My own thoughts on the virus, taking into account having had it in September, are basically that it does exist, but it is way overhyped by the media. If this would’ve happened in 2014, it would have been treated no differently than something like Swine Flu or SARS. We wouldn’t have shut the country down and it would not have dominated our lives for 8 months.
But since 2020 was an election year, it was treated differently than it otherwise would’ve been. So we had to live with the hysteria.
The election was 11 days ago, and while many of us thought the coronavirus (or at least coverage of it) would suddenly disappear after Election Day, the opposite has actually happened. Cases across the country are now spiking more than ever before, and states are going back further into lockdown (like Illinois, where I live):
This “third wave” probably began in early-mid October, but was exacerbated by Halloween Parties across the nation. Based on personal experience, lots of people got the virus at Halloween parties a couple weekends ago and that could partially explain why case counts are shooting higher with each passing day. But it doesn’t fully explain this third wave given that it began at least 14 days prior to Halloween.
Like the second “wave,” we’re not seeing a corresponding spike in deaths:
Now obviously we know the deaths peak after the cases do, but the second wave of cases, despite having far more confirmed cases than the first, did not really see a huge spike in deaths. It’s probably safe to assume the third wave won’t, either.
The reason is because of increased testing (on Friday there were a record 1.683 million tests conducted nationwide), which is mainly going to find mild or even asymptomatic cases in lower-risk age tiers:
You can see that hospitalizations in the second wave were about the same as hospitalizations in the first wave despite the second wave featuring more than double the cases of the first. This third wave dwarfs the prior two in terms of cases, but we’re not seeing a corresponding spike in hospitalizations. At least not yet. Hospitalizations are likely to keep going up and set this third wave apart from the prior two on the blue chart, but not by an amount that corresponds to the sharp increase in new cases. In other words, the blue chart is not going to look like the red chart.
If you think about it, this is all pretty obvious stuff. When tests are in limited supply, they’re going to be reserved for the worst cases/highest-risk individuals (generally one and the same). When testing expands, it will logically find more and more mild and asymptomatic cases. Those are the only people available to expand testing to. So hospitalizations will be largely the same despite the total case count increasing by a lot.
But my question is this: why does our COVID-19 chart look so different from traditional pandemic charts?
This is the 1918-19 Spanish Flu chart:
You can see the huge spike in October 1918, the rapid decline in November, and then a much smaller third wave in Jan/Feb. 1919. And then that was pretty much it. This is a more complete and modernized chart for the US:
The worst of it really only lasted about 3 months, plus the third wave which was over by April 1919. So really the Spanish Flu lasted about 6-7 months if you’re talking about the full brunt of it.
(Interestingly, the conventional wisdom is that the Spanish Flu was spread around the world by soldiers returning home from WWI, but the war ended on 11/11/1918 and the last of the US troops probably didn’t return back stateside for several months. It was all done by ship and there were several hundred thousand troops in Europe, so it took a long time. Maybe that explains the third wave, but there’s no way the returning US troops could’ve caused the second wave given that it peaked prior to or around Armistice Day.)
What I’m wondering, though, is why America’s COVID-19 chart looks so different from the traditional flu pandemic chart, e.g. the Spanish Flu chart above. Obviously they’re different viruses, but they’re both flu viruses so it’s not like they’re significantly different from one another in terms of how they spread.
There aren’t many good charts available for the 1957 Asian Flu, but this one I found shows a similarity to the Spanish Flu, albeit a far lower peak in deaths:
Spike in October 1957, peak in November, followed by a temporary decline until early 1958, then a second wave peaking in late February, and then that was it. In other words, similar to the Spanish Flu.
But COVID-19 is not like that in America. Our numbers just keep going up and up and up over time. And keep in mind that current conventional wisdom holds that “Patient Zero” for COVID-19 was identified on December 1, 2019. So it has lasted nearly a full year globally.
If you look at the chart comparing COVID-19 spread in different regions of the world, the numbers for Hubei province in China (where it originated) look remarkably similar to a traditional flu season chart:
Hubei is yellow. If the data is to be believed, virus deaths peaked in late February and were basically done by early April. China ex-Hubei was relatively unaffected. I know a lot of Americans assume China lied about their virus figures, and that the virus ravaged China far worse than they will admit. But what if China wasn’t fudging its numbers? What if Covid just isn’t that bad, and we’re just being idiots about it here in America? That’s kind of where I am on the matter now.
