From The News (a.k.a. Dispatches From BizarroWorld)

So how are you getting along in BizzaroWorld? Truth is, my lifestyle hasn’t changed all that much. I get up on weekdays, do my programming work from home (which I do half the time anyway), then work on a music or software project for a few hours, then watch an episode of whatever Amazon or Netflix series currently has my interest. Same old, same old.

I do miss going to the gym. My daughter Sara and I usually work out twice per week. She’s 16 and can get by on youth, but I’m an old man whose body is less forgiving. I’m starting to feel a little soft. Chareva has assured me she has some manual-labor projects for me to tackle this weekend, so that will help.

The girls have concluded that their summer vacation began a month ago. At this point, I’m sure they’re right. I’d glad Sara elected to take the ACT in the fall instead of the spring. She scored rather well, and she’s been receiving recruiting letters from colleges we’ve never heard of, as well as many we have. We got a good chuckle from one college that thought it would entice her by bragging about its gender studies department. Suuuure, there’s a degree worth investing in.

Anyway, the news I’m focusing on in this post is all about the coronavirus, of course.

America leads the world in coronavirus cases and journalistic stupidity

I won’t link to any particular article, because heck, just pick one. You’ve seen the headlines: AMERICA NOW HAS MORE CASES THAN ANY OTHER COUNTRY, INCLUDING CHINA!

You are supposed to read those headlines and assume the virus has begun spreading like wildfire in the U.S. (and then, depending on which news source you’re consuming, blame Trump). If you have at least half a brain and are willing to use it, however, you’ll immediately grasp that the big jump in cases simply means widespread testing is finally underway. The more people we test, the higher the number of cases will go. That doesn’t mean more people are becoming infected.  It means more infections are being identified.

Do we really have more covid-19 cases now than China? Well, that would assume two things: 1) We can trust any data coming from the Chinese government, and 2) China is testing at the same per-capita rate as the U.S.  I wouldn’t bet on either.

Why testing wasn’t available earlier


Sorry, just had to do my impression of some lefties I know. Actually, John Stossel uploaded a video explaining how regulatory tangles prevented test kits and treatments from becoming available sooner. Let’s hope when this whole coronavirus panic is over, most of the regulatory streamlining he mentions becomes permanent.

Why I’m still not convinced this virus is particularly lethal

South Korea has been praised for its quick response to the virus and the extent of its testing efforts. Let’s do a little math using the figures from South Korea available in this report:

More than 376,000 people have been tested. So far 9,332 people have tested positive, and 139 have died. So … in South Korea, 2.4 percent of those tested are infected. I don’t know if they’re focusing their testing on those considered at greater risk. If so, the infection rate in the general population would likely be lower. Among those identified as infected, the death rate is 1.4 percent. Among the 376,000 people tested, the death rate is 0.037 percent, or one in every 2,705 people.

But that’s among those tested. The population of the entire country is more than 51 million, the vast majority of whom haven’t been tested. Within the entire population, coronavirus has killed one in every 369,784 people. For reference, run-of-the-mill influenza kills around 2,900 people per year in South Korea, according to this study.

So I’m still where I was a couple of weeks ago. I understand we don’t want the virus to spread, and I understand that it’s killing people. But lots of things kill people. Auto accidents kill roughly 100 people per day, but we don’t order everyone to stop driving. Around 3,500 Americans drown while swimming or boating each year, but we don’t order them to stay away from pools, rivers and lakes. Hell, according to this article, 4,866 people in Japan drowned in their bathtubs in 2014. Should we outlaw baths?

The point is, I’m concerned we may be social-distancing ourselves into a deep and destructive recession over a virus that’s getting a helluva lot of press coverage, but may not be much worse than ordinary influenza, and may be far less deadly than many day-to-day activities we wouldn’t dream of giving up.

And it turns out Dr. Anthony Fauci, who’s leading the federal effort to contain the virus, isn’t exactly convinced we’re looking at a repeat of the 1918 Spanish flu either. Here’s a quote from an article he wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine:

On the basis of a case definition requiring a diagnosis of pneumonia, the currently reported case fatality rate is approximately 2%. In another article in the Journal, Guan et al. report mortality of 1.4% among 1099 patients with laboratory-confirmed Covid-19; these patients had a wide spectrum of disease severity. If one assumes that the number of asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic cases is several times as high as the number of reported cases, the case fatality rate may be considerably less than 1%. This suggests that the overall clinical consequences of Covid-19 may ultimately be more akin to those of a severe seasonal influenza (which has a case fatality rate of approximately 0.1%) or a pandemic influenza (similar to those in 1957 and 1968) rather than a disease similar to SARS or MERS, which have had case fatality rates of 9 to 10% and 36%, respectively.

At least that’s what he wrote a month ago. If he’s changed his mind on the expected fatality rate, I’m not aware of him saying so.

No social-distancing in Sweden?

We should all pay close attention to the infection and death rates in Sweden for the simple reason that unlike most of the world, they’re not hunkering down at home.

While most of Europe is firmly locked down in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19, Sweden is taking a softer line, keeping primary schools, restaurants and bars open and even encouraging people to go outside for a nip of air.

This stands in stark contrast to the urgent tone elsewhere and has sparked heated debate whether Sweden is really doing the right thing.

The country has reported more than 2,299 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 41 deaths.

Let’s do some quick math. Sweden has a population of 10.12 million. I don’t care about the confirmed cases, because unless everyone is tested, we don’t know how many people currently have or previously had the virus. With 41 dead, that’s one death for every 246,829 Swedes. In the U.S. so far, there are currently 1,470 covid-19 deaths, which translates to about one death for every 222,448 people.

So the Swedes, who are not on lockdown, have a slightly lower per-capita death rate than the U.S., which is on full lockdown. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues.

Apparently the Swedish government has issued warnings, but people are ignoring them.

On Tuesday, the Swedish government announced that restaurants and bars would only be allowed to provide table service to avoid crowding, but stopped short of actually closing them. Health authorities also urged people to reconsider trips to visit relatives over Easter.

