The sky isn’t falling! The sky isn’t falling! Go on about your business; all is fine!
Such was the tone of numerous right-wing “news reports” in late November. Well, time to back off, Dittoheads, Hannitites, and Ingrahamites.
Over the last week, Trumpists were all atwitter—literally and figuratively—over the report of a video produced by Genevieve Briand, assistant program director of the Applied Economics master’s degree program at Johns Hopkins University. Briand “critically analyzed the effect of COVID-19 on U.S. deaths using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in her webinar titled ‘COVID-19 Deaths: A Look at U.S. Data.’”
Sensationalist right-wing media outlets by the score immediately used the report and the linked video as “proof” that CDC and WHO COVID-19 infection-rate figures are grossly overblown and being used to control and curtail the freedoms of everyday Americans. “Time to resist such tyranny!”
But the Sky Really Is Falling
Except that the sky really is falling. The verdict according to Health Feedback (“a worldwide network of scientists sorting fact from fiction in health and medical media coverage”):
Inaccurate: Firstly, the study the claim refers to was not a scientific study, but instead an article published in a student newsletter at Johns Hopkins University. Secondly, the claim that no excess deaths have occurred in 2020 is false. Data from the U.S. CDC clearly shows that the number of deaths in 2020 is higher than that of previous years, most likely as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Genevieve Briand is an economist, not a medical expert. Her “study” was never peer-reviewed. When the properly analyzed facts were presented, the JHU student News-Letter—which first broke the “news” of Briand’s “groundbreaking” analysis—retracted their report, writing the following:
After The News-Letter published this article on Nov. 22, it was brought to our attention that our coverage of Genevieve Briand’s presentation “COVID-19 Deaths: A Look at U.S. Data” has been used to support dangerous inaccuracies that minimize the impact of the pandemic.
We decided on Nov. 26 to retract this article to stop the spread of misinformation, as we noted on social media. However, it is our responsibility as journalists to provide a historical record. We have chosen to take down the article from our website, but it is available here as a PDF.
Yet none of those right-wing “news” outlets have retracted their stories, full of “dangerous inaccuracies.” So their combined millions of naïve Trumpist readers are now even more certain that COVID-19 is overblown, almost to the point of being a true hoax.
Back in the Real World
Meanwhile, in the real world, new U.S. COVID infections are spiking at well over 150,000 per day, with U.S. COVID deaths approaching 275,000 as of December 2. Granted, the vast majority of COVID infections do not result in death; most people recover. But if the current U.S. death rate of about 7 percent holds for one month along with the current infection rate of 150,000 per day, that would mean 4.5 million new infections in that 30-day period, and 315,000 new deaths during that 30-day period. Such figures are highly unlikely, but there’s no room for doubt that the widespread fallacies of COVID exaggeration have led to these dangerous surges and increased deaths.
Sure, most folks are eagerly awaiting the upcoming releases of COVID vaccinations. And if the widespread public dissemination of the vaccines prove to be as effective as they’ve been in clinical trials, we could be rounding the much-discussed corner on the virus. But that success also will depend on sane responses from the general population. But about half of adult Americans said they will refuse a COVID vaccine. Many health experts say that in order to get control of the virus, 80 percent of a population needs to be vaccinated. But with half the U.S. population clinging to vaccination fears, that’s not likely to happen.
Sadly, because of such irresponsible right-wing “reporting” and many Americans’ natural affinity for crazy conspiracy theories, the COVID crisis will be with us for the foreseeable future.