Another One Bites the Dust
The key hypothesis of asymptomatic spread is finally tested
Epidemiologists typically track two key mortality statistics. The first is the case fatality rate, which is the number of deaths caused by a disease divided by the number of known cases. Early in the COVID pandemic, the WHO and most of the mainstream media in the West trumpeted a horrendous case fatality rate for COVID of 3.4 percent.
Competent epidemiologists know that case fatality rates are notorious for overstating the actual death rate, for the simple reason that they typically include only those cases of disease severe enough to land a person in hospital. To determine the true death rate of a disease, it is necessary to do widespread community testing to add in an accurate measure of all the mild and asymptomatic cases, giving an immensely more reliable statistic known as the infection fatality rate.
Knowing they lacked this crucial data about the actual prevalence of COVID, the US Center for Disease Control should have immediately issued contracts for widespread community COVID testing programs. They did not - which was an inexcusable oversight.
There was one American epidemiologist who did do that key research - independently, and on a shoe-string budget. In April of 2020, Dr. Jay Bhattacharya’s research found that the actual number COVID infections in Santa Clara County, California, was an order of magnitude higher than what official case numbers showed. An astounding 2.81% of those tested already had COVID antibodies in their blood.
Dr. Bhattacharya’s research strongly suggested that the official WHO death rate overstated the actual COVID death rate by roughly ten-fold. His research also found that the risk of dying of COVID was strongly correlated with age: the oft-touted COVID death rate of 3.4% overstated the risk of someone under the age of 50 dying of COVID by roughly one hundred times, and overstated the risk of a child or teenager dying of COVID by a thousand times of more. (All of Dr. Bhattacharya’s clinical findings have subsequently been confirmed as accurate.)
The NIH and the CDC were deeply embarrassed by Bhattacharya’s findings. He had independently done the absolutely vital community testing that America’s public health officials should have done, and did not. Rather than thanking Dr. Bhattacharya for his immense contribution, he was attacked and vilified in the press. The US Government leaned on social media and the mainstream press to suppress his all-important findings.
Dr. Bhattacharya’s research did inadvertently give America’s public health officials a new way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. His research showed that COVID was so mild in most young people that the majority of those with COVID antibodies did not even realize that they had had COVID.
Once public health officials hoisted in this key fact, they somehow managed to transform it from a very strong signal that COVID was far more benign than initially feared, to being a new and insidious danger.
What if all those people with pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic COVID were quietly spreading COVID to everyone around them? Granted, this was not the pattern of other respiratory viruses, but perhaps COVID was different. Almost overnight, this idea of asymptomatic spread morphed from being an unlikely and untested hypothesis to unchallenged fact.
This idea of asymptomatic spread became a key argument for why lockdowns must continue indefinitely. When mask mandates were proposed, guarding against asymptomatic spread was once again the central argument.
With so many economic and socially damaging policies stemming from a single untested hypothesis, one would have thought that America’s public health officials would have immediately looked for a way to test the hypothesis of asymptomatic spread. Astoundingly, they did not.
Three years later, crucial research disproving the hypothesis of runaway asymptomatic spread of COVID has finally been released.
In March of 2021, Imperial College London attempted to deliberately infect 36 healthy, young volunteers with COVID. Only 18 of the 36 actually became infected. Two of the 18 developed COVID antibodies but showed no symptoms of having been infected. The remaining 16 showed symptoms of COVID infection and positive COVID tests. The volunteers were then sent into isolation and very carefully monitored for when, where, and how they spread the virus until they had fully recovered.
In April of 2022, the College released the first results of their study in the journal Nature Medicine. That initial study included only quite limited information including the statement: “Other findings include that it only takes two days after a person is infected to start shedding virus, and that people shed a lot of virus before they show symptoms.”
In June of 2023, the College released a much more comprehensive analysis of its findings - an analysis that in at least one very important way contradicted the findings of the previous year.
This later study reported: “positive lateral flow tests and visible symptoms were reliable indicators of when people were infectious and emitting virus into the air and environment. The vast majority of virus was emitted after people noticed their first symptoms, with very little virus released into the environment before that (pre-symptomatically).”
In a nutshell, this study (belatedly) presented strong evidence that, though asymptomatic and/or pre-symptomatic spread of COVID was indeed possible, the very low levels of virus released into the environment before a person became symptomatic made it extremely unlikely that asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic spread made a significant difference in the spread of COVID.
Why did Imperial College wait 14 months to present data directly opposite to its initial findings? I suspect the researchers knew the information police would have pilloried and slandered them relentlessly if they had released their June 2023 findings back in April of 2022. They waited until COVID was yesterday’s crisis - knowing that by then the news media had moved on, and would ignore anything they said. Then the Imperial College researchers kept their consciences clear by blurting out the truth, however belatedly.
Let’s imagine the CDC had done an identical but much larger study over the summer of 2020, and analyzed their data as rapidly as possible. By early in the Fall of 2020, America’s public health authorities would have had clear data indicating that neither pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic spread presented a significant risk.
The key justification for lockdowns, school closures, and mask mandates would then have disappeared. Anyone with COVID symptoms or a positive COVID test would be required to self-isolate until they tested negative. Other than that, life could have returned to normal for the remainder of the population.
Yet again, those same public health authorities who prattled on endlessly about “following the science” failed to do any, with the result that lockdowns and school closures were extended years beyond when should have ended, causing incalculable damage to the economy, massive social deprivation, and immense damage to children’s language, social and educational development.
I have to wonder, at what point does the utter and obvious incompetence of North America’s public health officials cross the line into criminal negligence?