But for many, life is carrying on close to normal. Bars and restaurants were full at the weekend, and Stockholm’s city buses have been jam-packed at rush hour despite the social distancing recommendations.

Like I said, let’s keep an eye on Sweden. If their death rate doesn’t begin to climb beyond ours, we need to seriously wonder if all the stay-at-home orders are making a difference.

What if we’re trying to stop the spread of a virus that’s already been spread?

The link doesn’t work anymore, so I won’t bother with it, but I clipped this text from an article in the Financial Times:

The new coronavirus may already have infected far more people in the UK than scientists had previously estimated — perhaps as much as half the population — according to modelling by researchers at the University of Oxford.

If the results are confirmed, they imply that fewer than one in a thousand of those infected with Covid-19 become ill enough to need hospital treatment, said Sunetra Gupta, professor of theoretical epidemiology, who led the study. The vast majority develop very mild symptoms or none at all.

Bingo. Rand Paul tested positive, but had no symptoms. Prince Charles had mild symptoms that could have easily been written off as an ordinary cold. We keep hearing about people who’ve tested positive but didn’t know they were infected. Keep that in mind.

The research presents a very different view of the epidemic to the modelling at Imperial College London, which has strongly influenced government policy. “I am surprised that there has been such unqualified acceptance of the Imperial model,” said Prof Gupta.

The Oxford study is based on a what is known as a “susceptibility-infected-recovered model” of Covid-19, built up from case and death reports from the UK and Italy. The researchers made what they regard as the most plausible assumptions about the behaviour of the virus.

The modelling brings back into focus “herd immunity”, the idea that the virus will stop spreading when enough people have become resistant to it because they have already been infected. The government abandoned its unofficial herd immunity strategy — allowing controlled spread of infection — after its scientific advisers said this would swamp the National Health Service with critically ill patients.

But the Oxford results would mean the country had already acquired substantial herd immunity through the unrecognised spread of Covid-19 over more than two months. If the findings are confirmed by testing, then the current restrictions could be removed much sooner than ministers have indicated.

Okay, it’s a model. Models can be wrong. But it got me thinking about this article, which I read a few days ago:

A “strange pneumonia” was circulating in northern Italy as long ago as November, weeks before doctors were made aware of the novel coronavirus outbreak in China, one of the European country’s leading medical experts said this week.

“They [general practitioners] remember having seen very strange pneumonia, very severe, particularly in old people in December and even November,” Giuseppe Remuzzi, the director of the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research in Milan, said in an interview with the National Public Radio of the United States.

“This means that the virus was circulating, at least in [the northern region of] Lombardy and before we were aware of this outbreak occurring in China.”

The current thinking among the scientific community is that the first infection in Lombardy was the result of an Italian coming into contact with a Chinese person in late January. However, if it can be shown that the novel coronavirus – officially known as SARS-CoV-2 – was in circulation in Italy in November, then that theory would be turned on its head.

One of Chareva’s relatives who works in an emergency room in Illinois told her the same thing: there was a sudden increase of patients with respiratory issues in November, but tests showed it wasn’t any of the ordinary flu strains. (The patients he saw all recovered, by the way.)

I’ve heard over and over that we weren’t prepared because nobody knew we’d end up with so many sick people.  And yet I found several articles written in November or earlier warning that a nasty flu season was coming.  Here’s one from Forbes:

The flu season is off to a particularly early start this year with seemingly more influenza activity last month than any other November since 2009, the year of the H1N1 flu pandemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of November 17-23, flu activity had appeared in all 50 states. Looks like the flu has already gone “viral,” so to speak.

A December article in Infection Control Today offered this warning:

The 2019/2020 influenza season is expected to be a rough one. Flu activity in Australia, often used as a litmus test for the United States, left many alarmed at what we might see this winter … Based upon the surveillance data in both Australia and America, the early indicators point to a severe influenza season for 2019/2020.

Could some of those cases have been Covid-19?  I looked online to see if people who were infected and recovered can still test positive. Nope, not after two to three weeks. Which got me wondering … since most people have either no symptoms or mild symptoms, and since coronavirus wasn’t on anybody’s radar back in November, is it possible the virus was circulating earlier than we currently believe? Is it possible millions of us were infected, but most of us barely noticed? Are we shutting down the world economy to prevent the spread of a virus that’s already been spread?

I don’t know. And since we can’t go back and retroactively test people who may have been exposed in November or December and recovered, we’ll probably never know.

But coronavirus has to be way worse than ordinary flu because hospitals are being overwhelmed and that hasn’t happened before!

I hear you.  In fact, I did some research online and found articles about hospitals being overwhelmed, governors declaring a state of emergency, doctors having to treat patients in temporary tents because all the hospital beds were occupied, etc.  But the articles were from 2018.  Yup, 2018.

We’ll start with a United Press International article:

Hospitals across the United States are scrambling to treat a mass influx of flu patients.

They have asked staff to work overtime and some have set up triage tents and canceled elective surgeries to handle the flood of patients.

“We are pretty much at capacity, and the volume is certainly different from previous flu seasons,” Dr. Alfred Tallia, professor and chair of family medicine at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center in New Brunswick, N.J., told Time. “I’ve been in practice for 30 years, and it’s been a good 15 or 20 years since I’ve seen a flu-related illness scenario like we’ve had this year.”

Alabama, which declared a state of emergency in response to the flu epidemic last week, is facing a similar situation. Virginia’s hospitals are also overwhelmed by an increasing number of flu cases coming into the emergency room.

In New Jersey, emergency rooms are at full capacity and hospitals are restricting visitors, especially those with children, to help control the flu’s spread.

I’ll say it again: that article is from 2018. Here’s another from CBS:

Health officials in Southern California are warning the public that the current flu season is so intense that some hospitals are rerouting patients due to their increasingly limited capacity. From Laguna Beach to Long Beach, emergency rooms were struggling to cope with the overwhelming cases of influenza and had gone into “diversion mode,” during which ambulances are sent to other hospitals, CBS Los Angeles reports.

Here’s another from Modern Health Care:

In the middle of one of the heaviest flu seasons in years, hospitals must contend with both financial and clinical challenges.

