By: Mark Glennon*

The sad numbers speak for themselves but the full story goes beyond that tragedy. This is about a policy debate poisoned by noxious, politicized hyperbole that has twisted science and discredited much of science and media.

As WBEZ reported Friday, COVID-19 is killing more Illinois nursing home residents than ever – 605 deaths in one week, taking the total to 7,559. Two-thirds of Illinois victims over the past week were in nursing homes, up from what had been running around 50% and was just 35% in April. More ominously, the number of infections in nursing homes soared to a new record, even though that number has been dropping in Illinois as a whole since mid-November.

Since the early days of the pandemic, we wrote here that carpet-bombing the entire state with lockdown orders would not just devastate the economy but would misdirect resources and attention away from the only groups at real risk of death – the elderly and those with certain co-morbidities. Those in nursing homes, we wrote, were dying at a particularly high rate. Protect them with special intensity, we said. Younger people with no preconditions face no material risk.

That was hardly an insightful position. The data, we thought, clearly supported others saying the same thing at the time.

But what was the reaction to our opinion and those who shared it?

We weren’t just wrong but evil, said many.

To Crain’s political reporter Greg Hinz, Wirepoints wanted to “violate all that this country should stand for,” he wrote under a headline about “throwing grandma under the bus.” Our intention, he wrote, was to “let grandma suffer in quarantine so we can get back to making lots of money.” Wirepoints was “drowning in its own ideology,” he wrote, which was some sick form of social Darwinism: “There’s an expression for that: survival of the fittest, Hinz wrote. “Or, a little more crudely, dog eat dog.”

The same story played out nationally with names more important than Wirepoints and Hinz. The expert opinion with which we had earlier agreed was put in a written statement calling for “targeted protection” for the only people truly at risk – the elderly and those with comorbidities. Authored by leading scientists from Stanford, Harvard and Oxford, the Great Barrington Declaration has been signed by thousands of experts and healthcare professionals.

The Declaration is subject to an ongoing, reasonable scientific debate, but its critics often don’t limit themselves to scientific argument, clouding the debate with hysterical insults.

Like Hinz, Declaration critics often ascribe evil to those who disagree with them. “I’ve had emails calling me evil,” says Oxford’s Dr. Sunetra Gupta, one of the epidemiologists who authored the document, who said she was “flabbergasted” by the “vicious” response.

One scientist who also used the “throw under the bus” line called the targeted protection “the epitome of arrogance.” The Declaration is “herding people to the slaughter,” says another headline, calling it a “dangerous fringe theory.”

The media, for the most part, has spread those viewpoints or ignored competing opinions entirely. We’ve never seen a single mention in any Illinois media of the Barrington Declaration.

With nursing home deaths and cases now spiking, I suppose we could reasonably ask, “Who really threw those victims under the bus?” It was nursing homes, in particular, that we said in April should be targeted for special protection.

But that’s not our real point.

Nobody should claim to have certainty until this is over and the final analyses are in. The virus has taken twists and turns that nobody expected, and experts have repeatedly been wrong even on matters they claimed were certain, though they never offer contrition. We could turn out to be wrong, too.

Our point, instead, is about the need to return to honestly scientific debate. The marketplace of ideas is as important to science as it is to everything else. Truth evolves from the contest of facts and analysis.

That’s what’s been thrown under the bus – honest, rational debate and reporting — and that’s our real point.

The contest of facts and idea is today routinely squelched by shrill rhetoric and absurd claims of vile motives, propagated by corporate media and rigged for distribution on tech platforms run by authoritarian oligarchs. It’s happening most everywhere on everything, and COVID dogma is just an example.

Over the course of the pandemic, we and others have documented examples of junk data from both the state and federal government and policies we thought were illogical on their face. When we get any of that wrong we hope to hear about it from somebody.

But we hope more than that that nobody ever says that we were part of the herd mentality now suffocating the free exchange of ideas.

Finally, and most importantly, most nursing home residents probably will be vaccinated within a month or so. Can’t we, at long last, do whatever is needed to protect them until then?

*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.

Click here for links to our earlier original articles on COVID-19.

31 Comments
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jaytrain
29 days ago

The virus will move on : they always do . The lasting damage is to ‘science’ and ‘experts’ . And they will never recover , exposed as handmaidens to politics of the worst sort ,. The media was a lost cause 30 years ago .

s & p 500
30 days ago
1 month ago

On the other note, in the course of my work, I frequently visit nursing homes and retirement housings. My impression is that they take all possible measures to protect from infection people under their care. Statistics say otherwise. It would be interesting to check if all facilities have a similar ratio of fatalities. Finding that is an integral part of “honest, rational debate and reporting.”

Fed up neighbor
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Glennon

I’m really wondering if the clowns in office are getting the real thing, makes me wonder.

1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Glennon

I would start with lifting a ban on lawsuits.

1 month ago

Mark, unless the calcified media structure is having a real alternative, they will control the message. Conclusion, instead of complaining, focus on launching a media that can reach general public with honest “rational debate and reporting.”

1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Glennon

You can do it in two ways. 1.      Invest a few billion dollars in launching a “better media venture.” Good luck with that. 2.      You can invest disproportionally less in launching a social media platform engaging the public in opinions exchange. Paradoxically, when we have the best technology to communicate, we lost the ability to talk to each other. People yearn for it; whoever the first will come with a reasonable concept will make a fortune. As you are aware, I invented such a concept; its prototype is here: http://www.virtualagora.net. Besides my American experience, my idea uses today’s technology in applying the… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Henryk A. Kowalczyk
Susan
30 days ago

This is a brilliant product. Brilliant. You are not only inventing a neww betting market, you are training users to be righteous thinkers with intelkectual-honesty accountability. Bravo.
You can morph into “real money” (which will incent more users) using predictit.org model, or crypto models like Augur (REP token).
Except that in your product, it isn’t about trivialities. And by using your product, the user elevates his own wisdom and analytical skills. And, if humans really are as good as we think we are, you can retrain all our response patterns in a mutually beneficial way.

