By Dr. Nicholas Waddy
This week the BBC had the journalistic integrity and professionalism to publish a story that you can be sure that newsmen in this country would never touch.
It concerns the fact that Britain has reached a milestone in its battle against COVID-19: it has wrestled the disease into submission, such that the daily count of deaths in the U.K. has returned to the “normal” range.
People continue to sicken and die of COVID-19, in other words, but they are few enough in number that the overall impact on mortality is insignificant. No wonder, then, that the government of Boris Johnson is pushing ahead with plans to reopen the British economy and restart many aspects of daily life.
In the U.S., by contrast, the media, in its rush to lead with any story that promotes pessimism, despair, and/or panic relative to the coronavirus, has lost track of many of the metrics that ought to guide any rational, proportional analysis of the disease and its wider impact. More important than the facts, apparently, is the overriding imperative of weaponizing the pandemic against President Trump and Republicans, as well as frightening older Americans — the primary consumers of the news — into reading newspapers and watching cable news obsessively…as though their lives depended on it.
Among the indicators of little import to the U.S. news media is this one: how many people in this country have had COVID-19?
For a while, we were informed that numerous antibody studies were revealing that many more Americans had been exposed to the virus than the count of “confirmed cases” would suggest. These stories, however, had the unintended side-effect of undercutting the idea that COVID-19 “is death”, to quote pandemic superstar New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
In other words, if the percentage of people who get the disease and then die of it is very small, then it would make little sense to live in constant fear of infection. Thus, because it is more important to scare the American people than it is to inform them, antibody tests are, ipso facto, no longer news.
The media doesn’t care how many Americans have been exposed to COVID-19. Instead, it focuses relentlessly on confirmed case counts. This is because, thanks to ever-expanding testing regimes as well as localized spikes in infections, these numbers are virtually guaranteed to titillate and alarm. Enough said.
Another under-reported metric is: what is the true fatality rate of the disease? You would think a basic question like this one would be of critical importance in navigating any epidemic, let alone a pandemic. As estimates of the actual COVID-19 fatality rate have trended steadily downwards, though, so has the news media’s interest.
The CDC’s most recent estimate of a fatality rate of about one-quarter of a percent is a real downer, from the perspective of news editors. And so, they conclude, the metrics be damned! Anecdotal stories of suffering and loss are far more captivating, not to mention politically expedient. Let’s lead with those, then.
Perhaps most importantly, we need to know: how many people have died of COVID-19, and, more specifically, how many more people have died, because of COVID-19, than would have done so in a typical day, or week, or month, or year?
Here is where the rubber meets the road. If the virus “is death”, then one would assume that it would produce a harrowing tidal wave of excess mortality. For a while, it did. There is plenty of evidence that, both in the U.S. and Europe, many more people were dying in April and May than would have been normal. And, back when the death toll was large, and particularly when the daily death toll was still climbing, the media was riveted. One couldn’t turn on the news without being treated to the raw numbers of the recently departed.
As the BBC has admitted with respect to Britain, however, we have long since passed the peak of daily deaths with respect to COVID-19. Here in the U.S., daily deaths have declined from over 2,000 to, most recently, around 500-600. Moreover, just as overall mortality figures have returned to normal in the U.K. and throughout Europe, they have done so in the U.S. as well.
Let that sink in: in the most recent week tracked by the CDC, overall deaths were actually lower than average. For all the media’s handwringing about the “worsening” of the pandemic, it currently isn’t producing any excess mortality at all!
Needless to say, this is a story that you will see nowhere in the U.S. news media. After all, no one tunes in to the nightly news to learn that it was just another typical day in terms of illness and death. The narrative that the gentlemen (and ladies) of the press prefer is that the sky is falling, that we’re all going to die, and that Donald Trump, super-villain, made it so.
The truth, however, is that, in the only sense that really matters — the ability of the disease to kill more people than would otherwise die in its absence — COVID-19 has already been beaten. The Great Pandemic of 2020 is over.
Thanks to the mainstream media, you simply were never informed.