Last summer, on my show, I interviewed a guy – an engineering professor – who had a side project, mathematically modeling the progress of the Covid pandemic.
His assertion – that somewhere between 5-10 times as many people had been infected as the testing showed – because “getting tested” was at best a self-selecting set of subjects (if, at that time, they could get tested at all) and most people were asymptomatic, or had limited symptoms.
The numbers were plausible – and the limited symptoms part resonated with me. I barely talked myself into getting an antibody test. My symptoms were fairly minimal – a fever for about a day, a nasty cough for a few more, basically the bronchitis I get every couple years. Were it not for a rash on the back of my hands, I might have just skipped the whole thing. The antibody test showed I’d had Covid, in late March or early April – consistent with the symptoms I did have.
Here’s the deal – the modeler and I considered it good news. With viruses, all other things being equal and acknowledging there’s a lot we still don’t know about Covid, recovering from an infection gets you, if not immunity, at least resistance, at least for some period of time. And even limited immunity and enhanced resistance is a huge thing; the common cold is largely shrugged off by most Westerners, but it was frequently lethal to natives when Westerners traveled to places where the people had never had exposure to it. The difference between a lethal pandemic and the sniffles was a few (or few dozen) generations of having had it and survived.
The modeler’s advice? Everyone who wasn’t under sixty and/or in relatively decent health should protect themselves accordingly until a vaccine came out; everyone else should “play spin the bottle, and power through the infection as fast as possible”.
Having “Survived” a mild case, I’ll recuse myself from the games.
And that particular modeler is not the only person to have found these results.
Shrieking Ninnies In Expensive Suits – which was why I was a little surprised not only to see this story from National Public Radio’s “health” beat reporters, about a study from Columbia that reached precisely the same factual concusion that Covid had infected 5-10 times as many people as we thought…
…and not just that they thought it was seriously ground-breaking news (emphasis added)…
The model has not been published or peer-reviewed yet, but lead researcher, Jeffrey Shaman, an infectious disease specialist at Columbia University, shared the data exclusively with NPR.
…when my lil’ ol’ talk show covered this exact same conclusion eight months ago…
…but the conclusion these “elite” “journalists” reached:
…[the model] gives a much more complete — and scary — picture of how much virus is circulating in our communities…The model’s conclusion: On any given day, the actual number of active cases — people who are newly infected or still infectious — is likely 10 times that day’s official number of reported cases.
So let’s recap: a model that is:
- Not peer-reviewed
- Reaches a statistical conclusion that is “news” only if one’s sense of credentialism has eaten whatever journalistic inquisitiveness one might have had
…is presented not only as “new” news, but as bad news.
Now, during my brief, not very successful career as a reporter, one thing I did do well was ask questions – which used to be a key qualifier for journalists.
And I have so many of them, reading both the study and the “elite” journos at NPR’s take on it.
- Given that the number of deaths and serious hospitalizations are a reasonably known quantity, and their numbers has been broadly tracking with known infection rates, and we presume that this discrepancy is not brand new, doesn’t that mean the disease is on 10-20% as fatal as we thought?
- Again assuming that the infection rates have always been ahead of testing, doesn’t that mean an order of magnitude more people have been infected, and (remember, we know the death rates) recovered, and thus are at least partly immune or resistant? Isn’t that good news (except of course for the number of immune people getting scarce vaccines, and also the fact that our government response seems to be discounting natural immunity entirely?)
- Wny, in fact, does this story ignore the natural/herd immunity implications of numbers like this?
This sort of “reporting” is neither science nor, if my various bosses, teachers, editors and mentors were to be believed, journalism in any sense other than “providing PR for an authioritarian narrative”.