Is the Coronavirus Real?
About a week ago, my wife and I were hanging out with my in-laws. A friend of my mother-in-law dropped-by to say hello. After exchanging formalities with us, her friend began to describe how uncomfortable the COVID testing procedures had been that she had undergone some weeks before. The conversation took an unexpected turn when our friend started to tell us that she was in a socially-distanced grocery store check-out line when she became friends with an older woman standing closely behind her. The older woman, after some minutes of conversation, showed her photographic evidence of an anonymous death certificate claiming that the patient’s underlying cause of death was a “snake bite due to COVID.” I was immediately intrigued. There is no logical connection between the two ailments nor their symptoms. My mind raced to two conclusions: either the “evidence” was doctored for media attention of some sort, or there was some incentive for that doctor to make mention of COVID on the deceased’s death certificate. Either way, it seemed to me, there was misinformation afoot … something, my brain concluded, that meant I was being deceived in some way.
I think it’s fair to say that people, myself included, naturally gravitate towards a little bit of drama just as I described above. Our propensity towards the dramatic is a protective instinct. We like to think that if we can reconcile confusing or even misleading facts into information that matches-up with our fundamental understanding of how the world works, then we are safe.
Typical to human nature, there has been no shortage of efforts made to explain the abnormal circumstances surrounding this unprecedented phenomenon of COVID-19. Combined with the fact that most of America is quarantined and within an arm’s-reach of a device of some sort 24 hours a day, these attempts to rationalize the implications of “life during Coronavirus” have resulted in a flurry of mixed opinions and information. In-turn, this hodge-podge of info on the Coronavirus has spurred a national obsession to know the “facts”/”truth” behind all of this. My aim here is to separate fact from fiction, and provide you with information that is backed by data provided by peer-reviewed institutions and universities
What evidence is there to suggest that COVID-19 is a hoax?
I was intrigued some weeks ago by the highly-publicized protests from all over the country for schools, stores, and even barber shops to reopen (1). Some of the protests targeted the seriousness of the virus. Others protested preventative measures such as masks, social distancing, quarantines, businesses being shut-down. There were even protests trying to raise awareness against our rights being taken away (2)(3). In my own efforts to understand these protests and the ideas that are fueling them, I have discovered that there seem to be three schools of thought challenging the validity of the virus:
1. The virus does not exist
A minority of people do not believe that there is such a thing as COVID-19. Let’s unpack that for a second: these people believe that if symptoms of Coronavirus are present, that they are not due to infection from this virus, but some other underlying cause. This implies that they do believe that infectious disease exists outside of the novel Coronavirus, such as the flu or the common cold but cannot accept that there is a new branch in the family of known Coronaviruses with its own unique structures, symptoms, and behaviors (4). If this were the case, it would imply that the this year's world mortality rate would be nearly identical to the mortality rate statistics from 2019, and that there were no "excess deaths.” This is not the case (5), in the United States alone there has been an average of 50,000 people that die every week. Between February of this year and today, there have been over 100,000 more deaths than normal; a testament to the existence and severity of the virus.
2. The virus poses no bigger a threat than the flu
Flu-like symptoms can be attributed to one of more than 200 different types of viruses (6) and Coronaviruses are the second most common family of viruses that contributes to flu cases every year! It is likely that you have contracted a common cold through contact with a strain of a type of Coronavirus during your lifetime.
However, despite its familiar relationship to the flu, the symptoms of this particular strain of Coronavirus are unique in comparison to its known human-strain counterparts. This novel Coronavirus’ ratio of deaths/infected individuals is about 2% worldwide since its discovery in December of last year. The average annual death toll attributed to the flu is .03%. (7). This means that in terms of fatalities, the SARS-CoV-2 virus is 600% more lethal than the flu.