I do think China lied about its true virus figures to some extent, I really don’t believe the virus ravaged China all that badly. For instance, while China claims about 86k cases total, I’m not one of those people that believes the real number is like 50 million or something like that indicating outrageous lying by China. I think the real number is probably in the hundreds of thousands or maybe the low millions. But I do believe that China is largely over the virus by this point, and has been for a while.
Being a communist dictatorship, China may have actually been able to contain it far more effectively than the rest of the world. After all, in China, lockdown means lockdown. There are no exceptions. In America, we’ve had half-assed lockdowns. I’m sure China’s stay-at-home orders, travel restrictions and business closures were far more extensive and stringent than here in the US. And I guess it worked.
If you really think about the idea of a lockdown, it works in theory, but only if you can ensure that everyone actually stays locked down for real. If you could actually ensure nobody in America would leave their house for a month, you could beat the pandemic. Everyone who has it just has to stay home until they’re recovered. If you completely eliminate all contact between people who are not living in the same household, then you’ve basically contained the virus. After several weeks of not being able to spread from person to person, the virus will die out. Keep patients in the hospital until they’re fully recovered, quarantine all medical personnel, and you will beat the virus in basically a month. But that’s only if you do a real, full, no-exceptions lockdown with contact tracing.
America does not have the capability to do that. It is not something that fiercely independent and freedom-loving Americans are culturally willing to accept.
But China has both the capability (due to being a dictatorship) and the cultural willingness (collectivism) to do it. So to me it’s at least plausible that China was able to contain the virus and get past it relatively quickly.
Here is the traditional flu pandemic chart, which is very similar to the Spanish Flu chart:
This is what the COVID-19 chart would generally look like in virtually every country if they did not take significant “flatten the curve” measures. And that’s largely what China’s curve looks like. They didn’t “flatten the curve,” they just imposed extreme quarantine measures on Hubei Province and let the virus run its course there. And it largely did by the time April rolled around.
Steve Tsang, director of the China Institute at the U.K.’s SOAS University of London, told Newsweek: “China successfully contained the virus by imposing the strictest of lockdowns and keeping the lockdown going until it reduced local transmission to practically zero. It then enforced effective local lockdowns when new cases arose, and nearly cut itself off from foreign visitors for a very long time.” The outbreak is currently under control, he said.
Asked whether we can trust the case and death counts coming out of China, Tsang said no. “But that is beside the point. I have little doubt that China’s statistics on COVID-19 cases and death are unreliable and represent underrepointing, but in the overall scheme of things, with the kind of numbers in countries like the U.S., India or Brazil being what they are, Chinese statistics still give a rough idea of how China managed the virus over time.” Newsweek has contacted the National Health Commission of China for comment.
Tsang said China was partly able to implement measures due to its authoritarian society. No democracy in Europe or America managed to contain the virus, he said. “Other democracies, notably Taiwan and New Zealand adopted alternative approaches that are also successful,” said Tsang.
“The lockdown was stringently enforced in China, and some people who attempted to break it had the metal doors to their apartments welded,” he said. “So, yes, it was very effective but not at a price that people in democracies would be willing to pay.”
Again, whether you believe China’s figures or not, this was the scene in Wuhan in August:
This could be Chinese Communist Propaganda, but if it’s not it appears that China is long since over this thing.
Meanwhile in America, we did this:
Without “protective measures,” COVID-19 would’ve peaked, wreaked havoc, and then went away relatively quickly. But with “protective measures” it would delay and prolong the spread of the virus. Crucially, and this is what most people missed, the “experts” never promised the “flatten the curve” strategy would reduce the total number of cases in the country. It would only spread them out over a longer period of time. In other words, the choice was said to be between 15-20 million cases in a couple months, or 15-20 million cases over a year’s span, maybe longer.
So here’s my point: we’ve been in the midst of this pandemic since March. It’s been 8 months now. And we have not flattened the curve at all. We haven’t even hit the peak of the virus spread yet:
If you go by the blue line in the “flatten the curve” chart and assume our chart will eventually look like that, we’re not even at the halfway point yet. Our chart might ultimately look like this:
And we wouldn’t be out of this until maybe July, 2021 at the earliest.
Nor is it guaranteed our chart will even look like the blue line, which is what the “experts” promised us. What if we have simply delayed the time until we get the big spike? What if it ultimately looks like this:
It’s already starting to look that way. We’ve just been delaying the inevitable the whole time, it seems like–wasting 8 months and doing irreparable harm to not only the economy but the mental health of millions of people. All for nothing.
