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Prof Michael Levitt: here’s what I got wrong

August 28, 2020 - 5:31pm

Professor Michael Levitt, Nobel Prize winner and Professor of Structural Biology at Stanford, was one of our early interviews during the lockdown era. Partly due to that interview, which has been watched over 750,000 times on YouTube, he became one of the best known dissenting scientists, arguing that the trends of Covid-19 were revealed in the numbers, and that they were much less scary than most people thought.

At the end of July, he made a prediction that Covid-19 would be “done” by August 25th. It was shared across Twitter. He agreed, back then, to come in to our new studio once the date had elapsed, to see how his prediction fared…


On his prediction:

“The prediction has fared less well than I hoped…There are 55,000 deaths in the USA every week approximately and right now it’s about 5,000 over that. So I think the details of that prediction have fared less well than I hope but it served as a milestone and what we mean by ‘over’. It highlighted the importance of looking at excess deaths, when it’s over, and the prediction. My mistake was that I should have done a range instead of a number.”

On his earlier Israel prediction

“The problem was that I should have said excess deaths. There was a time when Israel had no deaths and the number of cases were about 150, but I was certainly wrong about that
 When I researched it, I found a really big surprise: when you compare 2020 to 2019, there are actually a few hundred fewer excess deaths in 2020 compared to 2019, so I should have said excess deaths weren’t 10 but minus 100! If you did the exact same comparison not to 2019 but to 2018 or 2017, you find that there was quite significant excess deaths in Israel by about 1000 in the rough period of coronavirus. If you try to track it against the deaths, it doesn’t track — it’s a much broader peak. Perhaps something else happened then ”

On testing 

“At some point we are going to get tired of testing. It’s a huge waste of money, which could much better go to helping people who have lost their jobs and homeless people. It’s great for the pharmaceutical companies selling test kits but it’s not doing anything good.”

On why flu is more scary than Covid

“Flu is much more devious than coronavirus…Flus cannot be easily tamed. They’re much too mutatable — coronaviruses by their nature are staid and have a relatively large genome, which is three times larger than the flu. It’s a single piece whereas flu’s genome is seven little pieces so it can swap pieces with other flus. It causes massive excess deaths year after year. I don’t think coronavirus where will be a winter wave of any substance.

On returning to normality

“Lack of normality is a terrible risk. We’ve torn the fabric of society and I would not be surprised if the risk of tearing society apart constitutes a 10 times higher excess death risk. People die from poverty, desperation and alcoholism. If we look at the statistics on alcohol consumption over the past month and we could easily see excess deaths. A strong smoker loses 10 years of life, which is 120 times higher risk. An alcoholic might lose four to five years of life from this compared to coronavirus.”

On lockdown 

“It was probably wrong of me to say that lockdown was a mistake. If people have done it, they should be told that it was probably a good idea when they did it, but it’s no longer necessary and there’s nothing left to be frightened of. The damage caused by lockdown is something we will suffer but there’s no point in dwelling on it. Going forward we need to basically do whatever we can to get back to normal like schools starting or museums opening. 

“Panic shortens your life”

Back in March my main aim was to stop the panic. Panic is dangerous and it shortens your life probably more than by a month so we need to think about that. What’s important is the values of our society. I asked in an earlier blog post: what can we do to stop this voluntary suicide of western civilisation. This is the choice that’s facing us: with ZeroCovid, you can pretty much guarantee that the demise of western civilisation will be greatly accelerated.


Freddie Sayers is the Editor-in-Chief & CEO of UnHerd. He was previously Editor-in-Chief of YouGov, and founder of PoliticsHome.

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Carlo Dallapiccola
Carlo Dallapiccola
3 years ago

I join the chorus of voices applauding Freddie for his superb interview style.

The second bump in the number of positive test results (infections) in the US is not particularly mysterious. There were a number of highly-populated regions with large susceptibility because the virus hadn’t managed to really take root before they implemented various forms of mitigation/suppression strategies: Florida, Texas, Arizona, Georgia, and even California, amongst others. With the release of those measures, we are simply seeing them “catch up,” to some degree (with, thankfully, much better overall outcomes than were seen in the Northeastern states in March and April).

The most important part of the interview came near the very end, when Freddie asks what can be done to convince governments and their populations to overcome the traumas generated by the March-April lockdowns, and truly find their path towards normality. It is a very difficult thing to manage, as whole populations have been carefully conditioned to believe that forgetting to wear a mask, entering into a building, socializing outside of a family unit, or sending your children back to school are all tantamount to inviting a death sentence upon yourself and countless others. Sweden’s top health officials understood this danger very well. A good first step would be for major media outlets to actually dedicate some meaningful amount of coverage on the pandemic to many of the views found here on UnHerd. Here in the US, where I live, the issue has been highly politicized. It is next to impossible to initiate, let alone navigate a rational discussion of these points within my circle of very liberal friends, as they are reflexively associated with Donald Trump and his minions. The liberal and conservative tribes have each declared their positions on the pandemic, and that is that.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
3 years ago

Identity politics being witnessed in many countries, but especially in the US where you see people you would think to be intelligent simply unable to rationally address and debate individual issues because of where Trump stands on a particular issue. It does of course reflect badly on them – it has to be said. Lockdown and HCQ spring to mind, but there might be others.

jmitchell75
jmitchell75
3 years ago

I’ve argued all along this is an extension of the culture war with the main target for the liberal establishment being Trump.

Subliminally, we’ve been asked to pick a side – in this country it is Brexit, and the Brexit government, and right on cue, we had a full on witch-hunt against it’s architect early on …

Then we’ve had the full on virtue signalling, in this country it was clapping the NHS. You were either in or out – you were either against Johnson and his herd immunity strategy and his uncaring attitude to the frail and elderly and you were against the right wing racist zealots like Trump and Bolsarano … or you were with the NHS and the caring, compassionate society that liberal democracy has given you .. classic divide and rule in my opinion.

What has been lost in this is the truth – why has this situation been politicised? The response to a virus, not an uncommon occurence in human history should be based on raw facts and evidence, the factual against the counter-factual

At the moment you’ve got the democrats, and Labour in this country, arguing for greater lockdowns and more draconian legislation, even though they know it’s going to hit the poorest hardest. The middle class with secure jobs, large homes and gardens will be largely able to cope. I find this unpalatable, and not a ‘progressive’ or left wing policy position at all.

