Discussions of Book of Mormon issues and evidences, plus other topics related to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Easter and the Corona Virus: Rays of Hope in a Time of Darkness

Good Friday was a time of much reflection on the state of the world and our country, filled with cause for sorrow and also cause for hope and rejoicing. The greatest hope of all comes from Jesus Christ. In this world of death and decay, death, of course, is inescapable. It can be delayed, perhaps, but never escaped, no matter how long we are forced to be locked up in our homes, no matter how much the government spends, and no matter how many vaccinations you get. But the shadow of that grim reality is swept away in light of the glorious news, attested by eye-witnesses in two hemispheres, that Jesus Christ lives and has unlocked the gates of death and hell. The sting of death is swallowed up in victory. His Resurrection is the greatest victory of all time and of all eternity.

It's painfully easy for people to disregard the New Testament accounts of multiple witnesses of Christ's Resurrection: "The Bible has through so many hands, copies of copies of copies. We don't have the original documents. What did they say? And even if we did, perhaps Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, if they were even the authors of the manuscripts bearing their names, just repeated rumors someone else concocted or did fabricated their stories. Who knows?" The Bible stands as a witness of Jesus Christ and contains the accounts of multiple human witnesses of His reality and triumph, but it's far too easy to disregard that ancient account.

Here is where we, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, have something marvelous for the world, an independent and majestic second witness, another testament of Jesus Christ that was brought to the world through miraculous means, for which numerous evidences continue to mount that demand attention. The Book of Mormon is that additional testament of Christ. No other book I've ever seen is so centered on Christ and does so much to clarify the majesty of His mission, the reality of His Resurrection, and the power of His Atonement. Shout it from the housetops: we have a record, an ancient record brought forth by miraculous means, filled with evidence for and truth about the Savior of the world. In this time of pain and sorrow, it has a message the world desperately needs. The Book of Mormon is true and confirms what the world needs to know today: Jesus Christ lives and has power not only to rescue us from death, but to cleanse us from sin and to bring us back into the presence of God and the Lamb of God, the Son of God who lived and died for us.

That's the key good news we should focus on. Christ is our most real and vital source of hope in times of despair and throughout all the seasons of our lives. But in much less important areas that still matter greatly to many of us, there may be more rays of hope in this time of crisis.

Update: On Easter Sunday or anytime, why not experience this hope musically with the majestic Lamb of God Singalong with the music of  Rob Gardner? I am listening to it now and am so impressed with the music and artwork that brings the story of Easter to life. I especially love the song sung by the Lord’s mother at His death. How kind of Rob Gardner and many others to give the world this gift about the Ultimate Gift to mankind.

Good Friday was a day of fasting and prayer for millions of members of the Church and many others, as we sought the Lord's help and guidance in this trouble time. We need miracles. We need added hope. I have been praying that there might be advances in our knowledge so that we can better cope with the virus without causing far more harm, without further crushing the economy, without adding terrible burdens to those who are already ill or suffering from mental health challenges, without impoverishing our nation and others, and without allowing thieves to steal our future or diminish our liberty.

While there has been much bad news recently, some surprising good news has come forth during this time of fasting and prayer that may give us some hope. Here are some examples:

1. Iceland Gives Us Hope
So much of what has been done to cope with the Corona virus has been done without consideration of available data. Granted, early on, very little data was available and what was coming from China wasn't always clear or timely, and yes, there's still much we don't know. To cope with the virus, we need to know how lethal it is. What is the real infection fatality rate (IFR), the number of deaths divided by the number of infected people? We often hear reports on CFR, the number of deaths per reported cases, but those numbers can be misleading. When a new virus comes, the only cases known are the real serious ones that go to the hospital, resulting in frightening CFR statistics that tend to decline steadily. But what really matters is the IFR. Understanding IFR requires thorough testing, and nobody is doing more extensive testing than little Iceland. To me, the data from Iceland gives us hope. Here's an excerpt from the Oxford COVID-19 Evidence Service and their report, "Global Covid-19 Case Fatality Rates," updated April 7:
Iceland has tested a higher proportion of people than any other country (9,768 individuals), equivalent to  26,762 per million inhabitants the highest in the world (as a  comparison, South Korea has tested  6,343 individuals).

Screening suggests 0.5% are infected;  the correct figure is likely higher due to asymptomatics and many not seeking testing: estimates suggest the real number infected is 1%.

Iceland,  currently reports two deaths in 963 patients, CFR . 0.21%.  If 1% of the population (364,000) is infected, then the corresponding IFR would be 0.05%.    However, they have limited infections in the elderly as their test and quarantine measures have seemingly shielded this group, and the deaths will lag by about two weeks after the infection.

Iceland’s higher rates of testing, the smaller population, and their ability to ascertain all those with Sars-CoV-2  means they can obtain. an accurate estimate of the CFR and the IFR during the pandemic (most countries will only be able to do this after the pandemic). Current data from Iceland suggests their IFR is somewhere between 0.01% and 0.19%.
Thank you, Iceland, for extensive testing! (I wish the US had not messed up so bad in the testing area, a factor that has been a key contributor to our problematic state.) Your data helps us better understand the true enemy that we are waging war against. Maybe we can fight this war without fire bombing the entire nation.

