I provide the facts, you draw your conclusions. In this article you will find data on the efficiency of masks mandates and lockdowns, a cost/benefit analysis of Covid-19 regulations, and a series of questions you need to ask yourself to answer this debate:
Will masks and lockdowns become permanent?
The World Health Organization has warned that a worse Pandemic than COVID-19 could be around the corner and that what we've seen so far in 2020 is “not necessarily the big one”.
WHO Chief Scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said that the roll-out of vaccines does not mean social distancing or mask-wearing can go away. She also mentioned that the restrictive lockdown measures won't let up until “the end of 2021” when “population immunity” is achieved.
According to the data there is no correlation between mask mandates or lockdown regulations, when they are instituted, and the number of COVID-19 cases.
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2021: The WHO Forecast About Our Future
The WHO warns of COVID 2.0, saying this pandemic isn't necessarily the big one. This begs the question:
Are masks and lockdowns a permanent part of our future?
A recent Zero Hedge article shines some light on the topic:
The World Health Organization has warned that a worse pandemic than COVID could be around the corner and that what we've seen so far in 2020 isn't necessarily the big one. With global lockdowns, international stripping of freedoms and the decimation of small businesses, and the economy as a whole, it is difficult to imagine how it could get any worse. Yet the WHO is predicting that could very well be the case. The head of the World Health Organization Emergencies Program, Dr. Mike Ryan, said during a media briefing that, ‘This pandemic is very severe… It has affected every corner of the planet but it isn't necessarily the big one. We live in an increasingly complex global society. These threats will continue. Despite the vaccine, the virus is set to become endemic and will never go away.
If you're like me, perhaps you’re getting the vibe that they're implying that masks and lockdowns could be a permanent part of our future. So you may be asking yourself…
“What about these vaccines that they're rowing about?”
They addressed it as follows:
WHO chief scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said that the rollout of the vaccine does not mean social distancing or mask-wearing can go away. “I don't believe we have the evidence, on any of the vaccines, to be confident that it's going to prevent people from actually getting the infection and, therefore, being able to pass it on. “The comments come after Swaminathan warned that the restrictive lockdown measures won't let up until the end of 2021 when population immunity,” or herd immunity, “is achieved.”
Then, why are we doing the vaccine?
I guess it prevents you get sick from the virus, but that's a whole other topic. The WHO is saying masks and lockdowns will be with us at least until the end of 2021. What we're dealing with now isn't the big pandemic that will come in the future.
I'd also like to add that since 2003 we've had SARS, Avian, Swine, MERS, Ebola, H1N1, Zika, Ebola again, and now Covid-19.
Should we assume that over the next 20 years we'll have a similar amount of viruses to deal with? How will the government handle these things in the future?
Now they've set precedence to where their standard operating procedure is to lock down the entire economy until they find out how severe the virus is.
Are Mask Mandates And Lockdowns Efficient?
I delved into the data of states, countries, and even some counties that instituted mask mandates to see if there's any correlation between the start of the mandates and the rate of cases or deaths.
I began with Oregon. They introduced a statewide mask mandate on July 1st. The chart above displays daily new cases per one million.
As you can notice the cases continued to increase, then went down at the end of the summer, and increased dramatically when fall arrived in October. Keep in mind the mask mandate was still in effect.
Down to Nevada, the data shows no correlation whatsoever.
Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico followed a very similar trajectory, as far as daily new cases per one million. The interesting thing is they instituted a mask mandate at different times. New Mexico on May 16, Colorado on July 17, and Utah on November 9.
The graphic below illustrates daily new deaths, plus mask compliance as of December 1st in the UK, France, Spain, and Italy versus Sweden.
Italy had the highest daily new deaths but also had the highest mask usage. Where Sweden had the lowest mask usage, at 7.7%, but also had the lowest new daily deaths.
When it comes to New York in the US, they had a problem at the beginning of Covid-19, we all know that. They instituted the statewide mask mandate on April 17th and this seemed to have brought the cases down dramatically.
