Former NIH Director Acknowledges Oversights in Addressing COVID-19 Policy Impact

Francis Collins admitted that officials failed to consider the consequences of extreme measures as federal officials considered how the government should respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. He stated it was a “really unfortunate” mistake by ignoring the devastating side effects of the interventions. Collins spoke at a Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, conference sponsored by Braver Angels, an organization that aims to “bridge the political divide” by encouraging civil discussion. Collins explained the perspective of the scientists who shaped the response to COVID-19 during a session with Wilk Wilkinson. He noted that the public health specialists overlooked the unintended but foreseeable costs of the policies they recommended. “You attach infinite value to stopping the disease and saving a life,” he said. “You attach a zero value to whether this actually totally disrupts people’s lives, ruins the economy, and has many kids kept out of school in a way that they never might quite recover from.” The folly of attaching “infinite value” to a life saved by government regulation should be obvious. Economists and regulators seek to balance the costs of new rules against their expected benefits. During the pandemic, the wisdom of weighing costs against benefits was not just forgotten, but explicitly repudiated. Andrew Cuomo, then New York’s governor, insisted that the goal was to “save lives, period, whatever it costs,” because “we’re not going to accept a premise that human life is disposable.”