Iceland, though, may have shielded the most vulnerable (the elderly) effectively from the disease, keeping the IFR low. But taking into account data from all over the globe, not just Iceland, the Oxford report ("Global Covid-19 Case Fatality Rates") gives this overall estimate:
Taking account of historical experience, trends in the data, increased number of infections in the population at largest, and potential impact of misclassification of deaths gives a presumed estimate for the COVID-19 IFR between 0.1% and 0.39%. [emphasis added
If the IFR for the US will be as low as Iceland reports or is in a higher range between 0.1% and 0.39%, is that rate so terrible, so unlike influenza or other diseases, that we really need to shut down the economy, require government approval to travel and work, and give unlimited power to bankers to create trillions of new dollars via digital creation ex nihilo (without even the courtesy of at least printing their counterfeit money so that ATMs won't run out of bills when banks begin to fail)? Maybe panic is not the correct response. Maybe Iceland and good global data can help us get back to normal (and can we have our future and our freedom back, please? or at least the trillions the Fed is taking?).

The Oxford report also notes that we still have not adequately distinguished between dying with the virus versus dying from it. Many elderly people who die and are reported as COVID-19 deaths may have had the virus but died from other factors such as diabetes or heart disease, with the virus just being one of several new problems. Once we understand that differences, they note that the IFR may be even lower.

For the record, I've just added a trip to Iceland to my bucket list, if I don't kick the bucket first from COVID-19 or anything else. I've only been to the Reykjavik airport, but thinking about Iceland has stirred travel fever in me. A beautiful nation that I want to visit when things get back to normal.

Other countries also give us hope. How about Sweden and Brazil? Both have been criticized for their failure to follow social distancing and to lock down their economies. Have they invited chaos? It doesn't look that way so far. They seem to have done remarkably well. Some say Sweden's success comes from a compliant population who are following sound social distancing rules, but I don't know if that explains Brazil. Sweden and Brazil give us hope and might give us courage to ask if the US lockdown is really the source for the success we've had, relative to the gloomy forecasts of models (discussed below).

Right next to China is Vietnam which, as of a few days ago, had zero deaths. Lots of Chinese tourists go there. I saw many while I was there in January. Quickly closing their borders may have been their key to success. The virus may eventually spread, but so far they have done well. Some have speculated that other factors there such as climate or diet might have helped. In any case, I think we need to be looking more closely at Vietnam, at Taiwan, and other nations that are coping effectively with the disease and have not needed to intubate their economy.

2. California Gives us Hope 
I usually don't say that about California, but look at the amazing numbers.  Their 541 deaths, while a cause for morning, is less than 10% of what New York has. Their population is 2/3 that of Italy (40 vs 60 million), but Italy is reporting over 19,000 deaths. OK, it may be that nearly 90% of Italy's deaths should not be classified as strictly due to the virus, but even if the real count in Italy is 2000 or so, California's numbers are still amazingly good in comparison. Experts with their brilliant, unbiased models were predicting tens of thousands of deaths for California and utter chaos as it would surely become the epicenter of viral chaos.  California should be the epicenter because no other state has had such close contact with Wuhan before we knew what was happening. There have long been direct fights from Wuhan to California and just about every Chinese tourist going to North America wants to go to California. They will also go to New York, but California is the focal point based on what I see among my Chinese acquaintances. And no matter where you are going in the US, if you travel from China, you are likely to first fly to LA or San Francisco and then transfer (but there are direct flights to several other cities).

So why is California so lucky? Well, they had an unusually severe and unusually early flew season in late 2019 which may have actually been due to the Corona virus, and now we are seeing the benefits of some degree of herd immunity in California. See Victor Davis Hanson's article, "Coronavirus: The California Herd." It's an amazing story that needs more investigation but may give us hope. The great numbers from California may mean that their close contact with China gave them a head start in building herd immunity -- without having to shut down their economy and without having to force people to stop having funerals, weddings, parties, and religious gatherings until a perfect vaccine can be developed, perhaps once the virus stops mutating). Yes, it was a rough flu season and hospitals then were overwhelmed, but they got through it. If they did, maybe the rest of us can, too. That's a cause for hope.

However, Hanson's hypothesis may be wrong and California may not have a real head start on herd immunity after all, as some are arguing in response (see a discussion of the issues at SFist.com). 

But even if California did get hit with the virus earlier than we thought, don't let that give you too much hope. In fact, the same basic information (once stripped of the actual numbers) can be properly spun in a way that supports the normal narrative in this way: "Yikes, the virus was here in California even earlier than we thought, and that means it's had more time to spread -- so we're really doomed!" In The Los Angeles Times, the April 11 article, "New signs suggest coronavirus was in California far earlier than anyone knew," shows us the politically correct approach. The story begins and ends with tragic stories of death and tells us that the lag time between the early arrival of the virus to California in 2019 and the social distancing rule in 2020 "has had dire consequences, allowing the virus to spread unchecked before social distancing rules went into effect." But it would be great if there is some herd immunity in California, and hopefully we'll know for sure soon. 

Based on the history of failure and delays with vaccines for new viruses, perhaps herd immunity (getting back to normal life with good hygiene but not panic while encouraging sheltering for the more vulnerable), not mandatory vaccinations and lengthy lockdowns is the real hope for us. AIDS has killed about 700,000 people in the US, more than are likely to die from the Corona virus. How's that HIV vaccine working for you? Oh, right, there still isn't one. Scientists have been working to develop one for years, or rather, decades, but there still isn't one, as HIV.gov reports. We are approaching the 40th anniversary of the official recognition of the AIDS epidemic (June 15, 1981). Thank goodness we didn't have politicians lock down the economy then until a successful vaccine could be developed and mandated.

