A Sickening Need for Trustworthy Reporting

Nobody can trust what they hear about coronavirus.

We've written at length about the longstanding tendency of American media to lean left and bemoaned the now well-known fact that they're totally in the tank for woke liberals.  As poll after poll has shown, nobody trusts the media anymore, and rightly so.

Yet, all the quotes from our Founders extolling the existential virtues of a free press, so beloved of huffily bloviating "journalists," are not actually fake news.  They were real then, and they're true today.  A free and honest press is, indeed, something that any free nation really ought to have.

In fact, we are living in a time right now where it would be extraordinarily helpful to have trustworthy media.  As of February 1, 2019, The Guardian reported 12,000 confirmed cases worldwide of the coronavirus that's been capturing the world's fevered imagination, and that 213 Chinese have died.  Both numbers are presumably growing grow by the hour: the Wall Street Journal reported on January 31 that there had been more than 200 fatalities and that the number of cases was approaching 10,000.

The rapid spread of this new plague from Wuhan, China to the rest of the world provides a vivid illustration of the wisdom of our Founders, when Thomas Jefferson said such things as "The only security of all is in a free press" - and also, "The press is impotent when it abandons itself to falsehood."

Let's Look at the Record

There are two important numbers about any disease: morbidity, the rate of disease in a population; and mortality, a measure of the number of deaths in a given population.

The difference between these two numbers is the difference between a pandemic, bad luck, and an annoyance.  The common cold has a high morbidity in New England in that a major fraction of the population gets a cold at one point or another during the winter, but nobody panics because nobody dies - the mortality is close to zero.  In contrast, tetanus has a high mortality and kills almost everyone who gets it, but the morbidity is low, as it is quite rare.

The WSJ tries to put the coronavirus in perspective by discussing what's happening in our American flu season, which thus far has been without the new virus:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that, so far this winter, at least 140,000 in the U.S. have been hospitalized with seasonal influenza, with at least 8,200 fatalities. And this has been a fairly mild flu season[emphasis added]

The US Census Bureau estimates the US population at 329.45 million as of August, 2019.  The morbidity of our seasonal influenza is 0.04% - only .04% of our population has suffered flu this year.  The mortality is 0.002%, which represents a minute risk to any individual who doesn't engage in high-risk behavior such as nursing flu patients.

The percentage of people who get a disease who die from it is also interesting.  In our case, 5.8% of the people who are known to have had the flu died from it.  That's somewhat nervous-making, but compared to the 70% of patients who died in the recent Ebola epidemic it's no big deal.

Note that the CDC report used weasel words "at least."  This makes sense - people who get a mild case of any flu are wise not to go anywhere near a hospital where the finest germs in town hang out.  We have no idea how many Americans got the flu without telling anybody in officialdom, and presumably next to none of them ended up dying from it.

Death counts are probably more accurate, but the CDC could easily have missed deaths of old people in nursing homes who were already ailing when flu pushed them over the edge.  Many of our friends got the flu; none went to a hospital where the CDC could count them, so the percentage of flu patients who die is really a lot lower than 5.8%.  To that point, the South China Morning Post published a comparison table showing that our 2019-2020 flu infected 13 million and killed 10,000 for a fatality rate of 0.07%.  They're guessing that only 1% of the people who got the flu went to a hospital.

Their table showed 17,387 coronavirus cases with 362 deaths for a fatality rate of 2.1%.  That's a tiny sample compared to our 13 million flu cases, and the number will get more precise over time.  Their table also shows 10% fatalites for the Sars virus of a few years ago, which would put Sars at 5 times worse than the new virus if the current numbers turn out to be accurate.  In case you've forgotten, the world didn't end from Sars.

To Panic or Not to Panic?

Compare the Guardian's figure of 12,000 infected and 200 dead as the coronavirus spreads in China.  The population of China was estimated at 1.386 billion in 2017, call it 1.4 to simplify the math.  That would make morbidity .0008% because 12,000 is such a small fraction of the population.  There's no point in calculating the mortality because 200 is such a tiny fraction of 1.4 billion.

If we look at death rates, 200 dying out of 10,000 is 2%.  This agrees with the SCMP estimate of 2.1% which is 1/3 the percentage of hospitalized patients killed by our flu.  On that scale, coronavirus isn't worth thinking about.

