Lies, Damned Lies and Corona Statistics

We should all keep challenging questionable corona figures and statistics:

The old saying about “lies, damned lies and statistics” is always relevant, especially at a time like this. With governments, politicians and various ‘experts’ throwing around all sorts of statistics and numbers – often that conflict with one another – we need to keep a close eye on things, and keep asking questions.

And one key question worth asking is this: Just how long will the lockdown last? It was both Milton Friedman and Ronald Reagan who used phrases like the following: “Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program”. With those words in mind, let me repeat some facts that we have known about for a while now concerning the corona crisis in Australia (including the latest figures):

-Confirmed corona cases: 6462 – the curve has clearly been flattened.
-Deaths attributed to corona: 63 – the curve has clearly been flattened.
-As of April 15, our recovery rate was 98.32 per cent.

Others have been running with the following figures:
-Death rate: 0.98 per cent.
-Mild cases: 97 per cent of total detected.
-ICU beds in use: 1.1 per cent.

But STILL the government is offering us no sunset clause. STILL we have no word as to when this lockdown will end! That is becoming as problematic as the virus itself. Let me repeat one important figure here: thus far a grand total of 63 Australians have died in this country because of COVID-19.

Sure, it is always sad when anyone dies for any reason. But the over-hyped numbers and fearmongering that so many of our experts and leaders have been running with have simply not come to pass. We now clearly need an exit plan instead of more lockdowns.

But for saying things like this I have had countless critics. So let me deal with some of their oft-repeated criticisms. One is that our low numbers prove how right our governments were to take these strict measures. But as I said 10 days ago:

When this crisis passes, Australia may – at current rates – have had well under 10,000 cases of the virus, and perhaps 100 deaths. Time will tell. But if this is more or less how things will pan out, there will be at least two views on this:
-The government will say, “See, we told you these draconian lockdown and shutdown measures were needed – it worked!”
-Others will say, “See, it was nowhere near as bad, so all these draconian lockdown and shutdown measures really were not needed.”
The truth may never be fully known, but might lie somewhere between the two. However, as we seek to be wise about proper health and safety measures, we also need to be wise – very wise – about Statism and Big Brother in action.

Another common criticism I keep hearing is that all these severe lockdown measures are fully justifiable, because if even one life is saved, it will have been worth it. I have already dealt with this silliness, but let me bring in another recent American statistic:

“U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams … offered some perspective on the death toll: ‘And more people will die, even in the worst projections, from cigarette smoking in this country than are going to die from coronavirus this year’.”

So will the corona alarmists who keep repeating the “if it saves just one life…” mantra now be demanding that all cigarettes be banned – permanently? And with draconian fines and arrests for any infringements? If not, why not? Why the selective moral outrage? Why the selective use of government strongarm tactics?

Then I had one gal quite angry with my recent articles say this: “Obviously Australia has not yet been affected by the coronavirus as some other places have. I do not believe the numbers of cases and fatalities have been inflated, and to make this claim is to ignore the pain and suffering of the victims and their families. No matter how low the percentage of people who suffer and die, it is 100 percent to the victims.”

Um no, I am not ignoring anything. And it is government officials themselves who are telling us the numbers are being inflated! I wish these folks would read the facts instead of just emoting. I have already quoted from leading American health officials who told us how they are dealing with the numbers. As I said in a piece from last week:

Many countries are involved in a rather misleading use of statistics when it comes to corona-related deaths. In the US the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines are contributing to this. As one report says, “Issued March 24, the guidance tells hospitals to list COVID-19 as a cause of death regardless of whether or not there’s actual testing to confirm that’s the case. Instead, even if the coronavirus was just a contributing factor or if it’s ‘assumed to have caused or contributed to death,’ it can be listed as the primary cause.” …

A leading public face of official government policy during this health crisis has said the same: “The federal government is classifying the deaths of patients infected with the coronavirus as COVID-19 deaths, regardless of any underlying health issues that could have contributed to the loss of someone’s life. Dr. Deborah Birx, the response coordinator for the White House coronavirus task force, said the federal government is continuing to count the suspected COVID-19 deaths, despite other nations doing the opposite.”

And then we just had a massive jump in deaths in New York City. Why?

New York City is adding people who did not test positive for the coronavirus to its count of those who died from COVID-19. On Tuesday, the city decided to add people who never tested positive but are presumed to have died from the virus, helping to raise the death toll by 3,700 in one day, according to The New York Times.

