing businesses or schools, no order requiring masks or social distancing. … The law was smart, and it has proven successful.
Now, let’s just jump ahead to the great nursing home scandal. I was curious what Cuomo had to say. I will just quote him.
By early spring, Republicans needed an offense to distract from the narrative of their botched federal response—and they needed it badly. So they decided to attack Democratic governors and blame them for nursing home deaths…. The Trump forces had a simple line: “Thousands died in nursing homes.” It was true. But they needed to add a conspiracy, which was that they died because of a bad state policy that “mandated and directed” that the nursing homes accept COVID-positive people, and these COVID-positive people were the cause of the spread of the disease in the nursing homes. It was a lie. New York State never demanded or directed that any nursing home accept a COVID-positive patient.”
That’s fascinating because I’m almost sure that I saw such an order. I look at the New York State website and it has been taken down. I found it on the Internet Archive. It is on New York State letterhead.
It reads as follows:
COVID-19 has been detected in multiple communities throughout New York State. There is an urgent need to expand hospital capacity in New York State to be able to meet the demand for patients with COVID-19 requiring acute care. As a result, this directive is being issued to clarify expectations for nursing homes (NHs) receiving residents returning from hospitalization and for NHs accepting new admissions…. No resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to the NH solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19. NHs are prohibited from requiring a hospitalized resident who is determined medically stable to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission.
Oh. So it wasn’t a lie after all. And anyone can check this. Read the above. That certainly sounds like New York State directed nursing homes to accept Covid-positive patients. Denying that he did this amounts to pettifoggery over terms. The import was perfectly obvious. Why not just admit that he made a mistake?
I’m tempted to end this review there. But it actually gets worse. At one point, Cuomo writes that his heroics actually worked and that this is obvious. He is or was a completely unrepentant lockdower:
States like Arizona, Florida, and Texas that followed Trump’s demands to reopen quickly saw increased infection rates and needed to close their economies back down—reopening only to re-close. As a result, the financial markets were distressed with the volatility in these states. This stood in stark contrast to New York, where as of this writing 75 percent of our economy is open and our infection rate has been consistently 1 percent or below for nearly three months and among the lowest in the nation. It is incomprehensible that people still support Trump’s disproven theories. The states that most closely followed Trump’s “guidance” were doing the worst.
Look again at the charts above. The virus was only getting started when he turned in this text. He wrote those words during a seasonal downturn. Infections were still coming and coming in wave after wave. New York fared as bad as any state, certainly far worse than Florida or other open states. Meanwhile, New York drove residents out, and the state is in far worse economic condition than most.
And yet here he is taking credit for an intelligent and hands-on approach that wrecked the lives, liberties, and property of residents of the state, who, to this day, have yet to regain their composure. He did this. He became famous and beloved for it. And to this day, based on this book, he still believes that he was right.
Cuomo can’t imagine – truly – that he might have done anything wrong except perhaps communicated more clearly. In truth, governments could have forced everyone to paint their faces bright blue and wear frying pans for shoes and it would not have changed the pandemic outcome from what it was going to be. The virus never cared. But don’t tell that to Cuomo: the upshot of his book is that he saved New York. Nothing will convince him otherwise.
In short, don’t read this book looking for an apology. These politicians all panicked, as John Tamny argued from the beginning. No matter the policy, the pandemic was going to recede into memory, as it has. No matter how badly this class of politicians performed, somehow they all managed to claim to have done the right thing, and to earn royalties on their ghost-written accounts of their genius.
Even given everything, the book is not all bad. His personal stories are self effacing and engaging. He is a real person with a real life, with choices to make, risks to take, difficulties to face, family struggles, and so on. He was free to engage life to its fullest in 2020, unlike the 20 million people he locked down and robbed of all such opportunities. He believed that it was the right thing to do because Fauci was saying that it was. It was not in fact the right thing to do.
I would like to end by echoing Cuomo’s tribute to those who were shoved out in front to face the virus while the laptoppers languished at home in hiding. He is exactly right to say the following:
The heroes who made this happen were the working families of New York. When we were in our moment of need, we called on the blue-collar New Yorkers to show up for everyone. We needed them to come to work and risk their health so that so many of us could stay safely at home. These are the people who have received the fewest rewards from society but from whom we now asked the most.
