This week, Edwards continued a face covering mandate until Oct. 27 in response to the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic. This came despite new case growth slowing dramatically and, of course, relies on suspension of disbelief when it comes to the efficacy of mask mandates in the first place; at the micro level, masks do a moderate to poor job of stopping transmission, and at the macro level mandates fail to have any measurable positive effect because the attenuated micro impact is diluted further by improper wearing and not wearing. Worst of all, potentially physically but certainly psychologically mask wearing harms children, and Edwards’ order extends to any kids in school.
Most importantly, at a theoretical level, insistence on this mandate betrays propagation of the belief that public policy can eradicate the virus. If you understand, as health officials in other countries increasingly have come to, that this horse left the barn a long time ago and the virus is now endemic, mandates do nothing; certainly individuals can wear them for their own protection, as little as this may provide, but doing this will not alone, nor in combination with anything and everything, wipe out the virus. That’s why public health authorities increasingly have ditched them, even in jurisdictions with higher case rates.
By contrast, only if you think mandates as a part of broader strategy to eliminate the virus does invoking government fiat make sense. And, from a sampling of the experts Louisiana health officials typically call upon on pandemic issues, when queried about policy going forward in the wake of the extension for the most part they remain enthralled with this unworkable idea.
“There's just still a ton of COVID in Louisiana,” said state health officer Dr. Joe Kanter. That’s right, and there always will be because it’s a coronavirus that got a foothold. And coronaviruses that do spread and mutate too quickly ever to contain and eradicate. No amount of mask wearing, no amount of vaccination, and no amount of economic and social lockdowns – as Singapore and Australia finally have learned – can make it disappear. There will be a fifth wave, and a tenth, and twentieth, and fiftieth – just as influenza is now in its hundredths with its hundreds of mutations that has reduced public health officials to try every year to guess the dominant strain and build vaccinations, which never last, around that.
Despite this nagging truth, some of these advisers don’t want to give up the ghost. Probably none has staked as much of his professional reputation on this as Tulane University Medical School’s Robert Garry, a professor of microbiology and immunology who can’t stop preaching the zero COVID gospel as it relates to public policy. “Each time, people got confident when numbers started to come down,” he said. “Let’s learn from that and keep the brakes on, get people vaccinated, get boosters, keeping wearing the mask. If we could drive it down to nothing, we’d be done with it.”
This belief that it still could be driven “down to nothing” stems from his early and dogged insistence that the virus came naturally and not from laboratory escape of a manipulated sequence, with him at one point terming the latter something from a “comic book.” He, and other early adopters of the former view, have hung onto this despite many virologists evaluating the preponderance of evidence as suggesting a lab escape and some of them and science journalists concluding the nature of the virus highly suggests gain-of-function manipulation that made it deadlier.
Belief in one over the other makes a world of difference in whether the virus can be eradicated. That’s as the lab escape theory – bolstered increasingly by serological evidence gathered from subsequent deaths that places public dissemination of the virus not in late 2019 but as many as three months earlier – implies it got away from public health authorities worldwide before they even knew of its existence, meaning there never was any hope of containing it and wiping it out, and that a great number of government intervention were useless, if not cost more lives than they saved as it appears happened in Louisiana.
So, if you still have faith that the virus can be stamped out, you have to believe it had natural origins. Yet even Garry appears to have his doubts now, by the tone of a publication this summer with other colleagues that admits that the virus looks to become endemic. And if that’s the case, his pleas for more masking and vaccinations won’t accomplish the objective, and thus as part of government mandates – which in Louisiana includes the useless vaccine passport ideas of higher education – achieve no public good that outweighs their inherent coerciveness, if not physical damage, done to citizens. (Another frequent cheerleader of the Edwards Administration’s heavy-handed approach, Dr. Catherine O’Neal, chief medical officer of Our Lady of the Lake in Baton Rouge and associate professor of clinical medicine, LSU Health Sciences Center, also appears to be coming around on this, noting that “what we do know is that COVID not going away. We are going to have to live with it.”)
Of course, if there’s a larger political agenda to expand size and reach of government, by all means this zero COVID faith serves the purpose of justifying the perpetuation of an artificial crisis to pursue this agenda. Which also explains why the state has purposely discouraged, if not derided by Kanter as “horse medicine,” the use of ivermectin properly compounded and dosed as an early intervention tool, despite a growing body of evidence, both clinical and real-world, about its efficacy in stifling the virus.
At present, over five dozen controlled studies, many published in peer-reviewed forums, have shown significant positive effects of administering ivermectin, which, unlike Louisiana, most U.S. states have not discouraged its use. This contrasts with some Indian states which actively encouraged its use and have achieved remarkable numbers. For example, as of yesterday, the state of Uttar Pradash that months ago when experiencing a severe spike distributed (going door-to-door) quality-grade ivermectin free of charge to its population, sized 50 times that of Louisiana’s, recorded six new cases (weekly average of 13) and a death (weekly average one death). In Louisiana, the numbers were 872 and 49, respectively.
Overall, Uttar Pradash – a much poorer state than Louisiana with far less in the way of health care available to much of its population – has experienced 1.71 million cases and 22,892 deaths. Compared to Louisiana’s 740,353 cases and 13,949 deaths, that means per capita Uttar Pradash has had 4.6 percent of Louisiana’s case numbers and 3.3 percent of its deaths (other Indian states that have not followed Uttar Pradash's strategy have suffered significantly higher levels of each).
Most amazingly, while Louisiana has a vaccination rate of about 50 percent, in Uttar Pradash it’s less than five percent. The virus swept India generally earlier than Louisiana, so there has been an opportunity for greater natural buildup, but a recent back-of-the-envelope estimate by former Food and Drug Administration director Scott Gottlieb has 90 percent of Americans having been infected or vaccinated. It appears beyond question that early intervention, even prophylactic, administration of ivermectin has blunted significantly virus impact.
Again, it seems inconceivable that a state health authority would go out of its way to discourage use of something with such promising results – unless it had a political interest in maintaining a crisis atmosphere as a vehicle to expand government power that would build a case to keep money spigots open, to pursue greater wealth redistribution by more progressive taxation and enlarged income security payments, and to enhance identification of bogeymen such as business or the un-woke that justified their more substantial regulation. Thus, along with the continued mask mandate and countenance of vaccine passports, besides the crisis Edwards and his fellow travelers perpetuate needless suffering.