COVID-19 half-time scores coming in

If humans and SARS-CoV-2 need to co-evolve, as my medical school professor friends said back in March 2020 when heaping scorn on lockdowns, school closures, and mask orders, we might be at half-time here, three years in.

The Swedish MD/PhDs agreed with the professors and, consequently, set up the country’s Give-the-Finger-to-the-Virus policy. At the time (Feb/March 2020), they said that their goal was to have the same death rate, by the time the dust settled in 2022, as other continental European nations. Did they succeed?

Our World in Data offers a cumulative deaths, compared to projections, statistic for the entire period of coronapanic (almost 3 years). This will capture COVID-19 deaths and also near-term deaths that were caused by lockdown, e.g., deaths from extra alcohol and drug abuse, from deferred medical care and screening tests, etc. It won’t capture the likely premature deaths of those of today’s children who lost 12-18 months of education, the expected premature deaths of those who were unemployed for a long period, the expected premature deaths of those who gained weight during the lockdowns, etc.

What do we see against the comparison group that the Swedes set up prior to the experiment being run? Sweden suffered 5 percent more deaths than expected during the three-year period. Austria had lockdowns, mask orders, and forced vaccination. They’re at 9 percent. Slovakia and Czech Republic were celebrated for their early and eager adoptions of forced masking. They’re at 19 percent and 9 percent. Germany, which won all kinds of praise for doing everything in a German manner? 5 percent. Infinitely rich neighboring Norway? 4 percent. K-12 education PISA test champion neighbor Finland? 5 percent.

How about the comparison group that the NYT set up? Ireland (5%), UK (10%), France (6%).

What about looking at some countries that weren’t part of the original experiment but might yet be interesting? Peru, which brought out the police and military to enforce lockdowns and masks… 41 percent. Spain, where you had to borrow the neighbor’s dog if you wanted to legally walk out of your apartment? 11 percent. Greece, which was celebrated for its Science-informed response to COVID-19? 11 percent. (“they approached this initial crisis in an exemplary manner. We should all consider following their lead of consistent messaging, evidence-based evaluation, and adherence to the scientific method.”; or give the finger to the virus and experience fewer than half as many excess deaths?) How about the U.S., where just over half of us were clean and tidy Followers of Science and where, for 2/3rds of the covered period, we have enjoyed the best and most competent Science-following government? After spending $20 trillion(?) and cowering in place for 1-2 years (in the states and cities that followed Science)…. we’re at 14 percent.

Caveat: these data are not age-adjusted, which is critical to do with a virus that targets the elderly (see this ranking of U.S. states for how much the needle can move, e.g., for a younger-than-average state such as California). The median age in Ireland is 5 years younger than Spain’s, with Sweden’s median age falling in the middle.

22 thoughts on “COVID-19 half-time scores coming in

  1. Thanks for the followup (and for the caveat). It will be interesting to see what happens now in China for the next year, given their Zero COVID abandonment and their population’s lack of co-evolvement with SARS-CoV-2. Of course, I wonder if the data that comes out can be trusted.

  2. That looks like a list directly correlated with the share of right-wing idiots in each country. Socialist countries = lower excess deaths. The outlier of Peru = a similar-to-the-US attempt by the (left) outgoing president to dissolve the government and install himself as eternal king. Not sure what to make of that one but it didn’t take too long to arrest the dude.

    I’m not so loyal to right-wing media leaders like Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, or “Dr” Phil that I am willing to listen to the anti-vaccine and mask drivel in order to facilitate my early death.

  3. I wonder if there’s a way to adjust these statistics for overall initial health, in addition to (or instead of) age? I have spend significant time in Sweden, and my recollection was that obesity (another major risk factor for COVID) wasn’t nearly as common there as it is in the US.

  4. Phil should be commended for his dogged pursuit of the truth on Covid along with a few others like Dr. Jay Bhattacharya. My guess is that future generations will look upon the world’s Covid response like other instances of mass insanity, for example, witch trials, the children’s crusade, Nazism and Communism, mass gender dysphoria.

    • Yep, the initial response was all jacked up: Here comes a pandemic, we don’t yet know the fatality and transmission rates, half of a church choir died from it in its first days on American soil, seems pretty freaking scary, so what should we do? Republicans: “NOTHING!”

      God help us all.

    • Dr. Jay and the Swedes said “here comes a pandemic so let’s do what the WHO book on pandemics, developed by hundreds of MD/PhDs over 50 years, says to do.”

    • Ricky: thanks for the kind words, but I can’t put myself into the same category as Dr. Jay. My friends who are tenured medical school professors said that it would have been career suicide (never get another grant) to publicly disagree with Fauci or the CDC. Dr. Jay made a big sacrifice. (Why he didn’t move to Florida I don’t know!)

  5. I’m astounded that France is so close to the best performing group (unless there are some lower than 4-5% excess death rate performers somewhere) at 6%. It seemed to me compliance was good for the first lockdown. Then it all went downhill to compliance theater.

    Can’t wait for someone with more ability and time than me to age-adjust!

