One reason why it’s so hard to get Americans to “trust the experts” on COVID-19 is because the “experts” and “authorities” have given us so many conflicting stories. I’ve always cut them slack for getting things wrong: I get that it was a new disease, and new data can require changing our assumptions. However, we seem to have settled on some official assumptions that are almost impervious to new data. And public trust is eroded further when the “experts” keep dodging basic questions.
One question people have been asking for over a year is whether the hospitalization rates used to justify mass lockdowns, school closures and mask and vaccine mandates are accurate. Are they counting only people who are actually hospitalized or killed due to COVID, or inflating the numbers by including people who tested positive regardless of the actual reason they were in the hospital? The answer may finally be at hand.
David Zweig at the Atlantic magazine (hardly a rightwing or anti-vaxxer outlet) reports that the VA office of Research and Development backed a study of nearly 48,000 admissions to over 100 VA hospitals nationwide. It found that from March 2020 to early January 2021, before the Delta variant or widespread vaccination, 36% of recorded COVID patients had mild or asymptomatic cases, which makes it questionable whether they were or needed to be hospitalized due to COVID. From mid-January to June, that number rose to 48%. That suggests that nearly half the recorded COVID hospitalizations were mild or asymptomatic cases or else people who tested positive but were hospitalized for something unrelated.
None of this is to downplay the dangers of the disease (that’s still a lot of people hospitalized due to severe COVID.) But the good news is that this suggests vaccination has created more mild or asymptomatic cases. The bad news is that it suggests authorities are relying on misleading data to impose draconian measures on the entire population. And when people know “the experts” are being misleading about the reasons for their policies, it makes it all the more likely that they will reject those policies.
In short, once you lose the public’s trust, it’s hard to get it back. Particularly if you do nothing to earn it back except to say, “I order you to trust me!”