What is the basis for your assessment of controversial topics? (Covid example)

Before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.
«To Kill a Mockingbird» by Harper Lee

The continuing Covid situation is grueling — to say the least. Being forced to do things I do not believe to be useful (like wearing masks, when there is a clear warning on the package that the mask does not protect against Covid, much like trying to stop a mosquito with a volleyball net, or even worse, it might work like a nebulizer) — it is taxing.

And then there is the impression that you are alone with your views, at least at your place of work. Where many people are scared, cling to government recommendations, and yeah, fear is a factor. Those people speak up. And the actually existing fear (which might differ from actual risks) makes it very hard to talk rationally about it — because you come off as a jerk who ignores the (actually felt) fears of other people.

But looking at the situation, looking at what lies beneath my assessments, there isn’t anything else I can do. Yeah, I could keep quiet, but that would mean that decisions are made based on emotion, by those who feel scared, not based on an accurate assessment of risks. And perhaps I am wrong, but looking at the issue, well, these are my assumptions:

  1. The person himself decides what should be done to his body, nobody else (“my body, my choice”). With transmittable infections, this might require forced isolation (if the person can transmit an infection), but not involuntary treatments.
  2. Covid is dangerous, but the danger depends strongly on age and comorbidities (cf. number of deaths depending on age and comorbidities).
  3. Covid is more dangerous that a normal flu, but far less dangerous than, e.g., some Ebola variants or the plague (prior to the development of antibiotics).
  4. Many people who get infected with Covid do not notice the infection. Few get seriously ill, very few die (and yeah, each death is tragic).
  5. Number of infections is a bad metric for severity, as those who get well contribute to herd immunity. Long term negative consequences, and — especially — death numbers are relevant.
  6. People who had Covid have an — at least — similarly well developed protection against further Covid infections, than people who were vaccinated against it (why not simply infect the whole population — well, because some people have long-term consequences and some people die).
  7. Vaccinations reduce the danger for these vaccinated people to die due to Covid, but its effectivity is reduced over time when new variants appear.
  8. Every vaccination (even every treatment) has risks. The risk assessment differs depending on the risk of the individual (age, comorbidities) to die due to an infection.
  9. Especially if the development of vaccinations was spurred along by political pressure, risks due to vaccinations are more likely compared to established vaccinations. Personally, I am vaccinated against quite a few nasty things, but incentives influence research — often negatively, even with well-meaning scientists.
  10. Vaccinated, and likely also recovered, individuals, can still transmit Covid.
  11. Tests have a false alarm rate and a miss rate. With a high number of tests this can lead to a high number of false alarms and misses.
  12. Mandatory testing (in Germany: 3G — Healthy [Gesund], Recovered [Genesen], Tested [Getestet]) inverts the burden of proof. Prior to the current situation, you had to provide evidence that you were sick (without going into the specifics), now you must proof that you are healthy (concerning a particular infection).
  13. A test for Covid costs time and money, are uncomfortable and thus are a burden.
  14. If you only test those who are not vaccinated, you overlook transmissions by those who are vaccinated and those who have recovered.
  15. The overall political development is rather … concerning. It went from “two weeks to flatten the curve” to continuous or intermittent restrictions of rights. Given the selective danger of the virus (see above) it looks out of proportion.
  16. Political decisions are quickly forgotten, are overall (even considering the changing data) inconsistent and very one-sided (hard restrictions).
  17. Comparisons with other countries, who implement stronger restrictions, are irrelevant. We should be a constitutional state (without simply changing the constitution when things get tough), one in which freedom is an actual value. Comparisons with countries who act worse can be used to justify any atrocity — as long as there is at least one country who actually is worse. And let’s be honest, that’s what they’re there for.
  18. A university has as telos the search for truth, knowing that it can never be sure that it has actually found it. Thus a university necessarily has to be politically neutral and in general skeptical against governmental mandates. This does not mean that it cannot follow those mandates (esp. if they are based on scientific findings), but the risk to be wrong is still there.
  19. Any attempt to make the situation for unvaccinated people “uncomfortable” (actual quote from a government official) puts the university into a henchman position enforcing indirect compulsory vaccination.
  20. Looking at the situation, 3G (healthy, recovered, tested) makes not sense. People who have symptoms should stay home (remember the information charts about Covid symptoms?). Other than that, every person had the opportunity to get vaccinated — which will protect them (to a degree) while incurring a known very low short term and an unknown long-term risk. People who cannot get vaccinated (but want to) should be protected (but that would mean testing the vaccinated people as well, as they can still transmit the disease). People who decided against a vaccination can shoulder the consequences (positive as well as negativ) themselves. It is not the responsibility of the university (or the state) to decide for them.
  21. Underlying these assumptions (mostly backed up by data) is the unquestioned assumption (axiom) that individual freedom has a high value. This moral foundation is rated higher than others (e.g., following authority or a generalized care foundation). But yeah, I think freedom is pretty important, similar to the search for truth.
  22. And looking at all these assumptions, well, I come to some conclusions, e.g., that 3G (healthy, recovered, tested) is morally questionable. And I cannot delegate my conscience.

So yeah, Covid — very stressful.