Who has the worst take on the pandemic?


It goes without saying that it’s the conservatives, but let’s be more specific. Not so specific as your Aunt Madge who sends you suggestions to drink bleach on Facebook, but a source that aggregates all the nonsense. I think I could make a case that The Federalist is at least among the worst offenders.

That site right now is full of bullshit trying to downplay the coronavirus concerns. For instance, here is a poli sci student arguing, in a rambling incoherent mess of an article, Is Social Distancing Saving Lives Or Ruining Them?. He’s reluctant to give a straightforward answer, but you can tell where he’s leaning.

The current response is quickly driving the United States into a recession, which will result in a great deal of misery for tens of millions of people. Again, balancing lives against money sounds harsh, but everyone does so — and must do so — whether he is conscious of the fact or not. Not to mention, a recession also means higher poverty rates, which lead to higher mortality rates.

More is at stake than lives and money: namely freedom. Even for those of us who are by no means libertarian, the increasingly draconian measures put in place across the nation, especially in California, to isolate people and prevent them from moving at will are raising serious questions about whether Americans are in a dress rehearsal for tyranny.

Which is worse, being dead or living in a country in a recession? Gosh, the jury is out on that one, but maybe a recession, which would lead to higher mortality rates? Yeah, higher mortality rates are worse than lots of people dying.

OK, that guy is just an ass. But what about this rather surprising post from a medical doctor. He has a solution that he thinks wouldn’t hurt the economy so much — it’s always about “The Economy”, you know — a treatment that would solve everything: How Medical ‘Chickenpox Parties’ Could Turn The Tide Of The Wuhan Virus. Yeah, give everyone the disease right away, that’s the ticket! Well, not everyone. Let’s have Voluntary Infection parties in which young people who are most resistant go to some site and mingle and let everyone pick up the disease. He even suggests cruise ships as enticing locations to get people to participate in voluntarily getting a disease that might only kill one or two percent of them.

Hmm. How many doctors and hospital beds are available on your average cruise ship?

The idea would be to ramp up the numbers of immune people very quickly, maximizing the possibility of herd immunity. He hasn’t thought much about how we would cope with massive numbers of sick people all at once. Sick working people. Sick doctors. All intentionally confined to a few locations.

You know chicken pox parties were never a good idea, right? There’d always be some kids who’d die. I wouldn’t be one to claim that’s an acceptable price to pay, but apparently this one MD thinks it’s brilliant.

But I will say that his idea is novel, and for once it’s nice to see a proposal to infect and kill a significant number of young whippersnappers, rather than suggesting that my generation needs to die to protect the economy. It’s still an incredibly stupid idea, to which the only reasonable reply is…OK, boomer.


I was wrong about something. The MD who authored that article about voluntary infection is not an MD. He pretends to be one, but is actually a conservative businessman who is not licensed to practice in his state despite his claim.

“That would be misleading the public,” a startled member of the Oregon Medical Board staff told VICE. “In Oregon, that is a violation of the Medical Practices Act. That would have to be investigated.”

Par for the course for The Federalist.

Comments

  1. leerudolph says

    How many doctors and hospital beds are available on your average cruise ship?

    Who would need those? As I understand it, burial at sea is quite romantic, and doesn’t require any special equipment as long as you have a large supply of flags!

  2. microraptor says

    I don’t get how conservatives are so disconnected from what a sudden surge in deaths from Covid-19 is going to do to the economy. Hint: it won’t cause your stock portfolio’s value to go up.

  3. Curious Digressions says

    Sounds like the Fiscal Conservatives have rolled out Phase II prematurely. People aren’t ready for Operation Kill Your Neighbor for the Economy.

  4. says

    Let’s have Voluntary Infection parties in which young people who are most resistant go to some site and mingle and let everyone pick up the disease.

