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Drowning in Coronavirus Research, Part 81

By September 3, 2020Commentary

Yesterday was a huge research drop day.  I think the people running the pre-print servers get backlogged and then have a massive release.  So I will break this into a couple of posts.

A couple of articles on whether the lockdowns made any sense.  The estimable Wall Street Journal, the last real bastion of any pretense at objective, fact-based journalism, carries an op-ed from a data analyst, who describes the results of an analysis of lockdowns on a state by state basis.  (WSJ Article)   The authors used actual mobility data and compared that with a state’s cases.  They found no benefit of the lockdowns in reducing cases, in fact a weak correlation with increased cases.  They did a further analysis of the effect of reopenings and found that those were not associated with increased cases.  They cited other studies with the same findings.

A website that I have not heard of also did a study of lockdowns.  Buyer beware.  (Revolver Study)  The study claims that the lockdowns have resulted in ten times the number of years of life lost compared to the virus.  Now I actually agree that the deaths resulting from the mitigation actions are “worse” deaths, because they are of younger people who had longer to live.  Three pretty credentialed statisticians and economists did the work, relying on some standard estimates of what happens when you visit the kind of carnage we have on an economy.  The researchers estimate that almost 19 million life-years would be lost due to the lockdowns, compared to at most 750,000 from coronavirus.  It is actually somewhat credible work.

The lockdowns were kind of a standard approach to a widespread epidemic, right?  Absolutely wrong, they are unprecedented and strongly advised against by a variety of experts for many years.  I have posted on this before, but it is such a good source.  The group that the government asked to look at potential responses to a pandemic in 2006 from a national security perspective very strongly advised against any widespread lockdown, saying it would be futile and extremely damaging.  So much good, common sense that should have been listened to in this epidemic, including warning about over-reliance on models.  Here is a nice quote:  “The negative consequences of large-scale quarantine are so extreme….that this mitigation measure should be eliminated from serious consideration.”   Yet that is what we did, even in regard to people who had no reasonable likelihood of being infected.  Oh, and did I mention that they pooh-poohed masks.  (Nat. Sec. Study)

This is a study on infection fatality rates in people over the age of 12.  (Annals Study)   The study was based on a statewide antibody survey done in Indiana, in an attempt to solve the problem of undetected infections.  Nursing home deaths were excluded, to give rates for the general population.  The overall rate was .26%.  Note that if children under 12 were included, it would be lower.  For those under 40, the case fatality rate was .01%.  For those over 60, it was 1.71%.  Just another example of how bifurcated this epidemic is.

And speaking of antibody surveys, this editorial in the British Medical Journal repeats what others have cautioned about–the surveys may be missing people who were infected because they are only testing blood, not mucus tissues in the upper airway where antibodies may be present as a result of milder infections.  And T cell presence also should be evaluated.  (BMJ Editorial)

And more papers focusing on the bad health effects of lockdowns are piling up.  This one evaluated cardiovascular disease effects.  (Medrxiv Paper)   The authors examined hospitalizations and deaths in the UK.  There was a sharp decline in the expected number, based on prior years’ experience, of hospitalizations for cardiac disease and almost double the number of expected deaths.  The researchers attribute this to overwhelmed hospitals, but it is more likely due to people being terrorized to the point of avoiding care.

This study looked at the impact on cancer care.  (Medrxiv Paper)   Researchers in India found a very substantial decline in the number of outpatient visits for cancer care and in the number of people receiving chemotherapy infusions.

This paper looked more generally at the issue of  “unreported” CV deaths.  They postulated that there seemed to be a decrease in reported deaths for certain causes and that these might actually be coronavirus deaths.   (Medrxiv Paper)    The paper has an extended examination of CDC data and an analysis of what may be going on, but the authors seem to have an assumption that all changes are due to the presence of CV-19, not changes in care-seeking behavior.

And this paper also looked at the topic of excess deaths, doing a county level assessment.  (Medrxiv Paper)   The researchers also compared historical death patterns with current year ones.  They found that around 20% of excess deaths were due to causes other than CV-19 and seemed to occur more among disadvantaged populations.  The level of excess deaths not ascribed to CV-19 was higher in counties with more CV-19 deaths.

This study from Japan looked at whether the epidemic appeared to have an effect on suicide rates.  (Medrxiv Paper)   The researchers found that suicide rates in Japan actually declined during the epidemic, particularly among working age males, which they attribute to less work stress.




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