On July 22, Fauci himself came out and said New York did it correctly. Their cases plateaued but then as fall came on, their cases, once again, skyrocketed while they were “doing it correctly”.
You may be saying to yourself, “George, well maybe some states the people are obeying the rules and some states they aren't, so if we just made the regulations more draconian then we would see the actual mandates match up with a suppression, or a decrease, in the number of cases”. Although, that wasn't true in Europe maybe that would be true in the United States.
Then I checked out a state like Connecticut, they set up inside mask mandates on April 20, and that seemed to work a little bit for a while.
Daily new cases plateaued during the summer, but then on August 15, Connecticut expanded the order and created an outside mask mandate. They got draconian and implemented fines for not wearing masks.
So people were most likely obeying the rules back at the end of September. However, cases still spiked dramatically. It's almost like, “The virus is going to the virus,” to use a quote from Tom Woods.
Again, it is noticeable the relation between mask usage and daily new cases seem to be very seasonal. Shocking, just like the Spanish flu, where it comes in waves. The first wave in the spring, then it goes down in the summer and goes back up in the winter.
Something very similar happened with Los Angeles County. Inside mask mandate was imposed on April 10, outside mask on May 14, and the cases continued to go up. Then they went down at the end of the summer to a spike in the fall, when the county enforced curfews and closed outdoor dining.
This isn't about debating whether masks themselves are effective. This is just to show there is no correlation between mask mandates implemented by the government and the number of new daily cases.
The first thing I did was visiting the CDC's website where they have an interactive map showing the number of Covid-19 cases for the last seven days or since January 21, 2020.
I compared California with Florida, because we know California has pretty much been the most draconian, with maybe the exception of New York, and Florida has been the most liberal, most laissez-faire.
Starting with cases over the last seven days California has had it bad. The dark blue color means 72 to 95 cases per 100,000 habitants. Where Florida on the image below, has seen the case count at 43 to 53 per 100,000 habitats, even though they remained almost entirely open.
I know the last even days don’t tell the whole story, so I went back to January 21, 2020, to see if there's a difference.
In January California had 5.456 and Florida 5.859 cases per 100,000 residents. Almost identical, but California turned into a police state, whereas Florida remained relatively free.
Just as with masks I don't see a strong correlation between lockdowns and the case rate…
So how effective, or not effective, are lockdowns?
To put things into perspective I examined an article published by Nature Journal at the beginning of September 2020. I could only find it after two hours of research, as there is little recent data.
Sadly, it's not data on the United States. It shows the case fatality rate from Geneva, England, and Spain, in four different age groups. As we know, the higher the age bracket the more dangerous the virus is…
But to what extent?
In Geneva, people who are 65 and older have a 5.6% fatality rate. Under the age of 65, the fatality rate drops down to almost nothing, very similar to the flu.
In England, the age group varies a bit. 75 years and older individuals have a fatality rate of 11.6%. From 65 to 74 it lowers dramatically, to 3.1%
In Spain, the fatality rate for people between the ages of 80 and over is 7.2%. From 70 to 79 it is 3.4%. If you've never been to these areas, I have, and let me tell you the big difference. When you walk off the train, or the airplane, in Geneva everybody's skinny.
When you get off the train on the plane in England everybody is fat. What you can see in countries where people are the most overweight is they have a pretty big problem with the virus, especially in older age groups.
If we combine the previous numbers to get our heads around how dangerous Covid-19 is, it turns out it is dangerous for people over the age of 65. For people under the age of maybe 55, not so much.
In some areas and countries, the numbers are pretty similar to the flu. Although, here in the United States the numbers are higher than the flu for all age groups. When I say higher, again, you need to put things into perspective.
Higher for a 20-year-old living in the States means the difference between .002% and .02% It's not like the difference between .002 and 20%.
One more thing I'd like to highlight is, as we get more familiar with the virus, and the treatments, the case fatality rate, overall, has decreased.
