Survey Results and Opinion by Kip Hansen – 21 November 2020
The “Where Are All the Sick People?” survey has had nearly 3000 participants since its inception at 10 a.m. EST on 17 November. Three questions were posed to illuminate the issue of the effects of the SARS-CoV-2, which is causing the current Covid-19 Pandemic, on the readers of this blog, WUWT.
The readers here are a diverse, eclectic, multinational cohort. A totally unscientific cross-section of the general public. My experience in responding to thousands an thousands of comments over the years – comments in response to my essays on a rather wide variety of topics – has convinced me that readership here has a broad range of professional and occupational backgrounds. I have found it interesting and surprising – I write about insects and an entomologist weighs-in in comments. I write about dogs and veterinarians weigh-in in comments. I write nuclear power – nuclear power technicians weigh-in.
Please don’t think that this survey is meant to be a broad sociological study of Covid-19 and the various governmental responses to the pandemic. It is nothing more than a snapshot of actual experience of the readers here who have taken the few moments necessary to go to the online survey and answer the three questions.
I was hoping for three thousand participants before writing up the results, but the response percentages have not shifted since about participant 1000 – which is a good indicator that the snapshot is at least “in focus”.
SURVEY RESULTS (with 2851 responses)
Question #1: “How many people among your immediate family, extended family, friends, acquaintances and colleagues are CURRENTLY sick (ill enough to voluntarily stay home from work, school, or normal activities) with Covid-19?”
A strong majority of people, 85.8%, know no one who is currently ill with Covid-19. Some people know some sick people: 13.5%. There have been complaints in the comments that using a range like “1-5” prevents us knowing that many people selecting 1-5 know only 1 sick person – a valid criticism. How many people know many sick people? O.66% (19 of 2851) know 6 or more. Comments reveal that there are some nurses and doctors and nursing home staff answering the survey, which may account for some of these response with higher numbers.
Question #2: “How many people among your immediate family, extended family, friends, acquaintances and colleagues have been sick (ill enough to voluntarily stay home from work, school, or normal activities) with Covid-19 during the last nine months?”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, characterized as “the last nine months”, a majority of people, 54.4%, know no one who has been ill with Covid-19. Again, some people know some-but-not-many (1-5) people who have been ill – 39.5%. That is about four-out-of-ten have had someone in their circle of family, friends and acquaintances become ill with Covid-19. In total, 93.9% who know either none or only a few (less than 5) people who have actually been ill during the entire pandemic so far. However, 6.1% know “more than a few” (6-10) or “many” (11 or more) that have been ill. How ill? We don’t know. A more complete survey might have asked additional questions, like “How many of those were ill enough to require hospitalization?”
Question #3: “Covid-19 has caused many deaths, particularly, but not exclusively, among the older population and those already ill with serious conditions. How many of these deaths have occurred among your immediate family, extended family, friends, acquaintances and colleagues since the beginning of the pandemic in January 2020?”
As the question itself acknowledges, Covid-19 has caused or contributed to a lot of deaths around the world. More deaths than an average annual influenza pandemic, less deaths – so far – than the worst of the influenza pandemics — Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 which reportedly killed between 50 and 100 million people out of a world population of 1.8 billion. Today’s population is about four times that — 7.8 billion. A pandemic that deadly today would kill 200 to 400 million people. As of today, Covid-19 is reported to have contributed to the deaths of about 1.37 million humans. (for more on “contributed to”, read my upcoming essay on Cause of Death).
Our survey reveals, that among survey respondents, a huge majority, 88.4%, know no one in their circle of family, friends, acquaintances or colleagues that have died from or with Covid-19, since January 2020 – the earliest possible date for the pandemic in the United States and Europe. Unfortunately, some readers, 327 of them, have suffered losses of at least one family member, friend or colleague. My condolences go out to them, each and every one. Only three (3) respondents report a range of higher than 5 – two report 6-10, and one reports >20. (This “>20 deaths” response came in very early in the survey, and may be a troll trying to spoil the survey – or it may be a legitimate response from someone in the medical or nursing home field.)
Those of your who know no one who is currently ill with Covid-19 are not crazy and not terminally isolated from society. That is the experience of over 85% of others reading here and participating in this survey. So, you are not alone. I would interpret >85% as “most everyone”. Yet, more than one-out-of-ten (13.4%) do know one or more (up to 5) people who are sick right now. Comments indicate that many of these folks know only 1. I do wish that I had created more categories in the lower range, such as 1, 2, 3 4 & 5.
However, the result for the first question – “know any people currently ill?” — is that most people don’t know anyone or just know a few. Readers should compare this to any of the very bad recent flu seasons, trying to remember when we all knew many people ill with the flu simultaneously. Here are figures for the last three flu seasons in the United States:
2017-2018 45,000,000 Symptomatic Illnesses
2018-2019 36,000,000 Symptomatic Illnesses
2019-2020 38,000,000 Symptomatic Illnesses
These flu seasons saw massive workplace absenteeism, school closures (mostly due to too many teachers out with the flu), hospital ERs overrun with flu patients and a media pouring out Flu Panic. The numbers above are Symptomatic Illnesses – people who were actually sick – unable to go to school, work, or do their daily activities. For the most part, they were simply miserable for days – some died. Those of you with sharp memories will remember these years and some of you will recall your own bouts of influenza.
