A Rational Look at COVID-19
I’m going to challenge you to use your brain in this article and give you a choice. You can consider my thoughts and look at my sources to verify all of this on your own, or you can discount what I have to say and just blindly believe what you hear from the media and your politicians. Whatever you choose, I ask that you read all of this article and suppress your desire to cherry-pick one line or paragraph and take it out of context.
Let me make this clear: I believe Coronavirus is real, and it is a nasty virus. It is not a flu. I believe we should all wear masks in public, we should all wash hands often, we should all social distance, and protect the most vulnerable people out there. I am not an anti-masker. But I have many very serious questions and concerns.
This article does not come to any substantial conclusion, except that we are making a mess of things. It does, however, show the necessity to ask serious questions. However, the article needs to be digested as a whole, not one paragraph that you may or may not agree with. But first, let me qualify a bit about what I am going to discuss here.
I do not think there is a giant conspiracy. I am also not discounting the seriousness of Coronavirus, or saying the virus we are dealing with is not a nasty killer.
I also do not take much stock in the line “listen to the experts.” This is primarily because I can find “experts” for any conclusion I wish to push. We also have to admit the Coronavirus (Covid-19, at least) comes with so many unknowns, that any expert worth their salt must couch their statements as observations, using terms like “it appears that”, or “we have reason to believe,” or “some studies suggest.” They have all been both right and wrong in their assertions, and that is to be expected.
So which expert should we put all of our faith in? I prefer listening to all of them, considering what they have to say, and looking at data. The virus does not care which political party we belong to, which news source we trust, or who we will vote for.
I don’t have a political horse in this race. I am equally critical of both political parties. I further have no financial incentive here. I don’t make a penny if you read this, and I don’t lose a penny if you read no further.
I am not a doctor, I have no specialty in virology, and hold no degree that would “qualify” me. Finally, I am a dual citizen of Italy and The United States, and I live in both countries.
As such, much of my focus is on these two countries, although I do make several comparisons to other countries in this article.
So Why Should You Listen To Me?
I am a cynic. When I hear any big news that affects my life, I spend hours and hours researching. Opinion is of very little value to me, especially when I smell political or financial motives. I am very quick to discount unreliable sources that are not verifiable, or come across as conspiracy theorists. But I also do not take government at its word. I don’t take “the experts” at their word, especially when I can see clear coercion or ulterior motives. In those cases, I am very careful to find corroborating information from as many unbiased sources as possible.
I look for as much supporting evidence for any conclusion as I can find, but I am also very keen on trying to figure out what information is missing. Sometimes we can find answers by noticing a pattern of missing information.
I go deep into the rabbit hole, and follow the hard data wherever it leads me, even if it does not take me where I want.
This is the case with Coronavirus. From the day the major outbreak in Italy was announced, I began collecting and analyzing as much data as I could. It turns out that Italy started tracking data on their Coronavirus cases in extreme detail very early, and made this information public. At the time, the only other major outbreaks were China and South Korea, neither of which was supplying the depth of data that Italy was.
This little fact becomes very important throughout this article, because the United States based their initial response to Coronavirus on what they called “The Italy Model.” It just so happened that I was collecting and analyzing the same data as the U.S. Government at the time. I have continued to track both countries on a daily basis, and have also done tracking of other countries, but more surface level data to give myself a bigger “general” picture.
America’s First Big Mistake
When it became clear that this was a pandemic, The United States was unsure how to handle it. Frankly, nobody in the world knew. So we were all “swatting flies.” But as we started to develop a plan with our Coronavirus Task Force, our “experts” relied on data collected by The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. (IHME).
They had developed what was dubbed “The Italy Model” by looking at data out of Italy, and applying a formula to project what The United States would experience. They extrapolated that data to form projections for the imminent outbreak in The United States.
This formula became the guiding assumption for our Coronavirus Task Force. This is when President Trump, Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx got in front of the podium with Vice President Pence and essentially told us roughly 2 million Americans were going to die of Coronavirus unless we took active measures to “flatten the curve.” If we could flatten the curve, we might get that number down to only 200,000 – 300,000, but we needed to act swiftly.
We all fell in line, as none of us wanted to see millions of people die, of course. We happily accepted shutting down our entire economy, putting millions out of work, forcing hundreds of thousands of small businesses into bankruptcy, and adding trillions to our national debt. That was a fair trade in our minds to save millions. I agree, if that is, in fact, what we are doing. But remember, this was all based on assumptions from “The Italy Model,” and almost nothing was known about Coronavirus at the time.
The problem was that to me, this didn’t add up. After all, I had been tracking Italy as well. If I were to take Italy as a whole, and apply their percentages to the United States, I could come up with that number. But all of Italy was not experiencing all of this death and devastation everywhere. For the most part, it was in the region of Lombardy, and border areas of the regions that touched Lombardy. This is the most densely populated area of Italy, with roughly 16 million people. When I looked at THAT area, the numbers were mind boggling. But in the rest of the country, not so much.
Now, it is also important to consider that Italy is a small country, with a tremendous amount of travel between the regions by car, rail and air. Rome is the biggest city, and massive numbers of people travel between Rome and Milan every day. Milan was having a major outbreak, so Rome should as well.
We should have also seen major outbreaks in Florence, Naples, Bari, Palermo, etc. These are all major cities, but none of them were having major outbreaks. WHY? They had cases, hospitalizations and deaths from Coronavirus, but nowhere near the scale of Lombardy!
So I went back to crunch my numbers, and I factored similar regions in Italy to similar regions in The United States. My projections showed that we were likely overestimating the number of deaths by 10 times. New York and New Jersey would be more in line with Lombardy, but other major cities would likely have smaller outbreaks, and a much lower death rate by percentage of population. To be completely honest, at the time I thought I had to be missing something.
I mean, how could the IHME miss something this obvious? So I set out to see what I was missing, and I watched day after day to see where I was wrong, with that very assumption… that I must be wrong.
Weeks in, when we were at our projected “peak,” my projections were pretty close to spot on, and the IHME projections were wildly off. New York and New Jersey had, in fact, been the hardest hit by far. But Florida, where there had been an outbreak, didn’t have anywhere close to the death toll they had projected. But Florida was meeting my own projections spot on. California was as well. Illinois, the same. It became evident to me that IHME didn’t take regional information and population density into account.
