With the hours-long White House daily briefings, it’s very easy to get lost in the weeds or bored with the questions. Doctors Birx and Fauci are excellent infectious disease doctors, and have the President’s ear. Unfortunately, they present a single perspective that ignores many very important facts. They ask exactly one question: How many people will die from Wuhan Flu if we do (fill in the blank). So let’s go through the key facts.
1) Wuhan Flu is caused by a novel corona virus labeled COVID 19. It is easily passed from person to person, primarily by aerosols. Those are very tiny droplets that you create every time you speak, and are often invisible unless the lighting is just right. A sneeze or cough generates larger “droplets” out a number of feet. Imagine mist that makes you ask if you should turn your wipers on or not versus actual rain on your windshield versus.
COVID 19 can persist in aerosols in the lab for a couple of hours. If it lands on a surface, it can last as long as three days. This is the basic reason that Birx and Fauci continually remind us not to touch our faces. We touch surfaces all the time, and if they are contaminated, we may bring the virus near mucous membranes that allow the virus to grow. And that brings us to fact #2.
2) The number of cases reported daily is old news. Two weeks old. No, I’m not saying that the reporting is bad. Rather, it reflects infections that started two weeks ago. That means that knowing the number of infections that started in the last 13 days is impossible. All that can be done is to use models. And as Dr. Fauci notes, “All models are wrong. Some models are useful.” The question at hand is just how useful the CDC models are.
The first thing to note is that even if the CDC models are correct, we’re too late. We’re seeing a doubling of cases every three days nationwide, and every two days in hot spots. If we project the curve out two weeks, the numbers are staggering.
The problem with this is that it is the natural tendency of humans to project in a straight line. And nature is not a straight line. It’s full of curves, and the rise in Wuhan Flu will turn into a decline. The question is “When?”
This is the model that Drs Birx and Fauci present. Unfortunately, it assumes that what we do now will affect what happens tomorrow. But it cannot account for what happened in the past two weeks. That means that the model is simply wrong. We are already on the higher curve. Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director of Infectious Disease Research at the University of Minnesota puts it this way. “It is not possible to reduce transmission of COVID 19.” So even if we slow the epidemic down now, it will continue longer, and roughly the same number of people will get sick and die.
3) The reason that we cannot contain COVID 19 by social distancing is that it is “in the wild.” It is everywhere. South Korea has done wide screening, and found that 86% of Wuhan Flu cases were asymptomatic carriers. They had no signs or symptoms of the disease and were “stealth spreaders.” That means that for every sick person, six (that’s not a misprint) people are out there looking healthy, but spreading Wuhan Flu. For all I know, I’m one, since I haven’t been tested.
If stealth spreaders are half as infectious as sick people, then you have triple the chance of getting the bug from one of them as you do from someone with symptoms. And they’re everywhere, just like the 5 million people who were allowed to leave Wuhan after the epidemic started. It could by you mailman, who unknowingly infects your envelopes before putting them in your mailbox. It could be the pizza delivery guy, or the staff at the grocery store. You get the picture. You can’t know, and neither can they, since we don’t have wide testing.
***This is the key flaw in the lockdown theory. It supposes that you can limit exposure by physical separation. But society is so intertwined, with the need to get groceries, make stuff, go places, and so on, that you simply cannot avoid contact. Spread will happen widely in spite of any measures.
4) The fact that the statistical spread of Wuhan Flu cannot be modified does not change that you can reduce your individual risk. If you are at high risk with obesity and its associated diabetes, heart disease and so on, you may wish to self isolate. We don’t know how much exposure is needed to make you sick, so reducing exposure makes sense. Over 80% of all COVID 19 deaths are in obese patients, so measures to drop pounds make excellent sense. Fasting is very effective and safe.
If you are symptomatic, or have tests that show you to be a stealth spreader, then isolation makes sense, with masks and hand sanitizer used during any necessary forays outside.
Stay-at-home orders, on the other hand, are a major league bad idea. Most of that time will be inside, and CDC data shows that corona virus transmission is 18.7 times more likely indoors than outdoors. If you are cooped up with a stealth spreader…
On the other hand, outdoor activities are among the safest things you can do. Sunlight contains UV radiation, the stuff that gives you sunburn and skin cancer. It penetrates clouds, and destroys viruses. It’s used in all sorts of industrial applications to sterilize surfaces, making beaches and golf courses the safest places you can be. And remember those aerosols that carry the virus? They get blown away and neutralized very quickly. Fortunately for me, Florida Governor DeSantis left golf courses open while stupidly closing beaches. Count on it, those young girls in bikinis and the volleyball jocks are not obese. They will recover from a case of Wuhan Flu if they catch it, increasing herd immunity. In all, a minor reprimand to the young, with a benefit to all.
5) The Mortality Rate for Wuhan Flu simply is not as high as advertised. If we take the latest COVID tracking numbers, (5,784 deaths with 239,009 positive cases through April 2) you get a raw 2.4% mortality. The problem with this is that we don’t have a definitive number for stealth spreaders. Jeffrey Shaman at Columbia has evaluated the Wuhan event and finds that only about 14% of infections were identified. This is right in line with the Korean data, implying that the real mortality of Wuhan Flu is 0.4%.
Seasonal flu has a death rate of about 0.1%. That means that Wuhan Flu is four times as deadly. Since seasonal flu kills about 32,000 people a year, we’ll see about 128,000 deaths from COVID 19. That’s right in line with Birx and Fauci’s projections, but it will happen with or without the lockdown. And we cannot ignore the fact that multiple studies have shown that hydrochloroquine combined with azithromycin gives a dramatic improvement in outcomes.
For perspective, we must remember our history. The Spanish Flu of 1918 had a mortality between 1% and 3%. That’s over double the Wuhan Flu. SARS caused all sorts of fear, but we didn’t lock down even with 10% mortality. We recovered quickly. Ditto for MERS with its 40% mortality.
6) The lockdown is causing irreparable harm and massive health risks that far outweigh any proposed benefit. The 2008 economic downturn is blamed for a half million excess cancer deaths. The lockdown is far worse. This week’s unemployment numbers show ten million people out of work from government reaction to the epidemic. That’s 6% of the US workforce. The Federal Reserve estimates that unemployment could reach 32%, far higher than the 24.9% level at the worst stage of the Great Depression. This is truly a “man-caused disaster.” (Apologies to Janet Napolitano)
With all elective surgeries cancelled, a host of urgent (but not emergency!) conditions will progress to life-threatening stage. With low income service employees hit hardest, many will be unable to afford medications. The mammogram that would have detected an early breast cancer will be delayed until the disease progresses to a later stage the is less curable. And of course, there will be that increase in suicides that President Trump mentioned. The list is endless. If we wish to save lives, we have to look at all lives, not just those lost to COVID 19.
7) Eliminating all lockdowns and mandatory quarantines is very unlikely to have a material effect on the ultimate COVID 19 mortality tally. There may be a brief spike as people think that the danger is past. But as long as a rational respect for risk is maintained, the individual spread of Wuhan Flu from infected people and to high risk individuals will be constrained.
Killing the economy is an incredible harm perpetrated by Quixotic Quislings of Quarantine. The Q3s are modeling exactly one variable of a multivariate equation. That’s a recipe for disaster, and that’s exactly what we’re seeing. Some may be able to weather it, but many will not. Those of us who have will be called on to help those who have not.
And all of it came from looking at only one factor – the virus – while ignoring everything else. Mr. President, open your eyes!