Carlo Dallapiccola
Carlo Dallapiccola
3 years ago
Reply to  jmitchell75

Spot on. I will provide another salient example: the question of school reopenings. Here in the US, back in April-May, there seemed to be a consensus within the States, and in my especially progressive-minded town, in particular, that bringing children back to school in the Fall was of paramount importance. As the Summer wore on, and the Trump administration began to more vocally advocate for school reopenings, the two tribes (left and right – Dem and GOP) discovered where they were supposed to stand on this issue. As a result, all rational thought and consideration of the actual risks were thrown out the window.

jkochmc
jkochmc
3 years ago

Well put. I see exactly the same thing here in the States myself.

Felicity Jones
Felicity Jones
3 years ago

Dear Dr Levitt
Thank you for all your analysis and communications about Covid 19. I really was despairing back in March at the apocalyptic analysis by mainstream scientists/public health officials/ media/politicians, which seemed to be contrary to my mind of the received understanding of susceptibility/immunity in society. Your modelling, I think, will on reflection will prove to be pretty close to the mark.
The willingness to remove hard won civil liberties and panicked diktats, I still find deeply disturbing. The collateral damage of these measure, as you intimate will be far more damaging in the long run.
On a personal level, I can just not reconcile the doctors and health service’s usual measured way of dealing with illness. I had a daughter with severe immune deficiencies (amongst other things, virtually, no white blood cells or platelets to speak of) who spent many weeks on all sorts of serious wards: oncology, intensive care, critical care, transplant, rheumatology etc. No one wore white coats or masks. Nor were any special measures taken when she was at home. There was, I felt, a concerted effort to create a calm and normal as possible environment. Importantly, to dial down the fear. Parents and visitors encouraged to visit their children in hospital, parents often sleeping with their sick children. In short, all the children and patients were severely immune compromised. They were living with, in theory, very high risk. However, I think the philosophy was to try and reduce anxiety. Importantly, to live as rich a life day by day as possible. I think this was very enlightened and I am grateful for this approach. My daughter did live a rich life when she could. She died, for me, tragically when she was 21, not from an infectious disease I hasten, in the context, to add. I think my heart break would have been even greater had she had to self isolate / shield for months on end. All the richness of life she would have lost. I have been listening to young people like my daughter who have had to shield. Their former lives given up and difficult to regain.
The optimist in me has to believe that the doctors must fundamentally still believe in this fairly stoic approach to disease. Perhaps it is up to us to support them.
All best wishes…

Adam Bacon
Adam Bacon
3 years ago

Good to get an update on the thoughts of the man who actually did predict the scale of the pandemic reasonably accurately… and that he’s humble enough as a scientist to acknowledge that he’s not always right. An interesting suggestion that the expertise within the financial institutions could be co-opted, if this kind of data is to become more important in the future.
I think he’s right when he says that the future of our civilisation depends on us being able to view this epidemic more objectively, and break the climate of confirmation bias going on in most of the political class and MSM. It’s like the tale of the Emperor’s New Clothes a.k.a The Lethal Virus.

s p
s p
3 years ago
Reply to  Adam Bacon

One of the most striking aspects of this interview is simply the humility of Prof. Levitt. Honesty and humility among scientists are absolutely becoming the rarest of traits and as a result little good science is actually being done.

Taylor Karen
Taylor Karen
3 years ago
Reply to  s p

Yes, I couldn’t agree more. Anders Tegnell is another such example, although his humility was misquoted and used against him in much of the reporting.

mikes
mikes
3 years ago

Thank you Freddy and ALL the guests on Lockdown TV. It has been a enlightening experience all round. Dr Levit, Dr Gupta, Dr Streek, Prof Sikora, Prof Heneghan, Anders Tegnell and many many others. Freddy the interviews were and are great. Learned a lot and your interview technique is great too.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  mikes

Yes, vastly better than anything in legacy media, although that is not difficult.

Essentially it’s impossible to make accurate predictions even assessments of deaths when (at least) half of the supposed Covid deaths were nothing of the sort.

What I find substantially more interesting are his comments on western civilisation. As he says, the powers that be seem intent on destroying it – and not only through their response to Covid.

John Finn
John Finn
3 years ago
Reply to  mikes

Heneghan, Tegnell & Sikora have been good.

The rest have been unconvincing. Levitt has been dreadful. I also think Gupta will be proved wrong about herd immunity in the UK. We aren’t even close as things stand.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
3 years ago
Reply to  John Finn

Is that why in the last 2 months there have been 5-6 times more deaths from influenza in the UK than from COVID-19, even though we’re not even yet in flu season!

But I do agree that Heneghan, Tignell and Sikora were excellent. But so were Levitt, Geisecke and Gupta. Devi Sridhar, on the other hand, was a very pretty face but a total airhead, which is somewhat surprising given her status.

John Finn
John Finn
3 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Is that why in the last 2 months there have been 5-6 times more deaths

Hmm – last 2 weeks maybe. UK deaths have been below (very slightly) the 5 year average for about 2 months but that’s not the same thing.

I’ve just watched a 40 minute presentation for NZ by Gupta. It was woeful. She acknowledges that very few people have antibodies but then plays the T-Cell immunity card. Fine – we accept that some innate immunity may exist but no-one is able to put a figure on it. This 20% Herd Immunity BS is nonsense. It’s pure guesswork.

Devi Sridhar actually highlighted a flaw in the Herd Immunity argument. She pointed out that 80% of inmates in an infected prison were PCR-positive. She also questioned the clusters of cases in which a high proportion were infected. How can this be if there is significant prior immunity? I agree with her on this.

Carlo Dallapiccola
Carlo Dallapiccola
3 years ago
Reply to  John Finn

Elsewhere you acknowledge a flaw with the SIR model used by e.g. Ferguson et al in its “lack of heterogeneity and the assumption that 100% of the population is susceptible.” So it seems that we are willing to accept the likelihood of heterogeneity in susceptibility and transmission likelihood of the population, along with the existence of some degree of innate immunity to the contagion. Why, then, should the fact that one can find one particular sub-population, such as prison inmates, where 80% has been infected be presented as evidence that for the population as a whole the herd immunity threshold cannot be much lower than 80%? I don’t see how it follows. And I am genuinely asking this in order to understand the argument. I would have assumed that you should absolutely expect to see large variations in susceptibility/innate immunity were you to chop the population into relatively small clusters (low statistics). A prison is a particularly bad sample – not very randomized at all.

John Finn
John Finn
3 years ago

I accept the likelihood of *some” heterogeneity and innate immunity. However, I don’t believe anyone has a firm figure on the level and Ferguson could not make assumptions on what was, and still is, a weak hypothesis.