3. Consistently Failed Predictions and Inflated Numbers Give Us Hope
I usually don't say this about failed software or the many massive failures from bad or biased computer models, which have driven much of the panic over the Corona virus. But these persistent failures now give me hope. Bill Gates' IHME model, relied on so heavily by our government, has, like all the other "professional" models being touted in the media, been grossly wrong on many things. New York should have run out of hospital beds by now, but they did not. The models have been highly inaccurate, but have been used to stir up fear and were trusted to make sweeping policy decisions that could affect us for years to come. They have been unreliable, but that's good news. Maybe we don't need to panic or to trust those stirring the panic.

When a trusted government icon like Dr. Anthony Fauci tells us that we should never shake hands again, that it might be a good idea for the government to require us to carry papers to justify our travel in the future, that we may need to stay in lockdown mode for 18 months or so, etc., etc., it's OK for us to not blindly trust what he or any other acclaimed expert says, Bill Gates included. In fact, when he claims that the great decline in actual numbers versus predicted number is because Americans have complied with his edicts, it's OK for us to ask questions, like what is the evidence that the edicts actually created the unexpected decline? Since your models already had considered the effect of social distancing, and were still wrong, do we really understand this disease enough to attribute good news to your policies? Do you really know that the reason for the lower numbers when the collective wisdom of the models gives predictions that often aren't even close?

What about inflated numbers? Above I mentioned the concern raised in the Oxford report about the failure to distinguish between deaths "with" the virus versus deaths "from" the virus, especially among the vulnerable group of people who are already struggling with severe issues. A large number of these deaths should not be flagged as deaths caused by the virus. Sadly, the new legislation to cope with the virus has added strong financial incentives to count deaths as corona virus deaths, even when that's not very accurate. See "Hospitals Get Paid More to List Patients as COVID-19 and Three Times as Much if the Patient Goes on Ventilator" at The Spectator, April 9. That's a financial incentive that may be hard to resist and surely will exacerbate any problems in overcounting COVID-19 deaths. On top of that are whistleblower allegations that the CDC is also manipulating deaths to be excessively high. But the disconnect between the fearful models and physical reality, even with overcounted deaths, is great enough to help us see past the fearmongering, and that's hopeful.

4. Perhaps Some Hope from Anecdotal Reports by Doctors
Some doctors have touted apparent benefits hydroxychloroquine in treating Covid-19. This medication has not been proven yet with serious double-blind studies, but such studies are underway. Instead of waiting many months or possibly years for those studies to be completed, some maverick doctors are jumping the gun and reporting apparent dramatic benefits. Yes, there are legitimate reasons to question Trump's emphasis on this drug and reasons to think that widespread use may be a bad idea. But maybe it will help some, or perhaps many. Let's see. Meanwhile, there are also reasons that think that it may be unwise to deny patients the right to take an experimental treatment when in a life-threatening situation. I think Katherine Timpf makes a reasonable argument on this point.

Update, 4/12/2020: As was kindly pointed out to me this morning, I should also mention zinc as one of the rays of hope from anecdotal but significant reports from multiple doctors. A fascinating video clip shows the frantic media effort to downplay the possible good news that such inexpensive materials as zinc and hydroxychloroquine might be making a significant difference for those with COVID-19. And another friend suggested I might wish to remind people of the tentative evidence or at least reasonable hypotheses that other inexpensive nutriceuticals like glucosamine and N-acetyl cysteine might be helpful as well.

5. And a Hands-free Touch of Hope from Face Masks
One of the positive developments recently has been that the US government is finally (finally!) acknowledging that masks might actually help, something that numerous studies support. There are many companies that could make plenty of masks, but sadly, government regulations make that just about impossible. While it's now too late for most of us to buy them, partly because the government has begun seizing large orders of masks that were being shipped to US hospitals that needed them, or, in some cases, were being exported to other places that needed them, there's still hope. Just grab and old T-shirt or bandana and you are good to go.

Fortunately, there are some good resources showing you how to make a face mask. See the "Face Mask Guidelines" document and its links at https://healthcare.utah.edu/healthfeed/postings/2020/04/face-masks.php. Special thanks to University of Utah Health who partnered with Intermountain Healthcare and Latter-day Saint Charities to create these guidelines.  

Face masks, hand washing, healthy caution about crowds -- these are principles that can help us cope with infections disease not just now but throughout our lives. That's a source for hope, though I'm still disappointed that the Surgeon General told us something that wasn't very accurate and possibly harmful. Glad we are past that and now have the government's approval to protect ourselves a little more.

The Best News I Had on Good Friday
During my fasting for Good Friday, I received me joyous news from my wife in Shanghai. She reported that a government doctor had just visited her and gave her the government's permission to leave her quarantine. The electronic lock on her door was now removed after two weeks of being under close scrutiny (she was allowed to open the door during 3 brief intervals each day in order to receive ordered food or to place a garbage back outside her door). At last, now she can step outside her apartment. She was even allowed to go jogging, a freedom millions of Americans may now lack or soon will lack (sorry, Chicago!). There will still be restrictions on movement, but she has an app on her phone showing a QR code that can prove she's been given the government's thumb of approval, after a successful quarantine apparently free of the virus, so now she can move about the city and enter one of Shanghais numerous malls, for example.

