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Lord, protect and amplify those who seek and report truth.

As daily life across America is upended by the coronavirus crisis — with mass business closures plunging the economy into freefall — one former New York Times reporter is sounding the alarm about what he believes are flawed models dictating the aggressive strategy.

Alex Berenson has been analyzing the data on the crisis on a daily basis for weeks and has come to the conclusion that the strategy of shutting down entire sectors of the economy is based on modeling that doesn’t line up with the realities of the virus.

“The response we have taken has caused enormous societal devastation, I don’t think that’s too strong a word,” he told Fox News in an interview Thursday.

Berenson is a former reporter who worked for the Times from 1999 to 2010 primarily covering the pharmaceutical industry. He recently came to prominence again with a book, “Tell Your Children The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence,” which challenged prevailing narratives on marijuana.

‘The response we have taken has caused enormous societal devastation.’

— Alex Berenson

In the face of a broadening consensus on both the left and the libertarian right that sees marijuana as mostly healthy and even a positive in some circumstances, Berenson argued that the evidence instead shows a link between the drug and serious mental illness and an epidemic of violence.

Now he’s turned to challenging the narratives on the response to the coronavirus. What Berenson is promoting isn’t coronavirus denialism, or conspiracy theories about plots to curb liberties. Instead what Berenson is claiming is simple: the models guiding the response were wrong and that it is becoming clearer by the day.

“In February I was worried about the virus. By mid-March I was more scared about the economy. But now I’m starting to get genuinely nervous,” he tweeted this week. “This isn’t complicated. The models don’t work. The hospitals are empty. WHY ARE WE STILL TALKING ABOUT INDEFINITE LOCKDOWNS?”

Hospitals, of course, are not empty in places like hard-hit New York City, and tales are widespread of overburdened doctors and emergency rooms. Berenson acknowledged as much in the interview Thursday.

Concerns that this virus is significantly more contagious and deadly than any ordinary flu strain are what’s driving the current government approach, in America and around the world. Perhaps due in part to more testing, America reports the highest number of cases in the world right now, with more than 430,000 cases and nearly 15,000 deaths. Symptoms vary widely, with some patients reporting only minor discomfort yet others dealing with crushing physical pain and struggling to breathe, forced to go on ventilators.

But Berenson is taking a broader look. He initially challenged the model put forward by the Imperial College in London, when one of the authors of the models appeared to significantly walk back projections that the U.K. would see 500,000 people killed by the disease to closer to 20,000 — although the author later said that the 500,000 prediction was without social distancing measures, and 20,000 was with them in place. That model is being used to advise the U.K. government on its strategy for the virus.

“That was March 22 or 23, and ever since then I’ve been paying incredibly close attention to the modeling and trying to figure out whether it lines up with what we’re seeing in reality — and the answer is it hasn’t lined up at all,” he said.

Recently he’s been focusing on discrepancies within the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) model. That model has come under renewed scrutiny as it has revised its metrics multiple times. It once predicted more than 90,000 deaths by August but recently issued a new estimate that has the figure closer to 60,000. Government officials say it’s a model that’s moving with what the country is doing.

“We believe that our health care delivery system in the United States is quite extraordinary,” Dr. Deborah Birx said at a White House press briefing on Wednesday. “I know many of you are watching the Act Now model and the IHME model— and they have consistently decreased the number, the mortality from over almost 90,000 or 86,000, down to 81,000 and now down to 61,000. That is modeled on what America is doing. That’s what’s happening.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci said that the indicators are that social distancing efforts are working: “Because remember, what you do with data will always outstrip a model. You redo your models, depending upon your data, and our data is telling us that mitigation is working.”

But Berenson argues that those models have social distancing and other measures baked into them. As for further proof, he says that outside of places like New York there has not been a national health crisis that was predicted — nor are there signs that the level of lockdown in various states has made a difference.

“Aside from New York, nationally there’s been no health system crisis. In fact, to be truly correct there has been a health system crisis, but the crisis is that the hospitals are empty,” he said. “This is true in Florida where the lockdown was late, this is true in southern California where the lockdown was early, it’s true in Oklahoma where there is no statewide lockdown. There doesn’t seem to be any correlation between the lockdown and whether or not the epidemic has spread wide and fast.”

