MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Posts Tagged ‘UPMC’

Engineering Contagion: UPMC, Corona-thrax and “the Darkest Winter”

Posted by M. C. on December 28, 2020

In January 2020, when much of the world remained blissfully unaware of the coming global pandemic, UPMC was already at work developing a vaccine to protect against the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19, known as SARS-CoV-2. That month, before the state of Pennsylvania had a single case of Covid-19, UPMC formed a “coronavirus task force,” which was initially focused on lobbying the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to obtain samples of live SARS-CoV-2 for research purposes. That research was to be conducted at the Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) Regional Biocontainment Laboratory (RBL) housed within UPMC’s Center for Vaccine Research. A day after the director of UPMC’s Center for Vaccine Research, W. Paul Duprex, revealed UPMC’s efforts to access the SARS-CoV-2 virus, he announced that the virus samples, containing an estimated 50 to 60 million coronavirus particles, were already en route to the university. At the time, UPMC was one of only a handful of institutions on the CDC’s short list to receive live SARS-CoV-2 samples.

“The aforementioned Harvard researchers patented their methodology of using anthrax in this way for the production of a vaccine in 2002. This means that the anthrax-based “vaccine” currently being developed by UPMC’s Center for Vaccine Research would have to develop a new method that utilizes anthrax in much the same way so as not to infringe on the patent, which is unlikely. The other alternative is that UPMC would pay the patent holders for use of their methodology if they want to commercialize it in a vaccine. Yet, given UPMC’s business model in general, as well as that of UPMC’s Center for Vaccine Research specifically, this also seems unlikely.”

Don’t you hate it when you are the last to know?

https://www.thelastamericanvagabond.com/engineering-contagion-upmc-corona-thrax-darkest-winter/

Whitney Webb

Not long after Romoff took over the Center’s reins, he made his intentions clear to faculty and staff, stating at one 1995 UPMC meeting that his “vision” for the future of American health care was “the conversion of health care from social good to a commodity.” Motivated by profit above all else, Romoff aggressively expanded UPMC, gobbling up community hospitals, surgery centers, and private practices to create a “health-care network” that has expanded throughout much of Pennsylvania and even abroad to other countries, including China. Under Romoff, UPMC has also expanded into the health-insurance business, with 40 percent of the medical claims it pays out going straight back into places of care that are owned by UPMC—meaning UPMC is essentially paying itself.

In addition, since UPMC is officially a “charitable nonprofit corporation,” it is exempt from property taxes and has special access to the tax-exempt municipal bond market. UPMC can also solicit tax-deductible grants from private individuals and organizations, as well as governments. These grants totaled over $1 billion dollars between 2005 and 2017.

Despite these perks being officially justified because of UPMC’s “charitable institution” status, the UPMC board, with Romoff at the top, have seen their own multimillion-dollar-per-year salaries continue to climb. Perhaps this perk also comes from UPMC being a nonprofit corporation, as there are no stockholders to whom Romoff and the board must explain their increasingly exorbitant salaries. For instance, Romoff made $8.97 million last year as UPMC’s CEO, a marked increase over the $6.12 million he had raked in the prior year.

UPMC’s financial chicanery is so out of control that even Pennsylvania’s attorney general has taken action against it, suing UPMC in February 2019 for violations of the state’s charity laws based on their “unjust enrichment” and engaging in “unfair, fraudulent or deceptive acts or practices.” Though UPMC decided to settle out of court, the Center and Romoff came out of the affair relatively unscathed.

Now, thanks to the crisis caused by Covid-19, UPMC is once again on the path toward growing even larger and more powerful in pursuit of Romoff’s ultimate goal, which is, in his own words, to make UPMC the “Amazon of health care.”

In this fourth installment of the The Last American Vagabond series“Engineering Contagion: Amerithrax, Coronavirus and the Rise of the Biotech-Industrial Complex”, the “nonprofit” health-care behemoth that is UPMC is squarely placed at the intersection of post-9/11 “biodefense” public-private partnerships; corporate-funded academics who shape public policy on behalf of their private-sector benefactors; and risky research on dangerous pathogens that threatens to unleash the very “bioterror” that these institutions claim to guard against.

