Is there a chance to effectively vanquish and recover from COVID-19, at least to end the pandemic and return to normal lives again?
We function here as prognosticators and contrarians that seek to inform and share and to learn, and we thus argue yes. Although we were blindsided and there were grave initial mistakes—some very consequential, such as the flawed and botched initial Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) testing that allowed the virus to seed for 4 to 5 weeks initially—there are several key components of the COVID-19 response that should have been enacted from inception (save 3-4 weeks initially to understand the pathogen) and which should be urgently implemented based on the experiences over the last 14 months or so.
We call on the medical experts who inform governments to use some common sense, logic, and critical thinking. If it is all about the science, we implore the medical decision-makers to follow the data and science and understand that stopping COVID-19 ‘at all costs’ is not a reasonable policy and not attainable. Our pathway forward is as follows:
- Protect high-risk elderly and vulnerable: This would include elderly persons with medical conditions, frail individuals with comorbid conditions or obesity, and people who live in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, or long-term care facilities. To control staff transmission, consider sequestering staff to one to two weeks at a time. Our precious elderly have lost the rhythm and rhyme of life with these lockdowns and restrictions. Those with dementia saw their conditions worsen. Many had lost hope and died alone and in misery. We are here because of them and need to appreciate they are human beings who gave their best years. They must be afforded gracious mercy, understanding and respect.
- End lockdowns, shelter-in-place orders, mask mandates, and school closure policies: The crushing harms and devastation from these policies far outweigh any benefit. Additionally, the harms are most pronounced among the poorer in society, who are least able to afford the restrictions. Lockdowns kill people, destroy families, cause household stress from lost jobs, prevent education of children, and prevent detection of suspected child abuse. We saw real evidence of desparate business owners, children, and other vital members of society committing serious self-harms and suicides by mid-2020 due to the lockdowns.
- Isolate only the sick and those with symptoms: Stop contact tracing where the virus has already spread extensively, as it confers no benefit. Stop wide testing of asymptomatic persons.
- Foster improved hand-washing hygiene and improved sanitation.
- Promote early out-patient therapeutics: This would include combined and sequenced antivirals, anti-infectives and some drugs used as a prophylaxis (hydroxychloroquine, ivermectin, doxycycline, bromhexine, colchicine, favipiravir, quercetin, etc.), corticosteroid (budesonide, dexamethasone, prednisone, and methylprednisolone, etc.), and antithrombotic drugs (aspirin, enoxaparin, etc.). The drugs should be available during the early stages of illness, especially high-risk people and those in congregate settings We recognize that future research would clarify and define the benefit of these early treatments. There is no sound scientific or moral reason not to consider early treatment.
- Vaccines should be mainly available to those over 70 years of age who are high-risk, and to the front-line medical staff who care for them. Vaccines should also only be given after shared decision-making with their clinicians whereby patients can give informed consent for receiving the vaccine. We believe that, because the risks outweigh the benefits, vaccines are unnecessary for those under 70 who are healthy. We believe the above measures will control the pandemic without a mass vaccine campaign.
- Begin immediate testing for T-cell immunity before vaccination: We do not need to vaccinate persons who have an active infection or who have recovered from infection
- Promote Vitamin D Supplements/Weight Loss: Many victims of COVID-19 suffered from obesity and vitamin D deficiency. Research has shown those at risk are darker- skinned individuals, and those in congregate settings for long periods of time. Messaging about the benefits of weight loss would be important for all groups.
- Use More Reliable Testing than RT-PCR: PCR testing was very common during the early to mid-stages of the outbreak, but this kind of test used to screen broad populations may not give a true picture of transmission. If the PCR test is to be used, a cycle count threshold (Ct) should be limited to 25 cycles/amplifications and below to denote a positive case (infectious and possibly pathogenic). Thresholds above a Ct of 25 denotes nonculturable, nonviable virus and essentially prior infection or viral dust or fragments.
- Understand Natural Exposure Immunity: In order to allow for natural exposure immunity, promote unfettered normal lives with sensible precautions for the low-risk persons in the population (e.g. infants, children, teenagers, young adults, middle-aged adults, and all those who are reasonably healthy with no serious medical conditions). It is this portion of society that will substantially help develop population-level ‘herd’ immunity (either via natural exposure, a vaccine, a combination of both, or even from therapeutics such as early treatment that reduces symptoms and thus transmission). Understand that the immune systems of children are developing and being set for life and, as such, we must allow them to engage freely with the environment.
- Ensure hospitals are equipped and do not get overwhelmed.
- End masking and social distancing: This is particularly necessary for children, who are at near-zero risk of infection or spreading COVID virus or death from it. There is no evidence of any benefit behind 6 feet social distancing rules. There are increasing reports of harm due to the use of these COVID face masks. We have looked at all of the studies about mask use, including blue surgical masks and cloth masks, and found no evidence they are effective in stopping transmission.
- Stop Asymptomatic Mass Testing: It is nonsensical and unnecessary. It drives fear and leads to shutdowns, which increase pain and suffering. Asymptomatic spread and recurrent infection cannot be backed up with strong evidence and provides a false narrative, in our opinion.
- Stop the Fear about Variants, Virus Mutations: When viruses mutate, they typically mutate to much milder versions; moreover, there is no credible available evidence anywhere that the variants are more lethal.
- Read the Great Barrington Declaration: Recognize that a more ‘focused’ pandemic response that is targeted to age and risk is the best approach.
For a discussion on this topic, tune into The Heartland Daily Podcast: Lessons We Learned from COVID -19 We Should Never Forget with Paul Alexander, Ph.D. (May 13, 2021)
Paul E. Alexander, Ph.D., (firstname.lastname@example.org) holds degrees in epidemiology and health research methods, evidence, and impact from McMaster University and Oxford University. Also contributing to this article was Howard C. Tenebaum, D.D.S., Dep. Perio., Ph.D. and Parvez Dara, M.D. A version of this article appeared in the American Institute for Economic Research on April 23, 2021. Reprinted with permission.