The Fear Porn That Would Not Die

I have a hunch one day all the corporate media news cum propaganda material on COVID-19 will be reborn as the basis for an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. As news, as narrative, and even as propaganda, it's that bad. It's not even good fear porn, yet it refuses to die.

Our latest installment of COVID-19 fear porn concerns the Omicron BA.2 subvariant, which we are now being told is 1.4 times as scary as the original Omicron subvariant BA.1.

Eric Feigl-Ding, a Harvard-trained epidemiologist who was among the first researchers to sound the alarm about the seriousness of Covid-19, wrote that the subvariant — BA.2 — is “seriously bad news”.

“Even the World Health Organisation is getting very concerned about BA.2 variant outcompeting and displacing old Omicron,” he wrote on social media.

He wrote that news out of Denmark, where the subvariant represents 90 per cent of all new cases, suggests it is having significant health impacts.

“Here is what is happening in the country with the most BA.2 variant so far. (Denmark) has been BA.2 dominant for weeks and have now almost no mitigations either … now their excess deaths are spiking again.”

Yikes! Break out the N95 respirators and lock down the world, Omicron BA.2 is causing a surge of death in Denmark!

Only, it's not. At least, not any more. Not according to the data, which shows that COVID-19 deaths have peaked in Denmark and are on the decline.

This is the expected trend, as COVID-19 cases in Denmark peaked a few weeks ago—deaths always lag cases.

Even hospital admissions for COVID-19 are waning.

With the effective reproduction rate below 1 since February 13, the expected trend in Denmark is for continued decline.

Where the metrics show decline, a surge is mathematically impossible.

What Feigl-Ding is doing is artlessly conflating excess deaths with actual deaths. His “surge" is that more people are dying from COVID-19 in Denmark than expected. While excess deaths are a common modality for expressing the severity of an health condition, by definition excess deaths cannot measure whether that condition is becoming more or less prevalent—the proper metric for determining what is a concern for the public health.

Some data, but most crucially a new preprint of a Japanese study on BA.2 indicates the subvariant it could be outcompeting BA.1…

Statistical analysis shows that the effective reproduction number of BA.2 is 1.4-fold higher than that of BA.1.

…but even so, the variant has not succeeded in producing a fresh surge of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, or deaths.

Which makes Eric Feigl-Ding's hand-wringing simply bad fear porn.