COVID-19. Part 1 — What could be worse?

READ THIS FIRST:

The data and conclusions below are all factually correct. Although they are extremely alarming, I believe the new illness discussed herein offers us a greater understanding of our current predicament. But please read to the end of this article before buying more toilet paper!

What could be worse than COVID-19?

We’re in the grip of a pandemic. Most of the world is in lockdown, to some degree. Businesses are closing, social support structures are disintegrating, and human interaction is systemically breaking down. In some parts of the world residents are not allowed to leave their homes. Many pundits are forecasting widespread economic collapse.

The justification for all this is that we have a new disease on our hands that is spreading uncontrollably, threatening to invade every corner of the world unless it’s arrested. Every day we hear that the cases are soaring, along with headlines such as “Medical services at breaking point”, or “Virus out of control”. 

Right? What could be worse?

Well, there is something, and it’s actually much worse: a ‘new’ illness on the radar. It actually emerged at the same time as COVID-19 and has risen at the same rate as COVID-19 over exactly the same period of time. But for some reason we’ve heard nothing about it. To top things off, it has exactly the same symptom profile as COVID-19. In fact, the two are clinically indistinguishable!

Coincidence? Maybe. It’s been given the mysterious name “NC-19”. I’ll explain why later.

Getting hold of good data on NC-19 is difficult. At the time of writing, a search on “NC-19” turns up nothing; several mainstream media corporations have, however, been slowly uncovering it, including reporters from The Atlantic (U.S.A.) and The Guardian Australia. I will discuss what they’ve found shortly and lead you to where you can find the data. But first I want to show you something breathtaking from the country considered to have collected the best data on both COVID-19 and NC-19.

Figure 1 is a graph of South Korea’s NC-19 cases, both the cumulative count and the daily ‘new’ cases.

Fig 1. NC-19 cumulative and daily case count, South Korea

For comparison, Figure 2 shows South Korea’s COVID-19 cases over the same period.

Fig 2. COVID-19 cumulative and daily case count, South Korea

Note the similarity. Now look closer at the vertical axes… and hold on to your seat! There have been more cases of NC-19. Quite a few more. Almost 40 times more, in fact.

What’s going on? Why have we not been told about this before?

Let me repeat: The two illnesses emerged at the same point in time, and they spread at the same rate, over the same period. As well as this, NC-19’s symptoms mirror those of COVID-19 exactly.

Oh, there’s one more thing. All cases of NC-19 have been lab confirmed.

The only difference is that the cause of NC-19 has not been found. Of course, those familiar with lab confirmation will ask “how can it be lab confirmed if the cause isn’t known?” Good question. I’ll explain later, but, for now, please just accept that the cases have been lab confirmed, because they have.

So what’s going on?

If you feel like you’ve missed something, you’re not alone. Why have the media been silent on NC-19? Not a peep from anyone. Could it be that the disease is only in South Korea? The answer to that is an emphatic “No”. This is happening all over the world. It’s just that South Korea has published a fairly full set of data on it.

Clearly, whatever we have to fear from COVID-19, we face in a far bigger sense with NC-19. But we hear nothing about it. For some reason, the entire world is focusing on one disease and ignoring another that’s much larger.

As mentioned earlier, reporters from The Atlantic have managed to collate a limited set of data on cases of both (COVID-19 and NC-19) in the USA for the month of March 2020. Again the results are mind-blowing (see Figures 3 and 4).

Fig 3. NC-19 cumulative and daily case count, U.S.A.

Fig 4. COVID-19 cumulative and daily case count, U.S.A.

The story is similar to South Korea’s except that this time NC-19 is only around five times the problem that COVID-19 is. Why might that be? An explanation may be found in the fact that the U.S.A. has come under heavy criticism for its lack of testing. 

Note that the numbers on the graphs are multiples of 1000. That means that, despite the lack of testing, as of this writing the U.S.A. will likely have confirmed more than half a million cases of NC-19. That’s about the same as the entire worldwide tally of COVID-19.

In my home country of Australia, reporters from The Guardian Australia have collated all publicly available data on NC-19. Unfortunately they’re too scanty to graph day by day, but the latest case numbers they’ve cumulated (up to the time of this writing) are in the table below, with their COVID-19 comparisons.