Secondly , You don’t appear to understand “Herd Immunity”. HIT is not as high as 80%. The prison inmates simply shows that 80% could get infected in a population in which everyone is in relatively close contact.

The point you need to remember is this. Even if the HI Threshold is reached during an epidemic further infections will continue to occur. They will gradually reduce over time (as an exponential decay function) but a significant number could still get infected. At the minimum Herd Immunity level, infection cannot spread from scratch, i.e. from a single index case.

The 80% figure implies a HI level of between 55% & 60%. – or to put it another way an R0 value of ~2.5.

Carlo Dallapiccola
Carlo Dallapiccola
3 years ago
Reply to  John Finn

Thank you for responding. I do understand the meaning of herd immunity and the details behind it. My only mistake was to describe the HIT of the prison in question as 80% – indeed even 100% of the prisoners could have been ultimately infected, regardless of the value of the HIT for the contagion (if, for instance, they are constantly in contact with each other and mixed together frequently). I am not particularly interested in battling over how right or wrong Ferguson was in his predictions. What interests me here is whether or not a fair degree of heterogeneity in susceptibility and existing immunity in the population is likely for this Coronavirus and whether or not there is any credible evidence for this. I suspect that you will answer “no” to the latter, but I would then note that there is also no straight line to be drawn from the prison example and an assumption of HIT of 55-60%.

Martin Z
Martin Z
3 years ago

The majority of epidemiologists would be very unsurprised if heterogeneity reduced the HIT from a homogeneous ~70% to a heterogenous 50-60%. The controversial claims are that it reduces it to 10-20%. Nobody thinks it is unimportant, the question is it *very* important?

(And of course overshoot means significantly more than the HIT mean numbers greater than the HIT could be infected if the epidemic spreads quickly.)

Incidentally, it is not really relevant, but Ferguson’s model was not an SIR model, and is one of the few models to explicitly include heterogeneity (of contacts). But actually *estimating* the heterogeneity from data is very difficult, and that is really the problem.

Carlo Dallapiccola
Carlo Dallapiccola
3 years ago
Reply to  Martin Z

Thank you for the clarification – I will assume that you are an epidemiologist yourself or have been following closely the relevant discussion.

I picked on the prison example because it simply did not strike me as being an especially compelling argument for the HIT being in the 70% range. The question is: how representative is that population of the population at large, in the context of the discussion about heterogeneity. These are individuals that have been isolated from the rest of the population (and children, in particular) for some time. They live in very close quarters. Etc. I would be much more interested in an analysis of larger, more representative populations (in terms of behavior, mix of age groups, etc.): Sweden, and, more specifically, Stockholm is an obvious example. In any case, there will be no definitive answers to these questions, but as we move on through the Fall and into the Winter the situations in areas hit hard in March and April (New York, Lombardy, etc.) will shed some light on it.

jkochmc
jkochmc
3 years ago
Reply to  John Finn

I’m curious about the prison instance. How many of the 80% were actually infectious or noticeably ill? I’m not sure if we have that information. Could it be that the enclosed environment caused an anomalous result? Perhaps the tests used picked up non-infectious viral fragments that happened to be circulating in the air and therefore were present in the inmates’ throats/nasal passages causing positive via PCR test results? I have been seeing information stating some PCR tests are using too high of an amplification threshold (37 for instance) and are therefore too sensitive. Perhaps the inmates have a low viral load present but it was still enough to trigger positive results.

Joe Smith
Joe Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  John Finn

Is it possible that prison inmates have poorer immune systems than the general population due to being in a stressful environment? Also may have low Vit D levels?

P B
P B
3 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Your vacuous, ad hominem attack is telling.

Liz Davison
Liz Davison
3 years ago
Reply to  John Finn

How do you justify your sweeping statement? Cases doesn’t equal illnesses. People test positive but are asymptomatic. Every one of these cases points to growing herd immunity.

Tim Beard
Tim Beard
3 years ago

A virus with a survival rate of over 99.9 percent in the general population and 100 percent in the healthy population..
What kind of killer Pandemic is that??????

I’m an retired investment banker

The data was clear from Italy in February

The western world’s politicians panicked like a bunch of school children

Unbelievable

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
3 years ago
Reply to  Tim Beard

a survival rate of over 99.9 percent in the general population

If by that you mean survival rate for those infected, then it’s about 99%: that is, an IFR of 1%, as observed in the “unmitigated” outbreak in Manaus and Guyauquil, for example.

100 percent in the healthy population

Unfortunately not. DOI 10.1016/j.envres.2020.109890 states “COVID-19 deaths occur sparsely in people <65 without underlying conditions” but not “never”. As that paper points out, the elderly (>65) population tend to have other health problems anyway. Covid is a disease affecting the elderly, rather than the unhealthy.

Bob Honda
Bob Honda
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Pinch

The IFRS is more in the range of 0.1% to 0.3%, See for example metastudy by John Ioannidis. Of course, this also assumes the counting of COVID19 deaths is straight forward, which it most certainly is not (no real distinction between “died with” COV SARS2 vs. “Died of” COVID19 in the registration in most countries). The US CDC (so official statistics) just recently released a report saying that only 6% of the deaths recorded COVID19 as the SOLE cause of death (the others on average had 2.6 comorbidities!). Link in another post i made pending review.

For most countries, the average age of death is equal to or surpasses life expectancy. This tells you a lot about who is dying. Can you find the rarer causes of “younger” (as in 60-ish!)? sure. Can you find examples of young healthy people and kids dying? sure! but’s it’s extremely rare and the age-band IFR for these groups is miniscule.

john.baird
john.baird
3 years ago
Reply to  Bob Honda

Very interesting, particularly on mortality and morbidity in various age groups. I’ve been trying to find in the literature, figures to back Devi Sridhar’s assertion that in New York during the spike, 200 children were admitted with/had covid 19-related heart attacks in hospital – she was (typically?) unspecific, but it could have been interpreted that they died, although in any case, an infarction is bad enough. I see reports of pathologies in children, but little to suggest they’re very different or different at all to those we see with other respiratory viruses. As the narrative moves on, morbidities seem to be taking centre stage when it comes to strategy, ousting deaths, so I think clarity on how covid-19 compares with other infections is critical.

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
3 years ago
Reply to  Bob Honda

The experience of the “unmitigated” outbreaks in Manaus and Guayaquil suggests a figure in the range of 0.8%-1%, and the experience of New York City shows that the figure has to be above 0.25%. However, these are for urban environments, and it would not be surprising to see a somewhat different pattern there.

stu7
stu7
3 years ago
Reply to  Tim Beard

“I am a retired investment banker” ðƾ˜‚

I hope your investment decisions weren’t made on data as poor as what you’ve just posted there about Covid19.

