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Johns Hopkins University censors lecturer, responds with critique ignoring CDC data

‘Now everybody is sure Johns Hopkins is hiding something,’ commented former statistician William M. Briggs.
Tue Dec 1, 2020 - 2:39 pm EST
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Dr. Genevieve Briand during a Nov. 13, 2020 Johns Hopkins University Advanced Academic Programs lecture. JHU Advanced Academic Programs / Youtube screen grab

December 1, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Johns Hopkins University’s censure of a critical analysis of U.S. COVID-19 death statistics by one of its own senior lecturers, which it deleted from its website, has huge gaping holes, leaving key points of the analysis unrefuted.

Johns Hopkins University (JHU), the renowned school in Baltimore, took aim at their own Dr. Genevieve Briand, assistant director for MS in their Applied Economics program who examined death stats in the United States for 2020 and previous years, and pointed to evidence that COVID-19 is not as dangerous as it’s generally portrayed.

An article by Yanni Gu that relayed key points of her analysis was deleted by JHU for “being used to support false and dangerous inaccuracies about the impact of the pandemic,” as the JHU Newsletter stated on Twitter.

The newsletter replaced the article, which can be found on the Internet Archive, with an Editor’s Note that attempted to refute what it described as “dangerous inaccuracies.”

The note claimed that Briand “trivializes the repercussions of the pandemic” by presenting COVID-19 deaths as a percentage of total U.S. deaths.

“This evidence does not disprove the severity of COVID-19; an increase in excess deaths is not represented in these proportionalities because they are offered as percentages, not raw numbers,” the note continued.

In her presentation, however, Briand’s key point was to spotlight remarkable statistics from the three weeks of April 2020 with the year’s highest number of COVID-19 deaths, showing that the rise in COVID-19 deaths almost exactly mirrored the decrease in other leading causes of deaths.

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Graph depicts the total decrease in deaths by various causes, including COVID-19. Courtesy of Genevieve Briand SOURCE: Courtesy of Genevieve Briand

Briand pointed out that this corresponding decrease in non-COVID death numbers appears to signify that deaths actually caused by non-COVID diseases were instead labeled as caused by COVID-19.

“The COVID-19 death toll is misleading … deaths due to heart diseases, respiratory diseases, influenza and pneumonia may instead be recategorized as being due to COVID-19,” said Briand.

JHU attempted to address this point, saying, “However, COVID-19 disproportionately affects those with preexisting conditions, so those with those underlying conditions are statistically more likely to be severely affected and die from the virus.”

Their comment did not address the possibility that people with these pre-existing conditions may have either died from other causes that coexisted with COVID-19, or that another illness was mistaken for COVID-19, such as the flu.

In fact, the CDC’s own data on COVID-19 deaths dismantles JHU’s claim. The CDC data, strikingly, refuses to single out COVID-19 as a sole cause of death for any 2020 death tally. Instead, it bundles COVID-19 with the flu and/or pneumonia, leaving the actual cause of death undetermined.

William M. Briggs, a former statistician and professor at Cornell University with a PhD in Mathematical Statistics, noted, “In early summer CDC stopped separate counts of flu + pneumonia because, we suppose, of the difficulty telling these deaths from doom deaths.”

Yanni Gu, in her summary of Briand’s analysis, made this critical point: “The CDC classified all deaths that are related to COVID-19 simply as COVID-19 deaths. Even patients dying from other underlying diseases but are infected with COVID-19 count as COVID-19 deaths. This is likely the main explanation as to why COVID-19 deaths drastically increased while deaths by all other diseases experienced a significant decrease.”

Another possible explanation for the corresponding decrease in deaths by non-COVID illnesses is that COVID-19 patients may have displaced patients of other diseases in the hospital.

In the case of recorded decreases in deaths by diseases such as heart disease and cancer during the peak death period of 2020, it is at least plausible, if not likely, that individuals who would ordinarily die of these diseases at a hospital and therefore have their cause of death recorded, instead died at home. This is evidenced by a reported spike in at-home non-COVID deaths, as well as by marked decreases in diagnoses, referrals, and treatment for diseases other than COVID-19.

The JHU Editor’s Note also called out Briand’s statement, quoted by Gu in her article, that all of this “points to no evidence that COVID-19 created any excess deaths. Total death numbers are not above normal death numbers.”

JHU countered, “This claim is incorrect and does not take into account the spike in raw death count from all causes compared to previous years. According to the CDC, there have been almost 300,000 excess deaths due to COVID-19.”

Briand, in her presentation, actually does acknowledge a spike of death numbers during 2020 that is higher than spikes in the previous years she highlighted. In this sense, her claims appear to be contradictory.

The explanation is that Briand makes this statement in the context of other measures of data. At the end of her presentation, she highlighted the points that the average number of deaths per week in the U.S. revealed by the data, 60,000, is normal, and that deaths by leading non-COVID diseases were shown to decrease during the peak death weeks of 2020.

So while the data does show a spike of “excess” deaths in 2020, Briand’s claim that these particular measures do not point to evidence that COVID-19 created excess deaths appears to be entirely valid, and supported by statistics of the CDC itself.

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Commenting on the deletion of Briand’s analysis, Briggs used hyperbole to drive home the absurdity of JHU’s censorship, and their desire to maintain a robust fear of COVID-19.

“Ninety percent of the population is racing in every direction like extras in a Toho Godzilla movie, only in masks. Johns Hopkins thinks this level of abject irrational terror is just about right. Besides, everybody knows science means only (having) one unchangeable opinion on every matter.”

He noted the difficulty in drawing a definitive conclusion about the death statistics, but admitted the possibility that deaths can be misattributed to COVID-19. “All this is very tricky,” said Briggs.

It is doubtful whether JHU succeeded suppressing its own senior lecturer’s research, as the deletion of the article has only drawn more media attention to it, boosting the publicity of the article.

“If it weren’t for the censorship, I wouldn’t have got the dozens and dozens of requests to look at it,” he noted. Now everybody is sure Johns Hopkins is hiding something. Hilarious.”


  cdc, covid-19, excess deaths, genevieve briand, johns hopkins university, william m. briggs

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