Eight times this conservative think tank was ahead of media, health officials on key COVID-19 facts

'Science can flourish only in an atmosphere of free speech,' the conservative think tank founder said, citing Albert Einstein

A conservative think tank that extensively researched the spread of the coronavirus preempted media reporting and public health officials on the virus’s danger to the public almost a dozen times. 

In March 2020, Just Facts reported on "mortal dangers in overreacting because measures to limit the spread of Covid-19 often have economic impacts that can cost lives" while also citing studies that warned of the fleeting benefits of lockdowns.

"Without a vaccine, the only way people can become immune to Covid-19 is by catching it and recovering," Just Facts wrote. "This means that too much social distancing may cause more deaths because young, healthy people — who would otherwise catch the disease, recover quickly, and become firewalls — remain as potential carriers."

Just Facts added, while citing a 2012 paper in the medical journal PLoS One, that a lockdown "cannot by itself reduce those outcomes in the long run "because Covid-19 is so contagious that another outbreak will begin and quickly proliferate as soon as the distancing measures cease."


New York City shoppers wearing masks on 5th Avenue

People carry shopping bags on Fifth Avenue as the city continues the re-opening efforts following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus on Dec. 21, 2020. (Getty Images / Getty Images)

Meanwhile, over 100 nations were implementing lockdowns using phrases such as "15 days to slow the spread" and "flatten the curve," and promising citizens that lockdowns and social distancing were the best way to crush the virus.

News outlets touted the effectiveness of lockdown measures, including the New York Times, which ran headlines in spring 2020 suggesting that restrictions were "working" and that delays in implementing lockdowns were costing lives.

Seven to nine months later, in the fall of 2020, the New York Times acknowledged in its reporting that the coronavirus wave had not been slowed down by lockdowns and was in some cases worse.

"When the coronavirus began sweeping around the globe this spring, people from Seattle to Rome to London canceled weddings and vacations, cut off visits with grandparents and hunkered down in their homes for what they thought would be a brief but essential period of isolation," the New York Times reported on Oct. 17, 2020. "But summer did not extinguish the virus. And with fall has come another dangerous, uncontrolled surge of infections that in parts of the world is the worst of the pandemic so far."


Just Facts also extensively documented the negative effects of lockdowns before many media outlets and scholars acknowledged the severe impact they would have on American society.

Research published by Just Facts in May 2020 found that "anxiety from reactions to Covid-19 — such as business shutdowns, stay-at-home orders, media exaggerations, and legitimate concerns about the virus — will extinguish at least seven times more years of life than can possibly be saved by the lockdowns."

The research added that "the total loss of life from all societal responses to this disease is likely to be more than 90 times greater than [that] prevented by the lockdowns."

In February of this year, Johns Hopkins University produced a study that found "no evidence that lockdowns, school closures, border closures and limiting gatherings have had a noticeable effect on COVID-19 mortality."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with multiple studies, has concluded that lockdowns contributed to a troubling spike in drug overdoses, suicides, and depression.

James D. Agresti, the president and co-founder of Just Facts, told Fox News Digital that it was clear from the beginning that "15 days to slow the spread" would not work in the long run because contagious diseases will spread as soon as preventative measures are dropped.

"This was utterly asinine," Agresti said about the promotion of lockdowns. "And you didn't need to have that in hindsight. This was information, facts that were available from the start that these people botched. They just toss them away. They just ignored them."

Major news outlets, along with the World Health Organization, were dismissing the idea of naturally acquired immunity in spring 2020 as Just Facts was documenting evidence that acquired immunity is likely to be effective and "long lasting."

"The physiology textbook ‘The Human Body in Health and Illness’ explains that such immunity, which is called ‘active immunity,’ is ‘generally long lasting,’" Just Facts wrote. "The same applies to diseases like measles, mumps, rubella, and polio. If someone contracts these diseases, they rarely get them again, and furthermore, they are very unlikely to transmit them to others. Thus, these people become firewalls against the spread of these contagions."

In July 2020, CNN warned that children were "little disease vectors" when it comes to the coronavirus and state governments across the country were shutting down schools in order to protect children from the virus.

In spring 2020, Just Facts had published research citing multiple scientific papers, including the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, that children are "just as likely" to contract the disease as adults are but less likely to be symptomatic. Additionally, Just Facts pointed out that children are more likely to suffer severe side effects from the flu than from the coronavirus. 


