Here’s how bizarre BizarroWorld has become: in some California counties, you can be fined $1,000 for being out in public without wearing a mask. In Michigan, the governor decided seeds and hardware supplies are non-essential and people can’t go out to buy them … but alcohol and lottery tickets are essential, so it’s okay to go buy those. Meanwhile, people all over the nation are calling the police to rat out fellow citizens who fail to observe mandated social distancing. Sig Heil.
This is nuts. People are acting as if the coronavirus is airborne HIV or the Super Flu from the Stephen King novel The Stand. By gosh, if someone doesn’t properly social distance himself, he’ll spread the disease to all of us and we’ll all die. Honey, that man is playing basketball in a public park with his friends! Call the police before he kills us all!
The insanity is continuing even though the death toll is a mere fraction of what various governments and experts predicted. Dr. Fauci, the head of the coronavirus task force, initially suggested COVID-19 could kill as many as 240,000 Americans. Now he’s downgraded that prediction to 60,000. As I write this post, the reported number of deaths in the U.S. is around 33,000. Yes, that’s a lot of deaths. But keep in mind, the CDC estimates at least 60,000 and perhaps 80,000 Americans died from influenza during the 2017-2018 flu season.
And there’s a good chance the number of COVID-19 deaths has been exaggerated. Here’s a quote from a Fox News article:
The federal government is classifying the deaths of patients infected with the coronavirus as COVID-19 deaths, regardless of any underlying health issues that could have contributed to the loss of someone’s life.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the response coordinator for the White House coronavirus task force, said the federal government is continuing to count the suspected COVID-19 deaths, despite other nations doing the opposite.
“There are other countries that if you had a pre-existing condition, and let’s say the virus caused you to go to the ICU [intensive care unit] and then have a heart or kidney problem,” she said during a Tuesday news briefing at the White House. “Some countries are recording that as a heart issue or a kidney issue and not a COVID-19 death.
“The intent is … if someone dies with COVID-19 we are counting that,” she added.
A Minnesota senator who also happens to be a doctor reported that he received a seven-page document from the MN Department of Health advising him to fill out death certificates with a diagnosis of COVID-19 whether the person actually died from COVID-19 or not. It’s almost as if governments are so heavily invested in convincing us the coronavirus is especially deadly, they’ll fudge the numbers if necessary.
It’s not just the death toll that’s been far lower than originally predicted. The number of hospital beds, ventilators, etc., we were told we’d need was way off as well. New York, which originally said it was desperately short of the ventilators it would need, is now apparently shipping excess ventilators to other states.
Well, that just proves social distancing worked!
Uh … no. Here’s a quote from an article in National Review:
There is no shortage of government spin, regurgitated by media commentators, assuring us that the drastic reductions in the projections over just a few days powerfully illustrate how well social distancing and the substantial shuttering of the economy is working. Nonsense. As Alex Berenson points out on Twitter, with an accompanying screenshot data updated by IHME on April 1, the original April 2 model explicitly “assum[ed] full social distancing through May 2020.”
The model on which the government is relying is simply unreliable. It is not that social distancing has changed the equation; it is that the equation’s fundamental assumptions are so dead wrong, they cannot remain reasonably stable for just 72 hours.
It simply doesn’t make sense that the drastically reduced death toll is all because of social distancing. Let’s not forget what flattening the curve means. Better yet, let’s start by explaining what the theory behind social distancing doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean “we avoid contact with each other, and therefore most people are never exposed to the virus, and far fewer people die.”
The virus is going to spread through population eventually. Social distancing was mandated to slow down the rate at which it would spread. The fear was that if too many people became sick within a short span, there wouldn’t be enough hospital beds and ventilators to save people who could be saved with medical intervention. Flatten the curve means we slow down the rate of exposure so the medical system isn’t overwhelmed. That’s all it means. Dr. Malcolm Kendrick made that point in a recent post.
It may well seem that all this suffering was…well, for what, exactly? To simply prevent a surge of cases. This government, all governments, must be honest about this and admit that in the longer term we cannot prevent almost everybody getting infected and acknowledge that a proportion of those infected will die.
When lockdown restrictions are lifted this does not mean that the virus has gone. It does not mean that people cannot infect each other. It does not mean we can simply carry on as before. It means that we have kept the first surge under control.
The big social-distancing lockdown was never about stopping the spread the of virus. That’s not possible. So unless you believe more than 100,000 Americans were saved from death because medical intervention was available thanks to social distancing, the logical conclusion is that the lethality of the virus was wildly overestimated.
So how deadly is the virus? We still don’t know exactly, because we don’t know how many people have been exposed to it. We won’t know until antibody tests are available and given to large, random samples of the population in different areas. But there’s growing evidence that the virus has already spread more than government officials first believed. Here’s a quote from Chicago City Wire:
A phlebotomist working at Roseland Community Hospital said Thursday that 30% to 50% of patients tested for the coronavirus have antibodies while only around 10% to 20% of those tested have the active virus.
Sumaya Owaynat, a phlebotomy technician, said she tests between 400 and 600 patients on an average day in the parking lot at Roseland Community Hospital. Owaynat said the number of patients coming through the testing center who appear to have already had coronavirus and gotten over it is far greater than those who currently have the disease.
Here are some quotes from an article in The Los Angeles Times:
A man found dead in his house in early March. A woman who fell sick in mid-February and later died.
These early COVID-19 deaths in the San Francisco Bay Area suggest that the novel coronavirus had established itself in the community long before health officials started looking for it. The lag time has had dire consequences, allowing the virus to spread unchecked before social distancing rules went into effect.