When The Times did the math, it said the new figures increased the total death tally in the United States by 17 percent in a day. Although the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center and the city calculate numbers differently, the center says that more than 26,000 Americans have died of the disease, including more than 7,900 in New York City. The new figures released by the city would push the number of dead in New York City to over 10,000.

Then I had another guy coming up with this lulu of a comment: “Some 775,000 Australians would get the Chinese virus of whom 15,500 would die if no isolation measures were taken.” Good grief! He did the very thing I had just warned about in a previous article: pull numbers out of a hat and basically make things up as you go along, based on dodgy projections and guesses.

If, as the latest actual numbers are telling us, the percentage of people who have COVID-19 who will die from it is less than one per cent, then that is the bottom line we must run with – not unhelpful guestimates, projections and unreliable modelling.

Of course the prize for the most alarmist, sensationalist nonsense goes to the guy who actually told me (presumably with a straight face) that we might end up with one million Australians dying because of corona! Good grief! And the truth is no one knows the exact number of deaths because of corona. One commentator takes a long hard look at the numbers and concludes as follows:

The COVID-19 death tallies we’re seeing are really death certificate tallies and we’ve no reason to trust them. But we’ve every reason to think they’ve got to be significantly exaggerating the real number of people the virus is killing. And there are enough hospital deaths from other causes every day that the directives and financial incentives encouraging false diagnoses only have to cause the virus to appear on a small percentage of ordinarily occurring death certificates to account for most of the deaths currently attributed to COVID-19. In fact, as hard as it may be to fathom, it would be more likely that no one has died of COVID-19 than that the numbers we’re getting don’t significantly over-represent those who have. Exactly how much COVID-19 deaths are being exaggerated, though, is anyone’s guess.

In light of all the fudged figures and guessing going on here, I return to my earlier question: When will this lockdown end? We still have leaders speaking of another six months at least, although one news headline should shock every single one of you: “Coronavirus distancing may need to continue until 2022, say experts”.

Wow! Thankfully there are some calmer heads out there. One law professor has been sounding the alarm on all this for a while now. As Augusto Zimmermann writes in a recent article:

Why this needs to take precisely six months? On what medical-scientific evidence are the government mouthpieces basing this “six months” timeline? A six month lockdown of the country will cause massive damage to the economy and at the cost of countless Australian lives and livelihoods. On the other hand, the Prime Minister keeps telling us that his government is doing what a panel of scientists are telling them to do.

First of all, good leaders do not hide behind a few medical “experts”. An expert is only an expert in one field and this current crisis is not solely a medical issue. It therefore requires a holistic approach and the balancing of multiple considerations. These medical advisers to the Morrison government have no holistic understanding of the problem. They have no expertise in the other relevant fields of sociology, economics and constitutional law. Besides, there are a number of medical practitioners who strongly oppose these draconian measures on solely health grounds. For instance, a rural GP has recently explained:

“The government should open up the economy for people under 65 to get back to socialising and working and those of us who are older to play it safe with continued social distancing and voluntary isolation. It appears our medical system will be able to cope with the much lower rates of hospitalisation and mortality becoming evident from the available data especially if we continue to protect the elderly. What can’t be coped with is the social and economic cost of this.”

Quite right. Consider just one shocking indication of how harmful these shutdowns have been – this from the US:

In Wisconsin and Ohio, farmers are dumping thousands of gallons of fresh milk into lagoons and manure pits. An Idaho farmer has dug huge ditches to bury 1 million pounds of onions. And in South Florida, a region that supplies much of the Eastern half of the United States with produce, tractors are crisscrossing bean and cabbage fields, plowing perfectly ripe vegetables back into the soil.

After weeks of concern about shortages in grocery stores and mad scrambles to find the last box of pasta or toilet paper roll, many of the nation’s largest farms are struggling with another ghastly effect of the pandemic. They are being forced to destroy tens of millions of pounds of fresh food that they can no longer sell. The closing of restaurants, hotels and schools has left some farmers with no buyers for more than half their crops.

This is just one of countless alarming outcomes of these statist lockdowns. As I have said so often before, yes, some restrictions of freedom and some cases of government intervention may well be needed in a time of crisis. But as I also keep saying, the cure should not be worse than the disease.

Thus we must continue to ask hard questions, And that includes taking a hard look at the dodgy use of statistics.

