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The Use of Knowledge in Pandemics

In pandemics, it saves lives when knowledge is put to maximum use—adding maximum value, using existing health knowledge, and freely using new fast tests for infectiousness and vaccines.

James Anthony
February 19, 2021

In normal change and in crises, customers and producers efficiently coordinate their actions by sharing just-enough knowledge: knowledge of product availability, quality, and prices [1].

Prices contain useful knowledge of customers’ and producers’ free choices.

Prices also contain harmful knowledge of governments’ confiscatory printing and injecting of money [2], which changes certain product prices first and changes other product prices after widely-varying delays of up to a decade [3]. This harmful component of price changes leads customers and producers to make maladaptive changes [4] and also to delay making adaptive changes.

In pandemics, customers and producers share knowledge of product availability, quality, and prices, and also share knowledge of choices that have minimal costs and significant benefits. Many important products and other choices are existing, some are new, and others aren’t developed but readily could be and should be.

Customers’ and producers’ free choices are interfered with, though, when governments, intergovernmental organizations, academics, or media create delays, restrictions, bans, or misleading knowledge.

Delay in the use of knowledge is referred to in process control as deadtime [5]. Deadtime is the system characteristic that makes control the least accurate.

Deadtime requires control action to be much-more cautious. Even then, deadtime also ensures that much of the action taken for control is not what’s needed, because current knowledge can never be used for control until after the deadtime passes.

In normal change, deadtime is costly. In pandemics, deadtime is deadly.

Freedom to Isolate People at Highest Risk

The pandemics in living memory have all been respiratory viruses [6]. This makes it possible for people to, from the start, make use of existing knowledge about transmission via aerosols [7].

In a given pandemic, certain people are at highest risk of death. These always include the people who are the least healthy. Typically, as in 1957-1958, 1968-1969 [8], and 2020, the people at highest risk also include the most elderly [9]. In 2009-2010, the people at highest risk instead included people 45 through 54 years old [10].

Each pandemic affects some localities before it affects others, so people in the earliest-affected localities gain early risk-profile knowledge that people elsewhere can use.

In many localities, people self-segregate in their residences, work, and activities. The least healthy and the most elderly have restricted activities, so they are highly self-segregated. This means there are existing mechanical barriers that will prevent virus transmission if people control access effectively.

Access is most-effectively controlled in two stages: (1) immediately isolating the people at highest risk—limiting access, and having helpers and visitors who have symptoms of infectiousness stay away; (2) as soon as possible, having helpers and visitors frequently test themselves for infectiousness and if they’re infectious, stay away.

Tests are inherently safe. Tests that have lower sensitivity are the most effective for indicating infectiousness [11]. Tests that are fast, can be used at home, and are inexpensive promote frequent testing, which minimizes deadtime in use.

Fast, convenient, inexpensive, frequent tests for infectiousness can be developed very rapidly, minimizing deadtime in development.

But in 2020, the development, sale, purchase, and home use of such fast tests was strongly discouraged by the FDA, with no pushback from the president, Congress, national judges, state governments, or local governments [12].

Freedom to Help Ourselves

People ultimately survive pandemics by beating the diseases with their immune systems. Ideally, they also are able to use helpful medical knowledge.

A first line of defense is to strengthen our immune systems.

Sleeping 8 hours or more each night before being exposed to a rhinovirus, compared to sleeping 7 hours or less each night, is known to reduce the chance of developing clinical symptoms by 66% [13]. Taking vitamin D at 5,000 IU daily [14] reduces the chance of developing an acute respiratory-tract infection by 63% [15]. Taking vitamin C reduces the incidence of colds in physically-stressed people [16]. Raising body temperature stimulates innate and adaptive immune responses [17].

A second line of defense is to minimize our net inbreathing of virus [18].

Masks cause people who are infected to be exposed to higher levels of virus and therefore to have to fight harder against viruses, so masks should not be worn. It’s also helpful to spend maximum time outdoors, and to use fans or open windows to maximally exhaust indoor air or supply fresh air.

