The Great Barrington Declaration

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The Great Barrington Declaration is a statement advocating an alternative approach to the COVID-19 pandemic which involves “Focused Protection” of those most at risk and seeks to avoid or minimize the societal harm of the COVID-19 lockdowns.[1][2] Authored by Sunetra Gupta of the University of Oxford, Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University, and Martin Kulldorff of Harvard University, it was drafted at the American Institute for Economic Research in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and signed there on 4 October 2020.[3]

The declaration calls for individuals at significantly lower risk of dying from COVID-19 – as well as those at higher risk who so wish – to be allowed to resume their normal lives, working normally at their usual workplaces rather than from home, socialising in bars and restaurants, and gathering at sporting and cultural events. The declaration claims that increased infection of those at lower risk would lead to a build-up of immunity in the population that would eventually also protect those at higher risk from the SARS-CoV-2 virus.[4] The declaration makes no mention of physical distancing, masks, tracing,[5] or long COVID, which has left patients suffering from debilitating symptoms months after the initial infection.[6][7]

The World Health Organization (WHO) and numerous academic and public-health bodies have stated that the proposed strategy is dangerous and lacks a sound scientific basis.[8][9] They say that it would be challenging to shield all those who are medically vulnerable, leading to a large number of avoidable deaths among both older people and younger people with pre-existing health conditions,[10][11] and they warn that the long-term effects of COVID-19 are still not fully understood.[9][12] Moreover, the WHO says that the herd immunity component of the proposed strategy is undermined by the limited duration of post-infection immunity.[9][12] They say the more likely outcome would be recurrent epidemics, as was the case with numerous infectious diseases before the advent of vaccination.[11] The American Public Health Association and 13 other public-health groups in the United States warned in a joint open letter that the Great Barrington Declaration “ignores sound public health expertise” despite public health experts agreeing “better balance must be found between protecting public health and helping the economy.”[8]

The Great Barrington Declaration was sponsored by the American Institute for Economic Research, a libertarian free market think tank associated with climate change denial.[13][14][15] However, Kulldorff stated that the authors “received no money to write the Declaration” and that “no organization influenced its content.”[16][non-primary source needed]

Declaration contents

The declaration says that lockdowns have adverse effects on physical and mental health, for example, because people postpone preventive healthcare.[4] They propose reducing these harms by ending mandatory restrictions on most activities for most people. Without these restrictions, more people will develop COVID-19. They believe that these infections will produce herd immunity (the idea that when enough people become immune, then the virus will stop circulating widely), which will eventually make it less likely that high-risk people will be exposed to the virus.[4]

The authors say that, instead of protecting everyone, the focus should instead be on “shielding” those most at risk, with few mandatory restrictions placed on the remainder of the population.[4] Stanford epidemiologist Yvonne Maldonado said that 40% of Americans have an elevated risk of dying from COVID-19, so this would require keeping the 40% of people with known risk factors away from the 60% of people without known risk factors.[17]

The declaration names specific economic changes that the signatories favour: resuming “life as normal”, with schools and universities open for in-person teaching and extracurricular activities, re-opening offices, restaurants, and other places of work, and resuming mass gatherings for cultural and athletic activities. By October, many of these things had already happened in some parts of the world,[3] but likewise were being restricted elsewhere; for instance the UK saw quarantines of students, travel advisories, restrictions on meeting other people, and partial closures of schools, pubs and restaurants.[18]

The declaration does not provide practical details about who should be protected or how they can be protected.[3] For instance, it does not mention testing any people outside of nursing homes, contact tracing, wearing masks, or social distancing.[3] It mentions multi-generational households but does not provide any information about how, for example, low-risk people can get infected without putting high-risk members of their household at risk of dying.[3]

Authors

The authors of the Great Barrington Declaration at the American Institute for Economic Research. (L–R) Martin Kulldorff, Sunetra Gupta, Jay Bhattacharya

