Hoisted from E-Mail: Covid Death Undercounts, but How Large?

The US is operating with appallingly poor Covid data thanks in no small measure to officials at every level of government acting as if managing PR in a pandemic is more important than managing public health. We have the CDC in an act of what ought to be criminal negligence refusing to track “breakthrough” cases among the vaccinated. That means that clinicians and scientists are now playing blind man and the elephant, groping with their information and trying to guess how representative it is.

GM, by e-mail, points out we are in a similar spot with Covid death reporting, albeit for different reasons:

During the winter wave, some states failed to even keep track of the death count. For example, Ohio had a very suspiciously low deaths for several months, then just dumped 6-7K deaths and got in line with the average. But it was far from alone, there were big data dumps in February and March from several other states (e.g. VA and NM), and to this day the death counts are highly suspicious in UT, KY, OK, and a few others. Florida at some point last year was often reporting deaths months after they happened, and I don’t imagine that having improved much, etc.

But right now, with states scaling back reporting, it is a total mess. With today’s 130K cases, we should see 2K deaths a day at some point, and there is a delay of 3-4 weeks between cases and deaths, and deaths are going up, but not as fast as perhaps expected, and one can’t figure out at all how much of that is the vaccine effect and how much it is just the lack of reporting.

I was reading about morgue capacity in some SW MO hospitals being exceeded, but meanwhile MO seems to have just stopped reporting deaths altogether — they post single-digit numbers retoractively, but it’s been more than a month of rising cases now, and it is not reflected in the death count, which certainly does not match the reports from the hospitals either. Meanwhile in neighboring AR they seem to be reporting more accurately and deaths are up massively.

And that sort of thing is happening in lots of places. Complete mess and very hard to figure out what the real situation is exactly.

P.S. Today Psaki has said that there is “no going back”, i.e. everything will remain fully open and kids will be herded into schools. And there was this video from Miguel Cardona that just makes you want to throw stuff at the wall in rage:

At this point it is a serious question which administration did worse with its COVID response. Some of the things that are being said and done now in terms of denial of what is happening I have hard time imagining last year, as there would have been serious backlash, but now there is none…

Lambert suggested trying to track increased refrigerator truck rentals as a proxy for a Covid death surge, but the upticks would be too small and local to register even in regional data. But if anyone knows truckers or facility managers in that business, they could be sources of information about sudden demand from a city or a hospital system.

The fact that we are even having to think of finding crude signals is yet more evidence of how terrible our Covid response continues to be.

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  1. Tom Stone

    Just yesterday I was thinking that the fact that Fauci and Walensky still had jobs told me all I needed to know about what to expect from our “Leaders”..
    Quite a few people I know are desperate to believe they can trust our Government, these are members of the PMC who simply can’t believe that their lives don’t matter any more than the lives of “Those People” do.
    The cognitive dissonance is painful, when it gets to the point that they can no longer lie to themselves the rage will be enormous.

    1. Harry

      Fauchi is more likely to be canonized than criticized by this admin. I can’t think of anyone who did more to get Biden elected

  2. Amfortas the hippie

    “crude signals”

    aye. like for sale signs and the appearance of dollar stores for on the ground economics.

    i look for empty spots in the pharmacy section of even the beer store.
    i also have a scanner…20 yo, analog…that allows me to listen to fire and ems.(we’re small enough that we can generally figure out who it is, and therefore have a more granular anecdata: are they obese, old, on meth? R/D/apolitical? married to a cancer patient?
    who do they run with?(this is what counts for contact tracing, here)

    i also cultivate relationships with local healthcare people…especially the school nurse, who is a fount of information regarding current conditions.(she also monitors the pharmacy section)

    none of this, of course, is a replacement for actual, scientifically obtained data…but we are where we are.

    1. polar donkey

      My coworkers at the restaurant have been wondering if there would be another lock down. I told them no, because the US has decided it can take up to 200,000 people a year dying from covid. The US doesn’t care about 90,000 people OD’ing a year. The cost of doing business now.

    1. Molon labe

      His tweets are informative but politically biased as is the reporting on the current situation. Weren’t the Democrats and the press in favor of masking and shutdowns when Trump was president?

      1. Raymond Sim

        What a bs response. You don’t address anything actually said by Feigl-Ding or anyone else.

        Liberal hypocrisy means Florida’s not lying? You need to start dipping shit from a fresh crock.

        1. Molon labe

          Classy. I am not criticizing what Dr. Feigl-Ding said. As I noted, his tweets are informative, just biased. No doubt that Florida is lying. But, Democrats were screaming for shutdowns and masking when Trump was president but not so much now that hits to the economy will be blamed on them.

          1. Raymond Sim

            No, you didn’t criticize what anybody said, you didn’t address anything anyone actually said at all. And you still haven’t.

            “The media is biased.” is a bullshit vacuous critique, and is irrelevant to the discussion at hand. If you think you said anything substantive you’ve been listening to too many Gish-gallopers

      1. johnnyme

        One of my all time favorite graffiti scrawls I’ve seen:

        “Jesus saves sinners and redeems them for valuable cash prizes.”

        1. CanCyn

          Being Canadian, my favourite was always ”Jesus saves but Gretzky scores on the rebound”

  3. thoughtful person

    “I was reading about morgue capacity in some SW MO hospitals being exceeded, but meanwhile MO seems to have just stopped reporting deaths altogether — they post single-digit numbers retoractively, but it’s been more than a month of rising cases now, and it is not reflected in the death count, which certainly does not match the reports from the hospitals either. Meanwhile in neighboring AR they seem to be reporting more accurately and deaths are up massively.”

    Yes, this, what, cognitive disconnect with reality?, has been getting worse and worse as the pandemic has progressed ‐ irrelevant of administration, local, state or federal.

    There is a big desire to have the problem just go away, and many seem to think that denial and avoidance will be effective against covid19 (or the eventual next one, covid22?) but we know these “treatment methods” will fail miserably.

    That said here’s an article I just found that appears to have some good reporting on Florida hospitization rates and specifics in the Jacksonville area. It quotes US H&HS figures at one point (not CDC). 10% of hospitalizations are among the vaccinated and the total is a record for Florida. We do need more than vaccination to end this pandemic!


  4. 430MLK

    I noticed this happening in Kentucky, where the state was regularly filtering in what it described as “old” (as in, occuring months ago) Covid deaths during the nightly Covid update by the governor. At the time, I thought it was a way to manage the narrative of the infection spikes–not letting the public know about the rise in deaths as it was happening, and then letting the deaths re-appear in a semi-trickle later on down the road as an ‘only house-keeping with data’ jump in deaths.

    1. Brian Beijer

      This has been exactly the playbook Sweden has used since the beginning. I have to admit it has been effective in keeping the people rather calm despite the disproportionate number of deaths here as compared to other nordic countries. Why do they need to control the virus when they can so effectively control us?

      1. GM

        Yes, Sweden’s curve is always pointing downwards, because of the way the reporting is done.

