“Failure to comply with this order will result in a $5,000 fine and up to one year in prison…”
We woke this morning to this menacing threat. It came issuing from the loudspeaker of a prowling police cruiser.
It mandated residents to remain indoors (unless necessary)… else take the consequences described.
“We are all in this together,” the recorded message concluded — exhorting a spirit of solidarity among the homebound, a sense of shared wartime sacrifice.
Together… yet separate, isolated, desolate.
And so it has come to pass…
The land of the free has become the land of the locked down. And the home of the brave is the home of the fearful.
Viewing the slaughter in New York City, the hysteria appears warranted…
Horror in New York
The city has endured some 1,100 fatalities… and underprepared hospitals overflow with COVID-19 cases.
Nurses and doctors are falling in the line of duty, condemned by the very patients they mean to save.
Refrigerator trucks have been repurposed as makeshift morgues.
We are warned additional cities can expect parallel miseries.
The latest figures have United States infections at 206,207. They may run into the many millions eventually.
National fatalities presently exceed 4,000.
The medical men project 100,000–200,000 ultimate fatalities nationwide. And these grim figures assume a very severe and effective “social distancing.”
Deaths could run to the millions without it — again, so we are told.
Yet the questions are so many… and the answers so few.
Questions, Questions, Questions
Will the slightest exposure to the virus afflict you with a life and death battle? Or will only a heavier infestation breach your defenses?
Is the mass production of ventilators the solution? Or is it largely a waste of dear resources?
One New Orleans physician reports that 70–90% of the ventilated succumb to the illness regardless.
How can we even trust the numbers? In the absence of mass testing, how do we know the number of Americans with the virus? And how accurate are the tests?
Our agents report the possibility of substantial false readings in both directions.
But if many more Americans harbor the virus who never displayed symptoms… or only minor symptoms… it implies a drastically lower mortality rate.
Is it wise to switch off the economy for a virus that may murder under 1% of victims?
Off by a Factor of Three… or 300
Dr. John P. A. Ioannidis — professor of medicine and epidemiology at Stanford University — harbors severe doubts about the figures:
The data collected so far on how many people are infected and how the epidemic is evolving are utterly unreliable. Given the limited testing to date, some deaths and probably the vast majority of infections due to SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) are being missed. We don’t know if we are failing to capture infections by a factor of three or 300. Three months after the outbreak emerged, most countries, including the U.S., lack the ability to test a large number of people and no countries have reliable data on the prevalence of the virus in a representative random sample of the general population…
An error factor between three and 300 is a handsome range. All then is guesswork:
This evidence fiasco creates tremendous uncertainty about the risk of dying from COVID-19. Reported case fatality rates, like the official 3.4% rate from the World Health Organization, cause horror — and are meaningless. Patients who have been tested for SARS-CoV-2 are disproportionately those with severe symptoms and bad outcomes.
The Case of the Diamond Princess
Dr. Ioannidis cites the case of the cruise ship Diamond Princess:
Projecting the Diamond Princess mortality rate onto the age structure of the U.S. population, the death rate among people infected with COVID-19 would be 0.125%. But since this estimate is based on extremely thin data — there were just seven deaths among the 700 infected passengers and crew — the real death rate could stretch from five times lower (0.025%) to five times higher (0.625%). It is also possible that some of the passengers who were infected might die later, and that tourists may have different frequencies of chronic diseases — a risk factor for worse outcomes with SARS-CoV-2 infection — than the general population. Adding these extra sources of uncertainty, reasonable estimates for the case fatality ratio in the general U.S. population vary from 0.05–1%.
That huge range markedly affects how severe the pandemic is and what should be done. A populationwide case fatality rate of 0.05% is lower than seasonal influenza. If that is the true rate, locking down the world with potentially tremendous social and financial consequences may be totally irrational. It’s like an elephant being attacked by a house cat. Frustrated and trying to avoid the cat, the elephant accidentally jumps off a cliff and dies…
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