US Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday said the calls for a national lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic is like “house arrest” and a civil rights intrusion nearly unequaled in American history.
Addressing a Hillsdale College audience, the event’s host asked Barr to explain the “constitutional hurdles for forbidding a church from meeting during Covid-19.”
The question led Barr into a four-minute response, in which he said state governors were using their executive powers to stifle citizens and businesses from going back to work.
“You know, putting a national lockdown, stay at home orders, is like house arrest. Other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history,” Barr said as a round of applause came from the crowd.
Covid-19 has taken a measurable toll on minorities, including Black people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Most of the governors do what bureaucrats always do, which is they … defy common sense,” Barr said, adding: “They treat free citizens as babies that can’t take responsibility for themselves and others.”
“We have to give business people an opportunity, tell them what the rules are, you know the masks, which rule of masks, you had this month … and then let them try to adapt their business to that and you’ll have ingenuity and people will at least have the freedom to try to earn a living,” Barr added.
Rich nations including the United States, Britain and Japan have already bought up more than half the expected supply of coronavirus vaccine, the international anti-poverty nonprofit Oxfam said Wednesday.
These countries represent 13% of the world’s population, but have bought up future supplies of 51% of coronavirus vaccines, Oxfam said.
The group used data collected by analytics firm Airfinity to analyze published deals between governments and vaccine makers. Oxfam calculated five organizations — AstraZeneca, Russia’s Gamaleya, Moderna, Pfizer and China’s Sinovac — have the combined production capacity to make 5.9 billion doses. That’s enough to cover nearly 3 billion people — less than half the world’s population, if everyone needs two doses, as seems likely.
Oxfam said in a statement that supply deals have already been agreed for 5.3 billion doses, of which 2.7 billion (51%) have been bought by developed countries and territories including the UK, US, Australia, Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, Switzerland and Israel, as well as the European Union. The remaining 2.6 billion doses have been bought by or promised to developing countries including India, Bangladesh, China, Brazil, Indonesia and Mexico.
Oxfam noted that AstraZeneca has pledged two-thirds of the doses it produces to developing countries.
“Access to a life-saving vaccine shouldn’t depend on where you live or how much money you have,” said Oxfam’s Robert Silverman. “The development and approval of a safe and effective vaccine is crucial, but equally important is making sure the vaccines are available and affordable to everyone. COVID-19 anywhere is COVID-19 everywhere.”
When will we get enough vaccines? On Monday, Adar Poonawalla, chief executive of the Serum Institute of India (SII), predicted there may not be enough Covid-19 vaccine until 2024. “It’s going to take four to five years until everyone gets the vaccine on this planet,” Poonawalla told the Financial Times.
Poonawalla estimated that if the Covid-19 shot is a two-dose vaccine, the world would need about 15 billion doses.
Even if a vaccine for Covid-19 was released today, it would take six to nine months for enough people to receive it to create immunity, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday.
“I think we have to assume that if we had a vaccine, say, released today, that it’s going to take us probably in the order of nine months, six to nine months to get the American public vaccinated,” Redfield said during the Senate Appropriations Hearing on coronavirus response efforts.
“In order to have enough of us immunized so we have immunity, I think it’s going to take us six to nine months,” he said.
In this time, it’s important for people to embrace mitigation steps such as physically distancing, mask use and avoiding crowds, he said.
As the United States approaches 200,000 coronavirus deaths, Dr. Tom Frieden, a former US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director, said Wednesday that the number of reported deaths are a “reflection of a failing national response.”
“The actual number is higher because not all deaths have been identified and this is just a horrifying number,” Frieden told Bioreports’s Wolf Blitzer. “It’s more people than die from suicide or overdose or homicide or HIV. In fact, Covid is on track to be the number three leading cause of death in all of the US for this year.”
The former CDC director said he’s concerned that Americans will get “hardened” to the number of coronavirus deaths.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the US has reported at least 196,465 coronavirus deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
According to Johns Hopkins, 1,293 deaths were reported Tuesday, which is the highest one-day total since Aug. 19.
“If you look at Germany, one fifth are death rate,” Frieden said. “If you look at South Korea, 80 times fewer deaths than we’ve had. These are lives that have been lost and jobs that have been lost because we haven’t had an organized, consistent, coherent federal response.”
Bioreports is tracking US coronavirus cases and deaths:
Wearing a face mask might provide better protection against Covid-19 than a vaccine, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during Wednesday’s Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing.
“I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against Covid than when I take a Covid vaccine, because the immunogenicity may be 70% and if I don’t get an immune response, the vaccine is not going to protect me. This face mask will,” Redfield explained, adding that the American public has not yet embraced the use of face masks to a level that could effectively control the outbreak.
“So I do want to keep asking the American public to take the responsibility, particularly the 18 to 25 year olds where we’re seeing the outbreak in America continue to go like this,” Redfield said.
The Welsh government has locked down one of the nation’s biggest regions — barring people from entering or leaving — following a sharp increase in coronavirus cases.
Rhondda Cynon Taf, in south Wales, is the second county to be locked down. It has a population of nearly 240,000 people.
In a statement on Wednesday, Welsh Health Minister Vaughan Gething said:
“We now have evidence of wider community transmission in the borough, which means we need to take urgent action to control and, ultimately, reduce the spread of the virus and protect people’s health.”
The new measures will be imposed on Thursday from 1 p.m. ET. The rules apply to everyone living within Rhondda Cynon Taf.
The government said people will not be allowed to enter or leave the Rhondda Cynon Taf Council area without a reasonable excuse.
Enforcement of the new restrictions will be undertaken by the local authority and by the police.