a letter sent in to my local paper

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Joined: Tue Nov 03, 2020 7:31 pm

a letter sent in to my local paper

Post by mummyfunk »

i found this in the local paper..the Sandbach chronicle.. they have occasionally added a letter from a sceptic's point of view, which they have been slated for by readers. so good on them to keep printing alternative views.. thought this was a good one to share.. well written..

Covid Facts Explained
dear sir - it seems that every day we are bombarded by the media and at government briefings with statistics about coronavirus - numbers of "cases", deaths, vaccine doses, etc -and it can be very confusing. in fact the other day, my wife was chatting to a friend about this, and her friend asked the question, "which figures should we be following to know where we are ?"..that prompted me to write this, even at this comparatively late stage, in the hope it will help people navigate their way through the confusion.
as a clinical scientist and medical researcher, who has worked for the NHS for over 10 years, i have followed the numbers fairly closely and so here are my tips for understanding them. but first let me make one thing clear that will put the area into context.
The virus (proper name, SARS-CoV-2) is the thing that can infect people. In those who develop symptoms, it can cause a disease called civid-19. It is important to note that covid-19 is NOT the virus. when we hear references to terms like "cases" or "infections", they often don't define whether they are referring to the virus, or the disease.
Anyway, on to the numbers. I'll split these into three groups,
1. how many people have the virus ?
2. what is the impact on hospitals ?
3. what about death rates ?
how many people have had the virus ?
as i mentioned above, figures are often referred to as "cases" or "infection". the implication is that this is the number of people who have had the virus and could potentially pass it on to others. however, the figures usually come from data on how many people had a positive test for the virus and doesn't tell anything about the likelihood of spreading the virus.
there are a few things to take into consideration when interpreting these numbers.
firstly, it depends on how many tests were done : more tests, more chance of finding positive tests (as we saw recently when the children went back to school and the number of cases doubled overnight)
secondly, no test is perfect. the tests themselves were not designed to be used in the way that they are, and with the best will in the world, they don't give the right answer all of the time.
in fact if only 0.1% of tests give a positive result when they should be negative, and 1,000,000 tests are done every day, that means that about 1000 tests will turn out to be positive even though there is no virus there.
thirdly, just because someone has a positive test doesn't mean they can pass it on to others. That's because, for example, it can be at such low levels that there isn't enough to pass on, or that tere are just fragments of dead virus about.
so my tip is not put too much weight on the "case" numbers as they will tend to over-estimate the actual number of people who could spread the virus. at the very least, take into account the proportion of tests that are positive (called the positivity rate) rather than the overall number.
what is the impact on hospitals ?
we have often been told that the reasons for lockdowns and other restrictions is to "protect the NHS". clearly, it is really important that our NHS is able to cope (though it's struggled over winter with a chronic lack of resources for many years and it didn't seem to matter then !)
when we are shown figures about the number of hospital admissions with covid, the number of people staying in hospital with covid, or the number os people in ICU with covid, we are rarely told whether these people actually have the disease, or whether they just have a positive test for the virus.
so we may be led to beleive that there are more people in hospitals with the disease that is actually the case, some may have the virus but not the disease, while others may have had a false positive test and therefore not have the virus at all.
so my tip here is to focus on hospital capacity compared with the normal capacity for this time of year.
having said that, it's a bit different with covid because it's harder for hospitals to manage people with a virus as infectious as this one.
they can't discharge people with covid as easily as non- covid patients, and these patients need to be managed in separate wards, so hospitals can't look after as many patients as usual.
3. what about death rates ?
this is, and rightly so, a delicate subject. clearly, covid-19 is a killer and in my view, this is the munber that is most important, and why the very impressive vaccine programme is so critical.
so how do we interpret the daily death figueres we are presented with ?
this too can be tricky, and given its sensitivity, i am not going to go into this in too much detail.
suffice to say, i tend to look more at what is called the excess death figure. that's the total number of deaths now, compared with the average for the time of year.
it gives an indication of the impact of the virus on the overall number of people who have died, whatever the cause.
excess death figures are the ones i think give the best assessment of where we are with the impact of coronavirus, though it too isn't without its problems. for example, we've heard of reports such as fewer people turning up at A&E during lockdowns or of delayed cancer treatment. these have been linked with additional deaths beyond what we would have expected, so they add to the excess deaths numbers but are not directly caused by the virus
at the time of writing this, deaths are 8% below the average for this time of year.
i hope these tips help with understanding the numbers. but i recognise that numbers alone can take away from the real people behind them, so i wouldn't want to forget all those who have been affected directly or indirectly by the virus. we all have to some degree or another. this was written simply to help with interpreting the statistics and i hope it has helped tosome small degree. if you want a different perspective on interpreting what's going on from a group of experts who are advising MP's, among others, then i suggest you have a look at the Health Advisory and Recovery Team website (hartgroup.org)
yours faithfully,
professor Anthony Fryer

here's a link to the hart group