Article from the Brownstone Institute
One of the most consistent efforts made by “experts” during the early stages of the pandemic was to attempt to impress on the public that COVID was an extremely deadly disease.
While it’s clear that for the extremely elderly and severely immunocompromised, COVID does present significant and serious health concerns, the “experts” did their best to convince people of all age groups that they were in danger.
Initially the World Health Organization, in their infinite incompetence, made a substantial contribution to this perception by claiming that the mortality rate from COVID was shockingly high.
In March 2020, with precious little data, the WHO made the alarming claim that 3.4% of people who got COVID had died.
CNBC reported that an early press conference by WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus compared that expected mortality of COVID-19 to the flu:
“Globally, about 3.4% of reported COVID-19 cases have died,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a press briefing at the agency’s headquarters in Geneva. In comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1% of those infected, he said.
This stood in contrast to previous estimates, which were also above 2%:
“Early in the outbreak, scientists had concluded the death rate was around 2.3%.”
While “experts” could be forgiven for being unsure about the death rate of a brand new illness with very little data available, the fear-mongering and world-altering policy enacted based on these estimates has caused incalculable damage.
It’s now widely known and accepted that these estimates were wildly incorrect, off by orders of magnitude.
But a new paper out from one of the world’s leading experts confirms that they were off even more than we previously realized.
John Ioannidis is one of the nation’s leading public health experts, employed at Stanford University as Professor of Medicine in Stanford Prevention Research, of Epidemiology and Population Health,” as well as “of Statistics and Biomedical Data Science.”
You’d think that those impeccable qualifications and a track record of being one of the most published and cited scientists in the modern world would insulate him from criticism, but unfortunately that’s no longer how The Science™ works.
Ioannidis first drew the ire of The Keepers of The Science™ early in the outbreak, when he cautioned that society might be making tremendous decisions based on limited data that was of poor quality.
He also took part in the infamous seroprevalence study conducted in Santa Clara County, led by Dr. Jay Bhattacharya.
That examination, which looked at antibody prevalence in the San Jose area, came to the conclusion that COVID was already significantly more widespread by March and April 2020 than most people realized.
This had wide-ranging implications, but the most important revelation was that the estimates of COVID’s mortality rate used by “scientists” and the WHO were almost certainly much too high.
Those estimates were created under the assumption that COVID cases were overwhelmingly detectable; that cases were captured by testing and thus tracking deaths could be achieved with a “case fatality rate,” instead of “infection fatality rate.”
That was the mistake Tedros and the WHO made two and a half years ago.
Of course, for providing substantial evidence and data that COVID was less deadly than initially feared, Ioannidis (and Bhattacharya) was attacked from within the “expert community.”
In what has now become a familiar insult, those behind the study were vilified as COVID minimizers and dangerous conspiracy theorists who would get people killed by not taking the virus seriously enough.
But Ioannidis remained undeterred, and with several authors, he recently released another review of the infection fatality rate of COVID. Importantly, the paper looks at the pre-vaccination time period and covers the non-elderly age groups; those who were most affected by COVID restrictions and endless mandates.
The review begins with a statement of fact that was almost entirely ignored by lockdown “experts” throughout the pandemic, but especially when restrictions, lockdowns and mandates were at their peak early on.
The infection fatality rate (IFR) of COVID-19 among non-elderly people in the absence of vaccination or prior infection is important to estimate accurately, since 94% of the global population is younger than 70 years and 86% is younger than 60 years.
94% of the global population is younger than 70 years old.
6% of is older than 70 years old.
86% is younger than 60 years old.
This is relevant because restrictions overwhelmingly impacted the 86-94% of people who are younger than 60 or 70 years old.
Ioannidis and his co-writers reviewed 40 national seroprevalence studies that covered 38 countries to come to determine their estimates of infection fatality rate for the overwhelming majority of people.
Importantly, those seroprevalence studies were conducted before the vaccines were released, meaning the IFR’s were calculated before whatever impact vaccines had on younger age groups.
So what did they find?
The median infection fatality rate for those aged 0-59 was 0.035%.
