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An eye-opening science-related COVID roundup

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On the dangers of certainty in science and blind trust in experts:

At the moment, one particular approach to modelling the Covid-19 epidemic – that of Imperial College, London – is holding court in the UK. The actions that we are taking were based on these modelling results. Barely a day goes by without a politician saying that they will be ‘led by the science’. But what we are seeing with Covid-19 is not ‘science’ in action. Science involves matching theories with evidence and testing a theory with attempts to falsify it, so that it can be refined to better match reality. A theory from a group of scientists is just that: a theory. Believing the opinion of that group without a critical verification process is just that: belief.

The modelling results may be close to the truth, or they could be very far from it. The idea of science is that you can test the data and the assumptions, and find out.

We know for sure that the input data in the run-up to lockdown was extremely poor. For example, it’s highly likely that a large majority of Covid-19 cases have not even been detected – and most of those that were identified were in hospitals, and therefore the most severe cases. Because of this, the WHO initially suggested a case fatality rate (CFR) of 3.4 per cent, which would have been genuinely awful. But as new evidence comes in the predictions of the models change accordingly. A paper from Imperial on 10 February suggested CFR of 0.9 per cent, a more recent one on 30 March 0.66 per cent (both based on Chinese figures, the reliability of which many doubt).

John Lee, “Where is the vigorous debate about our response to Covid?” at The Spectator

Reliance on expertise can, depending on the circumstances, be a form of superstition.

The … crisis we face is unparalleled in modern times,” said the World Health Organization’s assistant director, while its director general proclaimed it “likely the greatest peacetime challenge that the United Nations and its agencies have ever faced.” This was based on a CDC computer model projection predicting as many as 1.4 million deaths from just two countries.

So when did they say this about COVID-19? Trick question: It was actually about the Ebola virus in Liberia and Sierra Leone five years ago, and the ultimate death toll was under 8,000.

With COVID-19 having peaked (the highest date was April 4), despite the best efforts of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to increase numbers by first saying any death with the virus could be considered a death from the virus and then again this week by saying a positive test isn’t even needed, you can see where this is going.

Since the AIDS epidemic, people have been pumping out such models with often incredible figures. For AIDS, the Public Health Service announced (without documenting) there would be 450,000 cases by the end of 1993, with 100,000 in that year alone. The media faithfully parroted it. There were 17,325 by the end of that year, with about 5,000 in 1993. SARS (2002-2003) was supposed to kill perhaps “millions,” based on analyses. It killed 744 before disappearing.

Michael Fumento, “After Repeated Failures, It’s Time To Permanently Dump Epidemic Models” at Issues & Insights

In short, the numbers solemnly announced by the suits on TV are often just a crock. And none of this is doing the reputation of science any good.

Did you know that obese people are more at risk than others from COVID-19? COVID isn’t body-positive:

France’s chief epidemiologist, Prof. Jean-Francois Delfraissy, commented this week, ‘We’re worried about our friends in America, where the problem of obesity is well known and where they will probably have the most problems because of obesity’.

Leave it to svelte, priggish France to jump on any opportunity to call out American fatness, but he’s right. The higher than average per-capita deaths in New Orleans and Mexico are believed by experts to be linked to obesity. New Orleans is one of America’s fattest big cities; Louisiana has an obesity rate of 65.8 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Days ago, the CDC reported 78 percent of coronavirus patients in intensive care units had underlying health conditions that prominently included diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In Italy, 75 percent of the dead had high blood pressure, 35 percent had diabetes and a third had heart disease, all medical conditions associated with obesity. The obese have also been known for some time to be at far greater risk for flu complications, and studies show the obese carry the flu virus and spread it around for a much longer time than those who are not obese.

Chadwick Moore, “Body positivity’s big silence” at Spectator USA

It might be a good idea to practice social distance from the refrigerator.

Hat tip: C2C Journal

11 Replies to “An eye-opening science-related COVID roundup

  1. 1
    Seversky says:

    It is time for us to return, critically and calmly, to a rounded?and robust?scientific debate that generates a range of views about the severity and significance of this virus.

    You mean they haven’t been doing that already? I thought Raoult and Zelenko had led the way in generating a “rounded?and robust?scientific debate” based on published research and data.

    And for our politicians to weigh these differing views extremely carefully against the clear and manifest harms of lockdown. It is for ministers, not scientists, to decide whether, in the light of changing evidence and understanding, our response to the virus is proportionate – and how to take us forward.

    With Trump and Johnson appointing ministers and officials based on their loyalty to their bosses personally rather than professional competence, that’s even more frightening than the virus.

