Beware the COVID-19 hype

H. L. Mencken famously said:

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

The mainstream media are throwing around the hobgoblin of increasing infections with the COVID-19 virus, and trumpeting warnings that our hospitals are about to be overloaded.  For example, here are the headlines listed by the formerly somewhat balanced, but now pathetically partisan Drudge Report this morning:

Here in Texas at least, those warnings are overblown, according to the hospitals themselves.  Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.

Health officials in Texas are logging every single COVID-19-positive hospital patient in the state as a COVID-19 hospitalization, even if the patients themselves are admitted seeking treatment for something other than the coronavirus.

That policy may be serving to artificially inflate what ostensibly seems like a significant COVID-19 surge in the state. Texas has lately been the focal point of national anxiety over concerns that a “second wave” of the coronavirus has begun there after the state began reopening nearly two months ago.

. . .

Lindsey Rosales, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of State Health Services … said the state does not keep track of the patients hospitalized with the coronavirus versus those hospitalized specifically because of it.

. . .

Queries to multiple Texas hospital officials this week went unanswered. But leaders of several major hospitals in Houston this week urged the public to remain calm, suggesting that the extent of the outbreak has been overstated.

At a virtual press conference on Thursday, the chief executives of Houston Methodist, Memorial Hermann Health System, St. Luke’s Health, and Texas Children’s hospitals stated that their hospitals are well-prepared to handle an even greater increase in patients than that which has emerged over the past few weeks.

The number of hospitalizations are “being misinterpreted,” said Houston Methodist CEO Marc Boom, “and, quite frankly, we’re concerned that there is a level of alarm in the community that is unwarranted right now.

“We do have the capacity to care for many more patients, and have lots of fluidity and ability to manage,” Boom said.

He pointed out that his hospital one year ago was at 95% ICU capacity, similar to the numbers the hospital is seeing today. “It is completely normal for us to have ICU capacities that run in the 80s and 90s,” he said. “That’s how all hospitals operate.”

He noted that around 25% of ICU patients are COVID-19-positive. But the hospital “[has] many levers in our ability to adjust our ICU,” he said, claiming that the hospital capacity regularly reported by the media is “base” capacity rather than surge capacity.

Texas Children’s Hospital CEO Mark Wallace added that his facility has “a lot of capacity” … “There is not a scenario, in my opinion, where the demand for our beds … would eclipse our capability,” he continued. “I cannot imagine that. I just cannot.”

There’s more at the link.

Sure, the hospitals may be putting the best possible face on it, and things may not be as healthy (you should pardon the expression) as they claim.  Nevertheless, the breathless doom-gloom-and-disaster prognostications of the mainstream media should be taken with several large pinches of salt.  They appear to be blowing this out of proportion, as usual, to use it as a club with which to beat on President Trump and his administration.

We should not let them get away with that.

There’s also the very good question posed by Heather Mac Donald.

Where are the deaths?

The coronavirus doomsayers could not even wait until the fall for the apocalyptic announcements of the dreaded second wave. Because the red states recklessly loosened their lockdowns, we are now told, the US is seeing a dangerous spike in coronavirus cases. ‘EXPERTS SKETCH GLOOMY PICTURE OF VIRUS SPREAD: FAUCI TELLS OF “DISTURBING” WAVE, WITH A VACCINE MONTHS AWAY,’ read the front-page lead headline in the New York Times on Wednesday. ‘VIRUS SPREAD AKIN TO “FOREST FIRE”’ read another front page headline in the Los Angeles Times on Monday, quoting Michael Osterholm, one of the media’s favorite public health experts. Osterholm had told NBC’s Meet the Press: ‘I’m actually of the mind right now — I think this is more like a forest fire. I don’t think that this is going to slow down.’

The ‘this’ is an uptick in daily new cases from 19,002 on June 9 to 38,386 on June 24. The high to date in new daily cases was on April 24 — 39,072. Since April 24, the daily case count started declining, then began rising again after around June 9. What virtually every fear-mongering story on America’s allegedly precarious situation leaves out, however, is the steadily dropping daily death numbers — from a high of 2,693 on April 21 to 808 on June 24.

. . .

There are no crises in hospital capacity anywhere in the country. Nursing homes, meat-packing plants, and prisons remain the main sources of new infections. Half the states are seeing cases decline or hold steady. Case counts are affected by more testing; the positive infection rate captured by testing is declining. The current caseload is younger, which is a good thing. The more people who have been infected and who recover, the more herd immunity is created. Meanwhile, daily deaths from heart disease and cancer — about 3,400 a day combined — go ignored in the press.

