“Life is about interacting.”
Wait, it’s not about lockdown? Who is this non-compliant rebel saying this?
Why, these are the words of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo as he announced the opening of New York state, while seeming to echo what many of us have been saying for 15 months. He just said it far too late.
Cuomo further said: “We’re no longer just surviving. We’re not in our homes, afraid to go out. We’re not in our homes disinfecting everything that we can see. Life is not about survival, life is about thriving. Life is about seeing people. Life is about loving. Life is about celebrating. Life is about enjoying. Life is about interacting. And now we get back to living life.”
His reasonably good excuse is that New York is 70% vaccinated, but it reads to me like a figleaf to do the right thing even far too late as he is surrounded by the carnage he created.
The problem is that the vaccine excuse does not account for these realities.
- Studies have repeatedly proven the robustness of natural immunity for which vaccine data do not account; for some odd reason this topic is still taboo.
The demographics show that the preponderance of the severe outcomes are attributed to the age group of 85 and above, according to the CDC, suggesting the need for focused protection, not the need to shut down a whole state.
What’s more, the claim that 70% have gotten at least one dose is only true in the aggregate, but not true for particulars. In the City itself, the figure is only 54%. In the Bronx it is 57% and in Brooklyn 59%. In counties like Allegany, it is as low as 30%. Upstate, figures are much higher. What really matters is the age distribution, consistent with actual risk. In Westchester County, for example, 80% of people over 65% have been vaccinated, which makes sense.
In any case, the figure of 70% is not the definition of herd immunity as it exists in real life. That’s the pharmaceutical definition and it does not account for natural immunity, cell memory, or cross immunity. Nor does it account for constant changes in migration. It is derived from models, not reality. But to a powerful disease planner, this number is good enough to provide the excuse Cuomo needs to reverse himself without apology.
As for the lockdowns, the data is all in on suicide ideation, despair, business closings, missed cancer screenings, alcoholism and other substance abuse, and more horrors, all of which you can read about at Collateral Damage. And the lockdowns gave rise to the worst violent crime in New York City in ten years and now is the #1 issue in the mayoral race.
On March 10, 2020, the city mayor Bill de Blasio said: “If you’re under 50 and you’re healthy, which is most New Yorkers, there’s very little threat here.” And he was right. But that was before disease panic swept the nation. Two days later, Andrew Cuomo closed Broadway, then schools, then businesses. Darkness quickly settled on the city.
Cuomo closed hospitals to elective surgeries, and later ordered Covid patients back into nursing homes, presumably to make room in the hospitals, but that only spread disease. Perhaps as many as 50,000 people were killed with this one decision alone but not a word about that was spoken during the Covid-is-over celebration in Albany.
Cuomo’s new rhetoric is great, but note how he perfunctorily defends his lockdowns in passing: they “have proven right and correct and brought us through this pandemic.” He and others in the lockdown camp will defend them to the death. But at least he has rejected the “zero Covid” position held in many parts of the world, so for that we should at least be grateful. Make no mistake: this isn’t really about science but politics. Restrictions were no longer tenable.
All celebration aside, the truth is that this whole sorry episode was a catastrophe for one of the greatest cities in the world. And there are particular people to blame for it. Locking down a whole city this way was unscientific, undemocratic, illiberal, and borne of a ruling-class attitude that people who can work at home should do so while those without voices or power should hustle around to bring the Zoom class groceries and pick up their trash. The elites can wait until the virus is gone, staying home and staying safe.
The whole thing was a disaster for the ages. I was there the day that New York shut down, and I can report sensing a much greater fear of lockdowns than there was of the virus. Everyone knew that something was coming but no one knew what. I recall sitting in a New York City bar on March 12, 2020, talking to some employees of Broadway who knew they would be out of a job for a while. They were sad but resigned to it. They had no idea that this situation would last for 15 months. Astounding.
If you look at data on cases and deaths, data today do not look different from what it did at this time last year. The lockdowns did nothing to prevent the second wave of cases in the winter while deaths continued to fall regardless simply because demographics were more of a determining force of the disease trajectory than any ridiculous policy adopted by the governor and mayor.
During 2020, some 3.57 million fled the city for elsewhere, mostly high income earners, while others came, leaving a net loss of some 70,000 and losing $34 billion. Sadness was everywhere but no one knew what to do about it. The overlords of the city and the state were in charge, enforcing their masking and distancing edicts and dividing the city according to politics and loyalties. Life was utterly wrecked for millions of people.
What might have been? Perhaps the governing elite might have eschewed pushing this unprecedented solution for a virus that devastated the city and otherwise did nothing to stop the virus and much to spread despair. Might the elderly have been protected while the rest of society moved on with life as normal? Yes, that was always an option, one that had been deployed for the better part of a century.
But for the New York Times, which just won a Pulitzer Prize for its “coverage” of the disease, that was not enough. They gave voice to the likes of now-fired reporter Donald McNeil who advocated a “medieval solution” that dismantled life as we know it. He remains unapologetic and probably rightly bitter that he cannot share in the prize he helped to win.
People cannot stop asking why all this happened. It’s the right question but with no clear answer. There was bad science. There was political arrogance. There was unwarranted disease panic that achieved nothing. The more I investigate this and the more information that is coming out, the more difficult it is to believe that the trigger was ultimately politics, the desire to generate a kind of chaos in public life that many bet would be enough to unseat the Republican president from power.
In the end, they were probably right.
Still, the sad situation cries out not for celebration but for justice of some sort. That justice does not include celebrations by the very people who perpetrated this on the city and the country. It’s not enough just to set off fireworks and declare victory. Unless something changes to make the ruling elite realize that they cannot behave this way, ever again, it will happen again. The new normal must be different from the old: no more dictatorship by people like Andrew Cuomo.