A third line of defense is to augment our immune systems.

Antivirals are known that interfere with replication or action of all RNA viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, providing decisive help when used early.

The generic hydroxychloroquine is highly effective at admitting zinc into cells, where zinc stops cells from replicating viral RNA to create more virus [19]. The supplement quercetin also admits zinc into cells [20]. To obtain the resulting antiviral action, supplemental zinc is needed by many people, including most older adults [21].

The generic ivermectin reduces viruses’ inhibition of the body’s immune response, allowing the immune system to function more normally and effectively [22]. This separate mechanism of action is potentially complementary to the action above of zinc ionophores plus zinc.

The generics azithromycin and doxycycline, and Avigan favipiravir (which isn’t yet approved by the FDA) each have additional antiviral actions potentially complementary to those of the other antivirals [18].

A fourth line of defense is to reverse or slow the sequelae mechanisms that cause death.

The supplement NAC breaks sulfur-sulfur bonds that clot blood by crosslinking Von Willebrand factor, which is released into the blood when blood-vessel linings break up under SARS-CoV-2 oxidative stress. This added oxidative stress is especially dangerous for people who have existing oxidative stress from conditions like obesity or diabetes. The resulting clotting throughout the blood vessels can kill by directly compromising heart function, by reducing lung absorption of oxygen from air, or by causing strokes [23].

The generic dexamethasone reduces lung inflammation, reducing the risk of death from SARS-CoV-2 by at least 35% [24].

Knowledge of disease mechanisms and of potentially-helpful drugs and supplements already exists as a pandemic starts. In the case of SARS-CoV-2, though, the use of such knowledge has been disrupted by governments, intergovernmental organizations, academics, and media, in several ways.

These organizations have, as always, consumed considerable amounts of money that customers and producers would otherwise have chosen to spend on more efficiency-driven preventive and therapeutic clinical practice and research. Much fruitful activity has therefore gone undone. As always, this lost potential use of existing knowledge and this lost potential development and use of new knowledge go unseen [25].

These organizations have been noticeably quiet about strengthening the immune system, about most means of augmenting the immune system, and about reversing or slowing the sequelae mechanisms that cause death.

And these organizations have generated substantial misleading information.

Shutdowns, masking, and distancing have been drummed into people’s consciousness, despite the fact that each of these approaches is novel and harmful.

Also, incredibly, essentially all of the earliest and largest-scale research on hydroxychloroquine for SARS-CoV-2 has been done too late in the disease process for any antiviral to help significantly, or has excluded zinc supplementation. These errors likely resulted from a typical initial emergency focus on late hospital care, and from a typical choice by research teams to control just one therapeutic substance at a time.

Even if all these errors become well understood, preventives and generics are going to remain at great risk of being knowledge that’s greatly underused and misused in current medical practice.

For one thing, apart from vaccines and advice on lifestyle, current medical practice systemically neglects preventives.

For another thing, the current practice of monopoly governments and intergovernmental organizations is to preferentially fund relatively-basic research and established clinical practice. This produces an ecosystem that protects a giant niche for these organizations’ crony brand-name drug manufacturers.

Brand-name drugs have self-interested, well-funded, mobilized researchers. Generics not only lack sponsors but also directly threaten this crony system.

Freedom for the People Who Are at Minimal Risk to Help Everyone

For as long as people lack enough immunity to quench the pandemic, transforming it into a low-level endemic, those at highest risk remain more vulnerable.

People at minimal risk of dying should therefore be strongly encouraged to build immunity rapidly.

This also helps the people at minimal risk of dying.

Innate immunity is strongest in children, adaptive immunity builds up knowledge and takes over through adulthood, and immunity declines late in life. In general, whatever a person’s current age, his immune system is stronger now at fighting a given infection than it will be in later years. Ideally, a person would build immunity that’s as strong as possible now, so residual immunity is as strong as possible in later years when it’s most life-saving.

