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More Coronavirus Nuggets

By May 20, 2020Commentary

A well-known epidemiologist speaks out on how foolish the lockdowns have been and how non-dangerous coronavirus is to the general population.   (Spiked Interview)   Dr. Knut Wittkowski talks way too much common sense.  He was head of Rockefeller University’s epidemiology department.  He does not hide his disdain for the shoddy modeling work and emphasizes that it is dangerous only to the frail elderly.  He worries about the health harms from the lockdowns.  He is dismissive of social distancing and concerns about second waves.

Next up is an article in Bloomberg News showing that Europe’s lockdowns did not work.  (Bloomberg Article)  The author analyzes data from the University of Oxford on strictness of lockdown and results on excess deaths.  There was no correlation between strictness of lockdown and number of excess deaths.  Timing may have had some effect.  And people with harsher lockdowns appear to be suffering more economic harm.

Next up, another antibody study, this one looking at health care workers.   (Medrxiv Paper)   554 workers who were asymptomatic were tested for infection and for antibodies.  2.39% of people had a positive infection test.  24% of antibody tests were positive.  People who thought they may have had the infection had a higher rate of antibodies.  The researchers concluded that infection tests alone consistently undercount total cases.  And there are clearly lots of asymptomatic cases.

Two articles in Health Affairs, a journal I subscribe to, have different perspectives and different levels of rationality.  The first looks at likely effects on health care spending.  (HA Article)   The author disagrees with some estimates of as many as 5 million hospitalizations attributable to coronavirus.  Those projections are based on hospitalization rates that are not consistent with actual experience.  Even less hospitalizations are likely if the mythic second wave doesn’t emerge.  He thinks coronavirus will increase spending by $61 billion to $98 billion.  On the other side of the ledger, he estimates greater reductions in other health care spending because of fear, unnecessary fear.  So on balance there will be lower health spending, at least until we start paying for the effects of all that missed health care.

The next piece in Health Affairs clearly falls into the category of “pandemic porn”, a piece so shorn of realistic assumptions and analysis as to be solely intended to garner attention for its absurdly scary death estimates.  (HA Article)   The author purports to estimate the infection fatality rate for symptomatic coronavirus cases.  The definition of symptomatic is completely unclear.  And he estimates no more than 20% of cases are asymptomatic, which is absurd at this state of the evidence.  The assumptions about the accuracy and changing accuracy of case and death data are completely unsupported by any evidence.  Then of course he builds a model to predict deaths, which leads to a conclusion that we will have 500,000 deaths this year.  No breakout in the model of deaths due to age or setting, which is bizarre since it looks like as many as two-thirds of all US deaths to date are actually to long-term care facility residents.  All you need to know about this piece of trash is that the first study they footnote to is the discredited Imperial College work.  And the author is a professor in the college of Pharmacy so you have to wonder what real-life experience he has.  No citations to any of the work in tens of studies finding far, far lower fatality rates.  Health Affairs has disgraced itself by even considering publishing garbage like this.  But you can be sure that the media that is always looking for a reason to scare people will pick this up.


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  • Bob Easton says:

    So, if we are to believe our own common sense, the knowledge of Dr. Wittkowski, and many others, this epidemic ends when enough people have been infected that the virus finds no other candidates. By that thinking, we should be determining how to reach that goal with least injury to those most susceptible to harm, the frail and elderly.

    Why then does Ford Motor Co. shut down an assembly line because ONE worker shows positive results? Among a population (young to middle age people) that has virtually no risk, why stop the business?

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