Politicians are said to love "killer facts". And to want to "follow the science". Sadly, those running our Covid policy responses seem not to want to do either.
An old boss of mine, an estimable Director General of a state government agency, once told me that politicians love nothing more than “killer facts” in their briefings.
Well, they don’t seem to anymore, or perhaps they do still want them but not to use in public. Certainly not to change their minds.
There are a number of killer facts that baseball-bat the bedwetting arguments of the cultural maskists. They are jaw droppers, yet they have barely registered in the public domain. They certainly haven’t changed the minds of the bulk of the Anglophone populations who cheer on the lockdowns to such an extent that they can almost be heard audibly barracking for a second wave.
Four killer facts include these:
- There is no evidence lockdowns make a difference to the trajectory of the Covid virus;
- There is no evidence that masks work, and evidence that they can cause harm;
- There have been more deaths from non-Covid causes than Covid deaths during the lockdown, and a goodly number of these have been avoidable excess deaths CAUSED BY the lockdowns; and finally
- We have already probably achieved herd immunity to Covid, and if we haven’t, well we should encourage more people to get out and about in order to do so, and sooner rather than later.
Perhaps the killer fact to kill all the others is reflected in a joke told by Mike Meyers. Aka Dr Evil. Mike said he wanted to tell a joke about Covid, but he feared that 99 per cent of the people wouldn’t get it. That about sums up the degree of threat and the proportionality of the responses by the state.
But I am going to set these killer facts aside and focus on ten others that are even bigger jaw droppers. Incidentally, much of the good data, and good arguments, about Covid come from the United Kingdom, where at least there is some reasoned and reasonable debate going on. Not much, to be sure, but more than there is in Australia.
First killer fact.
The average age of those dying “of” Covid is 82, at least in the Old Country. Let that figure sink in. The figures in other countries are similar. These are old people. We all know what happens to old people, ever since the Fall and the original sin of Adam. Sad but true.
Swiss research has revealed:
The median age of Covid-related deaths in most Western countries is 80 to 86 years. In most Western countries, about half of all deaths occurred in nursing homes.
The median Covid death age in Australia is 83. The median is the middle death age of all the deaths recorded, from 33 to 103 years of age. 16 people under 60 years of age have died from or with Covid in Australia.
Referencing a recent UCLA/Stanford study, American MD Brian Joondeph has noted:
… the risk for a 50 to 64 year old of hospitalization is 1 in 790,000 and of death only 1 in 6,670,000.
As Scott Atlas has argued:
The recent Stanford University antibody study … now estimates that the fatality rate if infected is likely 0.1 to 0.2 percent, a risk far lower than previous World Health Organization estimates that were 20 to 30 times higher and that motivated isolation policies.
In New York City, an epicenter of the pandemic with more than one-third of all U.S. deaths, the rate of death for people 18 to 45 years old is 0.01 percent, or 10 per 100,000 in the population. On the other hand, people aged 75 and over have a death rate 80 times that. For people under 18 years old, the rate of death is zero per 100,000.
Of all fatal cases in New York state, two-thirds were in patients over 70 years of age; more than 95 percent were over 50 years of age; and about 90 percent of all fatal cases had an underlying illness. Of 6,570 confirmed COVID-19 deaths fully investigated for underlying conditions to date, 6,520, or 99.2 percent, had an underlying illness. If you do not already have an underlying chronic condition, your chances of dying are small, regardless of age. And young adults and children in normal health have almost no risk of any serious illness from COVID-19.
No, this is not a disease of the young, especially not of the young and healthy. Not even a disease of the middle aged and healthy. The risk for most people of even getting sick from this “deadly disease” is beyond remote. This statistic matters immensely. So much poor policy has followed from ignoring it.
Second killer fact.
Those dying “of” Covid alone are six per cent of all deaths attributed to Covid, according to the US Centres for Disease Control (CDC). That is, only six per cent of Covid fatalities had no other underlying medical conditions. We have heard the stories of people being run over by a bus while carrying a Covid infection and being counted as a Covid death. Outliers, admittedly, and useful in an argument.
But the 94 per cent figure is difficult to ignore. And it is a powerful figure.
