New York Times admits mistake in a small victory for accuracy amid pandemic hype and lies
After I and others reached out to a New York Times reporter about a massively over-stated death rate for Covid, the error was corrected
A sensationalistic New York Times article on December 15, 2022, by Apoorva Mandavilli proclaimed the scary news that some studies have found that even corpses can spread Covid! I won’t even dwell on the degree to which this possibility, even under the terms of the article itself, is so minuscule that we shouldn’t give it even a passing thought (how many of us are in the habit of hanging out with dead people infected with Covid?), but I will relate the way in which an egregious error in that article was corrected.
The article in passing mentioned that the “case fatality rate” for Covid was about 3%. This means that about 3% of identified Covid patients are thought to have died — but whether the death was either “with” or “from” Covid I’ll discuss further below.
Here’s the NYT article passage (the original version is here at the Wayback Machine archive) that raised my hackles, which was first pointed out to me by author and lawyer Michael P. Senger (author of the excellent book, Snake Oil: How Xi Jingping Shut Down the World, which I reviewed here):
After I read Mandavilli’s article I sent her this brief email, in a tone I hoped would not raise hackles and would instead allow a dialogue and a correction to occur:
Hi Apoorva, your statement that Covid’s CFR is 3% is dramatically over-stated. What is your source? I’ll be writing to NYT editors to request a correction on this.
I’ve had a little dialogue with Apoorva over the last couple of years about various Covid-related issues but she hasn’t responded to my emails for at least a year now. This time was no exception as I didn’t hear back from her.
The following day I sent some more information to Apoorva on this issue, in the hopes of making her job correcting the article very easy. Here’s what I wrote to her:
Apoorva, this July 2021 systematic review found an overall CFR of 1% and, similarly, official data aggregated by Our World In Data here shows 1.03% for most of 2022. Here’s the chart:
Of course these data are still dramatically over-stating deaths actually caused by Covid rather than simply being deaths “with Covid,” and this is due to the extremely low or often non-existent causal linkage required to list something as a “Covid death.” In the US now in many states all that is required for a “Covid death” is a positive PCR test within the last 30 days and that was previously 60 days (I wrote about this here after interviewing MA Dept. of Health).
As you know from your own August 2020 reporting on PCR test 90% or higher false positives this is an absurdly over-inclusive definition of a “Covid death.”
The article I’m referring to in the last short paragraph is a story that Mandavilli wrote in 2020, entitled: “Your Covid test is positive; maybe it shouldn’t be.” That story was based in part on her own research with Massachusetts, Nevada and New York’s data on testing showing that 90% of all PCR test positives had a cycle threshold of 30 or higher, rendering them at best “weak positives” and more likely simply false positives (based on the very simple logic of the basic purpose of the cycle threshold to act as a demarcation point for positive versus negative test results).
Still no response from Mandavilli so I began writing a more technical correction request to the editors.
However, when I went to submit the correction request to the NYT editorial team I discovered that indeed a correction to the article had been made. Here’s the offending passage now corrected, with the more accurate 1% figure added, and also two links now added for the sources:
Up to 70 percent of those infected with Ebola die. The figure for those diagnosed with Covid is nowhere near as high — greater than 3 percent in the early days of the pandemic, and something closer to 1 percent or even less now. And the Ebola virus floods every part of the body, so the risk of transmission, even after death, is far greater than might be seen with the coronavirus.
After I noticed this correction I looked for the “correction” notice at the bottom of the article, which is standard journalistic practice to let readers know when an article has been corrected from its original. That correction was still missing when I first saw the corrected text on Dec. 16.
I sent Apoorva another email noting my appreciation that the error had been corrected but that the correction note was missing. I checked again the next day and the correction note had now been added.
I have no idea if it was my efforts that led to these changes. Or if it was Michael Senger’s efforts. Or someone else. Or if Apoorva herself had noted the mistake and corrected it before others wrote her pointing this out.
It was a strange mistake for her to make since she has a masters degree in biochemistry, has won awards for science journalism, and has been perhaps the lead NYT reporter on Covid and public health policy since the pandemic started. There has been an active debate about CFR and IFR and other Covid mortality issues since early 2020, and as the correction itself notes it has been more than two years now since any reputable source has stated a CFR as high as 3%.
In fact, as I noted in the second half of my follow up email to Mandavilli, even the 1% CFR figure is a significant over-estimate. It is now well-known that for people below 65 years old, the CFR is very significantly lower, and the only people to face any significant additional mortality risk are, generally, those over 65 years old (whether vaccinated or not), or those with significant autoimmune conditions or other comorbidities (in the US the average person who is labeled a “Covid death” has had 4.0 significant comorbidities).
This pattern is of course very reminiscent of normal mortality curves — it’s not a surprise to anyone that the risk of death goes up dramatically from age 65 onwards. And because of the absurdly over-inclusive definitions of “Covid death” and “case fatality rate” being used by epidemiologists in the US and around the world, these official data are sweeping in, dragnet style, vast numbers of people who are dying from many other causes but are being labeled as Covid deaths.
I discuss in this piece, with citations to the literature and original sources, the egregious double standards in place when it comes to assessing whether a death from 1) Covid has occurred versus 2) whether a death from a Covid vaccine has occurred, or 3) a death from Covid in a person who has been fully vaccinated. The evidentiary standard for the first category is so low as to be almost non-existent, whereas the standards for the second and third categories are extremely high.
These double standards reveal the games that are being played in a global attempt (intentional or unintentional, we still don’t know) to play up alleged Covid deaths and to vastly downplay both breakthrough Covid deaths and vaccine-related deaths.