Si B
Si B
3 years ago

My goodness… that was a mighty interview. The “fabric of society” vs the fabric of the mask I am instructed to wear came in to my head from nowhere. I’m not a great one for symbolism but many of his fine words touched me. I also thank Freddie for his keen questioning and timing and seemingly complete inability to ever interrupt. No gotchas , grandstanding a la the harridans and hags in the MSM. Just solid enquiry and giving real experts a fair hearing and he has gotten to talk with some great ones.

Barry Crombie
Barry Crombie
3 years ago

He lost his way a bit in the middle when talking about the USA and could have pointed out that there were a number of different waves going on…although he did mention Brazil

There is also the morbidity of talking about deaths so dispassionately but you have to with pandemics….a death is just a data point and has to be treated as such

Freddie’s questions about modelling were fair and I don’t think Michael answered them as well as I am sure he could have done – it is just the USA is so big that there is not one ‘wave’ that covers the country

He could also have taken on the cases being used to predict second waves as I am sure he is aware that the data on cases from March was a massive underestimation so anyone using the case number in August to compare against April is disingenuous at best

A very good scientist and humble too – he admitted errors which weren’t really errors as he explained

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
3 years ago
Reply to  Barry Crombie

The USA is an outlier and is a fascinating topic – it almost needs to be reflected and reported on as different states. I am in South Africa (as was Michael!), so our wave is just later. Most Southern Hemisphere countries are seeing a longer flatter wave. It would be a good idea to get him on for longer to talk about the rest of the world and the US in more depth.

John Stone
John Stone
3 years ago

Wonderfully impressive though Prof Levitt is he seems even a little politically naive: we might be troubled less with the West’s competitive edge with China than the authoritarian executive power-grab we’ve experienced. Our government may be a little disturbed by now by the economic and social damage but what is really scary is how trivial they have been, how they have completely misunderstood their role in balancing policy. Meanwhile, their manoeuvres get crazier and more half-baked by the day.

Geo Van
Geo Van
3 years ago

Two issues I wish Freddie would have raised are 1) “long haulers” which was integral to Prof. Sridhar’s position on total suppression and 2) the extent to which the declines are dependent on mitigation. Her point was that it is not just about deaths. The WSJ reported that there were no good numbers on this but that it seemed the numbers were substantial. We will not return to the old normal unless the perception that one might end up a long hauler Is addressed. Moreover, are the declines we are seeing due to Mitigation efforts which if stopped means we are off to the races again or do we get saturation regardless of mitigation? Regardless a great job by Freddie.

Barry Crombie
Barry Crombie
3 years ago
Reply to  Geo Van

I don’t know how you would expect him to answer the former seeing the people like you who raise it can only come up with ‘no good numbers but it seems they are substantial’ which shows the weakness of Sridhar’s argument. If she wants to be taken seriously it is up to her to come up with the evidence or is she running the ‘Centre for Anecdotal-Based Medicine’ now? I personally think she makes very weak arguments for a supposed senior research scientist

As for the second, when are we going to see this new ‘race’? Can you give me evidence of a country having a true second wave after a first one (most so-called second waves are in regions or areas that didn’t have a first one)? There are an increase in cases but not in the outcomes – probably not surprising as the case numbers in March/April will have been underestimated by at least a factor of 10! Or do you think that there were only 7500 cases a day in France when there were 1000+ dying per day?

NPI mitigations never promise to eliminate they are intended to slow things down and protect health services which they possibly did (I am not sure lockdowns were needed though and probably less stringent ones would have succeeded as well) – I am very unclear as to what they do when you have no pressure in health services and no deaths? Case prevalence (and I mean real symptomatic cases not people who have virus DNA in them) seems to be very low

Bob Honda
Bob Honda
3 years ago

The US is a poor “case study” to make a prediction on, because different states were hit at different times, and that’s why you get what appears to be a second wave, but it is actually just different states having their first real spike and thus “kicking in” on the death statistics at different point, making the curve “longer” and “flatter” and the “spike” less visible at federal level. Case in point, look at NYC now which was hit early, zero deaths (or close to) for months now.

Besides, The CDC have now published that just 6% of the deaths in the US are “pure”, no other identifiable cause COVID19 deaths, the rest had on average 2.6 (!) co-morbidities, making the whole thing just a play with numbers anyway on people who unfortunately would have a short life expectancy, COV SARS2 or not.

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nv

aurichod
aurichod
3 years ago

Prof. Levitt was not incorrect about the end of the pandemic. The second bump did not occur in my home state of Ariz. but rather in hospitals in Phoenix and Tucson where immigrant workers from Mexico were treated. The “second wave” parallels the pandemic in Mexico and not a new outbreak in America. Covid ended in July in Ariz. and in the U.S.
Imagine if we tested everyone for influenza. About half would test positive. Then we could ascribe half of the deaths in the country to influenza and call the real causes of death comorbidities. The CDC has reclassified covid deaths to show what percentage of deaths had no comorbidities. That percent – %6. Nine thousand people have died of covid in the U.S. and 161,000 from comorbidities. This whole fiasco has been a scam.

perrywidhalm
perrywidhalm
3 years ago
Reply to  aurichod

Excellent comment.

Zaph Mann
Zaph Mann
3 years ago

I spent two days this week in a webinar given by Environmental Health Matters Initiative on the Airborne Transmission of SARS-CoV-2. It involved a global array of top scientists from many disciplines going into detail. They will be putting the seminar up to be viewed online this week. the main thrust was that the virus in fact spreads mostly via small particles <5 microns. The striking thing was that there was no debate – none – on any of the alternative thoughts and approaches. This was understandable when discussing specific science – i.e. have they found viable RNA in small particles <5 microns (yes) but not when they were talking about what the science proved (not a lot) or inferred (mostly) or disproved, in regard to public policy. Outsiders were able to post questions, but even slightly off message questions were moderated out before reaching the discussion panels. For example this question: – What does the panel think of Jonathan Kay’s conclusion that “If small-droplet airborne concentrations in unventilated spaces were a common vector for COVID-19 transmission (as with measles, for instance), one would expect whole office buildings to become mass-infection hotspots. That doesn’t seem to have happened”.
https://quillette.com/2020/

Carlo Dallapiccola
Carlo Dallapiccola
3 years ago
Reply to  Zaph Mann

You have brought up an excellent point that tends to be passed over in discussions centered on covid: the critical role that fear of airborne transmission of the virus has played in determining the public’s willingness to engage in a large variety of activities fundamental to a return to even semi-normality (return to schools, office buildings, indoor dining, etc.). Here in the States, at least, a few very vocal experts (and I mean just two or three individuals) on the science of aerosols have monopolized the discussion and managed to convince the entire country that the virus is floating around in the air everywhere that people go. There has been very little critical investigation, in the public sphere (at the level of the NYT or other large media outlets), of this issue based on empirical evidence connected to the epidemic itself. After six months and tens of millions of people infected throughout the world, the same three real-world examples keep coming up: a bus of monks in China, a restaurant in China and a chorus group in the state of Washington.