  2. 2
    orthomyxo says:

    Not much substance to extract from the first article .

    Second article amounts up “epidemiologists model what will happen if no action is taken. So people take action. The outcomes where less severe than the “do nothing” model. So the epidemiologists where wrong”.

    The third is just someone taking their awfulness out for a stroll.

  3. 3
    AaronS1978 says:

    Wow it’s the same everybody’s an idiot but me response

    Well I guess you could be right

  4. 4
    orthomyxo says:

    In thankful that a lot of people mucg smarter than me are working on covid-19. I just don’t think that group includes these authors.

    Is there something of substance that you think I’ve missed from the first two (we can surely ignore the last one?)

  5. 5
    kairosfocus says:

    Ortho, the band of the models were wrong on magnitude, timing and response times. Let’s face that. KF

  6. 6
    kairosfocus says:

    Sev, Dr Raoult is a distinguished researcher and head of one of a network of research institutes in France. The rate of development of the current pandemic outpaces the response time of the research systems and the OODA loops of business as usual government action. He has put on the table [with his dozens of colleagues] significant research findings, just they do not fit where for some reason the establishments wish to go. Notice, that the issue I put on the table here pivots on a sustainability oriented strategic decision making and strategic change model. KF

  7. 7
    jerry says:

    Is the real infection rate and death rate with early intervention just .03% or that of a normal flu season? And with comorbidity information could it be even lower if treated with this knowledge?

    New antibody tests for SARS-CoV-2 are providing better estimates of the mortality rate of COVID-19. Prior to serology testing, the prevalence of novel-coronavirus infection was calculated to be only 0.26% in the US with a mortality rate of 5.60%. Serology tests, however, now show the infection prevalence to be far higher with a calculated mortality rate of about 0.18%. With age-selective quarantining in combination with widespread testing, telemedicine consultations and early treatment with hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin and zinc, the mortality rate could be reduced to 0.03%. By instituting these measures, the projected number of deaths moving forward could be fewer than the number of deaths in the flu season of 2017-2018.

    Is the real tragedy of this virus not the virus itself but two fold.

    First, the tremendous harm the shutdowns have had on hundreds of millions of individuals.

    Second and may be the most tragic, is the irresponsible behavior of many to make this a political situation while people die from the virus and from the economic shutdown.

    There is a third and possibly equally tragic reaction, that people don’t seem to care that tens of thousands of people have lost their lives unnecessarily to the political squabbling and to the economic hardship. I have seen this on both sides of the political spectrum. I said to one of my conservative friends that he didn’t seem to care about the hardships out there but would respond more seriously when his investments prove worthless. He’s worth a couple million dollars and it could all vanish as the economy deflates more and more. Some of us who are comfortable believe they are immune to the economic outcomes.

  8. 8
    jerry says:

    Does Zinc Supplementation Enhance the Clinical Efficacy of Chloroquine/Hydroxychloroquine to Win Todays Battle Against COVID-19?

    Currently, drug repurposing is an alternative to novel drug development for the treatment of COVID-19 patients. The antimalarial drug chloroquine (CQ) and its metabolite hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) are currently being tested in several clinical studies as potential candidates to limit SARS-CoV-2-mediated morbidity and mortality. CQ and HCQ (CQ/HCQ) inhibit pH-dependent steps of SARS-CoV-2 replication by increasing pH in intracellular vesicles and interfere with virus particle delivery into host cells. Besides direct antiviral effects, CQ/HCQ specifically target extracellular zinc to intracellular lysosomes where it interferes with RNA-dependent RNA polymerase activity and coronavirus replication. As zinc deficiency frequently occurs in elderly patients and in those with cardiovascular disease, chronic pulmonary disease, or diabetes, we hypothesize that CQ/HCQ plus zinc supplementation may be more effective in reducing COVID-19 morbidity and mortality than CQ or HCQ in monotherapy. Therefore, CQ/HCQ in combination with zinc should be considered as additional study arm for COVID-19 clinical trials. Two German researchers

  9. 9
    Denyse OLeary says:

    After the smoke clears, we need to address the fast that we were constantly told to trust experts who were often wrong. I wish it were possible to compare the number of wrong answers with blind chance but for a variety of reasons, it probably isn’t.

    I’m glad someone highlighted the link with obesity, which has been developing into a worldwide problem. The exact nature of the risk deserves more study.

  10. 10
    Bob O'H says:

    Jerry @ 8 – ah, thanks for the link. They’re saying that there isn’t any clinical data, but the studies should be carried out. Which I don’t think is too bad a position.

  11. 11
    Ed George says:


    I’m glad someone highlighted the link with obesity,…

    You’re welcome.

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