Being locked up in her apartment for two weeks was a remarkable blessing, as a matter of fact, compared to be quarantined elsewhere. Two of her friends returning to China were not so lucky. They were required to go to a government quarantine facility, a converted hotel, and to pay for two weeks of a hotel stay plus additional fees to get delivered meals. For at least one friend, that was a huge financial blow. There were other challenges. For safety, the heating was turned off so there was no air conditioning to spread germs. But it was cold, and one friend of ours in such a place had just come from warm Singapore without many warm clothes, so it was really hard. Fortunately, friends from our branch were able to bring a space heater to his facility and asked the guards to give it to him, and I understand that worked. For another friend, staying in the facility was physically challenging for other reasons. I won't go into details because they might be perceived as just rumors, but it's understandable that being held in any government facility in any country can be challenging and can impose difficulties that might not exist when one is free to just walk down the street and buy whatever one wishes to eat or drink, for example.

China's system is different than ours. There is much to respect in China (their advances in innovation and strong intellectual property rights, for example, are remarkable, and I even had surgery there in a low-cost public hospital and had a remarkably positive experience), but there are also some things that we US citizens will disagree with in light of our ways, our systems, and our traditions. I have no right to tell China how to run their country, but as a US citizen in a nation with a very different system and very different history, I not only have the right but a duty to be involved here and to stand up for the US Constitution. I can and should say that under our system and with our heritage, it would be a dramatic loss of the liberties our Founding Fathers fought to secure for us if US citizens need to have government approval to leave our homes or go to work or travel anywhere, even though Dr. Fauci may favor that idea. Some other nations require their citizens to have government papers in order travel and are subject to arrest for seemingly arbitrary reasons by overly powerful police. Are we on that path? If so, it's time for a detour. And in the war against the virus, once again, maybe it's time we give peace (and liberty) a chance.

Here's a fair question and a reasonable answer I just saw from Congressman Justin Amash:

https://twitter.com/justinamash/status/1248641039830745090?s=20


I am deeply concerned about the far-reaching side-effects of the political actions being taken to cope with the virus. First, it seems like many things are being done in bad faith, almost as if some governors and mayors want the populace to be as unhappy as possible (is there algorithm something like more pain = more hate for Trump, perhaps?), or as if politicians see this as an excuse to slip all sorts of mischief and corruption into emergency bills that few have time to scrutinize or even skim carefully. Some of the steps being taken could do lasting harm, decades of harm, long after we've reached herd immunity to this virus.

To prevent tens of thousands of deaths mostly among us older people (I'm in a higher risk age group), the entire nation is being hurt in ways that could lead to many more deaths. The lack of exercise due to closed gyms and having to stay at home can exacerbate hypertension and heart disease, which are huge killers. The failure of millions to see doctors for routine checkups could lead to many failing to be diagnosed for cancer or other diseases where early diagnosis is critical. Some states are seeing suicides spike and outpace COVID-19 deaths. For those with mental health issues, the lockdown is horrific. The vast unemployment being created by government decrees can lead to numerous health issues. Healthy diets are less likely under these conditions. As I've seen in my travels around the world, poverty is debilitating. It leads to so much heart break, so much suffering. We need to lift people out of poverty, and the rise of the US economy again can help lift other nations. For their good and ours, I pray that we can shake off these chains and revitalize our economy. As an older guy with not such great lungs, I'd rather be at elevated risk of death by COVID-19 than see the future of our young people jeopardized in the need of keeping me safe. We don't want anyone to die early, but there's a balance that must be made with the welfare of our future generations in mind, and that welfare is being shot today.

Speaking of balance, in late March I heard an interview with Dr. Fauci in which he was asked if he looks at the big picture such as the impact on the economy, on jobs, on other aspects of life when he makes recommendations. He said no, his entire focus is on the medical issues:
No, I don’t consider the balancing act; that is a very good question. The president has the awesome responsibility of considering every aspect of this. I just give public health advice completely clean, unconnected with anything else. He has to factor in other things. And that’s the way he operates; he takes in advice from a number of people from a number of different vantage points and then he makes his decision.
Wait, is he serious? Everyone in the media and in Washington seems to be relying on him as the  COVID-19 guru for policy decisions, for clues about when we can open up the economy again and what we need to do. He's making statements about why we need to keep the lockdowns going longer, a major policy matter that goes far beyond pure medical science. His statements are driving policy, but admittedly lack consideration of the economic impacts (and the massive indirect health impacts). So if he were in charge of a task force to reduce automobile deaths, would we all be locked in our homes because that will drop auto fatalities to zero? Heaven help us -- and while I'm serious about that request, heaven's help often requires that we do something first.

The crisis we are in is not just one of health, and not even one about the economy, but a crisis in the battle for liberty. I have been praying that leaders might be more wise, but also that people might be more wise in resisting the erosion of their liberties and the theft of the nation's wealth. We need miracles and good news, not just for coping with one virus, but with the viral tendency to erode liberty and to exercise unrighteous dominion over others -- something that every petty official in the country seems to be doing these days. Imagine fining people for jogging outdoors, handcuffing and dragging away a man in an empty park for playing with his wife and daughter (hey, Colorado folks, that happened in your state!), banning of non-essential medical services (a mindless move that is punishing health care workers as well as patients), and releasing violent criminals including child molesters using the virus as an excuse. These are among the assaults to reason, public welfare, and liberty that have been occurring. Shake off those chains!

