Coronavirus

Does Questioning Official COVID-19 Statistics Make This Doctor a 'Denialist'?

If you think much about the epidemic remains uncertain, The New York Times warns, you might be part of "the virus 'truther' movement."

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Are COVID-19 deaths undercounted? Yes, especially if people with other illnesses die at home and are never tested for the virus that causes the disease. Are COVID-19 deaths overcounted? Probably also yes, especially when physicians try to compensate for the lack of testing by inferring that COVID-19 caused a death without laboratory confirmation, but also when they assume that the disease killed someone who tested positive, even if the actual cause might have been something else.

Judging from excess mortality in places hit hard by the epidemic, the first problem is bigger than the second problem, although those figures are ambiguous, may be incomplete, and so far are limited to relatively brief periods of time. In principle, the accuracy of COVID-19 death tallies is an empirical question, albeit one that may never be conclusively answered. But like virtually every other pandemic puzzle, it is also a political question, as illustrated by a recent New York Times story that charges Scott Jensen, a Minnesota family doctor and Republican state legislator, with aiding and abetting right-wing "denialists" who think all the hoopla about COVID-19 is a conspiracy cooked up by Donald Trump's enemies.

The Times piece portrays confirmation bias and motivated reasoning as problems that afflict only one side of the debate about COVID-19 control measures. In the paper's telling, lockdown skeptics, whom it conflates with "the virus 'truther' movement," let their ideology influence the way they interpret and present information, while lockdown supporters are interested only in discovering and disseminating the facts.

In covering Jensen's controversial comments about COVID-19 death tallies, the Times focuses on their political utility rather than their validity. "The claim was tailor-made for President Trump's most steadfast backers," write Matthew Rosenberg and Jim Rutenberg. Here is how they summarize Jensen's argument: "Federal guidelines are coaching doctors to mark Covid-19 as the cause of death even when it is not, inflating the pandemic's death toll."

That gloss implies that Jensen thinks federal officials are deliberately encouraging overdiagnosis. But that is not what Jensen says. Rather, he argues that some deaths may be misclassified based on guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concerning "probable" or "presumed" COVID-19 cases in patients who were never tested for the virus. That is a potentially significant problem when such cases account for a substantial share of reported deaths—more than a quarter in New York City, for example.

"In cases where a definite diagnosis of COVID-19 cannot be made," the CDC says, "but it is suspected or likely (e.g., the circumstances are compelling within a reasonable degree of certainty), it is acceptable to report COVID–19 on a death certificate as 'probable' or 'presumed.' In these instances, certifiers should use their best clinical judgment in determining if a COVID–19 infection was likely. However, please note that testing for COVID–19 should be conducted whenever possible."

During an April 9 interview on Fox News, Jensen called the CDC's advice "ridiculous" and contrary to usual medical practice. "The idea that we're going to allow people to massage and sort of game the numbers is a real issue, because we're going to undermine the [public] trust," he said. "And right now, as we see politicians doing things that aren't necessarily motivated [by] fact and science, the public is going to—their trust in politicians is already wearing thin."

You can surmise from Jensen's framing that he is not a fan of lockdowns. But contrary to what Rosenberg and Rutenberg seem to think, that does not necessarily mean he is wrong.

In the case of a fragile, elderly patient with a cough and fever who happens to die during an influenza outbreak, Jensen said, "I wouldn't put influenza on the death certificate. I've never been encouraged to do so. I would put, probably, respiratory arrest [on] the top line, and the underlying cause…would be pneumonia, and under 'contributing factors,' I might well put in 'emphysema' or 'congestive heart failure.' But I would never put influenza down as the underlying cause of death. Yet that's what we're being asked to do here."

Jensen conceded that other doctors might take a less conservative approach. "Some physicians really have a bent toward public health, and they will put down 'influenza,' or whatever, because that's their preference," he said. "I try to stay very specific, very precise. If I know I've got pneumonia, that's what's going on the death certificate. I'm not going to add stuff just because it's convenient."

Even when someone dies after testing positive for the COVID-19 virus, Jensen added, it is not safe to assume the disease killed him. He asked viewers to imagine a patient who goes to the hospital with a collapsed lung after "getting hit by a bus" and tests positive for COVID-19. "They die 20 minutes later because of their collapsed lung," he said. "We're going to put that down as COVID-19? That doesn't make any sense."

While that example is fanciful, Jensen's underlying point is valid. So is his warning that deaths of people who were never tested for the virus may be erroneously attributed to it, especially in light of the CDC's guidance.

More controversially, Jensen suggested that hospitals have a financial incentive to overdiagnose COVID-19. "Any time health care intersects with dollars, it gets awkward," he said. "Right now Medicare has determined that if you have a COVID-19 admission to the hospital, you'll get paid $13,000. If that COVID-19 patient goes on a ventilator, you get $39,000—three times as much. Nobody can tell me, after 35 years in the world of medicine, that sometimes those kinds of things [don't] impact on what we do."

That claim gave rise to memes like this one, suggesting that financial incentives are driving up COVID-19 death counts:

FactCheck.org found that Jensen's estimate of Medicare reimbursements was reasonable. It noted that "the government will pay more to hospitals for COVID-19 cases in two senses: By paying an additional 20% on top of traditional Medicare rates for COVID-19 patients during the public health emergency, and by reimbursing hospitals for treating the uninsured patients with the disease (at that enhanced Medicare rate)." But it said "the fact that government programs are paying hospitals for treating patients who have COVID-19 isn't on its own representative of anything nefarious."

