For a little over a year, before all this began, I setup a news alert filter for the words “experts say” in the headline. It’s provided a non-stop stream of puerile idiocy ever since. Once Coronavirus hit, the shreik-o-meter has been cranked to the level where I almost need to turn it off for my own sanity.
What it does do is vividly illustrate how the media frames events and how divorced from actual reality those narratives really are.
Today’s example is the bottom one in my latest alert, 23,000 Floridians projected to die from COVID-19 by February, experts say…
When I read that, it sounds like between now and February, 23,000 Floridians will die from Covid. When you click through to the link, the headline is changed from “by February” to “by March”, so let’s use March for our calculations and give it until the end of March, which is 137 days away.
For 23,000 Floridian souls to die from Covid by March 31, it would mean 167.4 fatalities per day. When we pull up Florida COVID-19 stats, we see we’d a similar pattern that I reported on in the “Follow the science!” post, for the loudest, most hysterical prognostications to be fulfilled. Actual fatalities are in a pronounced downtrend, and to hit this number the data would have to blast off at a near vertical incline right now.
That’s how the headline reads to me. If what they really meant to say was “By February, the cumulative death toll from COVID-19 will be 23,000”, there are ways to convey that in a headline, like “COVID-19 Death toll to hit 23,000 by March, experts say”. It still sounds scary enough to draw in the clicks, especially if people don’t know that 17,445 Floridians have succumbed with COVID-19 already.
That means (carry the 1, ….) by the end of March, an additional 5,556 Floridians will die with COVID-19. That’s 40 per day, which is still higher than the current trend, even if you factor in that additional fatalities may very well be added onto the most recent 5 or 6 data points in a rolling fashion.
Also, notice how I keep writing that these fatalities, sad as they are, will die with COVID, not of it. We know already from both CDC and WHO data that co-morbidities are present in as many as 96% of all fatalities (even though I did say previously that I think the remaining 6% “death by COVID” number is higher than 6%).
All of which shows, when you look at the total deaths in a state like Florida, which looks like about 200,000/annually, across all causes (this is 2016 data here), approximately 547 Floridians pass on every day. Even if the headline read as seems (23K deaths between now and March), it would make for in increase in absolute fatality rate of about 20%, 1/5th. Which would be very bad, but not civilization ending catastrophic.
As it stands however, when you factor the 23K is the end of a cumulative series, we’re talking about a 0.07x increase (7%) in absolute death rate, and that’s if every single fatality is of COVID as opposed to with COVID.
So even there, the numbers are not as bad as the media makes them out to be. As I said before, all of this should be good news! So why are the major media outlets hysterically shrieking at us that our way of life is over forever instead of delivering the good news that we could be closer to the end of this thing than the beginning?
I’ll leave with a montage around Anthony Fauci telling Americans to basically shut up and do what they’re told. Americans may prefer to tell him to Fauc-off instead.
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The problem here is you deep dive to argue the numbers saying “experts” are wrong then use nothing other than “probably” to say it’s almost over. Maybe we are almost done, but the way this is framed is very very brain-wormed.
This manufactured hysteria is invented by and for a society without enough real problems to worry about.
I did a crude back of the envelope calculation of the increase of the death rate in California from covid-19 and also came up with 7%. I maintain this figure lands squarely in the political zone. Low enough for some people to say “let’s get on with our lives” and high enough for others to demand protection.
Found your site from the article about Marks not Marx, and like what you’re doing. But there are a lot of better “experts say” errors to pick on than this COVID deaths thing.
In particular, if you’re going to try to discredit “experts”, you have to do your homework thoroughly. And I question your Florida data. The Johns Hopkins CSSE dataset for Florida shows as-reported deaths/day (7-day average to smooth weekend noise) ranging between 40-60 in early November and then rising to between 60-80/day in the past 2 weeks. The downtrend ended. The Florida Health site reports “known deaths by date of death” which is grossly misleading due to reporting lags. In context of “Marks not Marx”, the “I don’t know” interpretation of this data is that they get a bunch of delayed reports and each day they know how many reports they got (hence the Johns Hopkins data), but many of these are people who died many days ago and the paperwork only just got to the state. The fact that they only graph the past 30 days on their website is serious abuse of this data and in an “I know” world where I’m in charge, this would be getting people fired!
The surge in deaths in Florida is evident on multiple data streams. And even in the goober Florida website, the “new cases” and “positivity rate” are both surging, and ED and FSED visits are also up.
Anyway, a COVID surge that causes 10,000-20,000 plus deaths over next 100 days is quite plausible b/c it happened already, in Florida! from June-August. I generally count on the “expert consensus” to predict things that already happened… and then often they’re wrong because history only rhymes. But here, it could in fact be even worse.
IMO the real issue with COVID is twofold:
1) COVID’s not civilization-threatening, but it does cause hospitals to overflow and when that happens, excess mortality from ALL causes surges. Saw that in Wuhan, Milan, NYC, France… it’s not rocket science. It’s just bad enough that something really does need to be done to slow it down.