Sunetra Gupta is a Professor of Theoretical Epidemiology at the Oxford University Department of Zoology.[19] Gupta has been a critic of the prevailing COVID-19 lockdowns strategy, arguing that the cost is too high for the poorest in society, and expressing concern about the risk of widespread starvation in many countries because of lockdown-related disruptions in food supply chains.[1] In 2020, Gupta led a group which in March released a widely criticized modelling study suggesting, in one of its scenarios, that half the population of the United Kingdom might already have been infected with COVID-19,[20] and in September a preprint study which argued herd immunity thresholds might be lower than expected due to pre-existing immunity in the population.[21] Rupert Beale of the Francis Crick Institute described the March preprint as “ridiculous” and “not even passed by peer review”.[22] Gupta was one author of a 21 September letter to the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, recommending shielding of vulnerable groups of people rather than the lockdown method of the British government response to the COVID-19 pandemic.[23] Of the declaration’s signatories, Gupta said: “We’re saying, let’s just do this for the three months that it takes for the pathogen to sweep through the population”, arguing the situation would be only temporary.[5] Gupta has dismissed claims of having a right-wing perspective, claiming to be “more Left than Labour“.[22]

Jay Bhattacharya is a professor of medicine at Stanford University whose research focuses on the economics of health care. Before co-authoring the declaration, Bhattacharya co-wrote an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal entitled “Is the Coronavirus as Deadly as They Say?”, which claimed there was little evidence to support shelter-in-place orders and quarantines of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States,[24] and was a lead author of a serology study released in April which suggested that as many as 80,000 residents of Santa Clara County, California might already have been infected.[25] The study and conduct of the research drew wide criticism.[26][27] The study was later revealed to have received undisclosed funding from JetBlue founder David Neeleman, according to an anonymous whistle blower.[28][29]

Martin Kulldorff is a professor of medicine and biostatistician at Harvard University. He has defended Sweden’s response to the pandemic[30] and, along with Bhattacharya, wrote a Wall Street Journal editorial arguing against testing the young and healthy for SARS-CoV-2.[31] Kulldorff had previously claimed that people under 50 years old “should live their normal lives unless they have some known risk factor” while “anybody above 60, whether teacher or bus driver or janitor I think should not be working – if those in their 60s can’t work from home they should be able to take a sabbatical (supported by social security) for three, four or whatever months it takes before there is immunity in the community that will protect everybody”.[5] He did not provide detailed explanation about what people between these ages should do.[5] While Gupta has said in a promotional video that less vulnerable people should be allowed “to get out there and get infected and build up herd immunity”, Kulldorff cautioned against deliberately seeking out infection; he said that “everybody should wash their hands and stay home when sick”.[5] Kulldorff disagreed with criticism that the plan would lead to more deaths, calling it “nonsense”.[5] He said “fewer older people – not zero, but fewer old people – would be infected. But you’ll have more young people infected, and that’s going to reduce the mortality.”[5] Kulldorff has discussed the Declaration on The Richie Allen Show, a radio programme that has previously featured antisemites and Holocaust deniers, although Kulldorff said he had no knowledge of the show prior to being invited on.[32]

The declaration was sponsored by the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER), a libertarian think tank based in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

Reporting on the declaration, Byline Times journalist Nafeez Ahmed has described the AIER as a “institution embedded in a Koch-funded network that denies climate science while investing in polluting fossil fuel industries”.[13] The Byline Times has reported that the organisation operates an investment fund with $284 million under management, and has invested its assets in several fossil fuel companies, including Chevron and ExxonMobil, tobacco giant Philip Morris International, Microsoft, Alphabet Inc. and many other companies.[13][14] Its 2018 revenues were in excess of US$2.2 million[33] and included a US$68,100 donation from the Charles Koch Foundation.[13][34] AIER’s network of local “Bastiat Society” chapters partners with the Atlas Network, Ayn Rand Institute, Cato Institute, the Charles Koch Institute, and other Koch-funded think tanks.[14] Controversial research funded by AIER in the past includes a study asserting that sweatshops supplying multinationals are beneficial for those working in them,[35][36] and AIER’s statements and publications consistently downplay the risks of climate change, with titles such as “The Real Reason Nobody Takes Environmental Activists Seriously” and “Brazilians Should Keep Slashing Their Rainforest”.[13][33]

