2020 death rate? It’s as bad as … 2008.

The statement

“The ONS (Office for National Statistics, AD) provides age standardised mortality rates per 100 000 back to 1942, which take account of changes in the age structure of the population. These show huge improvements in death rates since the second world war, with age standardised mortality rates more than halving between 1942 and 2019 (fig 4). But last year bucked the almost straight downward trend to record the highest death rate since 2008 and the highest year-on-year increase since 1943 (fig 5).

The source

John Appleby, The British Medical Journal’s Director of Research and Chief Economist ( https://www.bmj.com/content/bmj/373/bmj.n896.full.pdf )

My take on it

To be clear, these figures are for England and Wales.

But the point is, Do they surprise you?

The advent of Covid-19 last year was accompanied by what I would call the greatest orchestrated fear campaign in the history of the world.

These statistics suggest that the hysteria was just a tad out of proportion.

What else?

I was struck by the opening statement in the article; and by what followed:

“The covid-19 pandemic caused huge loss of life last year. The attribution of deaths to covid-19 will have
changed within countries over the course of the pandemic, partly as a result of changes in testing and
under-recording of covid-19 as a cause early on in the pandemic; there is also variation between countries
because of differences in the practice of recording deaths.”

.We are shown a graph of annual deaths with a spike in it; and that spike is attributed to Covid-19.

There are other plausible theories, and other pieces to the puzzle. One is that policy intervention, including Lockdown, has caused more deaths than the virus itself. Another is that a specific virus has yet to be confirmed as causative for the relevant disease. (See Koch’s Postulates .) A third is that attribution has dogged this situation from the beginning. The article refers to ‘under-recording’; whereas my reading would suggest that the opposite has applied, in some cases flagrantly.

“The PCR test cannot be used to diagnose anything.”

The statement

”Then the PCR test came out, and became the Gold Standard for diagnosing Covid-19.  Now anyone who has studied infectious diseases knows that the PCR test cannot be used to diagnose anything.  A PCR test is a lab test that may be used to support a diagnosis.  So if you think someone is ill, has fever, is coughing, and is short of breath, then it’s quite legitimate to do a PCR test to try to find the gene of that virus that you are looking for; and if you find it – or parts of the gene, because the PCR test only looks at parts of the virus genome, very small parts – then it’s OK.  Then you say, ‘Alright, this would confirm the clinical diagnosis.’  But a real doctor doesn’t go around testing people with a test that has never been put on the market for use to diagnose a disease.

There’s something fishy going on.  The way of diagnosing this disease Covid-19 is at variance with everything that anyone learns in infectious diseases.  You are using a lab test to abase a very serious diagnosis. All right? 

…..   it’s criminal to say that these are Covid-19 cases.”

The source:

Prof. Sucharit Bhakdi, former head of the Institute of Medical Microbiology and Hygiene at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (Germany); and co-author of Corona, False Alarm?: Facts and Figures.  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnpnBYgGARE )

My take on it:

At the core of the malfeasance around Covid-19 lies a faulty KPI:  ‘cases’.

The number of ‘cases’ relies in turn on a faulty diagnostic test:  the PCR test.

We are driving ourselves down the wrong road, and over the cliff.  To quote Professor Gigi Foster, “We have stabbed our economy in the belly.”

What is our objective in all this?  What are we trying to achieve?

If we are trying to save lives, then Deaths is a relevant parameter.

Deaths from all causes is a fairly safe statistic.*

If we are focusing in on fatalities caused by Covid-19, the statistics need careful attention:

  • is it proven that Covid-19 is present?  (If a primary diagnosis has been made based on the presenting symptoms, then the PCR test provides some secondary support;  I ignore for now the false positives and other limitations of such testing, or the failure thus far to validate the virus itself via Koch’s Postulates;)
  • is it clear that Covid-19 was causative, rather than just associative?  Was Covid-19 the only or primary cause of death, or were co-morbidities present? (this is the attribution issue;)
  • if co-morbidities were present, are these reflected appropriately in the death certificate?  (The evidence suggests that in deaths attributed to Covid-19, multiple co-morbidities are the norm; but do the death certificates reflect that?)
  • in some domains there are reported to be financial incentives to classify patients as Covid-19-affected (and to use respirators);
  • health regulations may encourage specific attribution of sickness or death to Covid-19 ‘if in doubt’.

One way to reduce these real or suspected influences is to elevate the analysis to a higher classification of disease, eg ‘All respiratory illnesses’.   If Covid-19 really was so impactful, we would expect it to show up as an incremental influence.

*Some months ago, and for precisely this reason, Dr Andrew Kaufman examined the CDC data on all-cause mortality in the United States, year to date, and compared it with the two preceding years.  He reported a 2% drop for the current year.

This week brought an update to that exercise, worthy of a separate post:

“If you examine the actual deaths in the USA during 2020 as compared to
previous years, you’ll notice something interesting. In 2018, there were
2,839,000 deaths. In 2019, there were 2,855,000 deaths. And through
November 22, 2020 there have been 2,533,214 deaths. If we extrapolate
the deaths at year’s end, we get 2,818,000 deaths in the USA, which
is 37K fewer deaths than last year!” 

The bogeyman that was used to kick this whole thing off, is revealed for what it always was.

But the policy response will only change when the KPI does.

The advent of Covid-19 did not require a new definition of ‘case’.  It is already established medical practice, as set out by eg the CDC:

Before counting cases, the epidemiologist must decide what to count, that
is, what to call a case. For that, the epidemiologist uses a case definition.
A case definition is a set of standard criteria for classifying whether a
person has a particular disease, syndrome, or other health condition.  

A case is about “classifying whether a person has a particular disease, syndrome, or other health condition.”  A syndrome is a set of symptoms.

That classification first happens professionally when an individual becomes sufficiently ill to seek medical attention.  That is when the primary statistic is generated, whether by the local doctor or by the outpatient clinic of a hospital.

The identification of some genetic material in somebody’s body fluids does not meet the definition of a case.  It fails the test of medical best practice.

(And No, I am not a doctor.)