The lack of context during the Wuhan virus panic

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This editorial tries to remind people that when you look at the whole picture, the coronavirus epidemic simply does not yet justify the fear it has caused, or the over-the-top authoritarian measures politicians have imposed. For example:

On its own, 3,000 fatalities [from COVID-19 as of yesterday] might seem like a tremendously large number. But that’s before you learn that an average of 7,700 people die in the U.S. every single day. Which means that over the past week, when the coronavirus took 2,000 lives, nearly 54,000 people died from other causes. [emphasis in original]

They then list the many other preventable causes of death that each year kill far more people than the coronavirus, and yet pass entirely unnoticed, with no panic, fear, or government-imposed edicts. The mortality numbers for other infectious diseases I find especially revealing:

  • 35,000: antibiotic-resistant bacteria
  • 40,922: blood poisoning resulting from bacteria
  • 55,672: flu and pneumonia

Once again, these are numbers for deaths that occur routinely, each year. I don’t remember the government declaring martial law over these. Do you?

COVID-19 could still be as bad as our panic-stricken leaders say, with predictions of between 100,000 to 200,000 deaths this year. I remain very skeptical. Such numbers would be from two to four times higher than the worse flu epidemic. The data from too many sources suggest this prediction is absurdly high.

And even if it is correct, I suspect these deaths will not be additional mortality, on top of all other causes. Instead, I predict that overall the mortality will be about the same, if not less, because of the imposition of martial law. Unable to go out, there will be fewer traffic accidents and flu infections, for example, causes that routinely kill a lot of people.

Thus, the overall death numbers will not be significantly different than we normally see, a result that will hardly justify the panic that has gripped everyone.



  • Ian C.

    There’s the natural death rate, the occupational deaths, accident-related ones, expected known medical (like cancer) and seasonal (like influenza) cases. And there’s something like COVID-19, which isn’t normal.
    That kind of arguments reminds of the leftists who tell us that casualties from Islamist attacks are totally nothing, compared to deaths from smoking or traffic accidents. Or right-wingers telling us that anti-Semitic attacks are totally nothing compared to deaths from household accidents.
    If those 240k+ deaths from COVID-19 happen, add to them the secondary deaths from non-corona patients receiving no treatments thanks to clogged up hospitals. Add to those the natural deaths. Perhaps less of the other ones. And consider that this isn’t over. Asian countries are preparing for the second (more heavy) wave later this years, and they’re aren’t fools. And we don’t know how many waves we’ll see. This is not a nothing burger.
    I hate the authoritarian overreach from opportunity-grabbers and they should be put against a wall for sure. But this isn’t a relabled flu either.

    This thing will stay with us for quite some time. 2021 at least. The question is rather: how can we profit from bat flu? Don’t leave it to the commercial and political profiteers of the other side.

  • Terrance King

    I Agree!

  • Cotour

    If pure numbers is the ultimate goal, than there may be no increase in the number of deaths because of the fact that people are staying home and are being killed at a lesser number. (?) Is that the theory?

    Are pure numbers are the metric.

    I myself, in the real world, know of at least 3 people that I personally know in my neighborhood (2 men and one woman) that have died in the last week. ALL died from the virus. Another person just went to the hospital the other night and his family was not enthusiastic that he was going to pull through. So that is 4 that I personally am aware of.

    And remember I live in NYC. (Not Manhattan).

    This thing seems to get a hold of certain people who may have health issues, or not, and it puts them in the hospital and if they go to the hospital and are intubated they have about a 20 percent recovery rate. Grim.

    2 other people, a woman about 45, art dealer, and a man 50, fireman, who had it, had the symptoms, and shook it off. Saw the woman this morning and the man the other day. Whether it is the particular strain of the virus or its a persons particular biological make up or underlying health issues (?), I do not know.

    But this thing can take you out.

  • Ian C.


    Please see the Italian experience with comorbities. Age is one factor, but hypertension, diabetes, and heart issues are among the top three that kill the patient. Considering that many Americans are overweight or have adipositas (correlating with the above health issues), they’re at risk. I’m still researching the issues with the young and the trained (athletes). The latter might have taken doping drugs, but don’t quote me on this. Anyway, the immune system of the rather young seems to attack the body and causes the deaths while the old and unhealthy just don’t reactivate (under forced ventilation) their immune system and die. (Until further notice, treat all that as speculation from my side though. I also treat it as a bioweapon, but that’s another issue.)

