Pandemic Report No. 2
“U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Hits Highest Any Country Has Suffered in One Day”—Daily Beast, April 3
“Coronavirus May Kill 100,000 to 240,000 in U.S. Despite Actions, Officials Say”—The New York Times, March 31
Not so fast! Let’s all take a deep breath and see if it is possible to make sense out of the constantly changing statistics and widely conflicting estimates about the toll already taken, and likely to be taken, by the coronavirus pandemic.
The officials mentioned in that New York Times headline are Dr. Anthony S. Fauci and Dr. Deborah L. Birx, President Trump’s top two medical advisors on the pandemic, so we shall pay special attention to their estimates and warnings.
First I would like to revisit and update the comparisons between influenza and the coronavirus that I provided on March 26 in my first article on the topic, “How Big of a Threat is the Coronavirus?” The flu statistics are taken from respected sources, and the coronavirus statistics are courtesy of the map and chart provided by the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, the authoritative source everyone uses for this information. As of April 5, here are the comparisons:
- Worldwide: 650,000 deaths annually from the flu, 69,479 from the coronavirus (so far)
- China: 88,100 deaths annually from the flu, 3,268+ from the coronavirus (so far)
- U.S.: Up to 61,000 deaths annually from the flu, 8,022+ deaths from the coronavirus (so far)
As you can see, horrible as the pandemic is, it still has a long way to go before it is as lethal as the common flu. (The coronavirus death tolls for China and the U.S. are given as approximations because for some reason, Johns Hopkins no longer provides statistics for Chinese provinces or U.S. states that have less than 7 deaths. I have no idea why they would do this, but the additional deaths would be low enough so that these comparisons remain valid.)
Of course, there’s a big difference in the way these death tolls are amassed. Flu tends to strike more or less evenly throughout each months-long season, and more or less evenly across the nation, so our health facilities are not overwhelmed. In fact, because this happens regularly every year, we hardly notice it unless it claims someone close to us.
The coronavirus pandemic, however, strikes rapidly in epicenters such as New York City and New Orleans. This leads to the hospitals, doctors and nurses, and first responders being overwhelmed in those epicenters—and that leads to the resulting panic.
The panic is compounded by the dire statistical warnings that confront us every day in the media. Close examination of those statistics, however, show that they are meaningless or of limited value at best, or bogus at worst.
The Statistical Mumbo-Jumbo
China: The pandemic started here, so let’s look at its statistics first. About the only authority who believes the ruling Communist Party’s statistics is Dr. Tedros Adhanom, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO). He is known for his kow-towing to the Chinese government, ignoring its suppression of coronavirus whistleblowers and its delay in warning the world about the virus. “His effusive praise for China could in the long term tarnish the WHO’s reputation as a trusted scientific authority willing to speak truth to power,” says Lawrence Gostin, Professor of Global Health Law at Georgetown University.
I would add another reason for skepticism about the Chinese statistics. Johns Hopkins, which apparently gets them from the Chinese government (no other source is allowed), shows 3,210 deaths in Hubei Province, where Wuhan—the original epicenter—is located. The next figure for China shows a mere 22 deaths in Henan, and it goes down from there—only 8 deaths in Beijing, China’s capital. This is clearly unbelievable, given the way the virus spreads in dense populations, the widespread travel that existed within China before its lockdown, and the fact that China has 65 cities with a population of more than 1 million people. (Beijing’s population is over 21 million, more than twice the population of New York City.)
I guess this is an example of the efficiency of a communist/fascist form of government, which so many of our media are now admiring for its “containment” of the virus—you know, Xi Jinping is so much more effective than President Trump. I would suggest that it is more indicative of the censorship that a communist/fascist regime can impose.
Some sources estimate that the pandemic’s death toll in China may be as much as 50,000. Why is this important? Because it puts the lie to the quotations at the beginning of this article, which make it appear that the United States is the most vulnerable nation in the world and will continue to be. And that strokes the panic and over-reaction.
Italy: The Johns Hopkins source gives the death toll for Italy at 15,887—the highest for any nation so far. And we are told that Italy is the “model” for what is going to happen in the U.S. But the Italian figures have been all over the map and are of dubious quality as a comparison to us.
One of Italy’s unique factors is that it was the first European country to join China’s new “Silk Road” initiative, and its first victims of coronavirus were Chinese in Italy or Italians returning from China. “It spread around Lombardy, the Italian region that has by far the most trade with China and the home of Milan, the country’s most culturally vibrant and business-centered city,” the New York Times reported. The virus had been circulating in Italy for weeks by the time the government imposed a travel ban with China. Many political observers blame this delay on a desire to protect Italy’s economic ties with Beijing.
(Remember how the media and Democrats circled like vultures over President Trump when he imposed our travel ban with China, which they parroted was “racist” and “xenophobic”?)
There is total confusion regarding the situation in Italy today. Some cite declining deaths to say Italy is over the hump. Others point out that the virus is just starting to impact southern Italy, where the death toll is likely to be higher because of the poor healthcare in that area. And while no country’s statistics are as suspect as China’s, the Wall Street Journal reports that Italy’s death toll stands to be far higher than reported because many of the victims never made it to the hospital and were never tested. These discrepancies and questions make it difficult at best to compare Italy’s experience with what is likely to happen in America. We just don’t know so much more than we do know.
Elsewhere abroad: If this were a book, we could go country-by-country with comparisons, but the difficulty of clear comparisons is present everywhere. Take Sweden, for example. At first, it was cited as a country with low morbidity despite the lack of a lockdown. Now we are told its death toll is rising precipitously. We just don’t know what lessons to draw when the virus is a different moving target in each country, and the quality of the statistics varies so widely from country to country.
Next: In my Pandemic Report No. 3 I will look at the conflicting analyses regarding the United States, with particular emphasis on the statements from Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx. Then: why the statistical models on which these estimates are based are so unreliable.
And a warning: While the pandemic is being overhyped by certain elements in the U.S., there is no doubt that it is nevertheless a deadly virus. So take the necessary precautions to protect yourself and your family, especially if you are in a high-risk category. Do not become a statistic yourself!