        If you know it, you’re not fooled, but it takes a level of sophistication than 95%+ of people don’t have to understand and be aware of that issue…

  5. JACK

    While there are undoubtedly valid instances of under-reporting covid deaths, the contra to this is that there are also many cases of over-reporting covid deaths because hospitals had a financial incentive to report deaths as being caused by covid. Consequently, there have been many instances of people dying with covid rather than from covid included in the reported covid death totals in the US.

    1. jhallc

      So, I get that there will be deaths related to multiple causes but, isn’t that why we look at excess deaths. The long term averages compared against the numbers since Covid-19 arrived tell a fairly accurate story IMHO. Excess deaths in Florida this year is higher than 2020.


      1. Louis Fyne

        Not defending any side, but we need an apples to apples comparison. one cannot filter out traffic deaths (given return to pre-covid driving) or murders or overdoses from the excess deaths in that data.

        unless i missed that tick box.

      2. Louis Fyne

        excess florida deaths are higher year over year, but still lower than the long-term baseline, per that website

        just saying. i have no dog in the fight.

        1. jhallc

          Yes, statistical analysis can really be a black box. I try not to get to enamored by them and down in the bug dust but, look for the trends. It seems to me Florida was doing well up until mid- way thru 2020 (week 23) then the numbers headed up from the baseline. Since that time the number of deaths have for the most part, been outside the “normal” range for the Number of Deaths Chart. Florida was one of the bright spots with respect to the #of cases, as compared to say NY, in the early stages of the pandemic. I only focused on Florida because that is the topic of the tweet above by Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding and the reported number of deaths. Looking at the excess deaths it doesn’t look like they are doing a whole lot better in 2021. Hopefully, the number of all excess deaths will drop in 2021. I’m certainly hoping the covid-19 deaths, however many that is, will decrease with better overall treatment and some added benefit of the vaccine.

      3. skk

        Thanks for the link – The calculation method should be noted:
        The baseline is calculated as average of 2015-2019, adjusted for age and population changes and smoothed using a Gauss window function. The excess deaths are calculated as observed deaths minus baseline. For the most recent weeks, excess deaths are calculated using the midpoint of the prediction.

        Note: Using CDC’s predicted deaths. Up to eight weeks might be additionally corrected for reporting delay based on last eight weeks of reporting. The most recent weeks are using the predicted value as shown in the ‘Number of Deaths’ tab. State level data might be incomplete for some weeks. Any counts fewer than 10 are suppressed for confidentiality reasons by CDC

        This is the best number for the death effects ( + and – ( fewer road fatalities etc) of COVID but like the NBER’s recession dating, we’ll know it most accurately in substantial retrospect. And the answer is only going to be “How many more deaths there were during the years |months when COVID was prevalent ( one would need to define that ) compared to the predicted deaths based on a prior multi-year average.
        Its a mouthful I know, it should be stated with even more rigor IMO, but data and statistics are like that and one should get used to it – soundbiting and headlining has immense room for data mischief and round after round of sterile arguing.

      1. phenix

        I know people whose child was listed as a covid death except she died in a car accident. My wife’s friend went public on facebook. Many people came forward with similar stories. People were dying of a major disease and the listed cause of death was Covid. Does that account for all of Covid deaths? No but the small number of Covid deaths were inflated.

        Covid mortality rates are similar to the flu
        ..it’s the long term impact that is worse.

        1. Raymond Sim

          I think you’re lying.

          “It’s like the flu.” is a thoroughly debunked propaganda theme promulgated by the Great Barrington Evil Clown College. People who repeat it are either dupes or liars.

          If you’re merely a dupe, and are telling the truth about these people you know’s daughter, who your wife’s friend went public about on Facebook, you guys should totally contact Alex Berenson.

  6. John Beech

    My wife’s just put in for sabbatical. A year off to see how this plays out, but basically, a career in Special Ed. coming to an ignoble end due to political aspirations of Governor DeSantis, an idiot for whom I voted. She could’ve retired two years ago but continued for the sheer love of the job. We’re fortunate in being blessed my business allows us the luxury of choosing our health and safety over finances. However, I pity those for whom the alternative is economic difficulty or ruin.

    Note, last year she completed the IEPs for all three schools to which she is assigned (she’s not in the classroom any longer but is a Special Ed. coordinator ensuring all the i’s are dots and all the t’s are crossed thus ensuring state and federal funding is not interrupted). Point being, using WebEx allowed her for the first time in 17 years to close all the IEPs, proof positive (via natural experiment) remote working for ‘her’ resulted in sufficient savings in friction of holding meeting (travel time between schools, parents who just won’t stop, hellos and goodbyes, etc.) to let her be more effective at her work. This year? Denied.

  7. QuarterBack

    Most graphing and summarization has been weekly, monthly, or longer periods at state, regional, or national level. The raw CDC is reported at the county level (mostly) daily. When I looked at the daily new deaths and new positive cases, I found a surprising number of negative numbers (the “corrections”). The sum of only the negative numbers for deaths was in the many thousands and the sum for positive cases was in the many millions. Now some may see a number like -12 deaths and say “oh that’s just a correction”, but who is to say that 21 deaths isn’t just a report of 26 deaths “corrected” down to 21. Also, why wouldn’t the reverse also be true? How would you know if the hospitals reported 3 deaths, but the daily report was “corrected” to 8?

    My point is their are obvious omissions in the methodology to identify when the data set is presenting actual or (best of intentions) manipulated data.

  8. NotTimothyGeithner

    All we had previously was excess deaths over the last year and a half anyway. With the usual germ factories reopening (schools), we are going to deal with all kinds of issues going forward. Excess deaths from an adjusted baseline pre-Covid will be the only real number without autopsies and good medical history that we simply don’t have.

      1. Raymond Sim

        I guess my initial response was too profane and insulting.

        So I’ll just say this: Shame on you, this is a disgraceful way to speak of the deaths and suffering of children.

        Also, this line of ‘reasoning’ is getting stale. Do better.

        1. dcrane

          There was nothing wrong with the comment. Do better yourself by being a bit more calm.

          The comment, imo, acknowledges that the extreme rarity of deaths among children is not all that matters, since of course the virus may circulate from them to older adults.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            As we have repeatedly said, Imperial College data (regular large scale population surveys in the UK) have found that elementary school children are 2x as likely to bring Covid into a household and older children, 7x.

              1. Raymond Sim

                Another emission of ordure:

                “Covid is not going away.”

                Is that natural law or something?

                “Are kids supposed to stay out of school indefinitely?”

                Only the ones that are unsafe, you dingbat.

          2. Raymond Sim

            “Calm down.” lol what am I your girlfriend?

            Emphasizing the “extreme rarity” of deaths among children” is, ffs, precisely that, and it’s disgraceful in and of itself.

