Counting the Coronavirus Bodies

Sometimes I forget things, even important things, simply because no one talks about them and brings them up.  That’s how I was reminded of something I’d known but apparently forgotten from National Review of all places. In an article by Spanish journalist Itxu Diaz, he goes over the current European reaction to the coronavirus and mentions something else, far more important:

However, the truth is that lying does not solve the problem: We now know that neither Germany nor France is counting the deaths from coronavirus that occur outside of hospitals, and that the Germans don’t call it “death from coronavirus” if the patient had a previous illness.

This was a head slapping moment for me since of course different countries count and organize their statistics differently, making them difficult to compare across nations.  Crime statistics are a good example, since although homicides probably do mean someone got murdered from country to country, most other crimes, like rapes and various assaults have specific legal definitions that vary depending on your country.  That’s just as true for other statistics such as infant mortality.  Again, referring to yet another National Review article (yes I’m surprised too):

A 2006 report from WHO stated that “among developed countries, mortality rates may reflect differences in the definitions used for reporting births, such as cut-offs for registering live births and birth weight.” The Bulletin of WHO noted that “it has also been common practice in several countries (e.g. Belgium, France, Spain) to register as live births only those infants who survived for a specified period beyond birth”; those who did not survive were “completely ignored for registration purposes.” Since the U.S. counts as live births all babies who show “any evidence of life,” even the most premature and the smallest — the very babies who account for the majority of neonatal deaths — it necessarily has a higher neonatal-mortality rate than countries that do not.

But wait, there’s more!

A separate WHO Bulletin in 2008 noted that registration of stillbirths, live births, and neonatal deaths is done differently in countries where abortion is legal compared with countries where abortion is uncommon or illegal, and these discrepancies generate substantial differences in infant-mortality rates. Jan Richardus showed that the perinatal mortality rate “can vary by 50% depending on which definition is used,” and Wilco Graafmans reported that terminology differences alone among Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the U.K. — highly developed countries with substantially different infant-mortality rates — caused rates to vary by 14 to 40 percent, and generated a false reduction in reported infant-mortality rates of up to 17 percent. These differences, coupled with the fact that the U.S. medical system is far more aggressive about resuscitating very premature infants, mean that very premature infants are even more likely to be categorized as live births in the U.S., even though they have only a small chance of surviving. Considering that, even in the U.S., roughly half of all infant mortality occurs in the first 24 hours, the single factor of omitting very early deaths in many European nations generates their falsely superior neonatal-mortality rates.

This is simply an example that comparing statistics across nations, even among the advanced ones, is often a fool’s errand, which of course brings us to counting death by coronavirus. An article in the Spanish paper El País shows how different the count can be.

Italy is counting all patients who tested positive and who died, regardless of other aspects of their clinical history, following criteria from the Higher Institute of Health.

In the United Kingdom, until the epidemic became apparent, when a patient died in the hospital from a respiratory disease, the direct cause of the infection was not reported unless legally required…

In France, authorities have only been counting deaths at the country’s 600 hospitals and clinics caring for Covid-19 patients. This leaves out elderly people who die at home or at one of the 7,000 long-term care homes that operate in France.

And in the Netherlands, tests are only conducted on hospitalized patients. The agency in charging of tracking the disease says that the real number could be higher.

The truth is, we don’t know anything that we think we know about coronavirus mortality rates.  I don’t even know how the CDC is counting coronavirus deaths in this country.  If there were such a thing as a real reporter in the Washington press corps, you would think that one would ask about that, but be warned, don’t hold your breath.  If you do hold your breath, and die as a result, you may find yourself counted as a coronavirus statistic.

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics (Coronavirus Edition)

In the comments section Curle referred to a post over at the West Hunter site, Just another flu in Bergamo. Greg Cochran is one who is firmly with the worst-case-scenario crowd.  The money shot is this:

All this means that official death count in Italy ( 743 today) is a serious underestimate: the actual numbers must be something like 4-9 times bigger – say 4000 a day.   Does influenza do this?  One did, back in 1918.

However this basic point of agreement between the “Just a Flu” crowd and the “1918” crowd is that we can’t trust the numbers.  This unfortunately has been true from the beginning.  I’ve never believed the Chinese numbers, and I don’t believe their current “no new cases” claim now.  However, what’s a WHO going to do?  The World Health Organization initially only had Chinese numbers, and those numbers began to shape our understanding of this virus.

But of course we are still trying to find gold from dross, which is how 743 deaths times x (with x being guesswork) gives you 4,000 dead Italians a day.  But I don’t see how Italy can tell us anything about the virus.  That country has been an outlier throughout this crisis.  Look at the (official) death rates compared to some comparative countries:

Mises.org

I could argue contra Cochran, “Hey look at Germany!”

