Move over David Koresh, today’s mainstream media are the new Branch Covidians

Last month, July, the odds of me dying of or with COVID-19 were getting on for 50,000 to one against.

I mention that because at the time of writing it is a Monday and the folk in the legacy media are all back at their desks, bending wearily to another week of Keeping the Fear Alive.

It must be turning into a real slog for the poor loves. Winter is months away. So, therefore, is the “fear”, “threat”, “danger” – or less emotively, possibility – of a cold weather-related rise in fatal infections.

Though to give the media their due, they are managing to keep a lot of people fearful despite the paltry level of deaths, or even hospital admissions, due to COVID-19.

The legacy media have turned into a new Branch Covidian sect; dedicated to true belief in the undiminished potency of the virus in the face of all evidence. We’re supposed to play their followers, with our attention fixed on ‘cases’ (i.e. positive tests) not illnesses and deaths.

Well thanks for the daily sermons on pages 5 through 11, but a risk that is a now only marginally greater than almost no risk at all is hardly a reason to scare readers into avoiding public transport or wearing a HazMat suit to put away the groceries.

Anyway, it did prompt me to look at some official statistics to try to gauge the actual seriousness of the risk to a bloke like myself.

According to ONS population data, there are around 1.6 million males aged 60-64 years old in England and Wales. Specifically, there were 281,000 64-year-olds in 2019 but the COVID deaths data is clumped into five-year spans. So for the purposes of this post, “men my age” refers to 60-64-year-olds.

Turns out that, in non-SARS times, an average of 303 English or Welsh chaps of my years step off life’s great merry-go-round every week. Over a month that works out at 0.074% of us. Or to a one in 1,350 chance of me winding up dead before 1 September (all other things being equal – which they’re not of course but we have to start somewhere).

Unless we’ve lived dramatically over-fulfilling lives, it’s safe to say we sixty somethings are not dying of old age. Death at my age usually comes into the category of An Unfortunate Event such as illness, accident or suicide.

COVID-wise, how Unfortunate are things at the moment?

Well, not very.

Thirty-seven of my fellow sexagenarians died of “death involving COVID-19”, as the statistics put it, in July. Each of those deaths was objectively More Unfortunate than the large majority of COVID deaths on a quality adjusted life years basis because 95% of people killed by/with the virus have far fewer years left to them at the time (sorry, 79-plus-year-olds but that’s how it is).

Even so, those 37 viral deaths represented an infinitesimal 0.0023% of men my age in England and Wales. So, while my overall age-related risk of dying of illness, accident or suicide last month was around one in 1,300, the chance of the Unfortunate Fatal Thing specifically being COVID was one in 48,800 (1.62 million divided by 37).

Ann Elk’s brontosaurus theory

OK, let’s get the whataboutery out of the way. What about April, when ‘death involving COVID-19’ carried off 900 men of my age and my overall likelihood of being one of the carry-offs was one in 1,170?

I rest my case. That was then, at the peak of the outbreak. Four weeks prior to 1 April, COVID-19 weekly male deaths in my age group in the UK were zero, nada, zip. Four weeks after 30 April they were down to around 50 and by mid-July into single figures.

COVID-19 death rates over time, in pretty much any country you want to look at, conform to Ann Elk’s theory on Brontosauruses from Monty Python. “They’re thin at one end, much MUCH thicker in the middle, and then thin again at the far end.” This is the UK brontosaurus for my age group:

Graph showing deaths of 60-64 year olds in England and Wales from COVID-19 and all other causes Mar-July 2020
Source: ONS Deaths registered weekly in England and Wales by age and sex

Nevertheless, much of the media, especially the broadcast news arms of the BBC, ITV and Sky, seems to be on a mission to convince people that the scrawny tail end of a brontosaurus is really the belly and hind legs of a Tyrannosaur.

Nauseating

I do pick on the BBC rather a lot. So for balance I refer you to this audio package of particularly nauseating pro-the-latest-government-policy-whatever-it-is-today propaganda that was put out by Sky News on the eve of the announcement of compulsory mask-wearing in shops in England.

By the time the edict came into force on 24 July, COVID-19 deaths in my age group had already fallen by 99% since their peak in April. That was in spite of very few people wearing masks anywhere up to that point. Hard not to conclude that forced masking is more about keeping the public off balance than reducing infections.

There’s so much more to say but I’ve gone on more than long enough for one post. I’ll finish with a great video from Spain (hat tip to OffGuardian).

When a front line doctor punctures the lazy assumptions thrown at him from the Covidians in a TV news studio, consternation rapidly gives way to turning the attack dogs on him.

Una cabeza rodará. Though I fear it will be the medical doctor’s head, not either of the spin doctors’.

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