            But given that the statistics in question come from a period when children were largely protected from exposure, and the new plan to protect children is to not protect them, this kind of bullshit needs to be called out for what it is, and people like you should be denied moral cover.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              No, it is widely acknowledged that symptomatic cases among children were previously non-existent. This is the experience of not just the US, which had leaky lockdowns, but also countries that had much more effective lockdowns or other restrictions. We now had kids being hospitalized. This is new and you are trying to act as if it’s due to behavior, when most experts depict hospitalizations among the young as due to Delta.

              1. Raymond Sim

                Multisystem Inflammatory Disorder first gained wide attention during NYC’s first wave. If that’s not symptomatic disease I don’t know what is. But I’m sure Yves is well aware of that.

                What am I missing here?

  9. redleg

    Compare total deaths in a state (or county, this is scalable) in a month to the monthly average of total deaths over any time span prior to 2020. Use deaths per thousand to account for population changes. It’s crude, but the number of deaths over that average would be attributed to Covid.

    1. GM

      Yes, of course, excess deaths are there to be calculated

      The problem is that you can only do this months from now.

      But how do you keep track of what is happening in real time when action has to be taken to prevent the deaths i there is no reliable data?

      1. redleg

        How about looking at the rate of change of the trend.
        One could always ask Taleb for guidance.

        I think that looking at deaths is the wrong benchmark anyway. Not all infections result in death, or even illness. Deaths are a lagging indicator anyway, so I don’t see the value in attempting to use deaths as a real-time statistic in a pandemic.

    2. Daniel LaRusso

      Is that true ? hre in he UK we shut down society andd that included the NHS. So say for example 5 years ago I got chest pain whilst gardening, I call an ambulance and they turn up sharpish. I’m seen in ER in a relatively order fashion and diagnosed with the need for emergency surgery. I’m operated on inside an hour and live a long, happy life.

      Compare that to 2020 – the ambulance takes forever and when I get to hospital I’m not seen for ages due to everyone with even a tight chest (brother-in-law) waiting to be seen. I die a horrible and painful death. Am I right in thinking I’m an excess death, so you’re telling people I died from covid? But I didn’t. I’m not sure what it was like in the US … but stuff like that must have happened regularly because the NHS saves lives everyday and we practically closed it down to anything but COVID. Yes/No ?

  10. Mantid

    I’d like to thank the CDC and the rest of the, as Carl Lewis would say, Clown Show. Digging deep for a positive aspect of their cruelty and hubris, at least they are helping us all realize – you’re on your own buddy. It’s a good prelim for what we’ll have to deal with that was described so well in the article and comments yesterday regarding the collapse of the Gulf Stream. Practice makes perfect.

  11. Bill Smith

    Wouldn’t the ratio of deaths to cases have declined slightly due to the vaccines? They are counting people with vaccines who are admitted to the hospital, as a case, right?

    1. Societal Illusions

      Case rates, especially now, seems like a very blunt metric: demonstrated PCR test fallibility and what seems like less testing as we progress would impact. others? Vaccines appeared to be eliminating most hospitalizations but more data (Cape Cod, Israel, U.K.) now showing not always the case.

      Wouldn’t ratios also drop with the most infirm or ailing having already succumbed?

      We seem to have so much data except for when it counts.

    2. GM

      Maybe it did, but on the other hand B.1.617.2 is 2-3x more virulent, so that should cancel that effect.

      How can we know without reliable data though?

  12. Edward

    Someone like Matt Tiabbi needs to write a book about this lousy response to COVID. Will we learn any lessons? One should be: keep politics and PR out of the response. There also seems to be a haphazard quality to the policy. Each state does its own thing. Better international cooperation would also have been nice.

    1. GM

      One should be: keep politics and PR out of the response

      Not possible, unfortunately — it is not a political problem, but doing what has to be done to solve it is impossible without resolving the preexisting socio-economic contradictions in society.

      The fundamental reason 700,000 people are dead in the US and more than 10M worldwide is that people had to be paid not to work and stay home, and that debts had to be cancelled.

      Neither of these could ever be allowed as they set ultra-dangerous precedents that threatened the very foundations of the existing socioeconomic order.

      It was very clear if you were watching the business media in March 2020, the talking heads were going apoplectic about this very issue.

      1. Raymond Sim

        “It was very clear if you were watching the business media in March 2020, …”

        Ever since the S&L crisis I’ve been ever more amazed at the way these things play out in plain sight.

      2. Edward

        Well, I think politics has been mixed up with the U.S. response. Trump turned it into a political issue over the question of masking. The U.S. also withdrew from the WHO, accused China of causing the virus without evidence, and refused to participate in international efforts. The U.S. has also been coercing countries like Brazil not to use the Russian vaccines, because that would give Russia a PR victory. In general there has been much U.S. grousing about the success of Sputnik.

        How was the decision made to promote the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines? Were bribes involved? Why couldn’t a cheap, easy-to-make vaccine(s) be promoted instead? The decision was made in secret from what I can tell, although it was hugely consequential and effected everyone. There is much complaining about anti-vaxxers. If a non-experimental, non-mRNA vaccine had been promoted instead, the anti-vaxxers would have less reason for opposition. As for the claim that mRNA vaccines are easy and quick to develop, is it definitely true and by how much? The timing of the public release of the Pfizer vaccine was suspicious and may have indicated an attempt to undermine Trump’s re-election.

        Then there is Kushner, who was put in charge of Trump’s COVID response. He was confiscating materials states had purchased for their own response. This was done without explanation. What was done with those materials? A certain Middle East state Kushner has ties to was the first to vaccinate its privileged religious sect. There was reporting about this but nobody seemed to ask how it was possible. The obstacle for most states seemed to be acquiring the vaccine. How was this state able to acquire its vaccine?

        Finally, what is wrong with the CDC? We have all been complaining about their bad choices but why are they failing? The article above makes it sound like they may be avoiding testing to prevent a PR problem for themselves or Biden.

        On the issue of lockdowns, I am not convinced they are absolutely required. With competent management and public support, a big, big “IF” I grant you, might something less extreme be possible? Japan was able to get by with something less for a while. Why couldn’t activities be moved outdoors as much as possible? Why can’t schools and businesses operate under a tent, with help from the state, making parks and other spaces available? Americans don’t seem willing to do any work to mitigate the situation.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I let this comment marinade because the CT to content ratio was way too high.

          You really need to get up to speed on basics. Per GM:

          Most likely the mRNA vaccines were approved first because they indeed could be developed most quickly.

          One does not need to look for another explanation — they needed to declare victory ASAP, mRNA could cross the finish line first, so mRNA it was. If another technology was quicker to get to that point, they would have gone with it. Also, they would not have been too picky about efficiency (otherwise J&J would never have been approved).

          The problem is that other promising approaches were neglected because of that.

          People are working on intranasal vaccines, but how much traction are those going to get in practice?

          And Novavax works as well as mRNA, but more importantly is an amazing technology that will be the foundation for a future pan-coronavirus vaccine (most likely mRNA won’t do for that) but Novavax did not have the manufacturing capacity. It needed help from Big Pharma, but now it looks like it will be killed — I am reading that they won’t be approved and won’t receive further financial help from the government either. Extremely unfortunate.

