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Florida Still Stands Alone


At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic mass hysteria bulldozed any voice of calm and reason; there was simply no stopping it, though many tried. Feeling the sense of futility of convincing my friends, neighbors, and community to not let fear destroy the very things we were trying to protect, I decided instead to act at the most effective level possible to improve my immediate environment, and that was at the level of my family.

My wife and I convinced our children that they didn’t need to be terrified even if everyone else was. They were much better off because of our efforts, and they began to see that even authorities and the large majorities supporting them could be disastrously wrong, and it was very important to state the truth even if it was massively unpopular. The truth can be buried under a ton of concrete, thrown into a volcano, or shot into the sun, but those acts won’t make it false.

The pandemic response exposed a systemic rot in US federal agencies that operate in a politicized environment with perverse incentives that favor pharmaceutical companies and powerful wealthy individuals at the expense of the public interest. Very few were courageous enough to stand up for the truth when the vast majority of the public and media were supportive of these agencies, even when their recommendations, authorizations, and mandates were clearly not backed by evidence or driven by minimum standards of ethical behavior that existed before 2020. The authors of the Great Barrington Declaration, Martin Kulldorff, Jay Bhattacharya, and Sunetra Gupta, were three such individuals. The governor of Florida Ron DeSantis was another, and Florida became an outlier in Covid policy, resulting in better outcomes than lockdown- and mandate-happy California when compared with age-adjusted all-cause mortality.

For many, policy battles during the pandemic seemed to be tightly drawn around partisan lines, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The initial lockdowns were conceived and executed during a Republican administration, with vaccine mandates by a Democratic administration. My state of Indiana, with a Republican governor and not exactly a bastion of modern progressivism, went along with both, and questioned little. The failure to understand just how government agencies were failing the people and providing corrective action was a bipartisan failure on a nationwide scale.

It gets worse, because the system responsible for these failures is still in place, and it’s not going to change any time soon. Pharmaceutical companies still fund FDA review and approval of their products, a obvious and serious conflict of interest. CDC administrators still suppress information they don’t like, as occurred recently when their own experts reported that public masking was not supported by evidence. What’s needed for systemic reform is capable leadership and the pressure to act at the federal level, and that simply doesn’t exist. Too many people benefit from the current system, and voters have indicated they are uninterested in any challenge to the system. Another victory for the swamp.

When facing such a massive immovable object, it would be easy to give up pushing altogether, but I think that would be a mistake. It won’t be moved today, tomorrow, or even in the next four years, but that doesn’t signal it can’t be moved. There’s no proof that federal health agencies cannot be reformed. Others can still use positions of power at the highest effective level, and the state of Florida remains the prime, and perhaps only, example.

On December 13, 2022, Florida Governor DeSantis asked for a statewide grand jury to investigate how actions of pharmaceutical companies and federal agencies had ultimately harmed the public. He also appointed seven people to a public health integrity committee to advise him and the Florida Surgeon General Joe Ladapo. I was happy to be named a member of that committee.

More than a year later, on February 2nd, the first grand jury report was released (Discussed by the PHIC here). Not surprisingly, the first report was prepared without the cooperation of the CDC, the FDA, and the DOD. The pressure to be involved simply wasn’t felt at the highest levels, so they ignored it, hoping it would get little attention from the press and the public.

Here are the main conclusions of the first grand jury report:

  1. On nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs): “To be clear, scientific research into NPIs and their consequences did not begin with the outbreak of Covid-19. A wealth of contemporaneous scientific information already existed in major publications that could have informed a much more robust and meaningful response with respect to NPIs, but much of it was ignored or even attacked by mainstream public health and media entities in the early months of the pandemic, for reasons that are not always clear. In short, this was not an ‘information’ problem, it was a ‘judgment’ problem.”
  2. On lockdowns: “Lockdowns were not a good trade. Comparative data showed that jurisdictions that held to them tended to end up with higher overall excess mortality. This is especially evident when compared to jurisdictions that targeted their protective efforts towards the highest-risk groups instead of mandating large-scale, extended periods of quarantine for everyone.”
  3. On safety and efficacy: “It should also be apparent that establishing the ‘safety’ of a biological product necessitates a comprehensive, meaningful and accurate evaluation of the risk presented by the disease that product is designed to address.”
  4. On masking: “We have never had sound evidence of their effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2 transmission” and “there have always been legitimate questions around the impracticality of individual adherence to mask recommendations, but once it became clear that the primary transmission vector of SARS-CoV-2 was via aerosol, their potential efficacy was further diminished. Public health agencies failed to adequately explain this important distinction to the American public in favor of a broad mask recommendation that did not make nearly enough distinction between the types of masks available and put at risk those it sought to help. Well-financed federal agencies chose to fill the discourse with flawed observational and laboratory studies, hiding behind their conclusion of ‘no equipoise’ to avoid the potential embarrassment of the public health advice they championed being invalidated by evidence.”
  5. On hospitalization risk: “We know for a fact that this happened because numerous federal and state health officials have publicly stated that they did not ask or require hospitals to distinguish cases where someone was admitted with incidental SARS-CoV-2 infection versus cases where someone was so sick with symptoms of Covid-19 disease that he or she required hospitalization. Thus, it is highly likely that the CDC’s number of total hospitalizations is inflated to some degree with asymptomatic or minor SARS-CoV-2 infections that were classified as ‘hospitalizations’ in order to financially benefit the hospital.”
  6. On collateral consequences: “Somehow, because of panic, hubris, ineptitude or some unfortunate combination of the three, this widely rejected idea not only made its way back into scientific discourse in 2020, it became the law of the land in most of the United States between 2020 and 2022. It is clear to this Grand Jury that whatever benefits inured from these mandates, they were not worth the price.”

There is obviously much more coming. The first report only touches on how the Covid vaccines were promoted and authorized and mandates pushed by federal agencies, even for low-risk children without sufficient evidence of benefit. Subsequent work will likely address these failures in great detail.

Florida might be the only state investigating the truth about the US Covid response, but it’s still important that these efforts continue. The actions of the grand jury, the integrity committee, the surgeon general, and the governor might provide only a spotlight on the systemic problems and corruption of U.S. public agencies. But it’s a necessary one. Even if people of all political persuasions don’t want to hear the truth, and try to bury it, throw it into a volcano, or shoot it into the sun, it’s still the truth, waiting for a chance to be seen, heard, spoken, and believed once again.

Republished from the author’s Substack

Published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
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  • Steve Templeton

    Steve Templeton, Senior Scholar at Brownstone Institute, is an Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Indiana University School of Medicine - Terre Haute. His research focuses on immune responses to opportunistic fungal pathogens. He has also served on Gov. Ron DeSantis's Public Health Integrity Committee and was a co-author of "Questions for a COVID-19 commission," a document provided to members of a pandemic response-focused congressional committee.

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