Issues & Insights

Is The Media Ignoring Good News On Coronavirus?

Airman 1st Class Elora J. Martinez

I&I Editorial

There has been some tantalizingly good news about the coronavirus in the past few days, not that you’d know it from the end-of-the-world treatment it gets in the press.

Of the 10 countries with the most COVID-19 cases, five showed declines in new reported cases over the past few days. In France, the number has been flat for days.

There have been a tiny number of new cases reported in China since early March, according to data from Worldometers.info. In South Korea, the number of new cases has stabilized at around 100 a day.

Meanwhile, at the time this editorial posted, data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that – when measured by date of onset rather than the day officially reported — the number of new COVID-19 cases peaked on March 9 at 194, then dropped to 172 on March 10. It was 174 on March 11. It plunged to 122 on March 12, although the CDC cautions that there may be onsets that day that haven’t been reported yet. In any case, all this was before the most draconian restrictions were put in place.

It’s far too early to draw any conclusions, but it certainly doesn’t look like an out-of-control plague, as commonly depicted by the press.

Meanwhile, two studies have come out showing that fatality rates form the disease are far lower than earlier warnings – which prompted those restrictions – claimed.

On Thursday, the journal Nature Medicine reported findings out of the University of Hong Kong that the death rate in China’s Wuhan province, where the disease originated, was 1.4%. That’s several percentage points lower than previous estimates, and far below the World Health Organization’s horrifying pronouncement in early March of a 3.4% death rate.

The Hong Kong researchers also found that the risk of dying was heavily concentrated among older people. For those over 64, the fatality rate was 2.4%. For those under 64, it dropped to 0.5%. For those younger than 15, the researchers found the fatality rate was zero.

These findings were actually available a week ago, when the draft paper started to circulate. But few noted the findings. Even when the study was officially published late last week, only a few major news outlets bothered to cover it.

Then there are the findings from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, on which passengers were quarantined for weeks after an outbreak.

The researchers reviewing the data found that of the 3,711 people on board, only 17% got the disease, despite the fact all passengers were likely exposed. Of those diagnosed as having the disease, 8 have died.

The researchers note that the population of the cruise ship was much older than the general population. In fact, a third of the passengers were 70 or older, the age group that accounted for all the deaths.

John Ioannidis, writing for Stat News, said that based on these findings, “reasonable estimates for the case fatality ratio in the general U.S. population vary from 0.05% to 1%.” In other words, very much like the seasonal flu.

Why do these studies matter? Because if the death rates from coronavirus are that low, the draconian measures to prevent its spread would be completely uncalled for.

As Ioannidis notes: “Locking down the world with potentially tremendous social and financial consequences may be totally irrational.”

A lower death rate also makes it more likely that the public safety measures would kill more people than they save, because of the additional lives lost to things like increased levels of known killers like stress, depression, poverty.

To be sure, the recent trend data might just be a blip, and these two studies involve relatively small sample sizes and come with lots of caveats. We’re not saying the COVID-19 is nothing to worry about.

But these recent developments do raise a question. Will the news media report good news as aggressively as they’ve been reporting the bad?

So far, it doesn’t look that way.

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20 comments

  • Today, March 22nd, the US recorded more than 9,000 additional cases. That is 9,000 new cases in one day. The total number of recovered patients in the US is about 188. Deaths stand at 457. At this moment, two thirds of the patients that we know the outcomes of, are dying.
    https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/
    I don’t know about the studies, but right now things are not looking great. Certainly the death rate will come down, a lot. But will it get to 1%? That is still an unknown. But, assuming our death rate is only 1%, it would still mean hundreds of thousands of deaths if we just went about our business as usual. The lock downs may cause additional deaths from stress and depression, but will also save thousands who would die from the flu they will now not catch. And thousands more may not die in traffic accidents, depending on how long we are locked down for. If we just allow business as usual, we also lose hundreds if not thousands of people who had other injuries and illnesses because staff and resources would not be sufficient to treat everyone. Hospitals are already drafting protocols to triage patients rules on when to allow those most sick to expire without further treatment. If 17% of our 340 million people contracted the virus ((57,800,000) and only only 3% of that number is hospitalized, it would mean 1.7 million additional hospitalizations. This is a lot spread over a year. However, all these additional hospitalizations might be spread over several months instead.

    • Bob, yes, 9k cases verified thanks to lots of new testing. Doesn’t dismiss I&I’s point. In fact, you may be making it. Regards, db

    • The statistics you cite are essentially meaningless. The new cases are a result of more testing as well as new infections. The “two thirds are dying” number is totally useless. We have no idea how that website gathers its numbers, nor do we know what their definition of “closed” means. That website’s calculation of mortality is in direct contravention of reporting now, and hasn’t been updated since march 5. Right on the page you showed it says that the vast majority of cases are mild. China reports no new cases in Hubei Province. They say that the total of cases was 67,000 in a population of 60 million. I take Chinese CCP announcements with 6lbs. of salt, but something is off here. Alarmist views will do us far more harm than good.