The surge has left many hospitals overwhelmed, forcing some to set up triage tents outside of emergency departments. Others have resorted to emergency protocols such as postponing elective surgeries and limiting the number of visitors. Such activity is likely to hurt the bottom line, even though volume is increasing.

And yet another 2018 article from The Los Angeles Times:

The huge numbers of sick people are also straining hospital staff who are confronting what could become California’s worst flu season in a decade.

Hospitals across the state are sending away ambulances, flying in nurses from out of state and not letting children visit their loved ones for fear they’ll spread the flu. Others are canceling surgeries and erecting tents in their parking lots so they can triage the hordes of flu patients.

From Time Magazine in 2018:

In Fenton, Missouri, SSM Health St. Clare Hospital has opened its emergency overflow wing, as well as all outpatient centers and surgical holding centers, to make more beds available to patients who need them. Nurses are being “pulled from all floors to care for them,” says registered nurse Jennifer Braciszewski, and are being offered an increased hourly rate to work above and beyond their normal schedules. Many nurses have also become sick, however, so the staff is also short-handed.

From the Texas Tribune in 2018:

Big-city hospitals in Texas have been overwhelmed this week by an influx of flu patients, and state health officials say influenza activity is widespread across the state.

At Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, waiting rooms turned into exam areas as a medical tent was built in order to deal with the surge of patients. A Houston doctor said local hospital beds were at capacity, telling flu sufferers they might be better off staying at home. Austin’s emergency rooms have also seen an influx of flu patients.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Hospitals overwhelmed, more patients than hospital beds, hospitals having to treat people in temporary tents, medical centers postponing elective procedures to free up staff to care for the influx of sick people, etc., etc. Once again, that was in 2018.

What, you don’t remember that?  Probably not, because it didn’t become the every-hour-of-the-day news story, and we didn’t shut down the country to avoid infecting each other.

As I pointed out in my last post, if government officials held news conferences and reported all the deaths from influenza every time it comes around, we’d probably feel the same sense of panic all the nonstop news about the coronavirus is spreading.

It was a nasty flu that went around in 2017-2018.  When all the data comes in, we may find out the coronavirus wasn’t much worse.

Stay well, my friends.

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103 thoughts on “From The News (a.k.a. Dispatches From BizarroWorld)

  1. js290

    1. Hospitalization is the problem, not death rates. COVID19 is like a DDoS attack on hospitals.
    2. Bathtubs & auto accidents are not communicable. Me dying in a car wreck does not increase your odds of doing so; in fact, may decrease your odds if I’m a dangerous driver. You catching a pandemic virus increases the odds that other people can get infected.
    3. @nntaleb @yaneerbaryam “naive empiricism: things that do not have the same variance should not be compared… learning a little bit of stats is very dangerous to society…”

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Understood, but hospitalization was clearly an issue in 2018 as well. Is it a worse problem now? I don’t know. I’d need to see actual data. Clearly 2020 isn’t the first time hospitals were overwhelmed by flu patients, ran out of beds, had to treat people in tents, etc.

      Auto accidents are not communicable, but you can definitely be killed by a bad driver even if you’re a good driver, so I’m not sure of your point there. I believe I’m far more likely to be killed by a bad driver while I’m commuting to work than I am to die from a coronavirus I caught in the office.

    2. Firebird7479

      If you were killed in a car wreck and the autopsy revealed you had Covid19 at the time of death, they’d find a way to spin it as the cause of the accident, just like those people who blamed Dr. Atkins’ slip and fall on the ice on the Atkins Diet.

  2. DebC

    Everything you say makes so much sense, and yet I have a bunch of friends who are nurses, some for over 40 years, and they all say this is the most devastating thing they’ve ever seen, and they say all their nurse friends agree that it’s far worse than anything they’ve ever encountered in their entire careers. Just had my head whirling!

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      That could indeed be the case … although there’s a natural human tendency to view any disaster that’s happening now as worse than the disaster of the past. There will be anecdotes aplenty, but I’m reserving judgment on how bad this actually is until we have actual data to compare.

  3. Matt

    These are some interesting finds! Thanks Tom

    One thing to correct you on, it is possible in theory at least, to find out who was at some point infected with CV19 and got over it. There are antibody assays for many different illnesses that are readily available which basically just test for the presence of a particular antibody. If it’s there, then you know the subject was infected.

    I’ve heard these are in process of being developed now for Cv19, but not available now. I’m curious to see how long they take to come out, since as you mention, if they become available soon and a lot of people find out they’ve already had it, a lot of people are going to look very dumb

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Ah, okay. It will be interesting to see the results if that test is developed and used widely. I wouldn’t say people are going to look stupid necessarily. Given the many unknowns, caution was probably the wise choice while we try to get a handle on what’s actually happening.

  4. Lori Miller

    I’ve been amusing myself by reading news from one to two weeks ago. Whatever the worst hellhole was at the time, we were supposed to be a just-a-week-behind-it! because we’re-on-the-same-trajectory!

    Since COVID19 can be killed by sufficient UV light, heat and humidity (makes sense since the bats it comes from are nocturnal and live in caves), and the southern hemisphere and tropics ar seeing a far lower death rate, I think summer may do it in.

    It’s interesting to note that “just the flu” overwhelmed quite a few hospitals a few years ago. Most people don’t realize how bad “just the flu” is. But the CDC performs genetic testing on flu cases–it doesn’t seem likely they’d have missed this, or that it would have taken months or years to arrive in the US from China or Italy.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      So the question would be: if something went around in November that caused a spike in people visiting emergency rooms for respiratory issues and it wasn’t Covid-19, what was it? According to Chareva’s relative, tests were negative for known flu strains. That doesn’t necessarily mean it WAS Covid-19, of course, but apparently something they couldn’t identify went around.

      1. Lori Miller

        If it was targeting aged, overweight, or diabetic people or those with heart disease and pretty much missing younger people, maybe so. The flu flattens people of all ages and sizes.

        If the test was a rapid influenza diagnostic test, then according to the CDC, false negatives are common. More accurate testing is available–surely someone somewhere would have sent in a specimen for a strain that seemed novel, wouldn’t they?