          As for Israel, it has only 5-6 million people and the first US injections were well before Israel ramped up. It’s geographically compact and has a well functioning health care system. And there are tons of Jews much richer and with better medical connections to Israel than Kushner.

          1. Edward

            I am more cynical then GM. This line about mRNA vaccines being significantly faster to develop gets repeated often but is it true? Could it be that people are just repeating this claim without subjecting it to much scrutiny, a COVID urban myth? The mRNA wiki page says nothing about an advantage in faster development. What it does say is these vaccines can be produced faster:


            Traditional vaccines
            RNA vaccines offer specific advantages over traditional protein vaccines.[5][4] Because RNA vaccines are not constructed from an active pathogen (or even an inactivated pathogen), they are non-infectious. In contrast, traditional vaccines require the production of pathogens, which, if done at high volumes, could increase the risks of localized outbreaks of the virus at the production facility.[5] RNA vaccines can be produced faster, more cheaply, and in a more standardized fashion (with fewer error rates in production), which can improve responsiveness to serious outbreaks.[4][5] For example, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine originally required 110 days to produce (before Pfizer began to optimize the manufacturing process to only 60 days), but this was still far faster than traditional flu and polio vaccines.[63] Within that larger timeframe, the actual production time is only about 22 days: two weeks for molecular cloning of DNA plasmids and purification of DNA, four days for DNA-to-RNA transcription and purification of mRNA, and four days to encapsulate mRNA in lipid nanoparticles followed by fill and finish.[77] The majority of the days needed for each production run are allocated to rigorous quality control at each stage.[63]

            DNA vaccines
            In addition to sharing the advantages of theoretical DNA vaccines over established traditional protein vaccines, RNA vaccines also have additional advantages over DNA vaccines. The mRNA is translated in the cytosol, so there is no need for the RNA to enter the cell nucleus, and the risk of being integrated into the host genome is averted.[3] Modified nucleosides (for example, pseudouridines, 2′-O-methylated nucleosides) can be incorporated to mRNA to suppress immune response stimulation to avoid immediate degradation and produce a more persistent effect through enhanced translation capacity.[78][79][80] The open reading frame (ORF) and untranslated regions (UTR) of mRNA can be optimized for different purposes (a process called sequence engineering of mRNA), for example through enriching the guanine-cytosine content or choosing specific UTRs known to increase translation.[81]

            An additional ORF coding for a replication mechanism can be added to amplify antigen translation and therefore immune response, decreasing the amount of starting material needed.[53][82]


            This line above was certainly interesting: “RNA vaccines can be produced faster, more cheaply …” More … cheaply??? Haven’t Pfizer and Moderna been charging an arm and a leg for their vaccines?

            Anyway, given that Washington is saturated in corruption and bribery, I stand by my questions: How was CDC vaccine policy determined, and was bribery involved? Why is the CDC so secretive?

            Biologist Peter Hotez is working on a COVID vaccine that is cheap and simple to produce. He could not secure government funding for his work, about $150000 as I recall, a paltry sum in the battle against COVID. I don’t know much about Hotez or his credibility, but his story raises questions about what vaccines the CDC is promoting and why.

            Israel gets special treatment frequently, such as being able to flout the U.N., and I am curious to know if this has again been the case with the vaccines.

      3. Edward

        GM, I wrote a reply but it didn’t make it through moderation. I mostly listed some examples of where I think politics influenced COVID policy.

      4. ChrisPacific

        The fundamental reason 700,000 people are dead in the US and more than 10M worldwide is that people had to be paid not to work and stay home, and that debts had to be cancelled.

        Neither of these could ever be allowed as they set ultra-dangerous precedents that threatened the very foundations of the existing socioeconomic order.

        This was the part that surprised me the most. From an early stage it was pretty self-evident that you can’t simultaneously require people to stay home for public health reasons and treat them as lazy slackers for not working, so I knew it was going to present a challenge to capitalism. Never once did I imagine that preserving the coercive nature of the employment relationship would take precedence over protecting humanity from a global pandemic.

        1. ivoteno

          interesting. having seen how the PTB have treated the planet over the last, say, century or so, whatever would make you think protecting humanity is on their agenda? i am not surprised in the least.

          1. ChrisPacific

            I was under no illusions about their altruism, but I thought that at least self-interest might play a part, since (unlike an economic crisis) there would be no way to contain the effects of a pandemic to only impact the poor and middle class. Apparently I overestimated their rationality.

  13. Susan the other

    The health authorities advised us last Spring that the J&J would prevent acute illness and death; probably keep us out of the hospital – but we’d likely still get sick at some level. The mRNA vaccines were expected to provide a high level of protection against even getting sick. But there’s no proof for any of this. It’s interesting all this was understood even at the beginning of the vaccination campaign. And then, we learn that people distrusted the government so deeply that over 50% of the population refused the jab. Insinuation is now flying the the vaccines themselves are making people sick – and there’s no clear counterargument; no denial. So we assume it’s possible. That people are still getting sick even with vaccine protection is accepted. But it makes the science murky. Are the deaths from Covid? Are they from underlying illnesses? Age? We would have better answers at this stage of the confusion if we had produced good medicines for the treatment of Covid. That would tell us a great deal about just what is causing the illnesses and the fatalities. With only statistics about vaccinated and unvaccinated patients we know next to nothing and have no way of being confident about any of it.

    1. John Emerson

      Apparently 95%+ of the COVID deaths and hospital admissions are unvaccinated. That should count as proof.

      Is there any evidence that the vaccinations themselves are making people sick? SHouldn’t people look for evidence before relaying these insinuations. For Christ’s sake, there are always going to be insinuations these days.

      1. kareninca

        “Apparently 95%+ of the COVID deaths and hospital admissions are unvaccinated. That should count as proof.”

        Could you provide a link for this? Something that is more than a bare claim by a political appointee.

        Also, even if it is presently true, the vaccinated are not doing so well in Israel. They vaccinated early, and the vaccine’s effects appear to be wearing off pretty fast.

      2. urblintz

        “Apparently 95%+ of the COVID deaths and hospital admissions are unvaccinated. That should count as proof.”

        apparently is not a very convincing word. do you have a credible link? (hint: CNN, FOX, MSNBC, etc don’t count as credible… never have.)

        1. John Emerson

          The main source is the CDC, whic is not trusted here.. But the relevant officers of a number of states have said as much in recent weeks.




          Johns Hopkins:


          Many States:

          https://www.kff.org/policy-watch/covid-19-vaccine-breakthrough-cases-data-from-the-states/ (Also Johns Hopkins)

          New York, Nevada:



          1. John Emerson

            Are you saying that it CNN, FOX, or MSNBC cites a public health officer, you will not accept that?