It is safe to claim the efficiency of mask mandates and lockdowns is inconclusive, at best. I'm not here to say if you believe one thing or the other that you're right, or wrong. I want to be very clear, I'm just here to present the facts, the data, and let you come to your conclusion.
Putting Together The Pieces of The Puzzle: Cost/Benefit Analysis
To determine if masks and lockdowns will be a permanent part of our future, I checked out the cost of Covid-19 regulations:
- The first thing we pay is to give more control of our personal lives to the government. This puts in jeopardy our freedom and liberty.
As an example of this let's go back to 9/11 and look at the Patriot Act. I visited the ACLU's website to see their overview of what happened with the Patriot Act:
Hastily passed 45 days after 9/11 in the name of national security the Patriot Act was the first of many changes to surveillance laws that made it easier for governments to spy on ordinary Americans by expanding the authority to monitor phone and email communications, collect bank and credit reporting records, and track the activity of innocent Americans on the Internet. While most Americans think it was created to catch terrorists the Patriot Act turns regular citizens into suspects.
They also published an infographic that goes over some of the more egregious things the government has done in the name of the Patriot Act. Now, keep in mind, it was last updated maybe 2011.
Since then it's gotten worse, even more, when you take into account things like the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), which is overseas banking regulation and a serious encroachment on personal liberty and freedom.
According to the ACLU, in 2003, the government started issuing National Security Letters, NSLs. They're issued by FBI agents without a judge's approval to obtain personal information like phone and computer records, banking history, and credit history.
Between 2003 and 2006, alone, there were over 190,000 NSLs issued, and only one out of almost 200,000, led to a terror-related conviction.
This is why I always say:
You have to look at the actual results of a government program and not the intentions because the results and the intentions, usually, are the complete opposite.
To add insult to injury, not only are they invading our privacy but, “the Patriot Act does not require the information obtained by NSLs to be destroyed…At least 34,000 law enforcement and intelligence agents have access to phone records collected through NSLs.”
Our data is saved on NSA and the FBI serves forever, it never gets deleted. Another example of how over the top this can be:
In response to just nine NSLs 11,100 Americans' telephone account records were turned over to the FBI. The Patriot Act prohibits Americans who receive these NSLs from telling anyone. Between 2003 and 2005 the FBI made 53 reported criminal referrals to prosecutors as a result of 143,000 NSLs.These “gag order” provisions have been held unconstitutional in several legal cases.
The 192, 499 NSLs II mentioned earlier included 2006. So from 2003 to 2005 17 of these were for money laundering, 17 immigration, 19 fraud, and zero for terrorism. The one terrorism claim came in 2006.
The Patriot Act also allows the government to do sneak and peek searches.
The Patriot Act allows federal government enforcement agencies to delay giving notice when they conduct secret searches of Americans' homes and offices, a fundamental change to the Fourth Amendment privacy protection and search warrants.
I would argue it's just flat out unconstitutional. Once again, the results of law are completely the opposite of what the stated intentions are or how it's sold to the general public.
This is a law that is supposed to protect us from terrorism, yet 76% of these sneak and peaks in 2010 were drug-related, 24% other, and less than 1% were related to terrorism.
I'm sure your friend and family member Fred is now saying, “George that's not even close to the same thing as masks or lockdowns because the Patriot Act was a permanent law. These things are just temporary. And, plus, the masks and the lockdowns are for our safety. They're just like seatbelt laws for cars or helmet laws for motorcycles.”
Unfortunately, that's not a great argument with me because I don't think there should be seatbelt laws, nor do I think there should be helmet laws for the same reason. It's giving the government too much control over our personal lives, just like the Patriot Act.
I'd also like to remind your friend and family member Fred of the famous quote, from one of my favorites, Milton Friedman, who said:
Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.
True with the Patriot Act and I think it'll be true today with whatever power the government grabs away from you and me as a result of Covid-19.