The Odd Trajectory of UPMC’s Covid-19 Vaccine Efforts

UPMC

In January 2020, when much of the world remained blissfully unaware of the coming global pandemic, UPMC was already at work developing a vaccine to protect against the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19, known as SARS-CoV-2. That month, before the state of Pennsylvania had a single case of Covid-19, UPMC formed a “coronavirus task force,” which was initially focused on lobbying the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to obtain samples of live SARS-CoV-2 for research purposes. That research was to be conducted at the Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) Regional Biocontainment Laboratory (RBL) housed within UPMC’s Center for Vaccine Research. A day after the director of UPMC’s Center for Vaccine Research, W. Paul Duprex, revealed UPMC’s efforts to access the SARS-CoV-2 virus, he announced that the virus samples, containing an estimated 50 to 60 million coronavirus particles, were already en route to the university. At the time, UPMC was one of only a handful of institutions on the CDC’s short list to receive live SARS-CoV-2 samples.

UPMC later stated that they began work on a vaccine for Covid-19 on January 21st, weeks before the February 14th announcement that the virus was on its way to the university. That original vaccine candidate used the published genetic sequence of SARS-CoV-2, released in early January 2020 by Chinese researchers, to synthetically produce SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins that would be transported into cells by an adenoviral vector, which is commonly used in a variety of vaccines. The vaccine candidate was nicknamed PittCoVacc, short for Pittsburgh Coronavirus Vaccine.

A little over a month after the live SARS-CoV-2 samples were received by UPMC’s Center for Vaccine Research, UPMC received a $5 million grant from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), an international organization founded in 2017 by the governments of Norway and India along with the World Economic Forum and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The grant was officially awarded to “an international academic-industry partnership” that the Center for Vaccine Research had recently formed with the Institut Pasteur in France and Austrian vaccine manufacturer Themis. Soon after, in May, Themis was acquired by vaccine giant Merck, which began recruiting volunteers for human trials earlier this month on September 11. Merck has incredibly close ties with UPMC, particularly its commercialization arm known as UPMC Enterprises.

The CEPI grant seems to have drastically altered the Center for Vaccine Research’s interest in the original adenovirus-vector vaccine candidate, PittCoVacc, as the CEPI grant was specifically aimed at funding a different vaccine candidate that instead uses the measles virus as a vector. The measles virus and the genetic manipulation of measles for use in the measles vaccine is, notably, the principal research interest and expertise of Center for Vaccine Research director Paul Duprex.

This measles-based vaccine candidate has been described as “a modified [genetically altered] measles virus that delivers bits of the new coronavirus into the body to prevent Covid-19” as well as an “attenuated [genetically modified yet weakened] measles virus as a vector with which to introduce genetic material from SARS-[CoV-]2 to the immune system.” The combination of this weakened measles virus and SARS-CoV-2, per Duprex, will produce a “more benign version of coronavirus [that] will acquaint a person’s immune system” with SARS-CoV-2. No vaccine using this modality has ever been licensed.

On April 2nd, less than a week after the CEPI award had been announced, the UPMC researchers who had developed the original vaccine candidate using the more traditional adenovirus-vector approach published a study in EBioMedicine (a publication of themedical journal Lancet) that reported promising results of their vaccine candidate in animal studies. The news that a US institution was among the first in the world to develop a Covid-19 vaccine candidate with promising results from an animal study was heavily amplified by mainstream US media outlets, with those reports noting that UMPC was requesting government permission to quickly move onto human trials.

