- The most effective way of managing the Coronavirus is apparent from observing the mortality data of the virus.
- This is to have only a small segment of society self-isolate.
The media has given an enormous amount of coverage of the Coronavirus. However, they have tended to cover the virus in a very sensational and, therefore, non-analytical way.
The US government, along with other international governments, have done very little to apply statistics and epidemiology expertise to craft a policy response to the Coronavirus.
Previous Video at (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C1cK5B1j4)
Curiously, the video that was published and viewable when this article was first published is no longer available.
Lockdowns have been a primary tactic for addressing Coronavirus. This has caused economic damage and conflict in nearly all countries.
See our references for this article and related articles at this link.
To Lockdown or Not Lockdown?
The presumption of the lockdown decision appears to be that all people have a roughly equal likelihood of dying from the Coronavirus. The question is presented as either locking down and reducing Coronavirus deaths, and not locking down, and increasing Coronavirus deaths. There is little nuance in these two options, and due to a lack of specificity based upon the epidemiology of the virus, the lockdown/no lockdown option, as presented, is a false choice between two undesirable courses of action.
Let us get into the data on the mortality of the Coronavirus to see what it tells us.
The Coronavirus Mortality by Age
The following table is from World O Meters, which has become the global goto site for Coronavirus statistics.
Notice the dramatically increasing mortality by age.
If we look at people in the 70 to 79-year-old category, they have mortality from Coronavirus that is 40 times higher than someone in the 30 to 39-year-old category. People above 80 have a mortality rate that is 74 times higher than those in the 30 to 39-year-old category.
This tells us that the vast majority of deaths from Coronavirus have been the aged. This tells us that many, if not perhaps, most of the people dying from Coronavirus are really just having their deaths pulled forward a few years.
Major Media Outlets Prefer Anectodes Over Statistical Analysis
Major media outlets have largely argued against this analysis, but pointing to anecdotes of people who are young and “perfectly healthy” who have died.
- First, the anecdotes do not tell us the overall trend or larger pattern.
- Second, as the victims who were declared as perfectly healthy were not given a full medical exam before falling ill, we don’t really know what underlying issues they had that were unpublished.
Here is another presentation of the data in a different way and from a later date.
It is a simple matter to add 228,135, 283,801, and 360,298 and divide this sum by the total of 1,160,656 and realize that 75% of all Coronavirus deaths come from these three top age cohorts.
This table shows that the significant death percentage is all in the 65 and older cohort.
This is a virus that is lethal to the old and, to a far smaller degree, those with health issues.
Media entities have preferred to focus on the lethality of the virus to blacks. However, this discrepancy is nearly invisible compared to the lethality differential by age. But, as is normally the case, most media entities prefer to carry stories around racial discrepancies, if it is the right racial discrepancy. If the death rates from Coronavirus for whites were higher than blacks — the media would simply not report it, as they are not reporting the higher death rates from Coronavirus for men versus women. If the death rate were higher for women, then men, the virus would be called sexist. But as the reverse is true, its a non-topic.
As is stated by the author of the American Council on Science and Health article.
While coronavirus is obviously concerning and a very real threat to some people (namely, the elderly and immunocompromised), these data also show that the risk for the rest of the population is quite low.
Yes, it is.
But when is someone in charge of setting the policy response to Coronavirus going to figure how to work this into that response?
And it is not just this issue.
Flattening the Curve
The logic of flattening the curve is presented in the following graphic.
A big part of the logic of locking down states is to flatten the curve. This is to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed, and they’re not being enough ventilators for those that need them.
However, the flaw in this analysis is that it is extremely rare for those who are not 65 years or above — or those with underlying health conditions to require a ventilator. Therefore, by trying to apply restrictive policies for the overall population, we are causing adjustment to the roughly 80% of the population that do not need to flatten the curve as they are not likely ever to be put on a ventilator.
The Outcome of a Near 100% Coronavirus Contraction Result on a US Aircraft Carrier
In the case study where virtually every person on the US Theodore Roosevelt contracted Coronavirus was asymptomatic.
This is explained in the following quotation.
Roughly 60 percent of the over 600 sailors who tested positive so far have not shown symptoms of COVID-19, the potentially lethal respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, the Navy says. The service did not speculate about how many might later develop symptoms or remain asymptomatic. – Reuters
That is, it is not that only 60% of the sailors tested are asymptomatic, only 60% of the crew was tested, and while testing positive, all of them were asymptomatic.
Then the following quotation illustrates that a number of senior members in the US DOD have major limitations in interpreting data.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper, speaking in a television interview on Thursday, said the number of asymptomatic cases from the carrier was “disconcerting.”
