More than five weeks into this crisis and with hundreds of thousands of cases to study, our government has still declined to offer more information and data on the nature of the viral transmission. It’s all guesswork and assumption. However, the results of recent studies from other countries raise serious questions about the lockdown strategy of Western countries. It turns out keeping people inside and shutting down everything except mass transit might be the most counterproductive epidemiology strategy imaginable.
Earlier this week, I asked the question whether our strategy of locking people in their homes is actually spreading more cases among families while also preventing herd immunity from developing among the broader population. A new study published last week of China’s outbreaks in January and February lends credence to this concern.
The five Chinese researchers studied 318 clusters of cases in 120 cities from all over China (with the exception of Hubei province, which had the original outbreak) and found that home outbreaks contributed to 79.9 percent of the cases, followed by mass transit, which contributed to 34 percent of the outbreaks. The outbreak venues were divided into six categories: homes, transport, food, entertainment, shopping, and miscellaneous. Some outbreaks had several overlapping contributing environments. 7,324 total cases were scrutinized in the study of 318 outbreaks, which were defined as three or more persons infected at one venue.
Only a single outbreak was attributed to an outdoor environment, which involved two cases. It stemmed from a 27-year-old man in the village of Shangqiu, Henan, having a conversation outdoors “with an individual who had returned from Wuhan on 25 January and had the onset of symptoms on 1 February.”
In total, about 80 percent of the outbreaks were exclusively intrafamilial – while only 8 percent of transmissions involved outsiders. Of the 318 outbreaks, 129 involved only family members, 133 involved family relatives, 29 involved socially connected individuals, 24 involved socially non-connected individuals, and only 3 involved multiple relationships.
They concluded that “all identified outbreaks of three or more cases occurred in an indoor environment, which confirms that sharing indoor space is a major SARS-CoV-2 infection risk.”
We could dismiss Chinese research as untrustworthy, but this study harmonizes with many others showing that indoor transmission, primarily among families, is the greatest threat. A study last month from Taiwan’s CDC tracing 1,043 contacts of 32 COVID-19 patients found that not a single transmission occurred outside those in their households or families. According to our CDC, data from Japan shows transmission of the virus is 18.7 times greater indoors than outdoors.
On Tuesday, leading German virologist Hendrik Streeck, director of the Institute of Virology and HIV Research at the University Bonn, said, “There is no significant risk of catching the disease when you go shopping.” He is involved in major studies for the German government and noted that “staying inside for a longer time can lead to weakening of our immune system.” He warned we must “make sure that decisions are taken based on facts rather than assumptions.”
Yet our government and most European governments continue with severe lockdowns of individual businesses and parks and beaches, continue to lock people inside, while keeping mass transit – subways, buses, trains – open! Thus, we are likely infecting more families plus spreading the virus through mass transit, while still at best delaying herd immunity among the general populace – the worst of all outcomes.
In light of the study from China, think about the absurdity of the media shaming Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for being late to close the beaches while New York kept mass transit open. A new paper by MIT economics professor and physician Jeffrey Harris concluded that “New York City’s multitentacled subway system was a major disseminator — if not the principal transmission vehicle — of coronavirus infection during the initial takeoff of the massive epidemic.”
“Maps of subway station turnstile entries, superimposed upon zip code-level maps of reported coronavirus incidence, are strongly consistent with subway-facilitated disease propagation,” wrote Dr. Harris in the detailed analysis. “Local train lines appear to have a higher propensity to transmit infection than express lines. Reciprocal seeding of infection appears to be the best explanation for the emergence of a single hotspot in Midtown West in Manhattan. Bus hubs may have served as secondary transmission routes out to the periphery of the city.”
Is it any wonder that the number of deaths among NYC mass transit workers was more than double that of New York police and firefighters combined?
It is simply indefensible for states to leave open the subways and buses, but close small businesses and even open-air parks and beaches.
These studies also explain why the results are so devastating and deadly once coronavirus gets into nursing homes, where elderly people are constantly crammed indoors together. As Phil Kerpen observes, roughly half of the virus deaths in states like Pennsylvania and Massachusetts were in nursing homes. In New York, that proportion is much lower, but that is likely because the subways account for so many of the outbreaks!
What’s really shocking is that if you look at the countries that had the longest and most severe lockdowns – such as France, Italy, and Spain – they had the worst outcomes.
An incredible chart: three countries had earlier and more effective “social distancing” than any others: France, Italy, and Spain – the three countries with the WORST epidemics. Wonder why. (Maybe because most transmission is intrafamilial and nosocomial? Just spitballing here.) pic.twitter.com/dZC3CPDl0p
— Alex Berenson (@AlexBerenson) April 7, 2020
The fatality rate among those countries is 275, 367, and 413 per million people, respectively. Contrast that to countries that powered on with their lives and quarantined a more limited population. Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea saw fatality rates of 0.3, 2, and 4, respectively.
Thus, after destroying our liberty, economy, and life’s dreams, we could actually be killing more people with the virus than we would if we were to do responsible distancing, implement a limited quarantine, close mass transit, and get everyone else outside. Then, after all that, the lockdown fascists will still never answer the two most salient questions of the day:
More than five weeks into this shutdown, we need more data, information, and answers from our government before we surrender our lives, liberty, and pride in America indefinitely. That requires us to ask questions.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.