  • Cotour

    “bioweapon” ?

    Uh, oh, your starting to sound like me now.

  • Captain Emeritus

    It all pales in comparison to the average 2,600
    murders EVERYDAY of America’s most precious and innocent.
    2,600 EVERYDAY , 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

  • m d mill

    It has becoming clear, a simple inexpensive good quality protective mask being used especially by people over 50 who are out and about , or receiving visitors indoors, would be the most effective means of drastically reducing the infection rate (an ounce of mask prevention is worth a 100 pounds of ventilator). And then wash thoroughly after taking the mask off and thereafter. This is the experience of the pacific rim Asians. See this interview of this Top Korean expert:

    Note his emphasis of the importance of masks. While, for a month and more, our political and “expert” spokespeople have said “don’t wear masks”..not important for the public(and yet somehow is very important for health workers). Most official high level government and bureaucratic spokespeople you hear are baloney artists..that’s how they got the job, and half of what they say is completely wrong.

    How much of the 2 trillion is being spent to guarantee emergency production and simple availability of masks to those over 50? Masks are not high tech and not expensive. Getting mass production ramped up in every state, by many subcontractors of a simple yet effective design could be done quickly, but unfortunately it would require competence and clearness of thought.

    South Korea has NOT shut down their economy or society and have a TRIVIAL number of covid-19 deaths.
    But we have been lead in the completely wrong direction by the official government and “expert” baloney artists who are destroying our economy, while clueless as to how to best combat the pandemic.

    Further, the use of masks by people under 50 is also just as useful by restricting the coughing/sneezing of people who might be infected.

    When the history of this sorry episode is written, this will be seen as the greatest avoidable failing in the US and elsewhere, with devastating results; and the Korean example will be seen as the best possible societal response, in a society where covid-19 was just another viral speed bump.

  • M D Mill: I will admit to a visceral dislike of masks, for many reasons. However, I would hardily trade their use, as you describe your first paragraph, to the martial law shutdown of society, combined with the wasteful spending we can’t afford from Congress and Trump.

    The trade offs are beyond simple, are incredibly common sense, and most of all, spectacularly efficient. And anytime you can find and use an inexpensive and easy solution over something that costs more than you can afford while restricting your freedom, you should always take it.

  • Ian C.


    Indeed. I need to present it to the biosec committee first before I speculate too much here at this place. I was collecting evidence since a couple of weeks and found no falsification so far. I’m convinced by now that it’s either on purpose (intention) or opportunistic (utilizing an accident). Both scenarios have implications. Anyway, I treat the situation as if we [the West] were under attack (and I believe we are). Hope that I’m just a paranoid nut and that my hypotheses get destroyed soon.

  • Col Beausabre

    Bob, As an old military man, let me point out that martial law has not been imposed anywhere in the US. As matter of fact, the last Federal use of martial law was during WWII in Hawaii and at the state level in 1961 in Alabama. By definition, martial law is when the civilian courts are replaced by military tribunals – and, so far as I know, that has not happened. If you have the National Guard or federal troops patrolling the streets, assisting the police in keeping order, that is known as “Defense Support of Civil Authorities” Note that all the normal civilian institutions remain intact and functioning and the civil power remains the lead agency, the military is to NEVER assume the lead. ” It is also critical to understand that the military is always in a supporting role and never the lead”

  • Col Beausabre: I will accept the legal definition as you present it. In this case, however, it is the spirit of the law that matters.

    We have now become a society that accepts the idea that politicians can put us all under a form of house arrest, shut down church services, do house to house inspections, break up weddings and children’s birthday parties, arrest people for walking their dogs or protesting abortion clinics in a manner that follows the new rules (all things that have happened in the past week), all for vague and somewhat illegitimate reasons.

    In a very few short years, the distinctions you describe will no longer matter.

  • pzatchok

    I for one understand why the government said the masks will not protect you.

