The Media Has Massively Misled Americans on How Dangerous Covid Truly Is

The other day, Jordan Peterson tweeted out this:

So if you’re wondering why there are people out there who are desperate to get triple-vaxxed, screaming at people who allow their masks to slip while out in public, and generally behaving irrationally when it comes to Covid, the reason is because they have fully bought into the media’s fear porn when it comes to Covid.

You don’t have to take Jordan Peterson’s “source” at his word to believe Americans–and Democrats more so than anyone else–have a wildly inaccurate perception of the virus. There have been studies conducted to figure out just how disconnected from reality people actually are, and the New York Times highlighted one conducted by Franklin Templeton and Gallup earlier this year.

The article is entitled “Covid’s Partisan Errors,” and the results are illuminating:

28% of Democrats believe your chances of being hospitalized due to Covid are between 20-49%, and a whopping 41% of Democrats believe you have a greater than 50% chance of being hospitalized for Covid.

That means 69% of Democrats believe the hospitalization rate for Covid is greater than 20%.

The real number is between 1-5%, and that obviously depends a lot on your age and other health factors.

Democrats massively overestimate the true danger of Covid-19. We all know this intuitively from lived experience and interacting with them over the past year-and-a-half, but this study gives us numbers to back up our intuition.

It’s not just Democrats who have been duped, though. A majority of Republicans, 51%, believe the Covid hospitalization rate is over 20%. 28% of Republicans think Covid has a 50%+ hospitalization rate.

55% of independents believe Covid has a 20%+ hospitalization rate, including 35% who think it’s 50%+.

This means well over a majority of Americans believe the Covid hospitalization rate is 5-10x higher than it truly is.

I always say that I’d rather somebody be uninformed than misinformed, because uninformed people can actually learn the truth, while misinformed people falsely believe they already know the truth. It’s a lot easier to deal with uninformed people who simply don’t know the truth one way or another than it is to deal with misinformed people, who in order to actually learn the truth, first have to come to grips with the fact that they’ve been duped.

I want to go back to the matter of hospitalizations, though. Because while the NYT might be technically correct that the hospitalization rate for Covid is between 1-5%, even that number is a bit misleading. As I said above, the hospitalization rate varies significantly by age. According to the CDC, people 85 years old and up are 15x more likely to be hospitalized for Covid than people aged 18-29. 75-84 year olds are 9x more likely:

But it goes even further than that, because not all hospitalizations are the same. It’s not as if everyone hospitalized for Covid is in dire straits and on the verge of dying. The Atlantic looked into this matter and highlighted a study that found that about half of all Covid hospitalizations were for mild cases, or not even for Covid at all despite being listed as Covid hospitalizations:

From the start, COVID hospitalizations have served as a vital metric for tracking the risks posed by the disease. Last winter, this magazine described it as “the most reliable pandemic number,” while Vox quoted the cardiologist Eric Topol as saying that it’s “the best indicator of where we are.” On the one hand, death counts offer finality, but they’re a lagging signal and don’t account for people who suffered from significant illness but survived. Case counts, on the other hand, depend on which and how many people happen to get tested. Presumably, hospitalization numbers provide a more stable and reliable gauge of the pandemic’s true toll, in terms of severe disease. But a new, nationwide study of hospitalization records, released as a preprint today (and not yet formally peer reviewed), suggests that the meaning of this gauge can easily be misinterpreted—and that it has been shifting over time.

If you want to make sense of the number of COVID hospitalizations at any given time, you need to know how sick each patient actually is. Until now, that’s been almost impossible to suss out. The federal government requires hospitals to report every patient who tests positive for COVID, yet the overall tallies of COVID hospitalizations, made available on various state and federal dashboards and widely reported on by the media, do not differentiate based on severity of illness. Some patients need extensive medical intervention, such as getting intubated. Others require supplemental oxygen or administration of the steroid dexamethasone. But there are many COVID patients in the hospital with fairly mild symptoms, too, who have been admitted for further observation on account of their comorbidities, or because they reported feeling short of breath. Another portion of the patients in this tally are in the hospital for something unrelated to COVID, and discovered that they were infected only because they were tested upon admission. How many patients fall into each category has been a topic of much speculation. In August, researchers from Harvard Medical School, Tufts Medical Center, and the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System decided to find out.

Researchers have tried to get at similar questions before. For two separate studies published in May, doctors in California read through several hundred charts of pediatric patients, one by one, to figure out why, exactly, each COVID-positive child had been admitted to the hospital. Did they need treatment for COVID, or was there some other reason for admission, like cancer treatment or a psychiatric episode, and the COVID diagnosis was merely incidental? According to the researchers, 40 to 45 percent of the hospitalizations that they examined were for patients in the latter group.

The authors of the paper out this week took a different tack to answer a similar question, this time for adults. Instead of meticulously looking at why a few hundred patients were admitted to a pair of hospitals, they analyzed the electronic records for nearly 50,000 COVID hospital admissions at the more than 100 VA hospitals across the country. Then they checked to see whether each patient required supplemental oxygen or had a blood oxygen level below 94 percent. (The latter criterion is based on the National Institutes of Health definition of “severe COVID.”) If either of these conditions was met, the authors classified that patient as having moderate to severe disease; otherwise, the case was considered mild or asymptomatic.

The study found that from March 2020 through early January 2021—before vaccination was widespread, and before the Delta variant had arrived—the proportion of patients with mild or asymptomatic disease was 36 percent. From mid-January through the end of June 2021, however, that number rose to 48 percent. In other words, the study suggests that roughly half of all the hospitalized patients showing up on COVID-data dashboards in 2021 may have been admitted for another reason entirely, or had only a mild presentation of disease.

So this means the hospitalization rate has basically been overstated by double.

Whatever the published hospitalization rate is, you can cut that number in half and that’ll give you a much better idea of how many truly serious cases of Covid there are.

People need to know the truth. The media, however, is determined to make sure Americans are cowering in fear and clamoring for totalitarian dictatorship to “protect them” from this virus.

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