Problems Caused By The Lockdowns
We know the benefits, or what the benefits are perceived to be, as saving lives. Okay, that's great…
But what are the costs?
- 100,000 to 200,000 TB deaths worldwide over the next five years.
- 150 million globally added to the extreme poor as a result of lockdowns.
- The level of hunger in the United States almost tripled between 2019 and August of 2020.
- Depression also increased significantly. 25% of 18 to 24-year-olds considered suicide in June in the United States, 11% of all adults, with 40% of all adults reporting mental health or substance abuse problems.
- In some counties, or some cities, like DuPage, a 22.7% increase in actual suicides. That is extremely tragic.
- Huge increases in death from home because people aren't going to the hospital because of COVID, so they're not getting the treatment they need. This isn't because the hospitals are overwhelmed, it's because they're choosing not to go to the hospital or the hospital isn't letting them in because they're worried about them either contracting or spreading coronavirus.
- CDC also reports 300,000 excess all-cause deaths. 1/3 of these, 100,000, come as a result of lockdown, not from COVID.
- 35% of missed routine cancer screenings, 43% missed medical appointments. Again, this isn't because the hospitals are overwhelmed. Most likely it's because they just shut down that branch. After all, they were worried about spreading the virus.
- 60% of US businesses that closed due to Covid will not reopen. 60%! That is a staggering number.
- 4.400 Chicago area businesses, alone, have closed during the pandemic and 2,400 say they'll never reopen. That's just in one city. Think of how bad it is across the United States, and the globe because of lockdowns.
- US GDP drops 32.9%, the worst ever. You may be saying to yourself, “Okay, George, well it's up substantially since then.” That's right, because of stimulus checks and the government spending money, $5 trillion deficit, just this year to try to prop up GDP.
- Although GDP, the headline number, might only be down by 6% or 7% you've got to realize, without that government spending, basically mortgaging our children's future, the GDP would be down further than it was during The Great Depression as a direct result of the lockdowns.
I synthesized in a chart the case fatality rates and the new daily cases I featured earlier. The chart starts at zero years and goes up to 80+ years old.
On the left, it goes from 1% to 7%. The blue line represents Covid-19 as it is right now, the red line is the flu in rough numbers. The perceived benefit of lockdowns and mandatory masks is that this line coming down closer to the flu.
The benefits after analyzing the data above are inconclusive. We don't know if lockdowns or additional regulations work. The data would suggest they don't work at all and there is no correlation.
I want to be clear, I'm not saying that masks themselves don't work. I'm saying that the data shows mandatory mask regulations don't work. If you think masks work that's great. There's a lot of evidence out there that suggests they do, but you have to ask the question:
They work at doing what?
Do you see it? Most of the studies I have read show masks work at reducing the spread of the XYZ virus if the individual is coughing. They have to be coughing for the mask to work.
If they're just talking or breathing, then they don't do much at all. Once more, those are just the studies I've read, it's not to say that I'm right or wrong on the topic.
Then we have to ask, if masks do work, they work to what degree, right?
If it goes from 1% to 0.8% we could say that, yeah they work but not enough to move the needle. It's not like we're saying it goes from a 50% chance of spreading down to a 1%.
When you're going through those surveys or research, make sure that you're asking those questions.
Going back to the specific cost-benefit analysis, we know the benefit is up in the air, it's inconclusive, but the costs are:
- More government power and less personal freedom
- Hundreds of thousands of additional deaths just in the United States, that does not include what has happened worldwide because of the lockdowns
- More mental issues
- Higher rate of drug and alcohol abuse
- Economic devastation cannot be disputed at all
- More poverty
The next thing we have to ask ourselves is how many individuals, or businesses, would have taken the same action with no regulation in place whatsoever?
Now it's not 0% and it's not 100%, it's somewhere on a spectrum.
When we're trying to determine the benefit of an actual regulation, and how it helps to combat Covid-19, we have to establish whether it has been a result of some people taking action on their own.
