‘It’s the , stupid’

James Carville, the political consultant who became famous for messaging with observation “it’s the economy, stupid”/Wikimedia Commons

Messaging matters, and a year into the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic the only reasonable conclusion that can be drawn about the health messaging in this country is that it sucked.

The U.S. per capita death rate is now 28 percent higher than that of Sweden – a country criticized by many, including former President Donald Trump, for taking a too laisse fair approach to the virus that causes the sometimes deadly disease COVID-19.

American waistlines, according to a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association,  have grown ever larger and along with that has come all the dangerous consequences of obesity.

Heavy drinking, especially among women, has skyrocketed, according to researchers at the Rand Corporation. 

Drug overdose deaths have set a record, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Reports of domestic violence are up 8.1 percent, according to the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice. 

And almost half the country – 48 percent – reports feeling stressed, according to the psychologists. 

If ever there was a year when Americans should have been encouraged to get off the couch, get outdoors and get moving, the last 12 months was it. The general physiological benefits of exercise have long been documented. And the evidence for mental health benefits has been accumulating for years. 

Possibly even more importantly in these times, moderate exercise has been directly linked to improvements in natural immunity and the ability to ward off respiratory illnesses.

Aware of all of this, research doctors at the University of Bath warned in March 2020 that “keeping up regular, daily exercise at a time when much of the world is going into isolation will play an important role in helping to maintain a healthy immune system.”

The waistline, stupid

The messaging should have been easy. Think political consultant James Carville’s advice to presidential candidate Bill Clinton, and you’ll get the picture. Carville coined the phrase “it’s the economy stupid” to keep the Clinton campaign focused on the recession of 1992.

“Carville told campaign staffers to hammer on the importance of the economy at every chance they got – he even went so far as to hang a sign in campaign headquarters reading, in part, ‘the economy, stupid,”’ the Political Dictionary records.

“The phrase became a mantra for the Clinton campaign,” and Clinton won the election.

Unfortunately there was no Carville to bring clarity to one of the most practical ways to reduce COVID-19 deaths, and so most U.S. states – instead of encouraging Americans to get out and exercise in the fresh air, ordered “lock downs” and encouraged “work-at-home,” which a lot of people took to mean they should stay in the house, order out food, and never do anything that required them to change out of their pajamas.

What little exercise they were getting – the walk from the house to the car, the walk from the car to the office, maybe even a walk down the street to lunch during the day – promptly went away.

As a result, and clearly due to eating more as well given the size of the weight increases being reported by the Psychiatric Association, death rates have gone up, up, up.

“A majority of adults (61 percent) reported experiencing undesired weight changes since the start of the pandemic with more than two in five (42 percent) saying they gained more weight than they intended. Of this group, adults reported gaining an average of 29 pounds (with a typical gain of 15 pounds, which is the median),” the Psychiatric Association said.

There is little about the connection here to COVID-19 deaths. Obesity has been well and directly linked to impaired immune functions and, according to the CDC, “may triple the risk of hospitalization due to a COVID-19 infection.”

“Studies in the United States have shown that having a BMI (body mass index) over 30 – the threshold that defines obesity—increases the risk of being admitted to hospital with COVID-19 by 113 percent, of being admitted to intensive care by 74  percent, and of dying by 48 percent,” The BMJ, the respected British medical journal, reported at the start of the month. 

 “The US, where obesity rates are also notably high, has the highest number of COVID-19 infections and deaths in the world, and the United Kingdom, where obesity rates are the highest in Europe, has a disproportionate death rate for covid-19 compared with other countries.

“This should be a wake-up call to tackle the obesity burden.”

It wasn’t and still isn’t, even though the CDC officially lists obesity and “severe obesity” among a dozen pre-existing conditions that put people at increased risk of severe COVID-19. Several of the other so-called comorbidities on the list – most notably heart disease, diabetes and some cancers – have been linked to what has been called the “sedentary lifestyle.”

The data would indicate that a national program to get people up and moving in clean, outdoor air could have saved many lives. That didn’t happen, and the post lockdown message became largely focused on “wear a mask” and go on about life as normal.

Unintended consequences

University of Vermont researchers concluded that message might well have done more harm than good.

As Medical Xpress summarized the findings in their study, “the key risk factor driving transmission of the disease…was the number of daily contacts participants had with other adults and seniors.

“That had relevance for two other findings. Those who wore masks had more of these daily
contacts compared with those who didn’t, and a higher proportion contracted the virus as a result.”

