Junk Model from Imperial College London Caused the COVID19 Panic

Written by Madeline Osburn

Inaccurate Virus Models Are Panicking Officials Into Ill-Advised Lockdowns

A scan of statements made by U.S. media, state governors, local leaders, county judges, and more show many relying on the same source, an online mapping tool called COVID Act Now.  As  the predicted dire outcomes fail to materialize it seems the blame falls on a single website’s inaccurate and hyperbolic hospitalization models.

The headline of an NBC Oregon affiliate featured COVID Act Now data, and a headline blaring, “Coronavirus model sees Oregon hospitals overwhelmed by mid-April.” Both The Oregonian and The East Oregonian also published stories featuring the widely shared data predicting a “point of no return.”

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer cited COVID Act Now when telling her state they would exceed 7 million cases in Michigan, with 1 million hospitalized and 460,000 deaths if the state did nothing.

A local CBS report in Georgia featured an Emory University professor urging Gov. Brian Kemp with the same “point of no return” language and COVID Act Now models.

Carlos del Rio@CarlosdelRio7

We need ⁦@GovKemp⁩ to act now, the point of “no return” for GA is rapidly closing. To prevent a catastrophe in the healthcare system due to we need for him to shut down GA now. ⁦@drmt⁩ ⁦⁦@Armstrws⁩ ⁦@colleenkraftmdhttps://covidactnow.org/state/GA 

This model predicts the last day each state can act before the point of no return

The only thing that matters right now is the speed of your response

covidactnow.org

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The models are being shared across social media, news reports, and finding their way into officials’ daily decisions, which is concerning because COVID Act Now’s predictions have already been proven to be wildly wrong.

COVID Act Now predicted that by March 19 the state of Tennessee could expect 190 hospitalizations of patients with confirmed Wuhan virus. By March 19, they only had 15 patients hospitalized.

In New York, Covid Act Now claimed nearly 5,400 New Yorkers would’ve been hospitalized by March 19. The actual number of hospitalizations is around 750. The site also claimed nearly 13,000 New York hospitalizations by March 23. The actual number was around 2,500.

In Georgia, COVID Act Now predicted 688 hospitalizations by March 23. By that date, they had around 800 confirmed cases in the whole state, and fewer than 300 hospitalized.

In Florida, Covid Act Now predicted that by March 19, the state would face 400 hospitalizations. On March 19, Gov. Ron DeSantis said 90 people in Florida had been hospitalized.

COVID Act Now’s models in other states, including Oklahoma and Virginia, were also far off in their predictions. Jordan Schachtel, a national security writer, said COVID Act Now’s modeling comes from one team based at Imperial College London that is not only highly scrutinized, but has a track record of bad predictions.

Jordan Schachtel

@JordanSchachtel

4) Their models come 100% from Imperial College UK projection that is coming under *heavy* scrutiny from scientific community. IC UK produced the famed doomsday scenario that guaranteed 2MM dead Americans. The man behind the projections is refusing to make his code public.

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Jessica Hamzelou at New Scientist notes the systematic errors researchers and scientists have found with the modeling COVID Act Now relies on:

Chen Shen at the New England Complex Systems Institute, a research group in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and his colleagues argue that the Imperial team’s model is flawed, and contains ‘incorrect assumptions’. They point out that the Imperial team’s model doesn’t account for the availability of tests, or the possibility of ‘super-spreader events’ at gatherings, and has other issues.

Among other issues, COVID Act Now lists the “Known Limitations” of their model. Here are a few that seem especially alarming, considering they generate a model for each individual state:

  • Many of the inputs into this model (hospitalization rate, hospitalization rate) are based on early estimates that are likely to be wrong.

  • Demographics, populations, and hospital bed counts are outdated. Demographics for the USA as a whole are used, rather than specific to each state.

  • The model does not adjust for the population density, culturally-determined interaction frequency and closeness, humidity, temperature, etc in calculating R0.

  • This is not a node-based analysis, and thus assumes everyone spreads the disease at the same rate. In practice, there are some folks who are ‘super-spreaders,’ and others who are almost isolated.

So why is the organization or seemingly innocent online mapping tool using inaccurate algorithms to scaremonger leaders into tanking the economy? Politics, of course.

Founders of the site include Democratic Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins and three Silicon Valley tech workers and Democratic activists — Zachary Rosen, Max Henderson, and Igor Kofman — who are all also donors to various Democratic campaigns and political organizations since 2016. Henderson and Kofman donated to the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016, while Rosen donated to the Democratic National Committee, recently resigned Democratic Rep. Katie Hill, and other Democratic candidates. Prior to building the COVID Act Now website, Kofman created an online game designed to raise $1 million for the eventual 2020 Democratic candidate and defeat President Trump. The game’s website is now defunct.

Perhaps the goal of COVID Act Now was never to provide accurate information, but to scare citizens and government officials into to implementing rash and draconian measures. The creators even admit as much with the caveat that “this model is designed to drive fast action, not predict the future.”

They generated this model under the guise of protecting communities from overrun hospitals, a trend that is not on track to happen as they predicted. Not only is the data false, and looking more incorrect with each passing day, but the website is optimized for a disinformation campaign.

A social media share button prompts users to share their models and alarming graphs on Facebook and Twitter with the auto-fill text, “This is the point of no return for intervention to prevent X’s hospital system from being overloaded by Coronavirus.”

