Consider the possibility that science is a process of questions and answers. Not all answers are correct and not all questions are valid. Yet all need to be considered and evaluated separately and carefully. Within that context we broach the subject of this COVID debacle that stands in our way to a free and productive life. The draconian measures undertaken have had profound and lasting impressions on the American psyche that will not be washed away any time soon. But we wish to explore the unscientific labors of a few minds that compelled the nation and indeed the world to point to a far worse intermediate term future of the health of our citizens. Although, Non-COVID related deaths include the psychological trauma to the society as a whole, including suicides, drug abuse and harm related to physical abuse, and their future impact, we will focus on the non-psychological medical harm to the people as a whole.
Was this Flawed Science?
What has COVID wrought on our nation and the entire planet? What has become a daily treadmill of fear and peril at every fork in the road? While we do not minimize the enormous loss of life from the pandemic, we certainly argue against the mechanics used to mitigate the pandemic. We have climbed through the hoops of shutdowns and lockdowns and found that wanting. The fact that lockdowns have done harm, is not in question. Entire companies have gone bankrupt and households have lost loved ones via the egregious efforts of confinement and proximity. Restaurants have closed, movie theaters are threatened, and brick and mortar stores have shuttered. Millions have lost their jobs and most others are skating on thin ice that keeps getting thinner by the day. We were told that masks were not helpful once, not too long ago but then they suddenly defied all previous principles of apolitical science and became helpful in mitigating the viral onslaught. But that was not enough because what one mask couldn’t seem to do in regards protecting the individual, two were recommended as “common sense.” Suddenly we were told ‘science’ had proven the fidelity of such a declaration.
More policy mandates were promulgated and schools were shutdown to “protect the young.” John Ionnadis, MD from Stanford University, linked such arbitrary, yet draconian shutdowns to a greater harm on society. Skepticism of such motives would be considered blasphemy, after all the policy was made to protect the young from acquiring the infection. Somewhere in the new science world, the whole idea of facts was lost. The data showed that children less than 10 years of age had a 0.002% chance of severe illness and those under twenty years of age had less than 0.1% chance. Even UNESCO reiterated that school closures cause harm to the young. And the 1.9 billion children were directly impacted by such measures, harming the lower income far worse. Within this dichotomy of action and reaction was buried the 1840 Farr’s Law about pandemics that everyone seemed to have missed: “Epidemics (also holds true for pandemics) events rise and fall in a roughly symmetrical pattern.
The time-evolution behavior could be captured by a single mathematical formula that could be approximated by a bell-shaped curve.”
Further irregularities in reporting occurred in February and March of 2020, when the Infection Fatality Rate was conflated with Case Fatality Rate. The difference between IFR and CFR is in the denominator: infections or cases. All cases are infections, but not all infections are confirmed cases related to the virus, so the number of infections (of x + y infections) always exceeds the number of cases (x infection), making IFR less than CFR. The IFR for the Seasonal Flu is 0.13% (0.1-0.18%) yet in March of 2020 that number was reported by the media and confirmed by Dr. Fauci in his testimony to be 3%. The difference between the numbers is an order of magnitude that not only was alarming but overnight created enormous fear.
The Failing Diagnostics
In all this hubbub of the “new science” where the priors were considered to not add to the current vogue concepts, something was lost: facts! The data mining of the COVID infections was cluttered with miscues. The data mined, created a bucket of “cases both asymptomatic and symptomatic”, “hospitalizations,” and “deaths.” The “cases” we have come to know are not as were assumed in the early phase of the pandemic. Not everyone with a fever, a cough or those feeling listless was infected with the virus.
Even those tested positive with the Reverse Transcriptase-Polymerase Chain Reaction or RT-PCR method were not truly infected, were based on diagnostic methodology and did not represent the actual incidence of infection. We discovered that the thermal cycle threshold used in the PCR method was the hidden arbiter determining an infection “case.” The higher the number of thermal cycles used for amplification of the RNA, the higher the degree of probability that the test would be rendered positive. In other words, a person with a non-infectious fragment of an RNA from a previous coronavirus infection could be counted positive due to the high sensitivity and low specificity based on high amplification cycles, this inherent weakness, brought into question the very accuracy of the case-count.