So much for “The Experts.” In fact, IHME revised their projections, but when they did so, they reasoned that it was “because we were following the rules better than expected.” Well, that didn’t track, because the initial projections showed a significantly higher count that they previously admitted was unattainable because it would only be if we followed the rules 100%. That was the “best case pie in the sky scenario,” so someone is clearly back pedaling here!
But even this second set of IHME projections didn’t track with what I had been calculating. As weeks went on, even the second set of IHME projections ended up being way off base, and a third revision was released. Even it was still not tracking with population density and regional information. Now it seemed that they had abandoned The Italy Model, and were going off their own observations in the United States, but as a whole.
Furthermore they began to factor in resurgence of a “second wave” as we went into winter, but as much as that may be the case, it was, and still remains, nothing more than theory of something entirely unknown. How can you put that in the projections we are working off of? In fact, there is evidence that may dispute this theory later in this article.
The Italy Protocol
The more information you have on something, the more you learn about it, right? Over time, with lots of information, you can develop a solid understanding of what you are dealing with. So I am going to show the protocol followed in Italy, then what The United States does, and you decide which is more valuable in understanding Coronavirus. Before I detail this, I will tell you that I am a strong opponent to Italy’s single payer healthcare system.
Their quality of care is terrible, and their system is breaking down. Just know, for example, for every 53 hospital patients, they have 1 nurse, and their Standard Bed to ICU bed ratio is 10 times less than The United States. However, they developed a comprehensive protocol to track Coronavirus very early on, and they have stayed extremely consistent with it. Here is how it works.
Italy is made up of 107 “Provinces.” Each province resides in a “Region,” and there are 21 “Regions.” For an American, you can think of a province like a county, and a region like a state. The province is usually named after the largest city within that Province.
So, for example, the city of Florence is in the Province of Florence, in the Region of Tuscany. Like saying the city of Los Angeles is in L.A. Country, in the State of California. So in order of small to big, it goes like this:
City > Province > Region > National
Every day, at a predetermined time, every hospital must report the same set of data relating to Coronavirus cases for the previous 24 hour period to their Province’s Department of Health. Each Province must then collect that data and report the numbers for their province to their Region. Each Region then reports all of their region’s aggregate data on each case measurement to the National Ministry of Health.
By doing this, we have specific data for each province, region, and for the country as a whole, and at 6:00 PM every day, this data is made available to the public. But what data is being passed along? Here is the list:
- How many people presented symptomatic.
- How many total tests we performed on those people.
- How many of those tests were people that had never tested positive before.
- How many first-time tests were positive.
- How many first-time tests were negative
- How many of those tests were people that had previously tested positive.
- How many of those subsequent tests were positive.
- How many of those subsequent tests were negative.
- How many people were tested via contact tracing that were asymptomatic.
- How many of those were positive (and sent home for self-isolation).
- How many of those were negative.
- Specific symptoms, age, gender and co-morbidities of those that tested positive. (only released in aggregate))
- How many people presented with symptoms, tested positive, and were sent home for home isolation
- How many people presented with symptoms, tested positive, and were hospitalized BECAUSE of their Coronavirus-related symptoms
- How many of those positive cases that were hospitalized were admitted to ICU.
- How many of those positive cases that were in ICU were released from ICU into normal hospital beds.
- How many of those positive cases that were hospitalized were released from hospitalization.
- How many of those positive cases have had two subsequent tests in a minimum of a 48 hour period that came back as negative (Recovered)
- How many of those positive cases that were in ICU died.
- How many of those positive cases that were in normal hospital beds died.
- How many of those positive cases that were in home isolation died.
That is a lot of information, and with this information on a case by case basis, broken down by province and region, I can pick any day since the outbreak started and tell you exactly how many people in any given area of the country were covid-positive with symptoms, how many were hospitalized BECAUSE of Coronavirus on any given day, how many were in ICU on any given day, or in home isolation, or marked as recovered, or died, or released from ICU, or released from the hospital, or… or… or…
So, for example, I can tell you that with yesterday’s 24 hour report, Tuscany currently has 7 Coronavirus patients hospitalized BECAUSE of Coronavirus, 3 of them are in ICU, 320 are “cases in home isolation”, meaning that they have 330 actual cases. Five of those 330 tested positive yesterday, out of 2,470 people being tested yesterday in Tuscany. There was one person in ICU in Tuscany yesterday that passed away, and 4 people marked as recovered.
The number of covid-positive BECAUSE of Covid hospitalizations decreased by three yesterday. I can see all of this data for any region, province, or the nation as a whole right here.
The USA Protocol
Now that you have read how Italy does it, I would like you to ask yourself a question. When you hear that The United States had 50,000 new cases today, or you hear headlines stating “Florida with 15,000 news cases today, the biggest day so far.” what do these statements mean to you? Because I listed 21 different data points that Italy uses, not just to determine a case, but to determine the status and severity of a case, each of which is updated daily.
In The United States, each state has its own form of recording “cases” and which data points they measure and release. It is very generic information. For the most part, we only get the number of tests, number of new positive tests, positivity rate, and fatalities. Some states offer more, some less. But none are truly comprehensive, like Italy. But going beyond that, the devil is in the details.
What specifically is a “case” in The United States
In the United States, for the most part, we look at “Case Count”. But what is a case? If my employer requires all employees to get tested weekly for Covid-19, and I test positive, I become ONE CASE. I may have no symptoms, but I am a case. To make matters worse, if I test again next week, and I test positive, I count as another case. Every single test that comes back positive counts as a case, regardless of how many actual people tested positive.
To add fuel to that fire, in some states, including Florida, the Covid-19 tests, and Covid-19 antibody tests are combined in the cumulative number. So if I test positive for the antibodies, it means I had Coronavirus at some point in time, so I am a “case.” I had it at some point in the past, no longer do, but my statistic leads you to believe that I just got it. Really?
So now consider these numbers:
|Country||Number of tests conducted as of July 9. 2020|
|United States||41.3 Million|
|United Kingdom||11.7 Million|
|Italy||5.9 Million (3.9 million individual people)|
|South Korea||1.4 Million|
Consider also that the United States has done more Coronavirus tests in the past 10 days, than Germany, Italy, Spain Brazil, South Korea, France, Japan, Canada, and most every country in the world has in the entirety of 2020.
