On COVID numbers

Tank Green/ January 16, 2022/ COVID-19, Thoughts

I was very lucky to get COVID very, very early on in the pandemic. I say lucky because before catching it, like everyone else, I was subject to high levels of fear about the virus, as it was so unknown and I have quite a bad history with the flu turning into pneumonia. So I was always grateful that I had gotten it early on so that I could step free from the fear of what might happen and know the truth: for healthy people like me, COVID is no worse than medium flu.

So with my fear dissipated, I was able to think more clearly about what was unfurling and I came to the following conclusions:

  1. Lockdowns were a bad idea: we need(ed) to properly protect the clinically at risk (old people, immunocompromised people, etc.), and let everyone else catch the virus and move on. (What I now know to be called “focussed protection“, but I had not heard of it at the time. Incidentally, I think the main failure of this proposal was the use of the technical term “herd immunity”. Most people had never heard of it, did not know it was technical language, and so balked at what sounded like treating us like cattle.)
  2. I noticed the U-turns of Chris Whitty and the WHO who went from saying masks were of no real use in prevention or transmission, to supporting mandates for them when the political tide turned in their favour. So it was clear that the advice being given out by the so-called experts was politically motivated.
  3. Case numbers were irrelevant since we had no baseline: we did not test widely for other viruses to know what the prevalence of non-symptomatic viruses are in the population. I knew enough to know our bodies are an ecology of human cells plus a wide range of bacteria, viruses, and fungi, so what did it matter if we tested positive for a virus that had no impact on the person being tested? (I mention this in passing here.)
  4. The lack of discussion around risk stratification was also a red flag to me. The fact that people seemed convinced that there was equal level of risk across all the population when all of the data from PHE/UKHSA showed that to be an egregious lie. (Even worse, all those people who had gotten mild COVID, but were still acting like they would die if they got it again.)
  5. The denials of natural immunity and of risk in the mass vaccination drives (not to mention the foul coercion of them). When the truth is that, as Dr Steve James said, for some of us (i.e. healthy people who have already had COVID), there are no rewards in the vaccine, only risk.
  6. I was highly suspicious of the fact that death numbers were “deaths within 28 days of testing positive” rather than deaths from. Instinctively I knew that if the “deaths from” number looked anything like the “deaths within 28 days” number, then they’d just give the former, but they didn’t. That raised my suspicions about inflationary tactics.
  7. Lastly, and following on from six, I personally know of two people whose (elderly) parents died of causes not at all related to COVID but since they tested positive, were recorded as a COVID death.

But number six, sweet number six, how thee made my brow furrow. I did not believe that we would ever know the truth about from COVID deaths for at least the next twenty years. But then on December 1st, I came across an FOI request on whatdotheyknow.com which made my jaw drop: Birmingham Community Healthcare Foundation had actually answered the question. Between 1st February 2020 and 3rd April 2021, there had been 79 deaths with COVID, and 2 from.

In early December, I therefore set about sending an FOI request to as many NHS Trusts as I could to see if they would answer this question (and some other questions around comorbidities). It has been an interesting experience to see which Trusts will answer the FOI, and which will delay or reject on some (often spurious) ground or other.  I’ll give some examples of rejections I received, make of them what you will:

  • I am not a real person because I am not on social media.
  • I am not a real Dr since I am not on the GMC database.
  • I am a rogue element from a company sending in multiple requests.
  • They can’t provide the answers in PDF, Word, Excel, or the body of an email.
  • They don’t know the answer to any of my questions.
  • They don’t know what patients in their care die of.
  • They are unable to retrieve the information which records what people in their care die of.

And there is also the problem with one Trust, at least, forwarding my request onto a journalist and in doing so, breaking data protection laws…

I do not have all of the FOIs back yet, but suffice to say, of the Trusts who have answered it, the responses are in line with Birmingham’s above, sometimes more so, sometimes less so. By which I mean, it is clear that deaths from COVID are substantially lower than deaths within 28 days of testing positive. It is also clear from this article from the BBC, that the tide is turning on this most thorny and duplicitous issue of number inflation. It seems we shall get to the truth on this after all.

I do want to collate the information but I am struggling with the best way to do so, as the Trusts who have answered my questions have not always done so in the same way. Some seem to have kept clear from/with records, whereas others have tried to answer my questions by referring to different parts of the death certificate. This is not a criticism, I am deeply grateful to the Trusts who have answered me and respectful of their honesty. It just makes compiling the information difficult.

For instance, a Trust may have answered the question of from COVID by only counting deaths where nothing else was entered into the death certificate. In these instances, there would obviously be no comorbidities in the from COVID deaths, only the with COVID deaths (and the level of comorbidities rarely drops below 90%) (example a below). Others have answered it differently; in these instances, the from COVID deaths may also have comorbidities (example b below). So it’s difficult to collate, as we are not counting like for like.

A couple of examples of (a):

Croydon Health Service:

  • 682 deaths within 28 days of testing positive (96% had comorbidities);
  • 31 deaths purely and only from (0% comorbidities);
  • comorbidity data refused

Bolton NHS Foundation Trust:

  • 752 deaths within 28 days of testing positive (92% had comorbidities);
  • 61 deaths purely and only from (0% comorbidities);
  • comorbidities cited included COPD, asthma, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

A couple of examples of (b):

George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust:

  • 424 deaths within 28 days of testing positive (99% had comorbidities);
  • 173 deaths purely and only from (94% had comorbidities);
  • comorbidities cited included hypertension, diabetes, kidney disease, and heart disease.

Yeovil Hospital Healthcare:

  • 184 deaths within 28 days of testing positive (98.91% had comorbidities);
  • 11 deaths purely and only from (90.91% had comorbidities);
  • comorbidities cited included hypertension, diabetes, kidney disease, and alcohol(ism).

All numbers pertain to the dates: 01/12/2019 to 30/11/2021. If the total numbers of with COVID numbers look low, remember that these Trusts may be small and also that most deaths occurred in care homes. (As an aside, many of the larger Trusts associated with universities are refusing to answer the FOI at all.)

My purpose for putting in these FOIs was simply to get to the truth of all this with/from madness. I do not seek to deny the importance of any of the “with COVID” deaths. All represent the loss of a person who will be mourned by someone, somewhere.

Neither is it to diminish the severity of the disease for so many people, those who are elderly, frail, or have other serious diseases and comorbidities. However, as was already common knowledge if you bothered to look at published data, many of the comorbidities are metabolic diseases, many of which can be either reversed or improved by the adoption of a healthy diet and lifestyle. This message needs to be hammered home for the empowering message it is: you can do something about reducing your risk profile if you so choose.

So my purpose then, as my purpose generally is in life, is to tell the truth, even if you don’t want to hear it. And the truth is both hopeful and damning: the numbers have been inflated. Death within 28 days of testing positive is not at all the same thing as dying from COVID. And duplicity aside, that is a very, very positive thing.

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