Why were ‘smart’ people so wrong about this pandemic?

Written by Robert Stacy McCain

Two weeks ago, Dr. Deborah Birx warned against doomsday predictions that millions of Americans might die from coronavirus.

At a White House press briefing on March 25, the coordinator of President Trump’s task force condemned media speculation based on claims that as much as half the country’s population might become infected with COVID-19.

“I think the numbers that have been put out there are actually very frightening to people,” said Birx, adding that reported rates of infection in China, where the virus originated, were “nowhere close to the numbers that you see people putting out there. I think it has frightened the American people.”

Birx did not name MSNBC personality Chris Hayes, although he was one of the worst scaremongers in the media mob. On his March 23 program, Hayes warned that “millions of lives are on the line” if the economic lockdown response to the virus was not extended indefinitely:

“There is no option to just let everyone go back out and go back to normal if a pandemic rages across the country and infects 50 percent of the population and kills a percentage point at the low end of those infected and also melts down all the hospitals.”

Applying simple arithmetic to that sentence — treating it like one of those word problems we learned to do in middle-school math class — we find that 50 percent of the U.S. population is more than 160 million people infected with COVID-19. If just 1 percent of those infected died from the virus, that would mean a death toll of at least 1.6 million.

The word “if” signifies a hypothetical contingency, but the way Hayes used the word implied a predictive quality to his speculation about “millions of lives” at jeopardy in a rampaging coronavirus outbreak. And who can say, really, what might have happened in some imagined alternative scenario?

As it happened in real life, however, Trump decided to extend the “social distancing” policy to April 30, most Americans took the recommended precautions seriously, and there is already evidence that we have begun to “flatten the curve,” so that the final U.S. death toll of COVID-19 will likely be a mere fraction of the “millions” about which Hayes warned last month.

Chris Hayes is not stupid, and neither are the scientists whose forecasting models wildly exaggerated the trajectory of this pandemic. Smart people can be wrong, too.

Monday, just hours after I called attention to the failure of these doomsday prophecies (“Coronavirus: The Wrong Numbers”), the widely cited Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) made headlines by revising their forecast: “Key Coronavirus Model Now Predicts Many Fewer U.S. Deaths” (New York magazine), “Dramatic Reduction in COVID-19 Disaster Projections” (National Review), and “Coronavirus Model Now Estimates Fewer U.S. Deaths” (U.S. News & World Report), to cite a few.

Why were the original IMHE projections, first published March 26, so far off the mark? We don’t know. Perhaps the scientists underestimated the efficacy of the “mitigation” measures Trump announced March 16.

Or possibly the use of chloroquine — which Trump controversially called a “game changer” — to combat the virus was more successful than any of the president’s critics are willing to admit. But the fact is, the projection models were wrong, and the gap between what was predicted and what actually happened became apparent within a matter of days.

By April 1, as Justin Hart pointed out, the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized was less than a third of the number projected by the IHME model. In their revised forecast issued Monday, IHME lowered its estimate of total U.S. coronavirus deaths by 12 percent, from 93,531 down to 81,766.

Even this revised forecast may be too pessimistic, however. At his Tuesday press conference, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose state is the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, spoke of a “plateau” in the number of COVID-19 cases in the state’s hospitals, with about 17,500 patients currently hospitalized, about 4,600 of those in intensive-care units.

This is very bad, but it is not the system-crashing catastrophe Cuomo was anticipating when, at a March 24 press conference, he angrily shouted that a shortage of ventilators would cause 26,000 unnecessary deaths in the state.

While we cannot predict future events, it appears that New York now has more ventilators than will ever be needed to cope with the coronavirus outbreak — and this is good news.

Such hopeful signs that we have avoided the worst-case scenarios are probably little comfort to doctors and nurses working double shifts to cope with the COVID-19 patient load in New York City and its suburbs, or in other places around the country dealing with severe local outbreaks of the virus. At Monday’s White House briefing,

Birx spoke of her team’s tracking of the pandemic at a “county by county” level, citing Detroit and New Orleans as examples of the hot spots where federal authorities are helping communities cope with the problem.

At a time when more than 1,000 Americans are dying daily from this disease, the good news — that the pandemic is falling short of the catastrophe previously predicted — is a matter of comparison between a reality that is still quite bad and a doomsday scenario where MSNBC viewers were told that “millions of lives” might be lost.

What was Chris Hayes doing when he hyped fears of a raging pandemic that would overwhelm the health-care system and kill 1.6 million Americans, 200 times more than the 80,000 currently projected by the IMHE model?

He was blaming Trump for having failed to prevent the approaching “doom and death.” The more deaths, the more blame — that was apparently why the Greek chorus of media fear-mongers (Hayes was by no means alone in this) were so eager to promote the worst-case scenarios that did not materialize.

America’s coronavirus death rate (39 per 1 million residents) is currently a fraction of the rates in several European countries, including Spain (300 per million), Italy (283 per million), France (158 per million), and Belgium (176 per million). Trump’s critics accuse our president of failing to prepare America for this crisis, but where is their criticism for the leaders of the European countries, who, as measured by statistics, failed far worse?