To paint a more accurate picture of the gravity of Coronavirus, it is worth mentioning how it stacks-up against other pandemics, and not just the common cold or flu. Compared to other pandemics within the last century, including the Spanish Influenza of 1919 (500 million infected, 50 million deaths) (8) (9) or the H1N1 Swine Flu (60.8 million infected, 12.5 thousand deaths) (10), the infection rate of Coronavirus is not as severe (21.8 million infected, 773 thousand deaths); however, the coronavirus death toll remains moderately severe. The infection rate is not the reason why many local and state governments have put social distancing and sanitation measures into play. These measures exist because of the devastating havoc that COVID symptoms wreak on the immunocompromised.
Because no vaccine currently exists (11) (12), prevention is paramount. Please wear a mask, quarantine yourself if you or a family member are experiencing symptoms, social distance yourself, wash your hands, and respect local business practices to do these things (13).
3. The virus does indeed exist; however, the reported cases and death toll are inflated
This is where we really get into the nitty-gritty of a possible conspiracy; what you came here to read, right? The sequence of events that would allude to this conspiracy would be the following:
- The US government wants to inflate the number of cases and the death toll for their own reasons.
- A bill would be passed to allocate additional funds to doctors that successfully diagnose a patient with COVID-19.
- Doctors and hospitals are incentivized by the idea of higher pay and are willing to unethically falsify death certificates and release statements to reflect an inflated infection and death rate.
First, we would need to understand the relationship between a doctor, a hospital, and Medicare. Each COVID-positive patient that receives intensive care at an inpatient care facility requires a number of healthcare professionals, a variety of treatments, and extended stay until recovery. At the time that a patient is released from a hospital or has been pronounced dead, a doctor submits a causal report to their hospital administration. These reports explain the quality of treatment, the patient’s timeline, and the healthcare professionals involved in the patient’s treatment. The Hospital Administration will then bill the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) according to the information the doctor has submitted (14).
According to the recently passed CARES Act (15), Medicare IPPS (Inpatient Prospective Payment System) (16) will reimburse up to $13,000 of the patient’s medical expenses. In theory, a self-interested doctor could unethically attribute a death or medical release to COVID-19. This falsification would earn the doctor their portion of that $13,000 reimbursement package as opposed to the traditional IPPS reimbursement for another symptomatically similar respiratory infection like pneumonia for $10,000 (17). This would hypothetically net the hospital and the doctor an extra $3,000 per patient. However, to receive approval for reimbursement from CMS, the data (including total days of inpatient stay and symptoms) must match up to the diagnosis that the hospital made. On top of that, the average hospital stay is 2 days longer for a COVID patient than anyone spends on average for other respiratory problems, which ends up eating through the extra $3,000 that the hospital or doctor might have profited anyway.
So, is there a valid reason to be concerned that hospitals could leverage Coronavirus as a means to profit? Yes, there is. Is there evidence that points to this being a commonplace practice amongst hospitals, no. So, the big question: is there a conspiracy? While there is no large-scale conspiracy amongst all doctors or hospitals, I will not rule out the possibility that local Hospital Administration could twist the narratives of their patients to net a larger profit. However, it would a) be an incredibly low profit, b) put them in jeopardy of losing their already-high-paying jobs, and c) there is no credible data to suggest this is taking place.
When understanding the CDC’s death rates, it’s also important to understand that doctors have the option of citing that a patient died with COVID symptoms and not because of COVID. In fact, doctors assigned to infected patients who later pass away are not obligated to list only one cause of death. This has led to numerous cases where a deceased patient was pronounced dead having symptoms of/testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 at their time of death. And despite other, more-detrimental factors being the primary malefactor at the time of death, still the death will be added to the death toll that you and I see on the news (18). So, according to the CDC, the Underlying Cause of Death (UCOD) is rarely attributed to COVID-19, but rather COVID-19 contributed to the sequence of events that led to the eventual death. This re-frame the designation “COVID death toll” to be understood as “mortality rate of infected persons with COVID-19 symptoms at the time of death” (19)
It is also worth noting that there is a contrasting percentage of deaths that have not been counted in the national total due to lack of testing resources (20) and/or prior asymptomality. This might loop us back to the debate about whether these deaths are a serious threat to society or not and as we mentioned earlier, the “excess death” statistics prove that something is happening in our society - whether it’s directly attributed to COVID or something else.