    • Spain was more enthusiastic and compliant about lockdowns and masks than France. You had to borrow or rent a neighbor’s dog if you wanted to walk out of your apartment without being detained by the police. Yet they have suffered 11% excess deaths, far worse than France or Sweden. I don’t know if a high prevalence of Trump supporters in Spain can be used for a retroactive explanation. Certainly at the time that they imposed these orders on their peasants, the Followers of Science said that the high compliance would ensure minimal deaths.

  6. While I admire the Swedish way of handling covid I think we should not lionize them. I have friends in Sweden and they tell that their government actually serendipitously stumbled into this laissez-faire policy. Actually a part of the coalition wanted the same lockdowns as everywhere else, just that they have a consensus-based decision-making culture, they could not agree, and time passed. By then the epidemiologists told the government that lockdowns would not make any difference any more because the virus had probably already spread everywhere in the population. The procrastination absolved the government from making a decision. (I’m often accused of being lazy and I keep saying that laziness has its beneficial side.)

    After the first wave (March-May/June 2020) when it seemed it was over and time for conclusions, the Swedes said that they could have had an even lower death rate if they had screened the workers in old people’s homes better and if they had imposed some specific rules for those homes. They blamed communication failures and immigrants because allegedly the majority of workers there didn’t have an adequante command of the Swedish language, but I think it is lame to blame the deaths in old people’s homes on immigrants. If all nurses there had been perfect Aryans no one would have died, I’m sure. After N additional waves it mattered less, because the mortality in other age groups levelled out.

    Obviously there was/is a difference between the way the Swedes handled covid and the rest. But we should not blow it out of proportion either. Yes, there was no official, de jure lockdown, no official mask mandates, schools probably were not closed. But we should not overlook that there was a not insignificant part of the population that locked itself down. My friends there worked from home even longer than I, who live in Continental Europe (subject to mask mandates and all absurdities about how far I was allowed to leave home, until what hour, and in groups of how many, and if the waiter at my street corner’s bar was allowed to serve me coffee if I was standing or only if I sat). A 66 year old former Professor of mine in Sweden became grandfather. For a time his daughter came with the baby in front of his house and they waved to each-other and she showed him his grandchild from afar. An urologist cousin in Stockholm told me the hospital “did only covid”. They deprioritized everything else (with reason or not). The wife of of my best-man was diagnosed with a quite advanced cancer in June 2021. In normal times it is likely that the disease would have been detected sooner. Friends told me that, when going out with friends, they had to sit at kerosen lamp-heated tables outdoors (in Scandinavian winter/spring) because some of their friends were too afraid to sit indoors. (But they could go out!) So my impression is that the overall picture is grayer, it wasn’t really business as usual. I don’t mean to throw mud on their policy. Psychologically it was miles from the system here in France and I bear the deepest grudge and hold the French government in deepest contempt for the way they treated mature people.

    • But you are not subscribing to the standard right-wing echo chamber adulation of Sweden (see Musk tweet today now that he is fully ensconced)!

      Be like Sweden by doing nothing about a pandemic that will kill 2% of adults over 55 years old, but don’t be like them in any other way: gun laws, gov healthcare, parental leave, etc. … you know, all of the quality of life enhancements.

    • @Mike, I don’t know if it’s 2% of people over 55. According to it is 0.2075% of the entire population of Sweden. According to this link 32.6% of Sweden’s population is over 55. If all people who died of covid in Sweden were over 55 then covid would kill 0.64% of them. But I think Phil’s point is that countries going on the lockdown path didn’t fare much better.

  7. Canada at -3% prior to COVID and at 4% post had essentially no statistically significant excess deaths. These are variations typically found year to year. At 14%, US numbers are significant! Why the difference?. Is it because we didn’t have easily available testing for the longest time in Canada? Why the difference? I spent much of the worst part of Canadian lockdowns in Florida soaking up the sun, unmasked. The lockdowns were serious shite, at home in Canada! People were terrified, and, other than politicians and immigrants from repressive regimes, followed the rules and cowered in their homes.

    • Canada does not have the percentage of right-wingers who scoff at any attempt for experts (“ew gross”) to help them save themselves.

    • Jan: Although Canada’s excess death rate was almost the same as no-lockdown no-mask Sweden’s, to the extent that it was lower than the US rate you could call it a success for police state power. It would be good to have a similar table for US states. Then we could see if the lockdown states achieved anything by exercising what powers they chose to use. The age-adjusted Covid-tagged death rate in CA vs FL does not suggest that Californians accomplished their goals. But maybe there is salvation hidden in the excess deaths numbers.

    • Weird replying to myself, but here goes: When SARS COV 1 came around, Toronto Canada had the biggest numbers next to China. I am wondering if we in Canada had exposure in 2003 and that part of the most vulnerable population just had immunity. Again, we did not test. Rapid tests were banned in Canada until late last year! talk about police state.

  8. The most interesting thing about the whole pandemic has been the US government, the CDC and the WHO denying/downplaying the role of airborne transmission of Covid.

    The White House finally admitted this in March 2022, two years after the pandemic started:

    Astounding how long this took, given all the evidence from other Corona viruses, SARS-CoV-1 experience in 2003, the Covid-19 early cases in Hong Kong, and the Skagit choir practice. I don’t think these people read or apply any basic engineering principles to the evidence.

    Linsey Marr and Dr Corsi from UC Davis have spoken on this topic repeatedly throughout the pandemic. Recommended.

Comments are closed.