By Edward Achorn
Governments are instituted for the purpose of serving the public interest, not for advancing bureaucrats’ fetishes and goals. As Abraham Lincoln argued in his Gettysburg Address, the Union dead gave their lives so that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Our grave responsibility as citizens is to protect that system of self-government.
In Rhode Island, the administration of Governor Gina Raimondo has proved itself shockingly contemptuous of the public in refusing to share vital information about COVID-19 tests.
Dr. Andrew Bostom, a Brown medical professor and epidemiologist, has been attempting to obtain data underlying the tests, with a hope of determining how serious the threat is. What could be more important in today’s atmosphere of crisis?
Seeking the facts
Because he is not a lawyer, Dr. Bostom enlisted the aid of the Washington group Judicial Watch to obtain the data under laws that supposedly protect the public’s right to know what its government is doing.
The Raimondo administration refused to provide the data unless Judicial Watch coughed up nearly $3,000. It is seeking to charge $15 an hour for 200 hours of staff time.
It is an old game. When government officials want to block information from the public, they assess a steep charge for accessing it. Citizens without the means to pay turn away. The only alternative is to take the matter to court — another steep cost.
What Dr. Bostom and Judicial Watch are seeking is information that should already be readily accessible to the public: the “cycle threshold” numbers behind the “positive” tests that seem to be throwing Rhode Island into new paroxysms of panic.
Fauci’s own admission
National COVID-19 guru Anthony Fauci admits the chances of spreading COVID-19 are minuscule in people with a measured cycle of 35 or more, using the “gold standard” for testing, the rtPCR test. Other doctors say the risk is minimal at lower numbers, such as 30 or above.
But a cycle threshold of up to 40 is deemed “positive.”
Given that, the so-called “cases” cited by the media and state officials may overstate the danger to the public by ten times, some analysts believe.
The people need this information immediately to assess the risk they face. The free flow of information is essential in a system where the people are supposed to rule, not overlords who profess to be acting in their interests.
Governor Raimondo says, in effect, go pound sand.
Games at the Department of Health
I suppose a case could be made that Rhode Island Department of Health officials are at wit’s end, swamped with their duties and unable to accommodate the public. (If so, the governor should assign additional workers to serve citizens.)
But on Saturday I came across a tweet by the department advertising a fetishistic project. The department is running something it calls a “Conceal/Reveal Installation, which features artworks in the shape of facemasks” and “is being showcased at the RIDOH. Rhode Islanders are welcome to create their own mask for display. The deadline to submit is this Monday! For more information email email@example.com.”
It seems to be mocking the public (or, to put it in cruder terms, giving us the middle finger). Bureaucrats have time to run a project featuring fanciful facemasks (see above) but not time to provide the public with vital data about COVID-19 tests.
Data that would help the public assess the degree of threat it is facing.
One can only take this as further evidence that government officials, in these strange times, have concluded that the sheep-like public may be led anywhere, and that citizens are no longer entitled to the information they need to make informed decisions.
(Read Edward Achorn’s books about American history.)