COVID Stimulus Spending Played ‘Sizable Role’ in Inflation

“”We find that excess inflation is significantly correlated to each country’s own domestic stimulus and to various exposures of foreign stimulus,” concluded a trio of economists at the St. Louis Federal Reserve in a report published last month. In the U.S., they found that “fiscal stimulus during the pandemic contributed to an increase in inflation of about 2.6 percentage points.”

That’s a significant increase, even if it doesn’t account for the full run-up of inflation that took place during the past 18 months. Price increases accelerated in late 2021 and throughout 2022, ultimately peaking at an annualized rate of 9.1 percent in June.

“Other recent reviews of COVID-era stimulus bills have come to a similar conclusion. In a paper published in September, economists at Johns Hopkins University and the Chicago Federal Reserve said “fiscal inflation” accounted for “approximately half” of the recent price increases.
That’s troubling, they added, because “fiscal inflation tends to be highly
persistent…When inflation has a fiscal nature, monetary policy alone may not provide an effective response.”

So far, the chief response to inflation has been a monetary one.””

Masks Make ‘Little or No Difference’ on COVID-19, Flu Rates: New Study

“The wearing of masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses had almost no effect at the societal level, according to a rigorous new review of the available research.
“Interestingly, 12 trials in the review, ten in the community and two among healthcare workers, found that wearing masks in the community probably makes little or no difference to influenza-like or COVID-19-like illness transmission,” writes Tom Jefferson, a British epidemiologist and co-author of the Cochrane Library’s new report on masking trials. “Equally, the review found that masks had no effect on laboratory-confirmed influenza or SARS-CoV-2 outcomes. Five other trials showed no difference between one type of mask over another.”

That finding is significant, given how comprehensive Cochrane’s review was. The randomized control trials had hundreds of thousands of participants, and made useful comparisons: people who received masks—and, according to self-reporting, actually wore them—versus people who did not. Other studies that have tried to uncover the efficacy of mask requirements have tended to compare one municipality with another, without taking into account relevant differences between the groups. This was true of an infamous study of masking in Arizona schools conducted at the county level; the findings were cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as reason to keep mask mandates in place.”

“While individual mask wearers might get some benefit for a while if they consistently, perfectly wear masks, this does not comport with the aggregate experience.”

A Scientific Review Shows the CDC Grossly Exaggerated the Evidence Supporting Mask Mandates

“That review, published by the Cochrane Library, an authoritative collection of scientific databases, analyzed 18 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that aimed to measure the impact of surgical masks or N95 respirators on the transmission of respiratory viruses. It found that wearing a mask in public places “probably makes little or no difference” in the number of infections.”

“The authors suggest several possible explanations for these results, including “poor study design,” inconsistent or improper mask use, “self-contamination of the mask by hands,” “saturation of masks with saliva,” and increased risk taking based on “an exaggerated sense of security.””

Operation Warp Speed was a huge success. So why is the US turning away from it?

“Warp Speed deserves substantial credit for saving lives in the early pandemic. Companies making crucial parts for the vaccine have credited Warp Speed’s special authorizations with getting their power turned back on in minutes after an outage and convincing vendors to cut their production times from 75 days to 7. Negotiated partnerships for every part of the supply chain — from glass vials to syringes to packaging for shipping — enabled a rapid rollout. Even the Defense Department got involved in logistics, flying equipment and vaccines from place to place.”

“Immunologist Moncef Slaoui, who headed Warp Speed under the Trump administration, spent years before the pandemic advocating for a simple, cheap measure that would have made it possible to develop vaccines even faster: maintaining idle capacity so the country can respond to emergencies.

As he told Science in a 2021 interview:

“The whole concept—after we went through the flu pandemic, the Ebola outbreak, the Zika outbreak—was to say, “Listen, the problem is always the same, which is there are no manufacturing facilities sitting there idle, waiting to be used. Even if we had one, we would have trouble because we would have to stop manufacturing other vaccines, which are essential for saving people’s life. So we thought, “Why don’t we take a dedicated facility and have them work on discovering vaccines against known potential outbreak agents, one after the other?” They would become incredibly skilled and trained at going fast, discovering vaccines. The company was prepared to make available the facility and ask just for the cost of running it. Unfortunately, it didn’t fly.””

“That investment? Didn’t happen. Before the pandemic, some of this country’s smartest experts spent years telling us that a pandemic was coming and would be catastrophic, but that we could prepare and substantially mitigate the harms. We didn’t.

During the pandemic, we developed significant expertise in vaccine development and distribution, which we easily could have leveraged into maintaining capacity for rapid vaccine development to prevent the next pandemic. We didn’t.”

Believe it or not, we are not going to be sick forever

“Infectious disease experts knew this year might be an outlier. Covid-19 has been the biggest disruption to the normal cycle of disease in a century, and we know from prior experience that major pandemics can be followed by a year or two of chaotic viral behavior before settling into a more normal pattern. It happened with both the 1918 flu and the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.

For RSV and influenza, the past two years have been aberrations; it is reasonable to expect more normal patterns will resume in the future as immunity builds back up. (Still, every cold-and-flu season will be different — variation from season to season is a constant.)
“My guess is that this is entirely temporary and things will settle down into more routine patterns in coming seasons as typical population immunity gets back on track,” said Richard Webby, an infectious disease researcher at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Covid-19 is trickier to project, given its continuing evolution toward more transmissibility. So far, the protection from prior infection and vaccines seems to be effective for most people, at least in preventing them from ending up in the hospital. But it also continues to pose a threat to the unvaccinated, the elderly, and the immunocompromised — and yearly surges when the conditions are more favorable for viral spread (i.e., the winter) are to be expected.”

Inside the CDC’s Campaign To Police COVID Speech

“”According to a trove of confidential documents obtained by Reason, health advisers at the CDC had significant input on pandemic-era social media policies at Facebook as well. They were consulted frequently, at times daily. They were actively involved in the affairs of content moderators, providing constant and ever-evolving guidance. They requested frequent updates about which topics were trending on the platforms, and they recommended what kinds of content should be deemed false or misleading. “Here are two issues we are seeing a great deal of misinfo on that we wanted to flag for you all,” reads one note from a CDC official. Another email with sample Facebook posts attached begins: “BOLO for a small but growing area of misinfo.”

These Facebook Files show that the platform responded with incredible deference. Facebook routinely asked the government to vet specific claims, including whether the virus was “man-made” rather than zoonotic in origin. (The CDC responded that a man-made origin was “technically possible” but “extremely unlikely.”) In other emails, Facebook asked: “For each of the following claims, which we’ve recently identified on the platform, can you please tell us if: the claim is false; and, if believed, could this claim contribute to vaccine refusals?”””

Airplane lavatories deliver new hope for the CDC’s variant hunt

“after a successful test run at New York’s JFK Airport, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is pursuing talks with airlines and port authorities to start collecting samples from long-haul international flights’ wastewater after they land.”