            1. kareninca

              “Since June 1, 11 percent of people hospitalized with COVID-19 had been fully vaccinated, Lockett said. It was not immediately clear what percentage of these COVID-positive people were hospitalized for other conditions, such as heart attack or stroke. In this same time frame, 13 percent of COVID-related deaths were in fully vaccinated people.” (https://www.reviewjournal.com/local/local-nevada/covid-cases-among-vaccinated-on-the-rise-in-clark-county-2414391/)

          2. athena1

            First link says “between February and June 2021, at least 94% of COVID-19 cases, deaths, and hospitalizations in individuals 12 years or older from Washington state occurred in individuals who were not fully vaccinated.”

            Delta took off in July. It’s the numbers over the last 3 weeks we need.

            What was happening in February is completely irrelevant now, and that data only serves to muddy the waters.

  14. Hemanth Kumar

    From an Indian’s POV:
    Most articles of ‘mainstream’ media on COVID-19 in India would mention as a matter of course that India under reports deaths and number of infections etc. It’s their right to report like that. But not a word about such under reporting in the western world.

    1. Raymond Sim

      The crusading (pardon the expression) journalists who’ve exposed the undercounting in India are top of my heroes list these days. I wish we had more like them in our country.

  15. John Emerson

    Based on official statistics, COVID was the third leading cause of death in 2020 (after heart disaease and cancer) even though there were almost no COVID deaths during the first 2 months and even though COVID deaths were probably undercounted. I have always wanted to see the COVID death counts from Mar 1 2020-Feb 28 2021, which I suspect will approach and possibly surpass the cancer and heart disease death counts during that period. (The “excess deaths” count during this period would be even more interesting).

    During much of this period the collective American political mind was asking itself whether COVID should be taken seriously at all.

  16. Dave in Austin

    Statistics cut both ways. Governments collect statistics to monitor reality. Sometimes reality is inconvenient.

    For example the US “have a job” number has grown increasingly inaccurate in the past decades. One series is collected from employers and also Social Security withholding, a second set comes from the survey of random households. The numbers agreed until the1970s then they slowly diverged with the households reporting more workers than the employers. This most likely means a significant growth in the underground economy. But that is never mentioned although DC Bureau of Labor Statistics economists talk about it.

    When people are judged by statistics they tend to jimmy them, witness the Vietnam body count, the crop reports in the Ukraine in 1924 the iron production figures from China’s Great Leap Forward in 1957 and, according to cops I know, the crime rate figures in US cities.

    But policy makers who often encourage statistical “improvements” slowly discover that the previously dependable figures used to make policy are now essentially false figures and generate bad policy decisions. This is what appears to have happened in Covid: hospitalizations went up because the government reimbursed for Covid; deaths went improperly reported, sometimes to prove a point; and Covid case rates were kept artificially low and made Covid appear very lethal by basing them on hospital admissions and physicians’ reports when random tests of blood samples would have given a much higher rate of non-serious cases as happened in Great Britain. The high US rates of aged and nursing home victims should have been picked up early but the statistics being gathered didn’t spot it- until it became big news. Israel since 1948 has kept excellent records because f the socialist leanings of the early leaders. They can tell you who died, how overweight they were, which vaccine they took… everything that matters, which is why they can reliably report vaccine success rates. In the US our leaders would prefer that information was not in the public hands. So the public is often suspicious of official numbers.

    Randomly testing people’s blood for diseases and then not telling them is illegal in the US and considered highly unethical- the tested person isn’t told and can’t seek treatment. But in the US it was widely none in the 1960s through, I believe, the 1990s- and for good reason. University health clinics submitted the samples and the US used them to estimate sexually transmitted disease rates among college students. I knew one of the university health people; she was worried the might get caught but believed (I think rightly) that it was done for a good cause.

    1. c_heale

      Most people here in Korea have remained masked up (there are some exceptions) even though a lot of people have the vaccine. Some of it is cultural – people here mask up for a cold, but I think it would be wise to wear a mask until there is a very low number of infections.

  17. marku52

    There is deranged thinking on display. Everywhere you hear “Get the unvaccinated vaccinated. Then we can go back to life.”

    How does that work? Whats the point of a vaccine passport when the carrier can, literally, be a carrier? Why should I feel more comfortable in a restaurant where every one has been vaccinated? ANS: You can’t, because they all can be infective carriers, VX or no.

    And it does appear that the “mild” cases the VXers are supposed get can still lead to long covid.

    The vaccines were sold as a way to stop the epidemic and get back to normal life. Maybe against the original strain, that might have worked. Against Delta, it’s useless.

    As public health tools, these vaccines are worthless. Maybe even counterproductive as the VXer do risky things now that they have been told they are “safe”

    1. John Emerson

      It is not true that the vaccines are worthless. If you’re vaccinated, you’re less likely to get the disease, and thus less likely to spread it.

      I’ve also seen it claimed that while even asymptomatic breakthrough cases can spread the disease, they’re less likely to spread it than unvaccinated cases.

      COVID vaccine has never been claimed to be 100% effective and no earlier vaccine has been 100% effective. I see the jump from there to “worthless” and “useless’ all the time, and that’s unjustifiable.

      1. marku52

        Umm not true. Data from Israel, who keeps very good records, shows that the %age of cases in the population mirrors the %age of vaccinated and unvaccinated pops.

        That shows no protection from infection. If there was protection, a much smaller # of cases would show up than the % vaccinated in the population

        Very discouraging, that. But fits perfectly with the anecdotal reports of weddings where 11 out of 14 vaccinated folks all turn covid+. Or That bridegeport cluster.

        For it to be useful as a public heath tool, it has to reliably stop transmission. These vaccines do not do that, at least not well enough.

        That doesn’t mean they aren’t helpful in preventing death, we believe. But that doesn’t stop the epidemic.

        1. John Emerson

          Someone’s data is wrong, that’s for sure. We’re dealing with rather small numbers.

          And something that prevents death without preventing infection is a valuable public health tool.

          1. kareninca

            “If you’re vaccinated, you’re less likely to get the disease”

            We don’t know that. We are not tracking cases of covid in the vaccinated (unless they are hospitalized or die). Literally every single vaccinated person could be catching covid (and spreading it like crazy), but we have no way to know if that is happening.

            I don’t mean to be critical, but I don’t know how you could not understand this by now. This has been said over and over and over again here; the CDC has said it themselves: we are NOT counting or tracking cases of covid in vaccinated people (“breakthrough cases”) except for those that result in hospitalization or death.

            Even if there is some early data done before the vaccines came out about how likely a vaccinated person was to catch (as opposed to an unvaccinated), that data is no longer relevant due to Delta.

            1. John Emerson

              People have there narratives they stick to. I have had to point out to people 4 times already today that almost all deaths and hospital admissions are unvaccinated. That doesn’t fit the prophet of doom narrative so people have just memory-holed it.

              As I said elsewhere, time will tell. Nobody knows these things. I find the characteristic narrative here to committed toi the dark side. From back when I was a hospital workers I remember the AIDS prophets of doom. They were wrong.

              1. tegnost

                Apparently 95%+ of the COVID deaths and hospital admissions are unvaccinated. That should count as proof.

                you have a citation?

                  1. John Emerson

                    You of course would sneer at the CDC, the main source, but here are some others.