Florida would be a good example of this, although it's wide open, you still see some businesses requiring a mask to go inside and some people walking around with a mask when they're outdoors. It's their personal choice. So I would estimate that 70% of the people would choose to take action on their own, with no lockdowns.
The main takeaway is there is no real definitive upside but there is an extremely defined downside, which was visible when I went over the list of costs.
Wouldn't it make more sense if we got the government out of the picture, just gave people the data, and let them make their own decisions?
We just suggest that individuals in the high-risk group take action on their own, wear an N95 mask, if they so choose, and don't go in public spaces. Not many of those individuals, who are a very low-risk group, actually live at home with their 80-year-old parents or grandparents.
If we got the government, which is turning into a police state, out of the picture the benefit would most likely be very close to the same but we would have none of the defined costs.
You may be asking yourself right about now, “Okay George, I get what you're saying, whether I like it or I don't I get it…
But how does that help me determine if these regulations are going to be a permanent part of my future?”
Let me try to connect the dots. I think we have to understand the mentality of the society we live in today. That's a society that prioritizes safety, and not feeling any pain, above anything else.
I would argue that's priority one through 10, maybe one through 100. Personal freedom and liberty is an afterthought, something we can only consider after we know that we're 100% safe and we will never feel any short-term pain.
This is clear in states like California but also on an economical level across our entire country.
Is there any difference between the lockdowns, or the mandatory masks, and quantitative easing?
It's the same thing, it's meant to make sure that we, as a society, are safe and don't feel any pain. One is health safety, the other is economic safety.
Regardless of what liberties and freedom we have to sacrifice, or how much we mortgage our children's and grandchildren's future, in the case of quantitative easing, it doesn't matter, as long as we're safe and we don't feel any pain in the short-term.
I also think that our political views have become a religion, not just with the people who disagree with me, but the people who agree with me as well.
A lot of different reasons for that, because political views are a religion for people. They're just going to disagree with the other side just to disagree, despite how many facts or data points, or charts there are.
A lot of people who are reading this article will see everything I went over previously and ignore it. They just don't care. Regardless of what the data and charts say, they're still going to believe that if we just lockdown harder, or if we just had more severe penalties for not wearing masks, all our problems would be solved.
Then we have to consider the motivation of your typical politician. I am very hard on politicians, as you guys know from my previous articles. But I think at the end of the day they're prostitutes for votes.
They're going to do whatever they need to do, they have no moral backbone, they're going to do whatever they think they need to do to get the vote.
If politicians think lockdowns, over the next 20 years, are going to get them the votes they need, that's exactly what they're going to do. If they think that keeping businesses open and ignoring any future viruses will get them votes, then that is what they're going to do.
It's just like my buddy Art Berman says, “We get the politicians we deserve.” It goes back to how fanatical our society is going to be when it comes to safety and not feeling any pain, which brings me to a quote that I think helps us get our mind around everything discussed here:
Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. And weak men create hard times.
It's a matter of how fast we get to the hard times that will produce the next generation of strong men and women. In other words, I think we're going to have masks and lockdowns until we hit the next round of hard times.
What does that mean?
Well you guys know me, I'm going to put it into economic terms. I think we're going to continue to have regulations because people believe that we can lock the entire economy down and just print up stimulus checks, and no one has to go back to work, and there are no downsides. But eventually, we will get the pain of inflation.
So it's kind of a race, in my mind. It's the pain of inflation going up and the pain, or lack of perception, of safety. So at a certain point, the pain from inflation is going to exceed the pain from the loss of safety.
When we start getting extremely high rates of consumer price inflation, we can't print more money, more stimulus checks, to go ahead and lock down the economy without exacerbating the inflation problem, that's when society at large says:
“Time out. No more lockdowns, no more money printing, because we cannot handle the extreme pain that we are feeling from consumer price inflation.”
That extreme price inflation, or stagflation like we saw in the 1970s, is what creates the hard times, which creates the next generation of strong men and women, that will say no to mandatory masks and no to government lockdowns.