Dead people are not statistics, of course, and many thousands of Americans are now fighting for their lives against this Chinese virus.

Oh, wait — we’re not allowed to mention where this disease came from, are we? One might hope that Chris Hayes and the other media fear-mongers would spend more time blaming the communist regime in Beijing and less time accusing our president of malicious indifference to American lives.

But we should not think the media’s failures prove that they’re stupid. They’re smart people who know exactly what they’re doing. And they should be ashamed of themselves.

Read more at spectator.org


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Comments (22)

  • Avatar

    Finn McCool

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    Yet another piece of pseudo scientific nonsense from the MSM.
    As I write, there has been ~83,518 deaths attributed to Covid-19.
    That is from a population of 7.9 billion!
    The world’s economy has been crashed for 84k people?
    Sheer madness!

  • Avatar

    Kevin Doyle

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    The author, Robert Stacy McCain asks, “Why were the ‘smart’ people so wrong?”
    The simple answer, because they have the luxury of being wrong without ever having to face repercussions or consequences.
    If an engineer miscalculates on a bridge or aircraft design, he will never work again. He will face financial and legal ruin. Shame and ridicule will be his existence.
    Researchers, government officials, politicians, and lawyers never have to be reponsible for their ineptitude and criminal stupidity.

    • Avatar

      Robert Beatty

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      Well said Kevin,
      Lets not forget the trillions of dollars wasted on ‘global warming’ with no accountability going back to those who got it so wrong.

  • Avatar

    tom0mason

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    Why Were ‘Smart’ People So Wrong About This Pandemic?

    Because these smart people are not smart!
    They just needed your attention, and it seems from most people they got it.
    So why did these ‘Smart’ people need your attention?
    Mostly because of their egos, job justification, for money, and the deranged mentality of “Never let a crisis go to waste” when money and political influence can be made.

    Keep safe everyone 🙂

  • Avatar

    Zoe Phin

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    In my county of ~950,000 people, 9 people died WITH coronavirus. Average age: 76.

    Overhyped madness

    • Avatar

      Finn McCool

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      Zoe,
      I noticed the ‘WITH’ but you forgot to put ‘a ‘ in front of corona virus. 🙂

  • Avatar

    Brian James

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    Follow the money! Apr 6, 2020 Red Alert: COVID LOCKDOWN – Operation Chariot

    The pandemic is being used for fascist government actions around the world as Bill Gates calls for “digital immunity proof” for those who want to travel.

    https://youtu.be/mPIlMfdRt6Q

  • Avatar

    chris

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    The numbers were wrong because it was based on mass hysteria caused by a communist regime trying to spread itself while stopping people from speaking out against them.

    • Avatar

      Chris

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      I think I’ll start selling blankets with co2 inflated tubes. I’ll cite the ghe as how it works.

  • Avatar

    Joseph Olson

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    “Who Makes WHO” by Mark Friesen on YT, Tedros the Tigray terrorist

    “Virus Task Force, Birx-Ukraine Connections” by Amazing Polly YT,
    Fauci, Birx, Yovanovitch, Pence & Princess Kushy on UN/HIV slush fund

    “Fauci Patents on HIV” by George Webb on YT > 85 glycoprotein sequences from HIV in the bioweapon CV19

    • Avatar

      Finn McCool

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      The documentary by Lillian Franck from 2018 entitled ‘trustWHO’ is a must watch.
      There are no claims of an illuminati conspiracy or lizard people covertly taking over the world. Just down to earth honest investigation and reporting. The tobacco scandal and the swine flu scandal at the WHO are investigated in detail.

  • Avatar

    Jerry Krause

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    Hi Folks,

    Decided put in my two cents worth. Smart people reason too much and observe too little.

    Have a good day, Jerry

  • Avatar

    JaKo

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    Statements such “…China, where the virus originated…” are unsubstantiated propaganda BS, regardless of whose mouth they come from.
    An attentive person would notice that logical error and corrected that to: “…China, where the virus was first publicly identified…,” attenuating “first” with “publicly,” as even that factoid (re. timing) is under a serious scrutiny.
    ‘Smart’ or “stupid” don’t have anything to do with these proclamations; e.g. Dr. P J Goebbels was considered ‘smart,’ and I don’t think he would attract an adjective ‘trustworthy.’

    OTOH, ” Smart people can be wrong, too.” It could be shown, that being ‘Smart Enough’ to make a prediction, or run a model, while not considering the absence of, or quality/reliability of publicly acknowledged data, proves that That Enough wasn’t so.

    And as a final note about following: “… kill 1.6 million Americans, 200 times more than the 80,000 currently projected …”
    2 x 80,000 = 160,0000, 20 x 80,000 = 1,600,000, 200 x 80,000 = 16,000,000
    And yes, I would be ashamed of myself.

  • Avatar

    Charles

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    Better safe than sorry, right? Should lock down orders only be issued when half a population is sick or nearly dead? It seems like some people refuse to take this virus serious….. that is until it becomes too late.