  5. Barbara Brindza

    Sadly we’ve heard of a plethora of doctors and nurses succumbing to Covid-19–not something we’ve heard of regularly in ‘normal’ flu seasons.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      This may indeed be worse than what we’ve seen before. But here’s a quote from the Time Magazine piece I linked about the 2018 flu:

      Many nurses have also become sick, however, so the staff is also short-handed.

  6. Tracey

    I’m going to call you out on your comment about gender studies. The reason why it’s important is because of comments like yours.

    To quote Joss Whedon:

    “ So, why do you write these strong female characters?

    Because you’re still asking me that question.”

    [Equality Now speech, May 15, 2006]”

    Maybe it’s not interesting to your child and that’s fine, but that does not negate its necessity or value. Inclusion and diversity are critical to the success of our world and the people who live it.

    You are excellent at separating the wheat from the chafe in nutrition studies and medical studies, thank you for that. But please don’t push the necessity of this subject as unworthy.


    A long time fan of yours who also greatly believes all people have value and worth.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I have two daughters I love dearly, and of course I want them to enter a workplace and a world where they are judged for their skills and talents, not by their gender. But that doesn’t mean the claptrap taught in many “gender studies” departments has any value at all, considering how loony and illogical much of of it is. That’s why I wrote this:

      Many of the word-vomit papers I’ve seen coming from gender-studies departments promote ideas that are objectively false … such as the notion that all differences in male and female behavior are the result of social conditioning by the evil patriarchy, as opposed to the known and profound effects of hormones on behavior. Any department that teaches its students to believe nonsense is a waste of time and money.

      If there’s a gender-studies department out there that rejects illogical and demonstrably false ideas and demands the same type of intellectual rigor that we expect from, say, a physics department, cool. I’d like to hear about it.

      1. Firebird7479

        The “Gender Studies” way of thinking that has made its way onto college campuses is what led to the Kavanaugh witch hunt and a story I read last year about a college student who was falsely charged with rape by a fellow student, and dragged through the mud because his date was embarrassed over a hickey.

      2. Craig

        I was forced to take two classes on gender (one from sociologist perspective and the other psychological). Both were crap and a complete waste unless you want women to feel like they are powerless victims to the ephemeral patriarchy. Basically teaches women to hate men or at least blame them for all of society’s ills.

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          Or as I put it, women choose gender studies as a major and are then taught to write papers explaining that it’s the patriarchy’s fault more women don’t major in engineering.

          My daughter is currently planning to major in engineering. She’ll be reducing the disparity instead of writing about it.

        2. cranky old lady

          I’m a now-retired college prof and had the misfortune to teach in a graduate education program. One of my best-remembered conversations was with a student bemoaning the fact that her boyfriend couldn’t get a job, even after looking for almost five years now (since graduation). I asked her what his major was, and she replied, “His undergrad was in women’s studies, and his graduate degree was in gender studies with an emphasis on radical feminism.”

          I just smiled politely and sympathized with her “having” to support him, but I was SO tempted to ask her what type of jobs he thought those degrees would qualify him for…. And to think he probably spent about $100K total for those two degrees at a local private college. Gawd, I hope he didn’t go on to get a doctorate!

          1. Tom Naughton Post author

            Who the @#$% chooses a major like that and expects it to lead to a job? The only organizations looking to hire people with degrees in gender studies are colleges.

            1. Craig

              In all fairness, any degree in the humanities is only useful to get a college teaching job. Someone once made the joke (as if giving a graduation speech): “Some have said you who graduated with Humanities degrees will never get jobs. Pshaw I say. So long as Humanities students, we will need humanities teachers.”

            2. Tom Naughton Post author

              That’s why intellectuals have historically sucked up to governments. Governments (including schools) will hire intellectuals, who don’t fare well in free market hiring.

            3. Bret

              Colleges are a self-licking ice cream cone. The number of worthless, mentally poisonous degrees like these seems to keep growing at a time when young college grads are desperate for middle class income.

              Plus, $80K+ in student loans is just a delight to carry around while unemployable, I’m sure.

              It is the most backwards thing in the universe, to the point where I’m wondering if I should steer my future teenagers completely away from college and towards the trades, as manning in those career fields keeps decreasing.

            4. Tom Naughton Post author

              I’m not a fan what’s happened to colleges either. Fortunately, my daughter is currently aiming for a degree in engineering, which is one of the degrees where the benefit outweighs the cost.

            5. Firebird7479

              Reminds me of Mel Brooks on the unemployment line in “History of the World, Pt. 1” — stand up philosopher.

    2. j

      Inclusion and diversity are critical to the success of our world and the people who live it?

      Soros, is that you?

    3. Bret

      Gender studies degrees are worthless. Gender studies degrees are worthless. Gender studies degrees are worthless. Gender studies degrees are worthless. Gender studies degrees are worthless. Gender studies degrees are worthless. Gender studies degrees are worthless. Gender studies degrees are worthless.

      Send your kids into that field if you want them to become fart sniffing communists who feast at the government teat while possessing no skills and knowing absolutely nothing, yet convinced they know everything.

      Most despicable human beings on the planet.

      1. Tom Naughton Post author

        Well, I wouldn’t go that far, but I’d say it’s a degree that won’t get you a job outside of academia.

  7. j

    I could be wrong but, instead of shutting down the economy:

    Wash hands often
    Wear a face mask
    Sneeze/cough into your arm/tissue
    Don’t touch your face
    Stay home if you’re sick, or elderly/immunocompromised

    Why isn’t that enough? Guess I’m no expert

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      At some point, that’s the approach we’ll have to adopt. We can’t keep the world economy shut down for months on end without creating a bigger disaster than what we’re trying to avoid. We don’t want to end up in a situation where the operation was a success, but the patient died.

      1. Morgana

        Nooooo, unnecessary deaths are a bigger disaster than the economy failing, and I think what you’re saying borders on irresponsible.

        I think a lot of people don’t want to see that the world may well need to change in ways that are bigger than an economy, and that things are in a state of HUGE flux right now whether we all ignore this and just go back to work or not. Let’s not be foolish about putting the economy above human outcomes. Lots of people are dying. LOTS.

