Covid lessons learned: Kevin Roche versus Star Tribune

The Star Tribune editorial board seeks to formulate “Early lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic.” On its news and opinion pages since March 2020 the paper has served with rare exception as a voice of hysteria concerning the virus and cheerleading for Governor Walz. It might be interesting to have them formulate early lessons of their coverage and punditry.

On this occasion the editors use one Andy Slavitt to look back and draw lessons learned from the pandemic. Last month Slavitt stepped down as a temporary senior advisor to the COVID-19 Response Coordinator in the Biden administration. Now he is the author of the book Preventable. He seeks to deliver his wisdom to the masses. Lessons learned according to Slavitt and the Star Tribune include the following:

Slavitt also turns a critical eye to the rest of us, and accurately wields the word “selfishness.” Many descendants of those who sacrificed to win World War II have lost sight of the collective good, resulting in resistance to mask-wearing and risky behavior fueling viral spread. “Let’s face it: the pandemic showed us some of our ugly and we should think about starting there,” Slavitt wrote.

The book provides a sensible list of reforms to address the public health weaknesses COVID revealed. Among them: replenishing the national stockpile of protective medical gear; a new agency that forecasts disease spread in the same way as the National Weather Service; clear guidelines for airport quarantining, and creating a center of excellence for diagnostic testing.

But Slavitt also adds bigger, blue-sky challenges such as ensuring paid medical leave for workers, affordable housing, livable wages, national broadband and tying health insurance to existence — not employment. Slavitt is skeptical about their chances, but the “save the next life” philosophy requires all of us to keep trying.

“If we count on just the technical stuff to save us,” Slavitt said in an interview referring to narrow pandemic-specific reforms, “and don’t learn the bigger lessons and act on them, I think we’re making a big mistake.”

By contrast with the editors of the Star Tribune, Kevin Roche deems Slavitt a member of Minnesota’s own Axis of Evil for his role in the pandemic. Kevin responds to the Star Tribune editorial in his Healthy Skeptic post “The Axis of Evil strikes again.” Kevin has followed Slavitt’s contributions to the public health debate and finds that Slavitt has distinguished himself thusly:

[T]he ongoing prize winner has been Andy Slavitt, an unredeemable failure at getting anything right for the entire course of the epidemic and a person who actually tried to profit from his position by shilling for a supposedly superior mask. Andy has unfortunately displayed zero humility or self-awareness in regard to his abysmal performance. And now he has shared his vast store of epidemic wisdom with us in the form of a book called Preventable. If it reflected his actual knowledge, the tome would consist of a title page and nothing else. Unfortunately for some people arrogance and ignorance abound in equal and great quantities. (Here is a hilarious side note, the book’s proceeds will be donated to charity. What will they ever do with all those pennies?)

Here is the heart of Kevin’s response:

The biggest lesson of the epidemic, which fortunately many Americans seem to have taken to heart, is that you can’t trust experts or politicians, and you can’t believe anything they tell you about the data or science. YOU NEED TO TRUST YOUR OWN ABILITY TO GET THE FACTS AND REASON OUT THE TRUTH.

Our supposed public health experts, most of whom are lifetime government bureaucrats who couldn’t get or keep a job in private industry (yes, this means you Dr. Fauci), have repeatedly promoted suppression measures which anyone who looked at the research and who was thoughtful would reject. Build and be guided by models that aren’t close to representing reality. Close schools, when there is no risk to children and they are minor transmitters. Recommend massive testing programs that don’t slow spread but do generate false and low positives that force people to wrongly quarantine. Use PCR testing results that are essentially worthless in determining who is actually infectious. Over-attribute hospitalizations and deaths to CV-19 and terrorize the population about how scary this virus is. Close businesses and cause enormous and disruptive unemployment. Push social distancing that makes no difference, endorse plastic barriers that make no difference, and most of all, turn masking into a religion when the only actual research shows masks make no difference to community spread. And on and on, with one stupid, incredibly destructive recommendation after another.

Mr. Slavitt claims that a big problem in management of the pandemic was selfishness, that we all should accept whatever nonsense comes from the experts like him, wear our pointless masks, lose our jobs, watch our kids go backwards socially and educationally and endure mental illness, miss needed health care, watch frail loved ones die alone. All while Mr. Slavitt and his millions sit in a lovely home in a lovely neighborhood and worry about nothing. He says “the pandemic showed us some of our ugly and we should think about starting there”. He must have been looking in the mirror when he wrote those words. What is really repulsive is self-important know-nothings trying to lecture the rest of us.

Kevin concludes: “Instead of a hagiography, Andy Slavitt and his ilk should be pilloried and banned from the public forum. I pray that someday there will be a real investigation into how the epidemic was handled and that these hectoring merchants of doom and ruination get what they so richly deserve–a good tarring and feathering.”

Yesterday our friends at RealClearPolitics posted a link to the Star Tribune editorial in its featured editorial lineup. It is still there as I write this morning. Many readers will see it there. It badly needs the counterpoint that Kevin provides.

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