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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Here We Go Again: The Virus of Mass Destruction

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“I’ve been through MERS, SARS, Ebola, the first Gulf war and the second, and I don’t recall anything like this. There’s unnecessary, exaggerated panic. We have to calm people down…. [E]everybody is whipping everybody else up into panic — the leaders, via the media, and the wider public — who then in turn start to stress out the leaders. We’ve entered some kind of vicious cycle.”  - Dr. Jihad Bishara, Israeli virologist 
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Editor’s Note: I realize many good people are frightened by what’s going on just now.  I also realize that families in Europe and China especially have been terribly impacted by the Coronavirus, which has claimed lives—real people’s lives, living in the real world. We pray for them and we resolve not to let them die in vain by failing to take ordinary precautions here in the United States that will prevent what happened to them from happening to us. That said, we must also put the crisis in its proper perspective. This will keep panic at bay, which in turn will dramatically reduce the threat caused by hoarding of everything from medical supplies to toilet paper to food. 

Panic kills—not only people but also economies. Whatever you think the Coronavirus is—a Chinese bio-weapon, a chastisement from God, a nasty new flu strain—it is quite possible to examine the numbers and the models in order to better understand what to expect over the next couple of weeks. One need not take the narrative of Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer as the infallible word of God on this crisis. In fact, in service to the common good we here at The Remnant feel more or less obligated to provide a dissenting opinion, based not on fear and conspiracy theories but rather on provable facts and numbers.

In order to calm fears and maybe even save lives, responsible citizens must look at the evidential data in order to understand the true nature of the threat we all face. We are not only allowed to ask questions of the media and our elected officials, but indeed we have a duty to ask them. If we draw the wrong conclusions from the available data, fine. Then tell us how and where we're wrong. But please don't attempt to silence us with this or that "scary story" or out-of-context stat, which is often the dangerous currency of a society wrapped in war fever. Honest, responsible and intelligent discussion must be allowed to take place even in a time like this if, that is, our society is to keep up any pretense at all of being free.  

No one can tell The Remnant or anyone else that we do not have permission to question the pandemic narrative that is now the basis for the complete suspension of our freedom and civil liberties. Perhaps that narrative is absolutely correct and the ensuing panic unavoidable. But then it can surely and easily withstand our questions over the fact that, at this point, the numbers don't seem to add up. If you don’t want questions asked, then go over to CNN where none are allowed. Here at The Remnant, we believe we owe it to our readers to question politicians and the MSM, especially at a time like this—no matter how many people are tragically dying of the flu or COVID-19 or of some other terrible cause. During this crisis, we encourage our readers to pray, keep eyes and ears open and, for God’s sake, continue to hold mainstream media accountable. Lives may depend on it.  Michael J. Matt

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A Remnant Newspaper Public Service Announcement

I AWOKE TODAY to read the following headline at Fox News: “World in Peril”.  According to Fox News the entire world is in peril because this year so far, out of a world population of 7 billion, 8,944 people have died from the disease dubbed COVID-19 as compared with the 291,000-646, 000 people worldwide who die from seasonal influenza annually. The media are wrong. Neither the world, nor Italy, nor any other country is in peril because of COVID-19.

Someone in authority has to put the brakes on this media-driven hysteria.  Someone in authority has to be compelled to answer some obvious questions. Such as:

  • Why isn’t the world in peril because hundreds of thousands of people will die from influenza this flu season?
  • Where is the actual hard evidence that COVID 19 is anything more than a flu-like illness which causes minor symptoms in 96% of those infected with a death rate  no higher than that of the common flu in cases requiring critical care in a hospital, generally involving elderly people with comorbidities?
  • How are we supposed reconcile these conflicting claims: (a) COVID-19 is “ten times deadlier than the flu”; and (b) scores of millions must be infected with COVID-19, which means that fewer than 9,000 fatalities worldwide to date would represent a vanishingly small rate of death?
  • Why is it so urgent that non-hospitalized people be tested for COVID-19 when anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms of any kind is being told to stay home until he recovers, which precludes leaving home to be tested?
  • Given that point-of-care testing—i.e., in a hospital for admitted patients—by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method is the most reliable mode of testing, which requires exacting execution of the test, is it not the height of folly to direct people to the drive-thru testing centers now being hastily erected, where hastily devised alternative tests, never subjected to rigorous validation, would yield an unknown number of false positive and false negative results?
  • In a nation of 370 million people, what possible testing regime could provide useful information about the total number of infected people if symptomatic people are told to stay home and asymptomatic people who may be carriers are told they need not be tested?
  • How is the media’s obsession with testing, testing, testing as the sign that government is “doing something” to combat the “coronavirus pandemic” anything but pageantry for public consumption that only causes further panic and confusion?