And if people are exposed to a virus rather than a vaccine, this will help their immune systems make use of more-complete knowledge of the virus.

Virus exposure is feasible from the start.

Clinicians should encourage people to not wear masks, and to get plenty of fresh air both outdoors and indoors.

Clinicians should help people help their immune systems work well naturally by improving sleep; by maintaining adequate vitamins, minerals, and other supplements; and by raising body temperature.

At the start, clinicians should liberally add in other interventions such as hydroxychloroquine with zinc, quercetin with zinc, ivermectin, azithromycin, doxycycline, Avigan favipiravir, NAC, or dexamethasone. As knowledge accumulates, clinicians should tailor less-extensive interventions for each person.

Vaccine exposure can become an option very rapidly.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus RNA code was sequenced rapidly. After that, Moderna formulated its mRNA-1273 vaccine in a single weekend. Subtract out the one-week delay for the FDA to permit a safety trial, and Moderna began initial commercial-scale production in just two months [26].

Initially a much-larger population has been exposed to a virus than to a vaccine, so the potential effects of the virus are much-better known than the potential effects of vaccines. But if customers and producers are free to make choices for themselves about selling and using vaccines, the balance of knowledge of potential effects could shift to favor vaccines very rapidly.

If people had freely chosen to sell and use vaccines for SARS-CoV-2, then people who accept risks and prefer the latest treatments would have provided everyone far-more knowledge, far faster. The deadtime before vaccines began helping build immunity would have been cut by at least 8 months, saving on the order of 240,000 lives.

But in 2020, the development, sale, and use of vaccines was greatly slowed by the FDA, with no pushback from the president, Congress, national judges, state governments, or local governments.

Limited Governments

In normal change and in crises, conditions that had recently prevailed can change rapidly. Travel and recreation and various other optional purchases may be postponed until new knowledge is developed and used, and some change proves permanent.

What most helps people adapt is all the value that people add. To have maximum resilience, people must add maximum value [27].

In pandemics, from the start there is a wealth of existing knowledge—knowledge that’s encapsulated in existing drugs and supplements, knowledge of how to use them, and knowledge of other potentially-helpful actions. Additional new knowledge can and should be developed rapidly.

The keys to putting scarce resources to their most-valuable uses are to access what knowledge exists, build more knowledge, and ensure that the people who use knowledge are the people who use knowledge best.

In the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, governments, intergovernmental organizations, academics, and media created a way-deeper and way-longer crisis by focusing on case counts and death counts, on shutdowns and masking and distancing, and on costly new tests and drugs. These organizations failed to secure our freedom to isolate people at highest risk, to breathe virus-free air, and to help ourselves; and the freedom for people at minimal risk to help everyone.

Governments have limited our choices and, in our place, have made inescapable, systemic, serious errors. Even now they double down—covering for themselves, and conditioning us to accept less freedom in the future.

Altogether, governments have remarkably hindered, massively delayed, or fully stopped what would otherwise have been the high-functioning responses of free people.

Governments must be stopped. To be stopped, governments must be greatly limited. Even innocent-sounding health-related agencies can produce breathtaking losses in life, liberty, and property.

Going forward, our standard must be that every government person must use his constitutional powers to limit other government people [28].

Every government person who doesn’t use his constitutional powers to limit other government people must be challenged by voters throughout his time in office, and must be purged by voters in every primary and every general election [29].