These are the people who would have been most justified in refusing our call. They were not the rich and the well-off. They were not the highly paid. They have not been given anything more than they deserved. They had no obligation to risk their health and the health of their families. But they did it simply because “it was the right thing to do.” But for some that is enough. For some that is everything.
These heroes are the people who live in places like Queens, where I grew up. These are the people working hard to better themselves and their families. These are parents concerned first and foremost with protecting their families, but who still showed up every day as nurses, National Guard members, train operators, bus drivers, hospital workers, police officers, grocery store employees, food delivery drivers. They are Puerto Ricans, Haitians, African Americans, Dominicans, Asians, Guatemalans. These are the immigrants who love America, who make America, and who will fight for it.
These are the heroes of this battle. When COVID began, I felt it was unfair to call on them to carry such a heavy burden. I feared I would put them in harm’s way. But we didn’t have an option if society was to function. We needed food, hospitals, and electricity to stay alive.
All through this difficult endeavor there was never a moment when these people refused to show up or leveraged more benefits for themselves. At the beginning of a battle no one knows who will actually survive. Courage is determined by the willingness to enter the field. No one knew that when we started, the infection rate among our essential workers would be no higher than the general community infection rate. They have my undying admiration and the gratitude of every true New Yorker.
We can only say to that: Amen! These people do deserve deep gratitude. They also deserve a government that will never again conscript them to go to work for the professional class in order that the well-to-do can keep clean and free of pathogens. That the people Cuomo rightly celebrates were so treated is a violation of the social contract, and now have every reason to be bitter. And don’t you love the comment that “We needed food, hospitals, and electricity to stay alive?” Who exactly is “we” here?
We know. We know all too well.
How the Dutch Failed their Children – A Cautionary Tale
One of the best places to raise children is The Netherlands. In several consecutive UNICEF reports the Netherlands ranked first for raising the happiest children among wealthy countries (2008, 2013, 2020). However, in the spring of 2020, The Netherlands became a harsh place for children and young people. The Dutch government adopted a one-size-fits-all policy handling the covid-19 pandemic, which did not spare the youngest and took a great toll on Dutch children. The Nobel Laureate Michael Levitt remarked that the Dutch policies would ‘set the record for worst covid-response ever.’
Unable to withstand the rising global panic, the Dutch government on March 16th 2020 announced an “intelligent” lockdown, a phrase coined by Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
Dutch society came to a halt. Offices, shops, restaurants and bars, libraries, sport facilities, as well as daycare centers, schools and universities were closed. The closure of schools was unexpected since the government’s official advisory group, the medics-dominated Outbreak Management Team (OMT), advised against it, for a school closure would have a minimal effect on the spread of the coronavirus.
A reconstruction of events showed that the main reason the Dutch government closed schools was that the educational field started to panic about keeping schools open. Closing schools was a political decision to follow the panic, not a medical decision. Schools supposedly closed for three weeks. Three weeks became three months. Research by The University of Oxford (Engzell, et al. 2021) shows that during the first wave the average Dutch student learned next to nothing during homeschooling. Moreover, students whose parents were not well-educated suffered up to 60% more learning losses.
School Closure ‘No Effect’
According to the Dutch equivalent of Fauci – Jaap van Dissel, chief scientist of the Dutch Health Agency (RIVM) and chairman of the Dutch OMT – the closure of schools in the spring of 2020 had “no effect.” Media, experts and politicians paid no attention to evidence though. Children were portrayed as ‘virus factories’ and schools were depicted as ’unsafe’ environments. Fear had a strong grip on the field of education and teaching unions exaggerated the risks of teachers in schools resulting in a drastic increase in safety demands.
The data was clear that not only did children not run any significant risk, but also that there was ‘no evidence that children play an important role in SARS-CoV-2 transmission.’ Still, a second lockdown would hit children. That second lockdown – now called a ‘hard lockdown’ – was announced on December 15th 2020. Schools closed again, this time advised by the OMT who had increased the number of areas it deemed itself expert on, on the basis of models, of course, proving Martin Kulldorff’s point that lab scientists are no public health scientists.
