“We’ve had severe viral pandemics over the years, but this was the first pandemic of panic” with COVID-19, write the authors of the new book, The Price of Panic: How the Tyranny of Experts Turned a Pandemic into a Catastrophe. This insightful, lucid work carefully exposes how global elites in academia, media, and politics responded to the latest coronavirus outbreak with botched societal cures truly worse than the disease.
“The global response to COVID-19 vastly exceeded that to any other pandemic in history,” note the trio of Biola University biology professor Douglas Axe, statistician William M. Briggs, and Catholic University professor Jay W. Richards. They detail the devastation of unprecedented lockdowns worldwide; for example, United Nations World Food Programme Executive Director David Beasley has warned that disrupted food supply chains could cause 300,000 deaths daily. “Never before had scores of countries around the world chosen to perform such economic harakiri in unison,” resulting in epidemic ravaging of wealth and health, like increased suicides.
The initial impetus for these socioeconomic plagues came from academic epidemiological models that “were so wrong they were like shots in the dark,” the authors note. They focus in particular on studies from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics & Evaluation (IHME) and the “single, untested, apocalyptic model from Imperial College London” (ICL). The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) then promoted the Imperial College projections of 40 million COVID-19 deaths worldwide.
“We’re shocked that anybody believed these astounding numbers,” the authors respond. The ICL model entailed the “shocking but bogus claim that 3.4 percent of coronavirus infections were fatal,” while the “2018–19 flu had a case mortality rate of about 0.1 percent.” Accordingly, the Imperial College model predicted that COVID-19 would effectively equal the notorious 1918 Spanish flu, which killed between 18 and 58 million.
In reality, the author’s statistical source, Worldometer, counted 1.2 million COVID-19 deaths on November 12, hardly a historically unprecedented loss given other little-noticed viral outbreaks. WHO estimates that perhaps 650,000 die annually from flu-linked illness in a bad flu season. The 1968–1969 Hong Kong flu also killed between 1-2 million people.
Similar to these other viruses, COVID-19 threatens especially vulnerable groups like the elderly, such that by May the average age of American COVID-19 victims was 76.2 years. Given old-age infirmities, the American Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on average 2.5 non-COVID conditions on death certificates for attributed COVID-19 victims. Only 7 percent of these certificates listed COVID-19 as the sole death cause.
“COVID-19 is far more deadly to the old and infirm, who are also least likely to work or be in school. So, obviously, we should have channeled resources to protecting them,” the authors logically conclude. “Since about 80 percent of infections cause mild or no symptoms, the vast majority of infected people likely went untested and therefore unrecorded,” a refutation of mass COVID-19 hysteria and wholesale lockdowns. Tellingly, New York City had only 18,500 hospital beds in use, contrary to COVID-19 doomsday estimates of 140,000 needed, and one Brooklyn field hospital remained empty after costing $21 million to build.
Meanwhile various commonplace COVID-19 responses remained unsubstantiated, as the WHO itself studied as recently as October 2019. Some studies showed that coronaviruses like COVID-19 can float in air in aerosol form for over an hour, a nullification of social distancing. The effectiveness of face masks remains also unproven, yet they can easily collect germs.
Across the United States and other countries, COVID-19 infection and death rates have “seemed indifferent to government lockdowns,” the authors carefully document. Sweden has achieved international prominence by foregoing a stringent national lockdown, yet has had a lower COVID-19 death rate than the lockdown countries of Andorra, Belgium, France, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom. “All countries should have been following Japan, which didn’t lock down,” and ended its national COVID-19 emergency on May 25 after 851 attributed COVID-19 deaths, or 6.7 per 100,000, “one of the lowest rates of any developed country.” Many commentators note that Sweden’s neighbor Norway had a lower COVID-19 mortality, but this probably results from the fact that Norway’s population “is far more spread out.”
While National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci has advocated continued lockdowns until a COVID-19 vaccine appears, herd immunity “is how almost all viral outbreaks come and go,” the authors observe. Viruses become largely impotent when most human beings naturally develop antibodies in response to exposure, while vaccine development simply takes too long. America’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA), for instance, has never previously approved a coronavirus vaccine.
The dreaded Spanish Flu confirms this experience, the authors recount. America’s “1918 responses were more akin to the moderate Swedish response in 2020. Efforts were local and organic, not national and imposed from above.” Then President Woodrow Wilson “seems to have paid the pandemic no mind.”
The global quackery of Ivory Tower COVID-19 responses prompts the authors’ recommendation to “do whatever we can to dismantle such experts’ unchecked power over public policy.” These experts’ enabling fellow travelers came from a “gullible, self-righteous, and weaponized media,” particularly against President Donald Trump, which “served up apocalyptic clickbait by the hour and the ton.” As an ironical result, politicians like Senator “Bernie Sanders, who often implied that Donald Trump was a fascist dictator, suddenly warmed to the idea of calling out the military in response to the virus.”
Axe, Briggs, and Richards conclusively show how a myopic yet badly misinformed focus on COVID-19’s relatively small potential victim pool has had disastrous unintended consequences for wider societies, including loss of life. “We have to make choices, and every choice involves a trade-off. Anyone who doesn’t grasp this is not equipped for political leadership.” To understand this lesson for the future, The Price of Panic’s case study is as good as any.
Andrew Harrod is a Middle East Forum Campus Watch Fellow and a Jihad Watch contributor.