When is a Covid death not a Covid death?

There are things we know for a fact about SARS-CoV-2. All evidence points to its origin in Wuhan, China and complicity of the Chinese Communist Party in hiding the fact of human-to-human transmission for months yet allowing unfettered spread of the virus worldwide while locking down Wuhan with stringent quarantines within China. We know that the reporting of numbers is easily misunderstood. The constant media bellowing about rising case rates reports this without any context. It also stokes fear, which makes implementation of draconian measures easier to accomplish. A case, even now, does not mean someone who is hospitalized or even sick; it simply means someone who has tested positive for the virus. As cases go up, inevitably so will the numbers of those who become ill or die. It is patently unrealistic to accept that no one will get sick or die in a pandemic, regardless of what measures are taken. What is more important is the case/fatality ratio, i.e. the numbers of those infected who actually become so ill they die. That ratio has been steadily dropping as we learn how to better treat Covid-19, the illness caused by SARS-CoV-2 and more and more people become infected and develop immunity. The vast majority of those infected are asymptomatic or only mildly ill. We also know who is most targeted for serious illness/death from the virus- the elderly and/or already immune compromised or ill. The only thing that is truly surprising is how benign Covid is for children under 15.

Dr. Genevieve Briand, a professor of economics at Johns Hopkins University recently presented her study on the reported mortality of Covid-19, The illness caused by SARS-CoV-2. Although Dr. Briand is not a medical doctor, economists are uniquely qualified to interpret statistics and numerical data. Her study calls into question conclusions about the mortality reporting of Covid-19, something I and others have questioned for months. All you can see of the study was published in an article in an article by Yanni Gu in the Johns Hopkins News-Letter, an official student publication of the University. That article was almost immediately retracted, but as clearly stated by Mr. Gu, not because the study was flawed or Dr. Briand’s conclusions were wrong, but because his article was supposedly being used to “spread misinformation”. Why and by whom is not explicitly stated. Mr. Gu issued a lengthy explanation of the reasons for the retraction (see above link), none of which relate to any substantive criticisms of the study itself. It is to his credit that, despite the retraction, the News-Letter provided a link to his original article so that others could see it. This has been picked up and reportedly widely.

Dr. Briand, in her study, apparently did what good researchers do: look at the data and draw conclusions, then question those conclusions if more study is needed. It is not her fault if the study is misinterpreted, whether innocently or on purpose. I would encourage readers to read Mr. Gu’s article for yourselves.

As for the actual study, good luck finding it online. Believe me, I have tried. Apparently, it was not a published study but rather a presentation at Johns Hopkins that was reported in the News-Letter. The study is referenced extensively online, however, as noted above in Gu’s article. A search for “Study of Covid deaths by Genevieve Briand” on Google yielded 77,000 results. The few that I checked all refer to the retracted News-Letter article only. According to the Johns Hopkins News-Letter, the study calls into question the CDC’s practice of calling any death in which a positive test for Covid was documented, or Covid was “presumed”, as a “Covid death”. A puzzling finding of the study is the absence of a significant overall increased mortality in the U.S. for 2020, despite the reportedly 230,000 Covid deaths to date. How can this be? According to the study, the Covid deaths were offset by an unexplained drop in deaths from heart disease, perennially the number cause of death in the U.S., and other causes as well. Such a drop is absent in previous years. Why is this? The study raises other questions as well. Why is this important? It goes to the heart of all the mixed messaging about Covid-19’s true mortality and how this data is being used to support public health measures that have not been proven to be effective, such as universal, mandated mask wearing and social distancing (more on this in another post), but have been clearly shown to be devastating to our economy, the general mental and physicial health of our citizens, and permitted unprecedented government constraints on individual liberties and constitutional rights, all in the name of saving “even a single life”, as so clearly stated by New York Governor Cuomo.

Make no mistake. Covid-19 is a terrible illness for those who become very sick. This is no different than for any other pandemic. What makes Covid unique is the sheer numbers and this is why understanding those numbers is critical to dealing with it.

(As is my practice of going to the source, after failing to locate the actual study to review, I messaged Dr. Briand in hopes of confirming that the article by Gu accurately reflects her conclusions. More on that when I have further information.)

Published by rtbosshardt

I am a plastic surgeon, in practice for 30 years, with varied interests. First and foremost is writing. I love to observe people, who are endlessly fascinating. I have interests in health and wellness, our environment, modern culture, history, and general medical matters. I was "born to run" and love long distance running. I have a Christian worldview which infuses everything I do. I hope this blog will be interesting, entertaining, informative, and, perhaps, even a little controversial. If I can get one person to delve more deeply into something I have said, I will have been successful.

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