And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack. And you may find yourself in another part of the world. And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile. And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife. And you may ask yourself, “Well… how did I get here?” The members of The Talking Heads and Brian Eno wrote Once in a Lifetime and released it in February of 1981 on the band’s fourth studio album, Remain in Light. According to David Byrne, the song is about the futility of not being happy with the things you have. Like trying to remove the water at the bottom of the ocean, there’s no way to stop life from moving on.
Earlier this month, a relative of mine died from the coronavirus. He didn’t actually die from its complications, but rather he died due to the fear surrounding the virus. He had become so terrified by the dire news reports of rising cases, and overflowing hospitals that he became afraid to leave his house. He was so fearful that he would not have food delivered least the boxes have the virus on them. In the end, he really died alone and somewhat neglected desperately trying to stay away from a virus with at most a 0.8 percent death rate.
This sad case is an extreme example of something called the Dunning-Kruger Effect. This is a systematic error in the way that people interpret the information around them. Justin Kruger and David Dunning, first wrote about this bias in a 1999 paper entitled Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments. In short, the Dunning-Kruger effect occurs because people wrongly overestimate their knowledge or ability in a specific area. As Dunning stated, If you’re incompetent, you can’t know you’re incompetent. As one gains more knowledge of a subject they become more aware of what they don’t know, until such a point where they have gained enough knowledge to be an expert. Interestingly, experts in a topic tend to think that they know less about it than do people with absolutely no training at all.
How does this related to COVID-19? Epidemiology and virology are complicated subjects and even many doctors do not understand exactly how viruses work. Now think about reporters or politicians or your neighbor Ted. How much do they know about COVID-19? No wonder the pronouncements and restrictions coming out of governors’ offices throughout the country seem so bizarre. What gives Andrew Cuomo, a man with a law degree who has been a politician his entire adult life any special knowledge about how COVID-19 works. I guess that is why one can catch the virus inside of a restaurant, but not sitting out in a box in the gutter. But I digress.
I am not a doctor nor am I an epidemiologist. I like to remember the scene from the movie Thank You for Smoking when the lobbyist Nick Nailer is speaking in his son’s class:
Nick Naylor: I speak on behalf of cigarettes.
Child: My mommy says that cigarettes kill.
Nick Naylor: Now, is your mommy a doctor?
Nick Naylor: A scientific researcher of some kind?
Nick Naylor: Now, she doesn’t exactly sound like a credible expert now, does she?
Little girl sinks back into her chair
Since I am not a doctor, I’m sure that the Dunning-Kruger effect applies to me as well. But I do understand statistics, and frankly, the statistics surrounding COVID-19 are not scary enough to logically make someone want to lock themselves into their home. With a change in Administrations coming next month, now may be a good time to take a more critical look at how we think about COVID-19.
The coronavirus is not the flu, but then again it’s not smallpox either. Sure, we have the 1918 flu pandemic as a proxy, but it is an analog, not an exact copy of present circumstances. Even epidemiologists did not fully understand how the virus would spread and what its consequences would be. This is why experts like Dr. Fauci have contradicted themselves so much. They were simply guessing based on limited information. Over time, the experts have learned more, but the politicians have seemingly learned enough to be dangerous.
From a statistical standpoint, the coronavirus has not had anywhere near the effect that people might tend to believe. First, most of the ominous statistics being reported are counts of cases. According to Dr. Michael Yeadon is an Allergy & Respiratory Therapeutic Area expert who was the Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer (Allergy & Respiratory Research) with Pfizer, half or even “almost all” of tests for COVID are false positives. Even if all positives were to be correct, given other indicators in a worldwide pandemic, such as hospitalizations, ICU utilization, and deaths, the pandemic is fundamentally over.”
Statistics reported by the CDC suggest that Dr. Yeadon may be correct. According to the CDC, there was a sizable surge in excess deaths in the country during the first wave of COVID-19; however, since October, when governments across the country were spewing forth about a new surge in cases, total deaths stayed right on trend, up slightly over last year reflecting the aging population.
Another statistic that comes from the growing number of cases and lack of deaths, is that the reported survival rate of COVID-19 has been upgraded since May to 99.8 percent of infections. This comes close to ordinary flu, the survival rate of which is 99.9 percent. This is far higher than initial grim guess of 94 percent in March and April, cited by Dr. Fauci.
But what about the surge in hospitalizations? Is this not the rationale for flattening the curve? According to the American Hospital Association, there are a total of 6,146 hospitals in the US with 924,107 beds. According to the CDC, as of November 16, the latest data, 73,014 people were hospitalized with respiratory ailments (including COVID-19). So at most about 8 percent of hospital beds are being taken up by coronavirus patients. According to the AHA, if Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (a Gates Foundation organization) statistics are correct, by the end of the year, occupancy rates in the nation’s hospitals would be about 75 percent. This is right in line with the average average occupancy rate of community hospitals of about 76 percent./'[=-0
Well… how did I get here? It’s not possible to know today if government policies are being implemented based solely on the Dunning-Kruger effect, but at least according to Dr Yeadon, we are basing a government policy, an economic policy, a civil liberties policy, in terms of limiting people to six people in a meeting…all based on, what may well be, completely fake data on this coronavirus. Unfortunately, my relative succumbed to the hysteria.