2) It’s absolutely a political issue since it creates a prisoner’s-dilemma sort of situation. And it splits people fairly neatly between libertarian/Republican and authoritarian/Democratic viewpoints. Libertarian-minded folks often write about how they can ignore COVID b/c their own odds of dying are miniscule, but they invariably overlook the problem that the medical system is awfully fragile and needs protecting or else deaths from all causes shoot way up. Authoritarians in the “I know” school, however, have massively screwed up the policy response, are actively discriminating against too many people they don’t like or understand, and forcing dumb rules upon everyone which don’t actually protect the elderly who are most at-risk. The authoritarian response leads to a Prisoner’s Dilemma because everyone has an incentive to cheat the “stay home stay safe” rules, as long as the virus isn’t raging too badly and they believe their own risk is negligible. Given the choice between “loss of income, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” vs. a perceived small risk of a minor illness, of course many people will cheat! But that cheating itself causes COVID to flourish, and forces authoritarians to amplify their hypocrisy, pushing ever-tighter restrictions, which create even stronger incentives to cheat the rules.
You have summed up my dilemma perfectly. I vacillate between concern that this could rage out of control with anger at the ridiculousness of the local mandates that seem to shift with the wind, and bear little resemblance to true cause and effect. Local health officials in our area have squandered the public trust, with our mayor photographed in a resort area hanging out in a large group of people, maskless, and plenty of other similar stories.
Shutting down mom and pop stores while not placing occupancy requirements on the big box stores and grocery stores where hordes of people are not social distancing. Totally ignoring indoor air quality, while cases in prisons, meatpacking plants and nursing homes at one point were 82% of all cases in KS- all indoor confined spaces, while outdoor gatherings were limited to 25 people. Failing to deal with, acknowledge or discuss that only 6% of deaths were Covid with no other co-morbidities. Focusing on HC access to the exclusion of healthier behaviors – obesity is a big risk factor, but stay indoors and close the gyms or, more recently, shut down those who are not making people wear a mask on the elliptical.
But the bottom line is that the lines have really hardened into 2 camps. Those who ignore or downplay the public risk, prioritizing individual freedom and point to the ‘experts’ who have been wrong about many things, flout their own rules, and or make up arbitrary & capricious guidelines that pick winners and losers. The other camp buys the full fear doctrine being preached in the news outlets, and are increasingly angry and belligerent toward those who are not following the rules, and see their compliance as evidence of their virtue. And you dare not insult someone’s virtue.
I have friends and relatives who literally have not stepped in a store or restaurant since April, even turning down invitations to outdoor events and hikes, a couple of them do have to go into the office but that is as far as their risk chain extends. I understand where they are coming from, but at the same time, have a hard time reconciling with friends who have lost or are hanging by a thread in their businesses, and seeing my business’s revenue off by 40% this year, and my husband’s job situation becoming perilous (sales rep to mom and pop retailers) as his many of his customers are suffering. The cure cannot be worse than the disease. It’s truly a no win situation, and the experts would rather us turn on each other than look more closely at them.
Just one small problem. Hospitalization overflow isn’t real. Most ICUs would love to be at 95-100% capacity. Huge money maker for the hospital. But that’s not what we are seeing. If you go to the Health and Human Services(HHS) website and look at their data- Estimated National Hospitalization Utilization, ICU Beds occupied are 67,987 or 63.87%! Inpatient beds 528,596 or 74.18%! Far from capacity and a real concern for hospital CEO’s. Revenues are down dramatically. For the record, the federal government mandates that hospitals be able to increase ICU capacity to 150% in an emergency. Most acknowledge they can get to 200% without much trouble. This is a bad flu. Nothing more nothing less. Stories of refrigerated trucks for the dead and tents to treat the massive overflow of patients are all the same exaggerations we saw in Time magazine back in early 2018. It will eventually be recognized as one of the greatest medical frauds ever perpetrated on the American people. The tragic consequences are the suicides destruction of small business and the loss of necessary socialization across all of society. The “experts” should be forced to pay a heavy price for the disaster of their making.
The estimated HHS numbers are averaged across the entire US. Neither COVID infection nor ICU beds (nor bottled oxygen) are uniformly distributed across the country, nor is it the case the use of ICU beds is evenly distributed across time. As such, using those numbers to argue whether hospital overflow is real are not is disingenuous.
As for “This is bad flu. Nothing more nothing less”, in 2020, the CDC estimates there were 22,000 deaths attributed to the influenza virus. As documented at https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/, for the period from 21 Jan 2020 to 8 Jan 2021, the CDC estimates (or rather, the states report) 364,029 deaths attributed to COVID. While you may consider this “bad flu”, the numbers suggest it is approaching 1918 influenza levels of badness. it wouldn’t appear to me to matter what you call it or whether co-morbidities are involved: the data are quite clear: COVID has caused a significant spike in excess deaths, significantly beyond “bad flu”.
The death rate for Florida is now 24,000, I think (in less than a year!). Does “with” or “from” Covid-19 make a difference? Not to those who have died with or from it, obviously, yet therein (IMHO) lies the answer. Were it not for Covid, many of these people would probably still be alive. Not for long, possibly, given their age, illnesses, chronic diseases, etc., but another six weeks, six months, year, two years of life have been stolen from them by the virus. Remember “Better red than dead” from the 60’s? In the current context, I’d say “Better alive than Covidised”.