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Spreading Covid Panic and Misinformation? Some Thoughts…

[I’ve hesitated a dozen times about posting this musing, as I know with the toxicity of (anti)social media these days, it’s going to cause a stir amongst my “friends” and likely generate some hateful comments, but in the interest of generating some real thought, here goes….]

Before I start this post I must lay some ground work for where I’m coming from.

  • I wear a mask whenever I’m in public places
  • I’m washing my hands, and using hand sanitizer more than I ever have in my life
  • I’ve limited my outings from home to the point that there have been weeks where I’ve not left the house at all
  • I have obeyed social distancing and group limitations from the start of this epidemic and generally continue to do so
  • I have a mother-in-law in long term care and my wife works in the same facility and I definitely want BOTH of them as safe as possible
  • I’m conservative by nature and am known to look carefully at all sides, or options, before making any decisions about things
  • I have mild asthma and am about to turn 63 in a few months and so would likely be considered a higher risk than some
  • I’m definitely NOT a conspiracy theorist in any way but I do believe that people can be misguided in their reactions to things
  • The virus is real and it can kill people with compromised health

So with that in mind… I’m having many misgivings about this so called “Wave 2” of Covid-19. My misgivings fall under the following categories / areas of discussion:

  1. Is the testing approach being employed in Canada, and most of the rest of the world, actually a good diagnostic test? Does it test for the right thing, and is it a reliable test?
  2. Is the death rate in Canada, and other countries, actually statistically worse in 2020 than in other years, or is basically the same as any other year?
  3. Are the effects of lockdowns and shutdowns and isolation more detrimental to society than the Covid-19 virus? How are the impacts of increased debt, decreased socialization, and limited exposure going to impact us in the future?

Now, I’m no expert on this, and as I said before, I think I have been doing my part, like so many others, and making sacrifices to lessen the impact of Covid-19, but I think taking a second, or third look at evidence and research is certainly a good idea, and necessary to make good decisions. Knee-jerk reactions rarely accomplish good things.

Is the Testing Reliable?

This is an interesting question. Like I said, I’m no expert, but a few articles I read over last few days makes me question if the tests are a) too sensitive, and b) not really measuring the right thing and c) giving too many false positives.

The couple of articles I’ve looked at include the following:

Some of these articles draw on each other, or share sources, but when you read through them a few highlights pop out (at least for me)…

  • The person who developed the test methodology didn’t think it was a good test for diagnosing disease.
  • A positive test doesn’t mean you have an active infection. Even the CDC said in July…
    • Detection of viral RNA may not indicate the presence of infectious virus or that 2019-nCoV is the causative agent for clinical symptoms.
    • The performance of this test has not been established for monitoring treatment of 2019-nCoV infection.
    • This test cannot rule out diseases caused by other bacterial or viral pathogens.
  • The testing may be too sensitive, and/or being run for too many “cycles”, and giving false positives which is inflating the number of “cases” (that’s another interesting discussion – what constitutes a “case”) which is fueling the knee-jerk reactions – especially in Wave 2. (The discussion in the 2nd article above around the effect of false positives on the number of cases is interesting to say the least.)
  • Are some/most of asymptomatic cases really not cases at all, but are simply false positives and harmless?
  • Is the fact that in Wave 2 we are seeing so many more cases (Ontario keeps setting record ‘case’ numbers, but lessened death numbers) simply due to the false positive math and the increased number of tests being performed?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, but it sure gives me pause for thought.

Has the Death Rate Changed Significantly

One of the things we heard at the onset of the pandemic was that lots of people were going to die from Covid-19. Certainly in the early months of things we saw a lot of the elderly (especially in long-term care facilities), and those with other underlying health conditions (especially those that were respiratory in nature) passing away, and that was certainly of great concern, and of course through whatever actions we take, we want to minimize the hospitalization and death rates as best we can.

However, questions (in my mind) arise with respect to the rates, as time has gone on. These include:

  • Has the overall death rate significantly increase in 2020 vs previous years (certainly in a pandemic, you would expect that more people that “normal” would be dying?
  • Have the deaths “from Covid-19” actually been deaths from Covid itself, or are they deaths from other pre-existing conditions that might have happened anyway as a result of a cold or flu?
  • Have there been more deaths from other, non-Covid related reasons during this time period due to things like delayed procedures, cutbacks in health care services, or simply fear of seeking medical attention due to Covid “hype”?

