This is grim work, but it has to be done. Looking at deaths per million, from all causes, and calculating deaths in excess of the average deaths for a given period, one finds that, whereas healthcare services in Great Britain are reporting more than 32,000 deaths in that country over the initial six-week period, the metric measuring all deaths over the same period finds around 11,000 deaths above the normal, roughly two-thirds that number, assuming all excess deaths are attributed to COVID-19. These deaths are disproportionately occurring in long-term care facilities. In fact there is a record number of deaths in long-term care facilities against comparable periods. One finds a similar pattern in Sweden.What this suggests is that a significant proportion of deaths that are occurring are being attributed by healthcare services to COVID-19, deaths that otherwise would be attributed to something else, typically influenza. But, strangely, influenza deaths have come to a sudden halt and now most pneumonia cases are being attributed COVID-19.
We use deaths per million because that allows us to know if something unusual is occurring in a population and to then look at what might explain excess deaths. This is why demography is so important and why reporting by bureaucracies are problematic (for example, bureaucracies are subject to definition creep). Average deaths in comparable periods do not normally vary much without extraordinary cause. If 30,000 people die in the United Kingdom from a single cause, then that is an unusual occurrence that would be reflected in deaths per million. We would see approximately 30,000 excess deaths for the period. But excess deaths are one third that figure for the same time frame. We could assume that 20,000 deaths were somehow avoided to allow room for 20,000 COVID-19 deaths. But why would that be the case? Why are we expecting there to be 20,000 fewer deaths in this time frame? It was not the lockdown that was implemented on March 23 that kept people out of their cars, for example. At best that would have only a minimal impact. If we are reasonable, then we consider that 20,000 deaths are being attributed to COVID-19 that would otherwise be attributed to another cause or other causes, but very likely influenza. In other words the 30,000 being attributed to a cause are consuming a large proportion of normal deaths in the comparable period.
So, suppose in a normal year in the UK there are 20,000 deaths from influenza. These are pneumonia cases typically explained by influenza. Without blood serum tests, it is difficult to distinguish between different causes of pneumonia. But health services usually chalk up those deaths to influenza. Deaths from influenza are relatively stable over time. Suppose that we find in a comparable period a year with 10,000 excess deaths. We look at them and see they are pneumonia deaths. We could say that this was a bad influenza year. But let’s say they are COVID-19. But the NHS says there are 30,000 deaths from COVID-19. That not only means that 10,000 of those excess deaths from pneumonia are from COVID-19 (and we are assuming this), but that there were 20,000 fewer pneumonia deaths from influenza. There is no reason to believe this is true. It would contradict the standard epidemiological models that successfully predict the influenza burden every year.
Here’s a dramatic analogy to illustrate the point. Suppose the world alleges a genocide occurred in a communist country taking 3 millions lives. Suppose we look at deaths per million and find an excess of 100-200 thousand deaths. We would not suspect that this was just an odd year in which millions of expected deaths did not occur in order to allow for 3 million deaths by genocide. Maybe there was large-scale killing. One-two hundred thousand is not a small number of deaths. And in this case at the hands of human agents. But it wasn’t 3 million people who were killed. We would reasonably suspect that normal deaths—say, from poverty and hunger—are being redefined as deaths by genocide that in fact had other causes. Why would we redefine deaths from other causes to represent deaths by genocide? Politics. Ideology.
* * *
Obviously I’m down with worker protections. But the threats made by teachers unions in the United States to keep schools closed is absurd. Protect the vulnerable. Let the rest of humanity go about their business. I heard an idea being floated that we should test students every week and do contract tracing. Anybody who suggests that’s feasible, let alone reasonable, is talking out of their ass. It’s as if people have collectively forgotten basic scientific understanding and moved to full-on stupid panic. How could anybody with any experience in a public education setting believe that you could contain the spread of a virus or any other crud short of shuttering the schools? Children are viral and bacterial factories. If the virus is so awful, then end public education now. But if it’s so awful that we had to shut down society, then we should never re-open society because the virus is still just as awful.
