‘A universal quarantine may not be worth the costs it imposes on the economy, community and individual mental and physical health…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) A British disease expert whose doom-and-gloom coronavirus model was widely cited by outlets like the New York Times backtracked on those claims Wednesday to cast a far more optimistic picture.
Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London, initially projected 2.2 million dead in the United States and 500,000 in the United Kingdom.
But he drastically downgraded that in testimony before the British parliament Wednesday, a day after the country implemented widespread lockdowns, saying a more likely estimate for the UK was around 20,000, reported the Daily Wire.
Initially, it appeared that Ferguson was backpedaling on the mortality rate of the virus. That has varied anywhere from 1 percent in countries with the necessary healthcare provisions, to around 7 percent in Italy, which was caught woefully unprepared to protect its elderly population.
During a White House press briefing on Thursday, Deborah Birx, the White House Coronavirus Response coordinator, touted the revisions as evidence of the ever-shifting scientific goalposts.
“There’s no … reality on the ground where we can see that 60-70% of Americans are going to get infected in the next 8-12 weeks. I just want to be clear about that,” Birx said.
Ferguson subsequently clarified his revisions, insisting—in what is likely to be a common trope among left-wing fear-mongerers in the wake of the pandemic—that it was the dramatic quarantine measures, necessitating a near-total economic shutdown, that spared the projected devastation.
That would absolve him and other scientists, along with sensationalist media, from any culpability in the resulting economic fallout since it is impossible to prove that the drastic overreaction didn’t not help mitigate the health crisis.
But the Daily Wire also noted a fundamental misconception that many interpreting and hyping the data have fallen subject to: that a growing number of cases suggests the pandemic is worsening.
Such was the tenor of hysteria-driven media reports this week that the U.S. had surpassed all other countries in coronavirus cases, a tidbit smugly used to imply that countries like China, where the virus originated, would be justified in anti-American xenophobia.
In fact, while the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. has soared recently, the actual case fatality rate—the ratio of deaths to cases—is among the lowest, alongside countries like South Korea that have been held up as exemplary in their preventative measures.
This suggest that the growing number of actual cases, being reported as a disaster, may in fact be a good thing on several levels.
It is an indicator of increased testing availability, on one hand, but also signals that Americans may have been living with the virus—thereby developing immunity to it—without knowing that they had it.
This may come as little comfort to those in a vulnerable demographic, who could face an even greater mortality risk as the likelihood of exposure increases. However, it paints a more optimistic picture of the time frame needed for the virus to run its course.
It also suggest good news for a larger portion of the population that is asymptomatic or exhibiting mild symptoms, who thus may not seek medical treatment, leaving the limited resources for those who do.
Amid the barrage of panic-stricken reporting, a number of highly credible experts are now openly questioning the scope of the response even if the virus does spread as quickly as projected.
Sunetra Gupta, an epidemiologist at Oxford University, was among those who questioned and criticized Ferguson’s model, in part prompting the revisions.
“I am surprised that there has been such unqualified acceptance of the Imperial model,” he told the Financial Times.
Rather, Gupta’s own model forecasts a greater level of “herd immunity” that will level the spread over time—and possibly may already be in effect if the “novel” coronavirus isn’t as novel as many think.
“[T]he Oxford results would mean the country had already acquired substantial herd immunity through the unrecognised spread of Covid-19 over more than two months,” Gupta said.
The FT further noted: “If the findings are confirmed by testing, then the current restrictions could be removed much sooner than ministers have indicated.”
Even far-left Time magazine supported the theory, saying that when factoring in mild cases that went unreported due to lack of symptoms, the actual mortality rate could be less than 1 percent.
And the Wall Street Journal said it may be as low as 0.01 percent.
“If we’re right about the limited scale of the epidemic, then measures focused on older populations and hospitals are sensible,” it wrote in a recent editorial. “… And policy makers will need to focus on reducing risks for older adults and people with underlying medical conditions.”
Notwithstanding, it added that “A universal quarantine may not be worth the costs it imposes on the economy, community and individual mental and physical health.”
Michael Levitt, a Nobel laureate and Stanford biophysicist, echoed similarly optimistic sentiments, according to a recent report from the Los Angeles Times.
“What we need is to control the panic,” Levitt said, adding: “we’re going to be fine.”
Analyzing data from the Chinese outbreak, Levitt hypothesized that the virus’s spread was losing steam more rapidly than anticipated. His forecast proved an accurate predictor of the decline in new cases.
Although he advocated for social-distancing measures such as limiting the number of people in a gathering at 10, he said the media hyping the coronavirus had gone out of its way to blow it out of perspective relative to equally or more dangerous risks like the flu.
“The real situation is not as nearly as terrible as they make it out to be,” he said.