Yes, Numbers Matter
Richard Gale and Gary Null PhD
Progressive Radio Network, April 7, 2020
For the millions of people who are following the daily reports and analyses of the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing should be evident. There are far more questions arising than answers, and there are certainly less answers to be relied upon. Consequently, we are being inundated with numbers and more numbers. The number of cases of infection. The number of tests performed or that should be performed. The number of masks, hospital beds and ventilators necessary. And the number of fatalities. Consider the early predictions made by NIAID director Anthony Fauci that we might expect 1.7 million deaths only to later reduce his numbers to that of a regular flu season. Or there is one of the nation’s chief physicians serving Congress and the Supreme Court, Dr. Brian Monahan, who pulled unsubstantiated figures from the astral plane to warn NBC News that up to 150 million Americans will become infected.
Moreover, confusion seems to be rampant throughout much of the nation’s healthcare infrastructure. We are being deprived of basic facts because even the experts don’t have them. Perhaps we have all seen the images of medical personnel having to wear black garbage bags as protective gear in a New York hospital or nurses’ reports about having to wash and share face masks due to shortages. One revelation that COVID-19 is mirroring back to us is dire state of our corporate healthcare system and the dearth of doctors compared to other developed nations. But should we be surprised about the failures of American medicine? Funding that should go towards a resilient medical infrastructure and preventative health measures in times of emergency has been neglected for decades. If the nation’s healthcare infrastructure had progressed to meet its population’s demand it would have lessened the pandemic significantly. Instead the US budget has been funneled off to sustain our imperialist military adventures and provide bailouts for the mega-transnational corporations, banks and billionaires.
Part of the problem is that there are no accurate epidemiological and statistical analyses, even for fatality numbers, that are based upon sound scientific principles. Perhaps one of the clearest examples to try to understand this confusion is to look at the huge discrepancy in infection rates and deaths between different countries, especially neighboring countries in Europe. How does one account for an approximate 1,810 deaths per 103,300 cases in Germany with 8,900 deaths per 98,000 cases right next door in France? Each has comparable economies and advanced healthcare systems. Is it that there are no reliable mechanisms for proper data collection and analysis? It seems to be that every government is doing its own thing and therefore all the data we have to determine the severity of the pandemic is skewed. The distinguished physician and German politician Dr. Wolfgang Wodarg, who earlier declared the H1N1 swine flu pandemic as “one of the greatest medicine scandals of the century,” has again warned that the COVID-19 hype is causing “considerable damage to our freedom and personal rights through frivolous and unjustified quarantine measures and restrictions.” Commenting on the current situation, Dr. Wodarg argues that “evidence based epidemiological assessment is drowning in the mainstream of fear mongers in labs, media and ministries.”
In the US, which closely follows (or controls) the World Health Organization (WHO), it is a larger mess. For example, WHO’s recent guidelines divide COVID-19 cases into two categories. First are those cases that have been confirmed by properly identifying the virus through laboratory testing. The second are those cases that have been “assigned to a clinical or epidemiology diagnosis of COVID-19 where laboratory confirmation is inconclusive or not available.” In other words, people are being ruled as COVID-19 positive without any laboratory confirmation. Furthermore, the WHO now recommends that deaths in this second category should be contributed to the coronavirus. One does not require a medical degree to realize how this is resulting in faulty tabulation of infection and death rates.
The US has also adopted the WHO guidelines according to the National Vital Statistics System. A NVSS document explaining how deaths should be reported on death certificates states, “COVID-19 should be reported on the death certificate for all decedents where the disease caused or is assumed to have caused or contributed to death.” So what impact would this have on fatality numbers if deaths without laboratory confirmation are in fact caused by other illnesses? We already know that the virus is most lethal to the elderly and persons with pre-existing medical conditions.
Below is a chart produced by the NVSS showing weekly pneumonia deaths from 2013 to the present.
Note the dramatic unprecedented decrease in deaths associated with pneumonia since the arrival of COVID-19 in the US. How does that happen? Is there an invisible war being waged between COVID-19 and pneumonia-causing pathogens such as flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), bacteria, mycoplasma and fungi to infect victims? The chart is nothing more than an illusion. The reason for this remarkable decrease is simply human error and scientific negligence.