But are these numbers correct?  First, our seasonal flu is spread the length and breadth of our land by our custom of sending college kids home for both Thanksgiving and Christmas in airplanes whose air circulation systems couldn't spread airborne diseases between passengers any more contagiously if they had been designed specifically for that purpose.  That means it's already been pretty much everywhere it's going to get - unlike a new disease from the other side of the world.

Secondly, we're far enough past our Christmas break to have had many cycles of infection and re-infection.  The CDC's number is based on enough flu exposure to be meaningful.  Coronavirus was recognized officially just over a month ago, so there hasn't been enough time for the statistics to settle down.

To Freak or Not To Freak?

Should we panic about the corona virus?  The Sun reports that panicked Chinese are throwing pets out of skyscrapers because of rumors that dogs and cats can spread the virus, and quotes Chinese sources to the effect that the authorities are cremating victims in secret to keep the official body count down.  The South China Morning Post tells us that Hong Kong hospital workers have threatened to close the hospitals unless the border between Hong Kong and the mainland is sealed.  That's right, they too want to Build a Wall!

Members of the Hospital Authority Employees Alliance, a newly formed group that emerged from the anti-government protest movement, voted 3,123-10 on Saturday to take industrial action in phases over five days.

Why are they freaking out when the "official" mortality figures are so low?  Put simply, they have good reasons not to believe what they're being told.

For two weeks, from January 5 to 16, the city [Wuhan] reported virtually no new cases, while hundreds of officials gathered in Wuhan, the provincial capital, for Hubei's two biggest political meetings of the year. It was only after a medical team dispatched by the National Health Commission went to investigate on January 19 that the severity of the situation became public. ...

Thousands of people flooded Wuhan's hospitals, which pleaded for donations of masks, disinfectant and medical supplies as overworked doctors and nurses grappled with the crowds. ...

Wuhan's mayor, Zhou Xianwang, defended his actions in an unusually tough interview with state broadcaster CCTV on Monday, offering to step down over his decision to close the city - not because of any delays in reporting the epidemic. He said the city government was slow to disclose information about the virus due to national regulations.

"As a local government official, I could disclose information only after being authorized," Zhou said. "A lot of people didn't understand this."  [emphasis added]

Hong Kong residents aren't controlled nearly as tightly as mainlanders and have been publishing their own estimates.

As many as 75,815 people in Wuhan may have been infected with the new coronavirus, according to a study by University of Hong Kong scientists.

Their research, published in The Lancet on Saturday, is based on the assumption that each infected person could have passed the virus on to 2.68 others. The estimated total was as of Tuesday, it said.

This brings up R0, pronounced R-naught, the number of persons whom one sick person will infect.  It's a vital number for estimating how widely and how fast any disease will spread, particularly if the disease has a long incubation period during which someone can infect others without showing any symptoms.  For comparison, R0 for measles, for which we have a great deal more data, is between 12 and 18.

The common cold, which is caused by a rhinovirus, has an R0 of about 6, but that's an average.  Actual results in any group are affected by environmental conditions such as crowding, use of mass transit, weather, previous exposure to similar viruses, and many other factors.  Hong Kong medical people know that they live in one of the most overcrowded places on earth.  Whatever R0 might be in Wuhan, it will almost certainly be higher if the virus gets loose in Hong Kong.

Although the virus has been detected in all of mainland China's 31 provinces, municipalities, and autonomous regions, the disease hasn't had nearly as much time to spread as our seasonal flu.  Given the lack of data, R0 and incubation period estimates could be off in either direction.

Estimation is made more difficult because we don't really know all the ways the virus spreads.  People wear masks because we think the virus multiplies in the lungs and spreads through sneezing or coughing.  It's also being said that it's mostly spread by hands, so masks wouldn't do much good.

Livemint, an Indian newspaper, reports that the virus has been detected in the feces of the first American patient.  This suggests that the virus multiplies in the digestive system as well as in the lungs.  The Chinese haven't said anything about patients having diarrhea which would suggest a digestive infection path, but their medical people are so overwhelmed that they could easily have overlooked digestive issues.  If it spreads by touching contaminated surfaces, hand washing would be more effective than wearing masks, or both might be needed.  Who knows?  We can't all wear bunny suits all day.