I disagree with that last sentence. The virus is going to spread. Social distancing only slows down the spread. So if San Francisco’s hospitals weren’t overwhelmed, it’s good news that the virus has already spread more than officials estimated. More on that later. Back to the article:
“The virus was freewheeling in our community and probably has been here for quite some time,” Dr. Jeff Smith, a physician who is the chief executive of Santa Clara County government, told county leaders in a recent briefing.
How long? A study out of Stanford suggests a dramatic viral surge in February.
But Smith on Friday said data collected by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, local health departments and others suggest it was “a lot longer than we first believed” — most likely since “back in December.”
“This wasn’t recognized because we were having a severe flu season,” Smith said in an interview. “Symptoms are very much like the flu. If you got a mild case of COVID, you didn’t really notice. You didn’t even go to the doctor. The doctor maybe didn’t even do it because they presumed it was the flu.”
The virus that has people ratting out fellow citizens for playing basketball in a park is sooo freakin’ deadly, by gosh, millions of people may have already been exposed and failed to notice.
Even the CDC’s own data suggests coronavirus was here far earlier than we thought:
CDC Data supports theory of much earlier COVID infection than has been reported. Data shows a dramatic spike in “Influenza Like Illness” in certain states as early as November of 2019. A number of states appear to have already experienced an ILI and made it through to a more stable ILI footing for this time of year.
The US Military participated in the 2019 Military World Games in Wuhan, China between October 18 and October 27 of 2019. Their chartered flights arrive and depart from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Washington is one of the earliest states to show a spike in ILI, corresponding with the incubation period should the virus have been introduced as the military traveled through Washington to other destinations.
If the virus has been around longer than officials originally believed, and if tests eventually show far more of us have been exposed than originally believed, that’s very, very good news. Two infectious disease researchers I saw interviewed in YouTube videos both made the same point: a virus like this spreads until it runs out of new, vulnerable hosts. If millions of us have already been exposed, the virus is running out of those hosts. One of the researchers, in fact, said that social distancing may just ensure a second wave of deaths, because new hosts are being held in reserve.
An article in The Economist quotes researchers who believe the virus is about as deadly as the flu:
Despite initially being warned about deaths in the “millions” if Americans didn’t subject themselves to business killing closures and “social distancing,” the coronavirus, while it has spread faster than normal viruses do has actually been less deadly, according to the Economist, citing a new study.
Last Saturday, the Economist said that it is actually somewhat of a blessing that the coronavirus’ spread across the United States as it did, in fact calling it “good news.”
“If millions of people were infected weeks ago without dying, the virus must be less deadly than official data suggest,” the magazine reported, while utilizing graphs that suggest the faster the disease spreads and hits its peak, in fact the fewer people that will die from it.
Citing a new study by Justin Silverman and Alex Washburne, the Economist says that data shows the coronavirus is currently widespread in America, which is quite obvious.
In a somewhat surprising conclusion, the two researchers found that the mortality rate of coronavirus could be as low as 0.1 percent, or similar to the mortality rate of the flu.
Okay, any mortality figure is a best-guess until we really and truly know how many people have already been exposed. But considering how many people have tested positive and never felt sick (ABC’s George Stephanopoulos being a recent example), I find it difficult to believe that this virus is soooo deadly, we all have to avoid each other and kill the economy in the process.
Yes, the virus is deadly for a small subset of vulnerable people. The vast majority of us aren’t in that subset. As this study put it:
People <65 years old have very small risks of COVID-19 death even in the hotbeds of the pandemic and deaths for people <65 years without underlying predisposing conditions are remarkably uncommon. Strategies focusing specifically on protecting high-risk elderly individuals should be considered in managing the pandemic.
Most of the people who’ve died from COVID-19 died were elderly and had existing health problems. I suspect many of them would have died from ordinary influenza if COVID-19 hadn’t gotten them first. After all, influenza kills more than 30,000 Americans in a typical year, and (at the risk of repeating myself) killed perhaps 80,000 Americans in 2017-2018. If the death toll from that flu had been the lead story every night on the news, people would have been just as scared.
I think it’s time we start operating on what Lierre Keith called adult knowledge in her wonderful book The Vegetarian Myth. She was referring to vegans who want to believe nothing dies to put food on their plates. Adult knowledge of how food is grown and harvested says otherwise. As adults, we simply have to accept that things aren’t always as nice and pretty as we’d like.
Adult knowledge says the coronavirus will spread … and the most social distancing can do is slow the spread. Adult knowledge says the virus will kill people – just like the flu kills people — whether we shut down the economy or not. Adult knowledge says we’re not going to save millions of lives by sheltering at home for months on end – but we will bankrupt thousands of businesses and put millions of people in debt.
I agree with Dr. Malcolm Kendrick:
So, what is the exit strategy? The answer is that we don’t have one. We have a strategy of delay and mitigation which will continue until… when? Until everyone has been infected? Until we have an effective treatment? Until we have an effective vaccine? Until enough people have been infected that we have achieved herd immunity?
The Government must tell us the truth and be clear about what end point they are seeking to achieve. Only then can we have an exit strategy. One thing for sure is that this lockdown is not a way to defeat the virus.
BizarroWorld has been kind to me. I’m still employed, my expenses have gone down, I get to spend more time with my daughters because they’re not in school, and I get to work from home every day, which I prefer. But we need to leave BizarroWorld behind.
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