        Some of the world’s most eminent and well-respected biologists on the planet right now are telling a much different story about this than what you seem to want to believe, and they aren’t being motivated by money or politics.

        “At some point” needs to be when the virus has decided that it doesn’t need to be so virulent, which could be months and months from now. By staying in now, we are allowing the virus to evolve to be less virulent – Remember, if the virus kills, it hasn’t completed it’s biological quest to reproduce into the future very efficiently, and viruses strive to be efficient. Today’s common cold is also a Corona virus, and was probably equally dangerous to this one at one time in human history.

        Are you willing to leave the house daily and go to a job, risking yourself, your loved ones, and your neighbors and co-workers? I’m not.

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          If the economy completely tanks, you’ll likely see more deaths from suicide, murder, people getting shot while committing crimes, drug and alcohol overdoses, etc., than you’ll see from the virus. That’s a human outcome.

          What on god’s green earth makes you think I’m motivated by money? I’m working from home — which I prefer — and my job isn’t in any danger.

          Yes, LOTS of people are dying, but we’re nowhere close to the 61,000 Americans who died from the influenza of 2017-2018. Did you stay home that year to avoid risking yourself, your loved ones and your neighbors, or did you go about your daily life? Should we have told everyone to stay home that year because unnecessary deaths are a bigger disaster than the economy failing?

          Based on the actual numbers I’ve seen so far, I’m not yet convinced this virus will kill more people than were killed by the influenza of 2017-2018 even if we all go back to our usual activities. I may become convinced as more data comes in, but in the meantime, I’m going to question what we’re told. That’s what I do.

          1. Galina Lebedev

            I guess the people who are at risk or feel that hey are at risk may isolate themselves. Why is it necessary to crash whole world economy?

            1. Tom Naughton Post author

              The theory is that those of us who feel safe and don’t isolate would spread the disease.

          2. Morgana

            My comment about the reputable scientists had nothing at all to do with you, and I was not implying that you are motivated by money. My comment was simply to state that people listening to journalists telling a story (again, not directed at you) are probably not getting a comprehensive and scientifically informed story on the virus itself. There are many reputable SCIENTISTS, some who have studied viruses in the human organism for many years, that are not telling a story based on economies, and no one is going to see them on CNN, Fox, or any of the other mainstream channels, because reputable science doesn’t put a spin on a story. They are talking about what new viruses can do to a human population. It is absolutely as devastating as we have been told. One need only look to Guayaquil, Ecuador to see the devastation this has already brought to many communities. Their death toll has so overwhelmed their ability to deal with bodies, that the streets are lined with those who have succumbed.

            “Yes, LOTS of people are dying, but we’re nowhere close to the 61,000 Americans who died from the influenza of 2017-2018. Did you stay home that year to avoid risking yourself, your loved ones and your neighbors, or did you go about your daily life?”

            No, but most of us have had the flu before, and have at least some immunity to new strains. The strains of flu we are experiencing now have been evolving among humans for quite some time. Yes, more virulent strains of flu exist, but current susceptibility to any of this may indeed have to do with the state of our health in this country. To NOT try and prevent the spread of a new and untested virus is mind-blowing. Simple “good hygiene” seems to be insufficient in a virus with such a high rate of spread as that of our current pandemic.

            There is also the issue of the flu vaccine, who so many get faithfully each year under the mistaken belief that it will somehow save them from the flu or suppress the spread, neither of which seem to be true. I believe the flu is sometimes more devastating now because more people believe themselves safe and behave in a far more careless way.

            Do you somehow imagine that with the levels of income inequality we are suffering in this country now that this won’t happen eventually anyhow? This pandemic may well be the current catalyst, but what is happening in our economy has been happening for a long time, and will continue to happen. With or without pandemic, our economy is unsustainable for most Americans.

            What part of the economy are we afraid will tank?

            What is clear here is that our food and supply chains have been slowly taken over by huge corporate interests. I’m not as worried about them tanking as I am the small farmer, who will likely be taken over by corporate food. Our government sees no value in saving them, whether we are in a state of pandemic or not. Small cooperatives of milk farmers were told last week to dump their holdings, as the system has been over-engineered to serve institutions and huge supply chains, instead of making it an easy conversion to local supplying of those things, where farmers could make milk available for those in a local market. I am hoping some of these supply-chain scares will inspire more people to support food at a more local level. No one with a lick of sense in their heads would argue that buying locally is a good idea where and when possible. It’s healthier for people, better for local economies, and there is less danger of supply-chain burps in times like these.

            Clearly the problem is bigger than economic strain from pandemic. This is just one of many circumstances that could cripple our country because of a centralized, corporatized food supply, as we are seeing with so many other aspects of our supply chain.

            I see several reasons why this pandemic is indeed “convenient” for even more corporate takeover of our food and supply chains, but this is by no means a new idea for them. I, for one, don’t relish the though that any of my family members will go on in a “saved” economy without the loved ones who are lost due to carelessness and indifference to well-informed advice.

            Like anyone pontificating on a disaster, it’s not personal to you until it happens in your personal sphere of loved ones and special people. While my heart will break for anyone suffering a loss, with this pandemic or for any other reason, you may well be singing a different tune if you lose family members dear to you from this virus.

            1. Tom Naughton Post author

              I am, of course, completely in favor of supporting small and local farmers over giant food corporations. As you know, I’ve been sounding the alarm about the influence Big Food (especially Big Grain) exerts not just on our food supply, but on our dietary recommendations as well.

              I still have my doubts that this virus will kill hundreds of thousands of Americans, considering that the latest data I saw showed that something like 80% of those who test positive have no symptoms or very mild symptoms. For those who are vulnerable, it is of course a disaster. We won’t know the full impact until we add up this year’s flu deaths and Covid-19 deaths. If they exceed the totals from the 2017-2018 flu, we’ll know this was an exceptionally bad year.