NC-19COVID-19Ratio NC/COVID
NSW76,284140554
ACT3,6986259
WA11,28823148

These data come only from three states; but, as you can see, Australia appears to have roughly 50 times more NC-19 than COVID-19 cases.

Again, why have we heard nothing of all this? Could it be that the situation is simply too dire? The world is almost at breaking point with COVID-19. How much more could we handle?

Discussion [IMPORTANT — MUST READ!]

This is clearly a distressing situation. For many it will be the first time hearing of NC-19. It’s tempting to hope that there’s something wrong with the data. There’s not, although while the media stay silent such hope will continue. Once the story breaks, it’ll be different.

But did you see what I did there? Probably not. Those who understand the situation are likely laughing their heads off, because they know exactly what I did.

I just did to you exactly what the media has done to you.

I used factual data. (Yes, it’s completely factual. You can check it for yourself using the links below.) I presented it graphically and with no tricks. But I made you think it was something big, when the truth is that it means nothing. That’s exactly what the media did to you with COVID-19.

By the way, I was the one who gave it the name NC-19. It stands for “NOT COVID-19”. That’s the only part that was made up. 

So what is NC-19 exactly? The simple answer is that it’s all the people tested for COVID-19 who turned up a negative result. All are identical to COVID-19 cases in every respect except the test result.

Hence:

  • the two diseases emerged at the same time;
  • all were lab confirmed (positive if they were COVID-19 and negative if they were NC-19);
  • all were sick with exactly the same symptom profile (having had to satisfy the same criteria).

I promised that you could confirm the data for yourself. Just remember, I gave the disease the name — so don’t expect to see “NC-19” listed at any of the following links. Just look for the test results: positive means COVID-19, and negative means NC-19. Here are the sources:

  • South Korea – you’ll need to go through all the media releases one by one;
  • USA – all collated for you;
  • One example of criticism of the USA for poor testing and record-keeping;
  • Australia – collated but, as mentioned, scanty.

There’s one thing left to explain. Why did the numbers rise at the same rate? COVID-19 is spreading throughout the country because it’s a ‘new’ virus, right? And that’s what all the panic is about, right? NC-19 isn’t a ‘new’ virus, so why is it doing the same thing?

And that’s the whole reason for this article. Read on for the important take-home message!

You can’t count on just counting.

When something is new — or even not new but just something we didn’t know was there before (perhaps because we couldn’t see it) — and we start noticing it for the first time, obviously how many times we find it depends on how much effort we put in.

Does that make sense?

With COVID-19, we’ve been increasing the number of people we test each day. For example, Australia had tested fewer than 200 people by the end of January (according to official reports). By the end of February, we’d tested well over 2000; by mid-March, more than 20,000; and now, as we approach the end of March, close to 200,000. That’s an exponential rise in testing.

Can you see what’s happened? The more tests we conducted, the more results we got – both positive and negative. That’s why we see the startling graphs above. It does NOT mean either of the diseases is increasing. It only means that testing is increasing. Because our testing rose exponentially, our results — both positive and negative — also rose exponentially. That’s no surprise: of course they did!

But the media have turned that simple observation into headlines such as “Cases rising exponentially”. The correct headline would have read “Testing rising exponentially”.

This covers just one aspect of the conundrum. It’s a very important one, as it has laid the foundation for this evolving apparent emergency. But there is much more to cover. What, for instance, about the deaths? What about Italy? For now, although it may be easy to assume that the more severe later symptoms (including death) must be commoner in those who have tested positive than in those who tested negative, no evidence supporting that has been published. In fact, there’s no suggestion that those who have tested negative have even been followed up — implying that the test could simply be turning away many who are actually ill.

In the coming days, I’ll write more about COVID-19, to try to shed new light on what’s going on. Specifically, I’ll cover the following topics (which in this article will become active hyperlinks as they are  published):

  • Is it spreading? (The entire justification for the current restrictions!)
  • Is it dangerous? (What about Italy, etc.?)
  • Is it real? (What does the test even signify?)

I will also discuss the role that the media have played in all of this.
In the interim, talk to your friends. Explain to them what has happened to cause a perceived rise in cases. With all of us doing our little bit to apply critical thinking to what we’ve learnt of the situation, perhaps we will find a way to restore it in our communities.

Read Part 2 — Is it (or was it) spreading?