Following the (Actual) Science on COVID

I need to start by defining science. Science is simply the observation, analysis, and study of things to understand them. Science offers no opinion and doesn't tell you what to do. "Following the science" really means collecting and analyzing data to understand How Things Are. What we do with that knowledge is up to us. All data below is from the CDC or the Texas Department of State Health Services.


Let's Follow the Science

There's a new focus, with the rise of the COVID Delta Variant, to shut down schools, or at the very least to require mandatory masking of everyone at schools. The rise in cases is touted daily, and a particular focus is put on increasing cases in children. I've heard people say that the Delta Variant "goes after children" and puts children at particular risk.


Take, for example, this Atlantic article, "Delta is Bad News for Kids" which says, "child hospitalizations have now reached an all-time pandemic high."


Despite its grim title, it admits this near the bottom: "Although Delta is a more cantankerous version of the virus than its predecessors, researchers don’t yet have evidence that it is specifically worse for children, who are still getting seriously sick only a small fraction of the time. Less than 2 percent of known pediatric COVID-19 cases, for instance, result in hospitalization, sometimes far less." [Emphasis added].


This is borne out by the CDC table linked in the very sentence in the article which sounds the alarm about child hospitalizations reaching an all-time pandemic high. It's true--here's the chart showing hospital admissions for ages 0-17 jumped from .3 per 100,000 population at its peak in January to .39 in August! That spike looks alarming until you realize it's showing that hospitalizations increased from 3 per million people to 4...

CDC Hospital Admissions Ages 0-17

There was likewise a report a week-and-a-half ago that there were no more pediatric ICU beds in North Texas Trauma Service Area E. The news articles I read not only mentioned an "unusual amount of pediatric respiratory syncytial virus patients," but kept referring to "staffed" ICU beds rather than the number of pediatric COVID cases.


That begs several questions, not least of which is whether there is a shortage of beds or of staff. Well, I heard a few days later that the issue was twofold: 1) more (mostly unvaccinated) adults were winding up in the ICUs, so they started putting them in pediatric beds and 2) there was a shortage of staff due to more and more being forced to choose between the jab or their job. So it wasn't that all the beds were full of kids on ventilators, it was that there were a bunch of empty beds. Indeed, as of tonight, the Texas DSHS website is showing Trauma Service Area E as having 66 available ICU beds, and COVID hospitalizations account for only 19.5 percent of hospital capacity. See below.

Available ICU Beds
Hospital Capacity

What We Actually Care About

We carry all sorts of bacteria and viruses all the time, and we don't care about them. Why? Because we never realize we're carrying them, because they don't affect us. We shouldn't feel alarm over anything that doesn't affect us. For those over 65, COVID is serious business. For other adult-type-beings, it's a mild risk, and for children, it's negligible compared to other risks.


As of this writing, the CDC reports 361 child deaths (ages 0-17) involving COVID over the last 18 months. Any child death is tragic, but there is no way to eliminate the risk of death from life, so we must look at what a tolerable risk level is. Compare child deaths from COVID to some other causes of death:

I don't want any child to die, but in a country with 84 million children, it's tragically going to happen. Some people will think I'm heartless and cruel for discussing the reality that children die, but reality is still reality, and even if we take unbelievably drastic measures, we still cannot prevent all child death.


The truth, demonstrated by the CDC's own data, is that the Delta Variant is no more dangerous to children than any other variant has been since the beginning.


Here is a spreadsheet summarizing all of this. The statistics are taken from CDC data at various times: right at the beginning, last July, last September, December-January, June, and within the last month. The dates are for the week ending in that date. Columns in red are during particularly high case counts, columns in green are particularly low, and yellow are middling. The first column is in purple because testing was not widely available, and so we didn't have any accurate measure of the number of cases. Deaths, however, are pretty accurate because nobody dies without it being noticed.


I've taken the count of deaths for one week and for two weeks after the date of the case counts, because it takes that long on average before someone dies from COVID, and I've provided an average of the death counts for one and two weeks following the case count. I have not provided statistics for the most recent two weeks because there is a lag before the data is available from the CDC.


The real story is in the trending of deaths versus cases. Look at the charts below showing cases since the beginning of the pandemic versus deaths--including from the much-hyped Delta Variant. Cases and deaths both peaked around January. But while cases have made a couple of resurgences, deaths have plummeted and stayed low. The difference? The vaccines are widely available, and with the few exceptions of adults who are unable to receive the vaccine, everyone who wants to be vaccinated is able to be vaccinated.


We were never going to be able to stop this virus. The time for that was in Wuhan, and the Chinese Communist Party didn't care. With the widespread availability of the vaccine, let alone natural immunity from those who have had COVID, it's time to get on with our lives and adapt to the virus as a species. It's bad enough that we're promulgating fear and paranoia into adults--there is no justification for promulgating it amongst our children.












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