Epidemiologist Behind Highly-Cited Coronavirus Model Drastically Downgrades Projection. By Amanda Prestgiacomo. No he didn’t. This story is illustrative of some of the nonsense circulating. But first read what the Daily Wire said:
Epidemiologist Neil Ferguson, who created the highly-cited Imperial College London coronavirus model, which has been cited by organizations like The New York Times and has been instrumental in governmental policy decision-making, offered a massively downgraded projection of the potential deathtoll on Wednesday.
Ferguson’s model projected 2.2 million dead people in the United States and 500,000 in the U.K. from COVID-19 if no action were taken to slow the virus and blunt its curve.
However, after just one day of ordered lockdowns in the U.K., Ferguson is presenting drastically downgraded estimates, revealing that far more people likely have the virus than his team figured.
Now, the epidemiologist predicts, hospitals will be just fine taking on COVID-19 patients and estimates 20,000 or far fewer people will die from the virus itself or from its agitation of other ailments, as reported by New Scientist Wednesday.
Ferguson thus dropped his prediction from 500,000 dead to 20,000.
Author and former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson broke down the bombshell report via Twitter on Thursday morning (view Twitter thread below).
“This is a remarkable turn from Neil Ferguson, who led the [Imperial College] authors who warned of 500,000 UK deaths — and who has now himself tested positive for #COVID,” started Berenson.
“He now says both that the U.K. should have enough ICU beds and that the coronavirus will probably kill under 20,000 people in the U.K. — more than 1/2 of whom would have died by the end of the year in any case [because] they were so old and sick,” he wrote.
Seems clear enough, and very newsworthy, right? It is also what many were hoping for…
Here is the full report by Neil Ferguson’s team at Imperial College, UK. Huh? Nothing like what the article promised.
Here is Carl Bergstrom, professor of biology at the University of Washington:
Here is Neil Ferguson, after all the above, politely correcting Amanda:
I think it would be helpful if I cleared up some confusion that has emerged in recent days. Some have interpreted my evidence to a UK parliamentary committee as indicating we have substantially revised our assessments of the potential mortality impact of COVID-19.
This is not the case. Indeed, if anything, our latest estimates suggest that the virus is slightly more transmissible than we previously thought. Our lethality estimates remain unchanged.
My evidence to Parliament referred to the deaths we assess might occur in the UK in the presence of the very intensive social distancing and other public health interventions now in place.
Without those controls, our assessment remains that the UK would see the scale of deaths reported in our study (namely, up to approximately 500 thousand).
The Daily Wire has since issued an update (the text quoted above is before the correction):
Correction: The original title of this article incorrectly suggested that Neil Ferguson stated his initial model was wrong. The article has been revised to make clear that he provided a downgraded projection given the new data and current mitigation steps.
The same sort of nonsense is rife in climate change. Politicization and polarization has given truth a big beating. Certain political camps only want to hear certain sorts of news, so that is all they hear.
Here’s Bergstrom again:
I see so much of this. Scientists create models and make predictions trying to understand the epidemic. These predictions are immediately picked up and pigeonholes into ideological bins by people who either don’t have any idea how science works….
Whatever you think about the numbers in the first and second Imperial College models, please recognize that these are models of two very different scenarios. It doesn’t make sense to call this a reversal. …
Perhaps that was dreadfully naive of me, but the world has changed in profound ways since even 2010. Social media, hyper-partisanship, the broad populist distrust of experts, plummeting standards of factfulness in political discourse. …
What is so terrible about the politicization of this pandemic is this: what people believe impacts how they behave, and it impacts the ability of our governments to muster the political will to enact the measures we need to slow and ultimately stop the spread of the virus.