              By the way, many if not most of us have had previous exposure to coronaviruses as well, too, which is probably why so many people are showing no symptoms or mild symptoms:


              The part of the economy I’m afraid will tank? Almost all of it. This isn’t about the corporate food supply chain. In fact, since people are still buying and eating food, Big Food is the least likely to be affected. But think of all the people out of work now. People who work in restaurants, bars, gyms, night clubs, theme parks, music studios, film and TV production companies, etc., etc. Construction sites have shut down. Hospitals and doctors offices are laying people off. The woman who runs the studio where Chareva takes aerial silks classes has no income while this is going on.

              If the social-distancing orders go on for months and months, thousands and thousands of businesses that require working alongside others or contact with the public will fail. That will be a disaster. A failed business can’t necessarily just be spun up again when social-distancing ends. If you want to see real income inequality, just wait until a social-distancing-induced depression sets in.

              So this may come down to deciding which disaster we’re willing to endure.

        2. Bret

          My patience is completely exhausted with ignorant cliches like “Stop worrying about da ekonomee…people are dying!”

          If the economy goes down the toilet, EVERYBODY is screwed. Goods and services and entire industries will seize up due to a lack of trade circulation, AND THAT INCLUDES FOOD, UTILITIES, REPAIR WORK, HEALTH CARE, CONSTRUCTION, FINANCE, YOU NAME IT.

          The economy does not just mean the Apple Store and Hollywood and profits for Wall Street. Every single person in the entire country depends on it for our system and way of life to function.

          Good grief, I can hardly believe people capable of typing proper English can produce such ignorant opinions. What in the world did these people’s parents and teachers fill their heads with during their formative years?

  8. Bill Robinson

    This worldwide exercise serves to show
    how easily the population can be manipulated.

    1. Georgene Harkness

      THIS! And the crazy thing is: it happened SO fast, and with such little effort. We gave in so quickly and with so little resistance. (I guess that’s what you do when you want your family to live, and it appeared to be the stakes.). I am not convinced, but like everybody else, I don’t want to take a stupid chance.)

      Now, I’m not dumb enough to think that it was all started as a political trick on Americans, because of the worldwide spread, but the thought comes to mind: “never let a serious crisis go to waste.” (That was Rahm Emanuel)

      And I think that has what happened.

      1. Tom Naughton Post author

        Agreed. Look what happened with the stimulus bill. Congress tried to turn it into an excuse to spend money on all kinds of @#$% they wouldn’t normally get away with.

  9. Jean

    Thank you for taking the time to put together all these references. I am quite sure that you are correct and that we are ruining the economy of the world and the futures of our children for something that is all about panic and the careers of our politicians.
    Of course it is tragic on a personal level but we have to consider the wider effects and many more lives may well be lost to direct consequences of ‘the cure’.
    I continue to self isolate because to do anything else would distress too many people I am very fond of, but I worry for their future. I’ve had my three score years and ten so, while fit and healthy and expecting to be around a few more year yet I will probably not live to see what this will have done in the long term.

  10. Kla9107

    I have my own cognitive dissonance, head-spinning, about information/counter-information about testing efficacy, cos/value of, practicality, etc. that I am still trying to understand… but,

    I also like to do a thought experiment. Rather than debate the mortality and morbidity of SARS-cov2, assume “the invisible enemy” is very deadly. Bodies stacking up. Or, what if it primarily killed children and 25-35 year-olds? How would the US/global response have differed? Would the CDC have been more eager to get private labs involved sooner, would FDA relax hurdles proactively, would medical staff have rationed and found ways to “reuse” PPE before the cupboard was bare? These and many other supply chain and messaging questions. Would people still be gathering in large numbers, and flying for vacation?

    I hope this current virus problem can be addressed relatively quickLy. And, I hope that the crisis intervention humans learn and adjust from this lesson. Or we will see it again. It would interesting to know what hospitals and medical personnel changed as a result of the 2018-19 flu season? Anything? The CDC estimated 61,000 deaths that season.

    Tom, I mostly agree with your thoughts, thoroughly enjoy your humor, and always appreciate the effort you put into into your posts. Thank you.

    1. Georgene Harkness

      Looks like to me that in order to answer your thought experiment, we should be able to look back at the epidemics of the recent previous years. Yes, some were serious but not to the point of people staying home en masse from work, not traveling, etc. (I have no idea, though, whether they targeted younger people – I bet, though, if the panic had risen to the level of Covid-19, I have the answer to that in a flash – at the tip of my tongue because I would have heard about it ad nauseum for weeks on end..)

      As it is, I had to be reminded that there actually WERE these problems in recent years.

      Honestly, I definitely could be wrong, but I think we’ve been had.

      1. Tom Naughton Post author

        I suspect if the influenza deaths (61,000 in America alone) in 2017-2018 had been reported every night on every news channel, with the numbers growing day by day, we would have seem a similar panic. When I was a journalism major, one of the concepts were were taught was the agenda-setting power of the national news. National newscasts deeply influence what we think is important, what we’re afraid of, what we talk about, etc. The opposite is (or at least was back then) also true: if it’s not on the national news, most people will be unaware of it. Despite 61,000 influenza deaths in 2017-2018, I’d wager most people were unaware of the numbers.


          I am pretty sure most people didn’t know that! Nobody told Americans that so many were dying of the influenza….so it “didn’t happen!”

          Actually the only reason I knew that was I looked up the stats to encourage people to get their seasonal flu shots. I always do. And when I post about it, I get a bunch of push-back from idiots and antivaxxers (sorry for the redundancy.)

          I wonder how long it will be before people simply don’t comply. At this point, public shaming appears to be working…but that can’t last forever. I suspect it’ll last long enough for the stimulus money to run out, and then, who knows? As for us, we’ll behave because we have no legitimate reason not to, and some good reasons to comply. But….we’re very lucky that at least so far it’s not a hardship on us.

  11. Mimi

    Thanks for your blog. I’ve been watching the numbers, and am baffled as to why anyone thinks these miniscule numbers of deaths are significant on a global scale. Also, it looks like most (nearly all?) patients who die could have their deaths attributed to something other than COVID – the fact that they die infected with COVID doesn’t necessarily make it the proximate cause of death. This doctor in the UK says the same in a really great op-ed:

    It really seems that lots of folks are heavily invested in this as a crisis. I’m not seeing any good reporting on the Oxford study that suggests that a third of Britons have already had COVID, or Neil Ferguson’s substantial revision of his predictions in the Imperial College Study, or acknowledgement that by shutting down the world, we have expressly placed the availability of ventilators above any and all other concerns. Or the outcomes of intubation/ventilation in the over-65 demographic. (A third die in the hospital. Only 19% of people over 80 ever go home again.) Or any concern about authoritarian measures imposed by fiat on a supposedly freedom-loving populace. Keep on posting!

