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Saturday, February 6, 2021

Is it possible to estimate how many people actually died from COVID-19?

Determing the cause of death is not as simple as people think

T his week a pile of autopsy reports landed on my desk. It is grim reading: what a world of suffering is contained in the antiseptic shorthand of pathologists: GSWA, CA, CC, MI, COPD, AD, CRF, CVA, CALL, and SAH, just to name a few.*

The reports date from the before-time (before COVID), so COVID does not appear, and indeed any specimens from patients with a known pathogen would have been screened out (though the possibility of discovering a new pathogen means we must still wear a face shield and gloves), but what is most striking is that, among the elderly, most deaths cannot be ascribed to a single cause.

When an autopsy is conducted, we learn how our intricate biological systems all depend on all of their parts. In one case the patient was listed as having CA/stomach, renal failure/acute, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hyper­tension, diabetes, and anorexia nervosa. Did this poor guy die of stomach cancer, COPD, or diabetes? Another patient had Alzheimer's, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, myocardial infarction, hypertension, and atherosclerosis. Another had diabetes, chronic urinary tract infection, psychosis, cerebellar ataxia, hypertension, and severe atherosclerosis. They all probably played a role in the person's death.

It's often been argued that listing a single cause in the Cause of Death (COD) section is inadequate, a bit like saying your car had a cracked cylinder when in fact it was more like the Tercel I once owned that was also burning oil, riddled with rust, had a flat tire, wouldn't go into first gear, and could not be started in the morning. Just as in your car, one thing always leads to another.

The reports were accompanied by small slices of the subjects' brain, which was the reason they were sent to me. These things require a heart of stone to examine: hidden in those little beige slices was once a universe of thinking and reasoning and memory and empathy. They are all that is left of the most magical and spectacular machine ever constructed.

If a researcher wanted samples from patients with COPD, then listing COPD is essential: you'd want to make sure no patients without the disease were in the control group. If your purpose was to inform people so they can make a good decision, it would be incumbent on you to report the numbers that will help them do that. Clearly, deaths by COVID, or any other cause, need to be understood in context.

Why is COVID suddenly decreasing?

The news media claim to be totally baffled about why COVID has suddenly started to disappear, despite the fact that it has become more infectious and is showing signs of developing resistance to our antibodies. It's practically a miracle, they're saying: even though it's still the coldest part of winter and only a fraction of the population has been vaccinated, Covid infections have miraculously dropped by 45 percent and nobody understands why.

What about 'confirmed cases'?

Aren't the CDC's numbers based on “confirmed cases”, so changing the PCR test criteria has no effect? The CDC does count confirmed cases, and this is the crux of the issue. There are two scenarios:

  • Clinical symptoms noted first: In this case, PCR is used to confirm the diagnosis. When PCR criteria become more stringent, fewer cases will be confirmed.
  • PCR screening done first: In the more usual case, positive PCR screening results are confirmed by a clinical exam. When PCR criteria become more stringent, there are fewer cases to confirm.

Either way, there are fewer confirmed cases and therefore fewer COVID deaths. Again, this is not to minimize the risk of the disease, but in science you can't overstate your results for any reason. If you're doing politics, you can invent whatever numbers you want. If you're doing science, you have to get the numbers right.

The death rate will soon follow, and health officials worry that this could dissuade people from getting vaccinated. The reason that reported deaths are down is well understood: if a patient dies after receiving a positive PCR test, it is marked by the pathologist as a COVID death, because that is what they're looking out for. The WHO changed their criteria for a positive PCR result in January. This means the death rate instantaneously dropped as well, regardless of any changes in the virus or our response to it.

Some people might quarrel with discussing this, saying that concealing the facts maintains confidence and ensures ‘compliance.’ But a scientist who conceals facts when they support the cause of a political opponent or when they conflict with his pet theory, or who lies to the public to get them to do what he thinks is good for them, as some prominent scientists have done, violates the fundamental principle that justifies his profession.

For the news media, life is simple: whatever makes their political side look good, they print. Whenever a profession turns political, it surrenders its allegiance to the truth. Their speculation is that the drop is likely due to a higher number of people who actually had the virus without realizing it, or maybe to people wearing more masks and not traveling, or to the lockdown itself. Conspicuous in its absence is any mention of changes in the diagnostic criteria. Mentioning this factor would shine a light on the powers that be, and that is too risky for those whose job it is to speak truth to power.

An article at The Critic illustrates the difficulty: the author shows seven indicators that infections were falling in the UK before their lockdown, but the lockdown went forward anyway. Anyone who questions its wisdom gets tarred as a Covid denier.

Reporters think they're writing the first draft of history, but accusing people of ‘disinformation’ or “trying to minimize the severity of the disease” or calling them “anti-vaxxers,” as the media are doing, is as dishonest as you can get: the goal should be to provide people with accurate information, not manipulate them into accepting the official stance on lockdowns and vaccines.

Nowadays it's becoming dangerous to discuss ideas that challenge the official version. But this COVID is a strange disease indeed. Not only does it 'cure' influenza but it gets more contagious and disappears at the same time. What a tangled web the humans have woven.

So, as for the question in the title, the answer is: fat chance.

* GSWA= gunshot wound to the abdomen CC = colonorectal cancer, CA=cancer, MI = myocardial infarction, COPD=chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, AD=Alzheimer's disease, CRF=chronic renal failure, CVA=cerebral vascular accident, i.e. stroke, CALL = common acute lymphoblastic leukemia, SAH = subarachnoid hemorrhage.

feb 06 2021, 6:13 am. text box added feb 07 2021, 5:32 am

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