But what of the Deaths? Since deaths are considered the “lagging indicator” in the disease and determine the deadly virulence of the virus itself. What did that number actually represent? And this is where we lay our tale.
Excess Mortality Data
The CDC data suggested and continues to show the “Excess mortality numbers” on a weekly basis. Any spike above the mean is considered excess and suggests that the increased mortality is from the virus itself. Science again asks us to remain skeptical. So, we are going to question with rational arguments and factual data these question that hound us.
Excess mortality depends on the structure of the population demographics. The older the population, the higher the excess mortality numbers. These age structures, however, can be standardized to make valid comparisons. Based on this standardization the United States has an excess mortality of 12.9% with Expected Age-standardized Mortality 2020 (per 100,000)
of 1020, Age-standardized total excess mortality (per 100,000) of 1152 and Excess age-standardized mortality (per 100,000) of 132
What Constitutes COVID Death?
How does a physician categorize death on a death certificate? If a person has a diagnosis of terminal cancer but on the last day of their life, the organ failure from the ravages of the cancer ends their life. How would one account for that death? Is it the organ failure, such as heart failure, kidney failure or liver failure etc.? Or is it the cancer itself? Any logical mind would say the latter. But then if the physician would write Heart Failure as the cause and Cancer as the extenuating secondary causal event, would he be wrong? The answer is simple, yes! And that problem has been circulating in the medical world for a long time. Death Certificates are full of errors, as much as 51% based on the data, both by interpretation and sometime by intent.
We have over the past year seen COVID being labeled as the cause of death in car accidents, in gunshot related traumatic deaths and other organ failure maladies. Were these all COVID deaths? The answer is no. Was it contributing in nature, perhaps? But definitely not as a proximate cause. It is a fairly remarkable statement to make, yet the facts seem to agree with that assertion. Several cases in the newspaper articles account for such blatant incongruities.
We have also ascertained over the similar one-year period of time that normal causal reasons of death have decreased dramatically. The numbers of deaths related to cancer have plummeted as have heart attacks, diabetes and other chronic diseases related events. In similar vein, the number of Influenza cases have also dramatically been reduced. And in the latter case, one wonders if we are testing the RNA fragments common to other coronaviruses and calling every Influenza like illness a COVID infection? Since data exists that the SARs-CoV2 shares 96.2% homology to other coronaviruses including the bat virus and other coronaviruses such as MERS and Influenzas. A question that should keep experts researching?
The Declining Screening Measures
Non COVID deaths are taking a back seat in counting these days. There is a large price yet to pay and has been paid if we place this concept in the crucible of reality. We have unfortunately turned back the time on preventative medicine. Several studies have identified a substantial drop in health care utility in March and April as most medical offices closed or dramatically scaled back operations, and people have generally avoided interactions with the health system in the hopes of not contracting the virus. This included reductions in outpatient visits, emergency department visits, and elective surgeries like lower joint replacement. Lesser number of colonoscopies are being performed. It is a proven fact that colonoscopy examinations save lives by removing a polyp that will over time turn into cancer. Colonoscopies, declined by almost 90% at one point in mid-April 2020 compared to 2019, and as of November 2020 are still down about 10-15% compared to last year.
Similarly, mammogram and breast examinations have been reduced to a trickle. Mammograms and Pap smears were down nearly 80 % in April 2020 compared to 2019. However, both services recovered throughout the summer and fall, with Pap smears and mammograms rebounding above 2019 levels in August and November, respectively. And for males, PSA tests, which are used for prostate cancer screening, while down approximately 70% in early April, have seen a strong rebound, with delivery of PSA tests returning to 2019 levels starting in June, and reaching 25% above 2019 levels in September 2020.
What follows is that a treatable and potentially curable malignancy, with delay, will usually reveal itself as late stage incurable cancer. In fact, the legal profession prides itself in suing physicians for negligence due to delay in diagnoses. Our fear of catching a virus is leading us inexorably to the fate we dread the most. Who or what one faults is not the premise that we intend to uncover? We are merely bringing the conscience of all to bear on this potentially formidable looming tragedy.