Robin Bury
Robin Bury
3 years ago

Good article. Here in Canada much panic and poor leadership by medical profession and politicians. About 9,200 died so far out of 36.5 million population and 80% of these were in care homes.Far more died of heart disease and then there is the huge mental effect caused by lock downs. Reactions are driven by ignorance and fear.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
3 years ago

Great interview by Freddie and very insightful analysis by Levitt.

Ari MacKinnon
Ari MacKinnon
3 years ago

While I am sympathetic to Professor Levitt’s views that we should try as best we can to get back to normalcy, he grossly understates the level of excess deaths in New York City at minute 34:00 of this video, where he claims there have been 43 days of excess deaths. In fact, according to the CDC’s numbers (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nv…, as of mid-August 2020, there have been roughly 27,000 excess deaths in NYC, which given an average of about 150 deaths per day on an “ordinary” day in NYC, equates to approximately 180 days or 6 months of excess deaths. Looking at the CDC’s numbers (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nv…, nearly all of these deaths occurred in just 8 weeks time.
Accordingly, any analysis of COVID’s potential lethality has to take account of the very real, demonstrated possibility that in densely populated cities, such as NYC, excess deaths can reach 6 months’ worth of deaths in a very short period of time and possibly even more (if NYC is not finished with its excess deaths). That does not necessarily mean that Professor Levitt’s bottom-line conclusion about getting back to normalcy is wrong, but it means the price certain places “pay” may be far higher than one month of excess deaths and possibly much closer to the one year of excess deaths that certain epidemiologists predicted back in March. (The price may be much lower in less densely populated areas or areas where viral spread is lower for other reasons.)

Ari MacKinnon
Ari MacKinnon
3 years ago

While I am sympathetic to Professor Levitt’s views that we should try as best we can to get back to normalcy, he grossly understates the level of excess deaths in New York City at minute 34:00 of this video, where he claims there have been 43 days of excess deaths. In fact, according to the CDC’s numbers (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nv…, as of mid-August 2020, there have been roughly 27,000 excess deaths in NYC, which given an average of about 150 deaths per day on an “ordinary” day in NYC, equates to approximately 180 days or 6 months of excess deaths. Looking at the CDC’s numbers (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nv…, nearly all of these deaths occurred in just 8 weeks time.
Accordingly, any analysis of COVID’s potential lethality has to take account of the very real, demonstrated possibility that in densely populated cities, such as NYC, excess deaths can reach 6 months’ worth of deaths in a very short period of time and possibly even more (if NYC is not finished with its excess deaths). That does not necessarily mean that Professor Levitt’s bottom-line conclusion about getting back to normalcy is wrong, but it means the price certain places “pay” may be far higher than one month of excess deaths and possibly much closer to the one year of excess deaths that certain epidemiologists predicted back in March. (The price may be much lower in less densely populated areas or areas where viral spread is lower for other reasons.)

jkochmc
jkochmc
3 years ago

Dr Levitt perhaps did not comprehend the full impact of nasty politics at play here in US. In some states, the way they account for “presumed covid cases” is preposterous. They use the PCR test in many places which is known to throw a certain percentage of false positives. We are doing a ridiculous amount of tests (in Ohio, my state we test upwards of 28,000 people per day and with a 2% false positive rate, that will give you 560 positives). Some of our southern states locked down before they even had many cases. So when they opened up, they had some cases pop up. They just interrupted their surge. We are also mostly masking and have ridiculous restrictions on our everyday lives still, so we are slowing the trip to herd immunity even more. Also, our press tries so hard to make the president look bad because he is unpopular. So what you are seeing here in US is not necessarily accurate. I think we are having more of a “casedemic” and some deaths still are occuring because we interrupted the path to herd immunity earlier on. I suspect Italy and other European countries were nearer herd immunity before their lock downs even happened so as they reopened, they virus already picked off many of the vulnerable. And therefore, the formula Dr. Levitt applied to the US wasn’t consistent with what was seen in Europe.

Ian Campbell
Ian Campbell
3 years ago

I realize this is off topic but does anyone know why the comment threads were closed for the Sridhar video both on this site and on YouTube?

Elizabeth Hart
Elizabeth Hart
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Campbell

I’m interested to know that too, and most of the comments have been deleted.

jmitchell75
jmitchell75
3 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth Hart

Just checked that too – I started reading unherd because it didn’t censor opinion on C19 – I’m guessing there are a lot of others like me … really that’s pretty much the reason I come on here

Why then in this particular article are comments censored? I do remember the comments being more intelligent and well thought out than the interview. Very strange, and really just goes to confirm what 90% of the commenters on here know to be true – this is political and has nothing to do with health policy

Elizabeth Hart
Elizabeth Hart
3 years ago
Reply to  jmitchell75

That’s right the comments were very thoughtful..and very critical of Devi Sridhar. One of my comments is still there, about the current situation in Australia, which is very bad, particularly in the state of Victoria, it’s a police state now.
The Premier, Daniel Andrews, wants to be able to extend the existing lockdown and is on the record as saying “extraordinary powers in force since the start of the pandemic would be needed until a COVID-19 vaccine was found”.[1]
It’s always been about the vaccine….and control. Something very weird has been going on in Australia for the past few years, a creeping authoritarianism, and it’s about getting mandatory vaccination in place. Weird things are happening around the world…
The No Jab, No Pay law was enacted in Australia in 2016, coercive vaccination for children, after a very nasty media campaign run by the Murdoch media, aka News Corp. This effectively makes parents have their children vaccinated, no questions asked, i.e. ‘informed consent’ down the drain. This is important because more and more vaccine products and revaccinations are being added to the schedule. And News Corp has a conflict of interest in that it’s a corporate partner of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute which is involved in vaccine research, including coronavirus/Covid vaccine research.
There are loads of conflicts of interest in vaccination policy here, it’s essentially been colonised by the vaccine industry. Also consider the Biosecurity Act 2015, a Federal emergency power, which we’re under at the moment, at least until 17 September. Under this Act, vaccination could be compulsory with refusers at risk of five years imprisonment and/or $A63,000 fine. It’s astonishing the draconian laws that have been put in place, including State emergency laws too, and who knew they were being put in place, the people weren’t in the know…
Reference:
1. ‘We can’t keep living like this’: COVID-19 state of emergency opens political divide. The Age, 23 August 2020.

