By J.B. Handley, CHD Contributing Writer
If you’re hoping the COVID-19 pandemic will go on forever, this post may disappoint you. And, I get it. We have gone frothing-at-the-mouth nuts over a slightly above-normal virulence virus, with a unique and obvious age-distribution pattern that should have made containment easy and panic completely unnecessary. And, if you’re living in the United States, like I am, you probably think my declaration that this pandemic is “over” to be somewhere between wishful thinking and incredibly premature, and I hear you, too, although forgive me if I’m not sure you’re the one thinking clearly, given some of the things I’ve recently read. I promise to support my assertion with data, and the wisdom of people far more expert than me who are having a harder time being heard in the present climate of…bats#@t crazy.
Have we lost our collective minds? Yes.
You may not be one of them. In fact, I’m guessing the people who actually take the time to read my blog posts are the few remaining who haven’t been subsumed by the panic, but can we agree that most have? Jeffrey A. Tucker of the American Institute for Economic Research put it best in his excellent essay on July 10 titled, When will the Madness End?:
“I’m a practicing psychiatrist who specializes in anxiety disorders, paranoid delusions, and irrational fear. I’ve been treating this in individuals as a specialist. It’s hard enough to contain these problems in normal times. What’s happening now is a spread of this serious medical condition to the whole population. It can happen with anything but here we see a primal fear of disease turning into mass panic. It seems almost deliberate. It is tragic. Once this starts, it could take years to repair the psychological damage.”
I’m 50 years old, and I’ve noticed that younger people seem particularly scared of COVID-19, they are the ones I typically see biking and hiking with masks on, and this survey really corroborated that point:
The age gradient is striking. The young attach higher probabilities to people like themselves contracting Covid-19, of being hospitalized conditional on infection, and of dying conditional on infection. Arguably, young respondents have a lifestyle that exposes them to wider networks, and this may explain why they feel more likely to be infected. But their assessment of health risks conditional on infection are puzzling in light of the evidence that Covid-19 is significantly less severe for younger people…Third, and crucially, young people, as compared to older people, report substantially higher mortality rates for every age group. Young people are more pessimistic than older people not only about their own mortality risk but also about everyone else’s mortality risk.
Daniel Horowitz wrote a great article about this survey titled, New study: Millennials think their risk from COVID-19 is exponentially more than the true threat. He writes:
Perhaps the most destructive element of lockdown is the panic and fear that such severe measures help confirm, in this case, wrongly so, in the minds of the young and impressionable. As the paper concludes, “Experience has shown that communities faced with epidemics or other adverse events respond best and with the least anxiety when the normal social functioning of the community is least disrupted.” In other words, we need to flatten the fear.
I thought that survey was bad enough, but a different survey by Kekst CNC asking different questions revealed a simply astonishing figure: Americans over-estimated the TOTAL number of compatriots who have died from COVID-19 by 200-fold! When asked the question (in mid-July), “How many people in your country have died from the Coronavirus?”, Americans responded “9%,” which would be roughly 30,000,000 people, versus the actual number of 151,000. No wonder people are panicked (and wildly, wildly misinformed.)
Great, so we can at least agree on three points: 1) Society has lost its collective mind over a virus, and 2) younger people wildly overestimate the risk of dying from COVID-19, which creates a vicious cycle with Point #1, and 3) Americans have wildly overestimated how many people have died from COVID-19.
This is the third time I have written about the pandemic. My first and second blogs provide plenty of data and perspective. I think there are five bits of data that I’ve explored in the past that merit an update:
1. Infection Fatality Rate: The “IFR”, unlike the “Case Fatality Rate” that is more often quoted in the news, is the ACTUAL fatality rate of COVID-19. In order to accurately forecast the IFR, you need two bits of data: total deaths, and total people who have had the virus. The second data point is harder to find, because so many people are asymptomatic, but the most reliable data I have found is in this meta-analysis by Stanford’s Dr. John Ioannidis titled, The infection fatality rate of COVID-19 inferred from seroprevalence data. What does the paper conclude? A median IFR of 0.25%. It’s hard to make this point strongly enough: a virus with an IFR this low would never, ever merit the response we’ve seen from health authorities and elected officials. COVID-19 is hardly a “once in a century pandemic” as some try to say, it’s a strong flu bug, nothing more.
2. Death rates by age stratification. The best science I have seen showing IFR by age is this study titled Assesssing the Age Specificity of Infection Fatality Rates for COVID-19: Meta-Analysis & Public Policy Implications. Check out this chart:
I wish this chart broke the age down even further, particularly in the 0-10 or 0-20 age range, where the IFR is effectively zero. These facts are slowly making their way into the mainstream, and the paper concludes: “Age and fatality risk for COVID-19 are exponentially related. In non-technical terms, COVID-19 poses a very low risk for children and younger adults but is hazardous for middle-aged adults and extremely dangerous for elderly people.”
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.