According to recent polls, 75 percent of Americans worry about their communities re-opening too soon from the corona lockdowns. More than eight in ten say they are likely to stay home if there is a new spike of cases in the area where they live.
And by a margin of almost four to one, most Americans believe the U.S. economy is being reopened too quickly rather than too slowly.
These figures indicate that the majority of us believe we are in the midst of a dangerous epidemic. The levels of anxiety and fear have reached such a high pitch that an earlier survey found that many Americans thought that extreme measures – such as complete closure of K-12 schools and most businesses – were justified to mitigate the threat posed by the coronavirus disease.
But is this fear justified? Is this virus really so dangerous that we need to shut down large portions of our society and dramatically curtail our engagement in everyday activities? What is the actual risk of harm and death posed by this pathogen to an ordinary healthy individual?
It may come as something of a surprise, but this kind of information is not very easy to come by. This is remarkable to say the least given that so much has been said and written about the various aspects of this crisis. We read the frightening headlines, hear about the death and case counts and listen to heart-rending individual stories of those sickened by the virus. But we almost never come across articles or reports that would present hard data or objective metrics which would indicate the actual level of danger posed by the virus to the average person.
Since the mainstream media do not do their job in this regard, those who want to know have to do some research themselves. When you conduct internet searches, you can, indeed, find considerable amount of raw data. Most of it, however, is presented in technical manner and therefore not easy to understand by the layperson. But there are some places where such information is presented in a way that can be readily understood by most people. One such place is a page on Wikipedia titled Mortality due to COVID-19.
One, of course, always needs to be cautious when getting information from Wikipedia. To begin with, the data presented there is often less than rock solid. Secondly, it is well known that Wikipedia tends to suffer from a leftist bias. This has been stated by – of all people – Larry Sanger, one of Wikipedia’s co-founders. Sanger recently posted a lengthy article titled “Wikipedia is Badly Biased” in which he documents the online encyclopedia’s tendency toward distortion and inaccuracy due to its leftward bent.
In our case, however, Wikipedia’s bias can be to our advantage, since it essentially serves as a safeguard to keep us from underestimating the seriousness of the threat posed by COVID-19. This is because the Left’s overall inclination so far has been to overstate the danger to the maximum extent possible. The motivation for this is quite obvious. The greater the perceived danger, the better the chances of havoc in the American economy and society. This, of course, diminishes the re-election prospects of Donald Trump for whom, as Sanger points out, Wikipedia seems to harbor a special dislike. We can, therefore, reasonably assume that Wikipedia’s editors and writers are likely to interpret the data which they use as the basis for their work on COVID-19 in a way that would magnify the danger rather than the other way around.
With this in mind, let us now turn to Wikipedia’s article Mortality due to COVID-19 to see what we can learn about the threat posed by the virus. The entry is based on data streams from various sources which include government agencies, peer-reviewed medical and scientific journals and hospital reports among others. Wikipedia collates and processes this data and presents the results in the form of easy to read tables. Altogether there are seven data tables in the entry. The one that is of most interest to us is called “Percent of infected people who die – infection fatality rate (IFR).”
The title is self-explanatory. The table shows the percentage of people – across different age brackets – who die after being infected with the virus. The Infection Fatality Rate is by far the more accurate indicator of a disease’s deadliness than the often-used Case Fatality Rate, because the former takes into account the actual number of cases in the population rather than only those confirmed by tests. And since only a fraction of those infected are ever actually confirmed through testing, the Infection Fatality Rate is always much lower than the Case Fatality rate. The Wikipedia table breaks down the rate for men and women, but for now we are only concerned with the average across the sexes, which is indicated in the bottom row called “Total.” We reproduce the diagram below:
Before we proceed, we mention two facts in order to give the figures above some context. The first is that the combined mortality rate across all age brackets for seasonal influenza is typically around 0.1 percent. We say “typically,” because this figure is not fixed as it varies somewhat depending on the virulence of each year’s strain.
The second fact we need to bear in mind is that the vast majority of people – some 90 percent – who succumb to COVID-19 are either old or have at least one serious health condition. This is how Wikipedia acknowledges this reality: “Deaths are ten times more common in those aged over 60 years and those with co-morbidities.” What this means is that only one tenth of all COVID victims are healthy individuals with whom age is not a factor.
Let us now us look at the information presented in the table. For young people in the 0-19 age bracket the infection fatality rate is 0.001 percent. This means that the chances of an infected child dying of COVID-19 are 1 in 100,000. In other words, out of every 100,000 children who contract the SARS-CoV-2 virus one will pass away.
To see just how small these chances are in the context of real life, it will help to juxtapose this probability with the probability of death from other rare causes.
