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Of Conspiracy Theories and Misleading Statistics
(…humbly submitted for your consideration by Garrick de Demeter… April 30, 2020)
At the outset, I should explain that, in writing what follows, I was not blind to a certain irony in my doing so. Many of the people, who—for their own safety and, especially, for the safety of others— most-seriously need to read and understand, will unfortunately also be amongst those least-likely to bother. I have written it anyway!
Lately, a small number of (apparently, well-intentioned and well-credentialed) experts have weighed in with interesting-but-dangerous theories about our global response to the COVID-19 threat. I have only very-modest credentials and I am certainly no expert… but, then, expertise doesn’t automatically confer some sort of monopoly on common sense… nordo I have any hidden, personal agenda.
To begin with, let’s deal with some statistics… while all the time understanding that, unless accompanied by careful explanations, statistics are just meaningless numbers. In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, we had more-or-less reliable information only about how many people had testedpositive and how many people had died. At that time, when the only resolvedcases were deaths, it was temporarily useful to refer to the mortality rate as a percentage of the total number of known cases… and, as such, the mortality rate was quite low. For a number of weeks, however, resolvedcases have included not just deaths, but also those, who have completely recovered. Right now, it seems very unlikely that we shall see any lingering, chronic COVID-19cases. Thus, resolution can be expected to occur in one of two ways: either complete recovery or death. It is, therefore, possible to refer—much more meaningfully—to the mortality rate as a percentage of the number of resolvedcases… i.e., the total number of complete recoveries plus the number of deaths. Moreover, since the COVID-19 mortality rate varies by country and changes over time, these two details need to be cited along with the rate itself. Dealt with in thisway, the mortality rate is rather sobering, to say the least! By Wednesday, April 29, 2020, according to information found at https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/#countries, the number of recoveries, in Canada, had reached 20,100 and the number of deaths totalled 2,985… for a mortality rate of almost 13%! Calculated in the same way, the corresponding mortality rate in the United States was a staggering 29%! What that means is that, in the United States, as things were at the time, almost one, out of every three resolvedcases, was a death. As the most-vulnerable members of the population have—unfortunately—died, this mortality rate has been declining… but it is stillextraordinarily high.
Lately, that small number of “experts,” seeking to downplay the risks associated with COVID-19, have quoted very low (known) infection rates, as a percentage of total population. In Canada, on Wednesday, April 29, 2020, this number was about 0.14%. However, this kind of mathematics is meaningful ONLY in the case of NORMAL infections, for which NO unusual preventive measures are in place. In the case of COVID-19, for which “normal” life has effectively been put on hold, for which there is—as yet—no known defense, and for which most rational people are doing their very best to observe “distancing” recommendations and, thus, to AVOID becoming infected, this type of statistic is not only useless, but—quite frankly—dangerously misleading! Yet other prominent people have suggested that the risks are overblown, that government-enforced, protective measures are part of a conspiracy to control the masses, and that we should immediately get back to normal, basically letting the chips fall where they may. In the short term, global infection rates would increase; rising numbers of people would die; mostpeople would probably recover and a portion of the population—by virtue of natural immunity—would never get sick in the first place. Eventually, the disease would have “run its course.” Based on our knowledge of the history of infectious diseases, all of this is likely quite true. However, I would prefer to believe that, in our approach to the way we treat each other, human society has long-since moved beyond such a coldly fatalistic endorsement of “survival of the fittest”! Stay safe and help to keep others safe, as well!
This letter is composed today, in an attempt to express some thoughts I've had over the last several weeks. As Thanksgiving approached, everyone was looking forward to a long weekend spent with family, loved ones and friends.
On Thanksgiving weekend, tragedy struck our small community, as we learned the Cameron family lost their eldest son, Evhen.
Their sorrow must be unimaginable. Hearts were broken along with them, but that did not stop the community from springing into action to provide incredible support.
I am sure everyone, with their hard work, donations, and expressions of support , were thinking of the times over the last twenty years, that Reid, Jen, and family have spent with us. Reid has dedicated his life to caring for our families. He's helped our children into this world, been by our sides as we care for aging parents and everything that happens in between. I often remember his steady , reassuring presence in the room, as I held my Dad's hand in his last moments. A difficult loss for our family, but a life well lived. We all share similar memories, of support provided to our families in our darkest moments. I am grateful to see everyone's efforts to return that support.
It's also worth mentioning that our community really does extend beyond the geographical borders of Hornepayne. I would like to acknowledge the support of our neighboring communities, who have helped ensure we have physician coverage.
The Family Health Team in Marathon spared Dr. Kale to come immediately to allow Reid to travel to be with his family. Chief of Staff Sarah Newbery assisted with required paperwork.
The Family Health Team in Manitouwadge assisted with a list of physicians who were willing to do locums . Dr. Crawford, while working in another community kept in touch and assisted by contacting colleagues to help us out.
The Physician recruitment teams in Hearst and Kapuskasing , worked to assist in finding physicians, often making phone calls for us, and with us late into the day and night
As each physician has come in, of course all of our staff have expressed how grateful we are to have them come and help out. The sentiments from the doctors have been unanimous.
It is an incredible challenge to provide healthcare in Rural Northern Ontario, and despite the fact that 200 kilometres separates us all geographically, the last few weeks have proven to us, that we are all in fact a special breed , and one community.
We are so very thankful for all those who've assisted our community at this difficult time.
Heather Jaremy Berube
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