Religious liberty, one of the fundamental principles behind the rise of this nation and one of the first rights specifically protected in the Bill of Rights, may be at risk. I appreciate the way our Church has called off meetings. That's a responsible, voluntary action. But if a group of believers in some other faith wish to gather, even if we think it is irresponsible, what right do we have to stop them? Or to threaten them with permanently closing their churches, as Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City did? In a letter from some of members of Congress to President Trump calling for protection of our religious freedom, it was stated that "recent reports indicate the Governor of Kentucky will be tracking the license plates of any individuals attending Easter services and subsequently forcing them to quarantine for fourteen days. There is no place for this behavior in America." Looks like we need to include Kentucky in our prayers. The idea of police tracking down and forcing quarantine on citizens for choosing to attend an Easter service seems outrageous. This is still America.

Hey, here's an idea. Why not get creative but also very safe, and hold a drive-in religious service where every stays in their cars, apart from everyone else, with your windows rolled up while listening to a lonely preacher in the church preach over a weak radio signal? That would work! Oops, sorry, it was tried by the Temple Baptist Church in Greenville, Mississippi and, apparently under orders from the state, the police came in and fined those religious zealots $500 each for holding a gathering. Honestly, I was really impressed at how calm the man making the video remained as his religious liberties were being threatened. No cussing, no nastiness, just a polite question or too. Well, here's a proud shout out to you innovative and faithful Baptists for trying this and for holding your ground as Christians even as the police came to your cars issuing tickets, as I saw in the video.

If Constitutional rights only exist when the government says they do, and can be withdrawn whenever someone declares an emergency of some kind exists, then those rights don't really exist, certainly not as inalienable rights. We need to be reminding our representatives of this. Meanwhile, I hope we can be tolerant of those who wish to gather in a church rather than at Walmart to express their faith and priorities, even if we think gathering at church should be avoided for now. Let that be a voluntary decision.

Don't overlook the long-lasting implications on liberty from this crisis. While the aim of the Book of Mormon is to turn us to Christ and teach us of Him, it also teaches us about the essential nature of liberty. Without liberty, the work of the Church of Christ can be impeded and the welfare of a nation can be imperiled. The Book of Mormon repeatedly teaches us that there are many people who are looking for excuses to seize power and to exercise unjust control over the lives of others. They will use anger, fear, and even war to manipulate others for their ends. They will corrupt the government or ignore the laws or create vile laws to enforce their agenda. They will enter into "secret works of darkness" to gain wealth or power. Those who believe such things are reflexively called "conspiracy nuts" and are told to trust the elites in government, but the lesson of history across the world for millennia is that humans generally cannot be trusted with unlimited power and that some of the worst among us will gravitate to such power. Being wary of human leaders is not paranoia, but the very loud lesson of world history. It is also an important theme of the Book of Mormon which teaches us not to be naive, not to blindly trust those seeking for power, but to recognize that there may be corruption and danger. It may be time for us to revive that awareness of danger rather than to blindly trust in ever expanding government power. I may be wrong in my views on what politicians are doing, but in any case, we have much to learn from what the Book of Mormon teaches us about dealing with perilous times. Let's dig in and learn more.

These are dark times. Pray for light, courage, and relief. We need more miracles here including breakthroughs in medical science and breakthroughs in liberty. It can be done.

One final thought: In addition to praying that these lockdowns may end soon, I would like to suggest that in our remote ward and branch council meetings, and in our conversations with family members and friends, that we be sensitive to the sudden eruption of unmet needs that may be occurring among those who may need just as much attention as any victim of the virus, but might be alone and vulnerable due to the isolation created by these lockdowns. When people need visits and attention but visits are banned or seem overly risky, what works? Do calls do enough? Any tips from your experience? I'd love to hear from some experienced people who understand the challenges of mental health issues when everything has become so difficult recently.


27 comments:

C T said...

Colorado person here. Yes, that story about the man being handcuffed at the park is terrible; the officers acted unjustifiably. A problem with giving basically nice people ever-increasing police power is that, being nice, they will nearly always find it easier to use such power against people guilty of minor infractions rather seeking battle with the really bad 'uns.

I appreciate your mention of mental health issues. Until recently, I'm sad to say that I wouldn't have given much thought to such issues. Then in January, I started reading headlines out of China about a new virus. I saw videos of yellow-wrapped bodies waiting to be picked up for cremation. I became alarmed. Very alarmed. Then a teenage nephew was suddenly diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. I became more stressed. On top of that, I was adding large amounts of fenugreek to my diet out of curiosity about what it could do for my metabolism in conjunction with intermittent fasting. Did you know that fenugreek can interfere with neurotransmitters? Or that some herbs and spices, depending upon where grown and packaged, can be sources of heavy metal poisoning that also interferes with neurotransmitters? I didn't.

