What does the data really say on Covid-19 and ‘Black Lives Matter’?

What does the data really say on Covid-19 and ‘Black Lives Matter’? Featured

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte last week extended the general community quarantine (GCQ) by another two weeks, our fourth extension in 100 days. A spike in coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) infections in Metro Manila, Cebu and other cities prompted this decision.

We are likewise disconcerted by Duterte’s pronouncements that school opening would depend on a Covid-19 vaccine’s availability when, at best, the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared that the earliest the vaccine debuts would be late 2021. These are all confusing. We understand that Covid-19 sets its own timetable, but the government must be unequivocal where it is leading us and if the government indeed has a strategy to defeat the virus. Or are we all just coasting along, coping and hoping for the appearance of a vaccine as a deus ex machina. If this is the case, we are in deep trouble.

Fatal strategy — IATF

Lately contrarian voices are circulating on social media pointing out the fatal flaws of this fight against Covid-19 from the initial lockdown intentionally caused by a shady faction identified as the “four Trojan horses,” embedded within the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID). These champions of multinational pharmaceuticals and health care groups are singularly fixated on vaccinations that could yield billions of gray money, in lieu of “…disease prevenion and control as the only appropriate technolog, which is affordable, sustainable, safe and empowering.” (Dr. Francisco Salcedo Cruz, former Department of Health consultant and Manila Times writer.) This could be a reprise of the Dengue epidemic mired in the Dengvaxia scandals in the recent past. And, again, we have the familiar dramatis personae of the same rogue’s gallery of pharmaceuticals — Sanofi, Pfizer Philippines, Doctor Pharmaceutical Inc. in cahoots with health maintenance organizations. It is hinted that the Deegong may not be fully aware of the extent of the countrywide Covid-19 devastation due to the purported Palace cordon sanitaire that sanitizes feedbacks to the presidency.

Changing profile of Covid-19

But we are not delving into the veracity of this conspiracy within the IATF-EID and their allies at the Office of the President — if indeed one exists. From empirical evidence since Covid-19 emerged in December 2019, we now have a better profile of this coronavirus.

Globally, Covid-19 has infected more than 8.75 million in 213 countries and claimed 462,519 souls (June 20). There are mixed results from different countries — some, able to “flatten their curves” and others right smack in the second wave. The two countries subject to this article, the Philippines and America, have some regions where the virus is spiking after the reopening of the economy; the Philippines with around 30,000 infections and 1,100 deaths, while America has 2.3 million and 121,000, respectively. But the per capita gives us a better perspective of this tragedy. America has 357 deaths per million population, while the Philippines’ is comparatively low at 10.

But what is interesting are two contrasting responses: while Duterte imposed another lockdown extension; US President Donald Trump continues to be in denial behaving as if the pandemic were fading, focusing instead on the reopening of the American economy; a sine qua non for his reelection this November. He needs to perpetuate his self-proclaimed reputation as the American Ppresident presiding over the “best economy, the likes of which the world has never seen before.” But a significant event threatens to derail his schemes. The brutal death of a black man at the hands of the police and Trump’s bungling of the initially peaceful protests fueled the embers of racism smoldering for centuries as the black man’s lot. What was once a fringe movement was given life by the death of George Floyd, catapulting “Black Lives Matter” into the mainstream and tearing at America’s soul. The country is now fighting two fronts — racism and the pandemic.

Data on the pandemic — macro level

Which brings us to the subtopic of this column. The interpretation of data used as an instrument for policy analysis and basis for political decisions. The sad truth staring the world at its face is that the data immutably confirms that Covid-19 has significantly lower contagion and morbidity rates compared to other pandemics; tuberculosis (TB), malaria, hepatitis, human immunodeficiency virus-acquired immunodeficiency syndrome and other vaccine-preventable diseases. For one, TB in 2017 caused an estimated 1.3 million deaths and 1.5 million in 2018. Viral hepatitis B and C killed 1.4 million annually; roughly 325 million are infected worldwide. Malaria infected 228 million with approximately 405,000 deaths in 2018, 416,000 in 2017 and 585,000 in 2010. Morbidity rates from these pandemics are far, far greater than Covid-19. Yet, we never did impose quarantines for these pandemics triggering the collapse of our economies over the years.

The world is absorbing $5.8 trillion to $8.8 trillion in economic losses equivalent to 6.4 to 9.7 percent of global gross domestic product, condemning the next generations to deprivation, poverty and general malaise from whence decades will pass before returning to “normal,” if ever. Covid-19 was an inconsequential infliction in contrast to what we bought ourselves into these past six months — mass hysteria-inducing irrational fear. And that, in the final analysis is what the global response was all about — the fear of fear itself — something America was introduced to by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt after the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941.

Data on US protests — micro level

In the wake of widespread protests, initially against police brutality, US rightist neo-Nazi groups allied with Trump came out with an obliquely different interpretation of statistics provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, presumably upon the direction of the US Department of Justice and the attorney general, and disseminated in a simple message no doubt to counter the raging protests. These disturbing facts were meant to disprove the racial character of the recent cop killings and denigrate the Black Lives Matter protests.
“Annually less than 400 people are killed by cops; 61 percent are white men; 32 percent are black males. Black males are 58 percent of those killed legally by private citizens in self-defense; except 75 percent of them are killed by other blacks. Black men overwhelmingly murder other black people; white people overwhelmingly murder other white people. Thus, this is not a racial issue; 90 percent of blacks that die of murder, die at the hands of other black people. Thus, the gruesome but simple message that white rightists want to convey to black America: Black lives don’t matter to ‘Black Lives Matter.’” (Milo Yiannopoulos, British far-right political commentator)

The two examples on interpretation of data simply emphasize that data by itself is neutral, but interpretation thereof is always seen through a prism of biases. But subsequent formulation of policies and decisions are fatal and dangerous if left solely to the dominant actors. In our case, the Deegong (President Duterte) and in America the Donald. The pandemic numbers are linear and immutable — infection cases-recovery-deaths. While those of Black Lives Matter are a composite of decades of prejudices injected into the numbers thus distorting the interpretation.

At the macro level, perhaps the world needs to pause, learn, internalize and reset. Meantime at the micro level, we all shape our “new normal,” wear our masks, observe physical distancing while exercising our right to protest, peacefully.000
Read 353 times Last modified on Wednesday, 24 June 2020 12:06
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