Jensen told FactCheck.org he did not mean to suggest that hospitals are deliberately padding their numbers. But he did imply that money tied to COVID-19 has an influence on diagnoses.

Is that plausible? "There's an implication here that hospitals are overreporting their COVID patients because they have an economic advantage [in] doing so, [which] is really an outrageous claim," Gerald Kominski, a senior fellow at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, told FactCheck.org. Kominski interpreted Jensen as suggesting that patients are put on ventilators when it is not medically appropriate, which "is basically saying physicians are violating their Hippocratic Oath….It would be like [performing] heart surgery on someone who doesn't need it."

But that does not seem to be what Jensen is suggesting. In an April 15 Facebook post, Jensen argued that "increasing the number of COVID-19 deaths may create an avenue for states to receive a larger portion of federal dollars." He elaborated on his argument in an April 19 video, saying: "Hospital administrators might well want to see COVID-19 attached to a discharge summary or a death certificate. Why? Because if it's a straightforward, garden-variety pneumonia that a person is admitted to the hospital for—if they're [on] Medicare—typically, the diagnosis-related group lump sum payment would be $5,000. But if it's COVID-19 pneumonia, then it's $13,000, and if that COVID-19 pneumonia patient ends up on a ventilator, it goes up to $39,000."

Under these circumstances, Jensen says, it is reasonable to think that doctors might feel pressure to diagnose COVID-19 in ambiguous cases. He emphasizes that he is not accusing doctors of lying, just recognizing that they operate within an institutional framework that can be affected by financial considerations. "I am not saying physicians in the emergency room are…gaming the system," he says. "But we do have a variety of players in the system" who may encourage doctors to note COVID-19 as a cause of death.

USA Today asked Marty Makary, a surgeon and professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, about Jensen's claim. "What Scott Jensen said sounds right to me," Makary replied in an email, although he declined to elaborate.

Jensen's general take on the accuracy of COVID-19 death tallies is also more nuanced than it has been widely portrayed. "Do I think there's undercounting of COVID deaths?" he says in his video. "Yeah, for sure. A state like ours, we're probably going to undercount, because we don't have all these people who may have died of a COVID-19-related disease tested. So we may undercount." But in New York City, which last month began reporting "probable" COVID-19 deaths alongside "confirmed" COVID-19 deaths, "they sure could be overcounting….There's a lot of variety and a lot variability to what's going on here."

Instead of assessing the strength of Jensen's arguments, the Times immediately links him to the most disreputable lockdown opponents. "His assertions were picked up by Infowars, the conspiracy-oriented website founded by Alex Jones," Rosenberg and Rutenberg note in the third paragraph of their story. "They were shared by followers of Qanon, who subscribe to a web of vague, baseless theories that a secret cabal in the government is trying to take down the president."

More generally, Rosenberg and Rutenberg say, Jensen's critique is useful to Trump supporters, and you know that can't be good. "Since the outset of the crisis," they write, "elements of the right have sought to bolster the president's political standing and justify reopening the economy by questioning the death toll. Climate-change skeptics have employed techniques perfected in the fight over global warming to raise doubts about the deadliness of the virus. Others, including Mr. Trump's media allies as well as some in the anti-vaccine movement, have repurposed fringe theories about 'deep state' bureaucrats undermining the president to argue that the official numbers should not be trusted."

The implication is that anyone who wonders about the accuracy of COVID-19 death counts—even someone like Jensen, who suggests deaths may be underreported in some parts of the country and overreported in others—should be taken as seriously as someone who denies the human contribution to climate change or thinks vaccines cause autism. Likewise anyone who "raise[s] doubts about the deadliness of the virus"—an issue that remains scientifically unsettled, mainly because a dearth of testing means we do not know the true number of infections, a fact that is crucial in estimating what share of people who catch the virus will be killed by it.

The Times also looks askance at anyone who "question[s] the [epidemiological] models," which rely on assumptions about unknown variables and generate a wide range of projections that are often inconsistent with each other and with what has actually happened. "Even under the best circumstances," Rosenberg and Rutenberg concede in the 26th paragraph, "modeling how a pandemic will play out, like modeling the pace and impact of climate change, is an imperfect science. And there is indeed great uncertainty about what the death toll is now—and what it will be—given limited data about the new coronavirus and the different counting methods jurisdictions are using."

Still, Rosenberg and Rutenberg aver, "The lines of attack against the conclusions of health experts are familiar to those who have studied the climate-change denial movement." Never mind that "health experts" disagree with each other about crucial facts such as the prevalence, lethality, and transmissibility of the virus. As far as the Times is concerned, highlighting these areas of uncertainty makes you a misinformed "Covid skeptic," if not an outright "virus 'truther.'"

To clinch their case that Jensen is a crank who should be ignored, Rosenberg and Rutenberg close their story by noting that the legislator recently "plugged into a remote State Senate hearing on easing restrictions on telemedicine for addiction disorders while playing a round of golf, without a mask." While local criticism of that incident focused on whether Jensen was paying proper attention to the hearing (he says he was), the Times wants you to know he was not wearing a mask. Despite Jensen's M.D. and 35 years of practicing family medicine, readers are invited to conclude, he does not even seem to be aware that COVID-19 is contagious.