Of course for all I know Germany is fiddling with their numbers to mitigate the impact of the virus.  The truth is, we just don’t have good numbers, and frankly I don’t trust Italians to keep good records in the first place.  I do trust the records of the US however, with qualifications.

As of today (March 26th):

The qualifications?  I buy the death rates (1,163), but I don’t buy the number of cases (80,854).  Testing for COVID-19 is still mostly limited to first responders, medical personnel, celebrities (?), and people showing symptoms at the doctor’s office or emergency room.  That is not a representative sample. At the earliest it will be weeks, and more likely months, before the US has enough data to really have a good idea how the bell curve of severity of symptoms plays out with COVID-19.  In the meantime I can agree with Cochran that the Italian numbers are probably wrong.

 

The Coronavirus Hysteria

Meanwhile in Florida…

Gov. Ron DeSantis issued four executive orders Friday designed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, shutting down restaurants except for takeout or delivery, banning non-urgent medical procedures and surgeries, closing most businesses in Palm Beach and Broward counties where people congregate and allowing local governments to meet via telephone or video conferences.

…and just like that, Florida was in an economic depression. And; in the name of one-upsmanship…

Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried issued a statement on Friday asking Governor Ron DeSantis to consider implementing a statewide “stay-at-home” order.

This is being repeated all over the country as States, cities, and local municipalities try to outdo each other in how quickly they can shut down all economic activity in their area.  The nation’s economy has gone from roaring 20’s to Great Depression in a few weeks, and because it’s under the guise of a healthcare emergency, everyone seems to think that once this has died down, the economy will spring back to normal.

I really hope so.

But I don’t have much experience with this sort of economic downturn, in which the fundamentals of the economy were fine and then, on a dime businesses all over the country were ordered shut down by government fiat. When one thinks of the number of businesses that are afloat on a thin margin, even in good times, it seems clear that many of those businesses won’t be coming back.

Of course a health care emergency, if big enough and threatening enough could make it worth the damage that we’ve willingly inflicted on ourselves.

I just don’t think this is it.

Since the beginning of this “crisis” I’ve been skeptic of the idea that this was some new Spanish Flu, or do we have to call it the Latinx Flu now?  I don’t even know this flu’s pronouns!  My initial skepticism was based on not being able to believe a lying media which has been in a state of constant phony hysteria for the past couple of years.  Why would this hysteria be any different?  But whatever “Operation Get Trump Part XXII” this may have started as, the hysteria has swollen well past mere partisanship.  This is now the real thing; real hysteria.  People like me who seem a bit sanguine about the “crisis” are so few that we’re treated as oddball curiosities. And the bipartisan coming together of left and right into unhinged hatred of skeptics asking reasonable questions is something that, like so much of the past few years, is new; beyond my experience.  But I’m starting to see how witches get burned at the stake and people get lynched.

I’ve been tracking the numbers of new cases and deaths based on the past couple of days, and although I acknowledge that there is a testing bias involved in these numbers (there are no doubt far more cases than are being shown in the available statistics) the numbers don’t seem very frightening to me.

Source:          https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

Of course I’m comparing it to a fairly comparable similar example in history, the “Swine Flu” pandemic.  From the CDC:

From April 12, 2009 to April 10, 2010, CDC estimated there were 60.8 million cases (range: 43.3-89.3 million), 274,304 hospitalizations (range: 195,086-402,719), and 12,469 deaths (range: 8868-18,306) in the United States due to the (H1N1)pdm09 virus.

We suffered 12,469 deaths from H1N1 and we didn’t shut down a single restaurant. In fact, I don’t even recall a demand to do that, let alone shut down the entire economy, and establish curfews.

As for the annual flu, the 2017-2018 flu Season:

CDC estimates that the burden of illness during the 2017–2018 season was high with an estimated 45 million people getting sick with influenza, 21 million people going to a health care provider, 810,000 hospitalizations, and 61,000 deaths from influenza (Table 1). The number of cases of influenza-associated illness that occurred during 2017-2018 was the highest since the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, when an estimated 60 million people were sick with influenza.

So we had 61,000 dead Americans just last year, and again, no call to shut down the entire country.  People went to work, kids went to school, and thousands died.

So what makes this year different?

After this season winds down and cooler heads begin to prevail, I expect to be reading some think pieces on “Why did we overreact?” or “Why did Trump overreact?”  In any case I’ll be curious as to the theories of why my immune system seemed to resist the wave of hysteria while so many others succumbed.  That’s one view of it.