Chinese Know They're Being Lied To

When the citizens of Wuhan demanded that their mayor resign for lying about the virus, his defense was that he couldn't tell the truth without permission from On High.  In this one case, we have every reason to believe that he was telling the truth, and his listening constituents had even more reason to believe him - his replacement, if any, would be under the same restrictions if he wished to keep his job and his head.

The fact is, nobody we can talk to - not the ordinary voter, not the mayor, not anybody outside the country, and probably not many people outside the very highest ranks of the Chinese Communist Party - knows the spin the Chinese government wants to put on whatever facts they may have.  Only afterwords can the truth be derived, and sometimes not even then.

To be fair, it's extremely hard to predict what a new virus will do, particularly in the early stages.  The WSJ reminds us of the 1976 swine flu fiasco where the government urged millions to be vaccinated:

Inaction is the bane of all politicians, but a wait-and-see approach is often the most prudent medical course to take. Sure enough, when three elderly people died after receiving flu vaccinations at one clinic, the backlash was so severe that Walter Cronkite tried to reassure the public about vaccinations on his evening news show. In the end, not one person died from swine flu, but thousands claimed ill effects from the vaccine, a number of judgments were won in lawsuits against the government and the director of the Centers for Disease Control (as it was then called) was forced to resign.

Shortly after the NIH declared that a nurse named Nina Pham who contracted Ebola from a patient in Dallas had been rendered free from the virus and "poses no public health threat," it was found that the Ebola virus can persist in the testes and in the eyeball for years after a person is "cured."  It's difficult to detect the virus when it lodges in the eyeball unless the victim starts to go blind, to say the least, and inspecting the insides of testes whose owners want to use them again is even less convenient.

To Jab or Not To Jab?

As we learned in 1976, anti-vaxers have a germ of a point.  Are some people harmed by vaccination?  Of course.  This is an indisputable truth, and when anti-vaxers put forward horror stories of awful and needless deaths, they aren't making them up - they are very much real.

What makes them wrong on the whole, however, is the fact that the percentage of people harmed by a vaccine is usually far smaller than the percentage of people who, unvaccinated, would die from the disease the vaccine fights.  The problem is that, even though fewer people die in a vaccinated world than an unvaccinated one, it's different individual people.

When Dr. Salk's polio vaccine was first being tested, some parents pulled strings to get their kids into the program - including those of your humble correspondent, thus possibly allowing you to be reading this article today - even though they knew that the vaccine could cause children to get polio who might not have gotten it without being vaccinated.  Being well educated as well as well-connected, they knew enough about probability to know that an unvaccinated child's chances of getting polio were far greater than a vaccinated child.  Their acquaintance with polio was vivid enough for them to opt for the lesser probability of calamity.

If your child is killed or harmed by a vaccine though - and yes, this does truly happen, even today - do you care that the odds were only 1 in a million?  Of course not, and people who do not understand relative probabilities kick up a fuss.

Medical uncertainties make vaccination fraught, particularly when news media have lost so much trust.  Walter Cronkite was considered to be highly trustworthy in his day.  His assurance about overall vaccination safety had an effect, but there's no news source with comparable stature anywhere in the world today.

Other Voices

The initial Wuhan cover-up unraveled spectacularly, leaving the Chinese public having no faith whatsoever in official pronouncements about the disease.  Rumors about hasty cremations suggest that the death toll is higher than officially admitted, and a shortage of labs which can test for the virus suggests that there are more cases than currently known.

The LA Times doesn't think we should keep people from traveling to and from China:

But what the WHO is cheering [stopping travel] is both ineffective and dangerous. The virus has already spread. Barricading Wuhan, a city larger than New York City, is very unlikely to prevent further spread of the virus. Current efforts by other nations to ban travel to and from China or to shutdown trade routes - which the WHO advises against - will likely take a large global economic toll but also will not contain the virus.

The Times forgets that when you're in a hole, the first step is to stop digging.  Of course the virus will spread further in America than it has, particularly if the time during which people can infect others without having symptoms is longer than we think - "Typhoid Mary" spread typhoid fever for years despite having no visible symptoms.  But as of right now, airlines and airport passport checkers know who recently arrived from Wuhan or anywhere in China, and we can track them all if we have to.

