I spent seven weeks in rehab. On the day of my discharge during the second week of March, the administration of the facility called a group meeting of all residents who were not bedbound, to tell them about this year’s viral disease and the lockdown the administration had imposed. Idiotically enough, despite their fear of transmission of a respiratory disease, the administration planned to assemble in one room a dense crowd of at least fifty predominantly elderly people, many of whom already had chronic wet coughs and/or shortness of breath.
I did not attend.
The hysteria over the latest head-and-chest cold to come out of China began shortly before I was about to leave the rehab facility. I had studied epidemiology when I was earning my Bachelor’s degree in Health Education & Community Health, and right away I knew what was wrong with the picture that governments and their “experts” were painting:
The “pandemic” panic is based on incidence (the number of new cases), but incidence means nothing if prevalence (the TOTAL number of cases) is unknown.
Prevalence is found in knowing the number of people in a population who have antibodies to a disease, an indicator of how widespread the disease is. These are the people who “caught” it and recovered, whether or not they ever felt ill. At any particular point in time, prevalence (“old” cases) is a larger number than incidence. Combining the number of old cases with the number of new cases yields the total exposure of a population to a disease.
Much of the terror associated with this virus has to do with what the fatality rate is perceived to be. In the calculation of the mortality associated with a disease, the number of ALL people who have ever had the disease is what should be used as the denominator, with the number of dead in the numerator.
Unfortunately, this is not what the “experts” are doing. They are dividing the number of deaths only by the incidence – the number of new cases. Moreover, even the incidence that they’re reporting is an artificially small number, because only the people who are experiencing sufficiently severe symptoms are coming to be tested for live virus. This is a self-selection bias that leaves out a vast, unknown number of people who also feel sick, but are coping well on their own. The resulting “fatality rate” that is being publicized is far too large, and therefore, wildly inaccurate. This kind of miscalculation is calculated to elicit panic.
A panicky populace desperately looks for protection, and is willing to do whatever someone who appears to be an authority figure will tell it to do. This is what has happened with the economic and social shutdowns that were decreed by authority figures who made their commands on the basis of claims that the rapid growth of active new cases being identified and the number of deaths meant that this virus is horrifically deadly.
Such is not the case. A preliminary antibody test study in California has shown that for every person with a positive test for live virus, there can be approximately 50 to 85 other people who have antibodies to the virus, but no live virus in their bodies: evidence of a past infection that has been overcome. These people may have experienced only routine common head cold or chest cold symptoms, or they may have had no symptoms at all. Multiplying the incidence (people who test positive for live virus) by 50 or 85 yields a large number which when divided into the number of deaths, significantly reduces the mortality rate associated with the virus. Data from antibody tests done elsewhere in the world also support the finding that exposure to this virus has been silently widespread for much longer than estimated, and that far fewer people are likely to die because of the virus, than is feared to be the case.
Sad to say, but it appears that the “experts” are fully aware of this, because they have begun adding to the number of the dead cases of “presumed” virus fatalities (the deaths of people who had respiratory illness symptoms, but were not tested for the presence of the virus in their bodies). This smacks of desperation to keep the body count as high as possible, in the face of the coming disclosure that the true fatality rate is much smaller than reported, exposing their falsified forecasting. Having already lied once with statistics, the “experts” have the brass neck to further artificially inflate the death rate numbers they’re using, keeping people in thrall to their doomsday predictions.
But even the most loudly screaming fear mongers acknowledge that 99.9% of people who contract an infection with this virus are not likely to die because of it, but will manifest only mild symptoms, if any. This is “business as usual” for common cold viruses: only those who are elderly, or who have lung damage caused by smoking, or who are also afflicted with other health problems, or who have weak immune systems, are subject to death (usually from pneumonia) after catching a head and/or chest cold. (Incidentally, the same holds true for influenza: most flu-related deaths are due to pneumonia.) Great ado is made in the media about the virus-associated demise of anyone under the age of 65, but those deaths are exceptionally few (and a thorough autopsy would likely turn up a predisposing other health issue).
Common cold viruses always sweep the world in pandemic proportions, because they’re highly contagious: millions of people catch colds every winter, but relatively few subsequently succumb to an opportunistic pneumonia infection afterwards. It always makes sense for the elderly and vulnerable people of any age to take precautions to avoid exposure during the cold-and-flu season, and for people who come into contact with them to be considerate enough to practice scrupulous hand-washing and to wear a mask.
But never before has it been thought necessary to shut in the entire population of Earth and shut down world trade and travel because of a common cold virus. (Nobody has ever suggested doing so for the seasonal flu, either.) Doing so now has potentially severe consequences for economic viability, as well as an elevated risk of morbidity and mortality from physical neglect and psychological strain.
Nor has it ever been thought necessary to develop a vaccine for common cold viruses, because of their ability to frequently mutate. It has always been sufficient to allow herd immunity to spread among the population at large, to limit the virulence of any particular year’s respiratory virus. To delay the release of quarantined billions of people and the resumption of normal economic activity pending the development of a vaccine that is not likely to have much efficacy or to be effective for very long (the annual flu vaccine is admitted to be only 40 to 60 percent effective), is to guarantee poor personal, political and financial outcomes worldwide.
The very nature of the universal “social distancing” and “shelter in place” tactics that have been enforced will be ineffective for reducing the total morbidity and mortality associated with this year’s virus. In fact, the whole “flatten the curve” strategy will only lengthen the course of the current wave of infection, by postponing the inevitable growth in the numbers of the ill and the dead, preventing herd immunity by preserving a large reservoir of never-exposed people, and making a self-fulfilling prophecy of the warning by the “experts” of a second wave of infections in the autumn. But even if that were to happen, it’s highly unlikely that all 51,121,200 elderly residents of the United States would die.
Observations have been made that viral outbreak “hot spot” or “super-spread events” are associated with activities that are characterized by human behavior which makes more likely the discharge of large body fluid droplets carrying the virus: shouting, screaming, singing, crying. These activities have been identified with particular venues: noisy workplaces (such as meat processing plants and restaurant kitchens), religious services and rock concerts, and funerals. (These are probably the same venues that also enable the dissemination of the seasonal flu and other forms of respiratory system contagion.)
If any special precautions are thought to be necessary for this or any other seasonal respiratory disease, common sense would dictate a targeted approach:
- Protect only vulnerable populations, by their implementing “shelter in place” and the use of masks by themselves, when they go out, and by their visitors, at home,
- Quarantine only people with positive tests for live virus and severe symptoms,
- Implement employee and participant mask wearing and “social distancing” only in the venues or businesses where “super-spread events” can occur,
- Leave open schools and all other businesses to operate as usual, to facilitate herd immunity.
Public health and government authorities should also use proper epidemiological calculations which include prevalence, to compute statistics and monitor trends, and they should meticulously avoid scare tactics and inflammatory language when making public reports.
This approach limits active interventions to the cases in which they can be genuinely effective, and avoids crippling the economies upon which modern civilization depends.
Accurate mathematics and targeted interventions are what should be used to manage the remaining time of this seasonal common cold event, and should be implemented for all such events in the future.
NB: Lest any of those who read this feel it necessary to remonstrate for what they perceive as a lack of appreciation that “lives are at stake,” please be aware that I am already in one of the groups most vulnerable to respiratory disease (taking drugs that can impair the immune system), and before the end of the year, will be in another of them (aged 65 and older).