LETTER: Let’s stop making bad policy decisions regarding COVID-19

What if there was a plan written by world class experts outlining how communities should respond to a pandemic and it was sitting on the shelf ready to be used prior to COVID-19?  The good news is that plan exists.  It was co-authored by DA Henderson.  He led the international team that eradicated smallpox and served as the director of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.  The bad news is our state and many local officials ignored that plan.  Instead their response was based on an inaccurate summary document authored by a water researcher who focused his graduate research on permafrost.

Mass lockdowns, school closures, and community wide mask mandates are not science.  They are precisely what the science says not to do.  These studies and guidelines have been around for decades.  It was known, settled, data driven practice.  When COVID arrived a few horrendously wrong models received far too much publicity and we panicked.  Many elected officials and bureaucrats did the exact opposite of what we should have done.  It was a breathtaking about face and was based on no new evidence at all.  Instead, it was based on flawed models built on dubious sampling which produced tragically flawed results.  These defective models continue to produce incorrect conclusions which vary dramatically from historical guidance and currently observed evidence.

To continue to use flawed models and scare tactics is a real shame. For example, in Singapore a study observed only 6.4% of secondary cases resulted from pre-symptomatic transmission.  Other empirical studies found pre-symptomatic transmission rates as low as 0.1%.  Why do we continue to reference models that infer pre-symptomatic transmission rates of 44% when real world experience shows they are drastically out of step with actual observed outcomes?

The signs around campus encouraging students to wear a mask “even outside” are another example of unscientific fear mongering. There is absolutely no scientific basis to make that type of a request.  In fact, it is contra-indicated in the current medical guidance.

Many of the recently implemented policies have far reaching negative consequences.  Let’s stop making bad policy decisions.  As DH Henderson said, “Experience has shown that communities faced with epidemics or other adverse events respond best and with the least anxiety with the normal social functioning of the community is least disrupted.”  That is a goal we should hold all our elected officials and community leaders to.

-Paul Borup


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14 Comments

  • Herm Olsen September 11, 2020 at 8:14 pm Reply

    If Dr. Redd validates your assertions about a ‘better way’, I’ll buy it. If Dr. Fauci confirms there is a better plan, I’ll accept that.
    I trust today’s best medical advice rather than an advocate for political (even if not partisan) agendas.
    I love Paul Borup, and think he is level-headed and decent. So getting the BRHD and the CDC to embrace his recommendations shouldn’t be too hard. If they fail to do so, perhaps he needs to re-think his evaluation about “bad policy decisions”.

    • Paul Borup September 12, 2020 at 11:00 am Reply

      Herm,
      Fauci and the CDC have been all over the board this year.

      The absolute worst time to set aside decades of sound guidance is in the middle of a pandemic…unless it is abundantly clear that guidance is wrong. Other than flawed models, there hasn’t been any empirical evidence the longstanding guidance was wrong.

      Here is what the CDC recommended as of this year in their Community Mitigation Guidelines to Prevent Pandemic Influenza Technical Report:

      “Personal protective measures include “everyday preventive actions,” such as voluntary home isolation of ill persons, respiratory etiquette, and hand hygiene (7). Community measures include temporary school closures and dismissals and other social distancing measures, such as minimizing face-to-face contact at workplaces or canceling mass gathering (8).”

      “Although there is experimental evidence that face masks provide a physical barrier that can reduce person-to-person transmission of virus-laden droplets when worn by ill persons or well persons, there is less evidence that face masks are effective in natural settings, including community settings such as households, schools, and workplaces.”

      Here is the bottom line from the report: “To be effective, these measures must be implemented early and strategically targeted, layered, and tailored to pandemic severity, and their public health benefits must be balanced against economic and social costs.”

      Much of the bad policy hasn’t been ‘implemented early” or “strategically targeted, layered, and tailored to pandemic severity”. There has been very little, if any, discussion about what public health benefits have actually come from these policies and how those should be balanced against economic and social costs.

    • Paul Borup September 12, 2020 at 6:07 pm Reply

      Fauci and the CDC have been all over the board since the pandemic begin. I’m much more confident in the longstanding and proven guidance from the CDC. Updating guidelines in the middle of a pandemic based on flawed modeling that can’t be replicated in the real world is problematic. In fact, the CDC’s “Community Mitigation Guidelines to Prevent Pandemic Influenza” report states:
      “Personal protective measures include “everyday preventative actions,” such as voluntary home isolation of ill persons, respiratory etiquette, and hand hygiene(7). Community measures include temporary school cluse and dismissals and other social distancing measures, such as minimizing face-to-face contact at workplaces or cancelling mass gatherings (8). To be effective, these measures must be implemented early and strategically targeted, layered, and tailored to pandemic severity, and their public health benefits must be balanced against economic and social costs. “
      “none of the studies established a conclusive relationship between mask/respirator use and protection against influenza infection”
      “…there is less evidence that face masks are effective in natural settings, including community settings such as households, schools, and workplaces.”
      The only justification for not following longstanding guidelines is bad modeling. There has been no empirical evidence to support changing the longstanding guidelines. Let’s not make bad policy based on bad models. There have been no observable and empirical

  • Walt Appel September 11, 2020 at 8:27 pm Reply

    What’s smaller? Smoke particulates or viral fragments??? CDC says;

    “Cloth face coverings that are used to slow the spread of COVID-19 offer little protection against harmful air pollutants in wildfire smoke because these coverings do not capture most small particles in smoke.”
    https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/smoke-faq.html

    • Hilary Shughart September 12, 2020 at 5:43 am Reply

      “Overall, there is evidence that simple cloth face masks will generally provide good protection to those around the wearer (source control). This is possible because droplets expelled during speech are much larger than the droplet nuclei they later turn into through evaporation.”
      https://www.fast.ai/2020/06/26/particle-sizes/

    • Don September 16, 2020 at 9:08 pm Reply

      Okay, Walt. Now tell us what you think about fluoride.