These viruses change rapidly, though - that's why we have brand-new flu strains every year.  People can have "flu" more than once if there are multiple strains floating around.  The best place for the virus to mutate is in crowded Wuhan.  The virus may not mutate to a stronger strain, but if it does, the last thing we want is for the upgraded version to get here.

Not only that, R0 is an average.  Some diseases have "super-spreaders" who are far more infectious than average.  There's already a hint of a super-spreader, in that 14 Wuhan hospital workers became ill from one patient.

Not all diseases get super-spreaders like Typhoid Mary, but the more people have the virus, the more likely that a super-spreader will emerge.  Most of the cases are in China, so that's the most likely source of super-spreading, so it's just common sense to try to keep any of them from personally spreading their way here.

Forbes made essentially the same point as the Times, and we disagree with them on the same grounds.

The New York Post published "Why Americans don't need to panic over the coronavirus," the most balanced article we've seen.

"Do not let fear or panic decide your actions," a Centers for Disease Control official urged Friday. Those are words of wisdom Americans would do well to remember now that Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has declared coronavirus a public health emergency in the United States.

The CDC issued its first quarantine order in 50 years, ordering all passengers returning to the country on an evacuation flight from Wuhan, China, to stay put for 14 days. Then Azar announced all Americans returning from Hubei province will be subject to quarantine.  [emphasis added] ...

Most important, Americans have reason to trust officials like Azar when he says, "The risk to the American public remains low at this time, and we are working to keep this risk low."

That action makes total sense.  Mr. Obama was lucky that Ebola didn't spread further in America when he didn't block travel.  Ebola seems to spread by touch.  The coronavirus may or may not spread that way, but we know it spreads in the air which makes it more contageous than Ebola, particularly in airplanes.  We favor the travel ban, given what we think we know so far.

We Aren't Alone

We aren't the only ones who value credibility in helping people make sensible decisions.  We don't usually agree with conclusions published in Foreign Affairs, but we've found them to be pretty reliable on basic facts.  In this case, they're spot on:

Public trust is essential to controlling an epidemic, for a simple reason: trust will determine whether the public listens to what authorities advise, such as suspending social gatherings, getting diagnosed quickly, seeking care at certain locations, and agreeing to be isolated while contagious. To such ends, confidence in government action and advice will be crucial.  [emphasis added]

Boy, are they right!  Not only must governments be honest, their commands must make sense.

Several of the SCMP articles cited above tell us that Chinese authorities plan to forcibly convey people who might have the virus to isolation areas instead of quarantining them in place.  Knowing that a cough could be ordinary flu, will sick people be eager to go to isolation areas where they will come into contact with people who do have it?  Or will they hide?  On a positive note, no big shot will want to harvest an organ from a coronavirus patient even after they're supposedly cured.

Known Lies

Lest we think our media are more honest than Chinese media, remember how our MSM treated Mr. Bush's response to Hurricane Katrina which flooded New Orleans:

... the federal disaster response to Katrina was amazing. Huge numbers of personnel and vast quantities of supplies poured into the stricken area in an incredibly short time. The incompetence came from - shocker - the Democrat leadership locally, but the media hung it around George W. Bush's gentlemanly neck. And because he was too gentlemanly to cry "Bull Schiff!," most everyone thinks what was a logistical miracle was a clusterfark.

The media is aching, yearning, begging for the chance to do the same thing to [Mr.] Trump.

Enough Americans have lost confidence that government officials or our media will tell them the truth that they're as inclined to panic as Hong Kong medical personnel are.

And really, that's the only choice on offer.  If we had trustworthy information, we could sensibly gage what the appropriate response might be: check people for fevers who're getting off flights from there?  Quarantine them a week or two?  Or three?  Build a wall and stop anyone trying to cross, as is reportedly occurring in some neighborhoods around Wuhan?

Six months from now, those paranoid citizens will either look like antisocial loons... or they may be the only ones left alive.  Who knows?  We can't, and they can't, because they don't trust what they're being told.