As of today, March 18 at 10:20 a.m., a total of 151 people in the United States have died from COVID-19—ignorantly described by the never-to-be trusted mass media as “the coronavirus” as if it were the only coronavirus in the world rather than part of a family of viruses that includes the common cold.  That’s 151 deaths among 370 million people, with almost all the victims being over age 70 with comorbidities, and none of them children. 

Based on those 151 deaths, the mass media and their government enablers—overwhelmingly Democrats, including Democrat state governors—are relentlessly turning the entire nation into a concentration camp in which public gatherings of more than 50 people are banned (or more than 10 people here in Richmond, VA), vast swaths of the economy are shut down, and entire cities are placed under virtual house arrest, as has just happened in San Francisco and will apparently soon happen in New York.

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Swept up in the media-orchestrated panic and facing political destruction if he is not perceived to be handling “the deadly coronavirus pandemic,” President Trump is conducting daily press briefings while surrounded by a bevy of experts who blather on and on about models, curves, and the availability of test kits at drive-thru centers for the same symptomatic people who are supposed to stay home and self-quarantine. The experts include that intolerable blabbermouth Dr. Anthony Fauci, a CNN favorite because of his willingness under prodding to make wild and criminally reckless predictions, such as his prediction that it is “possible” that “millions could die” in the US from a virus that has caused fewer than 9,000 deaths in the whole world.

Meanwhile, as the media-DNC complex ramps up mass hysteria for blatantly political ends,  22,000-50,000 people will die from the common flu in this country alone during the 2019-2020 flu season, with 36,000,000-51,000,000 infections and 370,000-670,000 hospitalizations.

Speaking of the flu, Dr. Pritish Tosh, an infectious disease specialist with the Mayo Clinic, put the orchestrated panic over COVID-19 into the proper perspective: “There is a deadly respiratory virus that is circulating throughout the United States, and it is at its peak. It is not novel coronavirus.”  It is the common flu virus, which has killed between 12,000 and 61,000 Americans every flu season and between 291,000 to 646,000 people worldwide.

Italy, Italy, Italy, chirp the fear mongers in unison. Italy, they say, is the “new epicenter” of the “global coronavirus pandemic.”  “America will become Italy” unless government officials—those paragons of competence we can always trust to do the right thing—take “radical measures.” Like placing the whole of San Francisco under house arrest or sending sheriff’s deputies to surround the home of a man who tested positive for the virus but declined to be hospitalized.  Query: How many sheriff’s deputies would it take to surround the homes of every American who shows even minor signs of a flu-like illness but declines to stay indoors for weeks until the government tells him he can go outside again?

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So, let’s take a look at Italy—the epidemiological and demographic facts rather than the reckless fear-mongering in which, sad to say, not only Fox but even certain Catholic commentators are engaging. As of today, 2,503 Italians have died from COVID-19. The average age of the victims is “81, with the majority suffering from underlying health problems.” 

I repeat: the average age of the victims is 81, meaning that many of them must have been in their 90s, and most had comorbidities.  Bloomberg reports that “More than 99% of Italy’s coronavirus fatalities were people who suffered from previous medical conditions, according to a study by the country’s national health authority. Thus, in Italy there is no epidemiological evidence whatsoever of a significant risk of death among the healthy population of non-elderly people.  All the available evidence shows a death rate and a mortality cohort no different from that of influenza.

Now, a bit of calm research would have revealed that Italy has a very large proportion of very elderly people who are peculiarly susceptible to viral epidemics, above all the annual flu virus.  As noted in a definitive study published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases: “In terms of amplitude of the at risk population, in Italy there are 6.7 million people aged 75+ (more than 10% of the population) that constitute a large group of fragile subjects, among which the annual death rate is naturally high, around 4%.” 

The same study assessed the data from four flu seasons in Italy—2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2016/17—to arrive at the conclusion that  “the total number of excess deaths attributable to influenza in the 4-season study period was 68,068,” an average of 17,000 flu deaths in Italy per year with the highest annual numbers being 41,000 during the 2014/15 flu season and 43,336 during the 2016/2017 flu season (if one looks at all influenza-like illnesses - ILI’s to use the authors’ acronym - not strictly influenza, in those two years).