    If you think that Corona won’t hurt you because you’re young and healthy, remember there’s a pre-existing condition called “bad luck” and you, too could have it.
    Just read an interview with the chief of ICU of a big Munich hospital. Most patients needing ventilators there are young. And while they have good chances of survival after 2-3 weeks (!) in ICU, their lungs are permanently damaged.
    I think I volunteer for staying at home.

  5. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 2

    I don’t get how conservatives are so disconnected from what a sudden surge in deaths from Covid-19 is going to do to the economy.

    Because they’ve talked themselves into believing that the virus is really “no worse than a cold,” the only people who are “at risk” are retirees, and therefore there won’t really be any sort of surge. It’s just like climate change denial (i.e. all those lefty “experts” are just trying to use a made-up “crisis” to curtail “freedom”) only the negative affects are much, much faster.

  6. captainjack says

    @5 Giliell
    Can you link to that interview? I have 20 something nieces and nephews to convince.

  7. davebot says

    Every time I hear some chump-a-dump say “Some people will have to die to save the economy”, my immediate thought is, “You first.”

  8. komarov says

    Re: Giliell (#5):

    And while they have good chances of survival after 2-3 weeks (!) in ICU, their lungs are permanently damaged.

    This raises the question, what would 2-3 weeks of ICU care in the US cost, and how many lifetimes would it take the average US worker to pay that off?* Maybe the only argument that’ll gain traction with some people is how thoroughly the disease could ruin their own, personal economy for a subjective eternity.

    P.S.: Ask the internet and it shall provide: 63,206 dollars for 14 or 90,982 dollars for 21 days . Petty cash for anyone except 90 % or so of the population. And of course you can’t put a price on organ damage and resulting disabilities. (Numbers from 2005, only had excerpts to go by [Researchgate]

    *Implicitly assuming no insurance, because USA

  9. stroppy says

    Hmm. Seems kinda inefficient. Just letting people die in random places could create a collection problem. “Bring out your dead” is so 14th century.

    What to do, what to do… Thinking like a Republican here… I know! Herd the unworthy expendables into ICE detention centers and let nature take its course. Add some disposal units et voila.

    /sarc /sarc /sarc /sarc /sarc

  10. consciousness razor says

    Just read an interview with the chief of ICU of a big Munich hospital. Most patients needing ventilators there are young. And while they have good chances of survival after 2-3 weeks (!) in ICU, their lungs are permanently damaged.

    Of course, that’s with weeks of care, a ventilator, etc. As we get past the point where our hospitals can keep up (don’t know about Germany, but the US looks very dire), this means you will have a bad case of permanently dead, no matter what your age is.

  11. says

    @#2, microraptor:

    They know that after decades of insisting that any social spending at all was Too Expensive, they were able to pull $30 trillion — yes, that’s trillion with a T — out of nowhere to prop up the stock market over the course of two weeks.

    Hey, remember why we were supposed to reject Medicare For All? Assholes like Biden lied that it would cost $30 Trillion over 10 years, and that was Too Expensive. But those same assholes — including Biden — apparently have no problem with pouring that same amount into the stock market over two weeks, as long as it keeps the 1% afloat.

  12. raven says

    PZ brings up a good point.
    Health care workers are ending up being a high risk group.
    I woke up early this morning to the news that in our local facility, a health care worker is now Covid-19 positive.

    Statnews today: Protect older and vulnerable health care workers from Covid-19
    By AARON KOFMAN and ALFONSO HERNANDEZ-ROMIEU MARCH 25, 2020

    Since the Covid-19 pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus emerged late in 2019, health care workers have been at particularly high risk of infection.

    In China, more than 3,300 health care workers have been infected, including Dr. Li Wenliang, who died after being the first to sound the alarm. More than 4,800 health care workers have been infected in Italy, where harrowing stories from Italian physicians and nurses are being posted on social media.

    As the pandemic now takes hospitals in the U.S. by storm, two emergency physicians in the states of Washington and New Jersey were recently reported to be in critical condition due to Covid-19.

    The tl;dr version.
    Health care workers have ended up being a high risk group for Covid-19 virus infection.