Elizabeth Hart
Elizabeth Hart
3 years ago
Reply to  jmitchell75

Responded to you but it’s gone to pending…

jmitchell75
jmitchell75
3 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth Hart

I do hope not but it seems as though some higher force is at work here. I do wonder, btl of the article in question if they were frightened by the intelligence of the comments and counter-argument… she is responsible for the scottish government’s project fear afterall. I reckon they possibly threatened to retract the article and any further interviews if large parts of the comment section weren’t removed … you might have different ideas, but I can’t read them! Unherd need to take a stand, I find their concept refreshing and desperately needed in the weird world of covid, but there’s no knowing what was said to them I guess.

Olaf Felts
Olaf Felts
3 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth Hart

I have just asked this question via [email protected] Just simply asking in essence has UnHerd gone from a vehicle to give the unheard a voice to ensuring they remain unheard. Sad if the case. If silence continues we can only draw our conclusions. Hope there is some understandable reason for this, but not giving reasons is concerning.

P B
P B
3 years ago

This reminded me a bit of UnHerd’s interview in April with Giesecke — in which he now infamously/completely mistakenly predicted that Covid’s IFR is the same as the ‘flu — in that many of Levitt’s points are more political/social/cultural than based on the latest understanding of the virology, immunology, and epidemiology relating to Covid.

It’s always interesting getting different philosophical perspectives, as there are good moral arguments on either side of the policy debates on masks/lockdowns/schools etc, but I remain wary of non-expert outliers (even famous chemists) who so confidently believe the vast majority of experts are wrong about the behaviour of the virus itself.

Of course I understand Levitt is not an expert in viruses, and he’s just giving us his opinions and trying to encourage thinking “outside the box”, but I do hope his understanding of Covid is better than his understanding of the main reason for the current performance of the S&P500. Hint: take a look at what the Fed has been doing since March, not whether investors think Covid is serious or not!

(His unexpected detour into the virtues of blockchain will likely also amuse any other keen students of stock market over-valuations).

Mike Hearn
Mike Hearn
3 years ago
Reply to  P B

How is that mistaken? IFR looks like 0.1% or lower when all relevant factors are taken into account e.g. people who don’t seem to get sick yet also don’t test positive for antibodies.

But we can see this another way. Excess deaths in many countries that didn’t horribly panic like the UK did are what you’d see in a mild to medium strength flu season. So it’s impossible for COVID to be more deadly than the flu because if that were the case, we’d see excess death rates incomparable to prior years. That’s not what’s happened.

Bullfrog Brown
Bullfrog Brown
3 years ago

Great hearing Professor Levitt .. BH your Mum should live to 120

James Wiebe
James Wiebe
3 years ago

I think a tremendous amount of credit should go to Freddie for giving equal and fair treatment to thinkers such as Professor Levitt as well as the previously mentioned Professor Devi Sridhar. Both of these people are analysing a problem and doing their best to come up with enlightened observations and recommendations.

We don’t want to live in an echo chamber where the only viewpoints heard are those that you’re in full agreement with.

Now, how do we get the decision makers to listen fully to all sides of this discussion – and then, even more importantly – be given tools in how to present the complete discussion to journalists and their constituents. After all, many people have become highly risk averse through no direct fault of their own.

Every relevant politician and health ministry official should be enrolled in the UnHerd School of Critical Thinking.

Taylor Karen
Taylor Karen
3 years ago

I too join the chorus and applaud Freddie for another brilliant interview. It would be great to see either Freddie or his type of journalism reach mainstream platforms and therefore wake up the less inquisitive minds, who don’t search out the facts. Don’t get me wrong Unherd is brilliant and I’m a big fan, but the audience that finds you are probably those of us, who have been reading the papers, see clearly that the reality doesn’t match up to the MSM reporting and then start to question and look elsewhere for answers. Certainly, that’s how I came across Unherd and I will continue to follow you, when this is all over. Although I have found great solidarity from the various commentators on here (it has definitely help me just about keep my sanity) how can we begin to preach outside of the already converted and reach new ears?

Ron Sharp
Ron Sharp
3 years ago

I would not dispute Prof Levitt’s opinions on the biological aspects of the pandemic but I am not sure what authority I should attach to his views about a “lack of normality”. Is he referring to the previous normality to which 90% of people polled say they would rather not return to? or any ‘normality’ it is the job of society to construct? If the virus has really destroyed the previous normal then all efforts should be made to create a new normal: more equal, more sociable, closer to net zero carbon and enhancing biodiversity. We cannot afford to miss this opportunity.

James Moss
James Moss
3 years ago

2 months on, US Covid deaths are still trundling on in the several hundred-one thousand per day range. The man still seems pretty much a charlatan. “Oh I didn’t mean people would stop dying – but they are no longer excess people”. Not the first Nobel winner to “turn emeritus” and won’t be the last. Contrarians are great click-bait though. Maybe it is the attention he thrives on,

John Finn
John Finn
3 years ago

There are a number of contributors to the Covid debate who put forward very good arguments against the establishment response to Covid. Sadly, Professor Michael Levitt isn’t one of them. His predictions are totally meaningless so it’s not worth commenting on them. The biggest concern for me is his apparent lack of understanding of basic mathematics.

Leaving aside the astonishing howler he made when analysing Diamond Princess data, Levitt regularly makes 2 claims.

Firstly, he seems to believe that he has unearthed a major discovery when he informs the world that cases don’t grow exponentially but follow a Gompertz curve. Here. Levitt is referring to the CUMULATIVE cases curve. Thank you for that blockbuster, Michael, but we all know that cumulative cases follow a Gompertz-like curve. Watch any YouTube video on basic epidemiological (S-I-R) modelling and the S-shaped curve will be demonstrated. A Gompertz-type curve will be evident regardless of any actions taken by countries to deal with an epidemic. The obvious reason being that the virus will gradually run out of susceptible individuals to infect ““ even if the whole population is infected.