The Actual Harm and the Science
A Lancet study from the UK reveals: “We collected data for 32 583 patients with breast cancer, 24 975 with colorectal cancer, 6744 with oesophageal cancer, and 29 305 with lung cancer. Across the three different scenarios, compared with pre-pandemic figures, we estimate a 7·9–9·6% increase in the number of deaths due to breast cancer up to year 5 after diagnosis, corresponding to between 281 (95% CI 266–295) and 344 (329–358) additional deaths. For colorectal cancer, we estimate 1445 (1392–1591) to 1563 (1534–1592) additional deaths, a 15·3–16·6% increase; for lung cancer, 1235 (1220–1254) to 1372 (1343–1401) additional deaths, a 4·8–5·3% increase; and for oesophageal cancer, 330 (324–335) to 342 (336–348) additional deaths, 5·8–6·0% increase up to 5 years after diagnosis. For these four tumour types, these data correspond with 3291–3621 additional deaths across the scenarios within 5 years. The total additional YLLs across these cancers is estimated to be 59 204–63 229 years.”
What is even more appalling is that these non–COVID-19 excess deaths are most apparent in the 25- to 44-year age group for women and 15- to 54-year age group for men as revealed in this article and here. “There are several potential reasons for this undercount,” Woolf said in a university news release. “Some of it may reflect under-reporting; it takes a while for some of these data to come in. Some cases might involve patients with COVID-19 who died from related complications, such as heart disease, and those complications may have been listed as the cause of death rather than COVID-19,” Woolf explained. “But a third possibility, the one we’re quite concerned about, is indirect mortality — deaths caused by the response to the pandemic,” he said. “People who never had the virus may have died from other causes because of the spillover effects of the pandemic, such as delayed medical care, economic hardship or emotional distress.”
Woolf further stated, “The demographic and time patterns of the non-COVID-19 excess deaths (NCEDs) point to deaths of despair rather than an undercount of COVID-19 deaths. The flow of NCEDs increased steadily from March to June and then plateaued. They were disproportionately experienced by working-age men, including men as young as 15 to 24. If deaths of despair were the only causes of death with significant net contributions to NCEDs after February, 30,000 NCEDs would represent at least a 45% increase in deaths of despair from 2018, which itself was high by historical standards.”
The fears projected onto the public by the public health policy experts and the Media may have created the greatest tragedy of our times. “Due to fears of contracting COVID-19 or taking up space in hospitals, patients experiencing a heart attack or stroke are delaying their essential care, causing a new public health crisis,” said Martha Gulati, MD, FACC, editor-in-chief of CardioSmart.org.
S.H. Jacobson and J.A. Jokela discussed Non–COVID-19 report on excess deaths by age and gender in the United States during the first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic in Public Health, 2020; 189: “At COVID-19’s peak for March and April, diabetes deaths in those five states rose 96% above the expected number of deaths when compared to the weekly averages in January and February of 2020. The five states also had spikes in deaths from heart disease (89%), Alzheimer’s disease (64%) and stroke (35%). In New York City, there was a 398% increase in heart disease deaths and a 356% increase in diabetes deaths. “
To complicate the picture, the British Medical Journal suggested, “during March, while age standardised death rates for COVID-19 show it was the third most common cause of death, ischaemic heart disease was 26% lower than the five-year average for March, and cerebrovascular and chronic lower respiratory diseases were 18% and 10% lower, respectively.”
That conclusion is emerging from new research showing deaths are increasing from causes such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes – while emergency room visits for those conditions are down. A JAMA study found huge increases in excess deaths from underlying causes such as diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease in Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania – the five states with the most COVID-19 deaths in March and April. New York City experienced the biggest jumps, including a 398% rise in heart disease deaths and a 356% increase in diabetes deaths.
In May of 2020, Bob Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, stated, “The data, based on death certificates from states, shows a spike in so-called “excess deaths” in the United States, split between confirmed COVID-19 fatalities and undiagnosed or unrelated deaths. Amid the pandemic, at least 66,081 more people in the United States have died than expected since January 1. More than 32,300 of the excess deaths have not been attributed to COVID-19. When you put it in context with the weekly deaths over the last couple of years, you see quite a remarkable jump.”
The CDC reported in late June of 2020 that in the 10 weeks after the pandemic was declared a national emergency on March 13, hospital emergency department visits declined by 23% for heart attacks, 20% for strokes and 10% for uncontrolled high blood sugar in people with diabetes.
Another JAMA study in July 2020, found approximately 781 000 total deaths in the United States from March 1 to May 30, 2020, representing 122,300 (95% prediction interval, 116,800-127,000) more deaths than would typically be expected at that time of year. There were 95 235 reported deaths officially attributed to COVID-19 from March 1 to May 30, 2020. The number of excess all-cause deaths was 28% higher than the official tally of COVID-19–reported deaths during that period.
More data from the JAMANetwork Join Point analysis revealed,in October 2020, “Of the 225,530 excess deaths, 150,541 (67%) were attributed to COVID-19. The analyses revealed an increase in deaths attributed to causes other than COVID-19, reaching statistical significance. US mortality rates for heart disease increased between weeks ending March 21 and April 11 (APC, 5.1 [95% CI, 0.2-10.2]), driven by the spring surge in COVID-19 cases. Mortality rates for Alzheimer disease/dementia increased twice, between weeks ending March 21 and April 11 (APC, 7.3 [95% CI, 2.9-11.8]) and between weeks ending June 6 and July 25 (APC, 1.5 [95% CI, 0.8-2.3]), the latter coinciding with the summer surge in sunbelt states.”
New data from a research letter showed that US deaths per month—a commonly consistent rate—increased by 20% from March-July of 2020. COVID-19 was a documented cause of death in two-thirds of these excess cases. Steven H. Woolf, MD, MPH, et.al. sought to update previous analysis which showed COVID-19 was cited in just 65% of excess deaths in March-April from this year, while non-coronavirus causes of deaths increased sharply in the 5 states reporting the most COVID-19 deaths. From March 1 – August 1, investigators observed 1,333,561 excess deaths in the US—a 20% increase over the estimated expected 1.1 million deaths (1,111,031; 95% CI, 1,110,364 – 1,111,697). Of the 225,530 estimated excess deaths, 150,541 (67%) were attributed to COVID-19. The 3 states to account for 30% of all excess deaths in this period—New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts.
In October, 2020 a StatNews article showed, “There were also differences among different age groups, with the largest increase occurring among people age 25 to 44, who saw excess deaths that were 26.5% higher than average. People 45 to 64 had 14.4% more deaths, while those 65 to 74 had 24.1% more deaths. Deaths among people 75 to 84 were 21.5% higher and 14.7% higher for people 85 and above. Deaths this year for people under 25, however, were 2% below average.”
A more recent article in January 2021 confirmed that 78% of cancers were missed due to lack of screening. Scott Atlas, MD extrapolates this to 1 million people in the U.S. to be impacted from such lack of detection.
Estimates from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and reported in the New York Times, reveal that,“40,000 extra deaths from diabetes, Alzheimer’s, high blood pressure and pneumonia. Nationwide, deaths from Alzheimer’s disease, which usually affects older adults, are 12 percent above normal this year, with several Southern states seeing larger increases. 40,000 extra deaths from diabetes, Alzheimer’s, high blood pressure and pneumonia.”
The total deaths make the virus look deadlier. But so far this year, three times as many people have died of heart ailments. “I’ve got about 1 million deaths from January to April,” said Bob Anderson, chief of the mortality-statistics branch of the National Center for Health Statistics. “About 230,000 are from heart disease. Nearly 200,000 are cancer deaths, 61,000 are chronic lower-respiratory diseases, 55,000 are accidents and 52,000 are strokes.” Recent research confirms that excess all-cause mortality was 2.4 per 10,000 individuals in the United States in April 2020 – the first full month of the pandemic – which represents about 30% more deaths than the number of COVID deaths reported in that month
Meanwhile in the United Kingdom, according to the Imperial College data, “Around 9,000 non-COVID-19 deaths in England during three months of the pandemic would not have occurred had the pandemic not happened.”
It brings us back to the question of reason and reality. Masking reality without reason lays bare the profundity of the harm that is before us. All this will be accounted for as the doctors are allowed to go back to their business of saving lives. There will be a rash of deaths that could have been prevented in the recent past and more so in the coming future, from not-screening, not diagnosing and not being able to care for. We might all rue the day when the public health policy experts did not consider the ramifications of their singular tunnel-vision focus.
As we move through 2023 and into the next election cycle, The Prickly Pear will resume Take Action recommendations and information.