    .1. This really shouldn’t happen.
    With the right PPE gear and training in how to use it, the infection rate among health care providers can be and is, very low.

    .2. It’s happening a lot now in the USA.
    Health care workers know something is drastically wrong, they know they are putting their lives on the line, and they are upset and angry.

    And as usual, this is a simple but serious problem, and there are people trying to fix it, but it isn’t really getting fixed anyway.
    Another ball dropped.

  13. anthrosciguy says

    Although poverty is bad for you, the Lawyers, Guns, and Money blog pointed out that it’s not actually bad for mortality rates:

    The whole “cure is worse than the disease” argument ought to be considered in the light of a little-known and counter-intuitive but nevertheless well-documented fact: mortality rates tend to drop during severe economic downturns. A very striking example of this is provided by the USA during the Great Depression: mortality rates dropped by quite a bit between 1929 and 1932 (the official length of the Depression), shot back up during the rapid economic expansion over the next four years, and then dropped again during the sharp recession of 1938, brought on by the demands of Republicans that FDR balance the budget.

    This is just one example out of many. There’s a lively literature about why this should be the case, but one thing is clear: the notion that even severe economic downturns kill a lot of people relative to times of economic expansion flies in the face of the available evidence (Not, obviously, that Trump or anyone “close” to him knows or cares about the evidence, regarding this question or anything else).

  14. bionichips says

    I had to go the web site and I can never unsee what I saw there.

    Usually you say something like “I went there so you don’t have to…”

  15. whheydt says

    Re: leerudolph @ #1…
    The number of available flags isn’t an issue. You only need one for each concurrent funeral. The limiting factor is the number of cannonballs you have available. The traditional number is 2 per body (one at the head and one at the feet). The available quantity of canvas is also probably an issue. Then there is the problem of where you’re going to get enough sailmakers to keep up with the rate of death.

  16. says

    Twitter temporarily locks Federalist account over post about deliberately spreading coronavirus

    Twitter temporarily locked the account of The Federalist over a post of an op-ed that suggested people ignore self-isolation measures.

    A Controlled Voluntary Infection (CVI) “involves allowing people at low risk for severe complications to deliberately contract COVID-19 in a socially and medically responsible way so they become immune to the disease,” Perednia wrote.

    The opinion piece comes after public health officials have urged Americans to practice good hygiene and self isolation for weeks. Perednia said those measures aren’t enough and that it’s time to “think outside the box.”

    “It is time to think outside the box and seriously consider a somewhat unconventional approach to COVID-19: controlled voluntary infection,” he said.

    “The account was temporarily locked for violating the Twitter Rules regarding COVID-19,” a Twitter spokesperson told The Hill.

    The tweet was deleted, and The Federalist page is seemingly back up and running. Twitter has taken aggressive measures to combat misinformation regarding COVID-19.

    The article raised eyebrows on social media among journalists and pundits.

    From Dylan Matthews:

    Why are conservatives trying to kill each other

    From Matthew Yglesias:

    Does the virus fund the federalist?

  17. stroppy says

    @ 14 katahdin

    Personally, I don’t waste my time on any of the fluffy stuff blown out of Thomas Friedman. You get better analysis and perspective from the multiple guest format on PBS and NPR (for ex.: The News Hour and The 1A).

  18. jrkrideau says

    From the Federalint (both articles)
    Wuhan coronavirus
    Let’s keep that xenophobia pumped up.

  19. raven says

    A Controlled Voluntary Infection (CVI) “involves allowing people at low risk for severe complications to deliberately contract COVID-19 in a socially and medically responsible way so they become immune to the disease,”

    There is no such thing.
    Whoever this is, is just Making Stuff Up as they go along.

    We can’t right now tell who will end up in the hospital, who will end up on a ventilator in the ICU, and who will end up dead. This can and does commonly happen among younger people often enough right now.
    40% of hospital admissions are below the age of 55.
    And some of those young CVI’s are going to infect someone old or with an underlying medical condition and…kill them.