So the only real alternatives are to keep on living life as normal, or to take the most extreme measures as the only sensible precaution possible.  In effect, everybody has just one tool, the panic button, and one choice - press it, or not.  Given the little we know now, we agree with the Post which said:

We're pretty confident that the American public is good with this overreaction - even though there really is no reason to panic. You're far more likely to die from the regular flu - which has already claimed 10,000 lives in the United States this season.

Better information allows for a more finely-graded response.  But the Chinese know that they haven't got any worthwhile information - and, really, we don't either.

It would be really helpful if we had media and officials we could trust.  Pity we don't!

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for Scragged.com and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Foreign Affairs.
Reader Comments

Interesting NYT article on how the iranian government covered up for shooting down the Ukraine airliner.


For three days, Iranian military officials knew they had shot down a Ukrainian jetliner while the government issued false statements, denying any responsibility.

They would have covered forever, of course, if the rest of the world hadn't revealed so much information from sattellite data to photos to video shot from the ground.

Too bad such mechanisms can't see the virus....

February 3, 2020 11:12 PM

The Atlantic has a Sob Story article about the human impact of the virus.


The numbers they publish still seem to be relatively small compared to the population of the city. Is there really a reason to panic?

February 5, 2020 11:46 AM

You're right about Hong Kong having reason to fear any virus that spreads through the air.


has a bunch of photos which give a vague idea of the unbelievable population density there.

There is something utterly fascinating about German-born photographer Michael Wolf‘s Architecture of Density. Hong Kong, Wolf’s adopted city of fifteen years is home to seven million people and Wolf’s images ponder contemporary urban life in one of the most densely populated areas in the world. The structures are mesmerizing and the monolithic facades play tricks on your eyes until you eventually realize that all those tiny little windows are the markers of people’s homes.

February 5, 2020 11:51 AM

Sigh. Forbes lists 10 common misconceptions about the virus:


What they say sounds reasonable, until we get to:

“Work has to be done during ‘times of peace’ when there isn’t an emergency. You have build up trust among the different communities and make sure that there are established trusted relationships between community members, health professionals, and the government.”

Halperin [Chancellor and Chief Executive Officer at NYMC] felt that such misinformation has gotten traction because “a large proportion of the population is not scientifically literate. There is not enough science education. Many don’t even know what a virus is. For example, on the ferry, I met a skilled engineer who thought that a virus is just a lump of protein.”

He continued by saying that “people ought to know and respect the MD’s, the public health professionals, and the real scientists. If there is an infectious disease outbreak, these are the people who are going to protect the public. They are the ones with the expertise and experience, the often unsung heroes.”

He forgets how we've been lied to so often that, as you say, nobody trusts much of anything.

February 5, 2020 12:15 PM

Wow, uyou are right about the lague of fake news about this:

Coronavirus panic thrives on Twitter, and science struggles to keep up


On Saturday afternoon, my phone dinged with a semi-panicked message from a friend.

"I need help from a science boy," it said. Another ding. "I am seeing reports that coronavirus 'contains HIV insertions'." More typing followed.


"A) What the fuck does this mean?" Ding. "B) is it just hysteria?"

The novel coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, has infected more than 20,000 Chinese citizens, spread across the globe and killed over 420 people. At the end of January, the World Health Organization declared it a public health emergency of international concern. It has induced a sweeping hysteria across social networks like YouTube, TikTok, Twitter and Facebook, largely driven by misinformation and conspiracy theories. Hoaxes leap from user to user like a virus all its own.

My panicky yet mostly reasonable friend was a little confused. Those "reports" largely emanated from Twitter and from one particular user: Eric Fiegl-Ding, a Harvard epidemiologist, who had tweeted about a preprint paper uploaded to the bioRxiv server.

Preprint papers are those that haven't been reviewed and vetted by other scientists, and servers like bioRxiv act as free and open online repositories for them. When a manuscript is ready, researchers can upload their findings as simply as posting a tweet or dropping a photo on a Facebook feed.

In the last decade, scientists have increasingly looked to websites like bioRxiv to bypass the traditional, laborious process of publishing in journals. This allows them to disseminate their findings much more quickly, collaborate with other researchers and get instant feedback on their work.

