Revisiting My Early SARS-CoV-2 Coverage
It seems the things I said early on, if not popular, where pretty much spot on, however.
Header image: Detail from “St. John the Baptist in the Wilderness” by Hieronymus Bosch
On 28 January 2020, I wrote a blog post criticising the initial coverage of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic (the virus was still called 2019-nCov at the time) as being too panicked. In my initial takeaway, I estimated the risk to die from this virus as about the same as dying from a particularly aggressive influenza strain.
In the case of the current coronavirus (2019-nCov), throwing around mortality rates seems very cavalier to me as even doctors on the ground can only base these on hospitalised patients. And with about 5,000 cases so far, the data is mighty thin to draw conclusions in my opinion. From what I’ve read, coronavirus seems comparable to a very bad case of influenza. It might spread more easily, but there’s some argument that this is down to the crowded conditions and overextended healthcare system in the region were the virus first spread. I don’t think there is reason to panic. If you feel sick, go to a doctor, basically. But that always applies.
I was attacked heavily for this and my attitude was called too cavalier and possibly reckless.
I followed up with a second blog post on this topic on 1 February, once more information was available. When we finally had some actual somewhat-scientific numbers, I felt assured in my initial prediction that SARS-CoV-2 would have a comparable fatality rate to influenza.
What will the case fatality rate be? (It was 0.02-0.4% for 2009 H1N1 influenza virus, 9.5% for SARS-CoV.) It is too early to answer these questions, but we learn more every week.
The WHO currently estimates the fatality rate of the virus to be about 2%. But they also stress that it’s too early to tell with much confidence, especially because there seem to be a great number of milder cases that do not get reported.
At the time, I opined on social media that I thought the 0.02% - 0.4% fatality rate was realistic for SARS-CoV-2. I got attacked again and again for that.
I comprehensive study undertaken in the Netherlands and now published in pre-print comes to the conclusion that the overall risk of dying from the disease was 1.2% between February 2020 and June 2021 in that country. The fatality rate for people under 50 years old was between 0.002% and 0.013%. This comes pretty close to what I was saying three years ago.
What was unexpected to me about how the pandemic developed from there, was the fact that SARS-CoV-2 turned out to be much more infectious than influenza. This is what caused the high death toll, not the fact that the disease is radically more deadly than influenza. It is more deadly, but mostly to vulnerable people, especially the elderly – an observation that I subsequently made and also got attacked for frequently. That notwithstanding, my initial criticism about the media panic based on the death rate of the disease seem to have been justified, despite all the blowback I received for it.
I also said that rather than championing lockdowns, we should be protecting vulnerable citizens and that instead of spending a fortune on dumb apps, we should be shoring up our medical systems. I got attacked for these suggestions, too, but in hindsight they also seem to have been borne out as good ideas. Just as I’ve always maintained that vaccines will not control the spread of a respiratory virus with characteristics like SARS-CoV-2. An opinion that, of all the things I have listed here, I probably got attacked for the most, but that now also seems to be the scientific consensus. At least if you listen to Dr. Anthony Fauci and the NIAID.
I guess this is what you get for actually using your brain, thinking things through and doing your own research instead of just parroting what the corporate news media repeats ad nauseam: You get closer to the truth than other people, but you’ll also be hated for not conforming to the majority which is getting things wrong.