Most of the deaths megaphoned on a daily basis in the death porn game played by governments and the supine corporate media are of people who were dying of something else or dying with Covid and one or more other causes. Or had an illness that became life threatening when hit with Covid. No, this does not mean that Covid death figures are meaningless, or that only the six per cent are of interest. What it means is that Covid is lethal mostly when it latches on to other medical conditions. And it means that the daily death porn figures that have been so critical to governments keeping their populations under house arrest have deliberately glossed over important distinctions, with consequences. It means that most healthy people have nothing to fear from Covid. Not a thing. People under sixty are more likely to be killed in a car accident than by Covid. Yet strangely, the younger you are, it sometimes seems the more likely you are to sign up for the branch covidians.
Third killer fact.
A huge proportion of deaths from Covid have occurred in nursing homes. Apart from being a national and an international policy disgrace, and seeming at times to have been an act by the state of something between industrial manslaughter and euthanasia, this killer fact merely reinforces two realities about Covid. One, that this is a disease of the frail aged, and we know where most of them live and how to look after them. Two, everyone else is pretty safe from Covid, except for those with a widely known set of pre-existing conditions. Again, for these people, Covid is avoidable.
I have discussed this issue at greater length elsewhere.
Sweden is controversial for its relatively light lockdown policies, and has been used by both lockdowners and lockdown sceptics to advance their arguments. No less than 75 per cent of Sweden’s deaths from Covid occurred in care homes or in homes with residents under care. A massive policy failure, but one repeated in most Western countries. The supposed driver of most lockdown policies has been protection of the frail aged. On reflection, a policy in equal measure ridiculous and singularly a failure. The disgraceful treatment of the aged during the Covid crisis has amounted to perhaps the single cruellest policy of any peacetime government anywhere.
Yet for the analysis of Sweden and anywhere else in relation to Covid, the burden of this killer fact is most deaths could have, and should have, been prevented. And that all the other ridiculous lockdown policies might have reasonably been avoided.
Fourth killer fact.
The countries with the worst Covid deaths records are not those which imposed or did not impose severe lockdowns, but which had had very mild flu seasons in the previous year. This means that there were a whole bunch of vulnerable people who would have been wiped out by a bad flu season but who missed that, only to be taken, alas, by Covid a year later. Inelegantly, perhaps, these unfortunate victims have been referred to as “dry tinder”, as in the build-up of fuel in different bushfire seasons so familiar to Australians (and Californians). The engineer Ivor Cummins has pointed this out in impressive fashion. One thing that comes from recognising this reality is that it helps to explain international differences in death rates.
This killer fact has implications for the Sweden versus the other Nordics debates which have been alleged to “prove” that Sweden’s relatively soft lockdown was the wrong approach, and a deadly mistake to have made. It has, therefore, been used to justify all sorts of hideous lockdown practices, from stomping on protesters and forcing them into comas (see under Jim Jong Dan) to preventing me from meeting my soon-to-be-born grandson in Europe in November (Scott Morrison). No, one reason the Nordics had viewer deaths than Sweden during the Covid spring was that last flu season more Nordics died from seasonal flu. They had a bad flu season. The Covid-vulnerable group was therefore much smaller. Result – more people died from Covid in Sweden than if they too had had a bad prior flu season, and relatively more died in Sweden than in the Nordics.
What this means is that viruses do not obey government diktats, they do their own thing, and their lethality can be explained by natural causes, if one were inclined to look for them. The take-out from this killer fact – governments cannot stop viruses, nor should they bother trying. Lockdowns don’t make a difference to Covid death outcomes. Facts matter.
Fifth killer fact.
Covid is strictly seasonal, following the basic rules of viruses. Its trajectory in each hemisphere and in different regions of large countries like the USA has been the result of factors explicable and natural. These things have been glossed over. The excellent Ivor Cummins (again), in an indispensable YouTube video (strangely not cancelled for questioning the WHO), notes the different patterns of Covid spread and the different timings in different hemispheres, different parts of Europe and different states of the USA. Geography and timing can make for substantial differences in disease outcomes. Corona viruses peak in Europe in spring, after the flu virus which comes first each year. This is Virology 101, just like the immunity achieved by exposure to previous corona viruses. If I can find these things out, why can’t public servants and ministers, I wonder?
Remembering that Covid, like flu, is seasonal, in theory can help to depoliticise the Covid wars, and prevent non-relevant inter- and intra-national comparisons that are almost always misleading and almost always political. Oh, and almost always just dumb.