“It has revealed a new dynamic of this virus: that it can be carried by normal, healthy people who have no idea whatsoever that they are carrying it,” Esper told NBC’s “Today” morning show.
“With regard to COVID-19, we’re learning that stealth in the form of asymptomatic transmission is this adversary’s secret power,” said Rear Admiral Bruce Gillingham, surgeon general of the Navy.
That might be part of the lesson, but that is not overall the correct conclusion. The tested sailors are asymptomatic because they are young and with strong immune systems. The quote from these senior members of the DOD seems to indicate that the virus is behaving in their sailors differently, without considering that the sailors on the US Theodore Roosevelt are a very restricted sample of the US population. That is, they appear to be placing agency on the virus, rather than emphasizing the specific nature of this sample of people.
Let us review the table again; we just looked at earlier.
How many men on that aircraft carrier are even above 35 years of age? The senior staff, perhaps? What does the mortality rate look like for the age cohort of 19 to 34?
Secondly, how many of these men would be allowed to serve on an aircraft carrier — with its grueling work schedule — if they had pre-existing conditions in their Navy physicals? This “sample” of people looks very different than the population of the overall society.
The US Theodore Roosevelt case study, which is consistent with the larger mortality statistics, illustrates that for the young and healthy, no social distancing (something impossible on an aircraft carrier, and why basically everyone tested was infected with Coronavirus) or lockdown is necessary.
And for this sample of people, there is no benefit to “flattening the curve.” The men had Coronavirus and did not know it.
Another problem with the response from the senior DOD leadership is it almost it appears this is the first time they are learning of the lack of symptoms or negative outcomes from Coronavirus for young and healthy people. This is has been known and published for at least a month after the virus started being tracked. Yet the response to the information is that they are “disconcerted.”
Epidemiology is not being leveraged to inform the Coronavirus response.
Clearly, the most effective approach to Coronavirus is to have people who are 65+ self-isolate. In the US, this is roughly 15% of the population. Most people, 65 or older, are retired.
The economic impact of their isolation will be minimal (to both them and the overall economy) as well as protective to these individuals.
What Governments Could Do to Ease the Isolation
Governments around the world could invest resources in making it less stressful and inconvenient for these individuals to self-isolate. This could include government-provided delivery services by workers with the right procedures and protective equipment, which would assist the 65+ in being less exposed to the rest of the population.
However, none of this has happened, nor does it appear likely to happen. Instead, the government will muddle through its response, putting everyone on high alert, even though they are not at risk from the effects of the Coronavirus.
Governments worldwide are choosing the most disruptive and expensive way possible for managing Coronavirus, imposing the adjustments on the majority of the population that has a very low risk of suffering negative outcomes from the virus.
The information provided to the non-aged population is that the virus is a significant risk to them when it is not.
The costs imposed by lockdowns are enormous. And they are also unnecessary. The age cohort that needs to be isolated is already retired.
Better Decision Making with Analytics and Machine Learning?
On a related topic, the software industry continually proposes that we have great analytics applications that allow us to make better decisions and machine learning that makes decisions for us more intelligently. Enormous sums have been raised to fund software companies in analytics and AI/machine learning. However, the benefits from either of these investments have been nearly nonexistent in managing the virus response.
Not only are these technologies not apparent in their application to the response or analysis of the Coronavirus, but we also appear incapable of using far more basic forms of analysis.
This brings up several natural questions.
- If these major investment items cannot prove their value in response to this problem, which is very much a data analysis problem, then how much of the benefits of these twin items is hype?
- Where are the analytics/AI/ML/Big Data insights for dealing with pandemics?
The tables I showed in this article are pre-computerized technology.
*I looked, but could not find how far back placing data in a tabular form started, or which society started doing so. If any reader knows, comment below, and I can add it to the article.
Investing in More Technology — or People’s Brains?
If the vast majority of the policy and discussion around Coronavirus does not even leverage the information contained in tables, why are we investing in more advanced and more expensive data analytics tools?
Software vendors and consulting firms tell us continually that the only thing necessary to make more data-informed decisions is using software and hiring consulting firms to install software systems. Curiously, in observing the inside of companies, I have not seen the benefits promised from these investments. There is always a lot of talk about improving decision making, but very little improved decision making.
Let Us First Master Analyzing Tabular Information
The response to Coronavirus illustrates once again that even far more basic analysis, which only requires looking at tabular details are often not being performed. This should call into question the idea that more technology and more “data scientists” and more venture capital for more data analysis companies are the answer to better decision making.