    They are not to protect the person wearing them but the other people around you. They are JUST sneeze and spit catchers.

    As for the government telling you you do not need them. Can you imagine 350 million people thinking they will die without one? If you thought the toilet paper surge was bad imagine 350 million people trying to buy at least 10 if not 100 each.
    Riots with deaths.
    Add in the thousands of companies trying top buy them and medical personnel would NEVER find any. Ever. Or at least for years.
    As it stands we should be having people make their own cloth ones and give them out to friends. They can the be used and washed at home then reused. Leaving the disposable ones for the medical fields.

    I for one will accept this small lie from our government this time. It might have saved lives. It at least didn’t lead to riots.

    The company I work for has started issuing masks to all the workers and guests at the door.
    But we are manufacturing our own for now. Excess is going to go to local medical centers. We are only making a thousand a week and we will need half if not more than that. I hope qualified materials hold out.

  • pzatchok

    The USA looses about 2.8 million people every year.
    280,000 possible deaths from C19 would be about a 10% increase.
    Over a year it would be tragic but hardly a real strain on our system.

  • Andrew_W

    “Can you imagine 350 million people thinking they will die without one? If you thought the toilet paper surge was bad imagine 350 million people trying to buy at least 10 if not 100 each.
    Riots with deaths.”

    Other countries have managed to implement policies requiring masks to be worn in public with no riots, but perhaps you’re right about Americans.

  • Andrew_W

    It will be interesting to see what happens in Sweden (with no lock-down) compared to Norway (with a lock-down in force).
    What I understand is that the Swed’s are being quite casual about social distancing, wearing masks, etc, the sort of measures I would have expected intelligent people to adopt if only to protect the elderly in their own families.

    My expectation is that by not taking the opportunity to be proactive as individuals the Swed’s are about to experience some very unpleasant realities – which will trigger government imposed measures.

    If that happens it’ll be bad news for everyone in the West in favor of leaving peoples fate in their own hands rather than having the government force measures.

  • Chris

    I wonder if Sweden will have “longest day” (first day of Spring. -if I remember correctly) celebrations?

    One issue I fear is with the new mantra of “disinfect everything” we will grow new super bugs. In the past I had read epidemiologists warning about the overuse of anti-bacterials. As I recall they said that the way they would TRY to make a super-bug is exactly the way we are cleaning right now – using anti-bacterial on everything. I understand the situation with a known virus warrants this, so back off your keyboards. But I wonder if we will see an uptick in the anti-biotic resistant bacteria deaths Bob lists above..

    On the bioweapon front, I doubt this was a true bioweapon directed at us. That said, I hope we have learned from this. Our response from a military standpoint may need to be looked at – TR carrier being evacuated is one item. In prior post I believe I pondered on what the effects of cyber attacks on our electrical grid of other infrastructure attacks would do in combination with this virus outbreak. I think the war-gamers need to really noodle this a bit. A secret attack that took out power now would really hit us hard. A cyber virus in the cell phone system would throw us into civil unrest. All conjecture but I hope we are thinking these through.

  • Lee S

    @Chris…. I too wonder what will happen at mid-summer… It’s the biggest celebration of the year here, and it’s almost beyond belief we won’t be dancing around a large phallic looking pole while singing about how funny frogs look for not having ears, that we won’t all be wearing crowns of freshly picked flowers, and us grown ups won’t be eating pickled fish and getting smashed on snaps and Swedish moonshine….
    I don’t usually post YouTube links, but you guys should spare 4 minutes to check this out… If it doesn’t make you smile, you are probably dead of the WuTang flue!

  • Lee S

    @Andrew_W, We have “advice” rather than laws put in place…. Work from home if possible, wash hands, sit apart on public transport… Bars and restaurants have moved tables further apart, and it’s table service only… It is more relaxed here than the rest of the world, but the Swedes, as you rightly say, are a generally intelligent lot… And it’s a big country with a small population. The only thing I would change is an increase in testing, you have to have coughed up a lung right now to get tested.. but I believe this is a problem everywhere.
    You say … Quote..”If that happens it’ll be bad news for everyone in the West in favor of leaving peoples fate in their own hands rather than having the government force measures.”….. I have to disagree… If the situation here goes to hell in a handcart, if anything it will prove leaving peoples fate in their own hands doesn’t work.

