Those That Forget History….

Are Destined To Repeat It.

This airplane does not have the measles. It illustrates a study done by Abraham Wald in 1942 for the British Air Ministry. The thought process that dictated the need for such a study is alive and well today. Look at the airplane, now consider the current response to the Chinese virus.

Wald was charged with determining how to make aircraft more survivable in a combat situation. Towards that end, he examined aircraft that had been damaged by enemy fire and charted where the damage was located.

The question was: where was the best place to put armor plate? Here is his reply.

What Wald figured out is that the damage that he was able to examine was inflicted on aircraft that were able to return to base. The damage, be it minor or major did not interfere with the aircraft’s ability to fly.

He was not able to examine planes that crashed, blew up or simply disappeared. He concluded that it was likely that these planes were struck in areas not represented in the surviving planes. Look at the diagram again. Hold that thought.

Setting The Stage

Whenever somebody starts spouting figures these quotes come into play.

 “In cases where a definite diagnosis of COVID cannot be made but is suspected or likely (e.g. the circumstances are compelling with a reasonable degree of certainty) it is acceptable to report COVID-19 on a death certificate as ‘probable’ or ‘presumed.'”

CDC Guidelines

Translation: When in doubt make it up. One statistic I found claimed 29,223 deaths from the Wuhan Flu. What if the numbers were overstated by 10, 20, 30%? Certainly the numbers could be understated. But, where is the potential for money and resources by identifying the cause of death as an impacted hemorrhoid?

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Inspector General interviewed 323 hospitals across 46 States in March and issued a report Monday that found most U.S. hospitals are experiencing testing shortages and extended wait times for test results.

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Inspector General

The numbers game again. There have been 524,242 reported cases. How many were unreported? How many of the 524,242 cases were confirmed?

Here is a link tracking Coronavirus data as of April 9, 2020. There are 524,242 reported cases in the United States. There have been 29,223 deaths attributed to the Chinese virus.

The problem is that the numbers are arbitrary and therefore meaningless. Taking the numbers at face value, the math says there is a .03% death rate.

Keep In Mind

  • There aren’t enough test kits. Testing has been limited.
  • Some people who are infected experience symptoms not unlike the flu and may not report their illness.
  • Many people who die are diagnosed as Covid 19 deaths without supporting evidence. (False positives).

What if: The number of actual cases of Chinese virus is actually closer to 1.5 million? The relationship between the infection and death rate then falls to .01%. That is statistically insignificant.

The problem that I see is if the premise used to initiate an action or investigation is flawed, everything that follows will be suspect.

Certainly as more information becomes available there is an opportunity to refine the original premise. However, there is a reluctance in some quarters, to change. Slavish devotion to process, checklists and foregone conclusions rule.

“I’ve been shot at and missed and shit at and hit. That’s a saying out of my childhood and it’s come true more than a few times along the way.”

Hampton Hawes, Raise Up Off Me: A Portrait of Hampton Hawes

Both situations are unpleasant, but one is easier to survive than the other.