The other view of course, is that I’m totally off base.  Every bit of hysteria is totally justified and I’m the crazy one, I’m this guy…

Is this me?

…totally oblivious to the real danger I’m in, either through drunkenness or stupidity.  I have to consider the possibility, when so many people whose opinions I respect are foaming at the mouth in fear, that I’m too dumb to be afraid of something I very much should be afraid of.

It’s possible.

We’ll know one way or the other.  If Covid-19 deaths fail to exceed annual flu deaths, than I was right, the hysteria was overblown, and I can return to my usual state of smugness.  Of course if they way exceed that amount by hundreds of thousands, then we’ll know I was a fool.

Can’t wait to find out!

My Corona

There was something missing for me before I could join the internet frenzy of posting on the current hysteria on the coronavirus, and that was the coronavirus parody songs.  We’ve finally hit peak parody songs for Coronavirus, so let me present the best one of the bunch I looked at…

…there were a few others that let’s face it, just were not up to snuff, but at least they were out there trying.  Of course The Knack’s My Sharona is probably one of the most easily parodiable (is this a word?) song of all time.  Yes, Sharona and Corona is a happy rhyming coincidence, but you don’t even need that, as Weird Al demonstrated back in 1983 with his iconic take.

No such luck for my second guess, a parody of Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire. A search found nothing coronavirus related so I’ll get it started and everyone can join in:

Black Plague, Spanish Flu, Jonas Salk cured Polio

Legionnaires, Swine Flu, Measles and Anti-Vax,

SARS and MERS, Ebola coming straight for you

And don’t forget Bird Flu!

We didn’t start the virus…

Now Everybody…

No?

OK back to the day job…

But parody songs aside, I’ve been wondering how serious I should take this virus for the past two months.  Is it “wash my hands” serious, or stock up on beans and bullets and head for the hills serious?  Most of the commentary online seems to lean more towards beans and bullets.  But I guess I’ve just been so over-saturated with hysteria from the media the past few years it’s becoming more and more difficult to take anything they say seriously.  You may not remember, but in January we were supposed to plunge into World War III because Trump offed some terrorist.  We were also supposed to plunge into World War III in 2017 because North Korea was going to nuke us.  Now someday, we may well get into World War III, but I doubt it will be due to anything that the media hyped up for sweeps.

On the other hand, I am washing my hands more, and for the first time, I’ve availed myself to the Purell wipes for the carts at the grocery store.  So precautions are being listened to.

However some people seemed to have gone corona-crazy, and in a way that I wasn’t even during the last time I was seriously worried about a disease as a public health concern, 2014’s Ebola outbreak.  With a death rate of 50-90%, that is a disease to be feared.

But the nearest comparison is still the annual flu season (I know I know, it’s not the flu, but its symptoms are basically identical).  To put it in perspective:

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that last year in the U.S. alone 35 million people contracted the flu. That is million with an “m.” That means that one in every 10 Americans had the flu. There were 490,000 hospitalizations and 34,000 people who died of the flu in America during last year’s season. That was an annual flu epidemic.

So far in the United States this flu season, from October through February 22, the CDC estimates there have been upwards of 45 million cases of the flu in the U.S. Again, that’s million with an “m.” There have been between upwards of 560,000 flu-related hospitalizations and upwards of 46,000 flu deaths. This is another annual flu epidemic.

According to this website, (which updates with regular coronavirus statistics); as of this writing, the US has 950 cases, 30 deaths, and 8 cases considered “critical.”  Since the coronavirus competes with the flu for the same vulnerable population (elderly with chronic conditions), the idea that this virus could kill over a million and a half people in the US seems ridiculous.  The precautions being taken could save lives by reducing deaths and infection from the annual flu.  If anything, the worst threat we face is the economic one from the hysteria.

Well, we’ll know in a few months.  Either it will drop down the media memory hole, or at some point I’ll step out of my Fortress of Solitude to find a vacant, dead world, killed off by a Mexican beer of all things.

My bet is memory hole.

Democrats Will Rally Around the Nominee…Regardless

Bernie Sanders’ win in the Nevada caucus on Saturday provided a great deal of entertainment. Chiefly MSNBC conventional wisdom spinner Chris Matthews panicking on live TV:

“I’m reading last night about the fall of France in the summer of 1940,” Matthews said. “And the general calls up Churchill and says, ‘It’s over,’ and Churchill says, ‘How can it be? You got the greatest army in Europe. How can it be over?’ He said, ‘It’s over.'”