For the first time in my life (I'm 45 years old), I entered a delusional state. It was so severe that I experienced hallucinations and developed distrust of my husband, who is one of the best men I know, as well as nearly everyone close to me. I was hospitalized for 12 days and then spent a month recuperating at home, mostly functional but unable to come out of my delusions and back to the real world (And don't we all wish we could believe that COVID-19 is a sham?). Mere hours after eating a lot of parsley at our family's Passover seder (we're not Jewish, but we wanted to learn more about Passover) on Wednesday evening, we got our own Passover miracle as I suddenly found myself able to tell my husband about my delusions and thus break their power over me. By the next morning, I was nearly completely free of the delusions for the first time since February. It turns out that parsley juice can help rescue levels of serotonin and dopamine after cadmium poisoning.

If this awful episode could happen to a previously stable, middle-class, professional-degree holding Colorado woman with a happy home life, imagine what the fallout of this virus could be for people with fewer advantages--children stuck at home with abusive or drug-abusing parents, people living on next month's paycheck loan who just lost their ability to drive Uber, those who don't know how to utilize technology to work or learn from home, subsistence African farmers unable to obtain locust-fighting pesticides due to supply chain issues, etc.

We need to control this virus. The US and European death numbers are appalling, especially when one contrasts them with southeast Asia, which was hit with the virus early on and somehow, despite poverty and crowding, is seeing much lower illness and death from COVID-19. Why do we ignore the Chinese researchers telling us that traditional Chinese medicine has something to offer the Western world in this fight? Why do we not look harder for environmental factors--besides isolation--that could be protective?

We need a miracle. Like you, Jeff, I also fasted yesterday for a miracle, that this virus will be controlled soon and life will be normalized. I believe that this miracle will occur, for never before have I seen the faith of so many united in a humble Easter plea during my lifetime. I experienced my own personal healing miracle three days ago, and I know that miracles--especially the kind that science can explain--are real gifts from a Father who loves all His children and wants to answer faithful prayers.

Arelius said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Iceland is a neat place to visit, I have gone there and enjoyed the trip.

One thing to remember is that recovery from Coronavirus is a lot longer than the seasonal flu. A number that I would be interested in is how many people fully recover after being hospitalized? I also suspect that people that need to be hospitalized as as result of the Coronavirus probably spend more time in the hospital than those that need to be hospitalized as a result of the seasonal flu. So, it is more about supply and demand. The demand on our health care system appears to be a lot higher than it is with seasonal flu.

Steve

Anonymous said...

Interesting. As the post says, the BoM "confirms" the predominate Christian ideas of the human mind it was "miraculous"ly transmitted to. It is also interesting how the BoM does not confirm the Christian ideas of that same human as they evolved after the BoM. Still, no one knows why any of this "demand attention", after the all the post says the BoM confirms what was already known to Christians.

Anonymous said...

“When a new virus comes, the only cases known are the real serious ones that go to the hospital, resulting in frightening CFR statistics that tend to decline steadily.”

I’ve been following the CDC website for several weeks now and recording their numbers on a spreadsheet. There has been no decline. The lowest ratio I recorded was 33,404 cases and 400 deaths (death rate of 1.19%). As of today the report shows 554,849 cases with 21,942 deaths (3.95% death rate). The death rate percentage has been steadily climbing as the number of cases has been increasing—no dips or “steady declines” at all.

Anonymous said...

You clearly don't know what you're doing Anonymous @8:43. Many, many experts from actual scientific fields confirm what has been reported on this blog. Put your spreadsheet away, this isn't your area of expertise. No one asked you to do that and no one needs you to. Your lack of knowledge of the subject does a disservice to yourself and others. Worse, sharing your anecdotes in a public forum like this only spreads fear. Stop it.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:21

You clearly don’t know what I’m doing. No anecdotes here. I’m just sharing verifiable information that’s available from the CDC that contradicts a statement Jeff made above. No misinformation or fear mongering involved.

Anonymous said...

Something to keep in mind however Anon 12:21, is that, as Jeff states above, the number of confirmed cases versus the number of actual cases is likely vastly different, which would show a much lower death rate than the CDC numbers would suggest.

Here’s an anecdote for you (pointing out that it’s an anecdote so you know the difference, since it appears you don’t). The mother of a local LDS family of 8 or 9 became ill with the virus. She was confirmed to have the virus by testing. Most of her family, including her husband, became ill shortly afterwards. Because of the limited availability of tests, the rest of her family was not tested and was therefore not confirmed to have the virus (it was assumed they did however). In this case the number of confirmed cases is 1, even though the number of actual cases was likely anywhere from 6-10. So Jeff’s overall point is well put—the actual death rate is likely much lower than what the current numbers show.

Anonymous said...

I'll file that anecdote and your spreadsheets right where they belong, pal.

Jeff Lindsay said...

That's why it's important to learn from places where much more thorough testing has been done, with Iceland at the top of the list. In the early days of this virus, it looked like the death rate was over 10% (11% to 17%, as I recall). It has come down steadily. The Oxford report gives the best estimate from the global body of data, and it's around 0.4% or less.

Yes, this illness is more problematic than the flu, but right now the beloved models from those close to Big Pharma have continually been forced to drop their estimates. No longer can the experts scare us with numbers of 1 million deaths. Now the panic-worthy 100,000 to 200,000 deaths is looking way off the mark. Current projections are putting us in line with what the flu can do. Yes, a very rough illness for those who were already ill or elderly, but has it been weighed against the tens of thousands of deaths that surely will follow from a crushed economy? Heart disease alone from the lessened activity and increased stress is a key factor. The missed cancer diagnoses will take thousands of lives, as it did in the economic troubles around 2008. Suicide and other adverse effects from mental illness is already showing an ugly increase in many regions. But Fauci does not look at this and has said so. Who is actually doing the balancing act that we need?

