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Humanize From Discovery Institute's Center on Human Exceptionalism

Ezekiel Emanuel Wants Respiratory-Illness Technocracy Without End

Originally published at National Review

Sooner or later COVID will wane and probably become endemic — that is, part of life, like the flu. And with that, the newfound power of public-health technocrats would wane.

They know this, and it does not make them happy. So, advocacy has commenced to establish a “new normal” — gosh, I hate that term — that would not restore society simply to a state of accepting respiratory illness as a part of life, but rather, keep us continually obsessed with the presence and prevention of illness.

Toward this end, bioethicist Ezekiel Emanuel and two co-authors wrote three advocacy columns in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Space does not permit a full recounting. But they are free, so all readers can access them by hitting the links provided.

First, they accept that the current policy of “no COVID” cannot be accomplished. True.

Then, they argue that our response to COVID becoming endemic should be to treat all respiratory ailments as one thing by aggregating statistics. From, “A National Strategy for the ‘New Normal” of Life with Covid” (my emphasis):

The “new normal” requires recognizing that SARS-CoV-2 is but one of several circulating respiratory viruses that include influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and more. COVID-19 must now be considered among the risks posed by all respiratory viral illnesses combined. Many of the measures to reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (eg, ventilation) will also reduce transmission of other respiratory viruses. Thus, policy makers should retire previous public health categorizations, including deaths from pneumonia and influenza or pneumonia, influenza, and COVID-19, and focus on a new category: the aggregate risk of all respiratory virus infections.

The point of that, obviously, would be to keep society terrified. Because if public health officials continually announce aggregate respiratory disease statistics that combine all “cases” of flu, pneumonia, and other respiratory diseases — along with the hospitalizations and deaths they cause — our media hysterics would keep us in a state of constant fear toward empowering our public health technocrats to impose repeated “emergency” measures to “keep us safe.”

And just think what the teachers’ unions would do with that! Our poor children.

Do you think I am being paranoid? The authors admit the purpose:

Even though seasonal influenza, RSV, and other respiratory viruses circulating before SARS-CoV-2 were harmful, the US has not considered them a sufficient threat to impose emergency measures in over a century. People have lived normally with the threats of these viruses, even though more could have been done to reduce their risks.

We can’t have that!

The authors want a “peak week threshhold” established — based on statistics prior to COVID which would be lower than now — that would permit public health officials to swing into gear:

This peak week risk threshold serves at least 2 fundamental functions. This risk threshold triggers policy recommendations for emergency implementation of mitigation and other measures. In addition, health systems could rely on this threshold for planning on the bed and workforce capacity they need normally, and when to institute surge measures.

See what I mean?

The authors would then use the fear generated to force massive investments in public health infrastructure and increased bureaucracies. The end result would be health technocracy without end.

The second column further illustrates the above point. From, “A National Strategy for COVID-19: Testing, Surveillance, and Mitigation Strategies:”

Like influenza, SARS-CoV-2 is spread by aerosols. Well-established public health mitigation strategies can reduce risks and complications from viral respiratory infections including SARS-CoV-2. Mitigation strategies should be implemented, including new enforceable Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards, especially requiring workplace masking, distancing, and ventilation.

In the third column, the authors support draconian vaccine mandates. From, “A National Strategy for COVID-19 Countermeasures:”

The government should accelerate efforts to develop a universal coronavirus vaccine to protect against known coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2. A more broadly protective vaccine would allow the world to limit the effects of emerging variants and nimbly react to novel coronaviruses that are likely to emerge in the future. There may be tradeoffs between increased breadth of protection against severe disease and reduced effectiveness against infection…

To facilitate verification of vaccination status and to better track postvaccination infections, there needs to be an electronic vaccine certificate platform. Relying on forgeable paper cards is unacceptable in the 21st century. Current state immunization information systems are incomplete, fragmented, and not interoperable, hindering national efforts to control the virus. A national electronic vaccine certificate platform is needed, such as the SMART Health Card, that ensures interoperability across states and countries, safeguards individual privacy, and is based on open-source technology publicly available for vetting to help satisfy any concerns over government surveillance.

While controversial, this is not unprecedented. State and national databases are in use for other information, including for driver’s licenses, Social Security, voter registration, and specific health purposes, such as organ donation.

Strict guidelines will protect against abuse! Given what they wrote about aggregating all respiratory illnesses as one danger, their prescription would not be limited to COVID.

Again, don’t take my word for it:

There has been tremendous progress in rapidly creating novel COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics. Nevertheless, these efforts have been insufficient to achieve a “new normal,” in which the combined risk of all viral respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19, does not exceed the risk during pre–COVID-19 years. The US needs investment in variant-specific vaccines, alternative vaccine administration mechanisms, and research into the optimal vaccination strategies. Having effective vaccines are of real value in reducing the spread of COVID-19 and serious illness, but their benefits will be limited without near universal coverage.

No one opposes the keeping of statistics, proper monitoring of diseases, development of new vaccines and therapeutics, improving ventilation at schools and workplaces, and creating greater access to testing and effective masks for those who want them.

But these authors are after much bigger game than that. They are paving the way for imposing a public-health technocracy on society that would use continual emergency declarations — based on aggregate peak week respiratory illness statistics — to constrain personal freedom in the name of preventing illness.

Hell no, we won’t go.

Wesley J. Smith

Chair and Senior Fellow, Center on Human Exceptionalism
Wesley J. Smith is Chair and Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism. Wesley is a contributor to National Review and is the author of 14 books, in recent years focusing on human dignity, liberty, and equality. Wesley has been recognized as one of America’s premier public intellectuals on bioethics by National Journal and has been honored by the Human Life Foundation as a “Great Defender of Life” for his work against suicide and euthanasia. Wesley’s most recent book is Culture of Death: The Age of “Do Harm” Medicine, a warning about the dangers to patients of the modern bioethics movement.