The daunting phrase, the “point of no return,” is the same talking point being repeated by government officials justifying their shelter-in-place orders and filling local news headlines.

Democrats are not going to waste such a rich political opportunity as a global pandemic. Americans already witnessed Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats attempt to take advantage of an economic recession with a pipe-dream relief bill this week. Projects like COVID Act Now are another attempt to play the same political games, but with help from unknown, behind-the-scenes Democratic activists instead.

Our community leaders, the mayors and the city councils, deserve better than to be swindled by a handful Silicon Valley tech bros. Our governors and state officials deserve better data and analysis than a Democratic activists’ model that doesn’t adjust for important geographical factors like population density or temperature. Americans and their families deserve better than to be jobless, hopeless, and quarantined because of a single website’s inaccurate and hyperbolic hospitalization models.

Madeline Osburn is a staff editor at the Federalist and the producer of The Federalist Radio Hour. Follow her on Twitter.
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Comments (7)

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    Norman

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    Madeline Osburn

    I do not know where you are getting the information you post. Example. You claim the model is bogus because it has Tennessee with 190 hospitalizations for March 19. I went to the link and the actual number given is 37 not even close to the 190 you gave.

    For New York the graph gave a value of 3230 hospitalizations not 13,000.

    I am puzzled where you got your data from, your link does not support any of your claims. Also they have different projections for actions taken. Already action has been taken to slow the spread (social distancing). You need to use different projections based upon that. Still even with the worst case graph nothing you posted matches any reality of the graphs. Maybe you should go back and review how you made such drastic errors.

    We have a potential terrible epidemic out there and false and misleading information are not of any value and it discredits you.

    • Avatar

      JDHuffman

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      Norman, you aren’t able to process facts. Madeline’s point is the “model” is biased toward a panic. You believe in the panic, so you discard all facts that don’t agree with your false belief.

      As of this morning, about 3300 people have reportedly died from coronavirus. But likely 200,000 people will die this year due to medical malpractice and malfeasance (USA figures). Where’s your panic over incompetent doctors and nurses?

      Some people just want to be sheep.

      • Avatar

        JT

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        I just look at the facts and I see the following.

        In the whole of the UK flu season 2017-2018 there were 372 deaths in the UK from 3,454 hospital admissions. – data from the British Medical Journal based on Public Health Englands official flu mortality reports.

        In the past week in the UK there have been almost 500 covid-19 deaths.

        I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

        • Avatar

          Alan

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          Your “facts” are a lesson in how to distort facts and deceive people. Over the last five years the average number of deaths from flu in the UK is 17,000 and it varies considerably. The deaths attributed to flu are mostly assumed and not tested for. Most deaths are not from a single cause especially with the elderly, so the truth is more accurately stated that people die with the flu and not from the flu. Nothing demonstrates this more than the death of Eddie Large, announced today. He was in hospital with heart failure and acquired the virus there, but much is being made of his death from the virus. Fake news is everywhere.

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    Shirley A. Bennett

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    I find this information absolutely disturbing. It is tantamount to screaming “FIRE” in a movie theater after you’ve locked the doors so no one can escape. The founders of the site should be held accountable for creating & causing mass panic & fear. Jail is to good for them. I personally would give them an old fashioned “drawn & quartered” treatment.

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    Dr Roger Higgs (geologist)

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    Models. Garbage in, garbage out. Another example is the imaginary ‘Climate Crisis’ when, in truth, we are fortunately recovering from the Little Ice Age (about 1500-1900AD), the coldest episode of the entire Holocene interglacial period (the last 11,650 years). Thanks to the Sun’s largest upswing (1700-1991) of at least the last 8,000 years … see Figure 14 at https://www.aanda.org/articles/aa/pdf/2018/07/aa31892-17.pdf … humanity is now luckily returning to temperatures more typical of the Sun-driven ‘Holocene Climatic OPTIMUM” (google it; the clue is in the name), when earlier civilisations FLOURISHED, only to decline in the next cold episode. The IPCC with its ‘climate models’ has made fools of us all, but truth will eventually out … https://www.researchgate.net/publication/338914556

  • Avatar

    Jerry Krause

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    Hi Roger,

    You concluded: “The IPCC with its ‘climate models’ has made fools of us all, but truth will eventually out ”

    I do not know about education outside of the USA. But I ask you, have you read about the ‘grade inflation’ that began occurring in the late 1960s because too many public school teachers did not maintain the previous high grading standards? I was teacher in a public school for one year and was encouraged to move on since I had failed the 7th grade daughter of a school broad member every marking period in mathematics.

    Then in the 1990s I was accused of sexual harassment and racial discrimination because a student in my chemistry class earned a D when a C was required for her to be accepted into a nursing program. The student’s case was dismissed at the District Court and then appealed to the Federal Court of Appeals where it was again dismissed.

    But my community college administration agreed to pay off this student instead of going to court over the student’s actions. And this administration gave me incentive to retire instead of being dismissed as they were trying to do after I had taught there for 20+ years.

    And one of my former students came back after earning his MD degree to complain that my colleague, who had taught his organic chemistry class and I, who had taught his general chemistry class had been too demanding.

    This USA “grade inflation” is the likely reason that one finds so many foreign students in USA graduate schools and after earning their advanced degrees being employed by the large USA companies because so few home grown and educated USA students can complete with these foreign students’ learned abilities and work ethics.

    Have a good day, Jerry

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