  • Erin Bennett September 11, 2020 at 11:38 pm Reply

    First, please cite your sources.

    I believe the trouble with COVID is that we really don’t KNOW. Our knowledge base is evolving, as is usually the case in science. However, there are examples where COVID wrecked havoc in communities, cities, even whole countries. The body count in each of these examples is a hard, irrefutable fact. Taking precautions to prevent similar scenarios is not fear-mongering, it’s really common sense.
    If you don’t want to wear a mask, don’t. A professor at BYU conducted a meta-data study and concluded that mask wearing is an effective way to prevent virus transmission if 80% of the population cooperates. You can be in the 20. Pls don’t try to force your no matter wearing agenda on the rest of the population.
    Source for BYU study. https://www.google.com/amp/s/news.byu.edu/intellect/byu-analysis-of-115-studies-masks-powerful-cost-effective-in-combating-covid-19%3F_amp%3Dtrue

  • Hilary Shughart September 12, 2020 at 5:39 am Reply

    I am concerned that the information in this letter is not backed by legitimate research. Please provide the source for the dubious statement that mask wearing outdoors “is contraindicated in the current medical guidance”. Here’s what the CDC says, followed by guidelines from the Institute for Global Health which states that “Everybody outside should be wearing a mask.” and “wearing a mask is not a substitute for social distancing.” For more information on the effectiveness of masks, see “Summary: SARS-CoV-2 particles do not float freely in the air. They are expelled as relatively large droplets, which research shows are easily caught by a simple cloth or paper mask.” https://www.fast.ai/2020/06/26/particle-sizes/

    CDC recommends that people wear masks in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
    Masks may help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others.
    Masks are most likely to reduce the spread of COVID-19 when they are widely used by people in public settings.

    https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover-guidance.html

    “Doctor Robert Murphy, a John P. Phair Professor of Infectious Diseases at Northwestern Medicine and Executive Director of the Institute for Global Health. He said that right now, it’s safer to be outside than inside because of air circulation.
    But even if you’re following social distancing guidelines, Murphy says you need to wear a mask to minimize airborne respiratory droplets produced by sneezing, coughing or talking, which is how COVID-19 spreads. Being outside only reduces your risk. It doesn’t take it away completely.

    “People have told me, ‘I’m 6 feet away and I don’t need to wear the mask,’” Murphy said. “Everybody outside should be wearing a mask.”

    That said, wearing a mask is not a substitute for social distancing. Help flatten the curve by staying at least 6 feet apart at all times. A recent study confirms that it does slow the spread of coronavirus, and here’s how many lives it has saved.”

    https://www.msn.com/en-us/health/wellness/yes-you-should-still-wear-a-mask-outside-here-s-why/ar-BB14YKPO

  • Paul Borup September 12, 2020 at 11:31 am Reply

    My source in the original letter was “Disease Mitigation Measures in the Control of Pandemic Influenza” from the Center for Biosecurity of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

    I read the BYU study. The BYU professor is a water researcher that studied permafrost for his PhD. I also read the underlying studies. The BYU professor’s executive summary dramatically overstates the findings in the underlying research.

    Let’s use the scientific method of testing the hypothesis that mask wearing is an effective way to prevent virus transmission if 80% of the population cooperates. That is what the model suggests. Take a look at http://www.worldometers.info to see a timeline of daily new COIVD cases by country. Look at the results for some of the most compliant counties in the world. Philippines-92%, Brazil – 90%, India – 88%, Spain – 87%, and Mexico – 86%. According to the model, these countries shouldn’t be seeing an increase in virus cases. Yet they are all seeing dramatic increases in cases.

    How about we test in right here in the USA? Let’s look at Hawaii. They are an island and have quarantined arriving visitors. They had a mask mandate since April and Honolulu required masks outdoors starting in July. They shouldn’t be seeing a spike in cases according to the model. Hawaii experienced a huge increase in cases starting in August. Nevada and California are also great examples. Look at when their mask mandates were put in place and what happened to case counts after. Cases increased dramatically.

    My point is the models are flawed. They use improper assumptions that produce erroneous conclusions. When you compare the models to real world results, the models are proven to be wrong. We should stop using incorrect models to craft public policy.

    We should absolutely take precautions. What we should not do is implement policies that have little to no public health benefits but inflict significant social and economic costs.

  • C Porter September 12, 2020 at 5:37 pm Reply

    Thank you for your letter Mr. Borup. You are correct on all counts. If people want to know for themselves, all they have to do is follow the money.

  • Carla Porter September 12, 2020 at 5:41 pm Reply

    Thank you for your letter Mr. Borup. You are correct on all counts. You can find the truth if you just follow the money.

  • Carla Porter September 12, 2020 at 5:46 pm Reply

    You are correct Mr. Borup. You need to do nothing more than follow the money to get the real story.

    • Don September 16, 2020 at 9:10 pm Reply

      So you’re saying we should follow the money to get the truth? I just wanted to make sure I understood all your comments.

  • Sky daddy September 13, 2020 at 11:25 am Reply

    Mr. Malthus would say why fight the inevitable. The planet has about 1.5 billion to many people, we should just let nature take its course. How much of our annual budget is spent on health care? Maybe Covid 19 is a cure for our obesity and diabetes epidemic. Maybe the white house will give us some much needed clarity by providing alternate fact. I find it fascinating that the same group of people who preach abstinence to there kids are the most staunch anti maskers. I am just starting to think that they just don’t like prophylactics of any sort.

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