Secondly, I would argue that his claim that case growth is not exponential is wrong. I think he, again, fails to understand the mathematics. The exponential, however, needs to be calculated at each time step since it relies on the updated Susceptible (and Infected) number from the previous step. The new cases exponential is a function of previous Susceptibles (S), Infecteds (I) as well as the Transmission rate & the Recovery rate. S & I vary over time to produce the typically normal-type epidemic curve

There’s no mystery to any of this. Ferguson’s problem isn’t his model per se, it’s the models lack of heterogeneity and the assumption that 100% of the population is susceptible. I have read nothing from Michael Levitt which addresses these issues. Levitt has simply engaged in a number of simple curve fitting exercises on regional data series.

Frederik van Beek
Frederik van Beek
3 years ago
Reply to  John Finn

Ferguson’s problem is also that he has never predicted anything right. Compared to him the prediction of Michael Levitt is a showcase of pinpoint accuracy. Like John Ioannidis from Stanford already noticed about Ferguson’s model: you put … in and you get … out.

Frederik van Beek
Frederik van Beek
3 years ago
Reply to  John Finn

Ferguson’s problem is also that he has never predicted anything right.
Compared to him the prediction of Michael Levitt is a showcase of
pinpoint accuracy. Like John Ioannidis from Stanford already noticed
about Ferguson’s model: you put … in and you get … out. (Somehow the popular word for defecation doesn’t get through censorship so I was forced to use …)

John Finn
John Finn
3 years ago

Ferguson predicted 40k deaths if the UK adopted the lockdown policy. Remind me – what is the current death toll?

John Ioannidis didn’t even understand the issue of False Positives with his serological tests study. Just as we can get FPs with PCR tests we can also get them with tests for antibodies.

Si B
Si B
3 years ago
Reply to  John Finn

No.
Independent of the farce that is how the deaths are registered under the Coronavirus Act 2020 … the answer that you solicit is the Uk govt’s @42k …and that of the ONS is higher … I would suggest both are bunk with only the ONS “all cause mortality” (Absolute and excess vs 5yr average) being a number with some truth.
Ie Pick a number for the reality of direct covid.

Ferguson’s interview with Freddie is on Unherd.

Ferguson predicted 20k direct deaths (“of”, based on an assumed ifr of 0.9% for the whole UK) in lockdown scenario.
Not 40k and has since stated we’d have saved lives with earlier lockdown.
This is for a 6m period.

That’s a 100% error but those numbers are plausible.

It is the UK Govt – not Ferguson- (home office, DHSC, ONS) that predicted 40-45k in a 50page report of 8th April based on assessments made in March. This figure is for a mitigated reasonable worst case scenario.
They call it “mitigated”, but they mean lockdown (= suppression/75% of nhs activity cancelled) as is clear from the report.
Their current @42k (41,498 as of yesterday), 5mnths in (and with a recent sudden 5k reduction for Eng and Wales suddenly applied a few weeks back) looks remarkably self “consistent”.

I personally think lockdown to have any chance came way too late everywhere and the thing was already rife. Lockdowns make no difference and I simply do not think the following was ever credible based on what we seem to be seeing, even under Project Maximum Fear :-

Ferguson also predicted 250k for the “semi-suppression” strategy that Boris was persuing initially (and I believe some huge number for Sweden who continue to persue it). The MSM hammered that home as the science as did the UK Govt.

And he predicted 500,000 (vs UK Govt 420-470k) for the @Do Nothing scenario.

I’m not sure that somewhere like Brazil or a India can do much else than “Do Nothing” and with much bigger populations in slums their reported figures are less than the UK’s. Granted, they could be massively under reporting .. which is defo intentionally not what is happening in the UK.

But You go ahead and have a pop at Levitt. His “maths” get a closer result (within 10%) for a precise time frame than Ferguson’s (Which are out by 100% and not your hinted at @0% vs a figure that you seek to cite to make a point.
I do accept Levitt’s come with the benefit of some accrued trend data and were made at a later time.

And the 42k figure you solicited is not one many believe is the real effect of Direct covid19. A minority they may be (?) but some among them
(inc. Lee, Sekora) believe It is much much less. 50% less in reality would mean Ferguson’s lockdown number would be bang on….which could make your argument. But that isn’t how you framed it….

John Finn
John Finn
3 years ago
Reply to  Si B

I would suggest both are bunk with only the ONS “all cause mortality” (Absolute and excess vs 5yr average) being a number with some truth.

So the true figure is over 50k then? Last time I looked the “all cause mortality” figure was 53k above the previous 5 year average (for the year to date). UPDATE: ONS release on August 25th 2020 Excess deaths up to Aug 14th is 53044.

Ferguson’s interview with Freddie is on Unherd.

I’ve seen it. What’s your point?

Ferguson predicted 20k direct deaths (“of” based on an assumed ifr of 0.9 for the whole UK) in lockdown scenario.

Ferguson’s model produces a range of scenarios. You’ve cherry-picked the Patrick Vallance “best scenario” figure. The 20k figure assumes early lockdown and/or low R0 number. Using a more realistic R0 value of 2.6 and the fact that the epidemic was fairly advanced by the time lockdown was introduced gives fatality projections of between 40k & 48k.

Try reading the actual paper rather than Toby Young’s poorly-researched claptrap.

Joe Smith
Joe Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  John Finn

Is this report citing Ferguson’s range of 7k to 20k deaths wrong:

https://www.telegraph.co.uk

Si B
Si B
3 years ago
Reply to  John Finn

Link please if you’d be so kind. I read a govt report from a link from Carl Heneghan. And I listened to Ferguson carefully to ensure I could reconcile the two. I’ll listen again… yes the 20k was also cited by Vallance. If your point is Ferguson and govt agreed on 40k (deaths due to new covid so I assume to mean expected excess mortality if everything is reported correctly incl explicit flu and pneumonia etc) then so be it. I’ve not seen it.

You seem to be saying they both have it pretty much spot on. Well ok if 40k really is the number.

Is it ? Pls help me out here,

I don’t dispute whatever the ONS figure for all cause excess mortality is. I said so.
How much of it is covid is another matter. Knock out the NHS for 5mnths and one would assume some bad impact and the Uk Govt state precisely this @12-25k excess deaths due to non covid emergencies that won’t / couldn’t be tackled over 6mnths.
The report is called “Initial estimates of excess deaths from covid-19″ 8 April. (DHSC, ONS, Govt Actuaries Dept, Home Office).
Take those figures from the 53k (5mnths) and the covid figure clearly ain’t more than 50k. I didn’t infer that it was.
53-12 =41. Ok that squares to the 40k number you cite , if you allow me to cherry pick and is indeed what the govt say at the moment.
53-25 =28 , not so much.
I’ve obvs not normalised for 6m vs @5m but you can see my direction of travel.