                    1. John k

                      1st link cdc?
                      MD numbers are quite small. Much larger Illinois numbers show about 8% of deaths were jabbed.
                      Pity we need to look to Israel for complete numbers.

                    2. kareninca

                      Wait a second – the last example you gave is “more than 90 percent”. How is that 95+ percent?

                      sound of goalposts being moved . . . . .

                      “From back when I was a hospital workers I remember the AIDS prophets of doom. They were wrong.”

                      What the hell do you mean by that??? I lived through the AIDS epidemic. it was terrible, terrible, terrible, so many people died; more than 700,000; I knew some; I saw one of the earliest patients in SF in 1984 when I had just moved there. I was working as a cashier at a food stamp outlet and a guy came in with a strange mark on his face and he told me he was dying; he was so young; I will never forget him. Doom HAPPENED! So, straight people didn’t get it much; so what; it was still doom come real. If you were a hospital worker and didn’t think what actually happened was doom, I am horrified.

                  2. John Emerson

                    Wait a second – the last example you gave is “more than 90 percent”. How is that 95+ percent?

                    sound of goalposts being moved . . . . .”

                    There are different numbers out there from different places. My original post was qualified with “apparently” and was not meant to be exact. Nobody knows the exact number at this time.But I was responding to the apparent belief of many here that the vaccine is no good at all. That’s not true. It’s pretty effective at preventing severe cases and death

              2. thoughtful person

                1 in 10 of those currently dieing is not almost none.

                That said, I share the point of view that healthy people should get vaccinated asap, and anyone with covid19 comorbidities as well. Delta and it’s near relative ay.3 are super contagious, whole new ballgame. We’ll likely see thousands of deaths in a few weeks in places like TX and FL if current policies continue. If itcwas me I’d look for the J&J at this last date, as it’s just one shot.


            2. Lambert Strether

              > I don’t mean to be critical, but I don’t know how you could not understand this by now. This has been said over and over and over again here; the CDC has said it themselves: we are NOT counting or tracking cases of covid in vaccinated people (“breakthrough cases”) except for those that result in hospitalization or death.

              I understand this, but trees don’t grow to the sky, either. If everyone who was vaccinated got infected and transmitted at the same rate as those unvaccinated, wouldn’t we see effects detectable even by crude measures?

              1. kareninca

                Early in the pandemic there were lots of cases in which one (unvaccinated, since no vaccines) person in a household would catch covid but no-one else in the household would catch it from them. There was lots of testing being done then. Now we are getting loads of cases where one vaccinated person in a household catches covid and gives it to most of the rest of the (vaccinated) household. There is not nearly as much testing being done now, so there are presumably far more such cases than we know of. The virus has changed, and is changing still. People are at varying levels of vaccination protection, and differ in their response to the vaccine. So I guess I’m not sure that we even have crude measures, if we don’t have lots of testing results, and we don’t have lots of testing results.

                Here is something I truly can’t prove; it is more of a prediction. I’m thinking of the 67 percent of deer in Michigan who have been infected (https://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/one_health/downloads/qa-covid-white-tailed-deer-study.pdf). I think that the virus is extraordinarily contagious and that we’ve nearly all been infected already. I’m going to bet that we will find out that the tests are missing lots of human infections, and that there are a tremendous number of asymptomatic (although possibly still harmful) infections. It’s just “in the water” now.

                I realize that this is not what science is now presenting to us but it is my firm prediction of what we will ultimately find. For years and years I read over and over in reputable sources that human urine was sterile (this came up because of people using it in the community garden for fertilizer). Then a few years ago it turned out that in fact it wasn’t sterile at all; it was just that the testing was not good enough to detect the microbes in it.

                I’m not saying that means people shouldn’t be careful!! This is not inconsistent with masks and air filters and distancing being helpful. I’m also going to predict that the load one is exposed to will turn out to matter a lot.

                1. John Emerson

                  Kareninca, you say:

                  “Early in the pandemic there were lots of cases in which one (unvaccinated, since no vaccines) person in a household would catch covid but no-one else in the household would catch it from them. There was lots of testing being done then. Now we are getting loads of cases where one vaccinated person in a household catches covid and gives it to most of the rest of the (vaccinated) household”

                  with no link or evidence at all. Up above you were pretty huffy with me when I stated something that I thought was, or should have been, common knowledge, and then when I gave you links you were still huffy. Come on.

                  1. Yves Smith Post author

                    This is what IM Doc has repeatedly observed. And the Imperial College data showed that when all/most of a household was infected, one person brought it in. This was also observed repeatedly in Wuhan at the onset.

                    Households have far closer contact and less other protections than any other setting. Statistically, it is vastly more likely that one person brought it in than all independently got infected outside AND had them be active infections on the same timeframe.

          2. Yves Smith Post author

            Not small numbers in Israel. Even Israel has said the efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine is 39% That’s after 5-6 months v. Delta.

            And BTW smaller numbers for the efficacy of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, although that was v. wild type Delta.

        2. Edward

          The question of the efficacy of the MRNA vaccines is complicated by their delicacy; they must be kept cool. How do we know they are 100% functional by the time they are jabbed?

    2. Raymond Sim

      As they’ve been employed they are potentially worse than worthless. Had we mustered anything remotely like an actual public health campaign they would potentially have been very valuable tools.

      I wish I thought that if we somehow get a second chance we’ll do better.

      1. Lambert Strether

        > I wish I thought that if we somehow get a second chance we’ll do better.

        With the case rise, we have a second chance right now. I don’t think we’ll do better, sad to say. When Psaki says (paraphrasing) “we’re not going back” what she means is that Democrats, too, will strictly limit non-pharmaceutical interventions in scope. I used to think this was because conservatives bullied them. Now I think they believe it (the absence of lavish phrase for those who followed NPI is such a tell). Go long stupid institutions.

  18. Sue inSoCal

    Concrete thinker here. Rather than work vaccine data and counts, I’m listening to this video exult in “let’s throw open the schools” and I’m thinking we’re either in denial (of the coming variant wave) or we’re reverting to (or continuing) magical thinking. Our specialty.

    1. marku52

      Magical thinking is well on display here in SW OR. In the first wave, lots of mask requirements, restaurants and gyms closed.

      Right now we are in a bigger wave than the previous big one, hospitals full and turning away elective surgery.

      And no mask requirements, no closed restaurants. Everyone seems to think it all just went away. Big lines at the drive in testing facility. It’s nuts.

  19. kareninca

    Karl Denninger is tracking this indirectly. His piece is well worth reading: https://market-ticker.org/akcs-www?post=243171. What he is looking at is the non-institutionalized civilian population. These are all people in the U.S. who are 16 or over and who are not institutionalized. He says that number is not going up as it should, and hasn’t been for about six months, and that that indicates that there are more deaths than are being reported.