In general, the annual death rate for influenza in Italy is said to be 8.5 per 100,000, which translates into at least 5,100 deaths from the flu every year in Italy, but with huge spikes in particularly bad years as seen in the cited study. 

That said, although there have been  over 2 million cases of flu recorded in Italy since its current flu season began last October, there have been only 240 recorded flu deaths, of which “most were elderly patients who suffered complications as a result of the virus.”  What these data suggest is that during this flu season most of the burden of virus-related deaths among Italy’s elderly will be from COVID-19, not the flu, while the total burden of virus-related deaths will remain within the usual range for the Italian population as Italy’s 2019-2020 flu season nears its end. 

The data bear out this assumption:  Between March 14 and 16 there was a decline in both deaths from COVID-19 and the number of new cases, as shown here. Today there was a slight increase that did not, however, reach the peak of March 15. Moreover, as seen here, the logarithmic graph of the death rate, which reflects the percentage of increase in the number of deaths based on the number of total cases, most of which are mild, already shows a gently rising, almost flat curve as of March 16, versus the linear graph that shows merely the increase in the raw number of deaths.

Linear graphs of COVID-19 deaths are misleading and bad science because they tend to be skewed toward higher numbers in smaller statistical cohorts where “one or a few points are much larger than the bulk of the data.” 

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For example, if we were to start with 1 case and end with 150 cases by the end of a week, a linear graph would show what appears to be a skyrocketing increase.  But if the growth rate during the week was Monday 1, Tuesday 15, Wednesday 25, Thursday 32, Friday 30, Saturday 24 and Sunday 23, a logarithmic graph would show a gentle curve not indicating exponential growth but rather a slowing of growth. 

As of today, March 17, that is exactly what we are seeing in both Italy and the world on the logarithmic graphs.  And, sure enough, during the past week in Italy, as reported by The Telegraph, the total number of cases rose at “the slowest rate since the first cases were reported on Feb 21. Although the numbers are still very high, the rate at which the total is growing appears to have slowed in recent days.”

Another crucial fact has been lost in the reigning hysteria.  Dr. Wolfgang Wodarg, a German physician who is also Chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Health Committee, warns that it is misleading and medically irresponsible to assign a definite rate of death to COVID-19 when where there are no reliable data on the actual total number of cases in the general population. What is more, says Dr. Wordag, given that 7-15% of those infected by a flu virus also have a coronavirus during any given flu season, no one can say with any certainty that deaths attributed to COVID-19, which is just this year’s iteration of coronavirus, are not actually caused by influenza, and no one is presenting data to distinguish the two in active cases in Italy or elsewhere. 

UPDATE: On this score the truth is beginning to leak out.  In explaining why children appear to have an immunity to the virus Dr. Peter Jung, a pediatrician quoted by Fox News, observed that “every winter season there are several non-COVID-19 coronaviruses circulating that children are highly prone to catching. Their frequent exposure to these other coronaviruses likely offers them some level of immunity that adults may not have. There are probably other contributing factors, but this is likely the biggest one.”

In essence, Wordag argues, it was virologists’ hasty creation of a COVID-19 test, just as hastily approved by the World Health Organization, that has led to a sensational abuse of the test as “proof” of an exclusively COVID-19 epidemic in Italy and elsewhere that could well be masking the usual underlying annual flu epidemic, at least to a large extent.  But now that politicians have gotten involved and created a panic narrative, Wodarg concludes, “it is going to be very hard for critics to say ‘Stop. There is nothing going on.’ And this reminds me of the fairy tale of the king without clothes.”

Turning back to America, an article by Steve Mosher explains why America will not be like Italy. Mosher exposes the game the fear-mongers are playing with exponents in calculating the risk of transmission of COVID-19.  Addressing the completely reckless claim by Ohio governor Mike DeWine on national television that the number of coronavirus cases in Ohio may be as many as 100,000, Mosher notes that “it was probably the result of an exponential equation that assumed that every infected person spread the disease to 2.6 others within a few days after showing symptoms of the disease.” But, Mosher asks, “What if the real ROI [rate of infection] was actually closer to the 1.3 characteristic of the seasonal flu?  In that case, every infected person would only spread the disease to 1.3 others.  And the resulting number of infections after the same dozen transmissions?  Only twenty-four (24)!”

