April 17, 2020
At a time when the news is full of speculation about what will happen when we take the first “baby steps” towards opening the American economy, an intriguing article appeared about a study on infection rates around the world that our epidemiologists might want to take into account.
Professor Yitzhak Ben Israel of Tel Aviv University did a study of new coronavirus infection rates in the US, UK, Sweden, Israel, Italy, Switzerland, France, Germany and Spain. What he found is is very...well, it’s hard to know what to make of it.
When he compared a quarantined nation such as Israel with a business-pretty-much-as-usual nation such as Sweden, the coronavirus peaked and subsided in exactly the same way. And ALL the graphs looked the same.
"His graphs show that all countries experienced seemingly identical coronavirus infection patterns,” reports Marina Medvin in her piece for TOWNHALL, “with the number of infections peaking in the sixth week and rapidly subsiding by the eighth week.” The Wuhan virus follows its own fixed infection pattern, the professor suggested, that is not dependent on freedom or quarantine. In other words, even if people are having contact with each other, there is a natural decline in the number of infections.
"Expansion begins exponentially but fades quickly after about eight weeks,” he said. He doesn’t know why this happens, but speculates that it’s climate-related or is just the life cycle of the virus. (I would add that if it's climate-related, we would likely have a "second wave" in the fall and winter. But maybe by then we'd have a much better idea of how to treat it.)
The professor even has a possible explanation for Italy’s staggering 12 percent mortality rate: the health care system there. “The health care system in Italy has its own problems,” he said. “It has nothing to do with coronavirus. In 2017 it also collapsed because of the flu.” And Italy does have high flu mortality rates as well, especially compared with a country such as Germany, which has low coronavirus infections and mortality rates and also low flu rates. (I'm no epidemiologist, but I would add that Italy also has a population that skews very old.)
Although he does recommend moderate social distancing, Prof. Ben Israel says his data from the past 50 days do not support the quarantine or the economic shut-down. He calls the reaction in Israel “mass hysteria,” saying, “I have no other way to describe it...4,500 people die each year from the flu in Israel because of complications, so, close a country because of that? No. I don’t see a reason to do that because of a lower-risk epidemic.”
Of course, he has the benefit of hindsight, as well as the data he’s collected over the past 50 days. At the start of this, there was no way to plot the “life cycle” of the virus on a graph. For all we knew, the infection rate would increase exponentially and then just continue...exponentially. The British computer model used by Dr. Fauci was developed by a researcher named Professor Neil Ferguson, who reportedly has a history of wildly overestimating mortality rates. It was his model that predicted we’d have 2.2 million deaths in the United States and 500,000 deaths in the U.K. Both those figures have been revised very dramatically downward.
Certainly we had to err on the side of caution rather than risk millions of deaths. But this professor's research should be weighed now in any decision on when and how to start living our lives.
Here is his original interview with the Israeli news outlet Mako.