Let’s not think poorly of the scientists and epidemiological statisticians for scaring the hell out of the American public by their prediction of a possible 2,200,000 deaths in the United States. Plus, doesn’t it feel so much better that we are predicting only 60,000 deaths?
Actually, after coming down from 2.2 million, I was feeling rather exuberant about the 100,000 – 240,000 death range. I said to myself, “Well, I guess I can live with that!” Only 240,000 people are going to die…that’s not really so bad now is it?
But then when they told us a week later that “Hey, it’s only going to be 60K” I thought
“Wow! Sold! It’s a deal!”
If this is not part of the scientific method yet, then let’s go ahead and add it in as a crucial step.
- Gather data and perform observations
- Make an inflated hypothesis about ‘rates’ (e.g. profitability, temperature increase, costs, population increase, mortality, etc.)
- Test hypothesis
- Collect new data and downgrade hypothesis by factors of 10
Remember, the scientists responsible for the “Imperial College Study,” suggesting 2.2 million deaths, made this prediction only under the assumption that so many deaths might occur should no precautions whatsoever be taken to avoid catching and spreading the disease. So, admitting that these catastrophic numbers were responsible for the destruction of the American economy, let us not be angry with the scientists who were really only “throwing them out there” as a sort of intentional outside-worst-case-scenario projection.
After all, as the governor of New York said,
If everything we do saves just one life, I’ll be happy.
What a noble sentiment! And the governor does show us how to prioritize our values, doesn’t he? Who is there that would be so callous as to value a twenty-two trillion-dollar economy over one human life? What kind of cold-hearted, mercenary, bourgeois, corporate individual would object to the idea of putting twenty-two million people out of work if we could just save one human life? And does anyone really think it is fair to counter this noble idea by speculating about the inevitable cost of committing economic suicide in terms of human lives and misery? I don’t think so.
Now about those masks.
Let’s not draw attention to the fact that at first, the experts told us not to wear the masks, and that now we are being told the opposite. So what!? Who cares if scientists change their minds and say one thing this week that contradicts what was said last week? Why would anyone use this kind of silly reasoning to make an attack on the absolute trust that everyone should place in science?
After all, first, they told us that the sun went around the earth, and rose and set every evening, and then they tell us that actually none of that is true and that really the earth goes around the sun!
Which is all just to say that if I am told not to wear a mask by an expert, I will not wear a mask. If that same expert tells me a week later to wear a mask, then I will wear a mask. It’s that simple. Thankfully, we don’t all have to think these things out for ourselves!
Actually, that is one of the gratifying things about living in such a scientific age. Really, we are all very lucky to be living in this period of enlightenment especially since there is no chance of anyone – anyone except the experts – of really knowing what is going on!
Now, one of the things that should give everyone confidence about the rigorous data that is being collected with our current pandemic is the fact that we will simply not tolerate the underreporting of the COVID 19 mortality rate here in these good ole U.S. of A!
Contrary to the sloppy job they did over there in China where apparently only 17 or so people died from the disease since December 2019, we (thankfully here in the West!) will not put up with inaccuracy and outrageous under-reporting! Everyone knows that the accurate collection of data is essential for good science. Therefore it felt especially good to hear that every death in which a suspicion or a tangential connection of any sort to the mere possibility of a COVID 19 infection might be brought to bear will, in fact, be counted as a COVID 19 related mortality. If the unfortunate demised broke his neck falling down the stairs after sneezing, then that most assuredly would be a COVID 19 fatality.
By generously erring on the side of reporting most (if not all) deaths as COVID 19 mortality cases, we will certainly not miss a COVID 19 mortality. I think it is safe to say that when the final mortality rate is reported for this scourge, we will all be able to say confidently that our data has certainly not left any COVID 19 mortality out in the cold. It is possible that someone might object that our final number is double or triple or at least somewhat inflated, but no one will accuse us of having underreported, which is the far greater sin in my view. I am, of course, speaking not as an epidemiologist but rather as a sort of theologian (i.e. someone who engages in the highest science). When speaking about God, for example, one simply cannot over-report His Greatness! The sin is in minimizing Him!
I think it is also re-assuring that hospitals will be paid more to put COVID 19 patients on a ventilator. Nothing ensures scientific precision and accuracy more than financial incentives! I think it is unhelpful to object that ventilators might be overused just because Medicare will pay the hospital $39,000 every time they put a patient on a ventilator. Similarly, it is unhelpful to object that ventilators might be over-used or even damaging to a COVID 19 victim. This is not the time to bicker about ventilators!
Actually, this strategy is win-win for everybody! On the one hand, we can celebrate our success by making great strides in reducing mortality rates from cardiac arrest, while at the same time we can reward hospitals with $39,000 every time they put someone on a ventilator!
Pindar, the great poet, would be proud of our age if for no other reason than that we so excellently embody the truth of his famous statement when he said,
Νόμος ὁ πάντων βασιλεύς
θνατῶν τε καὶ ἀθανάτων
ἄγει δικαιῶν τὸ βιαιότατον
ὑπερτάτᾳ χειρί. τεκμαίρομαι
By which he meant something like,
Custom is the king of all, of mortals and immortals and Custom guides us with its sovereign hand justifying the utmost violence.
Thankfully, we who live in the twenty-first century, unlike those who lived in the hazy fifth century before Christ, enjoy the enlightening and illuminating air of granular metrics. Thankfully we, unlike Pindar and his superstitious contemporaries who lived under the sway of an entire pantheon of sometimes cruel deities major and minor,
we (happy denizens of the twenty-first century!) live safely under the protection and guidance of expert modelers and scientists!