      • What is alarmist about trying to avoid 289,000 deaths? This is the low end of the estimate, using the article’s numbers – 17% infection and .005% death rate. (for those of you who doubt the math – .17*340 million = 57,800,000. .005* 57,800,000 = 289,000). So where is the good news in more than quarter of million Americans dying? And that is if the disease is way, way less deadly than the WHO and others have projected. If the WHO’s numbers are right we would have upwards of 2,000,000 deaths. We sure as hell hope WHO is wrong, and the Nature Science article is right, but if its not?
        And just a small observation. The 17% infection rate from the Diamond Princess is based on a ship that went into quarantine after the first 10 cases were discovered. We can speculate that perhaps all 3700 people had been exposed, but we don’t know. It is quite possible that many still become infected after implementation of the quarantine. What would have been the infection rate if they just went about their normal routines, eating in the cafeterias, playing shuffleboard and splashing the pools.?

    • We know for a fact the Wuhan Corona virus was in US in January 2020, from samples collected by Dr Helen Chu in Washington state. The process of locking America down began in first week of March 2020.

      If lockdown is recent, then millions of Americans have been in close contact with one another for almost two months.

      Regardless of mass testing being performed approximately seven days ago, given what media is reporting, why is the mortality rate for Wuhan Corona virus so low?

      After two months of open contagion to the virus, shouldn’t there be greater numbers of death and more hospitals already overwhelmed by Wuhan corona virus?

    • Do not confuse the increase in reported cases with growth in cases.

      Think of someone diving in the ocean. He dives down as far as he can — 20 feet — and comes back to tell you that it is at least 20 feet deep. He really does not know how deep it is, all he is measuring is his capacity to dive.

      Right now, the only statistics that can be trusted are the death statistics. And even they are misleading, because they do not measure the number of people who actually have the disease.

    • re “The total number of recovered patients in the US is about 188. Deaths stand at 457. At this moment, two thirds of the patients that we know the outcomes of, are dying.”

      Bad math because it ignores the differences between time get sick and fully recover, vs time to die. It does stand to reason that the people in worst shape *before* the virus will likely die sooner than someone who gets fairly ill but takes a while to be in good shape again. Also ignores those not sick enough to be hospitalized, or even tested.

  • Unless the media hide any and all good news regarding the Chinese Coronavirus, they can’t use it to hurt Trump…which is their primary function.

  • Of course the MSM, a radical leftist group and attack dog for the democrat party, will be loath to report the good news or the truth. Their objective is to bring down President Trump, Boris Johnson, and conservatives in general. Never let a crisis go to waste (Rahm Emmanuel) and so if there is a depression, their party can pick up the pieces and further their goal of socialism.

  • There hasn’t been a new case reported in China since early March, according to data from Worldometers.info.

    This is patently false. 39 new cases and 9 new deaths in China, per Worldmeters RIGHT NOW. There ARE new cases being reported in China. In addition, there are non-government sources claiming that China has suspended testing, hence the lack of new reported cases. They have been repeatedly accused of covering up the severity of what is happening.

    Nothing reported from China can be used to see what is happening with this.

    • You can see whether China is lifting the lock down and going back to work. Its factories are opening all over the country and in many provinces life is back to normal. The virus, while not completely contained, has become very uncommon. If no domestic cases are detected through the end of next month, China will declare the emergency over. China continues to report new cases, but for the past several days all the new cases have come from people traveling to China. There have been no new community transmission cases for some days now.

  • Most people, like myself, know very little to nothing about the science of virology. But we all observe politics, and there is no doubt in my mind that political agendas are as much in the air with this matter as anything. My perception is that there are some people, out of political motivation, are cheering this thing on and would, indeed, suppress knowledge of hopeful developments (e.g. known and approved drugs that are showing effectiveness against the infections).

  • “But these recent developments do raise a question. Will the news media report good news as aggressively as they’ve been reporting the bad?”

    Writing humor now, are we?

    • Most newspapers adhere to the rule of prostitute or perish, so no they will not publish good news. Good news does not bleed.

  • The old adage, “If it bleeds, it leads,” has never been more true. And if it doesn’t bleed, the media will stab it to make news.

  • Dr. Fauci has been fighting against hydroxychloroquine ever since it was reported that it has cured covid-19 patients. Why? Who knows, I think his fame on TV has gone to his head and just doesn’t want to admit that something he did recommend first might actually work. Trump needs to tell him to go pound sand.

    • Even Trump doesn’t say that it is proven. He said let’s try it. Dr. Fauci said lets try in way that will tell us whether it safe and effective. If there was proof, countries around the world approve its use. By the way, because it is already approved for the treatment of malaria, any doctor in the US could prescribe it to a patient for any use that doctor feels is appropriate.

    • Agreed, Sam-I-Am. Fauci has contracted Judge Ito disease. Ito thought it was about him, too.

  • Fact: We don’t know the number of people exposed to, or infected by, the virus. If the count is significantly higher in both cases–which is far more likely than not and will be substantiated with expanded testing–the mortality rate will be much lower than currently screeched by the math challenged media.

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