This represents 86% of the global population and the survival rate for those who were infected with COVID pre-vaccination was 99.965%.
For those aged 0-69, which covers 94% of the global population, the fatality rate was 0.095%, meaning the survival rate for nearly 7.3 billion people was 99.905%.
Those survival rates are obviously staggeringly high, which already creates frustration that restrictions were imposed on all age groups, when focused protection for those over 70 or at significantly elevated risk would have been a much more preferable course of action.
But it gets worse.
The researchers broke down the demographics into smaller buckets, showing the increase in risk amongst older populations, and conversely, how infinitesimal the risk was amongst younger age groups.
- Ages 60-69, fatality rate 0.501%, survival rate 99.499%
- Ages 50-59, fatality rate 0.129%, survival rate 99.871%
- Ages 40-49, fatality rate 0.035% survival rate 99.965%
- Ages 30-39, fatality rate 0.011%, survival rate 99.989%
- Ages 20-29, fatality rate 0.003%, survival rate 99.997%
- Ages 0-19, fatality rate 0.0003%, survival rate 99.9997%
They added that “Including data from another 9 countries with imputed age distribution of COVID-19 deaths yielded median IFR of 0.025-0.032% for 0-59 years and 0.063-0.082% for 0-69 years.”
These numbers are astounding and reassuringly low, across the board.
But they’re almost nonexistent for children.
Yet as late as fall 2021, Fauci was still fear-mongering about the risks of COVID to children in order to increase vaccination uptake, saying in an interview that it was not a “benign situation:”
“We certainly want to get as many children vaccinated within this age group as we possibly can because as you heard and reported, that this is not, you know, a benign situation.”
It’s nearly impossible for any illness to be less of a risk, or more “benign” than a 0.0003% risk of death.
Even in October 2021, during that same interview with NPR, Fauci said that masks should continue on children as an “extra step” to protect them, even after vaccination:
And when you have that type of viral dynamic, even when you have kids vaccinated, you certainly – when you are in an indoor setting, you want to make sure you go the extra step to protect them. So I can’t give you an exact number of what that would be in the dynamics of virus in the community, but hopefully we will get there within a reasonable period of time. You know, masks often now – as we say, they’re not forever. And hopefully we’ll get to a point where we can remove the masks in schools and in other places. But I don’t believe that that time is right now.
Nothing better highlights the incompetence and misinformation from Dr. Fauci than ignoring that pre-vaccination, children were at vanishingly small risks from COVID, that vaccination uptake amongst kids was entirely irrelevant since they do not prevent infection or transmission, and that mask usage is completely ineffective at protecting anyone. Especially for those who didn’t need protection in the first place.
The CDC, “expert” community, World Health Organization, media figures — all endlessly spread terror that the virus was a mass killer while conflating detected case fatality rates with infection fatality rates.
Yet now we have another piece of evidence suggesting that the initial WHO estimates were off by 99% for 94% of the world’s population.
Just for some perspective, here’s the difference visually portrayed between what the WHO claimed and what Ioannidis found:
Even if the lockdowns, mask mandates, capacity limits and shuttered playgrounds worked, the dangers of the virus were so minuscule that the collateral damage instantly and immediately outweighed any potential benefit.
Economic destruction, increased suicide attempts due to seemingly indefinite isolation, horrifying levels of learning loss, increasing obesity amongst kids, plummeting test scores, increased poverty and hunger, supply chain problems, rampant inflation; all of it is a direct result of policies imposed by terrified, incompetent “experts.”
Their estimates were hopelessly, catastrophically wrong, yet they maintained their unchallenged sense of authority for multiple years, and still receive awards, praise, increased funding and a sense of infallibility amongst politicians and decision-makers.
If sanity and intellectual honesty still existed, these estimates would be front page news for every major media outlet in the world.
Instead, because the media and their allies in the tech, corporate, and political classes promoted and encouraged lockdowns and restrictions while censoring dissent, it’s ignored.
Nothing could be more perfectly COVID than that.