30 days ago
Reply to  Susan

Susan, I know the value of my concept. I know as well, that ultimately, tokens need to be upgraded to some form of crypto currency.
Unfortunately, to get it going I need more money than I have on hand. Do you know an investor who would see my venture as you do?

Susan
29 days ago

I have emailed your website, we can chat through there?

1 month ago

So how could you protect the elderly in the nursing home that was already locked down?

DixonSyder
1 month ago

Scamdemic to get mail in voting which resulted in the results that many predicted. Politicians, demoncrats, dont care if you live or die control is their objective. Advise and inform but let the people decide on how to live their lives.

Dale
1 month ago

I agree 100%. The elderly and those with comorbidities should have been protected at all cost. We should have also been locking down the sick, using sanitorium-type methods if necessary, and letting the rest of society make their own decisions and live their lives. I say this as a person with most of the comorbidities! Read history – these are the methods, using science, that were used in the past!

Thee Jabroni
1 month ago

Im starting to realize what a bunch of weak,ignorant sheep the populace of this country are.Doesnt seem to be very many people that has any independent thinking,oh,because certain politicians said so,im gonna do whatever they say.It slays me when i see so many people,especially young and other wise healthy ones wearing a mask while in their car by themselves or walking on a bike trail with NO ONE around!-wtf-are people really that scared and stupid?!-apparently so

Governor of Alderaan
1 month ago

It would have been more humane to throw Gran-gran under the bus than the way she was killed by the Butcher of Springfield

Freddy
1 month ago

If gran-gran were thrown under the bus and died it would still be labeled Covid. No one in nursing homes anymore are dying from sepsis (infections)-Alzheimers-bedsores-strokes-cancer-heart attacks/etc which was probably the primary reason they are there. If a fire ravaged thru the nursing home killing all they still died from Covid. 20-24% of all deaths nationwide are in nursing homes or well over 600K.

Freddy
1 month ago
Reply to  Freddy

One more thing. In this season if Granny gets run over by a reindeer? We all know Covid!

1 month ago

BTW, Hinz is just not that smart. He and the world would be better off if he wasn’t working for Crain’s and instead had a blog. His writing is full of confirmation bias and opinion, not facts and news.

1 month ago

http://pointsandfigures.com/2020/12/20/stop-comparing-everything-to-ww2/ They won’t want to follow the data. Instead, this is WW2!!!

Eugene from a pay phone
1 month ago

Many of those whose deaths were attributed to COVID-19 had other chronic conditions that put them into these facilities in the first place. Unmeasurable though would be loneliness or the loss of all hope when an elder enters one of God’s waiting rooms. It is all really tragic,

NB-Chicago
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Glennon

A lot of articales quote an AP news study from November that puts the national “excess deaths” from covid at nursing homes at +15%.. but im sure there are a ton of other studies. Who knows what illinois “excess deaths” from covid at nursing homes are? https://skillednursingnews.com/2020/11/covid-outbreaks-in-nursing-homes-accelerate-premature-deaths-from-other-causes

NB-Chicago
1 month ago
Reply to  NB-Chicago

What is illinois “excess death” rate at nursing homes since covid vrs national average (+15% ?), would seem an important question/ statistic? Does the state offer-up that data?

1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Glennon

On this specific question: what was the primary determinant of death? There are many ways to try to define this. An interesting way is to look at what happened in NYC. See graph showing excess mortality. The virus came and the virus killed. Of course, it killed selectively. But, following the virus retreat, there was no material negative excess mortality ie those who died, in the aggregate, were not due to die shortly. On average, it looks like the virus was essentially responsible in taking away about 5 years of reasonable quality per person who died. So for that specific… Read more »

WeeklyExcessDeaths (2) NYC.png
Last edited 1 month ago by Foreign observer
Pat
1 month ago

My sister died in memory care in September. She walked into independent living in February with mild dementia and aphasia (problems with speech) – happy as a lark with her new apartment. She was getting accustomed to her surroundings, then the shutdown. Her speech deteriorated, her demeanor deteriorated, she was no longer able to walk, her will to live was crushed. Less than seven months later she died in memory care. Cause of death? “Adult failure to thrive.” At least they didn’t decide she was a COVID death – though her death was definitely ‘collateral damage.’ It was the isolation… Read more »

Jessica Hockett
1 month ago

Unless we have numbers for all-cause deaths among LTCF residents for this and the past few years, we can’t really say Covid has been especially deadly among this population. I have searched for that data in vain. Closest I’ve come is all-cause deaths by place of death. (Not all LTCF resident die in the facility. One study puts the figure at 70% who do, versus at the hospital). Per that data, a comparable number of Illinois LTCF residents will have died at the facilites this year as in previous years. Again, that doesn’t include residents who were taken to the… Read more »

NB-Chicago
1 month ago

Once again, has jb, ezike, idph ever released the study of long term care facilities idph contracted with Manett Health back in August? The last trib articale i read about it says they were filling a foia to try and get released? ….Kwaume where are you???https://www.dph.illinois.gov/news/idph-announces-top-bottom-independent-review-long-term-care-bureau-response-delay-complaint