Matthews nonsensical ramblings comparing a man who lost his family in the Holocaust to the Blitzkrieg show that cable TV might want to establish a retirement age to on air talent that’s way past their sell by date.

Matthews, James Carville, and other voices of the Democratic establishment are doing their best to stop the Bernie train because their lifetime of political knowledge and experience tell them that the American electorate is never going to go with a commie like Bernie and any Sanders nomination will lead to a catastrophic Democratic defeat in this fall.

I think they may be wrong.

The American electorate isn’t what it once was and more and more, the average American voter has no memories of the Cold War.  To them, “socialism” is the great new idea they heard about in their gender studies class.  Hey why hasn’t anyone tried this?

But it’s not just that.  It’s also that in newly tribal America, the swing voter is almost an extinct species.  Independent voters may not have an official party designation, but they know what side they’re on. Virtually no one is looking at both sides, trying to decide which party is presenting the best set of policies.  Policies don’t matter.  Just voting with your side does.

So my prediction is that if Bernie winds up winning the Democratic nomination, all of the Bernie skeptics, Matthews, Carville, and Biden-centric MSNBC, will suddenly love Bernie, and will gladly march behind him waving whatever little red book Bernie issues to his followers.

And unlike 2016, when half the Republican establishment broke with the party because they found the nominee unacceptable, there will be no similar split for the Democrats.  If there are examples of “Never Bernie,” they will be very few and very far between.

Mitt Romney and His Oath

At the start of the impeachment trial in the Senate, each Senator took an oath administered by Chief Justice John Roberts:

“Do you solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, president of the United States, now pending, you will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help you god? “

I’m going to argue every Democratic Senator, plus Mittens, violated that oath.

During the impeachment trial, the Democrats made an argument that witnesses were absolutely needed to for the Senate to have all the evidence needed to conduct a fair trial.  To that end, the Senate voted on the issue of calling witnesses:

“The final tally was 51 votes against the motion, and 49 in favor.

The vote dashed Democrats’ hopes of hearing testimony from former Trump national security advisor John Bolton, and it shifted the weeks-long trial into its final stages.

Two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Utah’s Mitt Romney, broke with their party in order to join Democrats in voting to admit additional evidence, but the majority, 51 Republicans, did not.

Democrats had needed at least four GOP senators to vote with them, and they fell short of that threshold by two votes. “

So every Democratic Senator plus Susan Collins and Mitt Romney voted to include witnesses because they regarded witnesses as vital to determine what happened.  As an aside, I would have preferred witnesses myself.  Considering how absurd this impeachment was, it would have benefited the country to have an impeachment trial in which everyone involved, from the whistleblower, to Adam Schiff, to Nancy Pelosi and the Bidens, testify under oath.  Heh, it could have been an amusing couple of months!

So what happened at the conclusion of the trial?

“On Feb. 5, the Senate voted 52-48 to acquit Trump on the abuse of power impeachment article and voted 53-47 to acquit Trump on the obstruction of Congress impeachment article. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) was the only senator who broke with his party, voting to convict Trump on abuse of power. “

So every Democrat, plus “Pierre Delecto,” after arguing that they didn’t have enough evidence and they needed more, decided to say, eh fuck it, and vote guilty anyway.  That seems a pretty clear violation of their oath to do “impartial justice.”  Justice was never on the menu.

 

 

The Turnout Election

As a “Demography is Destiny” type of guy, my default view is that the 2020 election should be a cakewalk for the Democrats.  All Democrats have to do is not be crazy…but that seems like a high bar.

Katie Pavlich reports at Townhall on President Trump’s New Jersey rally from last Tuesday and the statistics gathered by the Trump campaign are interesting.

The analysis of the most important states don’t look good for the President but the data gathered by Brad Parscale at this most recent (and other) Trump rallies is encouraging.  This is going to be a turnout election, one in which the Democrats won’t be caught sleeping again like they were in 2016.  For Trump to win he needs not only to get everyone who voted for him previously, but also to add a lot more new voters. It’s easy to get voters like me to show up at the polls; I’m engaged and will be voting rain or shine, but most Americans are not engaged, or even registered to vote.  Getting those people to the polls is a big ask, but absolutely necessary if Trump is going to have any chance of winning.

And then there is the part of Parscale’s tweet that goes back to the first thing I mentioned in this post, not being crazy.  26.3% of the attendees of Trump’s New Jersey rally were Democrats. If the Democrats are really serious in purging every non-woke Democrat out of the party, they can’t win.  Of course we are early in the primary season now, where crazy is a premium; but for how long?  The longer the Democrats remain crazy the better Trump’s chances are.