    • Avatar

      Jerry Krause

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      Hi Josh,

      This comment is not intended to be critical of you but if the shoe fits … . The purpose is to inform PSI readers of something I wrote March 18.

      There is a great deal of evidence that the smart PSI readers and commenters have ignored this posting of a month ago (https://principia-scientific.org/before-coronavirus-china-bungled-swine-epidemic-with-secrecy/). If one reads the article one might discover there was no secrecy. As in this posting one can read: “Over the first four months of the outbreak, Beijing reported swine-fever cases almost daily as the virus spread from the northeast down through central China, west into Sichuan, and to the huge province of Guangdong by year-end. Veterinarians believe the virus spread quickly because it can survive for weeks on dirty farm equipment or livestock trucks.”

      March 18, 2020 I attempted to inform PSI readers about a well-known common problem of raising swine for food. So please do not claim there was any secrecy involved in what has happened. The evidence is that the ‘smart’ people have ignored what could have been considered from its beginning.

      I accept that I (we) do positively know that in this case there is a relationship between the swine disease and the human disease which occurred later. But it is no secret that there could be.

      Have a good day, Jerry

      • Avatar

        Jerry Krause

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        Again, as too common, in the last paragraph I now see that i omitted the critical word–not.

  • Avatar

    Jerry Krause

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    Hi Smart Readers,

    “Clouds are a key driver of the Earth’s climate.” (https://follow.mosaic-expedition.org/) 4/9/2020. This, the first sentence of a daily report from a major science research expedition occurring near the North Pole on, above, and below the ice of the Arctic Ocean.

    The last such claim, which I have read, was published by W. W. Norton & Company in 1966 and was written by R. C. Sutcliffe, a notable meteorologist, in his book Weather & Climate. Sutcliffe had written: “Clouds which do not give rain, which never even threatened to give rain but which dissolve again into vapour before the precipitation stage is ever reached, have a profound effect on our climate.”

    Will the smart readers of PSI ignore this as they have generally ignored my reviews of what Sutcliffe had written???

    Have a good day, Jerry

    • Avatar

      Moffin

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      Smart Alec huh? Grrrrrrrrr…..

  • Avatar

    Jerry Krause

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    Hi PSI Reader,

    In my previous comment I alerted you to a 180 degree turn of established science’s opinion of what most strongly influences climate temperature from the atmosphere’s carbon dioxide and similar variable atmospheric gases to the atmosphere’s clouds. If you read this previous comment, did you ask yourself: What caused this dramatic turn? I did ask myself this question and here is my answer.

    No one had ever made measurements and observations so near the North Pole from the Fall Equinox to the present day. And many of these scientists had never spent a winter north of 45N. Recently PSI had posted articles by Dr. Antero Ollila (Associate Professor (emeritus), Department of Civil Engineering, Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland) who has lived much his life at about 60N. The most recent being: (https://principia-scientific.org/why-i-disagree-with-roy-spencer-on-the-so-called-re-radiation-issue/).

    Several PSI commenters have questioned some of which he wrote, or seem to not understand it. He had written that when sky conditions were predicted to be cloudy during the nighttime in Finland, residents expected the nighttime air temperatures to be greater than when the sky conditions were expected to be cloudless (clear). And the issue was how could cold clouds warm the atmosphere.

    However, even at 60N, there is a short period of daytime and an observed diurnal temperature oscillation. I consider it is this observed diurnal temperature oscillation at even 60N during the winter which has caused a great deal of the confusion about the earth’s radiation balance system. Further more, the averaging of a diurnal temperature oscillation to a constant temperature during the day has added much to the confusion. For if there is no temperature oscillation (changes) there can be no storage of energy as the ‘sensible heat’ of the earth’s solid and liquid matter.

    But without any solar radiation for a month or more, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to explain how the air temperature near the North Pole can change from, say, neg40C to neg20C during maybe a 10?, 20? hour time period (the temperature changes have been mentioned but the time period during which the temperature changes occurred have not). Impossible that is if the storage of sensible heat is not considered.

    Suddenly it must have occurred to a scientist or two, because the water temperature beneath the ice surface and the atmospheric temperature above the ice surface were both being routinely measured, that this source of energy to warm the atmosphere 20C had to be the neg2.3C ocean water. Which was a mere 2, or so, meters below the ice surface. And it must have become obvious to these scientists working outside at neg40C there was a reason that the air temperature could cool to neg.40C while that much warmer neg2.3C ocean water was only about 2 meters beneath their feet. The reason had to be that the surface of the ice must be emitting longwave IR radiation toward space, according to the S-B radiation law. Which emission was cooling the ice surface.. And it was necessary that this emission be transmitted space in order to keep the surface temperature at neg40C..

    Because the sole purpose of this comment is to suggest how it is that these scientists, measuring and observing the natural system near the North Pole, did a 180deg turn in their very fundamental understanding of the primarily influence of climate temperatures, I stop here.

    Please feel free to add your thought to mine. Or, even to disagree with what I have written.

    Have a good day, Jerry

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