Yes, Yes. Fred has been away for 9 months. So, sue Fred. Wait, that's a joke -- don't sue Fred, please.
Fred, like many of you, is on lock-down over the COVID-19 pandemic, so it occurred to him that perhaps this would be a good time to work on The Frederalist Papers . . . along with a few dozen other projects he's been neglecting, so a month or more in he's finally getting to updating the FredBlog. Perhaps if things go on long enough, he will start updating more frequently. And speaking of the COVID-19 Pandemic . . .
People are looking at the COVID-19 statistics from the US and Europe and saying “why are infection rates and mortality so much higher? It must be ... “and then they recite a “logical” conclusion that there is a conspiracy of some sort.
Let Fred offer an alternative explanation: Regulations. That’s right, those awful, terrible, horrible regulations that are holding back American business and industry are the reason we and our European Brethren and Sistren and getting sicker than the rest of the world. No, not really. But regulations are the reason (or at least a big part of the reason) we appear to be getting sicker than the rest of the world. Allow Fred to explain.
In the US we have for many decades built up a considerable body of regulations dealing with the reporting, tracking and prevention of the spread of infectious diseases. Fred recently had to wade through these regulations as the apply in his own state of domicile and they are amazingly detailed and specific. His state -- and every other -- for example, is divided into regions, district and local health authorities which are all required to track and support dozens of different categories of infectious diseases. Individual healthcare providers also are required to report any suspicion that one of these public menaces is on the loose. The federal government likewise has reporting requirements -- through the CDC, a regulatory agency -- to track not just infectious diseases but all other diseases and causes of death (the states too). In Europe the rules are as stringent if not more so.
A study of 11 nations by the WHO found that at least 25,000 deaths from COVID-19 had gone unreported because of the lack of accurate record collection. That's a 14.5% increase in the current worldwide death toll . . . from just 11 countries. And if deaths are being under-counted in those countries, so are cases -- taking a conservative estimate of an 8% mortality rate, that something like an extra 300,000 cases that have gone unreported, 12% more than currently reported by the WHO as "confirmed."
So its not that we are getting sicker than the rest of the world . . . it's that we are better at compiling statistics. Now I know you are going to protest that other developed nations with multilevel bureaucracies -- say Russia and China --are equally stringent in tracking infectious diseases, and, of course, you would be correct. But here's the thing -- these countries, unlike the US and Europe (and Canada, Australia, New Zealand and a few others) don't have a strong tradition (or in most cases any tradition) of a free press and a citizenry that expects accountability from its government.
And here's the rub -- despite that tradition, there is a considerable body of evidence that a number of our leaders -- screw it, no euphemisms -- a number of GOP Governors and members of the Trump administration (and I suppose the President himself presuming he has any inkling of what is going on), are deliberately trying to obscure the full effect of the pandemic artificially low. How? By restricting access to COVID-19 tests.
You see, the regulations only require the reporting of confirmed cases of a disease. Or rather, while data is collected on suspected cases too, it does not get included in the same set of numbers that are reported in media briefings. It's the same reason there are six different measures of unemployment, but most of the time we focus only in the E-2 number. Remember how during the 2016 Campaign, despite years of positive employment growth, Trump keep claiming that the "real" unemployment number was much higher, and he was sort of telling the truth because he was talking about the E-6 number (he usually misstated even that number)? Same thing with reporting infectious diseases. Because "suspected" cases are not included in "confirmed" cases, some states have much lower infections rates than others.
While regional variances will account for some differences (for example, sparsely populated states already had a form of social distancing), the correlation between low testing rates and confirmed case rate, along with the occasional bald-faced admission from a politician, establishes that deliberate under-counting is going on. The media has not ignored this -- but neither has it given it much coverage. Perhaps this is because nationally the numbers are so appalling (during the first two weeks of April, COVID-19 was second only to heart disease in killing Americans); perhaps it is because the practice spinning the data is hardly limited to this one instance and the media just assumes that everyone knows to take what the government says with several large grains of salt (or in the case of FOX news, to be swallowed whole without question).