There follows a statement issued by the Norfolk Group of physicians and scientists outlining the questions that must be asked and answered in public by those who upended life in America during the pandemic.
The group of eight scientists includes Martin Kulldorff of Harvard and Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford, two of the three authors of the Great Barrington Declaration issued early on in the pandemic, that called for a response targeted towards the most vulnerable rather than unnecessary blanket restrictions on every aspect of life.
America’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic failed on many levels of Government and in many aspects. Certainly, deaths are unavoidable during a pandemic. However, too many U.S. policy makers concentrated efforts on ineffective or actively harmful and divisive measures such as school closures that generated enormous societal damage without significantly lowering COVID-19 mortality, while failing to protect high-risk Americans. As a result, Americans were hard hit both by the disease and by collateral damage generated by misguided pandemic strategies and decisions that ignored years of pandemic preparation guidance crafted by numerous public health agencies, nationally and internationally.
Many crucial mistakes were made early on, in January, February, and early March 2020, and not corrected later. Mistakes made during this early critical window at the beginning of the pandemic affected our ability to collect data about COVID-19 and protect those most at risk and laid the groundwork for loss of public trust and confusion. These oversights led to unnecessary morbidity and mortality, particularly in nursing homes, and a lack of much-needed medical supplies, reagents for testing, and required medications. Delays in initiating research on key questions such as effectiveness of therapeutics, modes of transmission, length of infective periods, and other questions, meant that policy decisions were based on assumptions rather than on solid data. To this day, many of these questions have not been adequately addressed through robust trials.
At hospitals, morbidity and mortality (M&Ms) conferences are used to examine errors or omissions in order to improve medical care. Aviation agencies conduct detailed investigations after airplane accidents and incidents. Pandemics are recurring events throughout history, and there will be future pandemics. It is thus critically important that we thoroughly examine federal pandemic responses and decisions so that we can identify and learn from mistakes. Individual states should take on the responsibility of conducting similar processes to analyze their own responses to the pandemic. Other countries have conducted such inquiries (Norway, Sweden, The Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Denmark) and made results available to the public and to decision makers.