This original vaccine candidate, however, was mysteriously dropped from subsequent reports and statements from UPMC regarding its Covid-19 vaccine efforts. Indeed, in recent months, Duprex’s statements on the center’s Covid-19 vaccine candidates no longer mention the once-promising PittCoVacc at all. Instead, new reports, citing Duprex, claim that the only UPMC vaccine candidates are the CEPI-funded measles-vaccine candidate and another, more mysterious vaccine candidate, whose nature has only been recently revealed by documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

Equally odd is that recent media reports on the original vaccine candidate have stopped mentioning UPMC at all, instead citing only Themis, its new owner Merck, and France’s Institut Pasteur. There are no reports indicating a break-up of the original “academic-industry partnership” that had received the CEPI grant. It seems that this is what may have come to pass, as Duprex stated that the UPMC measles-vector vaccine candidate had partnered with the Serum Institute of India for mass production, first for trials and then for public use, depending on how the vaccine advances through the regulatory process. In contrast, Themis/Merck have stated that their vaccine is being produced in France. It remains unclear what the relation is between these two, and apparently analogous, vaccine candidates.

Though Duprex has been relatively forthcoming about the nature of the first UPMC vaccine candidate (i. e., the CEPI-funded measles-vector vaccine), he has been much more tight-lipped about its second vaccine candidate. In late August, he told the Pittsburgh Business Times that the second vaccine candidate that UPMC was developing “works by delivering genetic material coding for a viral protein instead of the entire weakened or killed virus as is standard in other vaccines.” Yet Duprex declined to state what vector will be used to deliver the genetic material into human cells. Recent FOIA revelations, nevertheless, have revealed that UPMC’s second vaccine candidate involves genetically engineering a combination of SARS-Cov-2 and anthrax, a substance better known for its potential use as a bioweapon.

Corona-thrax

The recently obtained documents reveal that the BSL-3 lab that is part of UPMC’s Center for Vaccine Research is conducting eyebrow-raising research involving combining SARS-CoV-2 with Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent of anthrax infection. Per the documents, anthrax is being genetically engineered by a researcher, whose name was redacted in the release, so that it will express the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, which is the part of the coronavirus that allows it to gain access into human cells. The researcher asserts that “the [genetically engineered anthrax/SARS-CoV-2 hybrid] can [be] used as a host strain to make SARS-CoV-2 recombinant S protein vaccine,” and the creation of said vaccine is the officially stated purpose of the research project. The documents were produced by the University of Pittsburgh’s Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC), which held an emergency meeting on June 22nd of this year to “discuss specific protocols involving research with the coronavirus,” which included a vote on the aforementioned proposal.

Edward Hammond, the former director of the Sunshine Project, an organization that opposed chemical and biological weapons and the expansion of “dual use” biodefense/bioweapon research, obtained the documents. Other FOIA documents recently obtained by Hammond have revealed an “explosion” of risky Covid-19-related research at other academic institutions, such as the University of North Carolina, which has already had lab accidents involving genetically engineered variants of SARS-CoV-2.

Hammond told The Last American Vagabond that the experiment, which he dubs “Corona-thrax,” is “emblematic of the pointless research excesses that often characterize the response of scientists to the federal government throwing billions of dollars at health crises.” Hammond added, “While I don’t think that Corona-thrax would be infectious, it falls into the categories of pointless and crazy. The biggest immediate risk of all this activity is that a researcher will deliberately or inadvertently create a modified form of SARS-CoV-2 that is even more difficult to treat, or more deadly, and this virus will escape the lab. It only takes a stray droplet.”

Jonathan Latham, a virologist who previously taught at the University of Wisconsin and who is the current editor of Independent Science News, agreed with Hammond that the Corona-thrax experiment is odd and said that he was “concerned here specifically about the research process and the risks of these specific experiments at Pittsburgh.” In an interview with The Last American Vagabond, Latham asserted that it is “unusual by historical standards . . . the combining of two highly pathogenic organisms in a single experiment.” He did note, however, that such studies for the purposes of vaccine research have become more common in recent years, as is made clear in a 2012 study.