  • eddie willers

    They are not to protect the person wearing them but the other people around you. They are JUST sneeze and spit catchers.

    As Scott Adams pointed out: If they do nothing else, they keep your hands out of your mouth.

  • Andrew_W

    Lee S “I have to disagree”.
    But you’re comment doesn’t disagree with what I said, other than that perhaps you would see such a disastrous outcome in Sweden as absolute proof that “leaving peoples fate in their own hands doesn’t work”, I see it as proof that *in that case* leaving peoples fate in their own hands didn’t work.

    Other populations with different information and other mindsets about the importance of personal responsibility and self reliance might well result in different outcomes.

  • pzatchok


    “Other countries have managed to implement policies requiring masks to be worn in public with no riots, but perhaps you’re right about Americans.”

    We had people fist fighting over toilet paper. Over something they knew they didn’t need to save their lives.

  • Cotour

    Here is a little more context:

    “Richard H. Ebright, a molecular biologist who has been quoted as a coronavirus expert by The Washington Post and MSNBC, said Thursday that it’s possible that COVID-19 leaked from a Wuhan lab.

    Shi Zhengli, China’s leading virologist on bat-borne viruses, said in March that she lost sleep worrying that the virus could have leaked from her lab in Wuhan after she first learned of the virus in December.

    Shi now tells those who share the concerns she once had to “shut their stinking mouths.”

    “But Richard H. Ebright, a professor of chemical biology at Rutgers University, told the Daily Caller News Foundation on Thursday that there is a real possibility that the virus entered the human population due to a laboratory accident.

    When asked specifically if he believes the virus could have leaked from Shi’s lab in Wuhan, Ebright said: “Yes.” ”

    One way or another “Context” with catch up with what ever Truth is related to reality. Then what?

  • Cotour

    More context:

    “We briefly examined the histories of the laboratories and proposed that the coronavirus probably originated from a laboratory. Our proposal provided an alternative origin of the coronavirus in addition to natural recombination and intermediate host.”

    “Two descriptions of the virus published on Nature this week indicated that the genome sequences from
    patients were 96% or 89% identical to the Bat CoV ZC45 coronavirus originally found in Rhinolophus affinis 1,2. It was critical to study where the pathogen came from and how it passed onto human. ”

    If so, then the next question remains to be answered: Was it an Accident via poor laboratory protocols?

    Or was it an “Accident” with a purpose?

    Probably the former rather than the latter ? (Not definitively known at this time and probably not definitively knowable in the long term). But the massive economic destruction and the opportunities that this event has provided for further long lasting bad acts against our country can not be underestimated.

  • Lee S

    @Cotour, you know I respect you, and enjoy our banter, but I still think it’s a little rich to think that this whole virus business is directed at the US… It’s worldwide my friend… Unless there is some evil genius sitting inside a volcano and stroking his cat while he makes plans for world domination, its highly unlikely this pandemic is aimed at hurting anyone. Ochams razor says it’s a natural, and not even unexpected event.

  • Cotour

    Lee S:

    But you will agree that:

    1. If it is natural and or an accident of poor lab protocol, and I stipulate to that more likely scenario if you notice, but that has not been absolutely nailed down IMO. And that there are interests in the world that will and are acting not in the best interests of all and will use this to their own ends. That is just the way of the world and the opportunities that are presented.


    2. That the potential exists that the virus indeed came out of a laboratory and is not purely a function of the natural world and the evolution of viruses and is the result of modification.


    3. If that is so that the real world potential exists that because something like this that may well be a result of modification that it was modified to be used in the real world for some purpose.

    Rich? I think not.

    I think in strategic terms as that strategy relates to America and by extension the rest of the world. Without apology.
    Hope your feeling better.

  • pzatchok

    If you thought Americans were crazy for fighting over toilet paper.

    They are burning 5G towers in England thinking they are causing the virus.

  • Andi

    Well, if that 5G equipment was made by Huawei…..

    There’s no end to the imagination of conspiracy theorists.

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