By Enza Ferreri
There hasn’t been much information on how the idea of a total lockdown of entire countries, unheard of throughout human history, was born.
People generally assumed – at least at the beginning, when a high level of naivety prevailed – that it must have been medical doctors, scientists and researchers with specializations in health that devised it, and that the lockdown project must have been carefully evaluated in all its predictable consequences, for the economy, for its impact on the population’s psychological as well as general physical health, for children’s education, for people’s rights to fundamental freedoms such as freedom to worship, work, study, socially interact, decide whether to keep their own business open, and so on.
A very interesting, scholarly article by American writer Jeffrey Tucker, among other things founder of the Brownstone Institute for Social and Economic Research and author of the book Liberty or Lockdown, throws light on where the plan to shut down the world started. A section of this book is interestingly and appropriately entitled “Smart society, stupid people”.
Tucker’s article is entitled Lockdown ideology originated in 2006 under George W. Bush and says:
In other words, it was a high-school science experiment that eventually became law of the land, and through a circuitous route propelled not by science but politics.
The Albuquerque high-school girl who was 14 in 2006 and had the “bright” idea of the lockdown in case of epidemics is Laura M. Glass, and she declined to be interviewed by the Albuquerque Journal, which had covered the initial story back in 2006, when the paper re-examined it in depth in early 2020.
The New York Times on February 12, 2006 was also reporting on the topic:
If the avian flu goes pandemic while Tamiflu and vaccines are still in short supply, experts say, the only protection most Americans will have is “social distancing,” which is the new politically correct way of saying “quarantine.”
But distancing also encompasses less drastic measures, like wearing face masks, staying out of elevators — and the [elbow] bump. Such stratagems, those experts say, will rewrite the ways we interact, at least during the weeks when the waves of influenza are washing over us.
So, Laura Glass in 2006 was working on a high-school research project. Her father, Robert J. Glass, was an engineer employed by for the Sandia National Laboratories in the field of Complex Adaptive Systems of Systems engineering. He had no training or expertise in medical subjects, including epidemiology and immunology.
“The inspiration, the sparks came from my daughter” said Robert Glass.
Through a series of simulations using dad’s computer at home, the girl “discovered” that:
school kids come in contact with about 140 people a day, more than any other group.
Based on that finding, her program showed that in a hypothetical town of 10,000 people, 5,000 would be infected during a pandemic if no measures were taken, but only 500 would be infected if the schools were closed.
Other kids apparently liked it: “It was very much to the point. Close the schools and keep the kids at home.
How did prominent doctors, medical scientists and researchers respond to this high-school research project? They totally rejected the whole plan.
Says the New York Times of Dr. D.A. Henderson, medical doctor and epidemiologist who led a 10-year international effort which eradicated smallpox the world over:
Henderson was convinced that it made no sense to force schools to close or public gatherings to stop. Teenagers would escape their homes to hang out at the mall.
School lunch programs would close, and impoverished children would not have enough to eat. Hospital staffs would have a hard time going to work if their children were at home.
The measures embraced by Drs. Mecher and Hatchett would “result in significant disruption of the social functioning of communities and result in possibly serious economic problems,” Dr. Henderson wrote in his own academic paper responding to their ideas.
The answer, he insisted, was to tough it out: Let the pandemic spread, treat people who get sick and work quickly to develop a vaccine to prevent it from coming back. [Emphasis added]
Responding to the 2006 paper by, inter alia, Robert and Laura Glass, there is a strong, well-supported by medical and social evidence refutation of the entire lockdown model, a sort of “anti-lockdown manifesto” entitled “Disease Mitigation Measures in the Control of Pandemic Influenza”, whose authors are the above-quoted D.A. Henderson and three Johns Hopkins University professors: infectious disease specialist Thomas V.Inglesby, epidemiologist Jennifer B. Nuzzo and physician Tara O’Toole.
I recommend the reading of this paper written in a non-technical language. Although, being written in 2006, before our novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 entered the scene, it refers to influenza or flu, its arguments apply to lockdowns in general. I’ll just highlight a few extracts:
There are no historical observations or scientific studies that support the confinement by quarantine of groups of possibly infected people for extended periods in order to slow the spread of influenza…
The negative consequences of large-scale quarantine are so extreme… that this mitigation measure should be eliminated from serious consideration…
Home quarantine also raises ethical questions. Implementation of home quarantine could result in healthy, uninfected people being placed at risk of infection from sick household members [or nursing home residents, we could add with our more extensive experience]… Such a policy would also be particularly hard on and dangerous to people living in close quarters, where the risk of infection would be heightened…
Travel restrictions, such as closing airports and screening travelers at borders, have historically been ineffective. The World Health Organization Writing Group concluded that “screening and quarantining entering travelers at international borders did not substantially delay virus introduction in past pandemics . . . and will likely be even less effective in the modern era.”… It is reasonable to assume that the economic costs of shutting down air or train travel would be very high, and the societal costs involved in interrupting all air or train travel would be extreme…
As experience shows, there is no basis for recommending quarantine either of groups or individuals. The problems in implementing such measures are formidable, and secondary effects of absenteeism and community disruption as well as possible adverse consequences, such as loss of public trust in government and stigmatization of quarantined people and groups, are likely to be considerable…
An overriding principle. Experience has shown that communities faced with epidemics or other adverse events respond best and with the least anxiety when the normal social functioning of the community is least disrupted. Strong political and public health leadership to provide reassurance and to ensure that needed medical care services are provided are critical elements. If either is seen to be less than optimal, a manageable epidemic could move toward catastrophe. [Emphasis added]
We have seen and experienced the effects of panic in the Covid-19 crisis, so we can confirm how true these words are.
The Albuquerque Journal referred to above says:
Now, implemented extensively for the first time, that policy [lockdown] is this country’s main weapon in the battle against the coronavirus scourge.
This was written in early May 2020, not long after the start of the United States’ introduction of the lockdown.
Now, after almost 2 years, the “main weapon” appears very much like a highly defective, in terms of its unintended (I hope) albeit certainly foreseeable consequences, and ineffective one, looking at the unending series of variants and lockdowns we’ve had, without a clear end in sight.
We’ve had Greta Thunberg, another teenager like Laura Glass, slighter older than 14 but with psychological issues, pontificating about “climate change”.
Here we have a 14-year-old girl directing what policies governments should introduce to fight a general health crisis.
Has the world gone mad, entrusting people who are by law minors with very important decisions?
Ancient Rome had the senate as its governing and advisory assembly. SPQR, the phrase referring to the government of Rome in its standards, stands for Senatus Populusque Romanus (Roman Senate and People). The word “Senatus” derives from senex, meaning “older” or “elder”.
Isn’t it about time that our puerile societies grew up and gave major responsibilities to adults rather than children?
This infernal plan “to fight the pandemic” also shows that we put too much trust in abstract mathematical calculations and statistics, from Google’s use of algorithms to decide what webpages are the best response to an internet user’s problem or question to deciding public policies on the basis of computer models.
In fact, without the over-digitalization of our world, total lockdowns as we have unfortunately been subjected to would have probably been impossible to impose. Online stores, suppliers and takeaways, Zoom meetings and the like replaced reality and human contact with virtual ones.
Logic is essential, and mathematics, an expression of it, is a remarkably good tool, but neither, for their very nature, can tell us what the “facts” are and bring new knowledge.
To think that new knowledge may be arrived at, acquired through computer models and statistics, which can only be an elaboration or transformation of empirical data but cannot be sources of them, is an error.