Exactly so.  Recall that in my previous article on the subject I noted that even Fake News CNN (perhaps inadvertently) published a report five days ago stating that “The coronavirus also appears to be about as infectious as the flu, and potentially more so, especially as there are no specific treatment, cure or seasonal vaccine.”  “Potentially more so” means not actually more so.

Further, Mosher argues:

[E]ven common sense tells you that Ohio simply cannot have 100,000 cases at the present moment.  Why?  Because to date Ohio has only confirmed 37 actual cases of the Chinese coronavirus, and is testing 361 more.  Well, you say, this is only because the rollout of the test kits has been so slow. But if that is the case, then why have there only been 7 hospitalizations and not a single death?  That’s zero fatalities as in zero, zip, nada.  That leaves only two possible explanations.  Either the estimate of 100,000 cases is a gross exaggeration or the Chinese coronavirus is much less dangerous than we have been told.  Or both.

Mosher next addresses the claim by Dr. Fauci, CNN’s favorite blabbermouth expert, that the CDC estimates the mortality rate for the virus at around 1%.  “But if this were true,” says Mosher, “and there are 100,000 cases in Ohio already, then we would have 1,000 deaths in Ohio alone by the time the disease had run its course in those currently infected…  Literally dozens of people would be dying every week.  The funeral homes would be filling up.  They’re not.”  Again, not a single person has died in Ohio from COVID-19. And, as of his writing, there were only “67 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ohio across 16 counties” (now 69 cases) and only “17 people are hospitalized” even according to Fake News CNN.

Nowhere, in fact, do we see any hard-statistical evidence to back up all the reckless claims and dire predictions by a mainstream media that, let’s face it, already had a massive credibility problem going in.  Instead, we see nattering members of the press demanding that Trump declare when millions of test kits will be made available for the phantom millions who will be demanding them, when a vaccine will be ready, whether he will commandeer factories to produce mass quantities of ventilators for the phantom masses of people who will otherwise be dying of respiratory failure in the streets, and how he will address the “collapse of the health care system” when it is besieged by imaginary hordes of desperate COVID-19 patients. 

And all of this hysterical nonsense is based on 151 COVID-19 deaths over the past 90 days, while 22,000 Americans or more have already died from the flu and hundreds of thousands have been hospitalized without the media or the Democrats expressing any alarm whatsoever about a lack of flu testing, vaccine or ventilators, or the “collapse” of the health care system.

We need to resist the wave of insanity that is sweeping over the nation and the world. We need to heed the few voices of reason that have managed to receive some media coverage, such as the prominent Israeli virologist,  Dr. Jihad Bishara, director of the Infectious Disease Unit at Petah Tikva’s Beilinson Hospital, who spoke to Israel’s Channel 12:

I’ve been in this business for 30 years. I’ve been through MERS, SARS, Ebola, the first Gulf war and the second, and I don’t recall anything like this. There’s unnecessary, exaggerated panic. We have to calm people down…. [E]everybody is whipping everybody else up into panic — the leaders, via the media, and the wider public — who then in turn start to stress out the leaders. We’ve entered some kind of vicious cycle.

The rational approach to COVID-19 is to treat it no differently from the flu while not allowing ourselves to be made prisoners in our own homes by public officials, many with blatantly political motives, who are denouncing Trump’s “failures” while issuing unprecedented and legally baseless diktats amounting to martial law. That means:

  • Stay away from places where there have been a cluster of cases, such as nursing homes.  
  • If you have flu-like symptoms, stay home and ride them out, just as you have done with the common flu whenever you have come down with it. 
  • Don’t expose others if you are symptomatic.
  • If you are in your sixties or older, limit community contact as much as possible.
  • Everyone should avoid people who are coughing or sneezing and refrain from shaking hands with strangers at gatherings.
  • Everyone should wash his hands if he comes into contact with strangers or symptomatic family members and avoid touching his face.
  • Finally, seek urgent medical care if, and only if, you are experiencing something dramatically different from the flu with which you are familiar.  