4. The virus does indeed exist; however, it is a political tool controlled by the media.
According to a recently-conducted poll (21), 71% of American adults have heard theories claiming that the spread of Coronavirus is controlled by people in positions of power or influence. That same research saw 25% of the population that believed at least one of these theories to be true to some extent. Theories range anywhere from population-control and weaponization of the virus against foreign super-powers to a US patent for the virus funded in-part by Bill Gates.
Many of these theories pointing fingers at the rich and powerful are branches from the same, debunked, tree: a short video exposé called Plandemic (22) (23). A large portion of the clips in this video claim that the titans of big pharmaceutical companies are banding together with the government to simultaneously create viruses and cures as a way of making each other wealthy. Let’s explore that:
Was the virus created in a lab? The Betacoronavirus or SARS-CoV-2 strain (that affects humans) of the virus belongs to the Coronavirus family, a viral category that epidemiologists have been studying for over 3 decades. That being said, it is easy to see how people could misconstrue this information to mean that, over the 30 years that we have known about this disease, we have now reached the point where it can be genetically modified in a lab to where Humans can contract the disease. There is no logical evidence that any world power funded the creation of this virus. The reasoning for this is two-fold: first, it has taken over 300 years of genetic mutations to both animal and human Coronaviruses to develop the COVID strain that we know today (24). Second, over 50% of congress and even our president are over 60 years old, which would place the majority of our government (and governments around the globe for that matter) in the “at-risk of infection” category (25).
What is the relationship between the US Government and “Big Pharma”? Well, “Big Pharma” is not just one big company, it is made of many competing companies that are incentivized by money to race against one another to find cures for diseases. While there are definitely companies in the pharmaceutical industry that are unethical (24), the way that they profit is through patent-control and price-gouging. Does the US government pump billions of dollars into funding research and technology to eradicate diseases of all types. Of course. Does the government ever earn back the money it puts into research and development? Apart from paying the salaries of the National Institute of Health, if the invested dividends make a return, they are publicly disbursed again (26).
So who exactly benefits from Coronavirus? If there is some nefarious purpose behind the pandemic, that means that there must be someone behind it who gets some form of circumstantial gain (money, power, influence, or fame), right? I think I could make a compelling argument for streaming services, hand sanitizer suppliers, food delivery services, introverts, and conspiracy theorists. Even though virologists and vaccine-researchers do make a profit from the work they do, it is not enough to question their credibility.
So, while there are no credible sources with evidence that the virus was invented specifically to be a scare tactic it has scared people into irrational behaviors. While this virus was not made in a lab as a biological weapon, it has taken family and friends from us and devastated our communities in so many ways. And there can be no doubt that politicization of coronavirus is rampant and has provided a platform for misinformation, personal opinion and conspiracy to spread. Does there necessarily have to be somebody behind the Coronavirus in order for it to be recognized as a credible threat?
Are we losing our liberties to excessive COVID-19 social-distancing measures?
While it doesn’t prove or disprove the reality of Coronavirus, I thought it would be important to address what many of our customers have found the most confusing and difficult part of coping with the world during Coronavirus: The restrictions on normal, everyday life.
Many of the protests revolving around COVID-19 stem from dissatisfaction with the recommended preventative measures laid-out by the CDC (27). Overall, these dissatisfaction's can be identified in two camp’s of thought by asking ourselves one question: Is it ethical to deprive an individual of social contact, migration, or privacy in order to benefit the community?
There are five bio-ethical indicators that agencies such as the CDC use to justify the use of social interventionist tactics during public health emergencies (28):
- Effectiveness: This indicator speculates as to whether or not the infringement of one or more general considerations will most-likely result in the eradication of the disease. For example, we are asked by local law enforcement to wear a seat-belt to keep us safe in the event of an accident. Similarly, in the context of Coronavirus, wearing a mask is a reasonable price to pay to slow the rate of infection.
