Heritage Foundation report on COVID finds gov't efforts largely failed, 'time to move on' from virus

The 38-page report, which reviews data from U.S. and abroad, deems the government effort to end COVID “unprecedented.”

Updated: February 24, 2022 - 5:26pm

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A scientific study released Thursday by conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation finds governments’ "unprecedented" efforts to contain COVID-19 have largely failed and in fact have inflicted "enormous" harm on Americans and should therefore be ended promplty. 

"Governments took unprecedented steps to contain COVID-19's spread in the hope that a vaccine would 'shut down' the virus," say researchers Kevin Dayaratna and Doug Badger in their 38-page report

"Those policies have failed to achieve their stated aim and have done enormous economic, social and political harm. Perpetuating the national emergency mindset is futile, misguided and infeasible ... It is time to move on from COVID-19."

They argue that beyond what their data shows – including numbers on hospitalizations and mortality – governments should consider in drafting future COVID-related health policy the "massive shift" in public opinion about existing policy, which include mask and vaccine mandates. 

"Public officials should communicate that COVID-19 is one of many public health problems and diseases in circulation, that vaccines and natural immunity reduce the risk of severe illness and death and that new medicines make COVID-19 a treatable disease," reads the report, "COVID-19: A Statistical Analysis of Data from Throughout the Pandemic and Recommendations for Moving On." 

However, the authors caution: "People at greatest risk of illness should still take precautions, but government mandates and restrictions are no longer appropriate."

Dayaratna is a principal statistician, data scientist and research fellow in the Center for Data Analysis at Heritage's Institute for Economic Freedom. Badger is a senior fellow in Domestic Policy Studies for Heritage’s Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity.

After analyzing a variety of foreign and domestic data, they essentially divide the report into three categories:

  • a statistical examination of how the roughly 2-year-old pandemic and the understanding of it has evolved; 
  • the efficacy of natural and vaccine-acquired immunity in reducing the risk of virus-related hospitalizations and mortality
  •  whether the data supports the assertion that the U.S. is suffering a "pandemic of the unvaccinated" and how new data, along with the advent of innovative treatments, should reshape public policy toward COVID. 

The researchers found cases and hospitalizations reached new heights in January, despite "aggressive" pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical interventions. In addition, newly confirmed cases, generally defined as the number of people who return positive tests, have continued to rise and fall throughout the pandemic, they said.

Some of the information, specifically on hospitalizations after July 15, 2020, is from Our World in Data

On whether the pandemic is of the unvaccinated, they say it's "impossible" to verify whether such claims by the Biden administration’s Department of Health and Human Services are true because the data does not identify whether a patient hospitalized with COVID was admitted specifically because of the virus, nor does it differentiate between vaccinated and unvaccinated patients.

However, they find that data compiled by U.S. states and the United Kingdom suggest that Biden's Jan. 4 assertion that "the unvaccinated are taking up hospital beds and crowding emergency rooms and intensive care units" is untrue.

In conclusion, Badger and Dayaratna write: "Policymakers should adapt their approach to ever-changing facts on the ground, including the increasing likelihood that the SARS-CoV-2 virus will remain in circulation indefinitely ... We will thus need to learn to live with the virus as we already do with many other problems such as heart disease, cancer, hepatitis, influenza, and HIV. Coexistence should replace eradication as the lode- star of pandemic policy. 

"More specifically, we suggest that policymakers eschew restrictions and mandates and instead restore pre-pandemic social and economic arrangements ... Or to put it more simply, it is time to return to our pre-pandemic understanding of normal."