Painting a (false?) picture by the numbers

During my academic career my primary teaching duty was to provide my students with an understanding of Liesthe use of statistics to draw conclusions about the real world, and how to avoid the common pitfalls that lead to error. In connection with that I would remind them of an old saying of uncertain origin but often attributed to Mark Twain: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Here’s a case in point.

A report in the January 1 edition of the Arizona Daily Star (page B1) is headlined, “Longtime Nogales migrant shelter director Juan Francisco Louriero dies from COVID.” But, it is not until paragraph 6 that the reader learns the true story. It reads, “At 76, Louriero was already in fragile health. He lived with diabetes and kidney failure,” then goes on to say, “The COVID-19 pandemic hit the city of Nogales particularly hard, so his family took precautions, limiting his exposure and using face masks and sanitizer whenever they left their home.” The article reports that Louriero started feeling ill on December 12, went to the hospital the next day, was intubated two days after that, and died on December 18.

There are a number of troubling things about this report, besides some important unanswered questions. First is the headline. Is it fair to say that Mr. Louriero died from COVID rather than from diabetes and/or kidney failure? Was he actually tested for covid or was he one of the “presumed” cases? Even if he did test positive for covid, might that have been one of the many false positives associated with the test, and can covid honestly be considered to be the cause of death? In his reported condition it is likely that any additional stressor, even the common cold, could have pushed Mr. Louriero over the edge. Would the headline then have read, “Louriero dies from common cold?”

Furthermore, is it possible that intubation might have been the proximate cause of his demise? Serious questions have been raised about the possible harm resulting from the use of ventilators (intubation) on critically ill patients, especially those with covid. An article in the April 16, 2020 issue of Time Magazine explains Why Ventilators May Not Be Working as Well for COVID-19 Patients as Doctors Hoped.  An article in the journal STAT, says, “New Analysis recommends less reliance on ventilators to treat coronavirus patients,” and cites a report by the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene which concludes that “by using ventilators more sparingly on Covid-19 patients, physicians could reduce the more than 50% death rate for those put on the machines.” (The Time article puts the death rate of covid patients on ventilators even higher, up to 80%, “based in numbers out of China and New York City”).

It appears that the Star article is one more instance of the mainstream media using misleading headlines and hyping the threat which Covid-19 allegedly poses. There is plenty of evidence to show that this “pandemic” has been seized upon as an opportunity to advance a deeper agenda that has more to do with politics and social control than with public health. And any article or video, even those posted by highly qualified people, that questions the official covid narrative is quickly suppressed or taken down. Science and democracy both depend upon transparency and open debate but the concentration of power over information channels has given the few great power to censor the many.

This is a critical time in the evolution of civilization. There is as much disinformation emanating from the mainstream as there is from the fringes. It is up to people themselves to re-calibrate their BS detectors and make up their own minds.

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