Scientists and the media have wrestled with the implications of this new ecosystem for a number of years, particularly in the biological sciences, discussing the pros and cons of the open-access system and the potential for it to confound, overhype or distort scientific findings. Many have championed the preprint system, others have argued against it in favor of traditional publishing methods.

But when 2019-nCoV erupted, it wasn't the publishing methods scientists had to wrestle with: It was social media.

'A very intriguing new paper'
On Jan. 31, a research paper uploaded to bioRxiv claimed 2019-nCoV contained similarities to HIV, the virus responsible for AIDS. In short, the paper suggested amino acids found in the novel coronavirus matched those found in HIV. It quickly caught fire online, largely driven by a viral tweet thread constructed by Fiegl-Ding.

"A very intriguing new paper investigating the aforementioned mystery middle segment w/ 'S' spike protein: likely origin from HIV," Fiegl-Ding tweeted, linking to the bioRxiv preprint. A followup tweet began with "WHOA" and then another said "evidence suggest [sic] that 2 different HIV genes are present in the #coronarvirus [sic] S gene region."

Scary stuff -- but not so scary if you just scrolled down the page. Comments quickly piled up on bioRxiv suggesting the paper was flawed and the conclusions were rubbish. Jason Weir, a biological scientist at the University of Toronto, was one of the first researchers to comment, stating very emphatically that the report should be treated with skepticism.

February 5, 2020 3:45 PM

You are right in saying that Chinese can't trust their officals. Strictly speaking, our ours much better?

The Chinese doctor who tried to warn others about coronavirus


In early January, authorities in the Chinese city of Wuhan were trying to keep news of a new coronavirus under wraps. When one doctor tried to warn fellow medics about the outbreak, police paid him a visit and told him to stop. A month later he has been hailed as a hero, after he posted his story from a hospital bed.

"Hello everyone, this is Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central Hospital," the post begins.

It's a stunning insight into the botched response by local authorities in Wuhan in the early weeks of the coronavirus outbreak.

Dr Li was working at the centre of the outbreak in December when he noticed seven cases of a virus that he thought looked like Sars - the virus that led to a global epidemic in 2003. The cases were thought to come from the Huanan Seafood market in Wuhan and the patients were in quarantine in his hospital.

On 30 December he sent a message to fellow doctors in a chat group warning them about the outbreak and advising they wear protective clothing to avoid infection.

What Dr Li didn't know then was that the disease that had been discovered was an entirely new coronavirus.

Four days later he was summoned to the Public Security Bureau where he was told to sign a letter. In the letter he was accused of "making false comments" that had "severely disturbed the social order".

"We solemnly warn you: If you keep being stubborn, with such impertinence, and continue this illegal activity, you will be brought to justice - is that understood?" Underneath in Dr Li's handwriting is written: "Yes, I do."

He was one of eight people who police said were being investigated for "spreading rumours".

At the end of January, Dr Li published a copy of the letter on Weibo and explained what had happened. In the meantime, local authorities had apologised to him but that apology came too late.

For the first few weeks of January officials in Wuhan were insisting that only those who came into contact with infected animals could catch the virus. No guidance was issued to protect doctors.

But just a week after his visit from the police, Dr Li was treating a woman with glaucoma. He didn't know that she had been infected with the new coronavirus.

In his Weibo post he describes how on 10 January he started coughing, the next day he had a fever and two days later he was in hospital. His parents also fell ill and were taken to hospital.

It was 10 days later - on 20 January - that China declared the outbreak an emergency.

Dr Li says he was tested several times for coronavirus, all of them came back negative.

On 30 January he posted again: "Today nucleic acid testing came back with a positive result, the dust has settled, finally diagnosed."

He punctuated the short post with an emoji of a dog with its eyes rolled back, tongue hanging out.

Not surprisingly the post received thousands of comments and words of support.

"Dr Li Wenliang is a hero," one user said, worrying about what his story says about their country. "In the future, doctors will be more afraid to issue early warnings when they find signs of infectious diseases."

"A safer public health environment… requires tens of millions of Li Wenliang."

February 5, 2020 4:36 PM

The NY Post has caught your skepticism about official truth. They think the death toll is a LOT higher than admitted. The official figures give the death percentage at around 2%.