And the loss of liberty is something that doesn't go away when the panic does. We have governors and mayors acting like czars and kings, threatening the sheople with jail if they go to church or visit their grandchildren. We have nanny state commissars telling stores which products they may sell and telling people where they may or may not go. And now a President who insists that he has "total authority" to do what he wants in telling the states what they can do within their borders. Even if he makes the "right" decision about when to open America up, doing it with dictatorial powers is a dreadful step and sets the stage for ongoing tyranny and total disregard of the Constitution.

The disease is bad. Poverty and a crushed economy is worse. Tyranny is far worse.

Shake off the chains.

Anonymous said...

Jeff your weasel words are out in full force. I'm once again forced to ignore your supposed wisdom because, just as with your attempts at Mormon apologetics, you aren't actually an expert on these things. You're just some guy with access to the same information we all have, and a bully pulpit. Take off the tinfoil hat and think about the health and safety of others for once. And keep quiet about your crackpot notions inspired by whatever wild thought skitters across your synapses. This won't be solved by you. Things are NEVER solved by the complainers and critics.
Why not use your free time to do something good? If this really is as overblown as you claim, take a drive down to the frontlines and volunteer your time and energy. See what things are really like right now.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Maybe good news? The CDC updated their website for the day and the current numbers are:

579,005 cases
22,252. deaths
Rate of 3.84%

First decline I’ve seen since the early days of reporting.

Anonymous said...

“ But Fauci does not look at this and has said so. Who is actually doing the balancing act that we need?”

Fauci has been given a problem to solve: “How do we prevent the deaths of the largest number of Americans from this virus?”. It’s not his job to make policy decisions or create mandates. He recommends what his research and experience tells him is the best course of action in dealing with the pandemic, and the leadership is then tasked with the “balancing act” you mention above. Hopefully lessons will be learned about what works and what doesn’t. Also hopefully, “big pharma” that you are excoriating above, will come up with a viable inoculation (unprecedentedly fast) before the flu season hits this fall.

I’ve been hearing some rumblings, but another hope of mine is that your beloved China is put on notice that the handling of their food supply is unacceptable in our current world. They and other large industrializing nations (looking at you India) need to bring up their standards in order to keep their citizens and the rest of the world safe.

Anonymous said...

Blaming Fauci for anything is like blaming someone who's been bound and half gagged by his boss for something. Seriously, Jeff: point the blame squarely where it belongs: Donald Trump.

Anonymous said...

“it looked like the death rate was over 10% (11% to 17%, as I recall)”

Not sure where you got these numbers other than possible speculation of calamatists. The best reliable snapshot we had in the beginning was the Diamond Princess cruise ship which had a mortality rate of ~1.3% (of those infected).

Hoosier said...

Anon @ 11:32

"Take off the tinfoil hat and think about the health and safety of others for once. And keep quiet about your crackpot notions inspired by whatever wild thought skitters across your synapses. This won't be solved by you. Things are NEVER solved by the complainers and critics."

Ironic, seeing that your yourself are a devoted critic of that which meets with your disapproval. I encourage you to take a sufficient dose of your own medicine and realize that Jeff will not be cowed by your complaining. More substantive criticism will be needed if you're going to produce a change.

In any case, I consider it ponderously rich that you accuse Jeff of not thinking about the health and safety of others. From here it looks like Jeff sees the picture of health and safety holistically, including mental safety and the global deaths and despair (with attendant deaths thereof) that come from poverty. Health and safety is more than "not infected with coronavirus." Coronavirus is not the One True Threat To Human Life. We live in a complicated threat environment with cancer and heart disease and alcoholism and other poverty-exacerbated killers waiting in the wings to scoop up those whose lives the lockdown destroys. It is not irresponsibility but prudence to consider that destroyed life quality is significant, as are deaths from sources not attributable to coronavirus. If our goal is "general health and safety" and we end up destroying more lives by fighting coronavirus then we stood to lose, then we have failed.

Furthermore, please put the "tinfoil hat" rhetoric away. Jeff did not advance conspiracy theories or unsupported data.

Please look at the situation with a view towards the future, not just the proximate eradication of the hysterical threat du jour. Shortsightedness destroys things, as do moral panics. Neither are befitting of informed citizens of a distinguished republic.

Anonymous said...

“The idea of police tracking down and forcing quarantine on citizens for choosing to attend an Easter service seems outrageous.”

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/bishop-who-preached-god-larger-dreaded-virus-dies-covid-19-n1183281

Jeff Lindsay said...

"Not sure where you got these numbers..."

The Lancet is a world-renowned medical journal. I read their very early publication from Jan. 24, 2020 with an initial estimate of 15% death rate for those infected. See https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30183-5/fulltext. About a week later, they published a second report giving a rate of 11%. See https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30211-7/fulltext. That's a study I mentioned here in one of my early posts. Sample sizes were small, testing was limited. But this is what happens early with a new virus. High initial estimates that drop over time.