You might think that going maskless is not necessarily reckless behavior in an open outdoor space like a golf course, where the risk of transmission is low and it is easy to maintain appropriate distance from others. But if that's what you think, you had better keep your opinion to yourself—unless you feel comfortable being lumped in with the "denialists."

NEXT: Gapple to Government: “Send Your Man to See My Man. And We'll Stiff Him.”

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  1. >>you had better keep your opinion to yourself — unless you feel comfortable being lumped in with the “denialists.”

    people who create and maintain polarization on every fucking thing should be the ones to be made uncomfortable

    1. It’s the only thing in the world the left-wing lowlifes truly excel at.

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      1. No, thanks. I am getting sweet checks from the government, and they tell me they will pay my rent.

        1. Anyone who DARES to deny the TRUTHS spelled out below, is a denialist, a conspiracyst (in need of a “surgical removal”), and a “Truther”!

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          Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
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          Keeps me safe, and gives me feed,
          Shelters me from bad drugs and weed,
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          My Nannies tell me so!

            1. Apparently you must be a denialist, a conspiracyst (in need of a “surgical removal”), and a “Truther”, then!

              AND you’re on the rag today!

              1. AND you’re a fucking lunatic who eats poo.

              2. How original, R Mac! Whoever writes your material? I hope you’re not actually PAYING them anything!

                1. Says the raving lunatic who has a word document full of stupid rantings that he posts repeatedly.

                2. They are MUCH funnier than YOUR retarded, totally repetitive shit, moron! And so I don’t waste my brain cells holding my shit, like you do! And just HOW do your 3 neurons hold SOOOO MUCH shit, anyway?

                  1. False. You’re not funny.

          1. What if I do not like this kind of music? Does that make me a denier?

  2. All we know for sure is that ‘the numbers’ have been politically manipulated since they were begun.
    The ‘decisions’ being made for political reasons are not being made based on science. but on political grounds.
    So get over it.
    If you feel you need to self quarantine, by all means do so. But do not tell me I have to do anything “because of C19”. That is pure political bullshit.
    Welcome to the revolution.

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    2. Agreed. I think its a good bet that 50% of the current deaths are overestimated.

      1. You agree that decisions should be based on science, then claim that “50% of the current deaths” are overestimated based on no evidence at all.

  3. So sometime in the last few decades skepticism, THE FOUNDATION AND HALMARK OF ACTUAL SCIENCE, has been rebrand as anti-science.

    What the actual fuck is wrong with people?

    1. Per Tony, science is something to be believed in, and the pronouncements of scientists are something not to be questioned.

      1. At least the Right Scientists.

        1. No, the Left Scientists.

    2. War is peace.
      Freedom is slavery.

    3. Most American children learn _nothing_ about actual science in their schools, because their teachers also learned nothing. “Science” is presented as a body of knowledge. It is not. It is a process for confirming and adding to knowledge. Someone presenting science as a known body of knowledge is a librarian at best, or a priest at worst.

  4. https://apnews.com/c8a542e2f22004c0c06cbbe1e1b58a52

    Chicago (AP) — Twitter announced Monday it will warn users when a tweet contains disputed or misleading information about the coronavirus.

    The new rule is the latest in a wave of stricter policies that tech companies are rolling out to confront an outbreak of virus-related misinformation on their sites.

    Twitter will take a case-by-case approach to how it decides which tweets are labeled and will only remove posts that are harmful, company leaders said Monday.

    Some tweets will run with a label underneath that directs users to a link with additional information about COVID-19. Other tweets might be covered entirely by a warning label alerting users that “some or all of the content shared in this tweet conflict with guidance from public health experts regarding COVID-19.”

    The new labels will be available in roughly 40 languages and should begin appearing on tweets as soon as today. The warning could apply retroactively to past tweets.

    1. We better get around to founding a Ministry of Truth that can have a direct line to Dorsey. That way we can streamline any discussions about exactly what propaganda he needs to help the government push. It still seems a little too muddled IMHO.

    2. Goebbels would be so proud – – – – – – – – – – – –

    3. Muh private company. I can do whatever I want.

      1. And you propose the government tell them what to do?
        Would this be the ‘ministry of truth’?
        I’ll await your (and John’s) answer.

    4. Only the experts on everything at Twitter will know what is truth and what is not truth.

      They will set us free!

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  5. Reading the NYT makes you dumber and this article is the proof.

    1. You couldn’t say that as a reliable source unless you had read the NYT article, so please stop. There’s enough dumbos here already.

      1. Good point, but I haven be read a NYT article in a year but to be fair reading this also made me dumber.

    2. Dumber, angrier, and more frightened.

  6. “The intent is right now if someone dies with COVID-19, we’re counting that as a COVID-19 death,” Birx said. “There are other countries that if you had a pre-existing condition and let’s say the virus caused you to go to the ICU and then have a heart or kidney problem. Some countries are recording that as a heart issue or a kidney issue and not a COVID-19 death.”

    1. During what sources characterized as a “heated discussion,” according to to the Washington Post, Birx expressed frustration with Dr. Robert Redfield that the CDC was using an outdated system to track data that might be inflating figures, such as the mortality rate, by as much as 25%.

      “There is nothing from the CDC that I can trust,” Birx reportedly said.