Dutch minister of Health Hugo de Jonge caused a stir by explaining this intervention was meant to coerce parents to stay at home. The international children’s rights organization KidsRights harshly criticized this policy: “The Netherlands has set a bad example internationally by closing schools during the corona pandemic to keep parents at home.” This children’s rights organization concluded that children were not a priority in Dutch corona policy and warned for the possible consequences.
As new insights on the negative impact of closing schools on children’s lives emerged, governments from countries all over the world decided not to close them again in the future. Undeterred, the Dutch government closed schools again on December 18 2021, just long enough to deny children their traditional Christmas dinner at school with their classmates, a big event in the childhood of Dutch children.
The deteriorating mental health of Dutch children was striking. The Dutch Health Authorities (RIVM) published a disturbing report which stated that more than one in five (22%) teenagers and young adults between the ages of 12 and 25 seriously considered taking their own life between December 2021 and February 2022 during the third lockdown. From happiest in the world to suicidal in a matter of three lockdowns.
Record Low in Sports Participation
Not only were schools closed by diktat. For two years, sports facilities were also repeatedly forced to close. The restrictions were constantly changing, with as a low point banning parents from watching their child play sports outdoors. Once again, there was no scientific evidence that this would help minimize the spread of the virus. The result is a record low in sports participation nationwide. The Dutch Olympic Committee and the Dutch Sports Federation (NOC*NSF) were ‘particularly’ worried by the negative effect on young people’s sports participation.
The Corona Pass
So no school and no sports. Another low point with regard to children was the corona pass (Coronatoegangsbewijs) that was mandatory from September 25th, 2021 for every Dutch citizen above 12. The corona pass was required for most social activities, such as going to the movies, attending a sports game with parents, or entering the canteen at sports club with teammates to drink tea or lemonade after the match.
Unsurprisingly, there was no scientific evidence that this intervention would reduce the spread of covid-19, but the Dutch government enforced it anyway. Crucially, the corona pass required vaccination, recovery from covid-19 or a negative result from a coronavirus test taken less than 24 hours before entry. So essentially, access to social life was used by the government to blackmail Dutch children into invasive medical procedures.
The madness continued, unsupported by evidence. At one point in time, outside playgrounds for children were closed. Parents were not allowed to enter swimming pools to dress their preschoolers before and after swimming lessons. In the winter of 2020-2021 the Dutch government even went as far as trying to regulate snowball fights, by dictating that only those from the same household were allowed to participate, and that their group could not exceed a certain number.
Neither sex nor the sea were exempt from the regulators. Young adults were advised which forms of sex were recommended, bearing the 1.5 m distance rule in mind. Drones were used to prevent people from gathering on the beach. To restrict the movements of young people even further, an evening curfew was introduced. It was not supported by any scientific explanation, just “boerenverstand” (common sense) as the advisory group OMT called it.
Restricting the lives of children and young people during the pandemic should require a great deal of evidence, as well as a risk-benefit evaluation. The Swedish government decided early in January 2020 that the measures in Sweden should be evidence-based. So it kept schools open, a decision supported by the evaluation of the Swedish Corona Commission in 2022. In Norway – where schools only closed briefly – the corona commission concluded in April 2022 that the Norwegian government had not done enough to protect children and that the measures regarding children had been excessive. The Norwegians essentially took the unethical initial decision to harm children without evidence and its authorities recognized that afterwards.
Sweden’s approach to the pandemic contains inconvenient truths for the Dutch, which is why Dutch authorities ignored the evidence from Sweden (and from Norway). As the Swedish journalist and author Johan Anderberg states in the epilogue of his book The Herd:
“From a human perspective, it was easy to understand why so many were reluctant to face the numbers from Sweden. For the inevitable conclusion must be that millions of people had been denied their freedom, and millions of children had had their education disrupted, all for nothing. Who would want to be complicit in that?”