Republished from the author’s Substack
Witnessing the Media’s Covid Coverage from the Inside
From the Brownstone Institute
If right-leaning outlets wanted my words and left-leaning ones did not, my Occam’s razor landed on ideology as the explanatory factor. So-called progressive media had a story to uphold and rejected any plot twist that threatened the cohesion of its narrative.
In the movie An Education, the main character gets sidetracked from her studies by a smooth-talking art dealer who turns out to be a criminal—and married. Our protagonist learns more from that experience than from all the medieval literature books she cracked open before. I have similar feelings about my own education. While I’ve been earning my living as a writer for the past 29 years, it’s only during the Covid era that I learned what the writing business is really about.
I wear two hats in my professional life: medical writer, creating materials for doctors and the healthcare industry, and feature-article journalist for consumer magazines. It wasn’t until Covid that I began pitching essays and op-eds for publication.
I started with a piece called “A Tale of Two Pandemic Cities,” which grew out of my short trip to Amsterdam and Stockholm in the summer of 2020, when the European Union opened its doors to “well-behaved” countries like Canada. The Covid hysteria in my country had made me desperate to visit more balanced parts of the world, and my trip didn’t disappoint. The article found a home at a Canadian outlet called Healthy Debate, though the editor asked me to temper my enthusiasm for the Swedish strategy with an acknowledgement of its risks. Happy to find a legit publisher for my first Covid piece, I capitulated, sort of. (You can judge for yourself.)
Thus began a feverish outpouring of essays, each one motivated by the same bewildered questions: What the hell is happening to the world, and why? Has everyone else gone mad, or is it me? I had written a few controversial articles throughout my career, but never before had I held a “dissenting view” about an issue that affected the whole world—or felt such an urgent need to express it.
The Great Divide
I quickly learned that certain news outlets were less open to my pieces than others. Salon, fuggedaboutit. Spiked Online, bull’s eye on the first try. Washington Post, not a chance. Wall Street Journal, a couple of “close, but no cigar” efforts and then finally a yes. It boiled down to this: the further left a publication leaned, the less likely it would publish my pieces (or even respond to my inquiries). I’m sure a statistician could write an equation to capture the trend.
So why the radio silence from left-wing publications? I doubted I was tripping their “Covid disinformation” radars, as my pieces had less to do with scientific facts than with social philosophy: the balance between safety and freedom, the perils of top-down collectivism, the abuse of the precautionary principle, that sort of thing. If right-leaning outlets wanted my words and left-leaning ones did not, my Occam’s razor landed on ideology as the explanatory factor. So-called progressive media had a story to uphold and rejected any plot twist that threatened the cohesion of its narrative. (Not that right-wing media behaved much differently. Such is the age of advocacy journalism.)
Most nerve-wracking of all were the publishers who accepted my articles but, like that first Healthy Debate editor, insisted I make substantive changes. Should I concede or push back? I did a bit of both. The most important thing, I told myself, was to make people reflect on the topsy-turvy policies that had freeze-framed the world. If I had to soften a few sentences to get the word out, so be it. I have the utmost respect for writers who refuse to yield on such matters, but 29 years of paying the bills from my writing have tipped my internal compass toward pragmatism.
I did stand my ground with an article on the mask wars. My thesis was that the endless and pointless disputes on social media—masks work, no they don’t, yes they do, no they don’t—had less to do with science than with worldview: irrespective of the data, social collectivists would find a way to defend masks, while my freedom-first compatriots would never countenance a perma-masked world.
One editor agreed to publish the piece if I mentioned that some studies favor masking, but I argued that quoting studies would undercut my central argument: that the forces powering the mask wars have little to do with how well they block viruses. He wouldn’t budge, so we parted ways and I found a more congenial home for the piece at the Ottawa Citizen.
The process of pitching counternarrative essays, while arduous at times, led me to a smorgasbord of lesser-known, high-quality publications I never would have discovered otherwise. Topping the list was the glorious UnHerd, a UK news and opinion website with such daring thinkers as Mary Harrington and Kathleen Stock on its roster of contributors. The US-based Tablet magazine offered consistently fresh takes on Covid and never took the easy road in its analyses. In its pages I found one of the most powerful Covid essays I have ever read. The author, Ann Bauer (no relation), teased out the common threads between the “settled science” about the virus and the litany of quack theories about autism, which fed into her son’s death by suicide.