      1. You can trust they are not using tax dollars effectively.

    2. The federal guidance to hospitals specified: “COVID-19 should be reported on the death certificate for all decedents where the disease caused or is assumed to have caused or contributed to the death.”

      https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/nothing-from-the-cdc-that-i-can-trust-birx-reportedly-casts-doubt-on-coronavirus-figures

      1. Slightly OT (linked from your article):

        Trump then attempted to call on another reporter, but Jiang, who was born in China and raised in West Virginia after immigrating as a young child, spoke up again.

        “Sir, why are you saying that to me, specifically?” she asked. “That I should ask China.”

        How unscrupulously petty or outright stupid (I can’t tell) and ideologically motivated do you have to be to pivot from trying to call the President out for playing games with COVID publicity to race-baiting him?

        These people are more insufferable than any Puritan Crusaders. The Puritans asked you to confess and burned you at the stake or tied you to a rock and tossed you in the river and that was it, you were dead. These people need your immortal soul to be perpetually possessed by demons so that they can be eternally exorcising you.

        1. “How unscrupulously petty or outright stupid (I can’t tell) and ideologically motivated do you have to be to pivot from trying to call the President out for playing games with COVID publicity to race-baiting him?”

          Try asking Hihn, Tony, JFree, pod commie-kid and others; they’ve developed that into a fine art.

    3. But Sweden, with comparatively laxer lockdown policies in place, has fared better in terms of excess deaths than other European countries with far stricter lockdowns, well below their calculated 49 percent average increase, at 18 percent.

      https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/dont-confuse-covid-19-deaths-with-lockdown-deaths/?utm_source=recirc-desktop&utm_medium=homepage&utm_campaign=river&utm_content=featured-content-trending&utm_term=first

    4. What about the people who have been diagnosed with Covid19 — like me — and survived: if I die later of something else, could I be counted as a Covid19 death?

      And the claim out of Miami that random sample testing shows for every known Covid19 case there are fifteen people with Covid19 antibodies who apparently thought they only had the flu. That implies to me at least two things: alot of people are undiagnosed carriers and (even with exaggerated CoD numbers) the death rate per number infected is probably exaggerated, because both numbers, Covid19 dead and infected, are guestimates.

      1. You must not be from Ohio, unless you are in prison. Here, they refuse to comment on recovered cases in the general public (don’t want to give cause for optimism), but will give us that number amongst the prison population (yes there was a bad outbreak, no there’s nothing to see here).

      2. if I die later of something else, could I be counted as a Covid19 death?

        If you get hit by a bus tomorrow, it was obviously because the Covid made you too tired to pay attention when crossing the street, so yes.

  7. Fuck democrats.. from Cuomo.

    “If you had said when we started this, yes we had more cases than anyone else, yes, we had the European virus attack us and nobody expected it, but we’re not only going to change our trajectory, but we’re going to change the trajectory more dramatically than anyplace else in the nation,” he added.

    1. Since when is Wuhan in Europe?

      1. I think he’s convinced it came to NY via Europe, not directly from China or via the US West coast. That and he’s trolling conservatives. Mainly, he’s trolling conservatives, as he continues to imitate Trump’s successful PR tactics.

    2. Did a NY politician call it the European virus?
      That might explain why De Blasio thought the crowd was ok for the Chinese new year festival.

  8. Any doubleplusbad wrongthink must be eradicated.

    1. Ungood. There is no bad.

  9. But it said “the fact that government programs are paying hospitals for treating patients who have COVID-19 isn’t on its own representative of anything nefarious.”

    Except from the usual background noise/deafening din of stealing from taxpayers and putting bureaucrats who hold the coffers, rather than doctors and patients, in charge of healthcare. If you ignore the mountain of dead bodies from socialism and all of the evil perpetrated in the name of socialized medicine (see Alfie Evans, Charlie Gard, etc.), *then*, in this narrow sense, it’s not representative of anything nefarious.

  10. Conformity is very important with the far left. It signifies obedience to the party and the willingness to progress ones views as the sands shift. Skepticism and thoughtcrime are to be ridiculed, shamed, canceled, and finally violently attacked.

    Too bad some libertarians are falling victim to that bullshit.

    1. Now be fair. Conservatives love conformity, too. See every traditional religion and fraternal group ever.

      1. Typically entered into by choice.

        1. Except all those times that religious majorities used government to enforce their beliefs on everyone one else in their county/city/state/country.

  11. More controversially, Jensen suggested that hospitals have a financial incentive to overdiagnose COVID-19. “Any time health care intersects with dollars, it gets awkward,” he said. “Right now Medicare has determined that if you have a COVID-19 admission to the hospital, you’ll get paid $13,000. If that COVID-19 patient goes on a ventilator, you get $39,000—three times as much. Nobody can tell me, after 35 years in the world of medicine, that sometimes those kinds of things [don’t] impact on what we do.”…

    …FactCheck.org found that Jensen’s estimate of Medicare reimbursements was reasonable. It noted that “the government will pay more to hospitals for COVID-19 cases in two senses: By paying an additional 20% on top of traditional Medicare rates for COVID-19 patients during the public health emergency, and by reimbursing hospitals for treating the uninsured patients with the disease (at that enhanced Medicare rate).” But it said “the fact that government programs are paying hospitals for treating patients who have COVID-19 isn’t on its own representative of anything nefarious.”

    Are you kidding me? “More controversially”? It’s open and shut financial conflict of interest. Even FactCheck.org (LOL at possibly a more cynical branding than “Fair and Balanced.”) admitted the truth of the differential billing. For public hospitals, getting that extra cash can be the difference between making their nut and laying off a bunch of workers or closing, and it’s controversial to point this out?