“When you wear a mask, you may have a deceptive sense of being protected and have more interactions with other people,” Eline van den Brock-Altenburg, the vice-chair for Population Health Science at the Larner College of Medicine and the study’s principal
investigator told the website.

If Brock-Altenburg and her colleagues are right, the poor messaging that led many to believe masks make everything safe baited some people to their deaths, and the issue with masks might be bigger than the Vermont researchers found.

Face-coverings distracted from serious discussions of the need for ventilation even after the CDC in early September reported people who dined indoors at restaurants nearly tripled their risks of catching COVID-19 and those who went to a bar or coffee shop nearly quadrupled the risk.

“As communities reopen, efforts to reduce possible exposures at locations that offer on-site eating and drinking options should be considered to protect customers, employees, and communities,” the study said.

It recognized infections “have been linked to air circulation; conceded that “direction, ventilation, and intensity of airflow might affect virus transmission even if social distancing measures and mask use are implemented according to current guidance;” and yet offered no guidance on ventilation.

Authorities in the United Kingdom recognized the ventilation risks and in November changed their messaging to begin a “Hands, Face, Space” campaign.

The campaign highlighted “how letting fresh air into indoor spaces can reduce the risk of infection from coronavirus by over 70 percent,” the government website said.

It featured a video showing a simulation of the virus circulating in rooms like smoke in the smoke-filled bars of old in the U.S. The secondhand smoke problem in bars and restaurants was solved by kicking smokers to the curb.

Little has been done in the U.S. to address the issue of secondhand COVID. The state of Alaska’s website mentions ventilation only in passing in its safety recommendations. The number one recommendation is to wear “a cloth face covering/mask when in public settings” or when around strangers.

The UK offers much more explicit advice on what to do if strangers enter your home:

“Airing indoor spaces is particularly important when:

  • people have visitors (when permitted) or tradespeople in their home, for example for construction or emergencies
  • someone from a support bubble is meeting with another household indoors
  • a care worker is seeing a patient indoors
  • someone in the household has the virus, as this can help prevent transmission to other household members.”

The reasoning behind fresh air is simple as the British note; it “is to remove any infected particles lingering in the room.”

That message has been muted in the U.S. although the value of air has been known since the Spanish flu pandemic devastated parts of the country more than 100 years ago.

Meanwhile, the simple message that the best way to avoid catching COVID-19 is to avoid other people succumbed to a belief in masks even as COVID-19 infection rates were rising across the country.

It’s the message, stupid.









10 replies »


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  2. Hmm, who do you want leading the country? Does herd immunity outweigh (excuse the pun) diet?
    “Texas Gov. Greg Abbott lifted the state’s mask mandate earlier this month, causing liberal media and politicians to panic with doom-and-gloom predictions, but coronavirus cases in the Lone Star state continue to fall roughly three weeks later.

    That included President Biden, who referred to it as “Neanderthal thinking” when asked about Abbott’s decision at the time.

    A Washington Post reporter reacted to Abbott’s decision by sharing an article from last September that a “mass casualty event” was happening every day in Texas. Another journalist called Abbott and people who agree with him “wingnuts,” and a liberal website declared Abbott, “showed that there is no limit to how far Republicans will go to kill people by lifting Texas’s mask mandate.”

    Despite the outrage, The Texas Department of State Health Services reported on Thursday that new coronavirus cases have declined since the mask mandate was lifted. The New York Times daily tracker shows Texas daily coronavirus cases are down 28 percent from two weeks ago.

    “Good job,” Abbott tweeted about the trends.

  3. I really think its time to question what the message really is. Whats the message of a mandate with little to no scientific benefits? Whats the message of covering someones airway and restricting their free breathing? ( I control your every breath? Your every expression? Restricting your primary method of speaking and communication/ expression? Whats the message when you get citizens to quietly comply with a sensless act ? It begs the question- why ? Whats next ? Are we circus animals to be trained? Or are we free men ? Compliance can be a form of violence. When you restrict my airway its an assault on every breath i take and assault on liberty. No form government is owed such allegiance. There is no just law to give them such power. Whats the message when government requires obedience on such intimate parts of your body as your face and airways? Free yourselves. Live as free men . Do not comply . Thats the message every one should be repeating. Myface my choice.