Below are our one-year odds of dying from various mishaps:
- An injury of any kind: 1 in 1,334 (75 out 100,000)
- Accidental poisoning: 1 in 5,243 (19 out of 100,000)
- A motor vehicle accident: 1 in 8,303 (12 out of 100,000)
- Shot by a firearm: 1 in 23,439 (4 out of 100,000)
- Struck by a motor vehicle while walking: 1 in 42,600 (2 out of 100,000)
From this we can see that a child between the ages of 0 and 19 has more than 10 times greater chance of perishing in a car accident than dying from infection by SARS-CoV-2. It also has a 70 times greater chance of dying from an injury and 200 percent greater chance of being killed by a car while walking in the street. Given the extremely small probability of children coming to harm from this disease, it is truly remarkable that at one point some 90 percent of Americans supported the closure of K-12 schools. It is also a testimony to the deceptive way in which this disease has been mispresented to the American public.
But there is another calculation to be made. Even though the numbers above are extremely small, they still greatly overstate the threat to healthy children. This is because the 0.001 mortality figure includes the 90 percent of children who suffer from a serious pre-existing medical condition at the time of their passing. Therefore, the infection fatality rate for healthy children will be one tenth of this number, which comes to 0.0001 percent. This in turn translates into 1 out of a million which is, for all practical purposes, zero. In other words, HEALTHY children do not die of COVID-19.
The risk is also extremely low for young people in the 20 to 29-years-old age bracket where the infection mortality rate stands at 0.007 percent. This means seven out of every 100,000 infected individuals from this cohort 7 will die of COVID-19. For those belonging to this category, the chances of dying of COVID-19 are nearly two times less than their yearly odds of being killed in a car accident. And if we perform the 90 percent adjustment for pre-existing conditions, the chances become much lower still. They essentially come to nil.
In the 30 to 39-year-old bracket the infection fatality rate goes up to 0.02 percent. This translates to 20 out 100,000 people. And even though this is appreciably higher than the rates for the previous two groups, the risk of dying of COVID-19 for people in this category is still less than their chances of dying of an injury in the next twelve months. Adjustment for co-morbidities further reduces the risk to such a small number that it becomes negligible.
Among the 40 to 49-year-olds the infection fatality rate figures at 0.06 percent, which converts to 60 deaths per 100,000 infections. This is three times the rate of the previous bracket, but still below the average death rate for the annual flu.
The 50 to 59-year-old cohort is the first age bracket where the numbers would warrant some concern. The infection fatality rate for this group is 0.2, which is twice the flu mortality rate. This translates to 2,000 fatalities for every 100,000 infections. This may seem relatively high, but if we perform the 90 percent adjustment for pre-existing conditions, the infection mortality rate for the healthy this age category goes down to 0.02. This in turn converts to 200 per 100,000. Although this is not an insignificant number, it is considerably less than the average influenza death rate.
What all this shows is that for healthy individuals under the age of sixty the SARS-CoV-2 virus poses no greater risk than from other relatively rare threats. The low risk demographics encompassed by this age boundary include school children, young adults, college students and most people of a productive age.
For healthy children, young adults and college students the risk is so low as to be practically irrelevant.
For healthy adults of productive age, the danger is below the average risk of death from the annual flu.
The fact that a high proportion of the US population fear for their safety and approve of extreme measures such as shutting down schools, universities and most businesses shows that people are grossly misinformed about the risk posed by the coronavirus. Closing schools and universities, for example, makes little sense from a health point of view. Some proponents of the drastic across-the-board lockdowns would contend that part of the reason is to limit the spread of the virus in order to protect the vulnerable. There is, however, no evidence that children spread the virus in the first place.
But the larger question is why do we not lockdown, quarantine and otherwise protect those who are truly vulnerable?
Why do we insist on locking down everyone – even those who face no particular risk from the disease – and crashing the economy in the process while causing all kinds of other damage as well?
That much of the population goes along with such a misguided approach is – more than anything – a disgraceful testimony to the deceptive reporting by the traditional media. By failing to provide proper context for their stories and headlines, the media have perpetrated a fraud on the American public which has given rise to a great deal of fear and confusion. We call on the journalists responsible for this deception to do the right thing and review the hard facts. They can start with the information on the coronavirus disease presented by Wikipedia. They should have no hesitation about turning to this particular outlet, since Wikipedia essentially serves as the Left’s organ of reality validation.
Americans have been fed Fake News by the traditional media outlets and they have fallen for it. It is imperative that we expose this journalistic malpractice by informing the public of the true level of threat. If we do not succeed, the cost of this fraud may in the end prove to be more than we can withstand.
Original: Vasko Kohlmayer – LewRockwell