In early February, JAMA (perhaps the most famous medical journal) gave one of the next estiamtes of mortality, pegging it at 4.3%, another reduction. See https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2761044. Then in a global briefing, the WHO released data on March 3, 2020 telling us that "Globally, about 3.4% of reported COVID-19 cases have died." Another reduction. See https://www.who.int/dg/speeches/detail/who-director-general-s-opening-remarks-at-the-media-briefing-on-covid-19---3-march-2020. Other data sources since then have brought the number down further. Iceland puts it well under 1%, and Oxford is estimating it is probably below 0.4%.

15% .... 11% .... 4% .... 3% .... 1.3% .... 1% .... 0.4% .... I'm not much of a mathematician, but I think there's something of a downward trend there. Cruise ships do not give us the most reliable data for the general population because random representative samples of the general population are not who you find on cruise ships. You are more likely to find us more vulnerable older folks there (too expensive and restrictive for me, though I went once for a family reunion and really loved it, though I feared it would be torture) and that can inflate the apparent death rate. Look for widespread testing of large portions of a population to understand the real death rate. Kudos to Iceland for their data.

Jeff Lindsay said...

"Take off the tinfoil hat and think about the health and safety of others for once." How is ignoring the overall health of the nation more caring than my approach? It is precisely the overall health and wellbeing of the nation that motivates me to challenge the unfortunate panic you have succumbed to. Not your fault because the media and the political leaders you trust have been using bogus models to predict that huge numbers will die unless we turn totalitarian powers over to your elite leaders. But I hope you'll look around and consider the many being harmed in the name of simply delaying slightly the deaths of some of us more vulnerable people. You can put your faith in a miraculous vaccine that might never show up (a la the HIV vaccine that we've been waiting for for almost 40 years) and out your faith in a few anointed prophets of doom who tells us we need to stay locked up for months, or you can rise up and get back to life and freedom and helping to reduce rather than exacerbate the ravages of poverty on the physical and mental health of a nation.

Jeff Lindsay said...

"Rate of 3.84%"

I'm afraid you missed the discussion above of the difference between Case Fatality Rate vs. Infection Fatality Rate. Important distinction. The US may lack useful data on IFR due to inadequate testing. The World Economic Forum has a good discussion on why the rate reported in the US may be grossly inflated: see https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/04/we-could-be-vastly-overestimating-the-death-rate-for-covid-19-heres-why/. If 80% of the people infected don't go to the hospital and are never counted, an apparent death rate of 3.8% might really be 0.76%, closer to what Oxford is telling us.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Governor Cuomo said that if all their efforts save just one life, then he would be happy. His extreme measures would be justified.

Many people fall for this infantile logic today. But if preventing or temporarily delaying one death from COVID-19 is worth so much pain and expense, why are we only thinking about that disease? Hundreds die from automobile accidents in New York. Why not simply make driving illegal? Confiscate cars and especially motorcycles. Bikes, too. Sadly, some sports injuries are fatal. Shall we ban all sports, professional and amateur, including a few kids playing basketball in a part because, as we all know, sooner or later someone can die directly or from complications?

For those of you who may have trouble seeing the big picture, let's just look at hospitals. The most common source of the germs that lead to fatalities from hospital-acquired infections is ... (can you guess?) ... hospitals! They are dangerous places filled with drug-resistant germs and viruses, not to mention lots of infectious sick people. If we simply burn all hospitals to the ground and never open another one, we will save thousands of lives from hospital-acquired infections. Don't you care about their suffering and death? There are about 99,000 deaths each year from this source (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hospital-acquired_infection). That's more than we are likely to have from COVID-19. So let's just raze hospitals to show how much we care for the health of the nation.

Do you see any problem with that proposal? Hint: there's a bigger picture that needs to be considered. Focusing on one problem and doing whatever it takes to solve it may make other problems much worse. That's the point of my post. I do care about our health, and that's why I reject Governor Cuomo's outrageous statement and reject the politically-driven push to keep us all locked down even though we've achieved the flattening of the curve that was the motive for the lock down already (preventing hospitals from being overwhelmed: done!). It's time to take of the chains and get back to life and healthy living, not cowering in fear while bureaucrats inflate their power and tell us how to live, when we can work, when we can step outside, and what we can and cannot buy at Walmart.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Anon @ 2:00PM, yes, aware of that. An interesting irony that was swift to be reported, properly so, while hundreds of congregations that met without apparent disaster won't get reported. But I think he was taking a serious risk and perhaps was too careless. When there's an epidemic of anything, it's smart to take precautions.

I think it's wise that we are postponing services in my faith, but even after we resume, there will be the risk that a bishop, missionary, or any given member might pick up something and become ill. That's a risk we've lived with every day for centuries. With the porous borders we have plus international travel, it's a risk we may increasingly face in the future as viruses from anywhere can show up here quickly.

The risk will always be there. But let each community and individual decide how to cope with that risk rather than impose one-size-fits all draconian measures on an entire state or nation. New York has a public transportation system that makes rapid spread of disease very easy. The risk is much different in small towns like Syracuse.

Anonymous said...

How did that fast work?

Anonymous said...

Sure, it’s a government concerned with stamping out a new virus rather than stamping out a new religion, but doesn’t this whole “avoiding trouble by worshiping at home” thing take you back to the earliest Christian church? Just think of it as a restoration, Jeff!

— OK

Anonymous said...

Get out there, Jeff, and do your part! Hit the streets! Just keep away from me and mine.
And you sure weren't lying when you said "I'm not a mathematician."