But the drum beat to halt the still far too tentative reopenings gets louder by the day. It should be resisted. The lockdowns were a mistake the first time around; to reimpose them would be disastrous for any remaining hope of restoring our economy. The damage that has been done to people’s livelihoods and future prosperity will continue to outweigh the damage done by the coronavirus. The only vaccine against poverty and resulting despair is a robust economy.

Again, more at the link.

Basically, as with so many other issues, what we read in the mainstream news media is biased, slanted and untrustworthy.  They’re working to their own agenda, which is to magnify every problem and minimize every success until the elections, when they hope to eject President Trump from the White House.  We need to view their prognostications through that lens – and distrust them entirely.



  1. Attributed to General N. B. Forrest: the way to win against the enemy was "put the skeer in them, and keep the skeer in them".

    That's what is being done to us now.

  2. I suppose this is terribly politically incorrect, but when I hear infections are up, I say, "good." Deaths are down, hospitalizations are down, but infections are up in the young and healthy because we're looking there.

    It's good because that's where herd immunity comes from.

  3. Hospitalizations are up in SoCal by 43% this week, the ICUs in 5 local counties comprising 10% of the U.S population are full or running in the high 90s percentiles, and it's getting busier and worse by the day. We were one of 5 hospitals closed to all incoming traffic this weekend. Saturday, we the only one. Last night, there were multiple closures.

    Deaths? Call back in 21 days or so.
    Another 1000 people died since yesterday, and the daily total is inevitably going to trend back up.

    This isn't going to get better anytime soon, and you're going to be whistling a different tune about this in short order.

    If it's gone by next Easter I'll be ecstatic.

    You might want to stop dismissing the news just because the media hates Trump. They can be idiots, and still be right sometimes. If anything, stop trying to interpret reality through a political lens.
    The sun rises and sets, and the tides change, and none of them give a flying fig what party you adhere to.

  4. Let's say 100k have died. Out of a population of 363M, that leaves a percentage of 0.0002754% of the population. Context is what we could all do with.

  5. I agree with Aesop, your world view is so distorted that you see everything through a political/social lens.
    In fact the USA's actual total death toll from COVID-19 is likely to be higher than the number of confirmed deaths – this is due to low testing levels compared to other countries and problems in the attribution of the cause of death; the difference between reported confirmed deaths and total deaths. The increasing rate in the latter confirms this fact.
    Given that the USA is the most resource-rich country in the world, the high and ongoing infection and death rates is a clear indication that the leadership has bungled this disaster. They have failed to clearly understand the potential of the disaster, some have continued to underplay the science and the risk Covid-19 poses, they've failed to put political differences aside to develop clear and consistent strategies, resourcing and messaging and they've failed to bring the citizens into their confidence in order to have public action become a major part of the solution. This latter point is perhaps the most important, citizens are so polarised by the liberal/conservative divide that even sensible precautions such as mask wearing has become weaponised. It's simply ridiculous behaviour, and symptomatic of the USA's future unless the art of compromise and cooperation is redeveloped.
    However you cut it, it is the President's responsibility to ensure all of the above occurs, and he has conspicuously failed on all counts.
    You may say it's "fake news", but as they say in sports "if you want to know the result look at the scoreboard". The clear result is that Donald Trump is neither Lincoln or FDR.

  6. Andrew: It's actually 0.02754% of all Americans, two orders of magnitude higher. Still a minuscule percentage, dwarfed by, e.g., heart attacks and cancer.

    The more relevant parameter is to count years of life remaining that are lost. An 85-year old in a nursing home with serious pre-existing illnesses may have their life shortened by months, or a couple of years, due to Covid-19.

    Still sad, and we should do what we can to protect these folks … short of ruining the livelihoods of millions.

    As Dr. Scott Atlas points out in his interview with the Hoover Foundation's Peter Robinson on Youtube, the people who are having their remaining lifespans shortened due to onerous, unconstitutional restrictions skew younger, which is why lockdowns and economic devastation have already cost hundreds of thousands of life-years remaining more than the virus … and the discrepancy can be expected to widen.

  7. Mark: How much has your income been cut since lockdowns were announced? By a quarter, by a third, by more than half? I am one of millions, businesspeople and professionals, who have been severely impacted. Some of us are not only wiped out but will not recover.

    Of course, if you're a retiree, a politician, civil servant, megacorp employee now telecommuting, or otherwise privileged to be insulated from consequences, then you are not too bothered.

    You may even be one of those who are profiting. Jeff Bezos, already the world's richest man, is now richer by billions of dollars since the start of Pandemic Panic ™. A panic, I might add, that the Washington Post (owner: Jeff Bezos) worked mightily hard to incite and amplify.