Packed boxes in closed cafe, small business lockdown due to coronavirus.

Packed boxes in empty closed cafe, small business lockdown due to coronavirus. (iStock / iStock)

A year and a half later, in January 2022, The Atlantic published commentary from three medical scholars who wrote that coronavirus hospitalizations have "remained extremely low among children, on par with pediatric flu hospitalizations during a typical season."

"By that point there was already data being published about the mortality rate of people of different age groups," Agresti said about the early days of the pandemic. "And when I started studying the numbers on children and looking at what the risks were to other things that they died from, whether it's drowning in accidents, car accidents, the flu, you know, it was eminently clear that COVID-19 posed a lower risk to them than the ordinary risk of life that we never locked children down for in the history of the world."

Conflicting messaging from public officials during the coronavirus pandemic was perhaps most prevalent in the discussion on the effectiveness of masks and Agresti told Fox News that Just Facts produced data that was later vindicated by experts and news reports.

In September 2021, Google, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter were banning statements disputing the efficacy of masks while Just Facts published research titled "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Masks, and the Deadly Falsehoods Surrounding Them." In that research, Just Facts outlined how randomized controlled trials, which are the "gold standard" for clinical research," had found "no statistically significant benefits from any type of mask in community settings."

From January 2021 through May 2021, schools and colleges across the country were mandating masks while media outlets criticized governors who refused to implement mask mandates despite the lack of randomized control trial studies showing their effectiveness. 

A year or so later, The Atlantic published a piece in January 2022 containing interviews with three medical scholars, including a specialist in infectious diseases at the National Institutes of Health, concluding that the claim "schools with mask mandates have lower Covid-19 transmission rates than schools without mask mandates — is not justified by the data that have been gathered."

"We reviewed a variety of studies — some conducted by the CDC itself, some cited by the CDC as evidence of masking effectiveness in a school setting, and others touted by media to the same end — to try to find evidence that would justify the CDC’s no-end-in-sight mask guidance for the very-low-risk pediatric population, particularly post-vaccination," the article stated. "We came up empty-handed."

Medical experts followed Just Facts in the coming months as assessments concluded that cloth masks are ineffective. CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen said in December 2021 that "cloth masks are little more than facial decorations" and that "scientists and public health officials have been saying" the same "for months, many months, in fact." 

"Cloth and surgical masks do absolutely nothing for protection from ambient virus,"  Tulane University School of Medicine infectious disease expert Dr. Chad Roy said in January 2022.

"I put like 500-plus hours into researching this in early 2021 and the data were almost unanimous that these low quality masks, surgical masks, cloth masks, will not work against the spreading of this disease," Agresti said. "There is so much data out there it's ridiculous."

Several Democratic governors, including former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, faced criticism for their handling of senior citizens in nursing homes during the coronavirus, which Just Facts warned against in the early days of the pandemic. This warning came as many news outlets were praising Cuomo’s response to COVID-19.

"Elderly people and those with chronic ailments — who are the very definition of nursing home residents — are extremely vulnerable to the virus," Just Facts documented in August 2020, citing a MedRxiv study. "The virus is highly transmissible, and thus, it can easily sweep through large groups of sickly and/or aged people who live together."

Woman in yellow shirt cleans classroom during COVID-19 pandemic

Amid concerns of the spread of COVID-19, Alma Odong wears a mask as she cleans a classroom at Wylie High School in Wylie, Texas.  (AP Photo/LM Otero, File / AP Images)


Just Facts added that governors like Cuomo sent infected patients to nursing homes "in the face of proven scientific facts and crystal clear guidance from the CDC and CMS" and "forced C-19 carriers into the vicinity of the people who are most vulnerable to it."

In March 2021, eight months later, NJ Advance Media published details of a March 2020 conference call where the New Jersey Health commissioner told nursing home operators about the policy of sending infected seniors to nursing homes, and they responded by warning that "patients will die" because of it.

Additionally, the New York Times reported in spring 2021 that Cuomo’s government had undercounted and withheld nursing home data and went to great lengths "to control data, brush aside public health expertise and bolster his position as a national leader in the fight against the coronavirus."

Agresti told Fox News Digital that confining the elderly in nursing homes was the "exact opposite of what we should have done."

"Locking people inside is probably the worst thing you can do because it spreads inside," Agresti said. "Besides the horror of locking people in the waning years of their life away from their family and friends you are also away from outdoors and sunlight and beautiful days. It was utterly destructive."