But the what about the number of people tested per capita?
This is important, given that there are 330 million people in the United states, so it is not fair to count compared to Germany, with only 83 million people. We have almost four times the population. But then look at Japan that has 127 million, but has only tested 540,000. Or Italy… They have tested 1 out of 15 people, and the United States has purportedly tested 1 out of 8 people in the country. The reality is that The United States Testing per capita is #23 in the world.
But to put this into perspective, you also need to consider how small the countries are that beat out the United States. #1 is Gibraltar, followed by the Faeroe Islands, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Falklands, The Cayman Islands… Get the picture? It isn’t so hard to win the per capita battle when your entire country’s population is 33,000 people.
But counting per capita is great if you are only telling one part of a story. Because if you want to tell the whole story in those terms, then you need to consider that The United States has a 1% infection rate (of the entire population), and Italy and Spain had nearly double that. But looking at it in those terms would make the U.S. look good. And remember, the U.S. is doing massive wide-scale testing of asymptomatic people while they are not.
So we are likely to find significantly more infected people per capita. But we actually are not. So we use our large population to show raw numbers when it fits the narrative we want, but use per capita to fit a different narrative we want to convey. We use whichever statistic is most convenient to tell the story we want to tell. We do not follow a single protocol to truly measure what is going on.
But our positivity rate is so high!
Actually, our average daily positivity rate as of July 10th is 6.23%. India is at 9%, Sweden is at 13%, France is at 20%. Mexico is at 22%, Brazil is at 33%. But what does any of this really tell us? If each country, or even state has a different protocol for testing, the positivity rate will change accordingly. You cannot compare positivity rates unless you have a single protocol for all that determined conditions under which people are tested. And given that the vast majority of carriers are asymptomatic, the positivity rate tells us very little. How many people are actually laying in ICU wards on ventilators BECAUSE of Coronavirus on any given day? THAT would tell us something of value.
But we need more testing!
OK, but we need to collectively make a decision. What do we actually want to know? What is our goal? Remember, our initial goal was to flatten the curve, keep from having mass mortality, and assure we don’t overwhelm our medical system. But the “curve” at the time was being measured by people that were actually sick. In many cases very sick. If you were asymptomatic, you could not get a test to save your life, unless your were an important politician or celebrity, of course.
Before we started mass testing, some small scale studies were showing very positive news that they were finding a significant number of people that were asymptomatic, and reports were pointing to the possibility that the fatality rate and even the odds of getting sick if you were positive would potentially be significantly lower than we thought.
This brought tremendous hope to so many. At the time, we were primarily only testing people that were displaying symptoms of sicknesses known to be symptomatic of Covid-19.
The call was loud and powerful that we needed more testing to see if this was true. So at the time, our cases were mostly people that were actually sick or hospitalized by Coronavirus. In fact, I know of many people that had multiple symptoms in March and April, but simply were refused testing. They have all since improved. Then five things happened roughly at the same time in late May / Early June
- States started coming out of lockdown.
- The George Floyd Murder occurred, spurring massive protests nationwide.
- We changed the requirements for testing eligibility.
- We started doing antibody testing
- We began testing people en masse, to the extent that entire companies were testing their entire workforce to see if anyone tested positive.
Before we came out of lockdown, we were even told that our collective goal was to radically increase testing, and that we should absolutely expect positive cases to spike, as we were likely to discover a massive wave of asymptomatic cases. Remember, this was our goal. The more, the better. If we found a high positivity rate of asymptomatic carriers, this was supposed to be a good thing. OK, let’s go!
And then the goal post moved…
Seemingly over night, we had mass amnesia. No longer was a Coronavirus case measured by people that are actually sick. It was now measured by any test that came back positive. There was no more talk about doctors and nurses being overwhelmed, no more talk about possible ventilator shortages, no more PPE shortages, no more talk about the trajectory of the fatalities.
Now we all collectively focused on two things: How many cases did we have today, and are you wearing your mask?
Those asymptomatic cases we were hoping to discover suddenly were no longer part of the discussion. News coverage and political reports never came out and started saying what we should have expected: This many new cases were discovered, and THIS many of them were asymptomatic.
No. It was just the generic term “cases.” We don’t know how many are symptomatic, we don’t know how many have a mild cold, or how many are hospitalized for it, or even in ICU for it. Some states do report some of this data, but it is based on severely flawed assumptions. All we really look at is how many “cases” we have in a given day.
Everyone also suddenly became experts at telling us why we suddenly had so many new cases! It’s those young people hanging out at bars, and people not wearing masks. They are the end of us. Did anyone not see the nature of the protests? Do not mistake me for someone that was against the protests, at least the peaceful protests. That was necessary, but it did happen right after we came out of widespread lockdown.
I truly do not believe the protests are the reason for our spike in cases, but for all of those that are blaming it on bar hoppers without masks, I have to ask: Is the virus smart enough to pass over people that are not following the rules on the basis of a moral high ground?
No, we are seeing a surge in cases because we are experiencing a massive surge in testing. We are experiencing exactly what we hoped, but that does not make for sensational news stories or Facebook flame wars, does it?
So what is the proof? Let’s start with the age groups. Before we came out of lockdown, here were the top 3 “infected” age groups, in order of total count:
If you look at Italy, of ALL recorded cases to date, and remember, they only test people that show symptoms or have direct contact, the top 3 age groups are
Each country that tested only people displaying symptoms showed the same general trend. But now that we are testing anyone and everyone, I can go to my handy-dandy Florida dashboard and see where we are today. I use Florida because it is where I am, and considered one of the “big new hotspots”
Oddly, those 85+, 74-84 and 65-74 categories are now remarkably low. What gives?
Massive testing is underway, and we are finding a tremendous number of asymptomatic cases. This was our goal. Plus, we cannot forget that every positive test is counted as a new case, not every person, so if I test positive 5 times, I count for 5 cases. So the reality is that we simply cannot think things are bad if we have lots of cases, unless we know more about those cases.
