From our American correspondent:
When the U.S. first started initiating the Lockdown of society to “flatten the curve” I was supportive. First & foremost I was struck by the fact that there seemed to be no pushback. Republican & Democrat governors, mayors and legislators all agreed that this was necessary to avoid massive loss of life. If there were any serious questions from epidemiologists, scientists or public health officials I missed them (and I sample a wide range of media sources). My home state has a Republican Governor who clearly seemed to be taking these steps reluctantly. FWIW I’m on the cusp of the at-risk group based on age and the Lockdown has affected me far less than most people.
But not long after the Lockdown started, cracks started to form on the shiny wall of certainty:
First, it turns out that the drastic steps we were taking were based on one model. That no one outside the team using it was allowed to review. We were even told that we couldn’t check the coding because it was so old & patched together that it’s too hard to follow. That’s like saying you can’t check the brakes because you won’t be able to see all the duct tape and Velcro we’re using. Further, we’re told that this software doesn’t provide the same results from one run to the next.
Next, I heard about Dr. Ferguson’s history of wildly overestimating the fatalities from mad cow disease and bird flu (50k compared to <200, 200 million versus <500 respectively). Also, the CDC’s estimate of Ebola deaths in Sierra Leone (1.4 million compared to 8k). And let’s not forget the U.S. Public Health Service’s overshoot on the number of AIDS infections in 1993 (450k versus 17k). At this point I gave more thought to the issue of modeling – prior to retiring I was an actuary and modeling was what I did for a living. A few points about how modeling works: The more complex a system is, the more difficult it is to build a good model. And, more importantly, the more difficult it becomes to test your model and confirm that it accurately mirrors the real world. And this looks like one of the most complex systems to model I’ve ever heard of. How can you test this against reality? I don’t think you can. You can run simulations and confirm it looks like you expected, but that doesn’t mean the virus behaves like your model. Another point about modeling is that the results are extremely dependent on the assumptions you’re using. And in this case two critical assumptions are how infectious the virus is and how lethal it is. We still have a poor understanding of these variables months after we started Lockdown. Then a lot of us noticed that the goal shifted from “flattening the curve” to avoid a catastrophic overflow at hospitals to Lockdown until “fill in the blank” (in some states a vaccine, in others no deaths for 14 days, etc.). And the lockdown rules are inconsistent and illogical – in Michigan you can’t buy plant seeds but you can buy lottery tickets. To add insult to injury, many of the people with their foot on our necks violate the rules (the mayors of Chicago and New York, Dr. Ferguson, etc.). I’m stunned and angry at how little attention the human costs of the Lockdown receive. We know that this will lead to increased suicides, homicides and drug overdoses. Let’s not forget more child abuse, domestic violence, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, the list of miseries goes on a very, very long way (I may write up an article just on this, the Lockdown harpies should have to admit to all the harm they’re so enthusiastically spreading). A quick aside - if you find yourself arguing against Lockdown, please God make sure to focus on the lives lost and the suffering it inflicts. I scream at my TV and PC screen when I see people who fail to make this point, our side is painted as the people who are worried about the stock market – bollocks on stilts. A recent study estimates that Lockdown will kill more people in Australia than the virus. Another thing that moved me away from Lockdown was the fact that they’re padding the stats. We know that for a variety of reasons the number of deaths from the virus are overstated. Public health officials have admitted this and there are financial incentives for hospitals and State and local governments to do so. As time goes by, we find that the number of people who’ve had the virus with little or no symptoms is far greater than we thought when we dropped the hammer on society. I’m also very concerned about the principle here. What right does someone have to tell you that you have to curtail your liberty because they think, based on a model, there’s a risk to someone else? If this is acceptable should we do it every year during flu season? If it’s OK to do anything that saves lives then the government can take one of your kidneys without your consent. The basis for arguing that this was an emergency that makes these drastic steps necessary is far too weak. I believe that if we told people the facts and asked them to voluntarily follow recommendations, we’d get a lot, perhaps most, of what we do through Lockdown. And the at-risk groups would definitely take steps to protect themselves, with plenty of help from the rest of us. Other than that…