Sixth killer fact.
The excess deaths figure for 2020 in Europe is (to date) 180,000. The excess deaths figure for the 2017-18 European winter flu season was a comparable 140,000. Certainly far from a million miles from 2020 and Covid excess death numbers. This killer fact raises the inevitable inconvenient question. Why didn’t we lock down the world in 2017-18? I am yet to find any politician, bureaucrat, VicPol commander or branch covidian willing or able to answer this basic question. Like all the other killer facts related to Covid, it leads inevitably to the posing of very awkward questions for policy-makers. Especially when the number of excess non-Covid deaths this year actually caused by lockdown is large and growing, as I discuss immediately below.
Seventh killer fact.
Non-Covid deaths matter. According to an Irish doctor, Alan Farrell:
From a medical perspective I am not seeing an impact from COVID on the ground. What I am seeing is delayed diagnoses for other conditions – breast cancer, skin cancer in young people, an onslaught of anxiety and depression, an increase in loneliness in the elderly, recently a fractured humerus in an elderly lady that has been like that for months as she was afraid to go outside.
Here is the excellent American economist Tom Woods:
Now here's a question no mainstream reporter will ask an epidemiologist, even though it's an obvious one:
Are you modeling the non-COVID human costs of lockdowns and restrictions and if so, what have you concluded?
Of course no epidemiologist will answer you, because none of them are doing this. They believe that the subject of their monomania must be as all-consuming for everyone else as it is for them. The very notion of tradeoffs simply does not enter the picture.
There are very real tradeoffs that are measured in human lives -- including but far from limited to the 1.4 million excess TB deaths, the 500,000 excess HIV deaths, and the 385,000 excess malaria deaths that even the New York Times acknowledged the lockdowns will cause.
These data are simply scandalous. What is equally scandalous is that none of our politicians talk about it. Or ever seek our forgiveness for what must be regarded as nothing more and nothing less than a slaughter of the innocent, perhaps the worst (outside abortion) in any of our lifetimes.
All policy must be about trade-offs, alas. Long ago the legendary economist Herbert Simon came up with the term “satisficing” to describe what decision-makers actually do. He didn’t accept the older “rational actor” model of decision-making, where first-best policy always wins. Satisficing involves recognising constraints and that there will be winners and losers from any policy decision.
According to one definition:
Herbert Simon adopted the term 'satisficing' to refer to a near-ubiquitous feature of observed decision behaviour: the fact that decision makers commonly settle for an alternative that is judged to be 'good enough' in the light of available information and prevailing goals.
If only our politicians understood trade-offs and least-worst policy-making, and figured out the right trade-offs to make. Politicians seem to have wilfully ignored non-Covid deaths in their bizarre, all-consuming, maniacal focus on one disease. A disease that turns out to be not that bad.
Eighth killer fact.
Casemania is misleading. As James Ferguson has noted:
… medically speaking, a positive test result is not a ‘case’. A ‘case’ is by definition both symptomatic and must be diagnosed by a doctor …
There are a number of problems with the current obsession of politicians, bureaucrats, media and branch covidians with ever burgeoning “case numbers”. First, they are based on problematic tests, with false positives as well as false negatives. Second, they only establish what we already knew anyway – that there are many more previously untested and non-symptomatic than we thought. Third, they include many people who are not sick, will never get sick, and will never infect anyone else. Fourth, new cases mean simply that an increase in tests has taken place, and not that it is all getting worse. Fifth, there are better, more meaningful numbers NOT being publicised. Namely, hospitalisations or acute cases. Sixth, they wrongly scare people and prey upon their innate fear. Seventh, they prevent sensible thinking about herd immunity and already built-up T cell immunity among many of the population.
The Irish clinician Dr. Martin Feeley condemned the obsession with "cases," a contextless number that only panics people, when we should instead be focusing on hospital strain:
The number of deaths among recent cases is less than one in a thousand. This data reflects a disease much less severe than the average annual flu. The media reaction to these cases, ie, with the gravity appropriate to reporting deaths from a major catastrophe, borders on hysteria. Opening a newscast with the number of people testing positive for a condition less dangerous than the flu, which many don’t even know they have, is scaremongering.
Nearly everyone now knows this. Yet the Casedemic mania continues, to all our costs.
