The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Team Apocalypse

As they ran onto the playing field in a time of crisis, the crowd cheered. And as each team member was introduced the crowd truly believed that the Team would make them proud. Each member was introduced to a standing ovation:
  • Medical experts who were expected to use the very best science along with reliable statistical models to recommend solid policy decisions.
  • Members of the media who were expected to report facts in an unbiased manner and be certain that those facts informed rather than frightened the public.
  • Politicians who were expected to work together in a bipartisan fashion to implement the policy decisions in a way that best benefited the country.
At first glance they were “Team America,” heroes all — saving the day. But what began as Team America quickly became Team Apocalypse.

"Team Apocalypse" (h/t: @AlexBerenson, Twitter) has been working hard to create an environment in which hysteria, fear-mongering, bad information, lack of context, and purposely distorted advice and warnings reign. Their intent is to put as many roadblocks in the way of re-opening the country as possible, now arguing that endless amounts of testing are required before we can even think of re-opening. On its surface, the team's strategy is all about saving lives. But if that actually was the case, the ruination of 1000 times more lives (and businesses) would matter just as much. Given that reality, it's important to look just below the surface. Team Apocalypse has used fear-mongering to achieve purposeful delay, and as a result tens of millions of workers have gotten crushed. Far too many members of the team hope their results will lead to profound public anger, fear, and dismay, yielding the desired election result in November.

On the opposing team, we have rational, critical thinkers, driven by actual real-life data along with a not-so-small dose of common sense. Heather McDonald is one of those critical thinkers, battling against Team Apocalypse to put COVID-19 into perspective. McDonald is a resident of New York City, but even there at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, she recounts a degree of irrational hysteria and fear that is not so much the fault of the hysterics as it is the fault of the health experts who feed it and the media that has worked 24-7 to amplify it. She writes:
The public health establishment is fighting desperately to maintain this degree of hysteria in the populace, in order to prolong its newfound power over almost every aspect of American life. Death will erupt if the lockdowns are lifted, the experts warn every few minutes on the cable news networks, to the angry approbation of the anchors. ‘It’s going to backfire,’ Dr Anthony Fauci warned on April 20. Even as evidence keeps mounting that the virus is magnitudes less deadly than was advertised, the public health professionals are hardening their economy-killing prescriptions, rather than loosening them. David Kessler, a former head of the FDA, claims that Americans will need to eliminate two-thirds of their social contacts for a year or more until a vaccine is developed. The federal government should commandeer private factories to produce the millions of test kits that will be required on a daily basis before anyone can be ‘fully free’, he says.
After recounting the all-too-typical warnings cherry-picked from supposed "experts," McDonald writes:
We are in a race between the ideology of safetyism and the facts. The future depends on which side prevails. The data is clear. The coronavirus danger is narrowly targeted at a very specific portion of the national population: the elderly infirm, especially those located in New York City and its surrounding suburbs. It possesses minimal risk to everyone else. New York State accounted for 42 percent of the national death toll on April 24, with 77 percent of those New York State deaths occurring in New York City.

The average death rate from coronavirus in New York City is 128 per 100,000. In New York State, it is 71 per 100,000. To put those numbers in perspective, the national death rate for all causes was 723.6 per 100,000 in 2018; for heart disease it was 163.6 per 100,000. New York’s coronavirus death rates bear no resemblance to the country at large, despite New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent pronouncement that ‘an outbreak anywhere is an outbreak everywhere’. California’s coronavirus death rate is four deaths per 100,000; Pennsylvania’s, 13 deaths per 100,000; Utah’s, one death per 100,000; Washington State’s, nine deaths per 100,000; Wisconsin’s, four deaths per 100,000; Georgia’s, which we are supposed to believe is about to unleash a mortal plague upon the country, eight deaths per 100,000; Texas’s, two deaths per 100,000; and Florida’s, four deaths per 100,000, despite its elderly population. An MSNBC pundit gleefully predicted several weeks ago that Missouri would succumb because it had not halted its economy soon enough. Its virus death rate stands at four deaths per 100,000.

For further perspective on those state rates, the death rate of flu and pneumonia in 2018 was 14.4 per 100,000, for kidney disease it was 13 per 100,000, and for diabetes it was 21.4 per 100,000. In other words, most of the country has suffered a toll from coronavirus that is markedly lower than the annual deaths from the flu and a host of other ailments.

New York City’s average coronavirus death rate conceals vast differences in risk, as is true everywhere. The rate for people 75 and older is 950 per 100,000. That is seven times higher than the city-wide average, itself greatly influenced by that highest rate. For those 17 and younger the coronavirus death rate is zero. This age-based disparity is typical. The average age of confirmed coronavirus decedents in Massachusetts was 82, as of April 23.
Why aren't these data published and discussed prominently along with the media's ubiquitous 'death scoreboards'? Why don't Drs. Fauci and Birx discuss them in depth and explain their import? Why are we continuing a policy that was created (with the best of intentions) based on projections that we now know were wrong -- very wrong?

As I noted at the top of this post, McDonald is a critical thinker who is driven not by hysterical projections, but my hard, quantitative data that reflect the actual outcomes we've experienced with COVID-19. Based on what we now know, it appears there was never any reason to shut down the entire economy in most parts of the United States. Shelter seniors—yes. Discourage air travel for a time—yes. Ban very large gatherings—yes. Put distancing and handwashing measures into place along with masks—yes. But continuing the shutdown of businesses with the consequent crippling effects on the economy and on people's live. NO! Unequivocally, no.

It's time to change course aggressively, and if Dr. Anthony Fauci or any other member of Team Apocalypse doesn't like—too bad.