Signatories

While the authors’ website claims that over 14,000 scientists, 40,000 medical practitioners, and more than 780,000 members of the public signed the declaration,[37][non-primary source needed] this list – which anyone could sign online and which required merely clicking a checkbox to claim the status of “scientist” – contains numerous clearly-fake names, including “Mr Banana Rama“, “Dr Johnny Bananas”, “Dr Johnny Fartpants”, “Dr Person Fakename”, “Harold Shipman“, “Professor Notaf Uckingclue”, and “Prof Cominic Dummings“.[38][39][40] More than 100 psychotherapists, numerous homeopaths, physiotherapists, massage therapists, and other non-relevant people were found to be signatories, including a performer of Khoomei – a Mongolian style of overtone singing – described as a “therapeutic sound practitioner”.[39] The Independent noted that the false signatures put its claims about the breadth of its support in doubt, adding that several within the medical and scientific community were skeptical it enjoyed the support it claimed.[40] In response, Bhattacharya said that they “do not have the resources to audit each signature,” and expressed regret for the fact that people had “abused our trust” by adding fake names, but reiterated his belief in broad support for its message based on the volume of correspondence he said he received.[40]

For more:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Barrington_Declaration

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Great Barrington Declaration

As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies, and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection. Read The Declaration Sign the Declaration

860,000+ Signatures

View Signature Map

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Those who penned Great Barrington Declaration a year after it sparked worldwide firestorm: ‘This is our crucible’

GREAT BARRINGTON — They’ve been vilified this past year over their stance on the COVID-19 lockdowns. Now, one of the three scientists who drafted the Great Barrington Declaration says he worries for his safety amid a campaign to censor him on the campus where he has worked for 35 years.

Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a tenured professor of medicine and an economist at Stanford University, said posters nailed around campus with his photo in a tweet by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis feel threatening. Despite the ongoing fights about health policy, he says as an epidemiologist he has no choice but to weigh in on public health measures taken in response to a global pandemic.
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On the one-year anniversary of the declaration, some of those involved in the public health proposal spoke to The Eagle about their intentions, the fallout, pandemic data and the idea of “focused protection.”

They say what they proposed was a long-accepted public health concept designed to both protect the old and compromised while allowing the young and healthy to live normally. Their idea was to avoid the collateral health damage of the lockdowns, which would hit the poor the hardest.

The scientists drafted the declaration at the American Institute for Economic Research, a think tank off Division Street in Great Barrington. It has received more than 860,000 signatures from around the world, of which nearly 15,000 of those are from scientists and more than 44,000 are from medical practitioners.

The concept was denounced by other researchers worldwide as both callous and impractical. Great Barrington town officials quickly tried to distance the town — one wanted the policy renamed, while residents joined the chorus. The situation soon dropped the declaration scientists into a political cauldron, as some politicians seized on the proposal, while others rejected it as far-right heartlessness.
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‘Our crucible’

Dr. Bhattacharya, who is also a professor of health policy and specializes in the economics of health care, moved last month to the school’s newly established Department of Health Policy. It was DeSantis’ Aug. 1 tweet with Bhattacharya’s photo that was nailed to campus kiosks, in which Bhattacharya is quoted about focused protection and linked to death counts in Florida. DeSantis has sown derision for his support of declaration-style COVID policy and opposition to vaccine and mask mandates.

The poster campaign was initially a response to comments Bhattacharya had made about the lack of “high quality” evidence that masks stop the spread of infection, which also led to a faculty petition to silence public health pronouncements contrary to university policy — one that does not overtly target him. But the posters felt threatening, and it took him several days to return to his office.
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The campaign to censure him marks a dangerous decline in discourse, particularly at a university, he said. Bhattacharya says he feels a responsibility to speak what he believes is the truth, given his tenure and job protection.

“I think many people who signed the Great Barrington Declaration have lost their jobs or have been silenced or lost opportunities for grants and collaborations,” he said.

And he has not gone unscathed. “I’ve had to revisit and rethink every aspect of my life, and there have been some very tough periods,” he said.

“This is our crucible,” Bhattacharya once said to Jeffrey Tucker, a prominent libertarian and author who nurtured the declaration scientists. Tucker, who left AIER, founded the Brownstone Institute for Social and Economic Research in May as a “safe harbor” for scientists and others taking risks of censorship and ruin by thinking and speaking outside the mainstream COVID public health policy.
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This story has been modified to correct the number of scientists and medical professionals who signed the declaration.

