By Dr. Kevin Barrett
The American people, polarized as never before, can hardly agree on anything. Between the hysteria purveyed by legacy fake news media on the left, and Fox News and “alternative facts” on the right, the mainstream political discussion is a nonstop shouting match. (And yes, I realize that alternative facts are sometimes more factual than mainstream ones.)
Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s witticism, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts,” has never been more apropos. In the middle of a pandemic, it would be nice to have some trustworthy facts. Unfortunately, many of the establishment’s key claims are debatable. Where, when, and how did Covid-19 emerge? Are the tests accurate? How many cases are there? How many actual deaths have occurred from Covid-19? Do lockdowns and masks really work? What are the most promising medications? Should ventilators be used, and if so, when? Could a safe and effective vaccine be devised quickly enough to help? The World Health Organization, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other establishment bureaucracies offer answers to these questions. But their answers often raise even more questions.
The U.S. claim that Covid-19 emerged naturally in October from animals at a Wuhan market is almost certainly wrong, for too many reasons to list here. The mandate to “test, test, test” is questionable given the dubious reliability of the tests. For that reason and others, nobody knows how many cases exist. Likewise, it isn’t always clear which deaths are Covid deaths; the official counts may be too low or too high, depending on whom you believe. Likewise, the efficacy of masks is debatable, as is the question of whether a “cocktail” including hydroxychloroquine and zinc, or vitamins C and/or D3, could be useful treatments. And the sensitive issue of whether ventilators have been saving patients or killing them is far from settled. Finally, the prospect of a workable vaccine, despite the billions of dollars being thrown at it, is uncertain to say the least.
So, do we know anything about Covid-19? Do we even know there is a real pandemic out there? Yes, we do. The best metric, the one least likely to be wrong, is the excess death rate: the difference between the number of deaths expected to occur in a given time frame, and the number of deaths that actually occur. Though it may not always be clear whether someone died of Covid, with Covid, or of something else that could be mistaken for Covid, the fact that the person is dead is “dead certain.” Procedures for counting deaths are far more accurate than, say, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) techniques for counting viruses.
What do overall death counts tell us? First takeaway: Prior to March 20, 2020, there were no discernable excess deaths in the U.S. Then suddenly, during the last 10 days in March, the overall death count shot up, peaking during the first two weeks of April, then quickly declining back to zero by mid-May. So, April, as
TS Eliot said in another context, was indeed the cruelest month. (As of this writing, statistics for June are not yet available; but since reported Covid deaths are not keeping pace with reported new cases, it seems likely that the overall death count remained fairly flat in June.)
The spike in excess deaths in April supports the establishment narrative in some ways, but also raises questions. It confirms that Covid-19 spread wildly in February and early March, leading to the spike in April deaths. It also confirms that the March and April lockdowns were presumably effective in slowing the spread of the virus, so that by mid-May there were no more discernable excess deaths in America.
But wait! Officially, there were roughly 15,000 “confirmed Covid deaths” between May 15 and June 1. Yet as we have seen, there seem to have been no overall excess deaths. Did 15,000 people who would have died otherwise somehow survive thanks to the Covid pandemic, balancing out the 15,000 Covid deaths? That seems unlikely.
But it may be that the Covid emergency is somehow saving at least some lives—especially the lives of young children. According to official statistics, “Starting in early March, expected deaths (of children) began a sharp decline, from an expected level of around 700 deaths per week to well under 500 by mid April and throughout May.” Has the drastic drop in childhood vaccinations been saving kids’ lives? Or are infants receiving more and better attention from parents who are staying home rather than working?
Bottom line: The Covid pandemic, and the bungling and confusing official response, has raised far more questions than answers. Those who want cold, hard facts should keep an eye on excess death statistics.
Kevin Barrett, Ph.D., is an Arabist-Islamologist scholar and one of America’s best-known critics of the War on Terror. From 1991 through 2006, Dr. Barrett taught at colleges and universities in San Francisco, Paris, and Wisconsin. In 2006, however, he was attacked by Republican state legislators who called for him to be fired from his job at the University of Wisconsin-Madison due to his political opinions. Since 2007, Dr. Barrett has been informally blacklisted from teaching in American colleges and universities. He currently works as a nonprofit organizer, public speaker, author, and talk radio host. He lives in rural western Wisconsin.