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WSJ: The Vicious Circle of Covid Boondoggles and Bad Data

re: WSJ
re: ethics in medicine
re: follow the money

What a surprise.

WSJ: The Vicious Circle of Covid Boondoggles and Bad Data


Medicare bonuses and FEMA funeral benefits create incentives to overstate the disease’s toll.

Public-health experts are increasingly acknowledging what has long been obvious: America is overcounting hospitalizations and deaths from Covid-19. Hospital patients are routinely tested for Covid on admission, then counted as “Covid hospitalizations” even if they’re asymptomatic. When patients die, Leana Wen notes in a Washington Post column, Covid is often listed on their death certificates even if it played no part in killing them. Government programs create incentives to overestimate Covid’s toll, and poor data make it difficult to pinpoint who’s still at risk and how effective boosters are.

To the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a positive Covid test is enough to identify a “Covid hospitalization.” A few states and hospital systems have taken it on themselves to analyze their hospitalization data more thoroughly. Massachusetts requireshospitals to report how many of their Covid-positive patients have received dexamethasone, a standard treatment for Covid-induced lung inflammation. Using this method, the proportion of Covid-positive patients hospitalized for their Covid symptoms is around 30%, though it fluctuates.

Another incentive to overcount comes from the American Rescue Plan of 2021, which authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pay Covid-19 death benefits for funeral services, cremation, caskets, travel and a host of other expenses. The benefit is worth as much as $9,000 a person or $35,000 a family if multiple members die. By the end of 2022, FEMA had paid nearly $2.9 billion in Covid-19 death expenses

Funeral homesmortuaries and state health departments widely advertise this benefit on their websites, as does FEMA. By contrast, the agency barely advertises funeral assistance to hurricane victims. And while around 80% of requests for Covid death benefits had been approved as of Jan. 1, some 80% of applications following hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria in 2017 were denied. FEMA offers no death benefit for the flu, HIV or any other infectious disease. 

Several physicians told us they are concerned that hospitals are being pressured by families to list Covid-19 on the death certificate. “Just try and leave Covid off the death certificate of a person who was asymptomatic positive and died in a car accident,” one infectious-disease doctor said. “Just try.” No one was willing to be quoted by name—unsurprisingly, since the implication is that their hospitals are falsifying death certificates.

These programs create a vicious circle. They establish incentives to overstate the danger of Covid. The overstatement provides a justification to continue the state of emergency, which keeps the perverse incentives going. With effective vaccines and treatments widely available, and an infection fatality rate on par with flu, it’s past time to recognize that Covid is no longer an emergency requiring special policies.

WIND: a reasonable person might ponder whether the real COVID death toll was 1/2 to 1/4 of what was claimed. Certainly it was nowhere near what was claimed.

Follow the money. One huge pysops campaign. A real disease that could have been manageable with far less distruption, made into a disaster by policies based on lies and propaganda.

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