Since October 4, thousands of scientists and medical professionals around the world have signed “The Great Barrington Declaration,”a petition in support of ending Coronavirus lockdowns. The document cites the devastating global economic crisis the lockdowns have caused as a principle reason for eliminating current infection control policy. The economic collapse, according to the signers, has disproportionately damaged the livelihoods of working people all over the world.
Contrary to what many members of the media will tell you, the declaration was not authored by corrupt quacks. In fact, among the esteemed professionals who have signed the declaration is Michael Levitt, PhD, the recipient of the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2013. Thousands of men and women from various fields of science and mathematics have signed the declaration, which brings much needed dialogue to the scientific analysis of COVID-19. That said, “The Great Barrington Declaration” takes a good deal for granted.
While it is obvious that people all around the world are suffering greatly from a global economic recession, the Great Barrington Declaration completely neglects moderation. I happen to agree that COVID-19 lockdowns are draconian and terribly inefficient, but it is too great a leap to suggest that “a return to normalcy” is in any way appropriate at this time. Debilitating long term effects of COVID-19, which are only just now being analyzed on a reproducible scale, require our utmost attention moving forward.
One long term effect of COVID-19 is myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart. This was studied relatively recently and published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study shows that COVID-19 can cause cardiomyocyte damage through sarcomere fragmentation in thick filaments of the heart. In other words, COVID-19 can infiltrate the muscle cells of your heart and cause the muscle to become microscopically disfigured. The damage can cause scarring and potentially long-term pathology that is not yet identifiable. This is of great concern for younger populations who may not experience side effects of COVID-19 until much later in life.
A majority of COVID-19 patients, especially those with comorbidities, are currently experiencing cardiac pathologies that range from mild to severe. The American Heart Associationhas identified a link between COVID-19 infections and an increased risk of heart failure. Pericarditis, or the inflammation of the tissue that encapsulates the heart muscle within the thoracic cage, is one possible mechanism for COVID-related heart failure. Updates come every day as the scientific community continues to unravel the mysteries of a novel virus. It is precisely this unpredictability which has led me to adjust my previous positions on current public health policy.
Opponents of COVID-19 lockdown procedures, myself included, have cited herd immunity as a possible path forward. In fact, studies such as the one from Iceland have shown that immunity to COVID-19 via B-cell antibodies can last in excess of four months. However, sustained immunity to COVID-19, and coronaviruses in general, is unreliable. Rupert Beale, PhD of the Francis Crick Institute, explained this at length in his dissent to the “Great Barrington Declaration.” Given that sustained immunity has yet to be established, and a vaccine has not yet been approved, the elimination of the majority of infection control standards could have grave consequences for millions of people.
COVID-19 is a novel virus, and the scientific community is taking immense strides with every new discovery, but it is imperative that we adjust our public policy accordingly. One must not become enamored with policy that was made scientifically obsolete months ago because it aligns with one’s political or ideological goals. COVID-19 lockdowns are unsustainable—the World Health Organization has made that clear. However, a complete return to normalcy, which I have previously supported, is not appropriate either. As is often the case, there is a middle ground that exists somewhere between draconian, unconstitutional lockdowns and aloof carelessness.
After all, in the United States, we need more dialogue and less canceling. We need less censorship and more collaboration. At the University of Chicago, our community must stay true to our founding principles. We need less raised fists and more open ears. There has never been a more dangerous time for Americans to stop listening to one another. We must not allow our current existence, and our current polarization, to impede the development of future generations of Americans.
Lukus Berber is an Alumni Advisor to the Chicago Thinker. He graduated from the University of Chicago in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. He is currently pursuing an M.D. and is an M2 medical student. His interests include: American foreign policy, American domestic politics, public health, and medicine. When not buried in clinical case studies or analyzing the latest political scandal, he enjoys watching Chicago sports and cooking various Mexican dishes. As a proud Hoosier, he brings much needed sensibility to the state of Illinois.