Walking in a Fauci Wonderland
Leading up to the Christmas holidays, we were treated to incessant Christmas songs, one of which is Winter Wonderland. This year, instead of Santa Claus handing out presents in a winter wonderland, we had Dr Anthony Fauci handing out threats of another year of bah and humbug.
The above song lyrics can be modified this year in honor of Dr Fauci, “He’ll say, are you vaxxed? We’ll say no man. So you can stay at home all alone.” Dr Fauci said just that, telling Americans to disinvite unvaccinated family and friends from gathering, instead staying home, all to avoid the inevitable spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant, which for most individuals is just a bad cold.
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We are back to the same public health measures being pushed again that for the past almost two years have not ended the COVID pandemic, this time with hopes for a different result. Isn’t that the definition of insanity?
Why are public health officials, including the purported experts such as Dr Fauci, doubling down on the same ineffective measures that gave us our second COVID Christmas with highly vaccinated countries, cities, universities, cruise ships, and sports teams seeing COVID case spikes or setting new case records? The US, now almost two years into COVID, with vaccines and therapeutics, and ongoing restrictions, set a single day case record. What’s going on?
Instead of introspection and a change in course, we have Dr Fauci constantly on television, suggesting new and even more draconian measures including masks on airplanes as a permanent feature of flying the friendly skies. Or vaccine mandates for air travel, another nail in the coffin of an already oppressively unpleasant form of transportation. President Biden will recommend a domestic travel vaccine mandate as soon as Dr Fauci tells him to.
What if Dr Fauci got his each and every wish, in essence a Fauci Wonderland of COVID rules and mandates? What might such a world look like? Would it be New York City or California? I recently had the opportunity to travel to such a place over Christmas with my family.
I speak of a beautiful country in the Southern Hemisphere, Peru, featuring the Andes Mountains, high desert, and a Pacific coastline. I’m not sure if Dr Fauci is a fan of ceviche or churros filled with dulce de leche, but in terms of COVID rules, this would be his Shangri La. Traveling from an America locking down again for the umpteenth time, I thought visiting a Southern hemisphere country during summer would allow me a breath of relief, literally and figuratively. That notion ended before exiting the airplane.
Along with the usual air travel admonitions to keep one’s mask on, dropping it only briefly between bites of delicious airline food or a beverage, we were told we had to double mask when leaving the plane. Dr Fauci would be pleased as he said of double masking that this “makes common sense.” Then again, he also said about masks that they are, “Not really effective in keeping out virus.” It’s amazing how masks have not changed for decades but the science sure has.
Masks in Peru are required inside and outside. Pedestrians, joggers, and cyclists are all masked up outdoors in the sunshine and warm sea breeze. The Washington Post reported, “A year into the pandemic, it’s even more clear that it’s safer to be outside.”
The WaPo noted, “The outdoor spaces now warming under spring sun should be viewed as havens in the battle against a stubborn virus and restriction-induced fatigue.” This made it surprising that a country on the South Pacific, entering summer, would require outdoor masking.
Not only masks, but also vaccination verification was standard. To enter any store or restaurant, proof of vaccination was required, often with a photo ID, and two masks. Yet once seated in a restaurant, masks could come off as the virus knows not to infect diners once they are seated.
Mask requirements are more specific, actually a KN95 mask or two masks, one of which must be a surgical mask. I will leave aside the evidence, or lack of, for standard masks, but at least a KN95, assuming properly fitted and worn, does provides more, but not absolute, protection than a standard surgical mask, but is also harder to breathe through. Walking along a sidewalk, this might be overkill, especially with 74 percent of the population fully vaccinated and many more with natural immunity from previous infection.
Each business has someone guarding the entrance, checking vaccine cards, an added business expense likely passed on to customers through higher prices and/or taxes. With a 9 percent unemployment rate in Peru, a vaccine checker at every business should help lower this figure. Police and other government officials are out and about reminding passersby to nudge the mask up above their nose.
Looking at Peru’s COVID case tracker, their two largest spikes were during their winter months, with low cases during their summer, including now. Peru was hit badly during their last winter, about six months ago, making their current precautions somewhat understandable.
But if things are this restrictive now, what will it be like come their next winter season when cases of COVID and other respiratory illnesses inevitably rise? What public health measures will they be able to add to the mix during their next likely COVID spike?
What is puzzling to me is how differently cities, states, and countries react to the same viral pandemic. Granted each location has unique circumstances, but the science should be universal regardless of location. Undoubtedly each country has public health experts, many of whom trained at the same elite institutions, receiving comparable educations yet viewing their field far differently.
Compare Sweden to the UK, or Florida to New York, or Peru to Brazil, and see how differently advisors with similar knowledge and education come to such vastly different conclusions as to how best to protect their people from COVID while minimizing harm.
When we look back a decade from now at the draconian public health measures, will we see that any of them made a big difference, at least in a positive way? I suspect not. Instead we will likely see the negative consequences, such as how mask mandates are harming childhood development. Will Dr Fauci and others ever be called on to explain or justify their rules and restrictions?
After the media and government hyped the Omicron variant, creating fear and panic, disrupting airline travel worldwide canceling thousands of flights a day over Christmas, President Biden threw up his hands and walked away saying, “There’s no federal solution to COVID” after promising last year that he would fix things.
It seems COVID is out of control, despite two years of rules and mandates, and Biden has no idea what to do, so is throwing up his hands and walking away. He will let the states handle COVID as they see fit. What a novel idea. President Trump suggested much the same in April 2020 and was harshly criticized for saying to state governors, “you are going to call your own shots.” It looks like Trump was right all along.
What’s the goal for Dr Fauci and other self-anointed public health servants? Dr Fauci answered that question in an article in Cell just over a year ago, “Living in greater harmony with nature will require changes in human behavior as well as other radical changes that may take decades to achieve.” What radical changes does he refer to?
Nature can be cruel and it’s hard to imagine living in harmony with earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanoes, ice ages, and droughts, which have plagued the planet long before humans existed, but with ingenuity we can and have, keeping life meaningful and improving along the way. The Fauci wonderland we are seeing previews of in various parts of the world is a step backward. Is that the intention all along?
Brian C Joondeph, MD, is a fully vaccinated physician and writer. On Twitter as @retinaldoctor.
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