Archive for the ‘lockdowns’ Category

AG Barr: COVID lockdowns are worst threat to civil liberties since slavery

September 17th, 2020
Attorney General William Barr walking down a hallway while wearing a mask.

Enlarge / William Barr, US attorney general, center, arrives for a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at the US Capitol in Washington, D.C., US, on Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

US Attorney General William Barr yesterday compared lockdown orders to slavery, saying that measures to fight the COVID-19 pandemic are one of the biggest violations of civil liberties in US history.

"Putting a national lockdown, stay-at-home orders, is like house arrest. Other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history," Barr said in a Q&A session after delivering a speech at Hillsdale College in Michigan.

Based on that comment, Barr apparently thinks stay-at-home orders designed to reduce the spread of a deadly virus are a greater violation of civil liberties than Jim Crow laws, oppression of Native Americans, and Japanese internment camps run by the US during World War II. Besides that, there was never actually a national lockdown, largely due to the actions of Trump himself. States imposed varying levels of movement restrictions and stay-at-home orders while the Trump administration refused to implement a coherent national strategy and while Trump repeatedly undermined governors by claiming he has "total" authority to override their stay-at-home orders. As Trump downplayed the virus's severity and made calls to "liberate" residents of states with aggressive pandemic responses, Barr threatened to have the US government sue states that don't lift stay-at-home and business-shutdown orders.

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Posted in COVID-19, lockdowns, pandemic, Policy, stay-at-home orders, William Barr | Comments (0)

New study models ways of emerging from a pandemic lockdown

August 7th, 2020
Testing and contact tracing may be essential for exiting pandemic lockdowns.

Enlarge / Testing and contact tracing may be essential for exiting pandemic lockdowns. (credit: Sean Gallup / Getty Images)

As the scale and threat of the COVID-19 pandemic became clear, researchers who trace the spread of diseases were pretty unanimous: to buy us time to develop a therapy or vaccine, countries needed to implement heavy-handed restrictions to limit the opportunities for the virus to spread. Experts painted frightening pictures of huge peaks of infections that would overwhelm local hospital systems if lockdowns weren't put in place, leading to many unnecessary deaths. For countries like Italy and Spain, which were already in the throes of an uncontrolled spread, reality bore these predictions out. Peaks rose sharply in advance of restrictions but fell nearly as sharply once they were put in place.

But those same models also predicted that ending the restrictions would put countries at risk of a return of the virus a few months later, forcing governments to again decide between strict restrictions or an out-of-control pandemic in the next step of a cycle that would repeat until a vaccine or therapy became available. Those countries now have a somewhat different question: are there ways of controlling the virus without resorting to a cycle of on-and-off lockdowns? For countries like the US, which implemented restrictions briefly, erratically, and half heartedly, such that peaks haven't been separated by much of a trough, the same question will become relevant if we ever get the virus under control.

A new study by a large international team uses epidemiological models to explore ways of keeping things in check while allowing most of the population to resume a semi-normal life. It finds that there are ways of handling restriction easing, but they require a combination of an effective contact tracing system, extensive testing, and a willingness of households to quarantine together.

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Posted in Biology, contact tracing, COVID-19, epidemiology, lockdowns, medicine, pandemic, SARS-CoV-2, science | Comments (0)

As COVID-19 rages around the globe, other infectious diseases shrink away

July 31st, 2020
Few people and no cars dot a street amidst highrises.

Enlarge / A masked pedestrian crosses an empty street at a usually busy intersection in the Central Business District on February 3, 2020, in Beijing, China. (credit: Getty | Keven Frayer)

Reports of influenza and a host of other infectious diseases have plummeted as the COVID-19 pandemic has driven people into lockdowns.

In many places, social distancing measures aimed at curbing the spread of the new coronavirus may be smothering the spread of other infectious diseases at the same time. But, in other places, the pandemic may simply be masking disease spread, as people may avoid seeking care for more routine infections while health care systems stretched thin by the pandemic may struggle to conduct routine, surveillance, testing, and reporting.

Some of the resulting declines are dramatic. Countries across the Southern Hemisphere have reported much lower numbers of influenza than usual. Australia, for instance, began 2020 with a relatively high level of flu—reporting around 7,000 lab-confirmed cases in both January and February. But the outbreak crashed in March, with reports of only 229 cases in April, compared with nearly 19,000 in April 2019, as noted by the New Scientist.

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Posted in COVID-19, Infectious disease, influenza, lockdowns, public health, SARS-CoV-2, science, social distancing | Comments (0)