    That extra cash all by itself makes the death and case numbers suspicious.

    1. With those numbers I wonder how many people are being put on ventilators unnecessarily, or put on ventilators in paperwork only…

  12. It’s worse than that, expressing skepticism on the issue of whether or not skepticism makes one a denialist makes one a denialist.

  13. This virus has made it painfully evident that we cannot have rational discussions anymore at this point with most topics, due to political tribalism. Depending on the color of a person’s political lenses they have in their glasses, I am getting scolds from people of either side from telling them straight up numbers, helpful tips, and general information about what’s happening with COVID.

    I’ve had straight people with straight up non-science bullshit bachelor’s degrees tell me “you cant say that!” when talking about details of the virus. No joke.

    The plaquenil hysteria was perfect evidence of this, as I could easily predict how any one person would talk about / react to it by their normal political stance. Giving either sets of these people info about it could be met with resistance or praise depending if the info lined up with the stuff their favorite news channel said about it… a bunch of clown political pundits,

    Treatments, death numbers, infection rate, any of this stuff is now political fodder for the mouth breathers on either side of the issue, and their opinion can only be swayed once their group-think and news regurgitators allows them to change it.

    1. due to political tribalism

      Skepticism knows no tribe. There are plenty of no-shit M.D.s and Ph.D.s telling everyday people who don’t have the virus what they can and can’t say.

      The plaquenil hysteria was perfect evidence of this, as I could easily predict how any one person would talk about / react to it by their normal political stance. Giving either sets of these people info about it could be met with resistance or praise depending if the info lined up with the stuff their favorite news channel said about it… a bunch of clown political pundits,

      Being a prognosticator of such wisdom, you can point to the post you made before it came out that the woman who drank and dosed her husband with Hydrochloroquine was a frequent democratic backer?

      Get the fuck out of here. You’re just yet another internet M.D. with an ill-deserved God complex.

      1. “Being a prognosticator of such wisdom, you can point to the post you made before it came out that the woman who drank and dosed her husband with Hydrochloroquine was a frequent democratic backer?”

        Unsure what youre referencing. Ive had Joe-Yokel dem fans scolding me after talking later on about our initial Plaquenil patients we tried it on before it was even in the news, that it was dangerous and irresponsible to be using the drug. Not so much a god complex, more of a “I have forgotten more about medicine than you will ever know, so I wont be taking recommendation on how I talk about it” complex. Not sure whether that includes you in particular, but this person it certainly did apply to.

  14. It seems to me that, acknowledging that any counting method will be flawed, what’s important is to have a uniform procedure among the countries. They may all be equally skewed to more death or less death, but at least we can compare success rates.

    What this doesn’t need is what places like Reason supply so generously to the climate change policy debate: data cherry-picked for its optimism.

    1. Exactly! We need data cherry-picked for its pessimism!

      1. Who’s doing that, and what could their motive possibly be?

        1. The motivation is in thos thread and found on many various news sites. Hint, look for the number 20 dummy.

    2. What this doesn’t need is what places like Reason supply so generously to the climate change policy debate: data cherry-picked for its optimism.

      Is this opinion drawing on your extensive medical expertise, your extensive epidemiology experience, or your thorough training in climate science?

      I’d say you were armchairing the call, but given what I know about you an armchair is too professional. You’re more preaching from the toilet.

  15. Why does the NYT think they can get away with these distortions? Their readers are just going along with confirmation bias?

    While, at times, we need to wade through a ton of shit, the internet has been a godsend for releasing the stranglehold that big media has had on most of the country for so long. The country has been able to suss out distortions everywhere on both sides in a timely manner.

    The NYT, and similar media outlets, keep giving Trump supporters more reasons to ignore them. Well, as long as the journalists, can look good in front of each other, they’ll be happy to continue writing distorted articles.

  16. The implication is that anyone who wonders about the accuracy of COVID-19 death counts

    I take the numbers from worldometers as generally accurate.
    Apparently, this makes me a ChiCom dupe and an apologist for communist mass murder since according to my commie sources they’ve had… 17 {wow! high!}… new cases yesterday.

    1. Apparently, this makes me a ChiCom dupe and an apologist for communist mass murder

      If you take the Chinese government as face value, then that is exactly what you are.

    2. If worldometers is repeating the Chi Com numbers as valid, indeed it makes you a fucking ignoramus to accept them.
      Tony Judt, in “Post War” pointed out that the chief export of the GDR was bogus stats, and there isn’t a commie nation which was or is much different.
      But then, you’re a fucking lefty ignoramus anyhow, so quelle surprise.

    3. You’re an apologist for communism because you support that murderous ideology.

    4. CDC guestimates 24 to 62 thousand deaths in the Oct2019 – Feb2020 ordinary inflenza season.

      But the Covid19 numbers are unquestionable?

  17. If I were ask the question: what possible motive would any newspaper or politician have for making news to be worse than it is? would the responses rather surprisingly quickly begin to involve the lizard people?

    1. I cant tell if you’re ignorant or stupid. Or both.

    2. Majority Whip James Clyburn reportedly said, “This is a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision.”

      New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio has demanded “a nationalization of crucial factories and industries that could produce the medical supplies to prepare this country for what we need.”