    The figure in question grows when people who were born 16 years prior age into the group. It shrinks when they die (retirement and disability don’t count)(unless the disability leads to institutionalization). Over the past six months the figure has not increased as it has in the past. This isn’t due to a birth deficit 16 years ago (births were going up then in a usual way). It isn’t due to a higher rate of older people dying in that six month time frame, per Karl. I think that what it might be is that there were more people born 70 (or so) years ago, in absolute terms, and so even though the rate of them dying has not gone up, the absolute number of them may be going up. And that that is causing the non-institutionalized adult population to shrink (or rather not grow as fast as one would expect). I hope I’m right, but if I’m not there may be something unpleasant going on.

    I don’t know where these (government) figures come from and who collects them. I don’t know how immigrants (documented or otherwise) are (or aren’t) counted. But it is an extra data point that probably isn’t messed with in the same way as death reporting.

  20. campbeln

    There are numerous indications that Delta, while more contagious, is less deadly (namely stats from lower vaccinated countries). Yet… the lower mortality is being attributed solely to the vaccines!?

    Natural immunity also clearly plays a major role, so this deference to “the vaccines” causing the fall in mortality is pure poppycock.

    EDIT: Don’t confuse mortality and morbidity; the data on morbidity of Delta is still pending (and for those of us <70yo or so, this is the most important data).

    1. John Emerson

      No it isn’t “pure poppycock”. You seem to have committed yourself to the idea that the vaccines are useless. Why?

      Plenty of unvaccinated are still dying of COVID, and few vaccinated. That should cound for something.

      1. urblintz

        You seem to have committed yourself to the idea that the vaccines are useful. Why?

        …see how that works?

        and, by the way, do you still beat your wife?

        1. John Emerson

          Because COVID vaccination, as of right now, prevents death. I’ve had to remind naysayers of that about four times today. That’s inconvenient to their narratives, so they just leave that out.

    2. GM

      There are numerous indications that Delta, while more contagious, is less deadly (namely stats from lower vaccinated countries). Yet… the lower mortality is being attributed solely to the vaccines!?

      Wrong, every single study that has looked at this finds it 2-4x several times more virulent relative to WT

      1. Raymond Sim

        The idea that Delta is not more virulent seems to be some sort of recently received wisdom within certain groups. I don’t know what font this wisdom flows from, but given past history, I reckon it’s calculated bs from the usual GBD Coviphiliacs

    3. Raymond Sim

      Our ability to draw conclusions from current statistics on Delta’s kill rate are, as usual, very unfortunately confounded by a number of uncertainties. Notable sources being politicians, and changes in circumstances leading to inadvertent apple v. orange comparisons.

      This guy: https://twitter.com/muradbanaji has been covering the Indian data very well. I’ve been meaning to read his latest summing-up, but haven’t gotten round to it yet. Suffice it to say, government is often the biggest obstacle to understanding what the hell is happening.

      As a ‘for instance’ of the apple v. orange category, note that were Delta killing people much more quickly, that might initially lead to hospitalisation numbers looking better than in past waves.

      And, coming back to the points GM was making, right now it’s not really clear whether all the strains being lumped as ‘Delta’ should be treated as one entity. Israel’s Delta, for example, looks pretty distinct from what’s going round in the UK, at least as of the last time I looked.

  21. marku52

    You seem to have bought into the “Vaccines will end the pandemic and bring life back to normal” trope. I did too, once. But it is not going to happen.

    As IMDoc points out “These are not sterilizing vaccines”. That simply means that vaccinated people can get infected, and anyone infected can spread. These vaccines will not end the pandemic.

    1. John Emerson

      I expect endemic COVID with a relatively low death rate, rather like the flu. That isn’t ending the pandemic, I suppose, but it’s a favorable outcome compared to what we feared.

      And I expect COVID to become treatable. I worked in health care 1975 – 2001 and I remember when first leukemia and then AIDS were regarded as death penalties. That has changed.

      1. Raymond Sim

        The enemy always gets a vote. Sunnysiders never seem to see that.

        The virus has plenty of room to get worse, and no discernible force is acting to prevent it from doing so.

        Even if you’re right, how many rounds of Covid do you think the average person can take before mortality does become the issue? How many rounds of Covid per worker per year can the economy sustain?

        1. lordkoos

          Not to mention the societal and economic effects from the 30% or so who go on to have long-term COVID symptoms, and this includes a certain percentage of people who are vaccinated.

        2. John Emerson

          Your ungrounded assumption that the virus will probably get worse, combined with your non-response to my suggestion that treatment will probably improve, allows me to say “Prophets of doom never seem to see that”.

          Time will tell. Nobody knows these things.

          1. John k

            What we do know from imo the only reliable (Israeli} data is that jab effectiveness fades to near zero in 6 months. I would say that while a jab doesn’t prevent deaths it has significantly reduced the chance of death, very useful, as a jabbed person with several co-morbidities I’m very happy to hear it. But we await Israel updates to see how long that continues.
            We also know Israel is anxious to begin boosters right now, presumably informed by current hospitalizations and deaths among the jabbed.

          2. Synoia

            Time will tell – True

            In the Flu epidemic in the late 50’s, bedrest was the only treatment. The infection went away after about three rounds of epidemic, possible ’57, ’58’ and 59.

            This is from memory, and the details are not clear in my mind. At that time I believe there were no inoculations for viral diseases.

            Are the any statistics available;e for the 1918 era flu epidemic?/

            Also other two epidemics in the UK, 1300s and 1665, of the Black Death, peaked and then declined.

            None of that excuses the apparent Incompetence at the CDC, and does raise the question of policy masquerading as Incompetence.

            Can you address the Policy vs Incompetence question?

            1. John Emerson

              Basically I came here to argue against some of the extreme charges made here about the vaccine. All the other questions are open as far as I am concerned. I’m not defending the CDC or Fauci, but a lot of the stuff here is at the level of finding and prosecuting villains, and I don’t think that’s going to be very fruitful granted the large real uncertainties that there still are.

              I am not really an optimist. I expect COVID to be endemic like the flu, but more serious (as I should have said above) . Boosters every year like the flu, and hopefully improved vaccines and improved treatment. Whether it was ever possible to do much better than that I’m not sure. Just one country fucking up could ruin it for everyone.

              I think the argument should proceed from a baseline of what is already known, though that changes almost by the week.

          3. Raymond Sim

            You are incorrect in thinking I am making ungrounded assumptions about the probable future evolution of the virus and its pandemic. The virus’s structure and functioning (as well as those of SARS, MERS, other coronaviruses, and various other pathogens) is well enough understood to allow for educated guesses.

            I foresaw the current situation many months ago, not because of any particular merit of my own, except perhaps not having an axe to grind, but rather because genuine experts have established a base of knowledge which provides us with predictive capacity.

      2. kareninca

        “I worked in health care 1975 – 2001 and I remember when first leukemia and then AIDS were regarded as death penalties. That has changed.”

        Holy Mother of God, 700,000 Americans have died of AIDS. It took forever to come up with treatments. That is supposed to have been something that wasn’t so bad after all??? Yes, it’s all great if you don’t think about the dead people.