I’m not sure I have ALL the answers to this, and finding the answers to these questions is extremely difficult (at least searching the existing data on the Internet), but I did come across some interesting bits of information which I think sheds a bit of light.

I did a search in Google for “canadian death rate 2019” and came across this article… Deaths in Canada 2020 | Statista. Looking at the chart I see data for the last 20 years (note the data for a ‘year’ is actually July 1 to June 30). Based on this we see the last few years as… (year – actual number (and actual and percent increase over previous year))…

  • 2016 – 262,090
  • 2017 – 274,240 (+12,150 or +4.6%)
  • 2018 – 283,770 (+9,530 or +3.5%)
  • 2019 – 287,460 (+3,690 or +1.3%)
  • 2020 – 300,310 (+12,850 or +4.5%)

Looking at those numbers it appears that the percentage increase from 2019 to 2020 is no worse than the increase from 2016 to 2017. Does that mean that Covid-19 had almost no impact on the mortality rates in Canada (at least for the first half of 2020 where the bulk of the Covid-attributed deaths have occurred).

Another interesting chart I found unfortunately doesn’t cover 2019 and 2020 but it is interesting, and WILL BE interesting to see when the data is finally posted. Deaths and mortality rates, by age group (statcan.gc.ca) This shows the mortality rates BY AGE GROUP, and shows just how the rates rise significantly after age 65. It definitely highlights the need for protecting our elderly where possible.

Other interesting posts I’ve run across while looking at this aspect (yes, I have too much time on my hands since I can’t go anywhere) include…

Not sure what all this means, but I find it very interesting to go over some of the numbers and see what the numbers really mean.

Other Effects of The Lockdowns etc.

I’m still looking for stats etc. that might show things like:

  • changes in depression rates
  • changes in suicide rates
  • changes in hospitalization rates for other illnesses and procedures
  • changes in death rates for non-Covid related conditions (e.g., heart attacks, cancer rates, obesity, alcoholism, diabetes, etc.)
  • changes in family dynamics and divorce rates
  • the effects of non-closure for those grieving the loss of a loved one during this pandemic
  • economic impact on small businesses. large businesses, and the economy in general
  • impacts on food bank utilization
  • impacts on charitable giving
  • changes in employment rates, foreclosures and emergency loans
  • increased debt load for future generations at Federal, Provincial and Local levels

What IS the overall cost to society of these lockdowns, slowdowns and periods of isolation. We may never know the full extent or impact of 2020 on life down the road.

Conclusion

I guess there really isn’t any conclusion. The jury is still out on the realities of the Covid reactions and/or panic (depending on your point of view). To me, however, it is clear that there are a few takeaways (and I could be wrong):

  1. We need to continue to protect the elderly (especially in long-term care) and ensure that they are not exposed to outbreaks of Covid-19, or flus, or any other contagion. We need to do it, however, in a way that does not cause their last days to be filled with loneliness and isolation. The impacts of isolation has definitely been documented anecdotally at least, and has lowered morale amongst seniors (myself included) and their families.
  2. We need to investigate and refine our procedures for testing, criteria for “cases” vs benign contact, and documentation of cause of death, in order to be able to determine the true impacts of Covid-19 and be able to determine the proper steps to follow for containment, limitation, or eradication of Covid and other coming viruses.
  3. We need to get our economy back on track. Too many businesses and individuals and families have been negatively affected by the shutdowns, lockdowns and limitations during 2020. We can’t be doing it either by having our governments continue to throw relief program money at the affected areas, as this will simply transfer the burden to future generations.
  4. We need to have access to REAL numbers and not hyped up, fabricated stories and numbers that cause panic and the spread of misinformation.
  5. We need to be open to rational discussion of this, and other topics, and stop putting up walls between those with whom we don’t share the same opinion, and we need to start thinking of others before we think of ourselves.

The virus is real! Be safe out there!! Do what you can to stop it’s spread!!!

Thanks for listening to my musings 🙂

TTFN!

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