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Projection and misinterpretation October 26, 2020

Posted by guestposter in Uncategorized.
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Got to ask, in what other media outlet would someone who had offered an analysis that was flawed from the off – that is saying that Covid-19 was less bad than influenza – be given not just one but two opportunities to air their views. Why none other than that Irish middleclass and liberal bastion, the Irish Times!


For Dr. Martin Feeley, once of the HSE, is back. And this time projecting much, one suspects. For example…

Media commentary also serves to promote and perpetuate the scaremongering with continued newscast leading with daily case numbers. The vast majority of whom are totally unaffected by the viral presence and the only consequence of which is a positive; i.e., immunity for them and added safety for their at-risk relatives and friends. The two principle scare tactic weapons are “Cases” and “Mortality”.

Two points. He cannot state that ‘added safety’ is correct in regard of at-risk relatives and friends since the disease must work its way through those people safely and not be spread to those who are at-risk. As for immunity – we do not know, he cannot state, that immunity is long-lasting. Therefore it makes sense to err on the side of caution in that regard. And finally in this particular context, he makes no mention of serious non-lethal effects and impacts of Covid-19 which do affect younger cohorts of people. This from the Atlantic:

For men in their 30s, like me, about 1.2 percent of COVID-19 infections result in hospitalization, according to a July study published in Science. Once the disease has progressed to this point, the risk of chronic illness soars. Research from Italy found that roughly nine in 10 hospitalized patients said they still had symptoms after two months. A British study reported a similar risk of long-term illness.

Secondly, who is ‘scared’ as distinct from careful? I’ve spoken to not one person who I could characterise as scared or panic-stricken since the early days of the first lock-down. Resigned I think would be a better characterisation, but the sub-editors at the IT are certainly having a field day…

We must de-terrorise a nation which is scared close to panic

There’s no evidence at all for that assertion. The polling data from the SBP/RedC doesn’t indicate any such attitude. So why is it published as if it were fact?

Sadly Dr. Feeley’s propensity to understate the nature of virulence of Covid-19 continues apace. For example he states ‘In early March there were predictions of Covid-19 deaths in excess of 80,000 for the Republic of Ireland.’ But this prediction was about the situation in the event of no control measures. Hence a lockdown.

He references the following which has been questioned very critically by many including people whose work is referenced within it (as noted here):

The World Health Organization Bulletin on October 15th 2020 published a report by the highly respected Stanford research expert Dr J Ioannidis which reports an overall Case Fatality Rate of 0.27 per cent. This is based on antibody studies from around the world.

He states…

Finally, there is one significant implication the present strategy which is in the “Appalling Vista” category. Apologies for going back to 2017-18 ‘flu season but, the HSE published (December 2018) the recorded data which showed a mortality (CFR) of 2.14 per cent; that is almost 10-fold higher than for Covid-19. Undoubtedly, this is an overestimate but there was a vaccine.

Indeed there was. But parse those numbers. In 2017/18 (you can read the HPSC outline here) the HPSC noted:

During the 2017/2018 influenza season,of the11,889 influenza cases notified,255(2%)cases were reported as having died, the highest number of influenza deaths recorded in any season(table 6).

In the space of time since late March we’ve had 57,000 confirmed cases and 1,882 deaths. That last is 3.3% of 57,000. I am unable to quite understand how he works out that the mortality rate for Covid-19 is 10-fold lower than flu. Indeed the HPSC stated earlier this month that the CFR for Covid-19 is 4.33% (and globally it is around 2.7%). In general terms the CFR for influenza is about 0.1%. There’s good work BTL by some in parsing out why his numbers are incorrect. But in a way none of us reading this should read anything where something is difficult to understand. The IT itself should be considering them and very very closely in order to ensure no misinformation is put out.

There’s odd asides too…

So, the question is this; whenever there is influenza with a similar virulence to 2017-18 (every 5-10 years) or very severe (every 40-50 years) are we going to lock down the country for 6 months including schools as the children will be chief vectors?

But the thing is – schools aren’t locked down this time. So why mention it?


What is truly bizarre is this. Dr. Feeley must be aware that WHO, who he quotes when he wants to, and national governments and health authorities and experts planet-wide overwhelmingly agree that the virus is dangerous, significantly more lethal than influenza and are acting accordingly. It’s baffling why he ignores all this or feels it incumbent upon himself to minimize the seriousness of it. Nor does he appear troubled by the transmissability of the virus, or the exponential nature of its spread and the implications of same for the health service and the wider society in a context of looser controls. And he ignores completely the impact on younger people or the experience internationally at the moment.

Comments»

1. An Sionnach Fionn - October 26, 2020

Listening last week in work it seems that Newstalk has given over it’s entire breakfast show to lockdown-scepticism behind a veneer of parity of opinions. Which is just false equivalency. What follows throughout the day is not much better.

No wonder that conspiracy theories are flourishing on social media when the mainstream media is watering the ground for them.

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - October 26, 2020

Very much so. What’s amazing is – to judge from the RedC poll, just how the media is adrift of public opinion. I’m trying to puzzle this one out. Do journalists genuinely think they’re immune, I mean most of those writing this stuff, Leahy, Collins, etc aren’t exactly spring chickens. Ok Leahy is what, 48 or so?

