[Vision2020] If transparency demanded of China, demand it of US as well
moscowcares at moscow.com
Thu May 7 05:20:42 PDT 2020
Courtesy of today’s (May 7, 2020) Moscow-Pullman Daily News with special thanks to Nick Gier.
If transparency demanded of China, demand it of US as well
Nick Gier The Palouse Pundit
In a White House briefing on April 18, President Donald Trump bragged about our low COVID-19 death rate compared to Western European nations. Trump pointed to Belgium, which has the highest virus deaths per 100,000 citizens.
Belgium, however, has joined France and the Netherlands in reporting virus deaths more accurately. Unlike other countries, they have counted “presumed” virus deaths that have occurred at home as well as in nursing facilities.
In his column (April 29), Dale Courtney contends that we should have followed Sweden’s decision not to issue stay-at-home orders. He then lists the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Belgium as having higher virus death rates than the Swedes.
Courtney’s method of calculating coronavirus fatalities is flawed. Even Swedish epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, who has led his nation’s “light touch” response to the virus, admits that citing infection rates based on limited testing is “an unreliable measure.”
Courtney has divided the number of reported deaths by the number of virus cases confirmed by testing. The problem with this is that Italy is testing three times more people than Sweden is, and Sweden is counting only the hospital deaths of patients who tested positive.
Sweden finally banned visits to its nursing homes on April 3, after it realized that a third of its total virus fatalities (not counted in the national tally) were occurring there. Even so, the nursing home rules are lax: Staff are required to wear masks and gloves only if the resident is suspected of having the virus.
The Belgium government has responded angrily to Trump’s reference to its virus death count, and one minister called it “level zero” politics. He claimed that Belgium’s “method of counting COVID-19 deaths is the most exhaustive possible.”
Belgian nursing home deaths are 52 percent of the total, but only 4.5 percent of these were confirmed virus fatalities and the rest are now reported as “suspected, based on symptoms.”
In an analysis of excess deaths (those above normal mortality) in 14 countries, London’s Financial Times concluded that the COVID-19 death toll may be 60 percent higher than reported. Its reporters found 122,000 excess deaths in these countries, but only 77,000 confirmed virus mortality. The most extreme disparity was found in one of Ecuador’s provinces: excess fatalities were 10,200 but COVID-19 deaths were only 245.
Coronavirus deaths in New York City rose by 3,700 when probable as well as confirmed cases were added to the toll. In the early stages of the pandemic, as many as 195 patients a day, even though they showed symptoms of the virus, were turned away from overwhelmed city hospitals and many died at home.
The Center for Disease Control is finally requiring states to count presumed as well as confirmed coronavirus cases, but officials there, consistent with the Trump administration’s fatal hands-off policy, are allowing the states to set their own criteria for this reporting.
This means, as Debbie Koenig of WebMD reports, that “Alabama, for example, may continue to exclude patients who tested positive, if a doctor’s review determines they may have died from another cause. As of April 16, the state had 133 reported deaths with positive tests, but only 82 had been attributed to COVID-19.”
In Florida there is a tug-of-war between state health officials and county medical examiners, who claim that the former are not reporting the coronavirus deaths they send them. One of the examiners, Dr. Stephen Nelson, said that state officials told him they plan to remove causes of death and case descriptions. Nelson complained: “Without that information, the list is meaningless.”
In late April, Florida’s Congressional Democrats sent GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis a letter demanding an explanation for “inconsistencies between COVID-19 death tracking methods used by the Florida Department of Health and county medical examiners.” They have not yet received a reply.
The Chinese government is now adjusting upwards the COVID-19 death toll in Wuhan, but residents are complaining that even more transparency is needed. If the Chinese can do it, then Florida’s health officials should do the same.
Nick Gier taught philosophy at the University of Idaho for 31 years. Read all his columns at http://nfgier.com.
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