Thursday, December 10, 2020

Questions and Answers

Since the Covid reached our shores I have been interested in examining any parallels that there might be with the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918/1919. 

I had written about the Spanish flu in these pages well before anyone even considered a pandemic disrupting our society and economy.

In 2013 I referenced this chart that shows the increase in longevity gains that we have enjoyed since 1900. In simple terms, as people are able to live longer they have the ability to contribute more to the economy and society. Increasing life expectancies contribute to our overall welfare but also to our wealth.

Professor Kevin Murphy of the University of Chicago is well known for his work in this area of economics and I was fortunate to attend a speech he gave on the subject at that time.

Source: Professor Kevin Murphy, University of Chicago

This is what I wrote in that blog post from over seven years ago. 

You might ask what happened in 1918-1919 to set us back so far?  Those were the years of the so-called Spanish Flu pandemic that claimed over 500,000 lives in the United States most of which were healthy, young adults.  Worldwide the flu killed 50-100 million.  The cost of these deaths carried a very high economic cost. Who knows what might have been produced or invented by this young talent over their lifetimes?  There is no greater loss than that of unrealized potential.

The deaths from this pandemic are also a cautionary tale for the future.  Are prepared for dealing with something like this again?  It is something we need to be planning for?

This is a chart that shows the general path that the Spanish flu took regarding deaths between 1918 and 1919.

There was a first wave that principally began due to troop movements from Europe to the United States in the summer of 1918 that then turned into a massive second wave in the Fall and a third and final wave that peaked in March, 1919.

Note that the entire pandemic cycle lasted about 10 months.

If we use a start date of March 1 for Covid in the United States (the first recognized death is now actually traced to February) we will be 10 months into the 2020 pandemic at the end of the year.

Here are the daily Covid deaths (gold line is the 7-day moving average) that have been reported from and with Covid in the United States since the beginning of the pandemic.

During the 10 months that the Spanish flu was prevalent in the United States in 1918/19, 675,000 Americans died from flu or pneumonia.

Let's put that in context. There were just 105 million Americans at that time. Today it is estimated we are at over 330 million.

Therefore, 675,000 deaths in 1918/19 would be equivalent to 2,122,000 today.

195,000 died from the Spanish flu in just one month---October, 1918--- that is an average of 6,290 per day during that 31 day period. That would be 20,000 per day adjusted for our population today.

The most recent 7-day average for Covid in the United States is around 2,400 per

It makes you wonder if we have reacted the way we have to Covid with the lockdowns, school closures and the like, what our reaction would be if we were losing 20,000 per day?

If we are in a pandemic today what would we call what we had 100 years ago. That was a PANDEMIC!

When I compare these numbers I am almost embarrassed that I did not ask my grandparents to tell me more about what they went through during the Spanish flu. They were both in their early 20's and "courting" as they referred to it in those days. My grandfather was in the Army at that time in close quarters and was especially at risk.

At that age they were both in the age 20-30 age demographic that had nearly the highest morality rates for the Spanish flu.

This chart compares the mortality risk between the Spanish flu and Covid by age groups.

Adjusted for population changes over equivalent time periods there have only been about 1/7 the deaths from Covid as there were with the Spanish flu.

The big question for me right now is that since we are almost to the point where the Spanish flu went through three waves and burned out is it possible we could be close to that point with Covid?

Remember there was no vaccine or any real effective therapeutics in 1918/19. However, they did reach a point that the flu disappeared as a significant threat. Life returned to normal quite rapidly.

Could we be close even without the coming vaccines?

Is it possible that the vaccines might ultimately be credited with ending the pandemic but the fact is that the virus was really close to burning out on its own?

We will probably never know.

My guess is also that we have extended the normal life cycle of this virus such that it will be around longer than the Spanish flu due to our lockdown policies. This may have had some benefit in flattening the so-called curve but is also prolonging the virus cycle.

This has resulted in disruption in what would normally be the process by which many people build up natural immunity by exposure by being out and about and are naturally exposed to this and other viruses and microbes that build our natural immunity over time.

Why do I say that?

Do you recall back in April and May in New York City when cases were exploding despite one of the strictest lockdowns in the country?

Governor Cuomo did not understand it so he asked for the data about where the new cases were coming from thinking that they had to be coming from essential services that were open (grocery stores, drug stores, subway etc).

He got an answer he was not expecting.

Based on a recent survey of those hospitalized in New York over a 3-day period of 1,200 patients at 113 hospitals, the state found that the overwhelming number of those who recently were hospitalized with the virus were retired or unemployed and were sheltering in place and leaving their home only to shop for essentials. 

In total, 83% of the new cases were of those retired or unemployed.

The survey also found that almost no one hospitalized with the virus had been working in an essential service. There were very few hospital, transit, grocery or drug store employees.

Only 17% of the new cases that were investigated were of those employed.

I asked the question at that time whether it could be that people locked inside and not getting outside and exposed to sunlight (Vitamin D) were actually more susceptible to the virus?