Liked by 1 person

An Sionnach Fionn - October 26, 2020

The benefits of having a second home on the west coast or having the au pair or housekeeper do the grocery shopping for you. Or doing most of your work from home. It allows you the luxury of allowing others to suffer on your behalf. As the proverb goes, it’s easy to sleep on another man’s wounds.

Liked by 1 person

Gearóid Clár - October 26, 2020

it’s easy to sleep on another man’s wounds.

You’ve given this proverb its best application for the 21st century. I’m going to have to steal it.

Liked by 2 people

WorldbyStorm - October 26, 2020

So true. This is a class issue placed on top of a health issue.

Liked by 2 people

WorldbyStorm - October 26, 2020

+1 GC.

I’m just thinking to add to your thoughts ASF if one doesn’t use public transport, drives to work by car, perhaps everything seems normal. But if one does use public transport or even like myself cycles you get pretty mcuh in your face just how weird it all is.

Liked by 1 person

2. dublinstick - October 26, 2020

I think it’s a good article in outlining a possible mortality rate, this was thought to be at least 3% at the beginning so we do need people recalibrate but, and it’s a big one, his ignoring long Covid indicates he is pushing an agenda. Still if the vaccines aren’t the end of this I think come Spring the ‘let it go’ agenda will win out. It’s just not possible to maintain the current situation long term and also an increase in infections may promote the weakening of the virus.

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An Sionnach Fionn - October 26, 2020

An increase in infections can only promote the “weakening” of the virus by eliminating those most vulnerable to the virus. Given the long term effects of Covid-19 and the deep uncertainty about even medium term immunity for the vast majority who survive infection questions abound on just how you “live” with the virus. There is a very strong presumption that the “long Covid”, with short term immunity, will benefit the virus by lining up the next line of transmission and fatality among its sufferers.

Liked by 1 person

dublinstick - October 26, 2020

I’m talking about the virus mutating to a milder form, in the end that maybe our saving grace as with other viruses, we can’t hide from this thing for ever. Personally I would support a zero Covid approach but our betters have dismissed this unlike the Chinese leaders of their more humane society.

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WorldbyStorm - October 26, 2020

It would be great if that does happen, agreed. But reports like this suggest it’s not something we can count on and fwiw my sense is that C-19 aapears pretty stable. Fingers crossed though.

https://www.webmd.com/lung/news/20200603/claims-of-a-weaker-covid-19-virus-disputed

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dublinstick - October 26, 2020

I’ve got a feeling it’s already happening (sounding like Trump there), there has been various reports of such and certainly there seems to be something going on with the second wave and mortality. Seeing as there is no immunity in most of the population, there is 100s of millions of host in which a mutation could occur. Bit of blue sky hopeful thinking here but maybe a weaker strain appears at its spread can then be promoted if, and it might be a big if, it promotes immunity. I think that the end of this situation probably comes about by some out of left field natural development rather than the attempts of man.

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WorldbyStorm - October 26, 2020

I wonder if lower mortality is a function broadly of more vulnerable people keeping the head down in a context of massively increased restrictions as against the period prior to the first lockdown where the virus spread without constraints? Younger cohorts tho are showing signs of developing severe side effects as more of them are infected.

The thing is this isn’t as we know rocket science in terms of having a reasonable level of confidence when precautions are taken. Certainly not a cause for panic or anxiety but calm consideration of actual risks and how to prevent them. Drives me mad to hear the panic line.

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An Sionnach Fionn - October 26, 2020

Ah, I get what you’re saying then. Yeah, maybe so. Though the experts I’ve read seem to have the fear that the virus will develop into something(s) just as virulent or worse now that it’s out in the global wild. Hopefully not. A Covid-22 is all we need 🙄

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WorldbyStorm - October 26, 2020

😦 that’s not a happy prospect

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benmadigan - October 26, 2020

the relatively few cases of re-infection among Covid-19 survivors usually occurred within a couple of months, suggesting
a) immunity was very short term or
b) re-infection was really relapse.

In any case, disease and outcomes were worse 2nd time round

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WorldbyStorm - October 26, 2020

I think it’s possible that such an attitude might win out for a period of time but I’m sceptical if such an approach was given its head that it would last very long.

There’s only 14,000 hospital beds in this state and perhaps 500-600 ICU/critical care beds. If the virus spread at ten times the rate it did in May you’d have a quarter of a million cases, perhaps 950 deaths of 65yo. You’d have 29,000 hospital admissions. That’s double the number of hospital beds. There’d be slightly less than 4,000 ICU/critical care admissions. Even assuming the weight of this was borne by those who are older there’s 637,000 people >65yo in the state, a lot of people who could potentially make up much of those 29,000 admissions (though of course it would be spread in all age cohorts). I cannot see how a let it go scenario could possibly accommodate those figures. There’d be no other health services bar Covid-19 related ones and then the services would collapse under the weight of numbers. That quarter of a million cases would encompass younger people with long tail syndromes plus lengthy times of illness and recovery.The economy itself would crumble and likely collapse due to no-one with any rational sense going outside their front door in such an environment. And of course it wouldn’t end there because the numbers would keep on increasing. To hope for a sign the virus was weakening given there’s no sign despite considerable spread in various parts of any such phenomenon would be a massive leap in the dark.