Again, do not get me wrong. I am not minimize Coronavirus and saying this is a big lie. Surely people are getting sick, but we are tracking and reporting this in such a way that we have absolutely no clue to what extent.
So to get a better idea, we really need to dig deeper and look at hospitalizations and fatalities. But you will see that The United States protocol on tracking this data is utterly terrible, to the point that we have no actionable data.
So hospitalizations and deaths are the best measurement. How are we doing there?
This is quite complicated, but very, very important. As part of the stimulus package passed by Congress and signed by the president, billions of dollars were allocated to healthcare in order to help with the expected surge. Much as the SBA administered stimulus funds for businesses, The Department of Health and Human Services created a program to distribute finances to the healthcare system.
The following numbers are a projected average, not the actual number each hospital gets. The actual number is very ambiguous, and based on size of hospital, geographic location, and other factors.
If a patient is admitted into a hospital with pneumonia, Medicare would normally pay $5,000.
If that same patient is marked as a covid patient, Medicare would pay $13,000.
If the hospital uses a ventilator on the patient, Medicare would now pay $39.000.
For all other covid-related procedures there is a 20% pay increase provided for in the CARES act. To further complicate things, it is not required that a person actually be covid-positive to meet these covid-19 pricing standards. The guidelines allow the pricing for patients that are considered “covid-presumptive”.
In all fairness, I do not think this is about hospitals gaming the system. They had to spend millions to prepare for the covid wave, and lost millions, or likely billions from not being able to operate most scheduled procedures during the lockdown period. So they need to get what they can to stay viable.
But the side effect of this is that because this vague system is in place, hospitals need to label patients as Covid-19 patients as much as possible to help recuperate losses. So when it is all said and done, our protocol makes it impossible for us to know how many people are hospitalized BECAUSE of covid. Consider, for example, that millions are hospitalized with garden-variety pneumonia every year, but this year they are automatically covid-presumptive. Shouldn’t we have a system that provides more detailed information?
The same goes for anyone with fever, shortness of breath, a dry cough, or any of the other Covid symptoms. Add to this the unknown number of people hospitalized WITH Covid. If someone goes into the hospital for a hip replacement, or appendicitis, or even very serious surgeries such as heart valve surgery, they have to be hospitalized. They will be tested, and many of these are asymptomatic for covid, but are now counted as covid hospitalizations.
We have hospitals that even go so far as to admit you based on age and/or comorbidity if you want to be tested. At least some Florida hospitals have admitted that if you go in for a test, and are over 60, they will automatically admit you while you await your test results. This counts you as covid-presumptive, marks you as a Coronavirus “case,” and a Coronavirus hospitalization as far as state reporting goes, even if your test comes back negative. This is direct information provided to me by a number of staff nurses that are required to follow this protocol.
Before we came out of lockdown, we had a vague idea of what was going on, because in most areas the hospitals were pretty much empty as they awaited the Coronavirus surge. So it could be assumed at that point that Covid-19 cases in the hospital may very well have been there because of Coronavirus. But we don’t know to what extent.
Now, even with this system, we don’t get all of the data. Some states report the number of hospitalizations that are marked as “Covid-19,” and also how many of those are in ICU. But we don’t know if Covid-19 is the actual reason.
This is incredibly important, because that skews our numbers, and we have no idea to what extent. Other states only report Coronavirus hospitalizations, and not how many of them are in critical care. Yet others report nothing at all. So how can we get an idea of what is really going on?
But I see reports of hospitals surging to capacity now!
Of course! There were roughly 3 months of procedures put on hold, and they need to play catch up now. But keep in mind that when you hear a hospital ICU is at 90% capacity, that was perfectly normal even before Coronavirus. So now, when someone gets that heart valve replacement they had to wait for, they are going to occupy an ICU bed post surgery. When someone gets that hip replacement, that stent, and so many more procedures, they are going to occupy beds.
To pile onto this, when you go in to get that hip replacement, they may discover that you are also positive for Covid-19, although you are asymptomatic. You are now a hospitalized “case.” If your allergies flare up, and you get a terrible asthma attack as a result, when you go in, you can bet you will be labeled as “covid-presumptive”.
If you go in and test for even mild cold-like symptoms, many, many hospitals are going to admit you overnight for observation. Two months ago they would have sent you home to self-isolate. Not now. They absolutely need to find a way to reduce the enormous losses they incurred during the lockdown.
Now, as we look at these hospitals surging, Florida is all over the news as hospitalizations spike. But there was no reporting of whether or not those were actually Coronavirus related. Just a few days ago, they began reporting how many were covid-related, but we still have no idea how many are critical enough to be in ICU, nor do we know if these covid cases are there for other reasons, and also happen to be covid-presumptive or covid-positive.
But we can do a little math. The hospital system in Florida currently has (as of July 12) 45,691 beds. 14,108 are empty, meaning that they are operating at 76% capacity. This is normal without Covid-19. Of those, 4,975 are adult ICU beds. 1,156 of those remain available. So Florida ICU beds during this “surge” are operating at 81% capacity. This is also VERY typical. Of the 31,583 people currently hospitalized in Florida, 7,459 are covid-positive or covid-presumptive.
Yes, that is a lot, but stay with me here. Remember the criteria outlined above. Still, let’s assume they ALL are Covid-Positive and are there BECAUSE of Covid-19, not with Covid-19. That would mean that roughly 77% of the people currently hospitalized in Florida do not meet the requirements to attach the possibility of Coronavirus to their cases.
In addition to these numbers, the capacity is directly connected to the number of staff. Since hospitals must maintain a minimum nurse to patient ratio, they cannot list a bed as available unless they are within that ratio. During the Coronavirus lockdowns, entire wings were closed and countless staff were laid off or furloughed.
Because of this, they cannot list the actual number of beds available until they re-hire people. Because of the huge losses, many hospitals will only re-hire or remove from furlough when absolutely necessary. In fact, hospital administrators interviewed have been beating that very drum. They can increase beds, including ICU beds if and when the need arises without problems.
Let’s also not forget that New York had nearly 20,000 Coronavirus cases hospitalized at one time in April, before people without symptoms were being tested, and while we were all under lockdown.. and New York’s population is less than that of Florida.