    Bezos may be the biggest winner enriching himself at the expense of others. Look! He's hiring! What a generous man, offering work to retailers who had to shutter their doors and face the ruin of what they toiled for decades to build up.

    But Bezos is not the only one.

    We are most assuredly not "all in this together".

  8. Froginblender: Leaving aside the philosophical arguments as to the relative value of lives versus the saving the economy, the truth of the matter is that as a result of incompetence, the USA has neither.
    Competent countries have been able to hibernate their economies (and no-one is arguing that this is at some considerable cost) in order to reduce, and in some cases eliminate infections. In other words, the cost to the economy has led to successful health outcomes. The relatively orderly nature of their economic hibernations means that these countries are more likely to rebound more successfully.
    In the USA, the economy has been killed, but the opportunity to use this to contain the pandemic has been squandered. Infection rates are still growing exponentially and the only reason per-capita death rates are reducing is due to improved (and more expensive) treatment.
    Due to bungling by your leadership, you've paid the price but not received the reward.

  9. @Peter: I'm afraid your use of the word "think" is betraying your preconceptions regarding my approach. I actually fact check everything from independent sources prior to posting. There are a number of sources I use regarding the impact of the pandemic, although I find as good a source as any. I use other sources for both data and events, so yes, my opinions are backed by evidence.
    My basic premise cannot be readily challenged, you live in one of the most technologically advanced, wealthiest best resourced countries in the world and yet the USA is performing worse in both absolute and per-capita terms than India.
    You have to ask, why?

  10. @Mark: That's your problem, right there. The official figures are profoundly untrustworthy.

    Part of the reason why was explained in the article I cited above. It's been known for a long time that any death that has any COVID-19 involvement at all is blamed on that virus, even if it was a heart attack, or cancer, or just plain old age, that killed the victim. If the virus was present, it gets the blame.

    In the same way, the "drastic increase in infections" currently being reported may be nothing of the sort. It merely reflects the fact that a heck of a lot more tests are being conducted. If you were exposed to COVID-19 three months ago, and now show indications of that, you're being diagnosed as a "new infection" – even if you were asymptomatic all this time, and got over it long ago.

    We simply don't know the truth about the pandemic. That truth is being deliberately obfuscated by many sources for their own ends. There are enough authoritative reports about it that we can be fairly certain what's going on.

    The question is, in the absence of reliable data, what can – and what should – we do about it? There, your guess is as good as mine. Masks? Sure. Social distancing? No reason why not. Lockdowns? Oh, hell, no! They haven't been used in any recent epidemics, and they certainly didn't work this time around – except to destroy our economy. Let's not go there again.

  11. The "number of infections" is a worthless statistic.

    That's why I pointed out that the hospitals and ICUs are full. And, in fact, beyond full; they're closed. Have been for two weeks in some cases.

    You're going to get a spike in COVID deaths, and a spike in deaths from traumas, heart attacks, strokes, etc., because for all of them, time to treatment is delayed, and for some number of them, there isn't going to be anyplace to go before they die.

    And the latter will have been killed by COVID just as surely as if they'd had diffuse bilateral multifocal pneumonia and cardio-respiratory collapse (Kung Flu to a "T"). But it won't take three weeks for them to die. They'll do it in the ambulance while they wait.

    But the root cause will still be 100M people too "smart" to wear a mask, wash their hands, or stop touching their faces.

    Death by Gilliganism is now officially a thing, and not just in NYFC.

  12. Before all this, I might have taken a similar approach to that of Peter Grant. Not anymore. The masks and social distancing are still killing people. The way that actual masks are worn by actual people in real life (not healthcare pros in a hospital setting) ends up making more people sick.

    Social distancing kills musicians — performers in general — because they cannot live on ticket receipts from quarter-full auditoria. (To give but one example.) And like the masks, it alienates us all from one another, depresses our immune system, tears apart the social fabric.

    I say give us factual information and let us figure out the best way to deal with the situation. Example, people are washing their hands more often now. Because this tactic works.

    Even the corrupt World Health Organization (major donor: Bill Gates, the "we must vaccinate and microchip seven billion people" guy) recently admitted that asymptomatic transmission of Coronavirus is "very rare". Anyone with common sense could have told you that.

    Why hasn't the U.S. still not mandated that all workers can take paid sick leave? If you have symptoms (fever, a cough, …) stay the eff home!

    Protect the vulnerable (mostly oldsters in nursing homes). Don't commit mass murder by ordering that the homes take Covid-19 infected patients (hello ANDREW CUOMO). Instead, pay operators and their staff to take the necessary precautions. And give still-lucid residents the choice to be in their own ward and keep receiving visitors (isolation and loneliness kill just as surely as the virus).