Few experiments have been conducted that specifically utilize anthrax in this way. Since 2000, the studies that have examined the use of genetically modified anthrax as a potential vaccine vector have been affiliated with Harvard University. One of these studies was on the use of anthrax as a vector in a potential HIV vaccine and was jointly conducted in 2000 by Harvard researchers and the vaccine company Avant Immunotherapeutics (now part of Celldex).

Despite reporting positive preliminary results in their experiments, Avant/Celldex did not fund further experiments into a vaccine that used this anthrax-based modality, and it does not currently market or have any such vaccine in its product pipeline. This suggests that, for whatever reason, this company did not see much value in this vaccine, despite the preliminary study with Harvard claiming that the methodology was safe and effective.

The Harvard researchers involved in that 2000 study, however, continued to investigate the possibility of an anthrax-based HIV vaccine in 2003, 2004, and 2005, though without corporate sponsorship. Related yet different research has explored the use of “disarmed” anthrax components as an adjuvant in vaccines and as the basis for enzyme-linked immunospot assays.

The aforementioned Harvard researchers patented their methodology of using anthrax in this way for the production of a vaccine in 2002. This means that the anthrax-based “vaccine” currently being developed by UPMC’s Center for Vaccine Research would have to develop a new method that utilizes anthrax in much the same way so as not to infringe on the patent, which is unlikely. The other alternative is that UPMC would pay the patent holders for use of their methodology if they want to commercialize it in a vaccine. Yet, given UPMC’s business model in general, as well as that of UPMC’s Center for Vaccine Research specifically, this also seems unlikely.

Also odd is what sort of incentive UPMC’s Center for Vaccine Research possesses for the Corona-thrax experiment. There are currently over a hundred vaccine candidates that use existing and tested vaccine platforms in pursuit of a Covid-19 vaccine, a fact Duprex himself has acknowledged. As Hammond told The Last American Vagabond, “It is perfectly obvious that there are numerous existing vaccine platforms for Covid-19 and that some of them will, sooner or more likely later, succeed. There is no serious need for some sort of quite strange bacterial platform, much less one that happens to be anthrax. It’s completely unnecessary and frankly bizarre.”

The Crown Jewel of the Biotech-Industrial Complex

See the rest here

Be seeing you

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Let’s Play a Disinformation Game – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on December 26, 2020

The headline out-and-out lies about the COVID situation in Western PA. and you know this because the content directly contradicts the headline. As you can see from that content, while “Hospital capacity” may be “a major concern in Western Pennsylvania,” it’s definitely not to the hospitals. For example, this from UPMC Chief Medical Officer Dr.Don Yealy: “I actually do not believe that we will have any difficulty providing the care that’s needed.“

The numbers they’re feeding “an unsuspecting public” are not actual tallys. Typically they’re generated by computer simulations, in this case as the clip confesses, one from Minnesota. Some nerds aptly call such output “technical fiction.“

The news media misrepresents the situation by selective horror. For example, the first graphic in the clip shows hospital capacity overall in Allegheny County — that includes Pittsburgh — at 81%. The newsie, Lisa Sylvester, suggests “that’s pretty bad.”

No it’s not. Hospitals need to be at about 80% capacity to make money so hospitals don’t even regard 81% as “brisk business.” Then she goes on to say, “The real problem is that here, the hospitals are running out of room.” No they’re not because – – –

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2020/12/l-reichard-white/lets-play-a-disinformation-game/

By L. Reichard White

We’re well into a serious case of panic-driven pandemic, powered by fear, sustained by arrival of sasonal flu, and amplified by confirmation bias.

One group — the newsies and politicians — have something else to fear besides just the virus. That’s the public reaction when folks finally realize how those people have bamboozled them into abject poverty, 270 million facing starvation, and even death.

Because it’s not the virus that’s causing this, it’s the pseudo-scientific Narrative Pandemic with its lockdowns, etc, foisted on us by the political class and amplified by a compliant corps of MSM (Main Stream Media) presstitutes.

