America’s COVID Response Was Based on Lies
On 3/6/23 at 6:00 AM EST
Almost all of America’s leaders have gradually pulled back their COVID mandates, requirements, and closures—even in states like California, which had imposed the most stringent and longest-lasting restrictions on the public. At the same time, the media has been gradually acknowledging the ongoing release of studies that totally refute the purported reasons behind those restrictions. This overt reversal is falsely portrayed as “learned” or “new evidence.” Little acknowledgement of error is to be found. We have seen no public apology for promulgating false information, or for the vilification and delegitimization of policy experts and medical scientists like myself who spoke out correctly about data, standard knowledge about viral infections and pandemics, and fundamental biology.
The historical record is critical. We have seen a macabre Orwellian attempt to rewrite history and to blame the failure of widespread lockdowns on the lockdowns’ critics, alongside absurd denials of officials’ own incessant demands for them. In the Trump administration, Dr. Deborah Birx was formally in charge of the medical side of the White House’s coronavirus task force during the pandemic’s first year. In that capacity, she authored all written federal policy recommendations to governors and states and personally advised each state’s public health officials during official visits, often with Vice President Mike Pence, who oversaw the entire task force. Upon the inauguration of President Joe Biden, Dr. Anthony Fauci became chief medical advisor and ran the Biden pandemic response.
We must acknowledge the abject failure of the Birx-Fauci policies. They were enacted, but they failed to stop the dying, failed to stop the infection from spreading, and inflicted massive damage and destruction particularly on lower-income families and on America’s children.
More than 1 million American deaths have been attributed to that virus. Even after draconian measures, including school closures, stoppage of non-COVID medical care, business shutdowns, personal restrictions, and then the continuation of many restrictions and mandates in the presence of a vaccine, there was an undeniable failure—over two presidential administrations—to stop cases from rapidly escalating.
Numerous experts—including John Ioannidis, David Katz, and myself—called for targeted protection, a safer alternative to widespread lockdowns, in national media beginning in March of 2020. That proposal was rejected. History’s biggest public health policy failure came at the hands of those who recommended the lockdowns and those who implemented them, not those who advised otherwise.
The tragic failure of reckless, unprecedented lockdowns that were contrary to established pandemic science, and the added massive harms of those policies on children, the elderly, and lower-income families, are indisputable and well-documented in numerous studies. This was the biggest, the most tragic, and the most unethical breakdown of public health leadership in modern history.
In a democracy, indeed in any ethical and free society, the truth is essential. The American people need to hear the truth—the facts, free from the political distortions, misrepresentations, and censorship. The first step is to clearly state the harsh truth in the starkest possible terms. Lies were told. Those lies harmed the public. Those lies were directly contrary to the evidence, to decades of knowledge on viral pandemics, and to long-established fundamental biology.
Here are the 10 biggest falsehoods—known for years to be false, not recently learned or proven to be so—promoted by America’s public health leaders, elected and unelected officials, and now-discredited academics:
1. SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus has a far higher fatality rate than the flu by several orders of magnitude.
2. Everyone is at significant risk to die from this virus.
3. No one has any immunological protection, because this virus is completely new.
4. Asymptomatic people are major drivers of the spread.
5. Locking down—closing schools and businesses, confining people to their homes, stopping non-COVID medical care, and eliminating travel—will stop or eliminate the virus.
6. Masks will protect everyone and stop the spread.
7. The virus is known to be naturally occurring, and claiming it originated in a lab is a conspiracy theory.
8. Teachers are at especially high risk.
9. COVID vaccines stop the spread of the infection.
10. Immune protection only comes from a vaccine.
None of us are so naïve as to expect a direct apology from critics at my employer, Stanford University, or in government, academic public health, and the media. But to ensure that this never happens again, government leaders, power-driven officials, and influential academics and advisors often harboring conflicts of interest must be held accountable. Personally, I remain highly skeptical that any government investigation or commission can avoid politicization. Regardless of their intention, all such government-run inquiries will at least be perceived as politically motivated and their conclusions will be rejected outright by many. Those investigations must proceed, though, if only to seek the truth, to teach our children that truth matters, and to remember G.K. Chesterton’s critical lesson that “Right is right, even if nobody does it. Wrong is wrong, even if everybody is wrong about it.”
Scott W. Atlas, MD is the Robert Wesson Senior Fellow in health policy at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, Co-Director of the Global Liberty Institute, Founding Fellow of Hillsdale’s Academy for Science & Freedom, and author of A Plague Upon Our House: My Fight at the Trump White House to Stop COVID from Destroying America (Bombardier Press, 2022).
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.