[1954 words]

18 Replies to “Lies, Damned Lies and Corona Statistics”

  1. When you compare other countries around the world we have done very well. We acted pretty quickly and that has been helpful. That Australians have been inconvenienced by all the changes has been difficult for them but things will return to normal. I think the government have been very cautious. Probably the old adage to err on the side of caution has been their motto. Plus managing it has political and economic repercussions not to mention the health repercussions. So as a health care worker I think we can be pretty thankful to God at this stage. Prevention is always better than a cure and so as much as lockdown is painful we just have to balance the management of this pandemic with care and caution which we are doing. In hospitals people who we service have been receptive to the change and the way we do our clinical work and I think most Aussies should be commended for their tolerance so far of all the change.
    It’s a tough gig for the government and the scientists so I think we should be thankful here in Australia for how things have panned out so far. Thing is with pandemic’s there global so the government and it’s health advisors are looking on the ground in Australia and overseas as well so what is happening internationally has it’s impact on our response locally as well. That we are being cautious with our response is wise and I think our government at all levels have done a good job so far really. But like all of us here’s hoping this passes as quickly as possible.
    Cheers guys.

  2. Bill, I do agree with you about the food crops and milk being wasted by farmers. The government needs to pay the farmers for these goods and then distribute the food to the people who need them. I have heard that the local food banks are running short, as are many of the grocery stores, and the government needs to intervene to help the farmers and the public.

  3. Thank you Bill.

    About the dumping of fresh food – I wonder how bad it is here. I went to the shops today and I noticed how much the price of fresh fruit and vegetables had suddenly skyrocketed. I suppose this also has something to do with the restaurants and hotels here who are not buying the produce so there must be an oversupply. How are people going to manage to pay the inflated prices who have no jobs and whose incomes have been drastically cut and have children to feed?

  4. “So will the corona alarmists who keep repeating the “if it saves just one life…” mantra now be demanding that all cigarettes be banned – permanently? ”

    Please please make it happen…

  5. Regarding figures, from what I’m reading something like 80% of people with China Flu are asymptomatic to only mild symptoms – a scratchy throat, a mild cough etc. All of these are likely contagious and can spread it to an average of 5-6 people.

    Dr. Dyan Hes of New York City’s Gramercy paediatric’s has said that he believes that 80% of NY children are infected, but since children aren’t being tested, nobody knows for certain.

    Seems like society is stuck in a mindless panic, we aren’t hearing much in the way of facts, and are instead largely hearing and seeing sensationalist MSM stories. How are intelligent responses supposed to be developed? No wonder so many people are already over this silly lockdown approach.

  6. Thanks guys. This has been making the rounds – funny, but much too accurate!

    In case anyone was confused…

    The Rules:

    1. Basically, you can’t leave the house for any reason, but if you have to, then you can.

    2. Masks are useless, but maybe you have to wear one, it can save you, it is useless, but maybe it is mandatory as well.

    3. Stores are closed, except those that are open.

    4. You should not go to hospitals unless you have to go there. Same applies to doctors, you should only go there in case of emergency, provided you are not too sick.

    5. This virus is deadly but still not too scary, except that sometimes it actually leads to a global disaster.

    6. Gloves won’t help, but they can still help.

    7. Everyone needs to stay HOME, but it’s important to GO OUT.

    8. There is no shortage of groceries in the supermarket, but there are many things missing when you go there in the evening, but not in the morning. Sometimes.

    9. The virus has no effect on children except those it affects.

    10. Animals are not affected, but there is still a cat that tested positive in Belgium in February when no one had been tested, plus a few tigers here and there…

    11. You will have many symptoms when you are sick, but you can also get sick without symptoms, have symptoms without being sick, or be contagious without having symptoms. Oh, my God.

    12. In order not to get sick, you have to eat well and exercise, but eat whatever you have on hand and it’s better not to go out, well, but no…

    13. It’s better to get some fresh air, but you get looked at very wrong when you get some fresh air, and most importantly, you don’t go to parks or walk. But don’t sit down, except that you can do that now if you are old, but not for too long or if you are pregnant (but not too old).

    14. You can’t go to retirement homes, but you have to take care of the elderly and bring food and medication.

    15. If you are sick, you can’t go out, but you can go to the pharmacy.

    16. You can get restaurant food delivered to the house, which may have been prepared by people who didn’t wear masks or gloves. But you have to have your groceries decontaminated outside for 3 hours. Pizza too?