As multi-credentialed Dr. Roger Hodkinson put it, this is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on an unsuspecting public. He has a few other interesting things to say in that clip as well.

In fact anti-mask-and-lockdown riots in such refined countries as Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Great Britain, and eveen Chile, to name a few, suggest those two classes of ne’er-do-wells have good reason to be nervous.

And, in case you think the dissenters are just an uninformed rabble — and I’m undependable fake news — as of December 23, 2020, there are more than 760,000 folks, including 39,384 Medical practitioners, 13,035 Medical & Public Health Scientists and 709,443 concerned citizens — so far — who signed The Great Barrington Declaration, dissing The Establishment’s alarmist, misleading and destructive handling of COVID-19. It says in part,

“Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health … with the working class and younger members of society carrying the heaviest burden.” and “with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed.” …”Indeed, for children, COVID-19 is less dangerous than many other harms, including influenza. ” …”Those who are not vulnerable should immediately be allowed to resume life as normal. “

And there’s the economic devastation, mentioned previously, as well – – –

The UK’s envoy [Dr. David Nabarro] to the World Health Organisation (W.H.O.) has condemned mass coronavirus lockdowns, slamming the “ghastly global catastrophe” caused by crashing the world economy. –W.H.O. Condemns Coronavirus Lockdowns, ‘Doubling’ Global Poverty

So now, more than ever, the newsies and elected prevaricators desperately need to defend their destructive policies and find confirmations supporting their COVID-19 legends, myths and bald-faced lies, especially their 10 times more devastating than the virus and ineffective lockdowns.

Or they need to imagine more confirmations into existence. They seem to have a preference for the imagination route, probably because that’s easier — and legitimate supporting evidence for the Official Narrative is hard to find.

So, the thing to remember when you see any politician or MSM newsie with lips moving about “THE PANDEMIC,” whatever comes out is likely powered by the need to confirm their previous COVID-19 legends, myths and lies and will likely be wrong, distorted and usually legitimate-evidence free.

With that in mind, let’s play a game – – –

CAN YOU FIND THE MISTAKES?

Remember those old puzzles when you were a kid? There would be a picture with mistakes in it for you to find. OK, in this modern version, how many mistakes can you find in this two-minute 49 second Lemming-maker, broadcast by NBC affiliate WPXI, Pittsburgh, Dec 15, 2020 with the header, “Hospital capacity a major concern in Western Pennsylvania” – – –

The segment starts out with a plaque showing 509,320 “TOTAL CASES” in Pennsylvania. That number is cumulative since last February and so misleading because it’s not the current active case total which is much smaller since most folks recover quickly. And most of those cases were/are just infections that were mislabeled anyway, not real cases. That’s because by over 100 years of scientific practice and tradition, infections require symptoms and/or hospitalization — not just a positive test — before they can legitimately be called cases.

And then there’s the fact that at least 40% of what they insist on incorrectly calling cases show no noticeable symptoms. Those are the folks they call “asymptomatic.

And of course, the RT-PCR tests they’re using show a lot of false positives, so many of those cases aren’t even real infections, let alone cases. But that’s a whole deeper level of misinformation. Feel free to completely ignore it and we’ll take the official nonsense at face value.

So now, taking the official nonsense at face-value — and FWIW — here are the mistakes I see in the above video – – –

  1. The headline out-and-out lies about the COVID situation in Western PA. and you know this because the content directly contradicts the headline. As you can see from that content, while “Hospital capacity” may be “a major concern in Western Pennsylvania,” it’s definitely not to the hospitals. For example, this from UPMC Chief Medical Officer Dr.Don Yealy: “I actually do not believe that we will have any difficulty providing the care that’s needed.
  2. The numbers they’re feeding “an unsuspecting public” are not actual tallys. Typically they’re generated by computer simulations, in this case as the clip confesses, one from Minnesota. Some nerds aptly call such output “technical fiction.
  3. The news media misrepresents the situation by selective horror. For example, the first graphic in the clip shows hospital capacity overall in Allegheny County — that includes Pittsburgh — at 81%. The newsie, Lisa Sylvester, suggests “that’s pretty bad.”