Likewise, as both confirmed and assumed cases of COVID-19 climb, influenza cases are falling. To add to the confusion, just as the CDC now tallies COVID-19 deaths, it has done the same by conflating influenza and pneumonia deaths for many years. The CDC claims approximately 34,000 people die from flu infections annually. However, no distinction is made between the two and influenza and pneumonia deaths are grouped together. It is an excellent propaganda tool for keeping people nervous when flu season arrives in order to get rid of and distribute the 160 million-plus vaccine doses our tax dollars purchase every year.
As physician Dr. Ken Stoller wrote to the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation at the Department of Health and Human Services,
“US data on influenza deaths are false and misleading. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledges a difference between flu death and flu associated death yet uses the terms interchangeably. Additionally, there are significant statistical incompatibilities between official estimates and national vital statistics data. Compounding these problems is a marketing of fear—a CDC communications strategy in which medical experts “predict dire outcomes” during flu seasons.”
And now we discover the same agency re-categorizing influenza and pneumonia cases as COVID-19. In the same vein, how many deaths assigned to the flu may actually be caused by a coronavirus? Dr. Wodarg notes that it is “the well known fact that in every ‘flu wave’ 7-15% of acute respiratory illnesses (ARI) are coming along with coronaviruses.” He further warns that “we are currently not measuring the incidence of coronavirus diseases but the activity of the specialists searching for them.” We still do not know COVID-19’s pathogenetic role and impact compared to the common seasonal flu.
Even if we erroneously assume the CDC’s figures are accurate, as of today, there are 364,700 cases of coronavirus and almost 11,000 deaths. Yet this is a far cry from annual illnesses and deaths associated with the flu. Last year, according to Johns Hopkins University, there were over 35 million cases of flu infection and over 34,100 deaths (see chart below). And when did the entire economy ever shut down during a flu season? Even during the 2009-2010 H1N1 swine flu scare — the hyped-up pandemic that never was and was estimated to have killed only 17,000 people — life went on as normal. The WHO’s faux H1N1 pandemic resulted in only half of the CDC’s conventional estimates for annual deaths. The world’s experts at the WHO, British Health Ministry, and the CDC could not have been more wrong in their predictions in their fear tactics.
Curiously, the Johns Hopkins researchers estimated 61,000 deaths during the 2017-2018 flu season while the CDC reported it being over 80,000, a 25% difference. This also completely ignores co-morbidity, deaths directly due to other medical complications, usually pre-existing, that are independent from the virus.
Equally challenging is the lack of a universal and accurate test for proper viral identification. Polymerase Chain Reaction testing or PCR is the most accurate but is not being utilized at the level it should due to the lack of PCR systems and facilities for high throughput testing. People go to a hospital emergency room and are often only checked and asked about their symptoms. Rapid influenza tests may be performed and if negative a patient is diagnosed with a positive coronavirus diagnosis. This is not sound medical protocol. It is divination.
For whatever reason, America has an allergic reaction against learning anything from previous mistakes in the face of emergencies, whether it is a real crisis such as hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, or false alerts such as the 2009 swine flu scare. We may also remember that the aggressive push to fast track an inadequately studied swine flu vaccine onto the market resulted in spontaneous abortions and miscarriages by pregnant women who were persuaded to receive the vaccine.
But there are some facts we know. Physical distancing, wearing masks, and conscientiously washing hands and cleaning surfaces work as several Asian countries have proven. Perhaps this is a cultural thing. East Asians tend to have a greater sense of civil responsibility towards their neighbors than Americans who regard wearing a mask in public or entering self-isolation as an annoyance and inconvenience. For years, Chinese, Japanese and Korean citizens have frequently worn masks if they are feeling ill in order to protect their those they come in contact with. Other nations have been able to contain the spread of COVID-19; unfortunately Americans’ superiority complex of global exceptionalism has been one of our worst enemies.
In the meantime we desperately need scientifically valid numbers. No more politicized numbers that unnecessarily stress people out, further weaken their immune systems, and spiral the nation into further confusion and panic.