Is President Trump correct when he said ‘The W.H.O. really blew it. For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China centric. We will be giving that a good look. Fortunately I rejected their advice on keeping our borders open to China early on. Why did they give us such a faulty recommendation?’
Well, yes, he was even though ‘The WHO at first glance seems an innocent bystander to Chinese obstruction until one considers the story of SARS in Taiwan. Taiwanese health officials attempting to inform the WHO of their cluster of cases were rebuffed and asked to report their findings to the central government in China instead.
You see, the allegedly apolitical, humanitarian, and guided-by-science WHO doesn’t think Taiwan exists because China doesn’t recognize Taiwan’s independence. The WHO even refused to publicly report Taiwan’s cases of SARS until public pressure prompted numbers to be published under the label of “Taiwan, province of China.”
Clearly these matters are worthy of debate, but why would the WHO put its thumb on the scale? The answer, increasingly obviously, is that the WHO is a political organization that attempts to give its political preferences the veneer of objectivity using the label of science.
WHO Also Failed in the 2013 Ebola Outbreak
The Ebola outbreak of 2013 provides yet another window into the WHO’s lethal failings. One of the important controversies at the time related to how the virus spread. An excellent 2015 New Atlantis article dissects the controversy of transmissibility, and concludes the available evidence at the time could not rule out through-the-air transmission.
Of particular concern was evidence from the field about health-care worker infections. Health care workers who did not wear maximal Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the form of respirators to filter out airborne transmission were infected with Ebola at a high rate.
Rather than err on the side of safety, the WHO ignored this evidence. Local health officials and administrators followed their lead for a similar approach in their hospitals. First responders paid the price. The SARS outbreak in Canada was notable for the number of health workers who were infected and succumbed to the disease, in part, because the initial responders to the crisis relied on PPE guidance that wasn’t adequate.
The CDC Is In on This Action
To be fair, what’s on display here is a broader institutional malady. The U.S. version of the WHO, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, took a similar stance with another controversial topic—quarantines for health-care workers returning from treating patients with Ebola. Four states—New York, New Jersey, Florida, and Illinois—instituted policies to quarantine anyone who had contact with someone infected with the Ebola virus while in west Africa, including medical personnel who cared for patients.
No less than the Obama administration, backed by the CDC, attempted to quash these policies, arguing this would serve as a disincentive for U.S. health workers to travel to Africa to combat the disease at a time this help was sorely needed.
The argument made by many, including the now famous Dr. Anthony Fauci, was that Ebola could only be transmitted by those who were symptomatic, so it was anti-science to consider mandatory quarantines. Of course, crossing the threshold from asymptomatic and not infectious to symptomatic and infectious isn’t a sudden process, and as the history of science repeatedly shows, theories have a way of evolving with time.
The head of the CDC at the time, Tom Frieden, had initially recommended that health-care professionals not use respirators when taking care of patients with Ebola. It took two health-care workers in Dallas contracting Ebola from a patient for the CDC to change its recommendations in October 2014.
An important recurring theme with viruses may be to follow what people do rather than what they say. This is Tom visiting a Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center in August 2014, at a time the CDC was saying a surgical mask was adequate to care for these patients.
More Concerned about Population Control than Illness
The charitable take is that institutions like the WHO and CDC are simply coming down on the wrong side of contentious scientific debates. But there is a persistent directionality to these mistakes that betrays a current of ideology. A review of the timeline of announcements by the WHO after the COVID outbreak shows an organization more concerned with avoiding panic and stigma than the virus.’ The whole article is at https://thefederalist.com/2020/04/09/why-the-who-is-a-danger-to-public-health/