COVID-19 – What the Heck was that?!

Let’s start off with, what is it? COVID-19 is a virus that is a member of the Coronaviridae (Coronavirus) family. This family causes respiratory tract infections for which there are currently no officially approved anti-viral drugs or vaccines. This family has been around for thousands of years and typically shows up as the common cold but can also cause pneumonia depending on which member of the family you get. COVID-19 is the second Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) human Coronavirus that has been identified. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coronavirus)

Between 2014 and 2020 the CDC expected to see about 7-8% of all deaths to be influenza or pneumonia related at the peak of “flu season”. For the years 2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16, and 2017/18 it peaked between 10-11% of deaths. Because COVID-19 has symptoms similar to the flu and pneumonia, it shows up very clearly on the Pneumonia and Influenza Mortality Surveillance (PIMS) from the National Center for Health Statistics Mortality Surveillance System (NCHSMSS). This shows a peak of almost 16% the week of March 29 – April 4. One of the useful measures of the PIMS is that it tracks all deaths per week and there is a fairly good reporting system in place. Not only does the system know there is a lag time for death certificates, that’s actually part of the system. So it knows when all the certificates are in. The last full metric is from the week ending May 10th. Another nice thing about it is history puts things into perspective. Let’s take a look.

In the chart above the grey line is the percentage of all deaths attributed to influenza and pneumonia compared to all deaths. The orange line is the “baseline” expectation and the blue line is considered the epidemic threshold.This doesn’t officially include COVID-19 but you’ll see the spike anyway. Now there’s been a great deal of arguing over deaths, attribution, etc. So, let’s take a look at the big picture with raw numbers of deaths from all causes.

What’s interesting about the chart above is it shows that we were about to exit a fairly normal flu season when COVID-19 hit. But what’s also interesting is that the sharp front end with a peak and sharp drop looks just like all of the previous seasonal viruses that hit us. The difference is it’s sitting on top of the regular season. What does this suggest? Well, we’ll probably see a plateau for a few weeks before we get back into a regular off-season drop. There’s no way to know at what level that plateau will happen or how long it will last since you can see that there is some variation on the tail end of these “flu seasons”.

But here’s the Multiple Trillion Dollar Question. What, if any, effect did all of the chaos and mayhem of closing down the country do for us? Well, to figure that out let’s take a closer look at the current scenario.

Now, at first glance one might postulate that the quarantine and stay at home orders worked. We were headed for catastrophe and “Big Government” saved the day! Well, let’s get some more data, shall we?

We can see that States started closing down between March 19 and April 6. It was a somewhat gradual two and a half week process. So, for starters, we would expect to see a more gradual change in fatalities connected with this gradual change of behavior. But then the other question is, how long does it take from when you contract the disease and show symptoms until you die? Well, we have that information as well (https://www.drugs.com/medical-answers/covid-19-symptoms-progress-death-3536264/). The average is about 18.5 days. So, when we look at the first spike in  deaths the week ending March 29, we need to look back about 19 days to see when they were infected. So, those folks would have been infected the week ending March 10. That’s a minimum of 9 days before the first Stay At Home Order.

OK, so we saw a sudden drop in fatalities (as we have seen repeated over the years with other viruses that make their rounds according to the PIMS data) right after a peak. Let’s go back about 19 days from the week ending April 19. That would be the week ending April 12. By the week of April 6-12 the last State locked down. 

So, we see that in the midst of the States shutting down the fatalities were spiking and then suddenly, about a week after the last State closed we saw a plunge that has continued. I put forward that the States shutting down had no measurable effect on the spread of the virus. Instead, it spread through the country as it would always have done at the rate it was going to spread and the country will drop back down to normal death rates over the next few weeks no matter what we do as far as social distancing and shutting down businesses goes. In short, the leaders of almost every State in this country got it wrong and have caused irreparable harm to the people of this country by attempting to wield the heavy hand of a nanny State government instead of doing it’s best to provide good information and allowing citizens to make their own choices. 

Now, as far as the data goes, I intentionally used older data than is available because I wanted it to be as accurate as possible (as some data gets back filled) and I wanted to show that this information, even if preliminary, has been available to our leaders. If you look at more current data we look even better and are closing in on “normal”. Again, I reiterate, that has nothing to do with all of the cleaning, social distancing, and shutting down of our nation. 

I mean, think about it. Most people were still going to the store. Some wore masks, many didn’t. Has anyone ever actually read the instructions for antibacterial wipes and other products? I assure you that almost nobody has read them and even fewer follow the directions which clearly state that they are ineffective if you don’t follow the instructions. The quick wipe that most folks do does absolutely nothing for most anti-bacterial cleaners. It was all a sham and the data will continue to show that even as politicians try to push the idea “It would have been much worse if we had done nothing!” There’s absolutely no evidence of that unless you play around with data and make scary looking charts and graphs.

All orders from the Health Department in all States in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic should be cancelled effective immediately.

About Michael Wigle

I am a servant of Christ who is married and has two children and three grandchildren. For employment, I am the IT Manager and the Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired. I also have a wide variety of interests from economics to politics to caving.
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