Except that it’s not. For those people who are not in the high risk categories, this illness is rarely fatal. If there is a fatality in a healthy person, then one should look very carefully into the patient’s history to find out if there was an underlying condition. Half the people who get this virus are asymptomatic. In around 90% of the people who get this virus, it is, at most, mild. The majority or large pluralities of deaths from this virus are occurring in long-term care facility among those who are severely ill. Sorry to be blunt about it but many of these individuals would have died this year or next year anyway from the conditions that made COVID-19 dangerous for them—especially in light of the inadequate facilities housing them. We have never treated a virus this way. And there have been viruses to come down the pike that have been a lot worse.
During the 1957-58 influenza pandemic (H2N2), 116,000 Americans dead from the Shanghai flu—out of a population of 175 million. During the 1968-69 influenza pandemic (H3N2), 100,000 dead Americans from the Hong Kong flu—out of a population of 200 million. During the 2019-20 COVID-19 pandemic, 38,000 Americans dead from the Wuhan virus (so far)—out of a population of 328 million. These are all CDC numbers. The fact is that SARS-CoV-2 is not the worst virus to hit America since the Spanish flu (the H1N1 strain that is still with us). Not even close. Deaths per millions statistics with the Shanghai and Hong Kong flu seasons were much, much higher than the deaths per millions statistics for the Wuhan virus.
I was not alive in 1957, but I was in 1968. I don’t remember hearing anything about the Hong Kong flu. Had we gone through a panic like the one we’re going through right now, I would surely remember it.
* * *
This virus is generally safe among healthy adults and children. There have probably been at most around a thousand deaths in those 45 years of age or younger. At most only around 100 deaths for those 25 and younger. Those persons who do die in these age ranges likely have underlying conditions and immunocompromised systems. Even those over the age of 45 are very unlikely to die from this disease without other health problems. This virus rarely kills on its own. There is a heightened risk for death among the elderly. But those who are in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are especially at risk for death. Only about 5% of the elderly are in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Yet in the state of Pennsylvania 70% of those who died from COVID-19 were in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. There are similar numbers across the country. This is horrifying.
There are two big scandals surrounding the COVID-19 situation. First there is the scandal of locking down society when the vast majority of population is not at risk of serious problems from this virus. That’s the really big scandal. We shut down society for a virus that isn’t particularly lethal. The second scandal is how horrible our nursing homes and assisted living facilities are. We need a congressional investigation into the conditions in which our most vulnerable populations live. And we need to hold the administrators of these facilities criminally responsible for large scale death among these populations. The very groups that are institutions are supposed to look out for the most utterly failed to keep those populations safe. Clearly locking down society did not protect the most vulnerable among us.
* * *
You can’t run an epic fear campaign this hard and for this long and not expect to see dramatic effects. A poll found that 8 in 10 respondents said they would not feel comfortable dining in at a restaurant, and two-thirds wouldn’t want to shop in a clothing store. They’re being told by authorities that they shouldn’t feel safe in these situations and it has worked. Rationally, they are in no appreciably greater danger in these places, so it is not a matter of the public coming to this position based on reason or experience. The fear has been manufactured. This has been the most successful propaganda campaign since the crime wave hysteria in the post-WWII period. The public appears well-conditioned to accept totalitarianism.
US payrolls fell by more than 20 million jobs last month. That’s a decade’s worth of job gains wiped out in few weeks. The economic consequences of this will likely last for a decade or more. The government will not subsidize millions of workers to shelter in place. Eventually, people will have to come out of their caves and go back to work. Millions have lost savings, health care, homes, and memories. The attempt to mitigate a virus has produced an unmitigated societal disaster.
* * *
Here’s a few things that I’m going to say right now to get it out of the way. I will not get a vaccine for this—if they develop a vaccine. Get jabbed if you want. I’m not getting jabbed. If that means that I get passed over for opportunities in life, then consider my refusal and suffering a protest against irrational and oppressive demands. I will not wear a mask unless I am around vulnerable people in close quarters. In other words, I will wear a mask in situations where I would wear a mask anyway. And then not for my safety, but for the safety of the vulnerable. I will take no special precautions in my social activities for this virus. I am not going to treat my brothers and sisters as disease vectors. I will not support policies that stigmatize people for carrying this virus. Social distancing and social isolation are cruel and unusual and reveal the pathology of safetyism, a crippling new religion of fear of the normal. The mask, the isolation, the mocking, shaming—these are rituals to reinforce the myth that social life of dangerous. It makes a fetish of mere existence.