People Are Dying
Yes, and in the final analysis of Coronavirus, the death toll will be how we measure it. But we will never know the actual number, nor will be even be close. First, however, let me explain why I am not putting as much emphasis on fatalities as hospitalizations. Fatalities are a lagging indicator. It can be anywhere from days to months before someone with Coronavirus dies.
If we look at deaths the first week of July, some of those people likely got infected in April or May. It tells us very little about what is happening right now. Hospitalizations are also lagging, but a hospital admission because of Covid is likely to be significantly closer to when the person actually started showing symptoms.
Counting the fatalities gives us an enormous margin of error. Hundreds of thousands of people in The United States die every year from symptoms that are now marked as Covid-Presumptive. In the current climate of panic, if someone gets phenomena and dies, it is likely to be marked as Covid-19, whether not not it actually was.
The same goes for COPD, Influenza and so many other things. If you go to the hospital for gall bladder surgery, and also end up being Covid-positive, and somehow you die from surgical complications, you are still marked both as a Covid hospitalization and Covid death.
Since there is a financial motive to do this, Coronavirus will get the credit. But this is not so strange, actually. When you look at the aggregate numbers of fatalities reported by the CDC, you will see that phenomena and influenza are categorized together. We don’t know exactly how many of those influenza deaths didn’t have phenomena. This is likely to be similar when we look back at 2020 with Coronavirus.
The New York Times and Irresponsible Sensationalistic Journalism
I can provide thousands of examples of this, but I’ll pick one recent article that was sent to me by someone concerned about Florida, dated July 12, 2020. The clickbait headline reads:
Florida reports more than 15,000 new cases, a daily record for the U.S.
Yes, that is a big number, and I do not discount that there is cause for concern by any means. Now, let’s consider the contents of this article and try to put it into perspective.
First was the article’s cover photo, showing a man rolling someone in a stretcher into an ambulance. But the caption is simply “A medical worker moving a patient at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.” Is it a Coronavirus patient? Is it a new patient? Is it a stock photo? All we know is that it is a patient being put into an ambulance.
The article goes on to say that “Florida’s surge soared past the previous record, set in New York, of more than 12,000 cases in a day.” Well, this is close to true, only that New York’s record was actually 11,571. But we need a little context to apply to our “panic factor.” Let’s look at how the actual data compares when we look at more than just “cases”:
|State||Sample Date||# Tests||# Positives||Pos. Rate||Hospitalizations||Deaths|
|New York||Apr. 15||~40,000||11,571||~38%||~18,000||752|
As you look at this chart, you can see an entirely different picture, but it is still of concern in Florida, of course. But based on number of tests, New York was experiencing a 350% higher peak. But even that assumes all things equal with regard to the protocol. When New York hit its peak, more hospitalizations counted were surely because of Coronavirus, because elective and non emergency procedures were not being done. New York was also not testing for asymptomatic people.
There was no antibody test yet, and every positive antibody test in Florida counts toward the Coronavirus “cases”. They did not have loads of already positive people retesting, being positive again, and being added as new cases. And let’s not forget that New York’s death count that day was 767% higher than that of Florida in this comparison.
Remember, also, that Florida counts in that death number “patients with, or presumed to have covid.” so if a person has a heart attack goes into the hospital and dies, if they get marked as a covid case, they are a covid death, even if covid had nothing to do with their death. So while both numbers are likely to be artificially high, the Florida numbers are likely to be inflated significantly.
The article continues to raise alarm that “The increase has added strain on hospitals. In Miami-Dade County, Fla., six hospitals have reached capacity as virus cases spike.” In writing this the day after this was published, I checked the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration live data to confirm this. As of the morning after the article, FIVE hospitals were at capacity. But again, the devil is in the details. Two of them are closed, so their capacity of ZERO remains at ZERO.
The other three are small hospitals that have a total capacity of 309 beds combined. This is in a country that currently has a total of 6,658 staffed beds, with a current load of 79%. As far as ICU goes, they are operating at 81% of their staffed capacity. A capacity that can be increased by re-hiring staff laid off during the lockdown. Of those beds being filled, 73% are not listed as Covid-Positive or Covid-Presumptive.
I am not trying to say we don’t have Covid-19, or that is not serious, and of concern. I really want to say this often because of the length of this article. What I am saying is that we are doing more harm than good by not tracking this properly. If we tracked real and solid data, we would be in a position to move forward with whatever measures are necessary to deal with this.
Yet another example: When Florida reported over 15,000 cases, I know of two people in Miami that had scheduled tests a couple days prior. They waited in line and finally gave up. They left. They were never tested. But they were later notified that their test results came back positive for Coronavirus. With all the talk of false positives, now we even have this. How is this possible? It may be that data got messed up and two people that actually did take the test never got their results. But it can also be that some of the countless testing labs that offer free tests are cashing in. We have no idea, do we? Moreover, if I know of two, how many others are out there?
This may very well get worse. I have no idea. But as Italy tracked data with such diligence, I was able to really pinpoint what was going on. All of these changes in protocol, politicization of the virus, and moving targets makes it impossible. Isn’t The United States supposed to be better than this?
There is something else you may consider. When the outbreak was raging in New York, we saw horrific images on our televisions every day. Packed hospitals, overworked healthcare workers, coffins piling up, dead people being stored in vans because the morgues couldn’t handle them.
It was heartbreaking to watch, but we had film that showed the horror being described. But what about the big hotspots now, like Texas, Arizona and Florida? We hear the words of horror, but where is the footage? Where are the photos?
Where Are the Ambulances?
I live in what is being called one of the biggest Hot Spots for Coronavirus: Tampa Bay. Not only do I live here, but I live downtown, blocks away from Tampa General Hospital, the 2nd largest hospital in Florida and the area’s primary emergency response center.
If an ambulance is taking someone to the ER, trust me. I hear it. I pass by the only road that leads to that hospital all the time, so if food banks are bringing food, donuts, coffee, pizza to the overworked caregivers, I will see something. Actually, during the March/April peak, I was seeing that, despite the fact that they had very few cases. But not now.
If that is not enough, I know several people that are nurses on staff there, so I have asked them. What is the situation? They have said that sure, they have covid patients, but they are mostly in and out “observation” patients, presumptive patients, or people that are in the hospital for other reasons (like the hip surgery, heart surgery, etc.) that also happened to test positive.