But for heaven’s sake, don’t go driving around looking for a drive-thru testing center so that you can be part of an epidemiologically useless sliver of the population that has swabs jammed up both nostrils all the way to the back of the throat to obtain a test result that may not even be reliable. Even with a negative result, says the CDC, one could still have the virus, “which is possible in the early stages of infection,” while a negative test with symptoms “likely means that the COVID-19 virus is not causing [the] current illness…”. Likely means?  How likely? The CDC is not saying because nobody really knows. Therefore, will any of the symptomatic people also be drive-thru tested for co-infection with Influenza B so that it can be determined whether it is really COVID-19 that is causing the symptoms, not the flu, as Dr. Wodarg has suggested?

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Absurdly enough, the drive-thru tests are not being analyzed for people who show no symptoms but could be carriers, because only symptomatic people with doctor’s orders are being tested, making the test useless for determining the extent of the virus’s spread among the asymptomatic population. As for those who do have symptoms, weren’t they told to self-quarantine? So, which is it? Confine yourself to home or leave home to obtain a test that, if positive, means you should confine yourself to home—assuming the result was not a false positive, which can be ruled out only with a second test and a second trip from home. And where and how will that second test be done?

Even more absurdly, President Trump has vowed that “anyone who wants a test can get a test,” while according to ABC News “officials say that getting everyone tested is a long-term goal. Currently testing is limited and should be left to those who really need it…” So, the ultimate goal is to test 370 million people for COVID-19, but right now just those who really need it, and then later on those who don’t really need a test but would like to have one. Is this a joke?

All in all, this frenzy of drive-thru spot testing will result in little or no reliable information about who actually has the disease or what percentage of the population is carrying the virus without symptoms. The hastily contrived COVID-19 testing regime borders on the nonsensical and may well be counter-productive. But the media and the experts have demanded it, so the show must go on.

Conclusion

Today, the same shifty politicians and their lying media accomplices, who perpetrated the “collusion with Russia” hoax for nearly three years, are promoting yet another panic narrative by which many people of good will have been carried away: the virus of mass destruction that will kill millions unless government officials turn our towns, cities and states into virtual internment camps while destroying the Trump economy—just in time for the next election and Sanders’ or Biden’s call for socialist economic measures to address an economic disaster created, not by a virus, but by a panic over a virus they themselves fomented. Trump himself is forced to play his part in the piece, evidently in the hope that this insane melodrama will end with him as the man who saved America from the virus that could have ended the American dream.

Of course, it won’t end here. It is all but certain that once the virus runs its course, as all viruses do, the politicians and the media will credit draconian government restrictions of freedom of movement, assembly and economic activity with “saving millions of lives.” The lying media will prepare the masses to accept the same loss of freedoms during the next “deadly pandemic” which, like this one, will not even approach the worst seasonal flu in terms of lives lost. We will have been translated, overnight, into a cyclical soft dictatorship that exploits mass panic over new viruses that have frightening names but are no more harmful, or even less harmful, than the seasonal flu that has been causing tens of thousands of deaths in this country every year with no loud alarms from the media or the politicians. 

Here it will be helpful to remember the lack of media-generated panic during the 2009-2010 swine flu epidemic while Obama was President, even though the virus responsible infected (so they say) 63 million Americans and killed 12,000. Now, however, while Trump is President, 370 million Americans are supposed to hunker down in fear because of 151 deaths from COVID-19.  We cannot allow ourselves to accept this preposterous disparity of state action or what it portends for the future.

Finally, to the readers of this newspaper I address this plea: How long will good Catholics allow themselves to be herded like sheep in whatever direction lying demagogues tell them to move?  When will we learn to presume that the truth will almost invariably be precisely the opposite of what these liars tell us?  In the midst of this panic, we are indeed facing a test of our courage. Not courage in facing down a virus, but rather courage to declare a resounding nay to the propaganda of the Ministry of Truth in a post-Christian world that is fast becoming a complete realization of Orwell’s Oceania.

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Last modified on Monday, March 23, 2020
Christopher A. Ferrara

Christopher A. Ferrara: President and lead counsel for the American Catholic Lawyers Inc., Mr. Ferrara has been at the forefront of the legal defense of pro-lifers for the better part of a quarter century. Having served with the legal team for high profile victims of the culture of death such as Terri Schiavo, he has long since distinguished him a premier civil rights Catholic lawyer.  Mr. Ferrara has been a lead columnist for The Remnant since 2000 and has authored several books published by The Remnant Press, including the bestseller The Great Façade. Together with his children and wife, Wendy, he lives in Richmond, Virginia.