Mainstream media stoke COVID fear by confusing case counts, positive tests
October 14, 2020 (American Thinker) — COVID cases are on the rise, or so we are told daily by a hysterical media establishment. Newspaper headlines scream panic, as this recent USAToday article proclaimed: "COVID-19 cases rising in 39 states — 9 months into the pandemic: We are overwhelmed."
It's the American people who are overwhelmed — nine months into masks and lockdowns, with a presidential election just weeks away, facing a daily barrage of doom and gloom from the media. Are cases really on the rise, or are these simply positive tests?
The above article, one of many, warns, "A startling nine states setting ominous, seven-day records for infections." Thirty-nine states reported more cases in the last week than they had in the week before.
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What exactly is a "case"? The USAToday article doesn't say. Neither do other articles or cable news doctors and other "experts." Is a "case" simply a positive test?
The CDC answers this question with a "case definition." A case is not just a positive test. Instead, what is needed is "[p]resumptive laboratory evidence AND either clinical criteria OR epidemiologic evidence." Notice the AND, meaning not simply a positive test.
Yet what the media trumpet as "surging cases" are only positive tests. There is no discussion of whether or not any of the individuals with positive tests are showing symptoms or are actually sick with the Chinese flu — or if they are contagious and needing to be quarantined.
As an analogy, suppose we routinely checked people's blood sugar or blood pressure and called any single high reading diabetes or hypertension. Imagine testing everyone's blood sugar after lunch, when it naturally rises, and calling anyone with a reading over 140 a diabetic. We would have a surge in diabetes, yet the vast majority of these individuals are not actually diabetic.
The COVID PCR test is quite sensitive, amplifying any viral particles found in the nose, whether dead or alive, repeatedly until the test is positive. Most of these positive "cases" are neither contagious nor symptomatic, as even the New York Times acknowledged.
The more people we test, the more positive tests will result. Nancy Pelosi called for "testing, testing, testing," and that is exactly what we now have. The U.S. is currently performing over a million tests per day, with just under 5 percent coming back positive.
The U.S. is performing 2.87 daily tests per thousand people, far more than most countries. For comparison, Canada is a third lower at 2.09 tests per thousand, France 1.9, Germany 1.87, Australia 1.21, and India 0.82.
More tests mean more positive results, but not necessarily cases of COVID. For example, the U.S. performing 2.87 tests per thousand people compared with Mexico performing 0.08 tests per thousand will yield dramatically different results, showing the U.S. "surging" in cases as the media describe.
This then fuels the false narrative that the U.S. has so many cases of COVID due to the orange man's ineptitude rather than the orange man ramping up testing, as everyone called for, to a level unmatched by any major country.
Hospitalizations, a measure of disease severity, have been steadily declining since March, with a small bump in mid-summer. They've gone from a high of over 3,000 hospitalizations per week last spring to fewer than 700 per week now, according to the CDC.
Fears of a surge early last spring led to only the sickest patients being admitted to the hospital at that time. There are no such concerns now, and those hospitalized presently are not as sick, receiving hospital care much earlier in their illness. President Trump's recent hospitalization with only mild symptoms is an example.
Yet these so-called case surges, in actuality only positive tests, are driving societal policy decisions. New York City is shutting down nine neighborhoods based on a positive test rate of over 3 percent for seven straight days. Yet the country as a whole has a higher test positive rate of 4.9 percent currently.
There is no mention of how many New Yorkers are actually sick or hospitalized — simply positive tests, as New York is following Nancy Pelosi's recommendation of "testing, testing, testing." In fact, back in July, New York had likely achieved herd immunity based on getting hit hard early in the course of the pandemic. Yet for inexplicable reasons, New York is closing down again.
In my state of Colorado, Governor Jared Polis extended the mask mandate for another 30 days due to "a rise in hospitalizations" for the Chinese virus. This extension conveniently goes just past the election.
As Coloradans have been wearing masks for months, it raises the question of whether masks are doing anything if hospitalizations are increasing. Unknown is whether patients are being hospitalized earlier in the disease course, given excess hospital capacity compared to last spring.
Colorado reports only a third of critical care ventilators in use, hardly a shortage, and it's unknown how many of those ventilators are for COVID patients versus the myriad of other conditions requiring ventilator support.
Many schools and businesses remain closed based on positive test numbers. The personal and societal costs mount, as many states and cities prefer to keep draconian shutdown orders in place long after they have served their purpose of "flattening the curve."
How many cancer screenings, vaccinations, and other preventative care measures have been delayed over lockdowns, with consequences of undetected disease becoming manifest in years ahead?
Death counts were the metric of choice last April, a constant ticker on cable news shows. Now it's cases, with no context between positive tests and actual cases. Democrats then blame Trump for not having a "national plan," allowing the virus to remain "out of control."
The only plan is to make Americans miserable ahead of the election, hoping voters choose a new leader, one whose COVID plan is virtually identical to the existing president's plan.
What's shameful is that the media, ignorant or uninterested in the facts, deliberately present a false equivalence between positive tests and cases, all to push a gloom-and-doom narrative to influence the upcoming election.
President Trump was right when he said, after returning from Walter Reed to the White House, "Don't let it dominate you. Don't be afraid of it." "We're going back, we're going back to work. We're going to be out front. ... Don't let it dominate your lives. Get out there, be careful."
Brian C. Joondeph, M.D. is a Denver-based physician and freelance writer whose pieces have appeared in American Thinker, Daily Caller, Rasmussen Reports, and other publications. Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Parler, and QuodVerum.
Published with permission from the American Thinker.