No it’s not. Hospitals need to be at about 80% capacity to make money so hospitals don’t even regard 81% as “brisk business.” Then she goes on to say, “The real problem is that here, the hospitals are running out of room.” No they’re not because – – –

  1. – – – the WPXI story misleadingly chooses to show the two Allegheny County hospitals which are at or above 100% capacity — if that’s an actual tally — ignoring the rest that bring the average down to 81%. Are these hospitals able to increase their capacity and/or transfer patients or does St. Clair Hospital — shown at 115% capacity — let that extra 15% die in the halls or on the streets?
  2. No, St. Clair Hospital doesn’t let patients die in the halls or on the streets because hospitals can transfer patients — and increase their capacity if necessary. Indeed, via follow-up reporter Aaaron Martin, according to UPMC Chief Medical Officer Yealy, “hospitals are well positioned to handle the surge and are able to step in and help each other when needed. UPMC has 300 ICU beds available and they can double that number if needed.” Also, according to Aaaron Martin, referencing a spokeswoman from another hospital, “as of this morning, they have 300 ICU beds available system-wide and like their neighbors at UPMC, they are in no danger of running out of ICU beds anytime soon.

So, if “Hospital capacity [is] a major concern in Western Pennsylvania” but not to the hospitals, who IS it “a major concern” to?

So there’s another example of the pseudo-scientific Narrative Pandemic and then, on the other hand, there are the facts.

At this point it’s appropriate to paraphrase the U.S.S.R.’s monster, Joseph Stalin. Like this – – – It’s not the infections, cases, and deaths that define the pandemic, it’s those who count and report them that define it. Stalin was refering to voters versus those who count the votes.

And of course, seriously misleading narratives aren’t unique to Western Pennsylvania. There’s this article for example – – –

Catastrophic’ lack of hospital beds in Upper Midwest as coronavirus cases surge – The Washington Post

There are several tricks “those who count and report” COVID-19 like to use. First they report new “cases” most of which are almost always only “infections.” Even those depend on the number of iffy RT-PCR tests. The more tests, the more infections they discover — unless the numbers are completely computer-generated technical fiction. But either way they call them “cases.”

Another one is to look for a short-term fluctuation. Only the fluctuation is important. They choose the base numbers to show the largest fluctuation. Using these, they report a percentage increase. For example, say there were 10 new infections yesterday and today there were 12. The report would be, “CASES have just jumped by 20%.

Tomorrow there may be only 8 new infections, meaning a 33% reduction from those 12 new infections yesterday but you almost never see those numbers. For some reason.

Another trick is to tally up something and then report the numbers all at once. So, for example, they like to report the numbers weekly and/or monthly because the totals will look bigger.

And they only report bad news, usually the worst they can find.

And of course, they are prone to use computerized “technical fiction rather than actual tallys, which flesh-and-blood bureaucracies like coroners etc. can’t be expected to keep up with.

Also it helps a lot that the symptoms of COVID-19 are almost exactly identical to the flu — and this is flu season. And it doesn’t hurt the tally that hospitals may get $13,000 for a COVID-19 hospitalized patient and $39,000 if they put him/her/etc on a ventilator.

The newsies also love to report things they claim the “experts” — and others — worry might happen. Heck, me too! I might get struck by lightening, killed in an auto crash or fall in the tub or down the stairs. All but maybe the lightening are way more likely than that I get shut out of a hospital, especially when they can get a $13,000 bounty for admitting me.

With those tricks in mind, you might read through the “Catastrophic lack of beds” story above, while also keeping in mind the desperate search with Confirmation Bias fully engaged and the attempt to live-up to the headline.

If you do, you’ll finally work your way down to this:

[South Dakota Gov. Kristi L.] Noem’s spokesman, Ian Fury, said that Noem had no intention of changing her approach, noting that although the hospitalization rate has increased, 34 percent of the state’s hospital and ICU beds remain open.