Then there was Quillette, whose contempt for the sacred cows of wokeism gave me a special thrill. True confession: I blew my chances with Quillette and it’s my own damned fault. Like many working writers, I sometimes pitch a piece to more than one outlet at the same time, a practice known as simultaneous submissions. This goes against protocol—we’re supposed to wait until an editor declines our pitch before approaching the next one—but the reality is that many editors never respond. With the deck thus stacked against us, we writers sometimes push the envelope, figuring the odds of getting multiple acceptances (and thus pissing off editors) are low enough to take the risk.
On this particular occasion, I submitted an article called “Lessons from my Half-Vaxxed Daughter” to three publications. Medpage Today responded right away, and I accepted their offer to publish it. (This was while Marty Makary, the dissident-lite physician who called out people’s distorted perception of Covid risk in mainstream media, led the editorial team.) A few hours later, Quillette’s Canadian editor sent me a slightly reworked version of my piece and told me when he planned to run it. I had no choice but to proffer a red-faced apology and admit I had already placed the article elsewhere. He never responded to my email or to a follow-up mea culpa a few weeks later—and has ignored everything I’ve submitted since then. I guess I’ll have to wait until he retires.
Earlier this year, Brownstone Institute published my book Blindsight Is 2020, which critiques the pandemic response through the lens of 46 dissident thinkers. By all standards a moderate book, it stays clear of any “conspiratorial” speculations about the origins of the pandemic or the political response to it. Instead, it focuses on the philosophical and ethical issues that kept me awake at night during the peak Covid years—the same themes I explore in my essays, but in greater depth. I wrote the book not just for “my team,” but for those who vehemently opposed my views—perhaps especially for them. I didn’t expect to change their minds as much as to help them understand why some of us objected so strenuously to the policies they cheered on.
After the book came out, a few podcasters invited me to their shows. I appeared on a Libertarian Institute podcast in which the host puffed on his hand-rolled cigarettes while we talked. I spoke to an amiable ex-con podcaster who made it his mission to share Ayn Rand’s ideas with the world. I bonded with Rupa Subramanya—a brilliant Canadian conservative journalist and podcaster featured in my book—over the Freedom Convoy we had both supported.
All told I’ve appeared on 22 podcasts to date, each of them hosted by a right-leaning or libertarian host. Crickets from the left. Not one to accept defeat, I’ve begun reaching out to left-leaning podcasters on my own. Perhaps one day I’ll hear back from them.
Covid media, like so much else in modern life, has become hopelessly fractured: the tall, left-facing trees dominate the landscape, telling the story of a deadly virus that we “did the best we could” to manage. Below the tree canopy lies the tangle of weeds that sway in the wind, whispering songs of freedom and warning against the totalitarian impulses that all too readily emerge during crises. While I’ll continue to throw my essays at those unyielding trees, the messy underbrush is where I’ve found my journalistic home.
Why So Many Countries Followed China’s Lockdown Example
From the Brownstone Institute
The answer to why countries followed China’s lockdowns is simple. They were told to do so by the World Health Organization (WHO). Why did the WHO tell them to do that? You might want to ask Dr. Bruce Aylward
A novel coronavirus that was 10 times deadlier than the flu had gripped the world in 2019. Without a compass to navigate the Covid-19 pandemic, all lessons learned from previous viral pandemics were thrown out the window. The World Health Organization was adamant, “This is not the flu.” Tony Fauci terrified the US House of Representatives with forecasts of disaster. Global populations were defenseless without a vaccine for the novel coronavirus that no one had ever seen before. The only viable defense at the time was to shut down the world.
China took the lead in lockdowns. Media exported from China showed people dropping dead in the streets. Caskets were piling up. Doors to buildings were sealed to lock in tenants. Throughout the panic, all reasonable alternative assessments of risks from the viral outbreak were ignored, censored, or rejected.