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  2. Thornton, Mark. “Money, Inflation, and Business Cycles: The Cantillon Effect and the Economy.” Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics, vol. 22, no. 3, 2019, pp. 503-5.
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  8. Simonsen, Lone, et al. “Pandemic versus Epidemic Influenza Mortality: A Pattern of Changing Age Distribution.” The Journal of Infectious Diseases, vol. 178, 1998, pp. 53-60.
  9. Anthony, James. “Living through Coronavirus, Living with CoronavirusrConstitution.us, 11 Aug. 2020, rconstitution.us/living-through-coronavirus-living-with-coronavirus/. Accessed 19 Feb. 2021.
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  12. Anthony, James. “Government Agencies Are Holding Back ‘Fast Tests’ That Could Be Saving Lives.” Foundation for Economic Education, 19 Sep. 2020, fee.org/articles/government-agencies-are-holding-back-fast-tests-that-could-be-saving-lives/. Accessed 19 Feb. 2021.
  13. Cohen, Sheldon, et al. “Sleep Habits and Susceptibility to the Common Cold.” Archives of Internal Medicine, vol. 169, no. 1, 2009, pp. 62-7.
  14. Charoenngam, Nipith, and Michael F. Holick. “Immunologic Effects of Vitamin D on Human Health and Disease.” Nutrients, vol. 12, no. 7, 2020, 2097.
  15. Sabetta, James R., et al. “Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D and the Incidence of Acute Viral Respiratory Tract Infections in Healthy Adults.” PLoS ONE, vol. 5, no. 6, 2010, e11088.
  16. Hemilä, Harri, and Elizabeth Chalker. “Vitamin C Can Shorten the Length of Stay in the ICU: A Meta-Analysis.” Nutrients, vol. 11, no. 4, 2019, 708.
  17. Evans, Sharon S., et al. “Fever and the Thermal Regulation of Immunity: The Immune System Feels the Heat.” Nature Reviews | Immunology, vol. 15, no. 6, 2015, pp. 335-49.
  18. McCullough, Peter A., et al. “Pathophysiological Basis and Rationale for Early Outpatient Treatment of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) Infection.” The American Journal of Medicine, vol. 134, no. 1, Jan. 2020, pp. 16-22.
  19. Anthony, James. “Hydroxychloroquine, Used Early, Is the Most-Effective Covid-19 Treatment, and Is Likely Much Better Given Supplemental Zinc.” rConstitution.us, 30 July 2020, rconstitution.us/hydroxychloroquine-used-early-is-the-most-effective-covid-19-treatment-and-is-likely-much-better-given-supplemental-zinc/. Accessed 19 Feb. 2020.
  20. Anwar, E., et al. “Mechanistic Similarity of Immuno-Modulatory and Anti-Viral Effects of Chloroquine and Quercetin (the Naturally Occurring Flavonoid).” Clinical Immunology & Research, vol. 4, no. 1, 2020, pp. 1-6.
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  24. Horby, Peter, et al. “Effect of Dexamethasone in Hospitalized Patients with COVID-19 – Preliminary Report.” MedRxiv, 22 June 2020, www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.06.22.20137273v1.full.pdf. Accessed 19 Feb. 2021.
  25. Pike, Geoffrey. “Bastiat, Hazlitt, and the Coronavirus.” Libertarian Investments, 24 Mar. 2020, libertarianinvestments.com/2020/03/24/bastiat-hazlitt-and-the-coronavirus/. Accessed 19 Feb. 2021.
  26. Hooper, Charles L., and David R. Henderson. “The FDA’s Deadly Caution.” AIER Daily Economy, 16 Dec. 2020, www.aier.org/article/the-fdas-deadly-caution/. Accessed 19 Feb. 2021.
  27. Inglesby, Thomas V., et al. “Disease Mitigation Measures in the Control of Pandemic Influenza.” Biosecurity and Bioterrorism: Biodefense Strategy, Practice, and Science, vol. 4, no. 4, 2006, pp. 366-75.
  28. Anthony, James. rConstitution Papers: Offsetting Powers Secure Our Rights. Neuwoehner Press, 2020.
  29. Anthony, James. “Voting Guide for Constitutionalists.” rConstitution.us, 30 Oct. 2020, rconstitution.us/voting-guide-for-constitutionalists/. Accessed 19 Feb. 2021.

James Anthony is an experienced chemical engineer with a master’s in mechanical engineering, and the author of The Constitution Needs a Good Party and rConstitution Papers.


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