National experts question social bans like Vermont’s

By Guy Page

Gov. Phil Scott and Health Commissioner Mark Levine say data and science support the need to ban multi-household gatherings, but epidemiologists like Julia Marcus of Harvard University and other public health leaders say the data does no such thing, according to the November 23 New York Times.

Instead, the social-gathering skeptics recommend, Covid-19 policy should focus restrictions on nursing homes, prisons, the workplace, and public places and events.

Scott received both praise and criticism last month for banning indoor and outdoor multi-household gatherings. Criticism was scathing when his administration asked schools to, if necessary, question schoolchildren about where they spent Thanksgiving. The school policies will remain in force throughout 2020, Education Secretary Dan French confirmed at Friday’s press conference.

state of Vermont

Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine

Both Scott and Levine insist a ban on social gatherings is regrettably necessary to reduce Covid-19 transmission and outbreak. Scott has chastised unwillingness to comply as unpatriotic.

But many epidemiologists cited by the New York Times say the scientific data simply doesn’t lead to the conclusion that (as both Scott and Levine have said) most outbreak-related cases this fall have stemmed from social gatherings, and that reducing them will reduce transmission.

“Somebody says something, and somebody else says it, and then it just becomes truth,” said Marcus, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Harvard University. “I worry about this narrative that doesn’t yet seem to be data-based.”

For example – in Colorado, only 81 cases are attributed to social gatherings, compared to about 10,000 from prisons, colleges, nursing homes, bars, and casinos.

The Times also quoted a leading expert from Johns Hopkins: “It’s important to give good public health advice about what’s coming in the holidays, no doubt about it,” said Dr. Tom Inglesby, director of the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “But it is not good to suggest that they [social gatherings] are now the preponderance of the source of spread.”

Baffled state officials are blaming systemic failure on individuals, according to experts quoted by  the Times:

“‘It seems like they’re passing off the responsibility for controlling the outbreak to individuals and individual choices,’ said Ellie Murray, an epidemiologist at Boston University. ‘A pandemic is more a failure of the system than the failure of individual choices.’”

Vermont’s policy banning masked, socially distanced walking outdoors (since softened) while also allowing public dining without masks was termed unscientific and “bizarre” by Ashleigh Tuite, an infectious disease expert with the University of Toronto.

According to today’s Burlington Free Press, at a Nov. 24 press conference Scott and Levine said the Times overlooked the fact that some Vermont outbreaks have been linked to social events – notably the Washington County hockey-related outbreak.

Levine added that unlike other states, Vermont does not lack the wealth of contact data necessary to draw the straight line between social gatherings and outbreaks. But due to the state’s aggressive contact tracing, that’s not the problem here, he said.

Physicians refer to their profession as the “practice” of medicine because they never stop learning how to diagnose and treat illness. Both Scott and Levine have demonstrated to the Vermont media a willingness to let evolution in public health knowledge influence Vermont public policy. A Covid-19 press availability is scheduled for 11 pm tomorrow.

Read more of Guy Page’s reports. Vermont Daily is sponsored by True North Media.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Irais Esparza and state of Vermont

8 thoughts on “National experts question social bans like Vermont’s

  1. Can we PLEASE stop the narrative in Washington County’s outbreak as hockey related?? There is no indication that playing on the ice had anything to do with the outbreak. That took place after everyone was off the ice. By focusing on that word the state has forced the closure of rinks statewide and they are all struggling with a lack of ice rental revenue, their sole source of income. Our adult group had played regularly since early June with no transmissions. We followed all the entry protocols to the letter and it worked very well. As Dr Marcus says above, when “experts” say something over and over again it quickly becomes reality and the collateral damage can be severe.

  2. Just wait for some ninny to call the cops because one neighbor has too many cars in their yard, and one! of them EVEN has an out of state license plate!!
    and that MUST be an “Illegal” Family Christmas “Social gathering”

    What shall we call them, “Virus Tickets” or Christmas Fines” Virus for Christmas Citations.

  3. We had a multi-family Thanksgiving and plan to do the same at Christmas except there will be more of us.

    • If you have any extra cookies, make sure to offer them to Scott’s Troopers when they come by for visit! Seriously is he going full gestapo on us? My question is will he make them wear the storm troopers outfit or brown shirts from Hitler? Maybe they’ll come up with some artisanal biodegradable cbd infused outfits for our own vtgestapo.

  4. What if 200,000 Vermonters already had covid?

    What if 200,000 Vermonters were infected, a symptomatic and never knew?

    Aren’t 30% of this category?

    What is another 30% already had it, thought it was a cold?

    That would leave 60% already there, perhaps we’d have already approached heard immunity.

    A true scientist would be extremely curious about this statistic. It would also reduce the death toll to what a normal flu year in Vermont brings. About 88 deaths.

    If we close every business, prevent every family from seeing their loved ones, how long? It was 15 days to stop the spread 9 months ago.

    Were the hockey people practicing under proper protocol? I suspect so, and hmmm didn’t seem to stop the spread did it.

    Why is it that countries doing so much less , having so much less in medical treatment, facilities, have few deaths? Why is that?

    There are some very serious, valid questions out there.

    But….of course Jeffrey Epstein killed himself too. Notice nobody is talking about how many people have recoved? No interviews there…nope, not one. Wonder why?

    • What if 200,000 Vermonters already had covid? You’re about to get your wish Neil! Those who give up safety for liberty deserve nether much…newly ‘revised version’ of mass contact tracing a rather clumsy attempt to suddenly walk back repeated insistance that mass testing of VTers is necessary and the best way to end unconstitutional home confinement – even fairly recently. Each time queried as to how this would be accomplished refused to answer or gave the typical friendly but evasive nonanswer?

      Not caring what I think notwithstanding – I’d respect your opinion while still strongly disagreeing that mass testing for anything is ever a good idea if you didn’t attempt to hide your previous comments. Latest nonanswer to query stated you “have the courage to stand behind your convictions” while slamming me for not using full name ignoring this is the norm for blogosphere and here on TNR – other alleged crimes include not running for office none of which are necessary to exercise constitutionally protected right to free speech lol

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