The most common argument about covid-19—putting aside out of control Never Trumpers and their babble—is: covid-19 mortality rates are roughly comparable to flu and thus no big deal.
This interpretation is wrong for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it is based on lying flu stats. Secondly, the relationship between covid-19 and flu is misunderstood.
Here is the important point in understanding both within a framework:
Covid-19 isn’t instead of flu; covid-19 is in addition to flu. It’s a new disease. Flu deaths still continue as normal. Covid-19 death and illness has to be handled on top of flu.
If covid-19 were a strain of flu then it would be possible to argue that covid-19 was really a manifestation of the flu, perhaps a bit worse, but basically like other years.
But, covid-19 simply isn’t flu. It’s a part of the coronavirus family. It’s related to SARS and MERS with roughly 10% and 30% mortality rates respectively. It’s happening simultaneously and apart from influenza. Flus continue to attack humans as normal. It is now flu and coronavirus versus people.
Given that flu is considered a massive problem itself, even a leading top ten cause of death, this is a game changer.
To understand this point consider an analogy to boxing. You can box one guy who is okay, or another guy who is also okay, and it doesn’t matter much who you box, but if you try to box them at the same time you are going to get wrecked.
This analogy is exaggerated because humans constantly deal with far more than two threats to our lives but the idea is roughly right, perhaps it’s a bit more like playing soccer versus a team who could field 12 players instead of 11.
Serious concern, or “panic,” isn’t due to faulty interpretation of stats but in fact logical interpretation. You would expect to see hospitals overwhelmed if you add a totally new top ten killer.
Which brings us to the next point.
Covid-19 is supposedly not that bad because the flu is a top ten killer and we live with and accept that. If the flu is so bad, and covid-19 is nothing special compared to flu, then there is nothing new going on here.
But what if the flu stats are totally bunk and inflated? Then we are using a lie to dismiss covid-19.
The same people who can’t be trusted on covid-19, the global health establishment, the CDC, are the same people that give the flu mortality stats that are then used to dismiss covid-19!
If you don’t trust covid-19 data then flu data has to be examined too. And it turns out there are serious. probably fatal problems, with flu mortality stats.
Flu mortality stats aren’t reliable. They are not simply based on looking at death certificates that cite flu and tallying them up.
Instead, the CDC gathers a weird hodgepodge of data from sensitivity of current year’s flu to showing as positive on tests, to how many national mortalities of all causes exist, plugs it into a statistical model, and pops out a guess.
Their model for retroactively assigning flu deaths per year makes the global warming model look like a textbook exercise in precision.
To me, it sounds like they start with the assumption that flu causes a lot of deaths, and then adjust that number yearly based on a few numbers they can more easily get, for example, if more people died in a year than normal then they “know” that flu caused more deaths:
“Estimates of excess deaths related to influenza were based on a statistical model of the weekly number of deaths obtained from the National Center for Health Statistics. The model accounts for seasonal trends in mortality and weekly circulation of influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, obtained from national virologic surveillance. The model was fitted using Markov chain Monte Carlo methods, yielding “point estimates” (mean or median of the empirical posterior distribution) and “confidence intervals” (95% credible intervals) for the number of deaths attributable to influenza… Even when influenza likely contributed to the events leading to a death, it may not be recognized and is rarely listed on the death certificate.”
Note also how even though people commonly take the CDC’s measurements to say “flu caused deaths” what the CDC actually talks about is deaths “related to influenza” or “flu associated” deaths.” A nice sleight of hand to boost the numbers.
It’s kind of like how they bundle together flu with pneumonia. Where does one stop and the other end? No one knows. But as long as it boosts flu deaths per year they are game to count it.
“Flu associated deaths,” according to CDC, used to range between 3,000-49,000 deaths a year. Then they changed models, and now they range from 12,000-79,000.
Within their already widely fluctuating retroactive estimates there are huge unknowns. For instance, in 1986, the CDC claims that flu-associated and/or pneumonia associated flu deaths was between 684-2,099. And even that estimate is their 95% CI guess so it could be outside that range. They basically have no idea what the number was. It makes our covid-19 testing looking sophisticated.
Here is a paper from a doctor calling out the CDC and their flu stats. It’s worth reading if this topic interests you.
BTW, fun fact I just learned, the flu-vaccine industry is worth billions of dollars. If you read the CDC work on flu it is littered with references to how important flu vaccines are.
Anyway, back to the main point. What is the relevance of fake CDC flu stats?
Well, the CDC has lulled many people into a dangerous sense of complacency regarding covid-19.
People think covid-19 is no big deal only because flu is allegedly so bad. Supposedly we are used to this type of thing. But if flu stats are fake, then no, we aren’t used to the danger covid-19 presents.
The above two reasons are why anecdotally, hospitals report getting destroyed by covid-19, and yet people look at the numbers and don’t see how it can be possible; it’s a bad interpretation of the numbers.
It seems to me that flu-caused death is probably more on the order of 1,000-10,000 a year (this figure is me talking out of my ass, but it’s probably more accurate than the CDC). Then suddenly when you look at the US covid-19 death toll at 900—and we’re just getting started—it can’t be dismissed quite so fast.
Covid-19 in my estimation, interpreting the numbers, presents a serious new danger to people.
That being said, this is not an argument for a specific policy. Understanding of covid-19 has to be kept separate from policy discussion where we impose our own values and judgment to take action.
Maybe a highly limited reaction by government is still warranted, in spite of the dangers covid-19 poses, but that is a discussion few are ready to have, yet.