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The Amish v. the virus

Coronavirus struck the Amish community – and that community shrugged it off before the vaccine even became available.

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Did coronavirus affect Amish communities in the United States? Yes, it did. So why aren’t we mourning an appalling life-imitating-art tragedy like that which Michael Crichton depicted in The Andromeda Strain? Or that Stephen King depicted in his over-long novel The Stand? The answer is that no such thing happened. Nor did Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus No. 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pose any such danger. And the vaccine? For many Amish, the vaccine represented everything they hate about modern conventional medicine (and thus they didn’t take it.) For many others, the vaccine became available after the disease had run its course. Either way, the Amish achieved community immunity (“herd immunity”).

Tales of three Amish community experiences

In October of last year, former CBS News correspondent Sharyl Atkisson did a segment on the Amish of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania for her weekly television show Full Measure. And she discovered that the virus didn’t come close to wiping out the community or even hitting it particularly hard. Real Clear Politics has her embedded segment, and a full transcript. She summed up her findings thus:

There’s no evidence of any more deaths among the Amish than in places that shut down tight— some claim there were fewer here. That’s without masking, staying at home, or [taking a vaccine].

What!? No horse-drawn carts clop-clopping down a forlorn street, with a bell ringer shouting “Bring out your dead!”? No dead bodies in the streets scene? Zounds!

Today, WorldNetDaily ran an interview with Marvin Wengerd of the New Order Amish Church in Holmes County, Ohio. He says his community of 38,000 did lose a few people, mainly elderly or those with “pre-existing conditions.” And for a short time, families invited fewer people to weddings and restricted funeral attendance to those closest to them. They even canceled church for a month. But after that month – no problem! “Business as usual,” says Mr. Wengerd.

And then the vaccine became available. Few members of either community bothered with the vaccines. “Reasons … vary,” Wengerd said. The point is: the community recovered – completely – without anything close to widespread adoption of the vaccine.

Reuters and the CDC dispute that

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported a study of virus infection in an Amish community in Wayne County, Ohio. According to this report, seven people tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, after which authorities made testing more widely available. After that, thirty residents tested positive. But these were reverse transcription-polymerase chain-reaction tests. What the CDC won’t tell people is that this kind of test is super-sensitive – and nonspecific. In short, false negatives are rarer than hen’s teeth, but false positives happen all the time. Which means the positive predictive value of this test is almost worthless.

Reuters, in June of 2021, published this attempt at a fact-check. They started by heaping scorn on this Instagram and Facebook post:

Remember the virus that wiped out the entire Amish community because they don’t vaccinate their children? Yeah, me neither.

Yeah, CNAV neither. But Reuters made much – too much – of that Wayne County “study.” That was their evidence that the virus did affect the Amish community.

But no one ever said it didn’t. They said the virus did not wipe out the Amish community by reason of refusal of the vaccine. Reuters did nothing to prove otherwise. And after the Reuters story came out, Sharyl Atkisson came out with her report. That report, and today’s WorldNetDaily piece, proves the point: the virus did not wipe out the Amish. Not even close.

Key takeaways

Careful examination of all these reports reveals several key facts everyone should understand. First, no one ever said the Amish had any special claim to natural, individual immunity. But they did achieve community immunity by not letting fear paralyze them.

Second, the government starts way behind in trying to get the Amish to trust them. As Calvin Lapp from Lancaster County says, the Amish distrust three things: government, public schools, and the conventional medical system. The CDC report of their Wayne County experience spoke of trying to rephrase certain concepts to make them more acceptable. Their problem: the game is already up. The Amish are onto it.

Third, the media are just as bad as government and government medicine. Reuters distorted the facts in their “fact check.” All anybody said was that the virus didn’t wipe out the Amish. And it didn’t.

And last, and possibly most important: the Amish, as Sharyl Atkisson herself observed, made themselves the control group in a social experiment, the results of which the conventional media want to hide. The control group gets no intervention – either not getting the new medicine, or getting a placebo. And in this case the controls did better than the experimental group, which was all the rest of us. I’d say the conventional medical establishment owes the Amish an apology for their slander of them – and owes the rest of us an apology for our massive therapeutic misadventures!

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

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