If the crematoriaums are giong full blast 24/7 as the Post says, it's proably closer to 20-60%. That would put it in Ebola's class - Ebola estimates range from 40% to 60%. People test positive for the virus without showing ANY symptoms which will enhance its spread.

There are people trapped on several cruise ships near Japan. THOSE deaths will be counted properly, we can be reasonably sure. Quarantining ships carrying plague goes back to the Black Death.

Title: China’s culture of lies has helped spread coronavirus


The publicly reported number of deaths is horrific enough — as of Friday night the toll had risen to 722 — but the evidence suggests that the actual number of victims is far, far higher. ...

One crematorium manager told a Hong Kong reporter that, in normal times, his 24 ovens were lit five days a week for four hours at a time. Now, he said, they have so many corpses to deal with that all the ovens are going around the clock. This suggests the body count must be in the thousands. ...

Instead of transparency, party leaders at all levels engage in multiple deceptions. They attribute many deaths to other causes, like simple pneumonia, and then cremate the bodies before an autopsy can be performed. They limit the number of coronavirus test kits that hospitals are given each day, thus reducing the number of “proven cases” that can be diagnosed. They deliberately underreport the number of deaths, while keeping the crematoria furnaces going day and night to destroy the evidence of their deceit. ...

Now the scope of the disaster is coming through even in official pronouncements. On Jan. 28, for example, the Hubei authorities announced that they were offering “free cremation for the corpses of coronavirus victims. Vehicles, staff, and protective gear are being dispatched to each funeral home [in Wuhan] to improve the capacity of transporting and dealing with the corpses.”

If this sounds like there are an awful lot of corpses to “deal with,” that’s because there are. Why else would the authorities have forbidden funerals and mandated immediate cremation — if not to prevent the dead bodies from piling up?

There is some suggestion that, like the deadly SARS virus of 2004, the new coronavirus escaped from a research lab in China. But whether the virus itself is the result of evil or incompetence, the epidemic itself is a creation of the Chinese Communist Party.

Had party leaders not delayed taking action for weeks after the first coronavirus infections appeared and had they been transparent about the danger it posed to the Chinese people, the epidemic would likely already be under control.

February 8, 2020 8:20 PM

Even CNBC seems to agree that China puts out fake news


The White House doesn’t trust China’s coronavirus numbers — here’s why

The coronavirus that emerged from China’s Hubei province over a month ago and has spread to two dozen countries is already fueling mistrust from the U.S. government on whether China can provide accurate information about the epidemic.

The White House said this week it does “not have high confidence in the information coming out of China” regarding the count of coronavirus cases, a senior administration official told CNBC. Meanwhile, China has reportedly been reluctant to accept help from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and has reportedly suppressed information about the outbreak from scientists that it deems alarming.

U.S. officials’ mistrust of China goes as far back as the 1950s, when national authorities set unrealistic production quotas that led local officials to inflate data. Mishaps with the 2003 outbreak of SARS, which sickened 8,098 people and killed about 800 over nine months, and discrepancies in reporting of economic data over the past two decades has only hardened the U.S. government’s belief that China cannot be trusted, experts say. White House advisor Peter Navarro has even called China a “disease incubator.”

Since emerging from the city of Wuhan, the new virus has spread from about 300 people as of mid-January to more than 64,000 as of Friday — with the number of new cases growing by the thousands every day. World health officials say China’s response to the virus is an improvement from past outbreaks. China has been more transparent, World Health Organization officials told reporters this week. Chinese health authorities quickly isolated the virus’ genetic sequence and shared it on a public database in a matter of weeks, they said, giving scientists a chance to identify it.

A WHO-led team of 12 international experts are expected to arrive in China this weekend to collaborate with Chinese counterparts, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Friday. But praise from the WHO has not kept top U.S. officials from criticizing China’s handling of the outbreak. On Thursday, White House top economic advisor Larry Kudlow told reporters the U.S. is “quite disappointed,” citing a lack of transparency. Such criticism is far from new.

The SARS outbreak
Skepticism over China’s handling of public health crises dates back to 2003, according to Yanzhong Huang, a public health researcher at the Council on Foreign Relations and director of the Center for Global Health Studies at Seton Hall University.


February 15, 2020 10:09 PM
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