And just to round-out the Big Picture, you can find the nemesis of the current nation-wide COVID-19 “overwhelmed hospital” confirmation bias stampede in this Tom Woods piece:

Is the hospital system “overwhelmed”?

SPOILER ALERT: No, it isn’t.

It directly follows — with evidence already provided — that these devastating and ineffective so-called “lockdowns” — and face masks — are nothing more than useless and damaging — and in most jurisdictions, technically illegal — mandated virtue signalling, promulgated by ill-informed, desperate, and/or dishonest elected liars and amplified by a compliant corps of MSM presstitutes.

And, the usual question, “What are you going to do about it?

HERE for updates, additions, comments, and corrections.

AND, “Like,” “Tweet,” and otherwise, pass this along!

Be seeing you

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

How We Might Respond to a Pandemic Were Society Not So Dominated by the State | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on May 28, 2020

Health systems, in contrast, have a vested interest in managing a disease outbreak as efficiently and as effectively as possible. For one thing, they are at risk of going bankrupt and ceasing to operate, unlike governments. Who would have guessed six months ago that in the middle of a pandemic hospitals around the country would be at risk of closing down due to being unable to treat any patients?

By May 7, the head of the UPMC’s emergency medicine division, Dr. Don Yealy, flat out contradicted the Pennsylvania health secretary and stated that it was acceptable for people to visit with family for Mother’s Day. Yealy stated that given what is known about the virus now, the fact that it bears almost no risk to the vast majority of the population, and the need to reduce the harmful health effects stemming from the shutdown, “we are ready for a smart reopening of society.”

https://mises.org/wire/how-we-might-respond-pandemic-were-society-not-so-dominated-state?utm_source=Mises+Institute+Subscriptions&utm_campaign=65eb457df8-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_9_21_2018_9_59_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_8b52b2e1c0-65eb457df8-228343965

“There are no libertarians in an epidemic” crowed Atlantic reporter Peter Nicholas back on March 10, as he listed the numerous economic interventions the Trump administration was undertaking in the wake of the mounting COVID-19 crisis. This intervention, Nicholas declared, just goes to show you that whatever antigovernment talk one might talk, government intervention in the economy is “nothing new and, as may well prove the case this time around, it’s often necessary.” Setting aside the fact that it is simply absurd to refer to Donald Trump as being a libertarian, numerous commentators have pointed out that far from there being no libertarians during a crisis, all levels of government have been on a mad dash to slash meaningless regulations and rules that are simply getting in the way of the response.

But beyond such obvious problems with claiming that there are no libertarians in a pandemic, many people are quick to argue that the state has no choice but to get involved in solving all the world’s problems, especially during a crisis like the current pandemic because no other institutions in society have the power to do so.

Although, yes, the state currently enjoys a vastly unbalanced share of the power within a society, such an arrangement is not in any way preordained, and the assumption that it must be so betrays a narrowness of vision and a lack of historical knowledge. History is filled with examples where the balance of social power has been weighted in favor of other institutions in society, such as the Catholic Church during certain periods of European history or what sociologist Carle Zimmerman calls the trustee form of family, in which the extended clan wields the most power. Power has waxed and waned between various poles within society throughout history, and it is a mistake to assume that the arrangement we are living under is how life has always been and will be.

The state currently has so much of the power in society, simply because it has purposely sucked it up and taken it at the expense of everything else. The great American classical liberal Albert J. Nock began his classic work Our Enemy the State by declaring that “If we look beneath the surface of our public affairs, we can discern one fundamental fact, namely: a great redistribution of power between society and the State. This is the fact that interests the student of civilization.”

Keeping this in mind, one must ask how a society in which social power is more balanced between the various institutions and groups that comprise it would react to a pandemic, in contrast to our current society in which so much power is concentrated in the state.

