The perils of misinformation: Alaska is the latest to feel the effects

All this pandemic needs to thrive is misinformation. You know – the kind where a fact is presented in isolation of other relevant data. Take for example the following statements

  1. There have been 700,000 side effects of the covid vaccine in the US
  2. Asymptomatic people don’t spread the virus

Lets put the first point in contact. 389 million doses of vaccine have been administered in the US alone. Over 6 billion across the world. When stats are quoted in isolation of appropriate context – its misleading. The rate of side effects is well less than 1% – and we also need to know how temporary or permanent the side effects are.

Point 2 – while I’m not a doctor – my understanding is that we are CONTAGIOUS BEFORE WE START TO FEEL IT – therefore in the initial contagious period – most people are unaware and asymptomatic.

There’s no persuading anyone at this time

Another good friend of mine summed it up the COVID situation. There’s no persuading anyone at this time. When the TN governor declares ‘parents know best’ and issues the executive order letting parents over-ride school mask mandates – did that governor look at his own vaccination data? Many rural counties had vaccination rates less than 30%. See analysis here.

Lets look at the impact of biased information on individuals

In this first example – a Kentucky bride to be – aged 29 who was concerned about vaccine effects on fertility – had her bachelorette in the COVID epicenter state of Tennessee – in Nashville – and died shortly afterwards. This happened in August.

Kentucky bride-to-be who hesitated to get vaccinated dies of Covid – NBC News

In the second example – and anti vaccine promoter, who denied the pandemic also died… of COVID

Anti-vaccine activist who said “there’s no epidemic” dies of COVID – Newsweek

Shocked to the point of numbness

In August I went to my local barbershop – and complained that 2 people in the store were not wearing masks. I pointed out some facts – that August had over 700 deaths in TN – which is 6x higher than in June – and ICU capacity was in single digits.

In September I returned to the same barbershop aware that close to 1600 people had died of COVID in TN in the month and decided it would be a waste of breath to say anything. Although perphaps I hadn’t wasted my breath as the one stylist who wasn’t wearing a mask in August was wearing it in September.

TN is still struggling with COVID. While cases are down, fatalities are 8.8 per million per day – which is very high; ICU capacity is just 8% (156 beds for 7 million people).

Alaska is the latest case of the mass effects of disinformation

Check out this article from the NY Times. Alaska’s hospital capacity has been exceeded. Doctors are having to choose who gets treatment and who doesn’t. And unlike other US states – moving patients to a neighbour state isn’t easy.

3. In Alaska’s Covid crisis, doctors must decide who lives and who dies.

Read the article and you’ll see the thread of disinformation. How people are heckling doctors when the doctors give out sound medical advice (not unlike the viral TN school board meeting where some parents demanded kids not wear masks).

Just like TN’s spike in deaths; now Alaska is facing the same. More people died in Alaska than at ANY month in the pandemic. Think about that for a moment: we are 18 months into a pandemic, we have vaccines that prevent fatalities for many, many people and Alaska records its highest ever month of COVID deaths.

TN Deaths by Month

An individuals right not to get vaccinated, or take preventative measures – applied at scale in a pandemic – has consequences. This prevents people who need treatment (like heart attacks) from getting it. Is it really your choice to NOT WEAR A MASK when there isn’t hospital capacity to treat those who need it?

At least some platforms are taking a stand. This week Youtube decided to crackdown on misinformation. About time too!

To close this I’ll say. Its not over yet. Get your information from reliable sources and question those who quote statistics in isolation.

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