They are seeing nearly all extremely mild cases, and described them as light flu, or cold-like. But they still admit them for observation.
What they are not seeing is a spike in patients with primary covid-19 symptoms going critical. A few, for sure. But the overwhelming minority. They said that while they had very few patients during the April peak, they were typically far more serious than they are seeing now. So now, with more testing they have more cases, but the symptoms don’t appear as serious what they saw in April.
The New COVID-19 Symptoms
Let’s take a deep and honest look at how the media works. They live on advertising dollars, and the amount of money they can charge for advertising space directly correlates with how many people see their stories. They are battling cut-throat competition for your eyes, so if they can generate a headline that will make you click on their link, or watch their “Story Coming Up,” they win the battle for your eyes, and those advertising dollars. Please let’s not be naive and think otherwise.
This practice reared its ugly head this past week when I saw a headline in the Sun Sentinel stating “Hospitals filling up, encountering a new kind of coronavirus patient” I couldn’t help myself! I had to click. I read the story.
With new cases skyrocketing and hospitalizations increasing, Florida hospitals are confronting a scary new trend: People entering hospitals without the symptoms of coronavirus they were showing a few months ago.
The fever check, a basic tool for screening for coronavirus, likely is not much value anymore, as the number of asymptomatic people rises by the day in Florida.We must read more!
After reading the headline and tantalizing intro, the story didn’t live up to its claim. It was full of all of the same information that we already know. You see, the state of Florida, like most states, only publishes cumulative numbers for hospitalizations. We don’t get daily numbers, or any details on the cases. Just how many people have been admitted since the beginning, how many “cases” we have had today, and how many covid “deaths” there were today (more on that later). If you want more information, you need to directly interview someone at the individual hospitals.
It turns out that couched in the story was the assertion that two people out of the 21.5 million in Florida had appendicitis, had gone in for the procedure, and were found to be covid positive. Out of many quotes, often positive, the reporter was able to get one to run with from one doctor that simply said “We had two patients this week with appendicitis and they turned out to be positive.” The reporter took that one line and concluded that covid may have been the cause for these two cases of appendicitis.
The reporter failed to do even the most basic homework. In the United States, and average of 685 people are admitted into hospitals for appendicitis every day. Do a little math on population, and you can figure out that an average 46 people in Florida are admitted into hospitals for appendicitis every day.
So this reporter concluded that since TWO people in Florida have both appendicitis AND Coronavirus, that their appendicitis may have been caused by Covid-19.
This is one more case of utterly unethical journalism, but it is sad to say that this has become the norm with almost every news story I read or see on television. Just last week I watched a television news broadcast in which the reporter tried as hard as she could to get the chief of staff of a large Tampa Bay hospital network to say they were overwhelmed with Covid cases.
She couldn’t get the wording she wanted from him, so she added a bunch of misleading statements and an interview of a patient to make it seem like there was a major crisis. It didn’t matter what the doctors or nurses at the hospital said. The story had to be what this reporter wanted it to be. The sad thing is that this could have been a wonderful “good news” story.
The Italy Theory and Others
So the United States has fumbled this thing continuously. We have no idea what we are dealing with. But man, Italy has been running that same protocol without waiver since February. They are out of the woods, everything is reopened, and life is pretty much back to normal now, and yet they are not seeing a spike in cases. Some are wearing their masks, some are not. Their “Social Distancing” is 3 feet, not 6, and most don’t really follow that anymore.
But nearly two months after their lockdowns ended and they started opening up, they are still getting cases, but minor stuff. Small numbers. Still, they are not laser-focused on testing their entire population. They focus on “who is getting sick” and direct contact tracing. They are not listing hip replacement surgeries of people that also happen to have Coronavirus as Covid-19 hospitalizations. These numbers tell us something of value.
What they have been noticing, however, is that while they are getting far fewer symptomatic patients now, the percentage of those that are symptomatic, and never get anything more than symptoms of a common cold or light flu, is staggering. The critical cases are far outliers that they are hardly seeing at all anymore.
The growing consensus is that what they are seeing is a virus that has weakened significantly, and they have achieved a fair amount of herd immunity. It is no longer a killer.
Yes, some do die of complications, but lower than they normally expect from a seasonal flu, or complications from a common cold. As a result, Covid-19 has lost it’s power of instilling panic in the people. It is no longer the boogie man.
It may very well be that if the United States were to collect the kind of data Italy has, we might be seeing similar information. Or maybe not. But since we don’t collect that kind of data, we simply cannot know. What do we lose as a result? Peace of mind, or at least knowing how serious the monster we are facing is. That, in my opinion, is important.
The Sweden Approach
Sweden took a different approach than most of the world with Coronavirus. They did much what The United States did back when we had the Hong Kong Flu in 1969. They provided social distancing guidelines, cleanliness guidelines, suggested wearing masks, and placed limits on mass gatherings. But they did not shut down at all, and did not quarantine. Their goal was to achieve herd immunity, and much of the world thought they were crazy. So how has it worked out?
Well, unlike most of the world, they did not “flatten the curve” in terms of infections, and they still have not. Their positivity rate was at its highest when most of the world was spiking as well. They were at about 18%. But since then, while cases keep going higher and higher, they have averaged around 12% positivity rate.
This is a percentage we consider unacceptable. In fact, the number of new cases they are seeing per day now is about the same as what they were seeing in April. It has remained remarkably constant.
Awful, right? Well, what have I been trying to hammer home? The number of cases does NOT inform us of anything actionable. Because their hospitalizations peaked in April, and have been on a consistent downward trend ever since.
Their daily death count peaked on April 7, and has been on a steady downward trend ever since. Yes, more and more people are getting it, but fewer and fewer are getting sick and dying. In fact, THOSE curves are very much in line with most countries that are back to normal already.
In fact, despite the fact that the are seeing more and more Coronavirus cases, they are now at a point in which their daily total death count is in the range of the “average” in recent pre-covid years, and their total year to date death count shows barely a blip on the death rate curve over the past 5 years.
Please read this one again.
