- - Sunday, October 11, 2020

One of the more informative moments of last week’s debate between the vice presidential candidates was Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris’s inability to identify anything that a Biden administration would have done differently than the Trump administration with respect to the coronavirus.

That, finally, might be a glimmer of sanity in what otherwise has been a season of craziness.

Democratic presidential candidate Joseph R. Biden is fond of saying that he would let the “science” dictate all kinds of things from the wearing of masks to how to handle coronavirus to climate change. That’s great. Let’s take it for a spin around the block and see how it drives.

The Great Barrington Declaration, which has been signed by 5,700 epidemiologists, scientists and public health officials, and almost 12,000 medical practitioners, is pretty clear about the science.

It states: “… we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies . …

“… Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health … (including) lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings and deteriorating mental health — leading to greater excess mortality in years to come, with the working class and younger members of society carrying the heaviest burden. Keeping students out of school is a grave injustice.

“… We know that vulnerability to death from COVID-19 is more than a thousand-fold higher in the old and infirm than the young. Indeed, for children, COVID-19 is less dangerous than many other harms, including influenza. 

“The most compassionate approach … is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk. 

“Those who are not vulnerable should immediately be allowed to resume life as normal. … Extracurricular activities, such as sports, should be resumed. Young low-risk adults should work normally, rather than from home. Restaurants and other businesses should open. Arts, music, sport and other cultural activities should resume.”

Let’s look at a little more science.

The leading causes of death in the United States are related to what we eat and drink, especially red meat, soda, alcohol and tobacco, all of which are associated with premature deaths through obesity, lung cancer and heart disease. Science says we should ban those products.

But we don’t.

Let’s think about lockdowns from a purely medical perspective. Would the Food and Drug Administration approve a drug, would any doctor recommend a course of treatment when there has been no assessment of its efficacy? Of course not. Yet that is precisely what the lockdowns were — a course of treatment that had not been examined or judged to be efficacious prior to its imposition.

Let’s wander into mathematics and policy analysis, which are handmaidens of science.

We are well on our way to sacrificing a year in the lives of all of our citizens. That’s 350 million years of life lost. If 400,000 Americans die of the virus, and those people die 10 years earlier than their life expectancy (a reasonable assumption given that the virus is especially dangerous to the aged), that’s 4 million years of life lost. Even if you assume that one set of numbers is way too generous and the other way too stingy, the policy analysis outcome is clear.

In short, the destruction of economic, social, personal and familial lives may have accomplished little or actually been worse than doing nothing. There is no convincing evidence to the alternative at the moment, and, interestingly, none has been asked for by anyone in authority.

Everyone picks what science they choose to follow, even Mr. Biden.

• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, is the president of MWR Strategies. He was most recently a deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.

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