We should not compare these numbers with what is being reported today as “Covid-19 Cases” — these are not sick people but simply people who have tested “positive” for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA fragments in their nasal swabs. “Positive Test” does not mean infection. The current standards of the RT-PCR test are way too sensitive to produce “actionable” results and do not return positives that indicate a current ongoing infection and nothing even resembling a “Symptomatic Illness”. According to the World Health Organization the vast majority of Covid-19 infections are asymptomatic– which just means “not sick”.
The Public Health viewpoint is that a “positive test” might mean “infection” and “if infection then maybe infectious, now or later”. Most testing done today does not test for the one thing health officials need to know to protect the population: “Who has an infectious case of Covid-19?” Public Health viewpoints cause authorities to do stupid things – such as closing an entire school because five pupils – pupils not sick and at school – “tested positive” – and ordering a “deep cleaning” of the school before pupils can return.
And there have been sick people — while a majority of respondents (54.4%) don’t know even a single person who has had Covid-19 in the last nine months, the remainder of respondents, 45.6%, know at least one person who was sick. From the comments, many of the early cases could have simply been any one of the influenzas – testing was not rampant in Jan-Feb-Mar. There is some evidence that the current ramp up of “Covid Cases” might include the new flu season’s Influenza Cases. Influenza season generally begins the first of October, we are now halfway through November – six weeks into flu season.
And sadly, many people have died in in the Covid-19 Pandemic. Most of us, almost 9-of-10, know no one who has died. But the other 1-of-10 have lost a family member, a friend, an acquaintance or a colleague. It is suspected that susceptibility to serious, life-threatening, severe illness involving SARS-CoV-2 has a genetic basis. This may mean that families suffering deaths of loved ones may experience multiple deaths – as the family shares genetic material. Everyone has been exposed to the idea that the risk of severe Covid-19 illness and death involves, almost invariably, a list of common comorbidities:
“Adults of any age with the following conditions are at increased risk of severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19:
- Chronic kidney disease
- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
- Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 kg/m2 or higher but < 40 kg/m2)
- Severe Obesity (BMI ≥ 40 kg/m2)
- Sickle cell disease
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus”
Source: CDC here
In fact, any condition that weakens the immune system or cardiovascular system or the pulmonary system places one at higher risk of developing a severe illness from SARS-CoV-2 than those without those conditions.
A note on “Covid-19 Deaths”: The CDC has asked that all death certificates [link is a .pdf] that list Covid-19 or even suspected Covid-19 anywhere, in any portion, of the Cause of Death portion of a death certificate be reported as a Covid-19 Death. This means that the mortality figures are reported far higher than they should be in order to be released for public consumption without serious caveats. (There are valid epidemiological reasons for this requirement – responsibly informing the general public about the Covid Pandemic is not one of them.) They are reporting all deaths that in any way involve Covid-19 or look like they might involve Covid-19 or might be suspected of involving Covid-19 as a “Covid-19 Death.” That is the subject for another essay – savvy readers can confirm this for themselves.
The GIANT omission on the list from the CDC, known almost from the first month of the pandemic, is this: The older you are, the higher your risk of dying from Covid-19 if infected. Person aged 80 or greater had nearly a 1-in-3 chance of dying if they had a Covid-19 infection. Those 70-79 had a 1-in-6 chance of dying, and those 60-69 a 1-in-16 chance. We can look at this another way. Percentage of all Covid-19 deaths by age group.
Over 85% of all Covid-19 deaths occurred in those over 65 years of age. Advancing age itself is a major risk factor for death by Covid.
The next chart is Rate Ratio (akin to Risk Ratio) of Covid Death by age group compared to young adults aged 18 through 29.
Moral to this story? Don’t get old? Well, not really – but we should have been protecting our aging population, those 65 and older, from the very start – all while keeping our economies and societies functioning full-blast so that governments at all levels could afford to take the steps necessary to protect the elderly. Sensible guidelines for their protection should have been the first order of business accompanied by plans to safely serve the elderly in nursing homes.
- If you don’t know any people sick with/from Covid-19 you having the same Covid-19 experience as the vast majority of other people – at least according to this somewhat unscientific survey.
- If you don’t know anyone who has died, or only one or maybe two, you are again having the same experience as almost everyone else.
- While most of us don’t know anyone who has died from/with Covid-19, we probably know someone who does know someone who has sadly lost a family member or acquaintance during the ongoing pandemic.
- Opinions vary wildly on the subject of Governmental Responses to the pandemic. It will be years before the historians, sociologists, medial researchers, and others sort out the quagmire of mistakes that have been made at all levels of governance.
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[ Some minor typing and formatting errors were corrected — kh ]
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UPDATE: 1900 hrs, 22 November 2020
The survey has now had 3040 respondents. The percentages for the three questions are as follows — with comparisons to those given in the essay above:
In the essay With 3040 respondents:
The percentages have not changed significantly with more respondents, meaning the first pass was pretty well in focus. I’ll leave the survey operating for a week or so.
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This survey was just a quick peek at the real-world experience of the readers here. I have not fooled myself into thinking that it tells the full truth about Covid illnesses or Covid deaths. It does tell us something interesting – but what is up to the readers.
Bias Alert: Both my wife and I fall into the most vulnerable category by age. But we also have children and grandchildren – and they are more important to us than ourselves.
Let me hear from you in the comments.
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