    17. Every disturbing article or disturbing interview starts with ” I don’t want to trigger panic, but…”

    18. You can’t see your older mother or grandmother, but you can take a taxi and meet an older taxi driver.

    19. You can walk around with a friend but not with your family if they don’t live under the same roof.

    20. You are safe if you maintain the appropriate social distance, but you can’t go out with friends or strangers at the safe social distance.

    21. The virus remains active on different surfaces for two hours, no, four, no, six, no, we didn’t say hours, maybe days? But it takes a damp environment. Oh no, not necessarily.

    22. The virus stays in the air – well no, or yes, maybe, especially in a closed room, in one hour a sick person can infect ten, so if it falls, all our children were already infected at school before it was closed. But remember, if you stay at the recommended social distance, however in certain circumstances you should maintain a greater distance, which, studies show, the virus can travel further, maybe.

    23. We count the number of deaths but we don’t know how many people are infected as we have only tested so far those who were “almost dead” to find out if that’s what they will die of…

    24. We have no treatment, except that there may be one that apparently is not dangerous unless you take too much (which is the case with all medications). Orange man bad.

    25. We should stay locked up until the virus disappears, but it will only disappear if we achieve collective immunity, so when it circulates… but we must no longer be locked up for that?

  7. It seems to me that plunging the economy into a state worse than that of the Great Depression is not the answer we want to have toward the Corona Virus. It would be nice to have a cure (not a vaccine, but a cure or successful treatment for those most at risk) for the virus. As someone who needs to be in regular contact with the elderly (my parents) who I’m sure would be unlikely to survive the virus, it’s hard to balance the desire to “get it over with” vs keep it at bay. I have no fear of contracting and dealing with the virus myself, but passing it on to those whom I love is an unbearable scenario. (I think this is where “they” (whoever that are) are mainly playing on our fears). I try to consider this in relation to the flu (same scenario really though I never really give it a thought). Confusing and conflicting times. Thanks for your clear-headed perspective, always appreciated.

  8. The sad thing is one is just not allowed to question the leading narrative that the lockdown = salvation.

    But here’s an interesting alternative take:

    “Professor Yitzhak Ben Israel of Tel Aviv University, who also serves on the research and development advisory board for Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, plotted the rates of new coronavirus infections of the U.S., U.K., Sweden, Italy, Israel, Switzerland, France, Germany, and Spain. The numbers told a shocking story: irrespective of whether the country quarantined like Israel, or went about business as usual like Sweden, coronavirus peaked and subsided in the exact same way. In the exact, same, way. His graphs show that all countries experienced seemingly identical coronavirus infection patterns, with the number of infected peaking in the sixth week and rapidly subsiding by the eighth week.”

  9. Damien’s comment ties in closely with the story of USA deaths in California. California should have had exposure to Chinese visitors by thousands for several weeks before we were aware of the virus. It should, by all the expert’s wisdom have had the highest death rate of any state yet is is per capita one of the lowest. A study is underway at Stanford Medical in Calif, to determine if “herd immunity” may have occurred and actually been more effective than the mandated isolation. It will be interesting to watch if it is allowed to be shared.

  10. Hi Bill,

    Thanks for your interesting article. All Australian governments have quoted numbers (statistics), values, opinions (experts – health or scientific), ideas and beliefs about COVID19 and their decisions are having an impact on families, lives and freedoms within Australia, but as a Christian my hope is in Christ.

    Australians should be thankful to God that we haven’t experienced what has been described by Dr Arthur L. Caplan, “The COVID-19 epidemic has put unprecedented strain on the US healthcare system. Equipment is running out, physicians are falling ill, and case numbers are still growing exponentially from day to day. To accommodate this increase in volume, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, along with many state agencies, has issued directives that nonessential care be discontinued, in the hopes that those resources and personnel can be redeployed to fight the spreading coronavirus. This is a well-intended move but it has not been well executed. The term “essential care” is amorphous and ambiguous. It has left patients and hospital systems wondering what should and should not fall under that potentially wide umbrella. It’s also important because decisions will almost certainly be made about how and in what order to restore services as the pandemic abates.”

