Will Covid Rules Ever End?

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The Covid emergency is over and this week even governors who have been the most hostile to liberty and good sense are rescinding many of their most destructive orders. Unfortunately the unhealthy desire to issue Covid diktats without a careful study of costs and benefits is not limited to politicians.

As for the good news of the day, Craig Mauger and Beth LeBlanc report for the Detroit News on a long overdue announcement:

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

said Thursday her administration is removing Michigan’s remaining restrictions on gatherings and masks, with the changes set to take effect Tuesday.

Indoor and outdoor capacity limits will increase to 100%, and the state’s mask mandate for unvaccinated people will be removed, Whitmer said in a statement.

The changes rescind the largest remaining pandemic rules that have governed Michigan for about 15 months amid challenges to the governor’s emergency powers and health department’s authority to issue the emergency and epidemic orders.

But as in other “reopening” states, some government rules remain. And even outside of government, the desire to issue Covid orders is still alive and well. There’s an important debate to be had about pending rules from businesses and schools. Perhaps social media companies will allow it to occur on their platforms. Harvard Medical School’s Martin Kulldorff announces today on Twitter:

Our COVID vaccine op-ed was just published by @thehill. Twitter does not allow vaccine scientists to freely discuss vaccines, but you can find it on my LinkedIn and Gab accounts.

In the op-ed which Silicon Valley firms may or may not be willing to show to consumers, the Harvard prof and Stanford University’s Dr. Jay Bhattacharya write that the “idea that everyone must be vaccinated against COVID-19 is as misguided as the anti-vax idea that no one should.” They add:

The COVID-19 vaccines have been one of the few bright spots during this pandemic. While anyone can get infected, the old have a thousand-fold higher mortality risk than the young.

By vaccinating older people, the country has saved thousands of lives.

But the two professors warn against mandating a Covid vaccine for children who face little risk from the virus, because even a relatively safe vaccine carries some small risk of an adverse event, and in this case it may be greater than the small risk young people face from Covid.

The academics also take aim at the idea of mandating vaccines for those who have already had the virus. The Harvard and Stanford profs note that “recovered COVID patients have strong long-lasting protection against severe disease if reinfected, and evidence about protective immunity after natural infection is at least as good as from the vaccines. Hence, it makes no sense to require vaccines for recovered patients. For them, it simply adds a risk, however small, without any benefit.” The authors add:

During the pandemic, the professional laptop class protected themselves by working from home while exposing the working class that brought them food and other goods. It is now the height of hypocrisy to recognize immunity from vaccinations but not immunity from those exposed while serving the laptop class.

Especially when it comes to children who have already recovered from Covid, institutions requiring vaccination should show their work demonstrating that patient benefits outweigh the risks.

***

Meanwhile the governor who spent much of 2020 trying to conceal his work on Covid-19 is now shamelessly attempting a media victory lap. Chris Churchill writes in the Albany Times Union on Tuesday’s press event hosted by

Gov. Andrew Cuomo

(D., N.Y.):

“If you said to us on day one in the beginning of COVID that we were going to be capable of the accomplishment that we reached, nobody would believe you,” Cuomo said.

Nobody would believe that Mr. Cuomo could both crush the state’s economy and author a public health disaster? Mr. Churchill provides a helpful reality check on the Cuomo “accomplishment”:

More than 53,000 New Yorkers have died from COVID-19. That’s second only to California, which has twice New York’s population, and only New Jersey has a higher per-capita rate. In a worldwide context, just a handful of countries (Peru, Hungary and Bosnia among them) have worse COVID-19 death rates.

Many of New York’s COVID-19 deaths occurred among residents of nursing homes, and this week the New York State Bar Association issued a report finding that a controversial directive issued by the Cuomo administration contributed to the death toll and should have ended sooner.

Mr. Churchill adds that instead of acknowledging mistakes, Mr. Cuomo “waged a long and disgraceful effort to hide the full number of nursing home deaths.”

***

What

Janet Yellen

Did to Our Money
For anyone who has ever wondered why Federal Reserve officials treat 2% annual inflation as “price stability,” economist

Judy Shelton

explains in the New York Sun how this “expropriation of wealth by a government agency” became official policy.

The year was 1996, when

Alan Greenspan

was chairing the Fed. Janet Yellen, now the U.S. Treasury secretary and then a Fed governor, made the tendentious case to Fed colleagues that inflation allowed firms to cut real wages without upsetting workers. Quoting the transcript of that fateful meeting, Ms. Shelton writes:

“I think we are dealing here with a very deep-rooted property of the human psyche,” Ms. Yellen noted. She proceeded to tell Mr. Greenspan and her colleagues around the table about a survey posed to a random sample of Americans by Yale economist

Robert Shiller

to measure their aversion to inflation.

The survey asked respondents whether they agreed with the statement: “I think that if my pay went up, I would feel more satisfaction in my job, more sense of fulfillment, even if prices went up just as much.” Ms. Yellen reported that 28 % fully agreed and another 21% partially agreed. “Only 27 percent completely disagreed,” she observed, “although I think it will comfort you to learn that in a special subsample of economists, not one single economist Shiller polled fully agreed and 78% completely disagreed.”

The transcript notes parenthetically that this last aside prompted laughter in the Fed boardroom. Get it? Economists don’t fall for that inflation ruse — only ignorant workers.

Ms. Shelton notes that at least one wise meeting participant, the Cleveland Fed’s then-President Jerry Jordan, argued for maintaining the U.S. currency as a reliable store of value:

“If I were going to do surveys about wage cuts or increases of the sort that Janet reported on, one of the surveys I would want to conduct is to ask people as we approach the end of this century to choose between two things. If the central bank had an objective of reducing the purchasing power of the dollar to 13 cents or seven cents over the next century, which would you prefer?”

Mr. Jordan continued: “I would expect the majority of the responses to be, why are you going to reduce it at all? Explain to me why the dollar is not going to purchase the same at the end of the next century as it does today. The difference between 13 cents and 7 cents is the difference between a 2 percent rate of inflation and a 3 percent rate of inflation over 100 years. I think most people would view that as a silly alternative. They would say, why not zero inflation.”

***

In Other News

‘Giant Wheel of Government Can Be Slow to Move’
“2021 Eagle Scout Project of the Year: He built an exhibit to honor heroes of D-Day,” Scouting, June 14

Artificial Intelligence Improving Rapidly
“Robotic ship sets off to retrace the Mayflower’s journey,” Associated Press, June 15

Self-Cancel Culture
“Greta Thunberg-Inspired Climate Org Labels Itself ‘Racist’ and Disbands,” National Review, June 15

So Much for the War on Drugs
“Soccer Star Deals Blow to

Coca-Cola,

” Power Line, June 16

Catch 23
“Michael Jordan making a run at winning fishing tournament,” New York Post, June 17

***

James Freeman is the co-author of “The Cost: Trump, China and American Revival.”

***

Follow James Freeman on Twitter.

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To suggest items, please email best@wsj.com.

(Teresa Vozzo helps compile Best of the Web. Thanks to Charles Rogers, Jacob Shepherd and Amy Avery.)

***

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