This year, my wife and I decided to spend our summer holidays in Sweden and after two years of often doubtful restrictions in our home country, the Swedish summer and the beaches of Skåne were a breath of fresh air. As a parent and a Special Needs Education Generalist (and former teacher of Physical Education) I am greatly impressed by the path chosen by The Swedish Public Health Agency and the Swedish Government as they remained focused on the health, well-being, and education of children in the process of policy-making. Anders Tegnell and his predecessor Johan Giesecke have tirelessly advocated for not disturbing the lives of children, and they have been proven right.
A very outspoken Giesecke gave his frank opinion on Swedish television: “I am a father and grandfather myself, and I feel if children are given the opportunity to receive a good education and that the risk for me to become infected with covid-19 would increase slightly, it is worth it. Their future is worth more than my future, and it’s not just about my grandchildren, it’s about all the children.”
The successful Swedish approach shows that in many countries government policies met the criteria of child abuse. A key lesson for the future is that schools should not close again in similar circumstances. The Dutch government and the OMT failed the children of their country, a dark and shameful chapter in our history that future historians will surely not look favorably upon.
All expert knowledge and wisdom that has contributed to the health and well-being of Dutch children was thrown out of the window overnight in the spring of 2020. Children and young people were made to carry the burden in order to ‘supposedly’ protect adults.
As Sunetra Gupta and many others have stated, that is the precautionary principle turned upside down. The Danish-American epidemiologist Tracy Beth Høeg rightly condemned such policies, which were also pursued in the US, by calling them: Sacrificing children’s health in the name of Health.
After two years of closing down children’s lives, I firmly believe we owe it to children and their parents to make amends for the wrongs that were done to Dutch children. Above all, Article 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child should never be forgotten: “In all measures concerning children, the best interests of the child must come first.” It is mind-boggling how quickly children’s rights have gone out of the window worldwide. With disastrous consequences.
For children and young people a recovery plan should focus on repairing the damage done in education, recovering sports participation, and restoring the trust in the government and institutions that they can traditionally rely on for their health and their well-being. The Netherlands should be a safe haven for children, as it used to be. Pandemic preparedness also includes watching over children’s health and well-being and in this regard the Dutch failed their children and young people. We should do better in the future. Much better.
Another Flub by the Fact Checkers
Recently, Danish health authorities decided to stop making Covid vaccines and boosters available to the general population under the age of 50. Note, the general population, not absolutely everyone under 50.
This interesting development, and the fact that the rationale for this decision has not been properly explained, has clearly wrought havoc among those whose day job it is to protect the reputation of these medications.
Flora Teoh, the Science Editor of the “fact checking” website Health Feedback, has now written an article which supposedly refutes the standard summary of this decision, i.e., the Danish health authorities have banned vaccines and boosters for nearly everyone under 50. Teoh‘s article is a typical fact-checking piece. She starts by stating a claim – “Denmark banned COVID-19 vaccines for anyone under 50” – which she then proceeds to refute, but the problem is no one has made that claim.
Two sources are listed, although the “facts” being “checked” are both supposedly contained in a headline above a video and a tweet linking back to an article, not in the YouTube video and article themselves.
The first headline, which refers to a video by Clay Travis, reads: “Denmark Bans Covid Shot For People Under 50 Years Old.“ The second, which is a tweet posted on Toby Young’s account linking to a piece by me in the Daily Sceptic, reads: “Denmark has banned the use of COVID-19 vaccines for people under 50 saying the benefits are too low. What it conspicuously fails to mention (though surely knows it) is that the risks are also too high.”
Unfortunately, neither the headline or the tweet state what Teoh claims they state, namely, that Denmark has banned the covid shots for anyone under 50. The word “anyone“ is crucial here. Instead, all that’s being claimed is that the vaccines have been banned in general for people under 50 and the discussion that follows in both cases contains details on which under-50s are exempt from this ban.
And those are, in effect, headlines. Headlines routinely generalise and exaggerate the contents of the videos and articles they’re flagging up. Let‘s take some examples:
“Food crisis if we ditch Russian oil,” The Times claimed on September 19th, 2022, while the article itself details that this is in fact the opinion of one central banking institute. In other words, it is not a fact that ditching Russian oil means food crisis, it is the opinion of some.
