The Great Barrington Declaration has crossed my mindspace a few times recently. I’m increasingly conscious of the fact that, despite being a reasonably scientifically-literate layperson (I think), I am not a professional scientist. I don’t spend my days immersed in reading and critiquing studies, and haven’t developed strength in the skill sets or intuitive grasp of subject areas that experts in their fields have. So…I consciously rely on others’ evaluations, and try to choose “others” that I find trustworthy to a reasonable degree of confidence.
Here are links to a few such people’s evaluations of the Great Barrington Declaration. Essentially: their consensus is that despite elements of the GB Declaration that sound right, it doesn’t deal well with reality. And seems to incorporate either sloppy or shady framing of the issues, to boot.
The full evaluation is here. An excerpt:
Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up:
• The death and hospitalization toll even in under 65s would be staggering
• No consideration of waning immunity and re-infection
• No mention of impact of “Long Covid” for millions infected
• Cordoning off of a large percentage of the population is not feasible
• False dichotomy between lockdown and “back to normal”
And this one is from Dr. Jennifer L. Kasten, who, despite the intimidating array of letters behind her name, has posted lighthearted, chatty intros to a number of the issues along the way. Pardon the drifts toward crudeness of the comedic tone, esp. at the end. Dr. Kasten notes that identifying and segregating the vulnerable are both far more complicated and difficult than they sound, and this strategy in practice means the acceptance of a lot of deaths and long-lasting complications.
Dr. Emily Smith, writing as “Friendly Neighbor Epidemiologist” (FB, web)–an epidemiologist whose husband is a pastor. In addition to the false dichotomy of lockdowns vs. “business as usual”, and other issues, Dr. Smith observes (here and here):
The declaration essentially advocates to try get to herd immunity without precautions – except for protecting the elderly. But this would increase isolation for this group. And, also does not take into account the OTHER at-risk groups in the community for deaths and hospitalizations.
The declaration does not account for staggering amounts of hospitalizations, long COVID-19 haulers, and deaths in those under 65. The.numbers.are.staggering – if we choose this method. Especially since MANY under the age of 65 live with conditions that place them at-risk of COVID-19 complications (overweight, obesity, hypertension, asthma, etc). ****It’s not just the elderly that are at-risk.****
𝐒𝐮𝐦𝐦𝐚𝐫𝐲: Attempting herd immunity through natural infections leads to significant deaths/hospitalizations/long-haulers AND economic destruction. The middle ground of proper precautions protects both (again, see the Table of Contents on FB for that).
“𝐀𝐥𝐥 𝐭𝐨𝐥𝐝, 𝐚𝐭𝐭𝐞𝐦𝐩𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐨 𝐞𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐂𝐎𝐕𝐈𝐃-𝟏𝟗 𝐩𝐚𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐦𝐢𝐜 𝐪𝐮𝐢𝐜𝐤𝐥𝐲 𝐯𝐢𝐚 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐁𝐄𝐒𝐓 𝐂𝐀𝐒𝐄 𝐬𝐜𝐞𝐧𝐚𝐫𝐢𝐨 𝐨𝐟 𝟖𝟎% 𝐢𝐧𝐟𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐬𝐞 𝐮𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐫 𝟔𝟓 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝟏𝟎% 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐬𝐞 𝟔𝟓 & 𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐫 𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐝𝐬 𝐭𝐨 𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐫 𝟕𝟓𝟑,𝟎𝟎𝟎 𝐞𝐱𝐩𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐝𝐞𝐚𝐭𝐡𝐬, 𝐚𝐥𝐦𝐨𝐬𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐞𝐪𝐮𝐢𝐯𝐚𝐥𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝟐 𝐀𝐦𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐖𝐨𝐫𝐥𝐝 𝐖𝐚𝐫 𝐈𝐈𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐚𝐥𝐦𝐨𝐬𝐭 𝐡𝐚𝐥𝐟 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐬𝐞 𝐝𝐞𝐚𝐭𝐡𝐬 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐬𝐞 𝐮𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐫 𝐚𝐠𝐞 𝟔𝟓. 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐧𝐮𝐦𝐛𝐞𝐫 𝐨𝐟 𝐡𝐨𝐬𝐩𝐢𝐭𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐳𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬 & 𝐈𝐂𝐔 𝐚𝐝𝐦𝐢𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬 𝐰𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐛𝐞 𝐦𝐚𝐧𝐲 𝐦𝐮𝐥𝐭𝐢𝐩𝐥𝐞𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐬𝐞 𝐝𝐞𝐚𝐭𝐡 𝐧𝐮𝐦𝐛𝐞𝐫𝐬.”
Dr. Smith also referenced the John Snow Memorandum, published in The Lancet, in this post. (The memorandum is named with reference to a doctor famous for his investigations and intervention to deal with cholera in London) in this post. In a followup Facebook post, “from a 30,000 foot perspective”, she pulls this quote from the Memorandum:
Any pandemic management strategy relying upon immunity from natural infections for COVID-19 is flawed. Uncontrolled transmission in younger people risks significant morbidity(3) and mortality across the whole population. In addition to the human cost, this would impact the workforce as a whole and overwhelm the ability of healthcare systems to provide acute and routine care.
Dr. Vince Staggs, a biostatistician at Children’s Mercy, shared this link to a set of experts’ responses to the GB Declaration. I simply recommend reading through the responses. This one is, perhaps, representative:
“An effective response to the Covid pandemic requires multiple targeted interventions to reduce transmission, to develop better treatments and to protect vulnerable people. This declaration prioritises just one aspect of a sensible strategy – protecting the vulnerable – and suggests we can safely build up ‘herd immunity’ in the rest of the population. This is wishful thinking. It is not possible to fully identify vulnerable individuals, and it is not possible to fully isolate them. Furthermore, we know that immunity to coronaviruses wanes over time, and re-infection is possible – so lasting protection of vulnerable individuals by establishing ‘herd immunity’ is very unlikely to be achieved in the absence of a vaccine. Individual scientists may reasonably disagree about the relative merits of various interventions, but they must be honest about the feasibility of what they propose. This declaration is therefore not a helpful contribution to the debate.”
-Dr Rupert Beale, Group Leader, Cell Biology of Infection Laboratory, Francis Crick Institute