Despite the fact that Sweden is seeing more and more Coronavirus cases, they are now at a point in which their daily total death count is in the range of the “average” in recent pre-covid years, and their total year to date death count shows barely a blip on the death rate curve over the past 5 years.
Why are we not seeing these headlines?
Let that sink in. Because while we don’t know which people actually have Covid-19 or are dying from it, we can assume that many of them would have been in our normal yearly average of people that die from the flu or pneumonia, even if Covid had not existed, people die of those things, too. In fact, over 100,000 Americans die of those causes each year. They often start as a common cold or flu. This year, Covid-19 got a lot of them, right?
So we can look at total deaths year to date by percentage against previous years and see what it looks like. According to the CDC reports, January through July reports that 2020, compared to the average of 2017, 2018 and 2019, is 2% higher than normal. 2%. It is more than we want, of course, but we cannot forget that we must approach everything in context. An average of 2.8 million people die in the United States each year.
Coronavirus has a VERY long way to go in order to catch up with Cancer & Heart Disease. It is only beginning to approach the averages for car accidents, COPD, Alzheimers and Strokes.
The difference is that this will go away eventually, and the others will not. We must balance this against all of the collateral damage caused by our reaction to Coronavirus.
Don’t you need somebody to blame?
Wouldn’t you love somebody to blame?
Sorry… needed a little Jefferson Airplane reference there :-). Coronavirus has also become a political sport. I have never understood why our society needs to find the person that is to blame for everything that goes wrong. Some things just are. I am far from being a Trump supporter, but I can take a long, hard look at his response, and I am not going to blame him.
Although I will openly admit I will not be voting for him. Fair warning, I am also not voting for Biden. Nobody knew what they were dealing with. Yeah, his tweets and speeches make me cringe, and I will readily attack him on many of his policies. But the big stuff people are attacking him for in relation to Covid don’t add up.
He didn’t respond fast enough.
Please check your dates and remember that in the early stages the entire world was scrambling and not acting fast “enough”. We were relying on data out of China that, looking back, did not add up.
He should have forced the entire country to lock down, like Italy did.
If you believe this, I will ask you to go back in time and be honest with yourself. Imagine back in February, when we didn’t know much of anything about this, and it was popping in China, South Korea, and Italy. When Trump banned flights from China, he was called a xenophobe by most of the media.
But in hindsight, those same people say he should have done what Italy did. So let’s play a game of “what if.” If Trump had done what Italy did when they discovered th Coronavirus, this is what would have happened:
- He would have had to order all Americans to stay at home, and enforced a rule that you cannot walk more than 300 feet from your house, and only to walk your dog.
- He would have had to shut down ALL businesses except those required for the food chain and medical help.
- He would have had to require you to print a permission slip for yourself to go to the grocery market, and prove that you are only going to the designated grocery that is closest to your home.
- He would have required lines for form outside of those markets, while only 3 people would be allowed at a time inside them.
- He would had to deploy the military into every town of the country, and setup road blocks at every intersection with military checking your papers and identification to enforce the rules.
- He would have had to have every law enforcement and military helicopter flying over cities and neighborhoods seeking to catch people and arrest them for not following these rules.
- He would have had to block all travel outside of your immediate neighborhood for any reason whatsoever.
- There is more, but hopefully you get the point.
This is what people are saying he should have done. Now, picture Trump making an executive order in February or March requiring all of the above. What would the reaction have been to Trump. He would have had to implement martial law on a national scale for the first time in our history. The opposition party and the news media would have absolutely and justly accused him of a massive abuse of power, and the courts would have struck down that decision immediately.
Not only can that only be done as an act of congress, but it can only be done in cases of rebellion or invasion. This is clear in the Constitution, and in Supreme Court decisions have interpreted this as crystal clear.
Article II of the Constitution makes it quite clear that the President does not have this kind of power. As listed in the Recommendation Clause, the President may only make recommendations to congress in a case such as this, citing it as “necessary and expedient.”
A President cannot, even by executive order, implement a ruling that would effectively place the citizens under house arrest, even as a preventative quarantine. This would further violate The Petition Clause of the First Amendment, not to mention the 10th amendment.
This would have been the act of a dictator. Our law does not even come close to allowing for what people say he should have done. If you believe this should have been done, look at Congress, not the sitting President.
In Italy, the law allows for this.
He hyped up Hydroxychloroquine, an ineffective drug for Coronavirus
Well, turns out that hindsight is 20/20. When he first made this announcement, it was based on several small studies, and this was the go-to option world-wide. It was cheap and had a long history. Heck, I took it before a trip to Nicaragua a few years ago. It was a source of hope, but was never touted as a “cure”.
But this became a political football. Not long after, a small study found that it was not effective, at least in critically ill patients. An Oxford study showed the drug to be ineffective when given to very sick patients, and even to hasten death. That was enough to create a media and political firestorm, that caused the FDA to halt its use, as well as the WHO recommendation.
But then all attention was taken away from it, and all we were left with was “Trump lied.” But unknown to most is that the study was soon withdrawn because it relied on a questionable company called Surgisphere, which had few employees, very limited, and unverified data.
But one study went forward. The Henry Ford Health System in Detroit has released a large retrospective study in which the drug was given very early in hospitalization. It looked at 2,500 patients and found that the use of hydroxychloroquine alone cut the death rate in half, from 26% to 13%. The study screened heavily for those with preexisting conditions, including cardiac disease.
The key, they found, was using the drug early in the course of the illness, before significant inflammation occurs. Or even as a prophylactic it could be very helpful. So was Trump’s choice to use hydroxychloroquine as a prophylactic all that crazy now that a major study backs it? Of course! Because he did __________.
Or did we just not hear about that study because it doesn’t fit the right narrative? The hope that this provides could potentially cut the deaths in half, but since Orange Man talked favorably about it, we cannot give it a shot. Does every life count, or does every life that helps the anti-Trump narrative count? Pick one.
He told us to Inject ourselves with bleach.
Again, he is not getting my vote, but that s based on policy, not media sensationalism and social network memes. I watched that news conference, and have re-watched it on Youtube. They had seen studies that showed that certain disinfectants and ultraviolet light could kill the Coronavirus quickly. He said maybe medical doctors might be able to develop some kind of treatment based on this information, and looked over to Dr. Brix, and repeated, “I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not… but it is something we can study.”
