American’s make decisions about how much risk they are willing to accept all the time. That’s life. Rock climbing, life vests while boating, automobile seat belts, getting immunizations, buying insurance, hang gliding, vaping. Some of us make bad decisions – that’s also life. The one thing that is really important is understanding how much risk an activity involves. Often the government makes mistakes (dietary fat), and sometimes it may exaggerate a risk (vaping), but rarely have they forced all Americans into a life altering action without a reasonable understanding of the threat. Until now and with the coronavirus they are allowing no variation or personnel choice in the process of reducing the risk.
I’ve long been retired but I was an engineer with a strong math background and I’m really upset. Engineers have an expression called GIGO. It means “garbage in garbage out”, and basically what it means is, if the input data isn’t any good the results will be meaningless. And that is where this country is regarding a plan to deal with the coronavirus. Here’s the garbage in:
Unemployment – today they are talking about 25,000,000 Americans are now out of work. Where does that data come from? It comes from reporting by the various state unemployment systems. That would be those systems where people cannot reach them to apply and where the agencies admit that they have only processed a fraction of the applications they have received. In January of 2020 there were over 152,000,000 Americans employed. In my family, of the members I know about, 66% have now been laid off and 34% have had their pay or hours reduced (nobody has yet gotten a check). My math says 100,000,000 are out of work or four times the reporting. Maybe it’s somewhere in between? GIGO.
Mortality Rate – Almost every report has a statistic about coronavirus mortality. I’ve seen it range from 0.1% to 2.6% (there are others, but these seem the reasonable efforts). In order to reach those numbers we need to know how many Americans have been infected but more importantly, how many have died because they contracted the coronavirus. There are numerous reports that hospitals and local governments have been seriously over-reporting deaths related to the pandemic. One indicator is, with some exceptions, hospital capacity has not been swamped by the estimated likely hospitalizations. One study claimed that over-reporting of deaths exceeds 30%. Based on the above we have absolutely no idea how many have been infected or how many have died as a result of infection. GIGO.
Americans Infected – The problem with the number infected is generally, we have only been testing those with characteristic symptoms or people who have come in contact with those infected. Today the report is that we have tested over 3,000,000 Americans. That’s less than 1% of the population. Antibody testing research in California has indicated that between 15% and 30% of the local population has been infected by the coronavirus.
Herd Immunity Goal – There’s been a lot of talk about flattening the curve and herd immunity. The really important one is the concept of herd immunity. By understanding what percentage of a population has developed antibodies we can than project the point where herd immunity becomes a controlling factor. A text book goal has been between 50 and 60 percent. The problem is the only way we can know where we are with coronavirus is with testing for antibodies which isn’t being done. As of a week ago the Task Force was stating we need over 70% immunity to be safe. First we have no idea how many have been infected nor is there any crash course in finding that out. GIGO.