      House Democrats Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and 46 other Democrat members signed a letter calling for price controls on drugs related to treating coronavirus patients.

      the “Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act,” … The 1119-page bill is Christmas in March for liberal special interests. It imposes racial and gender pay equity provisions, diversity on corporate boards, increased use of minority-owned banks by federal offices, and a grab-bag of other diversity-themed requirements. It increases the collective bargaining power for unions and cancels all the debt owed by the U.S. Postal Service to the U.S. Treasury. For the global warming crowd there are increased fuel emission standards and required carbon offsets for airlines, plus tax credits for alternative energy programs. For the kids there is a provision for student loan payment deferment, and for the education bureaucrats who overcharge them a $9.5 billion giveaway to colleges and universities. It gives $100 million to juvenile justice programs, and suspends various aspects of enforcement of immigration laws.

      1. So Democrats want to use a crisis to do a bunch of good for humanity. With what economy? It’s already lizard people territory when you suggest that Democrats want the world to go to shit. They just aren’t that evil.

        Trump on the other hand has stated outright that he wants to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of lives so that economic data they put on cable news is better in time for his election day.

        Of course, exposing more people to the disease will only result in another, worse shutdown and won’t do anything but damage the economy further, but that’s in perfect keeping with the core brand of the Republican party: “Stupid and evil, yeehaw!”

        1. “So Democrats want to use a crisis to do a bunch of good for humanity….”

          That’s cute. And stupid.

        2. You really are this stupid arent you Tony. You asked WHY they would push a crisis and I answered. You even tacitly admit you knew this. So you’re a fucking lying idiot.

          Hundreds of thousands of lives huh? You’re fucking retarded. A dishonest, lying piece of shit retard.

            1. Lol. God you’re pathetic.

            2. “Calm down Mary”

              Called on your bullshit, and that’s the best you’ve got?
              What time did you start drinking this morning?

              1. That implies he stopped at some point.

        3. The road to hell is paved with the unintended consequences of good intentions. In large part because the “good” people cannot conceive they maybe wrong.

          1. When was the last time Trump said he was wrong about something.

            1. Were we talking about Trump?

              Oh, that’s right, NO! We were talking about YOU!

        4. “”Trump on the other hand has stated outright that he wants to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of lives so that economic data they put on cable news is better in time for his election day. “”

          This is the crap that makes people think you are stupid.

          What country in the world has lost hundreds of thousands of lives?

      2. Perhaps Tony was hoping no one actually read the news.

      3. That doesn’t sound like “take responsibility for……” anything. It sounds like pandering and virtue signaling with other people’s money.

        One and the same to some, I guess.

    3. Can you explain why the NYT has framed the story the way it has?

      Would your response quickly begin to involve Sullum as a tool of the right?

      1. The NYT like all credible news sources are just reporting numbers the CDC gives them. Trust the CDC, don’t trust them, but are you suggesting they’re in on the conspiracy too?

        1. Dr. BRIX HERSELF said she didnt trust the CDC numbers dipshit. Guess who she works for?

          1. The same guy the CDC works for.

            1. So is the CDC a truth teller or a White House lackey? Make up your fucking mind dummy.

              1. I don’t know if the CDC numbers are accurate or not. Maybe their boss should get on that.

                1. You literally said to trust the numbers. My god tony. If you’re going to make an idiotic statement, at least be consistent.

                  1. I didn’t say that. I said stop being a dumbfuck.

                    1. You stupid shit, read this:

                      “The NYT like all credible news sources are just reporting numbers the CDC gives them.”

                      You posted those exact words. Are we to assume your characterization of the NYT as a ‘credible news source’ does not include ‘trusting the numbers’?
                      Or are you going to try some real gymnastics to tell us you really didn’t mean that?
                      Tell me when to get the popcorn going…

                    2. Watching you attempt to tie your shoe must be endlessly fascinating.

                      Those same news sources are also reporting when there’s skepticism of the official numbers, just as Reason is doing. Maybe you ought to actually read something before you start talking, if you are literate.

                    3. You know, Tony…

                      As an impartial observer, I’ve noted that your arguments are illogical, arbitrary, and clearly politically-driven.

                      Just so you’re aware.

                    4. You first Tony.

        2. “The NYT like all credible news sources are just reporting numbers the CDC gives them.”

          That’s cute. And stupid.

        3. They’re not just reporting numbers numbnuts. Did you read this article? The ridiculous framing that accompanies any number is complete and total cringe. “If you believe any skepticism, you’re one of the bad people. You wouldn’t want to be one of them, do you?”

        4. Right. Just reporting numbers. If they were just reporting numbers, they would use a nice, little graph like USA Today might.

          Once again, you have no answer. You’re less credible than anyone that goes out shilling for Trump.

    4. Nancy Pelosi

      @SpeakerPelosi
      Vote-by-mail is essential to protecting the future of our democracy as we confront this public health crisis. There is no legitimate argument against enacting it. #LSSC

      Klobuchar said that she is “looking at that next package to get the funding included” as well as some additional reforms, like removing state requirements that voters present an excuse to vote absentee.

      More and more liberal wish lists as long as the pandemic lasts… why would they push it Tony? Fucking idiot.

      1. Voting by mail is a vitally relevant policy when people are supposed to be staying the fuck away from each other. What are you even talking about?

        1. Again, you’re too stupid to realize your views are based on an ignorant half assertion.

          To be as stupid as you are you have to believe a) this is a generational crisis b) it wont get better by november. You’re an idiot Tony. This is a pure power grab.