At no point did he suggest we could inject ourselves with bleach, drink it, or anything of the sort. He simply said there might be a new avenue for scientists to study. This is not so crazy, because there are actually treatments based on this very idea for several diseases.
Look, if you want to bash Trump, I am right there with you on military spending, divisive speech, name calling, the handling of the protests, selective truth, and so many other things. But when we resort to straw man arguments, the actual truth gets lost in the noise and loses its power.
Just About Everyone Else in Authority
Again, this is not to defend Trump. This is to highlight how the media spins things, and how politics has played perhaps a greater role in how the United States has dealt with the virus than science itself. Media, Governors, representatives, senators, mayors, and law enforcement on both sides of the political aisle are absolutely guilty of using COVID-19 for political purposes, to advance agendas, and for profit.
They have all been collectively wrong, and done the morally wrong thing at times, and done the morally correct thing at others, in my opinion. Just because that politician is “your guy” does not mean he is doing the right thing. Just because you like Fox or CNN, or MSNBC, does not mean you are getting the truth in proper context, or the truth at all for that matter.
The Second Wave
We also live in dreaded fear of a second wave of the virus. But it is reported so much, that we have come to take it for granted. It is no longer and “if”, but a “when.” I am not going to sit here and tell you that we will not have a second wave. I don’t have a crystal ball. It is entirely possible. But I will not think of it as a given, and I have good reason to believe that it is by no means assured.
For one, most assertions of the second wave of Coronavirus come from what we experienced with the Spanish Flu 100 years ago. The second wave was deadlier than the first wave. But we also have to factor in that we had no understanding of viruses at the time, very poor medicine, very poor tracking, and no idea what caused it.
Fifty years later, when we had the Hong Kong Flu, we had developed as a world, understood much more about viruses, and how to protect ourselves. We even did so without shutting down the economy, and that killed over 100,000 Americans at a time when our population was significantly lower. There was no “second wave”.
It did come back, but very lightly in what they referred to at the time as “smoldering patterns.” Additionally, later pandemics and epidemics have not produced second waves of any consequence.
Anther part of the assumption has been based on the idea that as it gets colder, the virus will hit hard again. This would be to compare it to influenza, but as we are so often reminded, this is NOT influenza, right? Some viruses spread more easily in the cold, some in warmth, some in both. We are seeing, however, that Coronavirus doesn’t seem to care about heat and humidity as much as we had assumed, when you consider the cases currently popping up in Florida, Texas and Arizona.
There is one additional source to look at. Australia. When most of the world was peaking, so were they. It was full summer for them. Now they are in the dead of winter, and their cases are on the rise. But they also came out of lockdown around the same time most of us did, and those new cases could easily be more about increased mobility.
Still, their new “winter” numbers are not nearly what they were back in March and April, and they have seen a total of six Coronavirus fatalities since late May, despite the increase in new cases being found. In fact, in the entire country, it accounts for 92 current hospitalizations and 18 people in ICU.
So this new surge appears to be, just like so many of us, finding the asymptomatic people that were not being found before. Why? Because they have surpassed three million tests now.
So all of this could easily imply that this virus may simply be like many other viruses that just need to run their course. It may be like many other viruses that weaken over time. It may be that COVID-19 is mutating into a more host-friendly version of itself, and may be something that is becoming more and more like the common cold. Or maybe not.
One thing is for sure, we have the ability to gather the kind of data that would let us know, but we choose politics and sensationalism instead. We choose divisiveness over the public good. Shame on us!
Every statistic or number I have quoted in this article has been from data provided directly from various national and state health agencies, hospitals, and controlling government entities. Some of the historical data is sourced from the CDC and WHO.
Observational information has been my own, and media quotes have been from The New York Times and some other national media outlets. Hospitalization data for Florida is sourced from The Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration, which is a live feed that all Florida numbers are sourced from. New York comparison statistics are sourced from the New York Department of Health, and other data is sourced by The Covid Tracking Project.
The reader will likely believe I have come to certain conclusions because of some of the content, without balancing all of the content of this article. Likely, as with so much these days, most readers will read this article through the lens of their political leaning, or their propensity of fear and anxiety.
I cannot help someone that sees what they want to see, or discounts something because it goes against a system of belief. But anyone that has such a reaction might consider that they have missed my entire point. I am on neither side of any fence. I just want truth. So here are my conclusions:
I conclude that COVID-19 may or may not be a serious concern for us at this moment in time. I conclude that our collective leadership has failed the public in possibly one of the worst ways in history. I conclude that it is a failure of leadership as a whole.
The President, the governors, Congress, those fighting FOR Trump, those fighting to get him out of office, the experts, the mayors, Big Pharma, the media, and us as a people for not insisting on more from of these people. In my opinion, they all share equal responsibility for the situation we find ourselves in.
At the end of the day, at any point along the way, we could have collectively organized, taken Sweden’s approach, and Italy’s data protocol, and there is a very high likelihood that we would know exactly where we stand with Coronavirus. In fact, we can start today if we have the will to seek the truth.
My gut feeling is that this is not as bad as some think it is, and not as good as others think. But my only conclusion is that our nation has so irresponsibly handled this, that all I have to go on is gut feeling.
Finally, YES, I wear a mask when I go out. I wash my hands raw, and I maintain social distancing. Why? Because I don’t know. But we should all know by now, and we don’t because politics, sensationalism, and profit took center stage in this crisis, not truth.
If You Are So Inclined to Comment on This Post, Please Read:
I invite conversation, but this is a really hot topic for many. So many people just spout out their opinions, and don’t add to the conversation. Even more take issues like this and use them to assert who the boogie man is. It’s Orange Mans Fault… It’s The Liberals… blah, blah, blah. I will delete those comments, because I want conversation, not trolling. If you find that I am definitively wrong on a point, please point it out.
I am, after all, human. I will research it and correct if I am wrong. If I am not wrong, I will happily reply with an explanation. To those, I ask one thing. That you do so having digested this article in its entirety, rather than cherry-picking one line out of context. I know this has been an incredibly long post. My hat is off to you if you actually read the whole thing! So let’s have an honest and informed conversation.