  12. Firebird7479

    “But it’s not the flu! It’s not a car accident! @$$hole” ~ A. Catastrophizer

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      The articles I linked were published in 2018. I’ll update the one reference to the flu season to add 2017-2018.

      1. Kla9107

        Sorry, I meant, my reference in my post is incorrect — not yours. Noticed right after I hit send.

  13. Firebird7479

    What troubles me is the number of low carb and keto doctors on my Twitter feed who are in lock step with the official narrative. I have posted many articles and videos on how the Chinese and other Asian countries are treating Covid19 patients with Vitamin C via IV and now doctors in NYC hospitals are following suit. NONE of them have responded, retweeted. None. Total ignorance. I won’t name names but it I they have let me down.

    Meanwhile in New Zealand

      1. Firebird7479

        Are you sick enough to be in the hospital where you’d need an IV? If not then you are fine.

        1. JillOz

          Nope not at all.Controlling my normal condition reasonably ok assuming some idiot doesn’t cough on me.

          I didn’t realise the IV treatment applied to hospital patients.
          Thank you 🙂

          1. Firebird7479

            Yep, Hospital only although some doctors in hospitals are having success with Vitamin C orally.

    1. JillOz

      Hey, Dr Perlmutter mentioned antibody testing in his broadcast.

      Tom, check out his FB page, Dr Perlmutter has broadcast daily videos re COVID19 and is up to 26 I believe.
      I have only seen a couple but it’s quite fascinating and he refers to up to the minute findings.

  14. Patrick T Peterson

    “We got a good chuckle from one college that thought it would entice her by bragging about its gender studies department. Suuuure, there’s a degree worth investing in.”

    What a great line!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. Alabaster

    We depleted our PPE stockpiles sending aid to China and those stocks were never replenished. We have medical staff wearing trash bags and are piling bodies in freezer trucks. The rosiest forecast I’ve seen has 81,000+ dead.

    How is that not news worthy?! It’s outrageous we had months to prepare and mitigate this disaster but we didn’t. Instead we get fake news, Dem Hoax nothing to see here while those criminals are getting the intel and selling off their stocks.

    “In the U.S. so far, there are currently 1,470 covid-19 deaths, which translates to about one death for every 222,448 people.” And this was outdated the same day you published this–we’re up over 2,000 but that doesn’t include today’s dead. Fauci estimates 100,000 – 200,000 Americans are going to die (millions will be infected).

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Let’s all hope he’s very wrong. I see he offered this caveat to the prediction:

      Fauci cautioned that these estimates are based on models and a model is only as accurate as the assumptions that go into building it.

  16. Andy

    If you want a really good rational examination of the facts that are being ignored by the medical experts and the mainstream media you really need to go to the Bill Sardi page on the Lew Rockwell site and read up:

    For example, in this article he looks at TUBERCULOSIS as a complicating factor and the main cause of death in the covid-19 virus epidemic and proposes two mechanisms that are causing the tuberculosis: “There are two symptoms of interest that pertain to COVID-19:

    1st symptom
    Drugs used in the hospital to treat infectious lung diseases and

    2nd symptom
    Crackle sounds in the lungs that are not specific for any particular infectious disease but are widely associated with Vitamin B1 deficiency.”

    1. Firebird7479

      One of the cocktails being used in China is a VItamin C I.V. in high doses which is accompanied with thiamine, B-1.

  17. Robbo

    Is thinly populated; has only one metropolis, and only two other sizeable cities; is inhabited by Swedes who are naturally socialy distant, hygenic, fitness fanatics who take the sun at every opportunity, and generally follow the rules.
    More like flyover country than Manhatten.
    It will be very interesting to see what transpires, especially comparing locked-down Norway with not-panicking Sweden.

    1. Firebird7479

      Malmö is across the Öresund strait from Copenhagen, Denmark. Plenty of commuting between those two cities via the Öresund Bridge. That’s another 800,000 people to tack on to the 1 million people in the Malmö metropolitan area.

  18. Anonymous

    I don’t recall in 2018 Illinois putting out a call for all health care professionals, including dentists, and podiatrists, to contact a central number to find out how they can help with the load.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Two different issues. If you’ve had the virus and recovered, you won’t test positive using the current tests. But apparently some people can become re-infected, so of course they’ll test positive.

  19. Steve Rhodes

    I know that you read and his latest posting is worth checking out.

    Here in the UK we have a body called NICE that decides whether a drug or treatment is cost effective before the NHS will provide it.

    To do this they apply a QALY (Quality Adjusted Life Year) assessment on the basis of 1 QALY = £30,000 i.e. one extra year of a full ‘life’ lived is worth spending £30,000 of taxpayers money to achieve.

    The Chancellor of the Exchequer here has decided to set aside £350million to support the UK economy because of the measures the Government is putting in place to ‘control’ the SARS-Cov2 virus.

    On one estimate of QALY lives ‘saved’ the cost per QALY is a third of a million £ and his estimates don’t cover all the likely costs that will be incurred by following this policy.

  20. Lee Jackson

    Tom, thanks for all the stats and logical thinking about this overblown tragedy. In a report out of Italy, where they’ve had such a high COVID-19 fatality rate, it suggests they are artificially inflating their counts to include anyone who dies and tested positive, is attributed to the virus.

    According to Prof Walter Ricciardi, scientific adviser to Italy’s minister of health, the country’s mortality rate is far higher due to demographics – the nation has the second oldest population worldwide – and the manner in which hospitals record deaths.
    Prof Ricciardi added that Italy’s death rate may also appear high because of how doctors record fatalities.
    “The way in which we code deaths in our country is very generous in the sense that all the people who die in hospitals with the coronavirus are deemed to be dying of the coronavirus.