  4. There’s no doubt the CDC messaging has been contradictory and poor. They treated us like we were stupid and we didn’t let them down. Most people never wore masks, they wore face coverings. Staying 6 feet apart was impossible for some people for whatever reason so the CDC decided to put a time limit on close contact, which people didn’t follow. When deciding who is a close contact masks aren’t factored in to the equation, and of course a close contact is defined as “Someone who has been within 6 feet of an infected person (laboratory-confirmed or a clinically compatible illness) for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period (for example, three individual 5-minute exposures for a total of 15 minutes in one day). An infected person can spread SARS-CoV-2 starting from 2 days before they have any symptoms (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days before the positive specimen collection date), until they meet criteria for discontinuing home isolation.” Stay away from others, keep your distance would have been way too easy to say.

    Then there’s this doozy of a statement…”Correct and consistent mask use is a critical step that people can take to protect themselves and others from COVID-19. However, the type of masks used, and whether or not they are used consistently and correctly varies throughout the general population. Therefore, mask use is not considered when determining COVID-19 exposure and the definition of a close contact during case investigation and contact tracing, regardless of whether the person diagnosed with and/or the person exposed to COVID-19 was wearing a mask. (Note: Exposure risk in the healthcare setting is determined separately and outlined in CDC guidance).” If you are close to someone with covid you are a close contact and at an increased risk of catching this disease, would have also been way too easy to say.

    • But hey, let’s change it all again since the taxpayers just paid the teachers union a WHOOPING $130 BILLION , even as part of the original $60 BILLION goes unspent. Guess they need to throw a bone to the angry parental masses.. Just another “what monies in it for me” scam.

      “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its guidance for schools. On Friday, the agency announced it “now recommends that, with universal masking, students should maintain a distance of at least 3 feet in classroom settings. A study published March 10 in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, which looked at schools in Massachusetts, where districts were given a choice of distancing students either 6 or 3 feet apart, and where the majority of districts also required universal masking. The study included more than a half-million students who attended school in person last fall.

      “We didn’t see any substantial difference in cases among students or staff in districts with 3 feet versus 6 feet, suggesting that we can open the schools safely at 3 feet, provided that some of the mitigation measures that were present here in Massachusetts are in place,” said Westyn Branch-Elliman, a co-author of the study and an infectious diseases specialist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “Our study adds to a growing body of worldwide data about the safety of 3 feet in school settings.”

      Thank God for govenors like in FL, TX, SD, MS, WY, etc.. where common sense reigns supreme.

  5. The messaging to me is that poorly run blue states that are locked down by incompetents have had sky rocketing Covid cases. Some by design. Not to mention that they are getting billions in taxpayer bailout dollars because of their poor leadership. Some by design. Meanwhile, the red states that are open and free to breath have lower numbers and are prospering.
    Let’s not forget about Biden’s border disaster while flying and depositing thousands of Covid positive illegals throughout the country at their whim.
    The “Covid depression” which is responsible for keeping people sedentary while restricting motivation is largely from the boot of communism and control upon their necks.
    Who wants to exercise and hit the treadmill with an oxygen restricting mask on? Case in point, I was down in the lower 48 and went for a hike. I was in a blue state. I am on the trail and I see a slightly older couple “goose stepping” my way. They looked good all masked up, playing the blue “state” game, yadda. Funny thing is we were in the mountains and nobody else was around. Without trying to make them feel or look stupid, I asked them, do you think wearing those masks outdoors while breathing heavily is healthy at your age? IT MIGHT KILL YOU. I had to chuckle, guess they thought I was the stupid one.

  6. Imo , cheap fabric or cloth masks worn all day in public are vectors for disease . Very similar to a germ collector swab that keeps air near your face humid just like a germ incubator. No one puts on a new mask every few minutes. Every one touches the masks with their hands. Apparently we have forgotten this is land of free home of brave. The science says masks are generally ineffective. It’s immoral and selfish to promote an item that infringes on speach and liberty. There were no rights given to government that rightfully govern the most intimate part of your body. It’s illegal usurpation of god and country given rights for government to assume such powers . Their have been innumerable sacrifices to secure our freedoms. Do not flippantly throw them away . In this case not resisting government overreach is effectively inflicting violence on future generations when they must again fight for their freedoms. Those who comply silently are contributing to tyranny and slavery. Control of your face and speach apparatus ( your face ) is yours alone to decide how to cover, use or whatever you choose. These thoughts are backed by our highest laws and regulations. The American constitution.

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