- Proportionality: Postulates as to whether or not the yielded results will ultimately outweigh the infringed general moral considerations (violations of personal rights must be weighed against positive features such as infection control). The mere fact that protests against Coronavirus prevention have been able to occur during this time, is a good indicator that our personal rights remain in-tact.
- Necessity: Within reason, there are no logical alternatives that can be taken to achieve the public health goal in question. No alternatives to prevent the spread of the virus are viable at this time until there is a vaccine of some kind.
- Least infringement: Any infringement upon general moral considerations must be minimal to allow for as much normality to remain as possible (if you have to step on a moral consideration like privacy, do so with as little intrusion as possible). Accommodations made by schools, churches, businesses and workplaces to allow for remote services and on-demand communication have allowed for as much normalcy as possible to prevail.
- Public justification: The implications of the interventionist tactics must be clearly explained and justified to the public. The CDC gives a daily progress report on new discoveries on the spread and combat of the virus.
According to these bio-ethical indicators, the preventative measures used to combat the Coronavirus are indeed bio-ethical, and do not infringe on our rights, unlike the preventative measures of the Ebola crisis for example (29).
Human rights are undeniably tied to public health. In the context of Coronavirus, no one has presented a compelling argument of their “life” or “pursuit of happiness” being seized. However, the second of our natural rights, liberty, has certainly been tampered with. Liberty is defined as “the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one's way of life, behavior, or political views” (30). Oppression is coercive in nature, it leverages power, position, authority, or violence as vehicles to achieve an end-goal.
Although restrictions have been imposed by the CDC; wearing a mask/face covering in public, washing your hands often, self-quarantining, cordon sanitaire, and avoiding groups of social interaction have not been enforced by oppression, and therefore are not an oppressive infringement on the natural human right to liberty. The decision to adhere to the CDC’s guidelines to stop the spread of Coronavirus is not something that belongs to a certain political ideology (31). By doing these things, you are being a considerate member of the community, not a sheep.
None of us (besides maybe a PhD in epidemiology or virology) could have predicted the effects of this devastating disease - very few of us were prepared for the emergencies that it has wrought on our families/loved ones. The risk of becoming infected, losing a job, being quarantined to your living room, or even going to a barren grocery store have awakened us all as a nation to the necessity for emergency preparation.
The reassurance that comes from having an adequate food and water supply during a crisis is unmatched. As Ready Experts, we hope to not only accurately inform you, but also provide you with emergency essentials and peace of mind to confidently confront the emergencies we hope you never have to face.
- In the context of historical public health crises, this strain of Coronavirus poses a higher-than-average threat.
- Inflation to the death rate of persons infected with COVID-19 is not attributed to unethical doctors incentivized by money.
- The CMS does reimburse inpatient medical expenses for COVID patients higher than some traditional inpatient expenses, but will only do so if the submitted patient paperwork indicates that it is warranted.
- The death toll is not an indication of deaths where the sole underlying cause was COVID, but rather an indication of deaths where COVID was a contributing factor.
- The adjusted death toll and subsequent death rate still depict an alarming mortality rate.
- The virus was not invented or manufactured, and there is no evidence to suggest that it was made for the explicit purpose of mass manipulation or biological warfare.
- Abundant politicization of the devastating effects of the virus has given a platform to conspiracy, misinformation, and fear.
- The SARS-CoV-2 strain of Coronavirus is a new and dangerous discovery to an otherwise previously-understood and previously-studied family of Coronaviruses.
- Unlike prevention tactics of the past, the restrictions that the CDC has recommended are bioethical.
- While the preventative measures to combat Coronavirus are invasive they are not hostile, and therefore do not present an infringement to our liberties.
- This public health crisis has shed light on the need for emergencies essentials, which we hope to provide for you and your family.
Brown, Harold (2020). "COVID-19: Spanish Flu 2.0" Georgia Public Policy Foundation. Retrieved online from https://www.georgiapolicy.org/issue/covid-19-spanish-flu-2-0/