Stop panicking over bad data

Sit, down, pour a bourbon, light a cigar, and indulge me in a mental exercise.

In this exercise, postulate that we have a population of a thousand people.

In this population, a disease gets loose — we’ll call it “Albino Brain Chiggers” — and one hundred people wind up in the hospital. Of the hundred in hospital, two of them die.

That’s a 2% mortality rate, and is fairly significant

However, turns out that a hundred other people had Albino Brain Chiggers, but it was a mild case that looked a lot like the usual seasonal respiratory illness, and they did what they always do: drank water, took Motrin, changed their socks, and drove on.

Since they didn’t bother getting medical attention, their stats don’t get counted, but they should: because it means that 200 people had ABC, but only two died — which is a mortality rate of 1%.


Take a sip, have a puff.

Now, let’s go one further. Let us postulate that half of all Albino Brain Chigger cases are “asymptomatic”, that is, the folks that have it never know. They continue about their lives, never getting sick, and, thus … never seeking medical attention. And never getting tested.

Half means that actually 400 people had ABC. And only two died.

That’s … let me get my shoes off …

… A 0.5% mortality rate.

The data regarding the Wuhan Virus you are currently getting is corrupted. Badly.

It’s corrupted because we had to develop a test for this thing, the numbers of tests are still kind of limited, and because of that we’re only testing sick people. We’re not testing the mild cases that just drive on, and we’re damned well not testing the asymptomatic cases.

It’s also corrupted because — let’s face it: Anybody who trusts any information from the Chinese Government, or any socialist government for that matter, should have their Licence To Adult taken away.

And since this whole mess started in China, a whole bunch of people who ought to know better are still using mortality numbers provided by the Chinese Government.

(Willing to bet that “Death by COVID-19” has overtaken “Death by Suicide” amongst wide swaths of Chinese dissidents, wrong-thinkers, political prisoners, and other folks deemed “undesirable” by the Chinese government.)

Be that as it may, the Chinese government can, will, and has lied to the rest of the world about things much less important than the Wuhan Virus.

Corruption also comes from tests with false positives, false negatives, people who still think “over-reacting is the best way to proceed” if they’re in doubt; and myriad uncountable other issues in the complicated problem that is a new illness.

Not to mention that at least one non-Chinese country is skewing the statistics regarding what”Death by COVID-19″ actually is (I’m looking at you, Italy) and the plain and simple fact that not only do the testing protocols vary from country-to-country, they frequently vary between health systems in a single country.

Too long; didn’t read:

Stop panicking over the mortality percentage. It’s artificially elevated, and will only come down as testing improves.

Comments closed, because quite frankly the pearl-clutching is grating my nerves something fierce.



By nature and by training I look for deviations from baselines, so when people started waving Italy under my nose and making boogeyman noises anytime anyone mentioned the Wuhan Virus vis a vis the United States, the massive deviation from baseline in the country’s mortality rate caught my attention.

So, I started digging around.

First, did you know that the anti-vaxxer movement is apparently very significant in the Italian political scene?

How The Anti-Vaxxers Are Winning In Italy (Sep 2018)

According to that article, 85% of Italian children receive the first shot in the measles series, and only 83% receive the second.

To stop transmission of infections, 93-95 per cent of the population should be immunised, the herd immunity threshold. But in 2015, Italy’s paediatric measles vaccination rate was around 85 per cent for the first dose and 83 per cent for the second dose.”

‘Goodness, Self,’ I thought, ‘I wonder how that tracks with vaccines OTHER than measles?’

Actually, turns out it tracks pretty well.

Coverage Rate of Flu Vaccination In Italy (Jan 2020)

This statistic illustrates the coverage rate of flu vaccination in Italy from 2006 to 2018. Overall, the share of individuals getting vaccinated against flu has decreased over the period considered, reaching the lowest level during the season 2014-15 (13.6 percent). However, from 2014 onwards, the share of people getting vaccinated against flu steadily increased, reaching 15.3 percent during the flu season 2017-2018.”

Honestly, that one made me blink, so I checked a little further.

Association Between Vaccination Coverage Decline … (Aug 2018)

That one is depressing as hell to read, but it tracks true with the first.

How does no-one getting bloody vaccinated for sodding anything affect things in Italy?  Well, it turns out that if you get a respiratory illness rolling, Italians are going to die in job lots.

Investigating The Impact Of Influenza On Excess Mortality … (Nov 2019)

The average annual mortality excess rate per 100,000 ranged from 11.6 to 41.2 with most of the influenza-associated deaths per year registered among the elderly. However children less than 5 years old also reported a relevant influenza attributable excess death rate in the 2014/15 and 2016/17 seasons (1.05/100,000 and 1.54/100,000 respectively).”

In the flu epidemic of 2014-2015, 20,258 Italians died. In the epidemic of 2016-2017 it was even worse, at 24,981.

But wait! There’s more!

Keeping in mind that apparently the Italians don’t necessarily believe in inoculations (see above). I’m pretty sure that the dismal numbers for measles vaccines and flu vaccines hold true across the spectrum, but — quite frankly — the fact that Italy has a worse vaccine coverage than sodding Equatorial Africa depressed me too much to go looking further.

So, bearing in mind that the Italian anti-vaxxer movement seems to be riding that entire peninsula like a rented mule, look what we have here:

Why Have So Many Coronavirus Patients Died In Italy? (Mar 2020)

 On re-evaluation by the National Institute of Health, only 12 per cent of death certificates have shown a direct causality from coronavirus, while 88 per cent of patients who have died have at least one pre-morbidity – many had two or three,” he says”

What that means is that if you die in an Italian hospital of the measles (that you were never inoculated for), but the autopsy shows the Wuhan Virus, you get entered as a COVID-19 death.

You can be asymptomatic for COVID-19, and die of a heart attack because you ate nothing but baked brie for 58 years, and it’s a coronavirus death.

Didn’t get a pneumonia shot, and (bloody surprise!) die of pneumonia, but they find coronavirus? It’s a coronavirus death.


As of my writing this, 5,000 Italians have died. That is a tragedy.

But they died because the anti-vaxxers have talked them out of getting flu shots; have dissuaded them from taking pneumonia inoculations; from giving their kids measles vaccine, and all of the other pokes in the arm that medical science in the First World spent decades developing.

5,000 Italians have died, but a lot of them died from the dumb. The coronavirus just carried the bullets for a while.

Stop waving Italy under my nose as an example of what’s coming for the United States. We’re not that stupid. Yet.

Comments are closed, because I don’t feel like dealing with hysteria and hyperventilation.