          1. And they’re grabbing power by… expanding the franchise. That’s how democracy is supposed to fucking work.

            The people who want to restrict the franchise to people who don’t tend to vote for them are the ones with the splaining to do.

            1. “And they’re grabbing power by… expanding the franchise. That’s how democracy is supposed to fucking work.”

              Vote early and often! Works wonderfully in D-controlled cities.

              1. Join the post-talkie era. Democrats have unilaterally disarmed in the face of massive Republican election fraud and meddling. Now, I do not think both parties competing on how best to cheat is the ideal scenario, but unfortunately all the judges Trump is appointing like an orangutan with a rubber stamp don’t believe in the virtue of democracy either. Coincidentally, they always think people exactly like them should have all the power instead.

                1. You literally get dumber the deeper you dig.

                2. “Join the post-talkie era. Democrats have unilaterally disarmed in the face of massive Republican election fraud and meddling.”

                  Wanna peddle that pile of bullshit to anyone watching JFK clinch over Nixon as a result of the Chicago vote?
                  BTW, please join me and RBG in wishing for a Trump victory come November; she needs a rest and someone competent should occupy that chair.

                3. What would that fraud be? Because it’s not Republicans that routinely find boxes of ballots for their candidates in fucking janitors closets and trunks of cars.

                  1. You people need to get off the smack. Chicago 70 years ago? Janitors closets?

                    What about centuries of systematic attempts to depress turnout of black voters, which is ongoing today and they aren’t even hiding it? Do you even care about that one little bit?

                    1. You are right brother… Those evil conservatives are trying to expand voter ID. We all know minorities are too dumb to be able to get a voter ID even if they’re free. We has gots to fill out their ballots for them and ship them in. We need more ballot harvesting!

            2. They dont want to expand voting asshole. Of they did NYC or Boston would already have expanded early voting. Neither due you ignorant fuck. Instead we find it largely in red states. They wouldnt sue South Carolina for ballot harvesting under claims it is racist while cheering on southern California’s practice if they wanted equal voting measure you ignorant fuck. This is all about expanding a power grab where they can change the rules to give them the best advantage.

              By the way, you’re an ignorant fuck.

        2. “Voting by mail is a vitally relevant policy when people are supposed to be staying the fuck away from each other.”

          Who might be hoping that people are still required to remain imprisoned until November?
          Are you really hoping most people here are as stupid as you are?

          1. Don’t worry, I don’t think you’re anywhere near as stupid as I am.

            I don’t know about where you live, but where I live, they’re not eliminating in-person voting. You can line up for an hour with a bunch of elderly strangers if you want. And other, sensible people can vote by mail. I don’t see the problem. Why don’t you explain what the problem is to me. Like, the real problem.

            1. “Don’t worry, I don’t think you’re anywhere near as stupid as I am.”

              Hardly anyone is.

              1. Have to give it to him, the broken clock was right once today.

    5. Not to mention their latest spending want to bail put blue state pensions as well as union pensions.

      Why would Democrats push for this, right Tony?

      As for the media… you have to be fucking stupid to ask why they would push so hard for a crisis.

      1. Is there any event that could ever happen in this universe that you wouldn’t suspect is a lie promoted by evil actors? Was the painful dump you took this afternoon a plot by George Soros? Paranoia is not a symptom to fuck around with.

        1. Holy shit dumbfuck. You asked why someone would push this crisis. I answered. They arent exactly hiding their motivations dummy. Everything the current Democrats do is for power. Full stop.

          Amazing how you completely ignored that unanswered the fucking question you asked.

          Tony. Go back to whatever back alley bar you’ve been drunk in. You’re an idiot.

    6. The motivation is simple: Fear sells. So the print media has sensationalist headlines. The actual reported facts in the body of the stories are generally complete, but the headlines are made to attract attention. The video media is even worse, because all you get is the sound bite and no comprehensive reporting.

      Clicks and views is what it’s about. Scaremongering drives that. People love cute kittens, but they’re flock to stories about dead kittens. It’s the eyeballs, that’s the motivation.

      The rate of new deaths in this country has gone down. We’re past the peak. Probably a plateau, but we’re past the peak. You can literally see it in the numbers and graphs. Yet it’s being reported as “Highest Death Total Yet!”. That’s technically correct but most certainly misleading.

  18. A friend in Penna. tells me his exterminator had a friend die as one of the 2 officially recorded Covid-19 deaths in the county. That person was 81 years old with multiple medical problems but no respiratory illness, and after he died by falling down the stairs and breaking his neck, they tested his corpse. It was SARS-COV2 positive.

    1. Cool story bro, now let the adults talk.

  19. Among many problems with partisan, unscrupulous ideologues is that they assume everyone else uses the same “logic” that they use. Thus any challenge to their revealed beliefs can only come from politically-motivated enemies with the wrong beliefs. They simply cannot imagine a neutral objective context or analysis.

  20. “ “There’s an implication here that hospitals are overreporting their COVID patients because they have an economic advantage [in] doing so, [which] is really an outrageous claim,” Gerald Kominski, a senior fellow at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, told FactCheck.org. Kominski interpreted Jensen as suggesting that patients are put on ventilators when it is not medically appropriate, which “is basically saying physicians are violating their Hippocratic Oath….It would be like [performing] heart surgery on someone who doesn’t need it.””

    Yeah, right. No physician has ever, ever performed unnecessary treatment, ever, ever engaged in Medicaid fraud, ever, ever over diagnosed a patient to bill the insurance company at a higher rate, etc.