    Australians don’t want to lose our current healthcare system as we don’t want to be like other countries which had lost theirs in the Ebola pandemic. Unfortunately, there isn’t currently enough personal protective equipment (PPE) available throughout Australia in order to protect all healthcare professionals from getting COVID19 in their workplace. This means elective surgery has had to be cancelled in order to protect the PPE stock availability for COVID19 cases. Elective surgery can eleviate pain & suffering and or prevent an emergency or loss of body part at a later date. I have had 2 elective caesarians and there was no way for my daughters to be delivered naturally as their placenta was covering my cervix, so there is a fine line between elective and emergency procedures. There are currently less cars on Australian roads, so this has decreased the risk of having a car accident and this has freed up more supply of PPE which can be available for COVID19 cases. Therefore, Australian drivers can reduce their freedom to drive which will indirectly improve the availability of PPE for COVID19 cases. Most Australians don’t understand the complexity of the healthcare System within Australia, but the system can’t afford to lose doctors and nurses as a result of lack of PPE.

    Arthur L. Caplan, Shailin A. Thomas. A Better Way to Prioritize ‘Essential’ vs ‘Elective’ Care During COVID-19 – Medscape – Apr 15, 2020.

  11. There is no doubt that the handling of the virus everywhere has been a shambles with some of our leaders running around like headless chooks. But it probably is better to over-react than under-react when there is so much uncertainty. And to act sooner rather than later. And there will have been valuable lessons learned so the next outbreak of whatever it is will be better managed. The most telling stat I saw was that if China had reacted appropriately just 3 Weeks earlier than it did 95% of the deaths worldwide attributable to the virus would have avoided. China and I suspect WHO has a lot to answer for.

  12. Hmm…One stat the hysterical broadcasters won’t be airing is how Corona ‘Wuhan Flu’ 19 miraculously lowered some of the many other death statistics. Let’s see a comparison of the yearly regular flu death rates, cancer death rates, heart attack death rates etc since the ‘Chinese Flu surfaced; have they all lessened because of this ‘pandemic’?
    Me thinks the death rate for C19 needs to be inflated to justify the overreaction by the media and govt. By tallying all deaths as C19 related we find ourselves with a justifiable response. And to further inflate those number how about letting a cruise boat full of sick people wander off a boat into Australia’s largest city so they can spread it around a bit more; and for good measure let’s fly hundreds of people back into the country with infected airline crew.
    Boom pandemonium 101
    🙂 /sarc.

  13. Recently the issue of lies and why people in the Church and outside) so easily believe them came to my attention as I was re-reading CS Lewis’ That Hideous Strength (1945: chap. 11). The quote below describes a scene where one of the main characters, Studdock, realizes he’d bought into an oil tanker’s worth of lies.

    “What a fool — a blasted, babyish, gullible fool — he had been! He sat down on the floor, for his legs felt weak, as if he had walked twenty-five miles. Why had he come to Belbury in the first instance? Ought not his very first interview with the Deputy Director to have warned him, as clearly as if the truth were shouted through a mega- phone or printed on a poster in letters six feet high, that here was the world of plot within plot, crossing and double-crossing, of lies and graft and stabbing in the back, of murder and a contemptuous guffaw for the fool who lost the game? Feverstone’s guffaw, that day he had called him an “incurable romantic,” came back to his mind. Feverstone… that was how he had come to believe in Wither: on Feverstone’s recommendation. Apparently his folly went further back. How on earth had he come to trust Feverstone — a man with a mouth like a shark, with his flash manners, a man who never looked you in the face? Jane, or Dimble, would have seen through him at once. He had “crook” written all over him. He was fit only to deceive puppets like Curry and Busby. But then, at the time when he first met Feverstone, he had not thought Curry and Busby puppets. With extraordinary clarity, but with renewed astonishment, he remembered how he had felt about the Progressive Element at Bracton when he was first admitted to its confidence; he remembered, even more incredulously, how he had felt as a very junior Fellow while he was outside it — how he had looked almost with awe at the heads of Curry and Busby bent close together in Common Room, hearing occasional fragments of their whispered conversation, pretending himself the while to be absorbed in a periodical but longing — oh, so intensely longing — for one of them to cross the room and speak to him. And then, after months and months, it had happened. He had a picture of himself, the odious little outsider who wanted to be an insider, the infantile gull, drinking in the husky and unimportant confidences, as if he were being admitted to the government of the planet. Was there no beginning to his folly? Had he been utter fool all through from the very day of his birth? “

    Lewis here rather effectively exposes the psychological roots of gullibility (or openness to falsehood). Yes, at the source of this state of openness to lies, we find a pathetic mixture of ambition and fear of men… What will they think of me if…?

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