Vitamin D insufficiency has subsequently been shown to be a risk factor for catching the virus.

A study from Indiana University released last week raises further questions about the lockdown and stay-at-home strategy.

As Indiana University recently completed its final week of in-person classes for the fall semester, researchers at the school analyzed all of the Covid infection data for 70,000 undergraduate students across all of its statewide campuses.

They compared positive test results of those who attended in-person classes compared to those taking virtual classes.

What they found surprised them. In fact, it is the exact opposite of what the experts are telling us

"What we found is that, actually, the more in-person credit hours a student had, the less likely they were to test positive for COVID-19," said Dr. Lana Dbeibo, assistant professor of clinical medicine and medical director of infection prevention at the IU School of Medicine, and a key member of the IU Medical Response Team.


Yes, the more in-person credit hours a student took the less likely they were to test positive for Covid.

The more virtual class hours the student took the more likely they would test positive.

In the past, this used to be called science and it would suggest that there might be a reason to doubt the earlier "expert" advice we were getting about the benefits of lockdowns.

We don't seem to live in that world any more.

What was the big conclusion the researchers took away from this study?

You would think that it might have them questioning the lockdown idea and have them recommending the discontinuation of virtual classes for the second semester.

That doesn't fit the current narrative so they couldn't conclude that.

The study concluded that this showed that the safety measures the university had put in place and the diligence of students and staff in following public health guidance was the reason this had occurred. 

I guess they also forgot about the public health guidance that said you would be safest by sheltering in place and not leaving your dorm, apartment or house.

It is just one more example of why anyone who cites "science" when they tell you what to do with regard to Covid is kidding themselves and (even worse) you.

Do you remember right before Thanksgiving when everyone was being told to cancel holiday travel and family gatherings because it was going to lead new cases that would overwhelm the hospital system?

Here is Biden Covid Task Force expert Dr. Michael Osterholm on November 19 predicting that "we'll see hospitals collapsing in the next 2-3 weeks" and why travel and Thanksgiving should be canceled this year.

It has now been over three weeks since Dr. Osterholm gave that interview.

Are hospitals collapsing?

These are the latest HHS national numbers on hospital utilization.

For this time of year, those occupancy numbers are below normal.

The ICU numbers are particularly low. I am told that a hospital that is not operating their ICU's at 85% of capacity it likely bleeding money. The overhead and fixed costs are huge in that area of the hospital.

Did people take Dr. Osterholm's advice on travel?

I thought this was an interesting factoid from LizAnn Sonders. It indicates that more people (22%) were away from their home this year than they were last year.

It seems that people may be starting to increasingly turn a deaf ear to some of the "advice" they are getting ten months into the pandemic.

Has all that travel and gatherings over Thanksgiving resulted in more cases?

We are definitely seeing a rise in cases post-Thanksgiving.

This is most definitely an infectious virus.

However, contrary to what Dr. Osterholm predicted on November 19, net new Covid hospitalizations started trending down shortly after he warned of the near term collapse of hospitals.


Make not mistake, this could turn the other way since hospitalizations typically lag cases by 7-14 days. However, the fact that the seasonal flu has all but disappeared this year has taken a lot of pressure off of the hospitals that is normally there this time of year.

This is the current CDC chart of the prevalence of the flu this season compared to other years. It is barely registering as a reason for visits to outpatient practices this year.


In addition, despite the fact that there are about twice as many flu tests being administered this year compared to last year, the positivity rate is 0.2% on all tests done at clinical labs this flu season.

The average over the last five years is 4.50% at this point in the flu season.

Just 429 positives out of 195,300 tests so far!


The number of flu cases is so low that CDC cannot even attempt to provide an estimate of the future burden on hospitals from the flu that they normally do regularly during flu season.

This what the CDC has on its Influenza Preliminary In-Season Burden Estimate page.

Let it not be forgotten that in the Fall experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci were predicting a dark winter when we would be facing twin threats of Covid and the flu.

I guess the flu did not get the memo based on results thus far.

This is something else I questioned over two months ago having looked at the countries in the Southern Hemisphere over the summer (their winter) in which flu cases seemed to disappear in the presence of Covid.

I am the first to admit I am not a doctor, epidemiologist or public health expert.

I don't pretend to know the answers to anything in this area.

However, I think I have proven over the last ten months in these pages that I have the ability to ask some decent questions when the data does not conform to the narrative.

The problem is that we seem to have a lot of experts who think they have all the answers and are not interested in asking the right questions when their "science" gets disrupted by reality.

The unfortunate result is that more people are paying the price for that arrogance and closed mindedness than at almost any point in human history save for decisions to send people to war.

I have little doubt that history will look back at this period and marvel at what exactly the people of 2020 were thinking?  Did they all lose their minds? 

“When the whole world is running towards a cliff, he who is running in the opposite direction appears to have lost his mind.”

                                                                        ---C.S. Lewis

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