  20. stroppy says

    From the article he cited (whatever Friedman makes of it):
    “If we decide to jump off the cliff, we need some data to inform us about the rationale of such an action and the chances of landing somewhere safe.”
    Er, ok.
    Anyway, just as a point of meta-literacy, it’s a good idea not to rely too heavily on one off scientific opinions, especially around the fringes.

    Ignoring Friedman’s group-think gibbering about group-think, the scientific consensus would appear to look more like this:
    https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/03/24/metro/experts-say-its-too-soon-relax-social-distancing/

  21. jrkrideau says

    @ 24 katahdin
    Ah yes. The John Ioannidis paper. Note BTW while Ioannidis is called an epidemiologist I do not think he is though he has done work in epidemiology. Sometimes it seems he has done research everywhere. He is more a polymath and a brilliant one but not an epidemiologist as is normally understood.

    Here is Marc Lipsitch, a practicing epidemiologist, replying.
    We know enough now to act decisively against Covid-19. Social distancing is a good place to start
    https://www.statnews.com/2020/03/18/we-know-enough-now-to-act-decisively-against-covid-19/

  22. consciousness razor says

    “If we decide to jump off the cliff, we need some data to inform us about the rationale of such an action and the chances of landing somewhere safe.”

    Here’s how to use that metaphor: letting loose now, at a time when there is inadequate testing data but we can definitely see that confirmed cases are rising dramatically, would be a decision to “jump off the cliff.” If it actually looked like things were leveling off, given what we know, then we might have a rationale. But we don’t.

    Also, not an expert, but it’s bizarre to extrapolate from a cruise ship to the entire country and/or the entire planet. But it’s even more weird in article where (1) you’re worried about lacking evidence and (2) in fact, experts all over the place do have much more evidence which you’re just casually dismissing as “utterly unreliable” and “meaningless.”

  23. wzrd1 says

    Not much to be done with the pol sci moron, well, beyond launching a few 2×4’s in that dizzy shit’s direction.
    The physician, that one can be trivially managed by raising a grave concern with that physician’s state licensing board, as one no longer has faith in their policing of their ranks and legislation may indeed be in order.
    Chickenpox party recommendations have lost a few medical licenses over the years and rightfully so.

    Still, social distancing ends societies and ended societies fail and result in extinction. That’s why the North American Wilderness stands unoccupied after social distancing and recession resulted in the extinction of the entire North American continent!
    Oh wait, somehow, we survived. I guess businesses didn’t exist back then, we’ll ignore that whole robber baron era thing.

    Alas, we cannot enforce a writ of attainder upon such miscreants, but denial of employment within disagreeing states is lawful.

  24. wzrd1 says

    Due to travel restrictions, I cannot postal mail to the Oregon state medical licensing board, but I did send an official complaint to the state OMB, with a request to forward and BCC’d my state senator’s personal e-mail address.
    Quacks have been getting their medical licenses pulled for recommending regular chickenpox parties and measles parties, so this is even more egregious, given the harm to the faith and trust required to trust our public health professionals guidance and this diametrically opposing that guidance, much to the harm of the nation. I BCC an officer I know in the appropriate department at DHS, who will find the offense fascinating and likely, worthy of making some quack’s life miserable.

  25. wzrd1 says

    Oops.
    The physician’s licensing information is for the state of Oregon.
    Perednia Douglas Alan MD17139
    Do feel free to file complaints that explain the undermining of local, county, state and federal public health instructions, as well as contravening the instructions of state and federal surgeons general.

  26. chrislawson says

    John Ioannidis has up to now been one of my intellectual heroes, so I am very, very disappointed to see him screw this one up so badly. The worst statement:

    “If the level of the epidemic does overwhelm the health system and extreme measures have only modest effectiveness, then flattening the curve may make things worse: Instead of being overwhelmed during a short, acute phase, the health system will remain overwhelmed for a more protracted period.”