    The key is not a dubious vaccine, rushed through trials too quickly (remember the Swine Flu and the mass casualties from the vaccine?) while indemnifying manufacturers from liability. And certainly not mandatory immunization (ironically, embraced most enthusiastically by "my body, my choice" pro-abortion people).

    The key is living and eating healthy, giving our immune system the best chance to do its job. And letting individuals make informed decisions as to the level of risk they will accept.

    My views on vaccination (I used to be an uncritical supporter) are still evolving, but my present rule of thumb, based on what I'm reading from some experts with major scholarly citation indices in the field, is this: yes to vaccines to prevent infectious agents that mutate slowly or not at all, no to vaccines for infections that mutate all the time. That rules out the flu shot and will rule out C-virus vaccine.

    Beware of anyone demanding we acquiesce to a "New Normal". They are either psychopaths or sheep.

    (Then again, maybe all of us are victims … including the psychopaths. The sci-fi short story "The Screwfly Solution" by Raccoona Sheldon explains how this might work.)

  13. @Peter: Surprisingly, I disagree with almost everything you've written here.
    Last point first, that lockdowns "don't work". If you want to minimise the number of deaths as well as the total length of time your economy is disrupted, lockdowns in conjunction with quarantining incoming travelers certainly do work. I suggest you look at New Zealand and Australia, both countries implemented these measures early and fully. Australian states even closed their borders and some stopped internal travel between regions for a period. As a result, the per capita death rate of both countries is 1/100th that of the USA (4 vs 393 deaths per 1m of population). New Zealand has effectively eradicated the virus and with the exception of Victoria, most states of Australia haven't had any community infections or deaths for weeks. As a result, most restrictions have been lifted and the economies of both countries are starting the repair process.
    Your point regarding all deaths have been attributed to Covid-19 and the high numbers of infections are the result of extensive levels of testing. Firstly, the USA/Australian per capita testing rates are within 5% of each other and yet the USA's total infection rate is 26 times that of Australia's (8,241 vs 311 per 1m population). So this argument is entirely spurious, you've simply got many more infections. Secondly, I made the point in my earlier post saying the TOTAL number of deaths in the USA from all causes has risen dramatically. In fact between week 14 and week 17 of 2020 the rate has increased 29% over the 4 year rolling average for the same period (and this includes the spike due to the 2017/18 flu epidemic). This effectively negates the argument that "everything is being attributed to Covid-19" by looking at the totality of deaths. In fact, when you compare the total increase to the reported number of Covid deaths, it clearly indicates an under-reporting of the latter.
    My final point is your "can't trust the official figures" argument. I do agree that there is a lot of misinformation and obfuscation being distributed. This is usually by individuals who have an agenda, cherry pick data, wouldn't know the difference between a median and the mean, aren't interested in looking at data definitions or collection methodologies, don't read explanatory notes and so on. I have many friends and former colleagues who are epidemiologists and/or health planners and they rely, and have confidence in, the officially sourced international and domestic data for their planning activities. All data is subject to criticism and review, and it all needs to be interpreted with an understanding of the definitions and collection methods. Amongst professionals however, there's a reasonable degree of confidence in the "official" data in western, developed economies.
    The alternative is to rely on the opinions of random bloggers, social media and organisations acting as fronts for various interest groups.
    You earlier accused me of bias, but throwaway comments such as "there are enough authoritative reports to know what's really going on" without stating or critically evaluating sources contributes to a disinformation campaign that discredits useful data in order to reinforce a particular viewpoint.
    On that note, we'll have to agree to disagree on these matters.

  14. "… they rely, and have confidence in, the officially sourced international and domestic data for their planning activities. All data is subject to criticism and review, and it all needs to be interpreted with an understanding of the definitions and collection methods. Amongst professionals however, there's a reasonable degree of confidence in the "official" data in western, developed economies."

    Mark, this is why you are wrong. It's clear that there is an agenda within the US gov, that extends to other Western Nations, that intends to destroy Trump at any cost. When anyone's lips are flapping in the gov, you can be sure they are lying. The question is whether you are one of those, or just a "useful idiot" per Stalin.

    I suspect that you don't wear a mask. I have had to use them for job requirements for years. The effects of wearing them have been annoying, but lately measurable health impacts are showing up. Those numbers are scary, but I can't get time with my doctor due to this WuFlu shutdown. Piss on you and your fellow travelers.

  15. @ Will: I suspect you see conspiracies everywhere, and the evidence you've provided is overwhelming. However, it's great to see you're staying classy.

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