“High-profile Dems silent when asked about housing migrants,“ Fox News said in a headline the same day. But if you read the main text it turns out this does not at apply to all high-profile Democrats, only a handful. If Fox had said “All high-profile Dems silent…” its headline would be wrong. But it doesn‘t, thus it isn’t wrong. By the same token, while Denmark’s ban on Covid shots for people under 50 applies to almost everyone, there are a few exceptions.
Headlines are headlines. Branding a video description or a tweet as “misinformation” because they contain condensed and generalised information, with a more detailed discussion in what follows, has nothing to do with checking facts. It’s just about creating strawmen, especially when the “fact-checker” even distorts the quoted headline to make it fit her narrative. This is what Flora Teoh does in her article by adding the crucial word “anyone“.
Teoh then moves on, claiming the Danish ban on vaccinations only applies to boosters. This is incorrect. The first section of the Q&A on the official website explains to whom COVID-19 vaccines should be made available in general, not just boosters:
Question: Who will be offered vaccination against COVID-19?
Answer: People aged 50 years and over will be offered vaccination. People aged under 50 who are at a higher risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19 will also be offered vaccination against COVID-19.
Staff in the healthcare and elderly care sector as well as in selected parts of the social services sector who have close contact with patients or citizens who are at higher risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19 will also be offered booster vaccination against COVID-19.
In addition, we recommend that relatives of persons at particularly higher risk accept the offer of vaccination to protect their relatives who are at particularly higher risk.
Before the start of the vaccination programme, the Danish Health Authority will publish guidelines for which persons aged under 50 are recommended booster vaccination.
This is the full list of the groups to whom the vaccination will be available. People under 50 who neither work in the service sectors mentioned, nor are at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19, are NOT eligible for vaccination. Vaccinating them is banned.
Then on to the boosters:
Question: Why are people under 50 not to be re-vaccinated?
Answer: The purpose of the vaccination programme is to prevent severe illness, hospitalisation and death. Therefore, people at the highest risk of becoming severely ill will be offered booster vaccination. The purpose of vaccination is not to prevent infection with COVID-19, and people aged under 50 are therefore currently not being offered booster vaccination.
People aged under 50 are generally not at particularly higher risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19. In addition, younger people aged under 50 are well protected against becoming severely ill from COVID-19, as a very large number of them have already been vaccinated and have previously been infected with COVID-19, and there is consequently good immunity among this part of the population.
It is important that the population also remembers the guidance on how to prevent the spread of infection, including staying at home in case of illness, frequent aeration or ventilation, social distancing, good coughing etiquette, hand hygiene and cleaning.
Notice the words in the first question: “not to be re-vaccinated“. This is a pretty definitive prohibition.
Flora Teoh then moves on with a number of claims which appear to be unsubstantiated or false:
She explicitly claims, referring to general vaccination, not boosters, that people “can still choose to get the vaccine if they wish”. While this may have been the message last April, it is clear from the Q&A quoted above that for the general population under 50 this is no longer the case.
She claims the “benefits” of the COVID-19 vaccine “outweigh their risks”, without providing any reference to support this statement, let alone acknowledge how research and real-life data already show how the risks in fact outweigh the benefits for younger age-groups, especially young males.
Discussing the reason the vaccination programme was halted last spring, Teoh says: “It was this level of high vaccine coverage, coupled with falling numbers of COVID-19 cases that enabled Denmark to stop broad vaccination efforts,” quoting a CNBC story. The CNBC story, however explains that the immunity rested on not only vaccination, but also on natural immunity. Teoh fails to mention this crucial fact.
Claiming the COVID-19 vaccines are dangerous is a “false narrative” Teoh says. This is wrong. As studies have already shown, there are multiple risks associated with those vaccines, and for many groups the risk of vaccination is higher than the risk of the disease. Thus, they are dangerous for people in those groups.
Flora Teoh‘s article has nothing to do with checking facts or correcting wrong statements. All it has to do with is creating and then attacking strawmen, by distorting headlines, ignoring the crucial difference between headlines and the text they refer to, and presenting a number of unsubstantiated or false statements. Her “key takeaway” does not even address the issue in question – it is simply pure propaganda for the vaccines.
Republished from the DailySceptic
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