News & Politics

Lies, Damn Lies and COVID-19 Statistics

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

As beaches are closed for the 4th of July and even Texas starts to roll back towards COVID-19 lockdown, it sure seems like the goalposts have shifted. The purpose of public health policy went from slow the spread, to flatten the curve, and now seems to stop the spread altogether. Dr. Scott Atlas, a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, says the idea of preventing infection is not just unnecessary; it is irrational.

As much as Democrats and the media want to keep us locked down and scared, the current situation does not warrant any of this. According to Dr. Atlas, political leaders and policymakers need to take a much closer look at the data. He is quite optimistic about how state reopenings have progressed to date.

In an interview with Larry O’Connor, Dr. Atlas gives a detailed assessment of the data and provides a great perspective on what data we should use to hold leaders accountable. It isn’t rising case numbers. With more mingling and more testing, rising cases were inevitable.

O’Connor and Dr. Atlas got into a discussion about how misleading the case metric is. It merely means a positive test. In the context of COVID-19, where approximately half of the cases are asymptomatic, it is a meaningless statistic. Further, as testing has become proactive, or required in some cases, and more widely available, saying there is a new case doesn’t denote illness.

Instead, Dr. Atlas asserts there should be a laser focus on who is getting infected and the death rate. He looks at each state’s data several times per day, and right now, the trend is clear. People who have confirmed cases of COVID-19 are in the younger age groups who do not suffer from severe illness. He says low-risk infections are a positive thing that will help us progress towards population immunity.

The data shows Dr. Atlas that we are doing an excellent job of protecting the vulnerable and preventing unneeded deaths. He even says the hospitalization numbers are misleading. For example, approximately 25-30% of patients are in the hospital with COVID-19, not for it. They come in for another medical reason and are tested, but have no symptoms.

Similarly, he notes ICU statistics are misleading. Citing Texas, which he reviewed because they are at 90% capacity, he said only 15% of those beds are occupied due to COVID-19. Regular medical care resumed, and patients not suffering from COVID-19 occupy the vast majority of the beds.

Other encouraging statistics include the length of stay and mortality. The time a COVID-19 patient spends in the hospital is half of what it was early in the pandemic. The mortality rate is 25% of what it was. He attributes this to spread to lower risk populations and improvement in treatment. Today’s news about hydroxychloroquine trials gives a reason for even more optimism. It may prevent hospitalizations if pushed to outpatient care on a broad scale.

Dr. Atlas attributes backtracking by several governors to fear and ignorance. Several failed to do what was required to protect vulnerable populations early in the pandemic and are doing political calculations.

He says public health experts are engaged in sloppy thinking among smart people. Instead, they should be lowering the level of fear people have by giving a realistic assessment of the severity of the disease for most people. COVID-19 has a 99% recovery rate. You might not know that if you watch CNN.

Finally, Dr. Atlas insists children need to go back to school. Children are not an infection risk, and data from across the globe supports his assertion. There is no science to require children to wear masks or socially distance. He says the education and socialization losses are far more dangerous for children than the threat of COVID-19.

Of course, he reiterated that the situation needs to be monitored as it is today, and those who are high-risk need to maintain precautions. Being cautious does not mean they need to stay locked at home. Appropriate distancing guidelines and masks for the high-risk population can be maintained.

Dr. Atlas brings a needed perspective on the way we view the pandemic. Maligned governors like Kemp in Georgia and DeSantis in Florida are managing their states effectively using the laser focus Dr. Atlas recommends. You can listen to his full comments in the first segment of the Larry O’Connor show below and learn how to hold your state and local leaders accountable.