One of my favorite media “fact-check” fetishes that will certainly turn out to be false in itself is the notion that coronavirus is more deadly than the seasonal flu. It isn’t. Pretty much the only thing keeping this lie going right now are information asymmetries: The overwhelming majority of people who think they have the coronavirus do not, while most of the people who do, in fact, have the coronavirus have mild to non-existent symptoms. And information asymmetries are always resolved over time.
The CARES Act provided a financial incentive for hospitals to classify cases (and deaths) as being coronavirus-related, even without testing, because hospitals will get reimbursed from the federal government for their care by doing so. When the bills for patients with any kind of serious condition run into the tens of thousands and even millions – and state governments have removed all other procedures as a revenue source – this is a pretty big deal. So they classify them all as coronavirus patients and collect the money, knowing full well that 90% of the people who think they have it and get tested actually test negative.
It isn’t until more widespread testing and antibody testing is introduced in regions that we discover how much current figures for infections wildly underestimate the number of people who have it or have had it. The actual number is probably going to end up being in the tens of millions – much like the seasonal flu, and not some manufactured super-virus the likes of which the world has never seen – meaning the current death toll as a percentage of total infections will be relatively… normal.
A flood of new research suggests that far more people have had the coronavirus without any symptoms, fueling hope that it will turn out to be much less lethal than originally feared.
While that’s clearly good news, it also means it’s impossible to know who around you may be contagious. That complicates decisions about returning to work, school and normal life.
In the last week, reports of silent infections have come from a homeless shelter in Boston, a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, pregnant women at a New York hospital, several European countries and California.
The head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 25% of infected people might not have symptoms. The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. John Hyten, thinks it may be as high as 60% to 70% among military personnel.
None of these numbers can be fully trusted because they’re based on flawed and inadequate testing, said Dr. Michael Mina of Harvard’s School of Public Health.
Collectively, though, they suggest “we have just been off the mark by huge, huge numbers” for estimating total infections, he said…
Based on known cases, health officials have said the virus usually causes mild or moderate flu-like illness. Now evidence is growing that a substantial number of people may have no symptoms at all.
Scientists in Iceland screened 6% of its population to see how many had previously undetected infections and found that about 0.7% tested positive. So did 13% of a group at higher risk because of recent travel or exposure to someone sick.
Aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, where one crew member died from the virus, “the rough numbers are that 40 percent are symptomatic,” said Vice Adm. Phillip Sawyer, deputy commander of naval operations. The ratio may change if more develop symptoms later, he warned.
In New York, a hospital tested all pregnant women coming in to deliver over a two-week period. Nearly 14% of those who arrived with no symptoms of coronavirus turned out to have it. Of the 33 positive cases, 29 had no symptoms when tested, although some developed them later.
Previously, tests on passengers and crew from the Diamond Princess cruise ship found nearly half who tested positive had no symptoms at the time. Researchers estimate that 18% of infected people never developed any.
It would not surprise me if one of the reasons antibody testing has been so inexplicably scarce is the very real threat of civil unrest once the true scope of infections is known. You think people think it is a bunch of media hype now and that their financial futures have been ruined for no good reason, wait until there’s a slew of data to back that up and it’s no longer a contrarian hypothesis to stifle.
The biggest mistake the Trump administration has made this year was not getting second opinions on the models they were using. Elites at Stanford, Oxford, and in Israel have been trying to add reason to public policy for several weeks, and they have been largely ignored and even downright smeared by the press, who just love the drama the pandemic has caused.
Anyone with half a brain would have known to question the models from the beginning, which were never robust and made assumptions both about the virus and human behavior that were objectively false.
Relying on fools like political activist journos and Mark Zuckerberg to try to bully people out of trusting their own lying eyes is not going to work forever.