Two stories in the last two days have confirmed a theory I have been spouting all week on my AM podcast and in a number of tweets. They are based in CDC flu surveillance which I will explain:
My bet is if the IMHE model backed the population seed date 45 days, looked at the ILI for 2019-20 & recalculated it would be far more accurate.
Just a hunch.
— Stacey – Queen of #CorporateMediaDistancing (@ScotsFyre) April 6, 2020
It’s gonna be lit when antibody tests go wide & we find out there is a ton of immunity in the population already.
The seed date in these models has got to be wrong. Only way I can think to explain the delta.
— Stacey – Queen of #CorporateMediaDistancing (@ScotsFyre) April 7, 2020
So why did I think this? Simple. I started digging around in the CDC’s own data regarding flu-like illness monitoring. It also helped they were transparent enough to put it on their website. However, the percentage of outpatient visits that were related to flu-like illness had three distinct spikes this year:
This graph, through March 28, 2020, is even more interesting when you note that only 19.0% of laboratory tests were positive for the influenza virus. The other 81% had to be something. This is especially noteworthy when you look at the unusually high levels of visits.
P & I Mortality
The plot thickens when you look at deaths from Pneumonia and Influenza Like Illness.
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At the far right side of the graph, you can see the red line increase sharply to exceed the baseline and epidemic levels beginning between week 40 and 50. It then goes even higher beginning about week 8. The first spike follows a sharp increase in visits for flu-like illnesses around week 46 in the graph above. Meanwhile, diagnosis of the actual influenza virus has been unusually low.
Five Months of Community Spread
My hypothesis was that the United States is dealing with an outbreak after approximately five months of community spread. Not the two and a half that would begin with the first diagnosed case in late January. It would also offer a far better explanation of the full geographic spread. If it was here in November and December, travel around the holidays is much higher and airports are extremely busy. Viruses travel too.
We know about the progressions from infection to symptoms. If the elevations in flu-like illnesses and subsequent elevation in P&I are any clue, COVID-19 hit our shores in mid-November.
Yesterday, The New York Times Reported that their initial cases were several week prior to the first diagnosed case. Their headline attempted to absolve China, but the way this was tracked was by genome. How the virus has evolved is very clear.
Today, ABC Chicago reported that Stanford researchers have theorized that the virus hit California late last year and was perceived as a particularly nasty flu season. Looking at the CDC’s own data, the extensive travel to from China reported in the article and common sense, I fully support this theory.
Did the IMHE model being used to govern our policy response take any of this into consideration? It is the CDC’s own data, collected weekly and monitored for patterns. My own state Georgia was flagged as high risk for the flu right through the end of March. The following update is now on the CDC site:
What do they think was affecting the health seeking behavior in the first two spikes of the season? The first two times the outpatient visits for flu-like illness were far above average? Especially when lab diagnosed flu was so low and deaths from pneumonia and influenza have now hit near zero? Isn’t there some bright analyst at the CDC who would at least challenge the assumption?
We have crashed our economy and impacted millions of lives with our policy response to the virus. This is completely understandable if we thought the first case arrived in January and was causing cases in all 50 states as of mid-March. However, I am not sure how that is a reasonable assumption looking at the data the CDC collects. Especially through the lens of understanding the first case in China was at least November 17, 2019. And given the obfuscation by the CCP, may have been even earlier.
This will all be confirmed by antibody assays which we are assured are on the way. This really needs to be a burning priority. If the Stanford researchers are correct, it will make a huge difference in how fast we can open up our economy.
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