Chinese workers wearing protective suits during COVID-19 Pandemic

Workers in protective suits ride an electric tricycle on a street during lockdown, amid the coronavirus pandemic. (REUTERS/Aly Song / Reuters Photos)

In September 2021, Just Facts documented the effectiveness of Ultraviolet air disinfection as a tool to combat the spread of the coronavirus while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention described the practice as a "supplemental treatment" when "options for increasing room ventilation and filtration are limited."

In April 2022, seven months later, the New York Times followed with an essay focusing on three experts who deemed UV air disinfection as a "highly effective" tool that should be immediately deployed.

Agresti told Fox News Digital that more UV air disinfection would have been a game changer in terms of slowing the spread of the virus, especially when it comes to nursing homes.

"What they should have been doing is deploying, using air disinfection at these facilities," Agresti said. "It's relatively inexpensive. It's a fraction of the cost of the money they've pumped into this pandemic to protect these people who are highly vulnerable to this disease. And these nursing homes were decimated."

Media outlets, Dr. Anthony Fauci and President Biden have often referred to the coronavirus pandemic as a "pandemic of the unvaccinated" and Biden went as far as to claim that "you’re not going to die" or be "hospitalized" if you get vaccinated.

In September 2021, Just Facts documented that those claims were inaccurate and pointed out that the "majority" of coronavirus deaths at the time were "among the fully vaccinated" and that "Covid-19 still poses a considerable risk to some fully vaccinated people because a vaccine is only as good as each person’s immune system."


Department of Defense data later that month showed that an estimated 60% of COVID-19 hospitalizations of Medicare beneficiaries involved vaccinated individuals. Months later, the UK Health Security Agency released reports showing that 74% of all deaths involving COVID-19 from Sept. 20 to Dec. 12, 2021, were among fully vaccinated individuals.

Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna coronavirus disease vaccine

Vials with Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID vaccine labels are seen in this illustration picture taken March 19, 2021. (REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration / Reuters Photos)

Just Facts published two original studies in October 2021 and March 2022 showing that Pfizer and Moderna’s mRNA vaccines have "no statistically significant effect" on overall death rates. 

At the same time, media outlets were touting a CDC study concluding that vaccinated individuals were dying from the virus at a lower rate. 

In April 2022, five scholars published a study which found that the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 mRNA vaccines "had no effect on overall mortality despite protecting against fatal Covid-19." 

A former Harvard Medical School professor and several colleagues peer-reviewed the paper and wrote that it "answers the right question with the right data. It is the first study to do so."

"In reality, Just Facts’ earlier studies used the same methodology and nearly the same data for the mRNA vaccines," Agresti told Fox News Digital. "However, Just Facts did not analyze adenovirus-vector vaccines, as was also done in this study."

Agresti told Fox News Digital that the natural inclination to say "I told you so" after his group's research was proven true was outweighed by the fact that so many people were hurt by the misinformation spread by Big Tech, public health officials and the media. 


"I'm upset because a lot of people have been hurt by this," Agresti said. "I have to call the misinformation sophomoric that was pushed from these massive media outlets like the New York Times to the World Health Organization and the CDC and all over the world. And the damage from this is unbelievable."

When asked about how changes can be made going forward to prevent factual information from being stifled in the future, Agresti pointed some blame at social media companies. 

"Social media, Big Tech is complicit in this," Agresti said. "They made these people, the authorities. They saw people and suppressed people that challenged them. So it's just horrifying what's been done. And there needs to be accountability."

Agresti then cited a quote from scientist Albert Einstein and said, "Science can flourish only in an atmosphere of free speech."

"Mark Zuckerberg may think differently, but I trust Einstein on this," Agresti said.

As for Fauci, who has been lambasted by conservatives for his handling of the coronavirus, Agresti suggested that manslaughter is an appropriate description for his actions while serving as the nation's top coronavirus adviser.


Anthony Fauci in a suit at press conference with right hand in air

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a news conference. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images / Getty Images)

"In a just world, these people would be prosecuted for manslaughter," Agresti said. "What is manslaughter except killing someone by mistake, by fatal negligence. That's essentially what they did, and they did it en masse."

Agresti said that on a more "realistic level," he would like to see laws changed that provide immunity to health officials like Fauci.

"Why are they not liable for this?" Agresti continued. "I don't understand that level of protection."