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com or 413-329-6871.

https://www.berkshireeagle.com/coronavirus/those-who-penned-great-barrington-declaration-a-year-after-it-sparked-worldwide-firestorm-this-is/article_b862f134-2619-11ec-81eb-93dc5df41642.html

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potlight| Volume 9, ISSUE 2, P135-136, February 01, 2021

Herd immunity for COVID-19

Published:November 24, 2020DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S2213-2600(20)30555-

In early October, 2020, three epidemiologists convened in Great Barrington, a small town in Massachusetts, USA. Jay Bhattacharya (Stanford University Medical School, Stanford, CA, USA), Sunetra Gupta (University of Oxford University, Oxford, UK) and Martin Kulldorff (Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA) were there to draft an argument for a new strategy to combat COVID-19. They called it the Great Barrington Declaration. It has since been endorsed by thousands of medical practitioners, researchers, and public health scientists.

“Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health”, states the declaration. “Keeping the measures in place until a vaccine is available will cause irreparable damage, with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed…our goal should therefore be to minimize mortality and social harm until we reach herd immunity.” The authors recommended policymakers adopt an approach they termed “focused protection”. This entails easing restrictions on low-risk groups, with the intention of allowing them to establish immunity to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) through natural infection, while simultaneously stepping up the protection of high-risk groups. For example, governments could fund short sabbaticals for vulnerable workers in public-facing jobs and provide accommodation for individuals who cannot easily maintain isolation in their own home.

Within weeks, an opposing group of experts, also numbering in the thousands, had put their names to the John Snow Memorandum. The document, named after one of epidemiology’s greatest historical figures, defended the restrictions to slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2 as “essential to reduce mortality, prevent health-care services from being overwhelmed, and buy time to set up pandemic response systems to suppress transmission”. It described focused protection as “a dangerous fallacy unsupported by scientific evidence” and warned that “uncontrolled transmission in younger people risks significant morbidity and mortality across the whole population”. The memorandum concluded by asserting that “controlling community spread of COVID-19 is the best way to protect our societies and economies until safe and effective vaccines and therapeutics arrive within the coming months”.
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The drafters of the Great Barrington Declaration stress that they are not suggesting people behave recklessly. Basic precautions, such as handwashing and self-isolation, when necessary, should be maintained. But the priority is to dismantle many of the constraints that have been imposed all over the world this year. The declaration advocates the resumption of sports and cultural events and the re-opening of restaurants and other businesses. It advises young, low-risk adults to discontinue working from home.

Kuldorff and colleagues reckon a focused protection approach would lead to herd immunity some time between 3 and 6 months, after which the vulnerable could return to normal life. Walensky retorts that the herd immunity point has not been established, nor is it clear how stable this immunity would be. She noted that the 11 million infections and 250 000 deaths from COVID-19 that have been documented in the USA only constitute a small fraction of the total population. “I am not willing to stand behind a policy that leads to 10 or 15 times more deaths”, said Walensky. She would prefer to wait for herd immunity to be conferred by a vaccine. Most experts believe the earliest this could happen would be the second half of 2021. The debate over what to do in the interim looks set to continue.

https://www.thelancet.com/article/S2213-2600%2820%2930555-5/fulltext

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An open letter that made headlines calling for a herd immunity approach to Covid-19 lists a number of apparently fake names among its expert signatories, including “Dr Johnny Bananas” and “Professor Cominic Dummings”.

The Great Barrington declaration, which was said to have been signed by more than 15,000 scientists and medical practitioners around the world, was found by Sky News to contain numerous false names, as well as those of several homeopaths.

Others listed include a resident at the “university of your mum” and another supposed specialist whose name was the first verse of the Macarena.

Sky News discovered 18 self-declared homeopaths in the list of expert names and more than 100 therapists whose expertise included massage, hypnotherapy and Mongolian khoomii singing.
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Individual academics from the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Stanford, Nottingham, Edinburgh, Exeter, Sussex and York were among experts from around the world who signed the declaration. However, the declaration’s website allows anyone to add their name to the list if they provide an email address, home city, postcode and name.