That unfortunately is the material reality of the virus and the reason no state anywhere has gone for ‘let it rip’. To go for that approach would constitute the single greatest breach of trust with Irish citizens in the history of this state. I suspect that long before we reached those points we’d have the public forcing the state right back into a lockdown again.

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - October 26, 2020

BTW, I don’t dispute DS that the let it rip/run scenario may gain some speed, someone put it to me today that if M Martin is deposed some of the more populist figures behind him may go reopen at all costs. But I do think there are huge constraints on what is achievable that propoents of that line aren’t facing up to in the slightest. It’s the old Robert Heinlein line really, something I think more on the left could use even if he was terrible reactionary at times, there ain’t no such think as a free lunch. Everything, every choice we make has costs hidden or overt. Zero-covid or as close to as possible has massive costs in terms of the sheer effort to get there. Let it rip has massive costs that I think would see the society balk at once they became clear. Also I do agree successive lockdowns, partial reopenings is no real solution either. And if there’s no vaccine at all… 😦

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benmadigan - October 26, 2020

“And if there’s no vaccine at all…?’
Then we have to hope suitable therapy/treatment will be developed as well as effective prevention strategies

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WorldbyStorm - October 26, 2020

Yeah, retroviral treatments isn’t that it?

Liked by 1 person

3. CL - October 26, 2020

-Herd immunity …”doesn’t actually confer immunity to the virus itself — it only reduces the risk that vulnerable people will come into contact with the pathogen.”-
https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02948-4

“The White House has embraced a declaration by a group of scientists arguing that authorities should allow the coronavirus to spread among young healthy people while protecting the elderly and the vulnerable — an approach that would rely on arriving at “herd immunity” through infections rather than a vaccine.”
https://news.yahoo.com/white-house-embraces-declaration-scientists-121853918.html

“We’re rounding the turn,” Trump said even as 12 states set new case records over the last week. “We’re doing great, our numbers are incredible.”
The U.S. reported more than 83,000 new confirmed cases on Friday, shattering the previous record of more than 77,000 cases in July, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The surge has led to more than 8.4 million cases and pushed the death toll to more than 223,000 people.”
Trump railed against media coverage of the coronavirus pandemic: “That’s all I hear about now. Turn on the TV, ‘Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid.”
https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2020/10/24/2020-election-updates-trump-votes-himself-florida/6021545002/

‘Refusal to follow Asian model makes zero sense’-Colm McCarthy
https://www.independent.ie/opinion

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - October 26, 2020

Again it is weird that the example of China isn’t looked at. The broader Asian model makes good sense. Sometimes it feels that those who are ‘let it rip’ or even lockdowns/reopenings forever just are strangely comfortable with the virus existing.

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CL - October 27, 2020

Colm McCarthy I suppose shows that one can be a conservative and not always be blinded by crackpot ideology.

Unlike many others.

“From the outset of the crisis, numerous conservative intellectuals waved off the pandemic as overblown. Various oddball home-brew epidemiological theories circulated to justify this impulse. The esteemed right-wing law professor Richard Epstein estimated no more than 500 Americans would die, a figure embraced by administration officials. After fitful gestures toward following the advice of his public-health officials, Trump eventually sidelined them and put his pandemic response in the hands of Scott Atlas, another conservative movement apparatchik with no expertise in epidemiology. It is a grim historic joke that Atlas, like Epstein, is a fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution….
The right-wing denialist impulse grew out of a combination of embedded distrust for expertise — the most prominent virus deniers were also professional climate-science deniers — and an almost religious faith in the free market….

Requiring masks….implies an unacceptable need for collective action….

If Trump’s polling deficit holds, his party will blame his erratic and undisciplined personal behavior. And that did play a large role in creating his deficit. But it is also true that Trump had the chance to revive his campaign by seizing hold of the chance to use the powers of the presidency to advance the public good. Instead, he sacrificed himself on the Hooverite altar of laissez-faire.”
https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/10/donald-trump-lose-election-coronavirus-control-pandemic-masks-atlas.html

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - October 27, 2020

+1

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4. Joe - October 26, 2020

“Dr. Martin Feeley, once of the HSE”

I’d be pretty sure he’s still of the HSE in his medical doctor role – that is, still in receipt of a decent salary, most likely topped up by a lot of private practice money. He stepped down from a particular role, that of Clinical Director in a Hospital Group if I’m not mistaken. But I’d be pretty sure he’s still in receipt of a big salary from the public purse via the HSE.

Liked by 2 people

6to5against - October 27, 2020

Yep, that’s my impression too. The story that he was driven from his job adds a lot of weight to the idea that opposition to lockdown is taboo, and that those opposing it are being oppressed and silenced.
Whereas in reality, it looks like he stepped down or was removed from a committee because he was very much at odds with the membership of that committee, all of whom are more or less equally qualified.

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