One of the most obvious differences is that health systems would play a much larger role in public health planning. In the current crisis, state bureaucrats are making recommendations and issuing orders and regulations to the healthcare system. Yet healthcare systems are, perhaps next to victims and their families, the institutions most affected by the outbreak of disease, not the mayor, governor, or federal government.

Under the current state-dominated system, bad incentives abound. Politicians and bureaucrats are always incentivized toward appearing to be doing something. They face little risk in going too far, as long as they can give press conferences and blab on and on about all the steps they are taking to fix the situation. The policies’ actual consequences are irrelevant.

Health systems, in contrast, have a vested interest in managing a disease outbreak as efficiently and as effectively as possible. For one thing, they are at risk of going bankrupt and ceasing to operate, unlike governments. Who would have guessed six months ago that in the middle of a pandemic hospitals around the country would be at risk of closing down due to being unable to treat any patients? Under a system in which social power is balanced harmoniously throughout society, institutions that have the correct incentive structure will be able to carry out necessary social functions, rather than being shunted aside by the state.

In my own hometown of Pittsburgh, one of the main health systems, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), which is also the largest employer in the state, has maintained a distinctly different tone from the state government’s throughout the crisis. Due to the fact that it has maintained a significant amount of social power (thanks to its size and its billions of dollars in revenue), the UMPC has been able to chart its own course, to a certain extent. In doing so it has provided insight into what a nonstate response to a pandemic might look like.

When the Harvard Global Health Insitute released a study on March 17 predicting a nigh apocalyptic disaster for western Pennsylvania, with hospital bed and ICU capacity overwhelmed by over 1,000 percent in some scenarios, the UPMC expressed no worry at all about its hospital capacity, and in contrast to the panic at the time stated, “We anticipate that most patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 will not need to be admitted and will recover at home.”

The UPMC continued elective surgeries for some time after the governor ordered such procedures to cease, stating that there were many procedures that could not be delayed. Then, after ceasing for a few weeks, they released a statement on April 22 saying that the UPMC would be resuming elective surgeries and simply informing the state government of the decision and moved ahead. By May 7, the head of the UPMC’s emergency medicine division, Dr. Don Yealy, flat out contradicted the Pennsylvania health secretary and stated that it was acceptable for people to visit with family for Mother’s Day. Yealy stated that given what is known about the virus now, the fact that it bears almost no risk to the vast majority of the population, and the need to reduce the harmful health effects stemming from the shutdown, “we are ready for a smart reopening of society.”

Yealy also noted during the press conference that as of May 7 there had not been any positive cases of the virus in any of the UPMC senior communities due to the safeguards they had in place. This is noteworthy in light of the fact that in Pennsylvania nearly 70 percent of the virus deaths have been in nursing homes and that the state government has done a disastrous job of protecting care home residents, going so far as to mandate that nursing homes keep admitting new patients, including people who tested positive for the virus.

No one can predict with any certainty exactly what the picture would look like if the state did not control so much social power. No doubt existing health systems owe some of their current form to the conditions the state has created. But the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center serves as an example of an alternative pole of social power that has done things differently from what the state has mandated and in doing so has demonstrated a better understanding of the tradeoffs involved in mitigating disease and an all-around sounder approach than the state Department of Health’s.

How would nursing homes have responded if there weren’t a government health bureaucracy issuing guidance, but instead local health systems such as the UPMC were issuing the guidance? What actions would mayors and administrators have taken if they had received guidance from experts with skin in the game rather than state bureaucrats? Further understanding of such possibilities and alternative social arrangements may prove to be a fruitful field of study in the years ahead.

New diseases will undoubtedly continue to trouble humanity, and as the carnage of the state’s attempt to deal with this outbreak makes clear, the cost of leaving such power in its hands is astronomically high. The classical liberal tradition is not blinded by the power of the state and is therefore uniquely capable of envisioning alternative social arrangements that could avert the recurrence of such a large-scale catastrophe the next time a new pathogen arrives. It is imperative for it to do so.

Be seeing you

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »