“Coronavirus disease 2019: the harms of exaggerated information and non‐evidence‐based measures,” a March 19, 2020 peer-reviewed article by John Ioannidis, best-known for “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False”, cites a few issues:
- Even major peer-reviewed journals have already published wrong, sensationalist items
- Early estimates of case fatality rate may be markedly exaggerated
- Reported epidemic curves are largely affected by the change in availability of test kits and the willingness to test for the virus over time
This guy is such a contrarian that Donald Trump is not mentioned even once as a cause for American and worldwide woes!
Some of his theories:
- China data are more compatible with close contact rather than wide community spread being the main mode of transmission
- Plain hygienic measures have the strongest evidence. Frequent hand washing and staying at home and avoiding contacts when sick are probably very useful. Their routine endorsement may save many lives. Most lives saved may actually be due to reduced transmission of influenza rather than coronavirus. [How about reduced driving-related deaths? Tough to get killed in a car accident when there is nowhere to go]
- if only part of resources mobilized to implement extreme measures for COVID-19 had been invested towards enhancing influenza vaccination uptake, tens of thousands of influenza deaths might have been averted. Only 1-2% of the population in China is vaccinated against influenza.
- Closure of borders may serve policies focused on limiting immigration. [He’s not a complete contrarian after all. When you’re a Bay Area Stanford-employed elite, you don’t want to stem the tide of asylum-seekers coming over the Southern Border and helping to make your fellow elites $500 billion richer each year!]
- Leading figures insist that the current situation is a once-in-a-century pandemic. … Leaving the well-known and highly lethal SARS and MERS coronaviruses aside, other coronaviruses probably have infected millions of people and have killed thousands. However, it is only this year that every single case and every single death gets red alert broadcasting in the news.
- Some fear an analogy to the 1918 influenza pandemic that killed 20-40 million people. Retrospective data from that pandemic suggest that early adoption of social distancing measures were associated with lower peak death rates. However, these data are sparse, retrospective, and pathogen-specific. Moreover, total deaths were eventually little affected by early social distancing: people just died several weeks later. Importantly, this year we are dealing with thousands, not tens of millions deaths.
Meanwhile, here in Massachusetts, the governor has ordered every “non-essential” business to close as of tomorrow at noon (marijuana retail is considered “essential” as well as “liquor stores”; people can be stoned and drunk while at home waiting for their government, alimony, and/or child support checks). We have no idea how widespread the infection is because the only people who get tested are hospital inpatients or medical personnel (i.e., the “new cases” figures out of Massachusetts are actually “people newly hospitalized and who test positive”).
One thing that seems to be too hot for any politician to handle is putting a price on human life. The FAA does this routinely in deciding whether to impose a new regulation. It was only $650,000 back in 1985 says the New York Times, with the average agency using $1-2 million and the EPA using the highest numbers. The Department of Transportation uses closer to $10 million today (2016 guidance). Heather Mac Donald in The Spectator:
Around 40,000 Americans die each year in traffic deaths. We could save not just one life but tens of thousands by lowering the speed limit to 25 miles per hour on all highways and roads. We tolerate the highway carnage because we value the time saved from driving fast more.
(One positive of coronaplague: For the first time in years, here in Massachusetts we have regularly been able to drive more than 25 miles per hour!)
Maybe right now the answer is “each additional day that a human can live, regardless of that person’s age and health status, is worth $infinite”? So we shut down society if there is any chance that any person sick with coronavirus won’t get the complete range of medical services that would have been available in December 2019? But we also have to make sure that everyone else who has a different medical issue also gets the complete range of services that would have been available in December 2019, e.g., a second liver transplant for an IV drug user, $2 million in cancer therapy for an imprisoned felon, weeks in the ICU billed to Medicare for a 95-year-old, etc. Therefore, if human life is truly priceless, we have to shut down whenever 10% of the hospital beds are occupied by coronavirus patients?