I think we’re getting the worst of both worlds here. We have been under half-assed lockdown for 8 months–absurdly allowing months on end of rioting and “protesting” as if the virus respects #SocialJustice–and it looked like we flattened the curve for a while, but then October hit and now it looks like we’re going parabolic anyway.
So: we’re not allowed to live and have fun, and we’re not stopping the spread of the virus. And we’ve tanked our economy. It literally could not be any worse.
Our half-assed lockdown didn’t work. Either you do a full, hardcore communist-style lockdown, or nothing at all. If you do a half-assed lockdown, all it will do is make the virus spread more slowly and, most importantly, prevent you from reaching any sort of herd immunity.
I went over herd immunity in a prior article, but the basic idea is this: a lot of people get the virus all at once, therefore those people all become immune at once, and the virus should quickly die out as it will not be able to spread from person to person.
Imagine you have 4 people living on an island, then you introduce a virus that infects one person, then eventually the other three. After they recover, they are immune. Then a fifth person arrives at the island, and that fifth person is infected with the virus. The virus cannot spread anymore via that fifth person, because the 4 people on the island are immune already. The virus will die out after that 5th person recovers from it, because the virus can no longer spread. All 5 people are now immune.
Then imagine you had that same island with 4 people, and you introduce the virus to one of them. You immediately quarantine the infected person, as well as the other three people, and under no circumstances allow them to come in contact with the others. You have quarantined all 4 people and you will keep them under quarantine until A. the person with the confirmed virus case recovers and is no longer contagious, and B. you have ensured that none of the other three have late-developing symptoms. You then lift the lockdown orders after several weeks and allow life to return to normal. In this lockdown scenario, you have prevented the virus from spreading beyond one person on the island. But you still remain vulnerable to transmission from outsiders who visit the island. So as long as the virus is still spreading elsewhere away from the island, you must maintain a travel ban on the outside world. Or at least make all visitors to the island quarantine for two weeks upon arrival.
The problem with the lockdown strategy is that the other three people are not immune to the virus. They’ve only avoided catching it for now, but they are still susceptible to catching it in the future.
And if you do a half-assed “honor system” lockdown, it’s probable that people will not follow it fully and the virus will still spread, albeit more slowly.
The problem with America’s half-assed lockdown is that the virus spreads too slowly to ever reach a level of herd immunity. If immunity lasts for 4 months, then the people who got it the earliest are now–8 months in to the pandemic–vulnerable to contracting it again. An August article tracking COVID-19 reinfections found at least 22 people who caught the virus twice, with an average interval (meaning days between first positive test and second positive test) of 78 days. Meaning immunity may not even last three months.
For herd immunity to work, people have to get it all at the same time. If they’re getting it gradually and slowly, then eventually immunity will wear off and you’ll be right back at square one: the first people to get it will get it again. That’s basically the strategy America is following right now, whether wittingly or unwittingly.
Now, I get that the point of the whole “flatten the curve” strategy was to make sure hospitals were not overrun. But would they ever have been? The virus is spiking right now and hospitals are not yet being overrun.
But even if they were being overrun now–as this CBS News article from Nov. 11 warns–then “flatten the curve” is still a failure. Arguably an even bigger failure. We’ve taken the “flatten the curve” path for 8 months and still hospitals are about to be overrun. So what the hell were the last 8 months for?
Meaning we were never going to be able to prevent hospitals from being overrun no matter which virus strategy we chose. It was always going to happen, it was just a matter of when. We’ve just wasted 8 months of our lives.
I understand that there are different degrees to hospitals being overrun–e.g. overrun by an excess of 50,000 patients vs. being overrun by an excess of 750,000 patients. But we have no idea how badly the hospitals would’ve been overrun had we simply accepted that herd immunity was our only realistic option from Day One. We have no reason to believe the projections of any of the “modelers” and “experts.” After all, these are the people that told us “flatten the curve” would work. And now it’s on the verge of failing.
I am assuming that once Biden takes office, he’ll make a big public show of implementing a 4-6 week lockdown or some “bold action” against the virus, and then after that the media will probably largely move on from it. It will no longer be politically useful to the Democratic Party, and will instead become a liability.
So maybe it’s kind of pointless for me to spend time talking about the virus given that it’s probably going to be done by March.
But still, I can’t get over the fact that we’ve wasted 8 months and gotten the worst of both worlds. America does not have the capability of implementing a successful lockdown, so we’ve been half-assing it for 8 months and getting absolutely nowhere.
Herd immunity is our species’ natural way of surviving viruses. It’s how we got through past flu pandemics in relatively short order.
But not this time: this time we convinced ourselves we could beat the virus. And we’ve failed spectacularly.