Nevertheless, I wondered whether a video of a person falling down in the street was really representative of the entire population. Were caskets piling up largely due to families fearing to claim them because of contamination with the virus? I noticed that the front doors to my local mall in Ontario, Canada had also been sealed, just like in China apartment buildings, but this was only to control access through a single entrance to the building, not to seal in customers.
My first clue that the emergency response to the outbreak of the coronavirus didn’t seem to make sense was when I heard Fauci tell television audiences that if our response seems to be overreacting, then we are probably doing the right thing. What? Since when is overreacting ever the right thing to do? Do generals win wars by overreacting?
I looked at the numbers that Fauci had presented to the US House of Representatives concerning case and infection fatalities of the coronavirus. They were backwards! His 10-times deadlier prediction was simply a made-up number! This was in March 2020. By May 2020 it was obvious that people were NOT dying at the inflated rate Fauci had predicted.
I published a paper on Fauci’s coronavirus mortality overestimations: Public Health Lessons Learned From Biases in Coronavirus Mortality Overestimation. But when I mentioned all this to my friends, they responded that the lower than predicted deaths just proved the lockdowns were working. Fauci was off the hook. Back to China.
WHO/China Joint Mission on Covid-19
The answer to why countries followed China’s lockdowns is simple. They were told to do so by the World Health Organization (WHO). Why did the WHO tell them to do that? You might want to ask Dr. Bruce Aylward, the Director of the WHO/China Joint Mission on Covid-19 investigating the coronavirus outbreak.
Aylward noticed a precipitous drop in novel coronavirus pneumonia (NCP) in China during February 2020. This was before China adopted WHO’s name of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19). Upon seeing China’s surveillance data, Aylward announced the spectacular findings to the world and told the world to do what China has done and lock down. But he appeared to make a fundamental epidemiological error by wrongly assuming that the association of China’s lockdowns with lower deaths proved the lockdowns were working (just like my friends had told me).
Soon after in March 2020, China published its latest case definitions for NCP (Covid-19). In a nutshell, the definitions showed that no one could be declared to have died of the disease unless they had viral pneumonia (a severe acute respiratory illness), and only if no other virus normally associated with viral pneumonia was present, except SARS-CoV-2.
Coinfections with the coronavirus were not acceptable criteria, and what should have been a broad surveillance case definition with high sensitivity to monitor the spread of the virus within the population narrowed down considerably into an overly specific diagnostic case definition. That pretty much sealed the deal to declare Covid-19 deaths in only single digits for many months during the pandemic throughout China. This super-low outcome impressed Dr. Bruce Aylward enough in February 2020 to implore the world to lock down. Did we ever!
In the meantime, other countries used case and death definitions that went to the opposite extreme of China’s narrow diagnostic definitions, disseminating overinflated surveillance numbers without adjusting the numbers to remove bias. Even Fauci eventually admitted that reported cases and deaths counted WITH the coronavirus are much higher than cases and deaths counted FROM the coronavirus. Ironically, the WHO had previously published material on the correct use and interpretation of surveillance and diagnostic definitions in infectious disease outbreaks. Aylward didn’t appear to get the memo.
There is more to the story. Was this even really a novel coronavirus, or just a novel genetic sequence of the coronavirus showing greater detail than previously available? China supposedly received updated genetic sequencing technology in late 2019. They had abandoned surveillance of SARS in 2003 for lack of technology.
Now they were back in business again by the end of 2019. The team of virologists that reported the genetic sequence of the virus in Wuhan noted that it would be necessary to investigate the epidemiological evidence to guide infection control responses. Who has time for that? Shut it down!
If the novel coronavirus isn’t really so novel, this would explain why the lockdowns didn’t work. We had already known that lockdowns don’t work in other viral pandemics. Even China eventually gave up its Zero Covid Policy after it was obvious that lockdowns weren’t working. My friends owe me some explanations to justify their lockdown views. Maybe Fauci isn’t off the hook after all.
For more information on biases in Covid-19 case and death definitions, see my peer-reviewed article with cited references: Biases in COVID-19 Case and Death Definitions: Potential Causes and Consequences.
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