He has also argued, in lengthy Twitter threads, that the drop in cases seen in various states has come before lockdowns would have had an impact — since it takes a few weeks for social distancing measures to take effect due to the window between infection and symptoms.

His is a view that has seen some sympathy from President Trump, who has spoken about the “cure being worse than the problem” and has indicated that he is keen to end the strict measures as soon as is possible — saying Wednesday he wants to re-open the economy with a “big bang.”

Berenson says the correct response in the initial days of the crisis would not have been to do nothing, but instead to adopt a more measured and targeted approach.

“There was incredible pressure to do something … so these lockdowns all cascaded, every governor tried to outdo the next. And no one stopped and said ‘OK what about Japan, they don’t seem to have a terrible epidemic, they wear masks, maybe we should wear masks,” he said.

He said other measures such as protecting individuals particularly at risk, and even things such as banning large gatherings such as concerts and sporting events could have been appropriate. But now he fears it may be too late for officials to say they overreacted.

“Now we’re in a bad spot because there’s clearly a dangerous political dynamic right now — the economy is in freefall, a lot of people are hurting. If we acknowledge what is clearly happening … the people who made these decisions, I think there’s going to be a lot of anger at them, so they don’t want to acknowledge it, so they say ‘oh it’s the lockdown that saved us,’” he says.

Berenson is not a known partisan. His Twitter feed and other works contain few references to specific politicians, and there’s no indication that he’s in this to bash or defend Trump or either political party. But he noted that, like with his conclusions on marijuana, there has been a distinct lack of interest from the left.

“I went to Yale and I worked for the New York Times, the people on the left hold themselves out as being science-driven, as being smarter, they think they’re smarter but they won’t look at facts that won’t meet their narratives,” he said.

He voiced frustration that these arguments have been ignored by a lot of mainstream outlets.

“That is frustrating for me … but everyone needs to hear this counterargument, whether or not it’s right, you need to hear it because the damage we are doing to ourselves right now is so enormous.”

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Darlene Estlow
April 10, 2020

Father, I thank you for what you are doing during this time of fear. Replace our fear with faith and cause us to love and fear you. Heal our nation and may we, your people, live our lives in glory to you.

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Kathryn
April 10, 2020

Father- It is so hard to know what the proper response is to this situation. Opinions and information abound. Yet one thing is true- we are at the mercy of other people’s decisions. So, as your children we look to you. You are the Maker of Heaven and earth, Jesus, all authority has been given to You, on Heaven and earth. You have all wisdom. You have all power. You have everything we need for life and godliness. You will fulfill your purposes. You are merciful. You are loving. You are able to do well beyond anything we could ask or imagine. You hold the future and all of our nations and lives in Your hands.Nothing escapes Your notice and nothing is too hard for You. You parted the Red Sea. You stopped the waters of the Jordan. You sent the flood that covered the whole world but You made a way of escape. You raised Jesus to life to conquer death, hell and the grave. You are Life. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us. You are the living,holy,awesome,creator God. Your kingdom come-Your will be done-on earth as it is in Heaven. Hallelujah!!

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Stephanie Rae Kelley Diestelkamp
April 10, 2020

My comment is simple. people need to return to work. Those people who are sick, need to stay home or go to their Dr or the ER. What happened to common sense?? The world, the country, our neighborhood businesses are all shut down and livelihoods are turned upside down. Then all these people who need to work will have a unemployment check coming and believe me, those checks have a stop off point. And how do you think the loans will be paid off without a job. This all sounds like a bad dream one cannot wake up from. We need people to be honest and own up to their mistakes, and make America great again!!

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Donna
April 9, 2020

I pray for healing of the emotional and psychological trauma the lockdowns have caused for countless people around the globe.

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Sharon Buck
April 9, 2020

I pray that his information will gain more attention, and that those who realize they’ve acted in response to fear rather than evidence would admit it. I’ve been thinking this is a tremendous drain on the emotional reserves of the American people, who are not only worried about getting sick, but about losing their jobs, losing their income, and getting so behind financially they can never catch up. People won’t look at each other in the stores; we’ve become ingrown and irrational in our thinking that human contact of any kind is going to result in death! There are theories rumbling around that this was planned to take our economy down. Wow, I hope not, but if it is true, it’s working! Give America back it’s spirit!

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