    *Translation – if you were dying of cancer or heart disease, but you also tested positive for coronavirus, your death is counted as COVID-19, not cancer, etc.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Yup, I’m not surprised. Same thing happened during the AIDS crisis. In some countries, anyone who died of any illness was recorded as an AIDS death.

  21. K2

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for the great post. Your comments are so spot on. It has been a few days since you wrote this, and I think news of the antibody test is more widely known now. I think it will be a game changer. Once millions more people are tested and shown to have the antibodies, the relative number (percentage) of deaths will plummet. I’ve tried to tell people that from before the shutdown, but everyone looked at me as being Polly-Anna-ish.

    Re Chareva’s relative’s comment: This week I”ve been home and listening to local Maryland conservative talk radio a lot. A respiratory therapist – someone on the “front lines” of this “crisis” – said his area and that of his RT friends has not been overwhelmed in the least. In fact when asked by the host how many covid-19 patients he had intubated, he answered, “Two.” Two! He also said the same thing about an odd flu-like disease showing up in ERs in November, testing negative to the expected flu strains. He suggested the same thing that this flu has been around for months. Most of us probably have the antibodies at this point.

    Anyone else notice how oddly fast the exact right size and number of plexiglass shields were available and were installed at all grocery stores, literally around the world? How was that possible? And the printed stickers on the floors about staying 6 feet apart. Again, how is that possible? It was like this was pre-planned. Not trying to be conspiracy-theorist or anything, but those two events seem to really not fit.

    The above is especially puzzling how quickly the stores got both of those, and we still can’t get toilet paper or paper towels. That completely baffles me.

    I highly recommend Sky News Australia, which you can see clips of on You Tube. They are very conservative and calling out how badly this shutdown will impact the global economy, not to mention how we just handed over our rights, won by the blood of our ancestors, at the treat of the flu.

    Wishing you and your family continued wellness. Best of luck to Sarah as she prepares for college!


    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Best of luck to you and yours as well. After I wrote the post, I found out a co-worker also had what appeared to be a nasty flu with respiratory problems back in November. It was bad enough that she had someone drive her to the emergency room. Tests for all the normal flu strains came back negative, and the doctor admitted they couldn’t figure out what she had, except to say it appeared to be a nasty, unknown virus.

      Of course, it could have been something else, but I hope for everyone’s sake the coronavirus went around much sooner than we think and that many of us have already been exposed without any major symptoms.

      1. Walter

        Apparently few people who die outside hospitals are usually untested and the Washington Post article above makes a case that the number the number of cases of death by the virus is underreported.

        The number of deaths is a lagging indicator, some people have been on ventilators for 30 days and other long periods with poor prognosis. The number of cases an infected person infects is still above 1 in NYC (the epicenter in the US) so far, and exponential growth is very counterintitiive.

        The situation is chaotic. Nobody knows nothing, its ideas based on assumptions and statistics rumors, and raw data.;

        That said; We are going to have to relax the restrictions before its totally medically safe.

  22. Bret

    Tom, thank you for allowing my knee-jerk & inflammatory political indulgences earlier (just can’t help myself). On to your post:

    Fantastic work as usual, good sir. The “strange pneumonia” in November is too coincidental, and timed too perfectly. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I am convinced that was COVID-19. The only thing that will convince me otherwise is if our fatality rates explode from here. And even with hospitals and state/local politicians fraudulently inflating COVID deaths to get more funding, I doubt we’re going to see that explosion.

    Back in late December/early January, I got a nasty flu-like cold. Knocked me on my rear and I felt like crap for a good 2-3 days. Then had a mild cough/sneeze that lingered for another couple of weeks, and a nasal drip (sorry tmi) that lasted (though tapering) for another couple of months. I work at an airline and travel every single week.

    I’m pretty damned sure I had COVID-19. Like you said, it cannot be proven. But I’m as sure as I can be in the absence of proof, for whatever that is worth.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I had a cold in late November which quickly moved into my chest. Most of the symptoms (fever, nasal drip, etc.) disappeared in a few days, but the cough stuck around for weeks. If I took a deep breath, it triggered a coughing fit. Could have just been a cold, of course. But the way that cough stuck around for weeks, I can’t help but wonder.

      1. Craig

        Exactly what happened to me in January. I got flu like symptoms that went away after a week but a cough that wouldn’t leave for 3 more weeks. I coughed so hard my back and head hurt. Same thing happened to a few others I know. Seems to me lots of us got covid before we even knew it was happening.

    2. Bret

      Just one more rant and then I’ll shut up for a while.

      I cannot remember the last time I was so frustrated with the real pandemic, which is economic ignorance.

      Trying to even have the conversation with people about balancing the (potential) threat of the virus and the (undeniable) threat of a long-term economic shutdown I have found is an impossibility in many circles. People are totally committed to their damn emotions, have very little basic comprehension of how jobs and industries and possessions and economies intertwine, and appear totally willing to let politicians — the least capable demographic in the world, and with the worst track record — do all their thinking for them.

      Suggest it would be better to send people back to work while practicing social distancing protocols and good hygiene than prolong the inevitable with a pseudo shelter-in-place, and they act like you just said the earth is flat.

      STUPID FREAKING PEOPLE are the real threat to our long term health. They will trot right into totalitarianism and slavery if the rest of the herd does it.

      1. Tom Naughton Post author

        I suspect it’s because we haven’t had a true economic depression since the 1930s. A lot of people seem to think the threat to the economy simply boils down to “some businesses will make less money for a while.” They don’t fully grasp what the country will look like of hundreds of thousands of businesses go belly-up.

  23. Bong Kim

    Covid-19 is more contagious than flu. Even asymptomatic patients spread the virus unlike flu. That’s why it is more dangerous than flu. Without any regulations 🙂 it overwhelms hospitals easily as you see now. Covid-19 is new thus there’s no vaccine or treatment yet. Wear a mask in public because you can spread the virus even though you don’t believe you’re infected. It also protects you. Any masks help if N95 masks are hard to get. Keep social distance, and wash hands frequently. Stay healthy.

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