Ninth killer fact.
Australia, North Korea and Cuba are the only nations on God’s earth to impose international travel bans. No more need be said on this one. It is awful in theory and in practice. The killer fact’s killer fact.
Tenth killer fact.
There ARE alternate approaches to Covid. Two obvious examples are targeting the real problem areas which we already know about and learning and adapting to new knowledge and changing circumstances.
It turns out that the real Covid deniers here and overseas are not lockdown sceptics or anti-vaxxers or sovereign citizens, but rather the branch covidians running the show who see no other way to fight this small-p pandemic than by locking us all up, destroying our freedoms, disrupting our lives and stuffing the economy.
Take targeting for the elderly. Here is Scott Atlas:
We have a clearly defined population at risk who can be protected with targeted measures.
… The appropriate policy, based on fundamental biology and the evidence already in hand, is to institute a more focused strategy like some outlined in the first place: Strictly protect the known vulnerable, self-isolate the mildly sick and open most workplaces and small businesses with some prudent large-group precautions.
Tailoring Covid responses to cater to those most in the line of fire is so blindingly obvious to all but policy-makers that it hardly needs to be stated. It also turns out to be dead easy (no pun intended). As Martin Feeley notes:
You can identify with amazing accuracy who is at risk, as with no other disease.
Or take masks. As someone wisely said, getting everyone to wear a muzzle six months into an epidemic is like turning up at a baby shower with a condom. If masks were brought in merely to give people now scared witless by the government-media conspiracy the confidence to go out shopping, well it hasn’t worked and would never work. But there is no learning as we go, refining approaches, if necessary sensible pivoting clearly explained, all working towards better policy. This is the very essence of innovation as any student of entrepreneurship will know. It is also called “agile” decision making, much lauded in corporate circles till about March this year. There are always alternatives. Governments have cut off feedback loops because they are selfish and scared. They are the deniers in the piece.
Taken together, these killer facts individually and together shine a light on the poverty of the official line on Covid. The greatest threat to our freedoms in our lifetime.
The debates over Covid have been astonishingly fact free. They are ideological, and emotional. They serve to hide and deflect, not to reveal. They are deployed to preserve the reputations and power of failed politicians and floundering governments of all persuasions. As with climate change, those in positions of power have sought to brand those who seek to question the official narrative as weird, immoral, anti-science and “selfish”, a particular favourite. Covidiots is another. Epithets abound. Yet in all of this, it is the sceptics that have proven to be the fact-hunters.
If only our midwit politicians would heed the advice of one of THE great thinkers of the twentieth century, JM Keynes who said:
When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do sir?
We would all be better off. You see, good sirs, “the” science isn’t ever “the” science. Science, when it means the outputs of scientific research, is always changing. Science is fact based. When the facts change, well, you know what the man said. On this rare occasion, I am a Keynesian!
One of the sane voices of science during the Covid catastrophe has been Professor John Ioannidis. He once famously demonstrated that at least half medical research and possibly much more, turns out to be wrong. Well funded, no doubt, and well publicised, possibly well motivated, but nonetheless wrong. This is not to have a go at those researchers involved, but simply to remind us all of the contingent nature of scientific method, data and conclusions. Hypotheses that get tested rigorously, and not to prove a point, often are found to be wrong. That is life. Get over it. Change your mind. Look at competing theories and competing explanations of phenomena. Especially when they concern our health. Oh, and modelling ain’t science. Ever.
Alastair Haimes also has good advice:
The Royal Society’s motto is nullius in verba — “take nobody’s word for it” — but at every stage we have failed to apply scrutiny where it is due, or even to stop and check we are on the right ladder before we carry on climbing. For the country that is the birth-place of scientific inquiry and epidemiology it is astonishing. My godfather, professor of physics at Oxford, told me that the three most scientific things you can say are, “I don’t know”, “prove it” and “I’ve changed my mind”.
Take nobody’s word for it. No one in government is doing this. No one. It is high time they did, and stopped just protecting their fundaments.
Political “realists” will say one of several things – they had no choice, they are well motivated and doing their best, they are listening to health advice from highly respected civil servants, you cannot expect politicians not to care for their political hides, once politicians are locked into policies, they should stick to them.
With respect, if this is what we are reduced to believing about our politicians, then it is time we changed the rules of the game.