I have no idea if 12-25k is a good estimate by the govt But given the unique way in which covid deaths have been registered (far less rigour and scrutiny) that hints at still lower figures for actual covid.

I do not believe it is 40 or 48k based on the above unless someone can prove to me lockdown / absence of nhs non urgent care has killed no one (yet), all excess deaths are covid (as befits a new pathogen) and have been reported correctly as cause of death. The covid vs comorbidities seems hardwired to report the death as covid whether patient presented covid symptoms or not. And if not (i assume an elderly person can be assymptomatic) then claiming that covid is a cause of death worries me greatly.

jmitchell75
jmitchell75
3 years ago
Reply to  John Finn

You seem to be arguing that lockdown worked to suppress the initial 500,000 deaths predicted by Ferguson in a do nothing scenario.

The problem with this are the control groups, Sweden and Japan. If Ferguson was right then Japan would have had 500,000 deaths and Sweden something like 200,000. That hasn’t happened, last time I looked Sweden had 4 or 5000 and a disproportionate amount of deaths were in care homes

Even based on the official figures, recording every death as a covid death, regardless of comorbidities, it is very clear the modelling was wildly exaggerated.

Frederik van Beek
Frederik van Beek
3 years ago
Reply to  John Finn

With an IFR far above 1% procent 40K is impossible. That Ferguson believes that measures are responsible for the current low amount of death is a different issue. No scientific proof has been offered that the measures are responsible for that. So the possibility that it’s the other way around has to be taken into consideration: with an IFR far above 1% Ferguson has been astronomically wrong, like he always has been in the past. Keep on dreaming John.
And the iceberg-theorie of John Ioannidis and also of Johan Giesecke (much more positives than can be tested and lower percentages of sick people the more you keep testing) is becoming more true by the day. So keep on testing, please do, the hospitals will stay empty and the positives will keep rising and rising and rising while nothing actually happens.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
3 years ago
Reply to  John Finn

I think your assertion that Michael Levitt doesn’t understand the math really undermines your arguments, as your accusation/assertion is simply stupid. And I mean truly stupid. Michael Levitt, if you know anything about his work, is a very competent applied mathematician – that’s what molecular dynamics are all about. Molecular dynamics also involves the application of differential equations, and the SIR model is trivial in the extreme. So I have absolutely no doubt that Levitt understands this quite well.

John Finn
John Finn
3 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

I agree the SIR model is trivial – which is why I would expect Levitt to understand the well recognised curves associated with model output.

Levitt has proven himself incompetent – or negligent – Take your pick. In an article and a Twitter comment, Levitt analysed Diamond Princess data and from it concluded that the Ferguson model would predict 116 DP deaths. Now we can all make mistakes but anyone with any sort of mathematical skill would realise that they’d made a c**k-up. I spotted it the moment I saw it but, apparently, David Spiegelhalter had already notified Professor Levitt of his error.

Several people agreed with me that the error was ‘unusual’ for a Nobel scientist. Sorry – but I strongly disagree about his competence.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
3 years ago
Reply to  John Finn

So what exactly your qualifications that make you some competent and Levitt so incompetent? Just wondering since you seem so full of yourself and so authoritative. Perhaps John Finn is a pseudonym for Ferguson, who quite frankly is not just incompetent but an unadulterated idiot.

Dave H
Dave H
3 years ago

“there’s nothing left to be frightened of”

In the US there are still 1000 people a day dying from this, are there not? Seems a little premature to declare it’s over.

Clearly there’s a lot of debate to be had about relative harms, proportionality of any measures taken etc, but by any account it’s not gone away, especially in the US and Central/South America.

I’m not arguing for “ZeroCovid”, but his comments around it seem far more political than scientific, and somewhat exaggerated.

Ned DeLorme
Ned DeLorme
3 years ago
Reply to  Dave H

And the vast majority of those dying are over 70 years old with multiple co-morbidities. Plus financial incentives from CMS have incented hospitals and providers to code these as Covid deaths as opposed to other causes. The massive cost of the lockdown are never considered by the MSM.

Ernest DuBrul
Ernest DuBrul
3 years ago
Reply to  Dave H

Dave–
There is one thing that governments should now be concerned with: deciding what criterion(a) should be used to declare the “pandemic” is over.

Absence of the virus? Reduction in the number of true positive tests for the virus? Absence of deaths clearly caused by the virus? Reduction of deaths attributed to the virus? If the latter, a reduction to what number? Reduction of the daily number of total deaths to the average of the past 5 years?

People are going to die and die at a predictable average rate. Covid disease will soon become just another way to die, like influenza, pneumonia, cancers, etc.

According to the US-CDC, we’re back to the average daily death rate in many US states and headed that way for the entire country. Now, we’re beginning to see research showing that governmental non-pharmaceutical interventions of various kinds have had minimal effects.

Future historians for each country will have the task of explaining why governments and, especially, the media did not declare the “epidemic” over and get the country back to normal.

Carlo Dallapiccola
Carlo Dallapiccola
3 years ago
Reply to  Ernest DuBrul

I couldn’t agree more:

“According to the US-CDC, we’re back to the average daily death rate in many US states and headed that way for the entire country. Now, we’re beginning to see research showing that governmental non-pharmaceutical interventions of various kinds have had minimal effects.

Future historians for each country will have the task of explaining why governments and, especially, the media did not declare the “epidemic” over and get the country back to normal.”

As a first step, we need to overcome the fixation on the reporting of daily number of new infections and deaths, with absolutely no context. Dave H’s comment highlights this. Are 1,000 deaths per day in the USA (population of 330 million) a lot, huge, moderate or insignificant? How does that compare with daily deaths due to other causes? Providing numbers and statistics with absolutely no context is worse than meaningless in this case, as it is also contributing to fear, panic, despair and depression. Dr. Levitt addressed precisely this issue, by stressing the importance of discussion of excess mortality (for instance), but at least one viewer failed to listen carefully and understand the points being made.

Michael Sweeney
Michael Sweeney
3 years ago
Reply to  Dave H

Worldwide, there are 26,000 people a day that die of cancer. So roughly 1643 per day in the USA – https://www.webmd.com/cance

Dr Levitt’s point is, we need to add in some REAL perspective to what we are dealing with. Heart disease is #1, and we can do a much better job of decreasing heart disease, if we eat REAL food and exercise in the USA. Those are things we really can control.

We are all going to die, the question is how to maximize our time here. That is my take from Dr Levitt’s interview.

s p
s p
3 years ago
Reply to  Dave H

Seems you missed the point and concept of “excess deaths”.