        1. Lambert Strether

          > Yes, it’s all great if you don’t think about the dead people.

          Pretty much generalizable to public policy in the United States. In fact, you might almost consider the ability not to think about the dead people as a service profitably provided by many institutions (mainstream macro especially, but also health care policy, foreign policy, etc.). Rule #2 of neoliberalism.

        2. John Emerson

          Yes, according to your numbers, about as many Americans died of AIDS in 40 years as died of COVID in less than 2 years. But the world we live in now is not the world that the prophets of doom were talking about in the 1980s.People were talking about an unstoppable plague and millions and millions of deaths. That was my point. Like leukemia, AIDS is now treatable.

    2. John Emerson

      “COVID-19 vaccines appear to help prevent transmission between household contacts, with secondary attack rates dropping from 31% to 11% if the index patient was fully vaccinated, according to a Eurosurveillance study yesterday. The population-based data looked at the Netherlands from February to May, when the Alpha variant (B117) was dominant and the available vaccines were by Pfizer/BioNTech, AstraZeneca/Oxford, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson.”

      Aug 6 but probably pre-Z variant data.

      I would be happy to see a clearing house of COVID data but in the present atmosphere of global suspicion such a thing seems unlikely.


    3. AJB

      I like you thought the vaccines would allow us to return to a new normal, but now blind Freddy can see that the vaccines are almost useless at preventing transmission because the vaxxed can carry a viral load of the same level as the unvaxxed, and breakthrough cases are quite common. Israel is talking about more lockdowns to stop the spread there. They are heavily vaxxed and yet cases are exploding in numbers with a lot of vaxxed people in hospital.

  22. jhallc

    I believe the number in VAERS has changed:


    “UPDATE: As of 2:30 PM CT on July 21, 2021, the CDC’s website modified the number of VAERS reports related to COVID-19 vaccination deaths from 12,313 to 6,079, through July 13, 2021. The CDC’s webpage’s Last Update date remains July 19, 2021.

    UPDATE #2: As of 6:30 PM CT on July 21, 2021, the CDC’s website stated through July 19, 2021, VAERS had received 6,207 reports of death (0.0018%) among people who received a COVID-19 vaccine. The CDC’s webpage’s Last Update date reflects July 21, 2021.”

    With respect to the Swine Flu, unlike Covid-19 , turns out it really didn’t amount to much of a threat. It perhaps, does show our Health Agencies proclivity for a vaccine as our first line of defense. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing unless it keeps us from looking at other alternatives at the same time. NIIP= National Influenza Immunization Program


    “What NIIP did not and could not survive, however, was the second blow, finding cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) among persons receiving swine flu immunizations. As of 1976, >50 “antecedent events” had been identified in temporal relationship to GBS, events that were considered as possible factors in its cause. The list included viral infections, injections, and “being struck by lightning.” Whether or not any of the antecedents had a causal relationship to GBS was, and remains, unclear. When cases of GBS were identified among recipients of the swine flu vaccines, they were, of course, well covered by the press. Because GBS cases are always present in the population, the necessary public health questions concerning the cases among vaccine recipients were “Is the number of cases of GBS among vaccine recipients higher than would be expected? And if so, are the increased cases the result of increased surveillance or a true increase?” Leading epidemiologists debated these points, but the consensus, based on the intensified surveillance for GBS (and other conditions) in recipients of the vaccines, was that the number of cases of GBS appeared to be an excess.

    Had H1N1 influenza been transmitted at that time, the small apparent risk of GBS from immunization would have been eclipsed by the obvious immediate benefit of vaccine-induced protection against swine flu. However, in December 1976, with >40 million persons immunized and no evidence of H1N1 transmission, federal health officials decided that the possibility of an association of GBS with the vaccine, however small, necessitated stopping immunization, at least until the issue could be explored. A moratorium on the use of the influenza vaccines was announced on December 16; it effectively ended NIIP of 1976. Four days later the New York Times published an op-ed article that began by asserting, “Misunderstandings and misconceptions… have marked Government … during the last eight years,” attributing NIIP and its consequences to “political expediency” and “the self interest of government health bureaucracy” (7). These simple and sinister innuendos had traction, as did 2 epithets used in the article to describe the program, “debacle” in the text and “Swine Flu Fiasco” in the title.”

  23. Lambert Strether

    Here is the (putative) distribution of the institututional settings of deaths:

    Assuming for the sake of the argument that the distribution is correct, even if the numbers are not, why the heck can’t we simply bypass the states and go directly to the data sources, which are primarily hospitals and nursing homes, both of which are dependent on Federal money?

    How on earth is it possible we can’t simply bypass DeSantis and his ilk?

    (It does occur to me that both the Biden Administration and DeSantis have incentives to keep the death count low, so perhaps that accounts for what looks like institutional paralysis to me.)

  24. Hayek's Heelbiter

    Although this article refers to US undercounts, a friend who lives in a medium sized town in Maharashtra reports an interesting phenomenon.
    Over the past few months, at least five of her neighbours have died of what was undoubtedly covid. Yet causes of death were listed variously as heart attack, diabetes, cancer, etc.
    Indian regulations for the diposal of bodies of covid victims is very strict. Attendants in full hazmat suits cremate the bodies. No relatives are allowed to be present, and no funerary rites are performed.
    As these funeral rituals are almost paramount in Hindu society, sympathetic doctors look the other way in order to allow families to claim the body.
    Based on this bit of anecdata (I want to nominate Yves for Neologism of the Year!), I would not be surprised if the actual death toll from covid was five times that of official Indian figures.
    Not sure how applicable is to the US, as the article makes clear, there are multiple reasons for the fudging by individual states.

    1. GM

      Some states in India undercount by a factor of 40x.

      Also, in other countries around the world it is not just claiming the body that is a factor, but purely financial considerations — COVID burials cost a lot more than regular ones because of the hazmat suits and everything. So the cause of death is listed as something else to save the relatives the money.

  25. Eustachedesaintpierre

    Excess deaths data I suppose might when the figures for 2021 are revealed give more of an insight into the reality. For the period between 3rd January & October 3rd 2020 according to Our World in Data, the recorded Covid deaths in the US were 209,000, whereas the ED total was roughly 360,000 more deaths as calculated over a 5 year average.


    1. ChrisFromGeorgia

      Another possibility for shedding light from an uncorrelated data set is social security. It’s well know that the SSA acts with great haste to take a dead person off the rolls.

      A big drop in the number of social security recipients (or just a downward shift in the curve) would be one thing to look for. However, this year’s social security and medicare trustees report is conveniently late, maybe the latest it’s ever been:


  26. LAS

    You know … without ascribing political bias there are a number of data processing uncertainties in compiling these kind of surveillance statistics. Corrections are always being made as more is learned about the data.
    For instance, do we count people by their reported living address or by where they died? This and so many other decisions vary from place to place and have to be resolved. Each clinic also has its own timeline or schedule it uses to report. So many factors involved. Sometimes I think we take too much for granted.

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