Broken English

I'm beginning to wonder if Dr. Fauci has a command of what I assumed was our common language.  "It's a false narrative to take comfort in a falling COVID death rate."  I assume he's not nuts enough to believe that a falling death rate literally is a bad thing.  What he appears to be trying to say is that it would be a mistake to conclude that a falling death rate is the same as a zero death rate, and therefore that COVID poses no further risk, so everyone should hop into a giant communal hot tub and plant sloppy kisses on a million total strangers daily.

I'm pretty sure that's not what "false narrative" means, particularly since no one is even remotely pushing any such plan.  Also, a "narrative" is not a "plan."  What would the narrative be here, if not that premature death is, on the whole, undesirable? Does Fauci think a narrative is building that a falling death rate means the virus went "poof" overnight?  Granted, that would be false if anyone ever said such a thing.  I think the concept he's struggling for is "straw man."

The idea that examining risk trade-offs between two highly undesirable alternatives (widespread death from respiratory failure vs. economic suicide) shouldn't even consider a dramatic change in one of the risks seems so ridiculous that I hesitate to attribute it even to a hack bureaucrat, but it's hard to avoid the conclusion.  As has become distressingly common in group-think headquarters lately, Fauci is having trouble avoiding the mental trap of assigning every possible risk factor either a 0% or a 100% score.

The spectacle of cancel culture isn't confined to cancel culture.  We're losing the power of rational public discourse in a frantic search for purity.  A minuscule taint of risk rules whole fields of human activity out of bounds.  This gets us padded playgrounds.  It gets us gun bans that morph into knife bans and soon, I'm sure, bans on anything that can be ground into a shiv and stuck in a bar of soap.  It leads to banning substances in parts per bazillion, even classifying CO2 as a toxin.  It leads to a "gluten free" label on my shampoo, for Pete's sake.  It leads to insatiable human-resources departments with reams of policies and mandatory sensitivity training.  It leads, in fact, directly to thought crimes and mandatory re-education of the impure enemy among us.  It leads to a President who drives everyone crazy by habitually having to walk around saying, "Oh, BS, give me such a break, already."


ymarsakar said...


Why though... were they so sure this would work? Because their DNA engineered weapons were deployed.

David Foster said...

I *think* what he was trying to say was probably that you can't rely on falling death rate as an indicator of the future, because death rate lags hospitalizations which lag infection rates. Not well-said, though, and in his position, speaking clearly is pretty important.

Stephen said...

There's also his um, flexible standards. When he is promoting something, his gut instincts are sufficient. When he opposes something, he insists on a peer-reviewed, double-blind study (no mention of replication, but I'm being picky). While the latter is indeed the gold standard, consistency would be nice. Otherwise, explain why you have differing standards -- the urgency is the same. We need better experts.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

It strikes me that it is a mere vagueness. He wants an up-to-date synonym for "bad idea," and that phrase false narrative is floating around in the air, with a related feel, so he grabs on to it.

douglas said...

Stephen, excellent point. Definitely a big part of the problem.

WHat Fauci means is that if you increase testing, and find more cases (but less severe cases that you would have missed otherwise), but the deaths stay about the same, the *rate* falls, but the number of deaths does not.

So, to illustrate, if 100 people test positive, and 1 dies, that's a one percent death rate. If you test ten thousand people, and 900 die, that's only a 0.9 death rate- so lower- but many more deaths- so when considering total deaths, death *rate* is not sufficient.

Now, that said, it's still wrong to say the death rate being lower isn't good, it clearly is, but some caution at reading that as an unalloyed good is proper.

Texan99 said...

I reserve the right to be pleased about an improved statistic even if it's not the best of all possible worlds. We never dreamed, or shouldn't have dreamed, that the virus wasn't going to work its way through the population. It's going to spread until it's stopped, by a vaccine or by herd immunity. As long as the death rate doesn't magically become zero, that's going to mean a steady increase in deaths. The good news isn't that, presto, we have no more deaths, it's that the death rate isn't escalating at anything like the rate of positive-test cases, or for that matter at anything like the rate at which it increased early in the pandemic. Who wouldn't prefer to be on the downside of that slope, even if we're not yet at the bottom?

He may have meant no more than that death is a lagging indicator. If so, it's lagging a lot more than it did the first time around, with no good theories to explain away the good-news aspect of that observation. Is it possible the death rate will balloon again in a week or two? Sure, and if that happens it will be bad news. It's not bad news yet.
To groan about it before we even know if it's going to happen is borrowing trouble.