    1. I guess now would be a bad time to bring up the number of people that die every year due to medical errors. (It’s between 250K-440K, due to the actions of these Great American Heroes).

  21. We have zero proof of people dying of covid19 at home that is an assumption yet we have proof of claims of dying of covid19 without testing for it. So the first statement in the first paragraph Is not supportable verging on a lie. This type of false equivalence arguments are so tiring by a magazine i used to respect.

    1. We also have self-evident proof that NYC’s numbers are an outlier, and that they badly distort the national numbers. Any competent statistician would ignore them or ‘normalize’ them for use in drawing *ANY* conclusion.
      And they continue to be reported as fact by the credible press.

  22. Big cities are like 5,000 passenger/2,000 crew cruise liners: Petri dishes for pandemics.

  23. The implication is that anyone who wonders about the accuracy of COVID-19 death counts—even someone like Jensen, who suggests deaths may be underreported in some parts of the country and overreported in others—should be taken as seriously as someone who denies the human contribution to climate change or thinks vaccines cause autism.

    Lumping these 3 together strips Sullum of any credibility, not to be given the time of day. These are 3 different issues with the only link being their embrace by a few of the same folks.

    1. They have in common skepticism of government involvement in some intimate aspects of our lives AND skepticism of “expert” technocrats.

      So they really do have similarities that similar people would be attracted to them.

  24. So the NYT is accusing Jensen is politicizing his opinion by not editing himself to consider the political implications of his opinion. Projection is strong in NYT’s offices.

  25. Doctors and Hospitals defrauding the government via medial programs? Well this would be a shocking first! NOT. To think all Dr’s are ethical is to believe no Cops are corrupt and all drug dealers are evil. Oh and lawyers are lawyers because of their desire to get you justice LOL

  26. Conspiracy theories like this were inevitable the more polarized the country became. But the truth isn’t the direct polar opposite of the “official” line.

    Fuck, this might be the first time in my memory when there actually was an “official” line. The facts are in between. At the “official” extreme the narrative is that nothing non-Trump government does is wrong. And the media is happy to dish it out. The curve has plateaued and number of deaths per day is dipping down, but the reporting is always “highest death count yet!”. Well duh, that’s basic kindergarten arithmetic, no need to be sensationalist about it. Everything is reported as if the worst case scenarios are true.

    But the other side are a bunch of nutters. People are actually dying out there, people getting seriously sick, and they still characterize it as “just a bad flu”. I had a neighbor in the hospital over it, and someone I grew up with died of it. Well, died of pneumonia, but a pneumonia caused by it. The denialtards would say that’s overcounting. But fuck them, he’s dead.

    The truth is in the middle. The government numbers are suspect, the methods for collecting data are all over map, fearmongering reporting, etc. But at the same time the virus is real and it is dangerous and is in the tens of thousands. On one hand the economy does need to open up, but on the other this does not mean we should all go to raves and lick doorknobs.

    On one hand government has blood on it hands for gross mismanagement of the crisis, but on the other hand this is not part of a grand insider conspiracy, nor a plot by Putin, or any shit like that. The problem is real and it’s affecting every class and demographic in every nation. Even the fucking White House has gotten hit.

    1. On one hand the economy does need to open up, but on the other this does not mean we should all go to raves and lick doorknobs.

      You don’t even understand what this controversy is about. It’s not about scientific facts or the threat that COVID poses or about taking measures to protect yourself from infection.

      What it is about is federal and state governments locking up healthy people and destroying private business in order make statistics come out one way or another.

      Whether I lick doorknobs is none of your business.

    2. I would add to that that government measures were justified by flattening the curve, not preventing infection. Your idea that social isolation saves lives is not grounded in the very arguments that were used to institute those government measures in the first place.

  27. I’m no fan of President Trump. I’m also no fan of coronavirus “lockdowns”. The assumption by some in the media that people will be supporters of one or the other makes no sense. The President is often criticized for what are called his fascist tendencies, for his desire to accumulate more power for the government (and himself). But now he is being criticized for wanting governments to have LESS power. It’s all rather confusing.

    1. The President’s critics from the progressive end are fine with the government having extensive powers like a fascist regime, they just think non-progressives being able to exercise those powers is dangerous and unacceptable.

      1. Look how they are praising Cuomo. A guy who shutdown his own commission investigating corruption when it caught one of his own.

  28. Yes Virginia and Jacob, there is such a thing as a conspiracy. All remaining mouthpieces of the No Nuke and Freeze and Surrender movements agree that global warming is about to kill “us” unless non-Red Chinese access to energy is banned or buried in taxes. Mention of unvarnished thermometer data is, according to those same fossils, heresy before the Inquisition. Some of these collectives weathered the collapse of the Soviets by shifting allegiance to Red China, Cuba, Venzuela, North Korea and the Pelosi Party.

  29. Rosenberg and Rutenberg are two political reporters with non-STEM bachelor degrees; their article contains no coherent scientific or rational argument. Why should anybody care what they think?

    Yeah, I’m a “denialist”; I deny that the NYT is good for anything other than the obituaries and wrapping fish.

  30. The easiest thing to do is label someone a “denier”. It saves the accuser the trouble of having to form a cogent argument in a debate.

  31. The New York Times doesn’t like Holocaust “deniers,” either.

    That makes me 3 for 3 (climate change, too).

    The feeling’s quite mutual, believe me.

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