Signatories also tell the site whether they are medical and public health scientists, medical practitioners or members of the general public – of whom almost 160,000 claim to have signed.

It is not clear how many of the names in the declaration’s list of experts are fake, or when they appeared. However, many scientists have already criticised the letter’s conclusions.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/oct/09/herd-immunity-letter-signed-fake-experts-dr-johnny-bananas-covid

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Thursday November 5, 2020 By Stephen Archer, Professor, Head of Department of Medicine,

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The 5 flaw

1. It creates a false dichotomy. The declaration rhetoric offers a false choice between a wholesale return to our pre-pandemic lives (which is objectively dangerous) versus a total lockdown (which no one advocates). Across Canada, schools, daycares and businesses are open and we are providing health care for patients who suffer from non-COVID-19 diseases. Timothy Caulfield, Canada Research Chair in health law and policy, notes that it’s not a binary choice between the Barrington perspective and full lockdown, and that governments are striving to balance public health with economic recovery.

This is true in Ontario where, after the first COVID-19 peak, the province reopened in three stages, guided by epidemiology.

2. The Barrington declaration gives oxygen to fringe groups. The signatories did not intend to support such fringe groups, but their rhetoric invalidates public health policy and feeds the 19 per cent of North Americans who don’t trust public health officials.

When physicians and scientists sign on to the declaration they support the fears of an increasingly anxious public and fuel conspiracy theories. This is even more dangerous in America with a president that many people view as divisive, and fringe groups such as the paramilitary Oath Keepers and QAnon.

3. The Barrington declaration puts individual preference far above public good. The declaration advocates that, “individual people, based upon their own perception of their risk of dying from COVID-19 and other personal circumstances, personally choose the risks, activities and restrictions they prefer.”

If these views were applied to traffic safety, chaos would ensue as we each chose our own speed limit and which side of the road to drive on. Public health matters, and the approach of the declaration to place ideology over facts helps fuel the pandemic.

4. The declaration misunderstands herd immunity. Herd immunity occurs when a large enough proportion of the population has immunity, usually more than 70 per cent. Viral spread is then slowed because the virus largely encounters immune people. Herd immunity can be safely achieved by vaccines, but in order to “naturally” develop herd immunity, people must first survive the infection.

Despite more than 9 million cases in the United States, less than 10 per cent of Americans have COVID-19 antibodies. Even if true caseloads were 10-fold greater than recognized, 94 per cent of people remain susceptible and, if rapidly infected, would swamp the health-care system and lead to many avoidable deaths.

The declaration’s approach amounts to a global chickenpox party, a historical means of generating immunity to the varicella-zoster virus that causes chickenpox. Healthy children were put in close contact with an infected child so that all became infected with chickenpox.

Unfortunately, even some healthy children suffered severe complications and unintended people were often infected. At least with chickenpox there was no risk of epidemic spread because society had herd immunity (which we lack for COVID-19).

5. The declaration offers no details on how it would protect the vulnerable. In Ontario, more than 60 per cent of COVID-19 deaths have occurred in residents of nursing homes and long-term care (LTC) facilities. COVID-19 is imported into LTCs from the community by relatives and health-care workers, so we must prevent viral spread in the community to keep these vulnerable people safe.

The experts have spoken: Experts view the Barrington declaration as wrong-minded and dangerous. Dr. Anthony Fauci dismissed the idea, calling it dangerous.

The declaration is also rebutted by the 6,400 vetted signatories of the John Snow Memorandum, named for the 19th-century pioneer of epidemiology.

The Snow memorandum cites clear evidence that the virus is highly contagious, several times more lethal than influenza and can have lasting consequences, even in healthy people. It affirms that COVID-19 can be constrained by good public health measures, and warns that herd immunity may be hard to achieve. It concludes:

“… controlling community spread of COVID-19 is the best way to protect our societies and economies until safe and effective vaccines and therapeutics arrive within the coming months.”

The Infectious Diseases Society of America’s 12,000 front-line infectious diseases scientists, physicians and public health experts strongly denounce the Barrington declaration.

Stephen Archer, Professor, Head of Department of Medicine, Queen’s University, Ontario

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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