    This is a genuinely stupid thing to say. I don’t like throwing that word at someone as smart as Ioannidis, but he’s treating “overwhelmed health system” as a simple categorical state without recognition that a hospital having to turn away ten people is not as bad as turning away ten thousand people.

    It also is logically WRONG. If measures are effective, then the curve will be flattened. If the measures are not effective, then the curve will not be flattened. Stating that measures could flatten the curve but not reduce overwhelming demand on services is some special kind of magical thinking. And I’m not just talking theoretically. This is a well-known epidemiological problem that causes huge problems every winter when infectious disease rates spike and hospitals can’t treat everyone who needs it. Measures that flatten the curve reduce hospital block. This has been observed and reported so many times in the literature that I am astonished that Ioannidis doesn’t seem to get it.

  27. chrislawson says

    One objection! Chickenpox parties were actually a reasonably smart thing to do prior to 1995. If anyone is interested, I’m happy to provide the reasoning. But as soon as the varicella vaccine became available, it became a very stupid thing to do. Anyone recommending chickenpox parties now is an anti-vax idiot.

    But even then, this was only a good strategy because of the specific properties of the chickenpox virus. Nobody in their right mind ever suggested smallpox parties or bubonic plague parties or tuberculosis parties. Even before germ theory, people figured out that this was a really really bad idea.

    Suggesting we treat coronavirus like chickenpox is insane. While it’s true that we are still learning a lot about coronavirus, we can say with extreme confidence that it is much much nastier than chickenpox. Chickenpox has a case fatality rate of about 17 per 100,000. We can’t calculate the case fatality rate for COVID-19 yet because we don’t have enough data to nail down the denominator, but it’s probably going to be somewhere between the figures for Israel (230 per 100,000) and Bangladesh (12,800 per 100,000). Realistically, it will be nowhere near the top end for reasons I think we’re all aware of. But even the best figures are more than 10x more lethal than chickenpox. MIght as well make your kids play in traffic to make them immune to trucks.

  28. KG says

    But even then, this was only a good strategy because of the specific properties of the chickenpox virus. – chrislawson@35

    Well, lethal or seriously damaging complications during initial childhood infections are uncommon, but the virus then lurks in the body and can cause shingles (which I understand is exquisitely painful) in later life. Other herpes viruses have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease; I don’t know if it’s certain the chickenpox virus is innocent in this regard. OTOH, admittedly, a first infection in adulthood tends to be a lot worse than one in childhood.

  29. billseymour says

    KG @36:

    … the [smallpox] virus then lurks in the body and can cause shingles …

    There’s a shingles vaccine now. I guess it’s the same as the smallpox vaccine since it’s the same virus.

  30. Jazzlet says

    billseymour @#38
    It is not the smallpox virus that causes shingles, it is the chickenpox virus. Otherwise no one ould get shingles as we have eradicted the smallpox virus in the wild, it only remains in a very few high security labs.

  31. billseymour says

    Jazzlet @39:  yes, chickenpox, not smallpox (duh). I have no idea where my head was when I wrote that.

  32. jack16 says

    @stroppy
    I think “bring out your dead” refers to the Philadelphia epidemic in seventeen ninety. Vectored by mosquitoes, I forget the disease, typhoid maybe?
    jack16

  33. jack16 says

    34 @chrislawson
    Possibly the long term effects of chicken pox were less well known.
    jack16

  34. mythago says

    OTOH, admittedly, a first infection in adulthood tends to be a lot worse than one in childhood.

    KG @36, and that’s exactly why people had ‘chickenpox parties’ before there was a vaccine – better to have your children go through it as kids than contract it for the first time as adults. Of course, back then it would also have been considered lunacy to throw a ‘measles party’ or a ‘mumps party’ because the adults were old enough to remember the polio epidemic and the effects of rubella on pregnant women.

    Now we have idiots who express their fringe-y Knowier Than Thou tendencies through ‘disease parties’ because they were too young and/or are now too stupid to understand why chickenpox was unique in that regard, and why deliberately exposing a child was a calculated risk.

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