Skepticism about science and medicine

In search of disinterested science

Continuing CoVID19 uncertainties

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2020/07/14

I found this recent review by Dr. Jane Orient very helpful.

She happens to be wrong in accepting the conventional story about HIV/AIDS, but that does not detract from her ironic comparison of Fauci’s response to AIDS and to CoVID19.

Estimates made by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention at the end of April indicate that the morbidity and mortality are comparable to the 2009 H1N1 flu season.


  Age range CoVID19
(to end April 2020) *
H1N1 2019
New York City **
Symptomatic case fatality rate      
  0-49 0.0005  
  0-17   0.0008-0.0012
  18-64 0.0081-0.0132
  50-64 0.002  
  65+ 0.013 0.0094-0.0147
  all 0.004 0.0054-0.0086
Symptomatic case hospitalization rate      
  0-49 0.017  
  0-17   0.098-0.151
  18-64 0.076-0.124
  50-64 0.045  
  65+ 0.074 0.079-0.124
  all 0.034 0.084-0.134
% asymptomatic infections   35%  
asymptomatic vs. symptomatic infectiousness   100%  

*, “best estimate”



I still do not understand many aspects of this pandemic well enough to try to convince others. Some uncertainties will remain intractable until there are reliable data, comparable from different sources, about at least
— What is being tested? what tests are being used? are they comparable across countries? How specific and how precise?
— Rates of infection
— Ratio of hospitalizations to infections
— Actual causes of death of what are being labeled “CoVID19” deaths. Orient’s quote about Medicare reimbursements is rather frightening, suggests hospitals would call every death they conceivably could as “CoVID19”

The uncertainties are underscored by the remarkable experience of Joseph Fair, who had all the apparent symptoms, was very ill for some time; but on 5 tests 4 were negative and one “weakly positive”; and he is negative on antibody tests:

With all that, it does seem clear that USA and UK did not shut down early enough nor sufficiently enough.

Not being discussed, but surely needed:

“Bad” “flu” seasons seem to harm as many people as this “pandemic” does; but most of the harm is not owing to actual influenzas but to what the CDC calls “influenza-like illnesses”. It would be nice to know more precisely what goes on and what — if anything — might be worth doing on both personal and society-wide levels; particularly as the “flu shots” are only minimally effective:


CoVID19 Conspiracy theories are rampant.

I reject them for two quite general reasons:

  1. They suffer from the same fallacy that pervades so much popular as well as academic discourse about social matters, namely, attributing intentionality to the interactions of human characteristics and social forces: ambition, arrogance, dogmatism, greed, ideology; silly laws, bureaucracy, etc. etc.
    Not to mention insufficient technical understanding of viruses and human immune systems.
  2. Malice is much less common than incompetence

5 Responses to “Continuing CoVID19 uncertainties”

  1. Stefan said

    Hi Henry, there is a highly interesting non-parliamentary examination actually going on in German here:


  2. The notion that mortality from COVID-19 is comparable to typical Flu is not unreasonable, but it begs the question about immunization. Obviously zero people are immunized against the Novel Coronavirus, vs. probably a good fraction of the populace being immunized against Flu (per season). So in the case of the coronavirus, plausibly the entire population would soon be infected, absent the current pandemic distancing measures. This would then result in many, many more deaths than have been observed in past flu seasons.

    This assumes that flu shots are at least somewhat effective in preventing the spread of flu, and I note your skepticism about that.

    Regarding your skepticism about the numbers being trumpeted by the media, or reported by hospitals: I can certainly see the numbers being inflated by bureaucratic motivations, however it does seem “real” that the numbers of sick people and rate of deaths is much higher than before the pandemic arrived here. It appears to me there is a real danger.


    • retroformat:
      I don’t dispute that there is a real danger, the question is, to whom and how great compared to “normal” flu season.
      The most informative data may be about “excess deaths”, deaths more than in an average year in the same month or week of the year.
      The ECONOMIST offers such data at; at least for Europe, the age-dependence of deaths is similar to the usual “flu” season, >65 perhaps nearly 10 times that for <65.
      The CDC also offers data, at, where it seems that the CoVID19 “season” is certainly worse than the bad 2018 “flu”, but not out-of-this-world worse.
      The media amplify rather than analyze. In an earlier post (Never again say “just the flu”,
      I cited a piece from 2018 about hospitals overwhelmed, etc., just like now, but it didn’t pervade ALL the media in the sae way as CoVID19 has.

      It seems that excess deaths attributed to CoVID19 vary quite a bit by region: , indicating that how a region responded made quite a discernible difference.
      What the media do seem to be getting right is that Europe has weathered the outbreak better than the USA in terms of re-opening, especially schools.


  3. Thanks so much for including the Dr Jane Orient article. I had been wondering how she was doing and was relieved to see she is still in the thick of things.


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