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All That and a Bag of Mail

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It’s Friday, which means it’s time for the mailbag to entertain you.

So let’s roll.

Not surprisingly, most of the questions rolling in still deal with the coronavirus.

So let’s start there:

First, the good news, we are now kicking the coronavirus’s ass. We have had five straight days of declining total new cases — even as the number of tests being run have increased substantially — and the virus appears to have either peaked in total deaths or nearly peaked. Now the debate on the coronavirus will soon turn to how soon should we all go back to work.

Second, we now know most “expert” models have been wildly inaccurate. We have moved from the mainstream media sharing fear porn that predicted over two million people would die in the United States to a situation where, at least according to the IHME model, we’re likely to end up somewhere below 60,000 total deaths.

Plainly that’s a massive flaw in prognostication.

Why have these models been so wildly inaccurate? Because we still don’t know the basics on the coronavirus. How deadly is it? We don’t know because we don’t have an accurate number of total infections. How contagious is it? We still don’t know because we don’t have an accurate number of infections. These make any existing models likely to be wildly inaccurate since the models are only as reliable as the input data.

But, of course, it hasn’t stopped — and didn’t stop — the mainstream media from sharing these models with reckless abandon.

I’m getting attacked now because I wrote this on Outkick back in early March: (I’d actually encourage you to go read what I wrote in the mailbag over a month ago because everything I wrote pretty much stands up, except for the part relying on Chinese numbers.)

Here’s the one paragraph taken out of thousands of words that has the coronabros all hot and heavy on social media:

“China has been through the worst of the virus and emerged on the other side. And the worst of the virus appears to have cost them about 3,000 lives. Given that their country has over triple our country’s population, I’d put the likely coronavirus death total at around 1,000 people in the United States, almost all of them elderly and already ill. To be sure this isn’t ideal, especially since I hate death more than everyone in the country, but we’re talking about the coronavirus killing far fewer people in our country than the seasonal flu does on a yearly basis.” 

So as I told you guys several weeks ago I was wrong to rely on China’s numbers to forecast American deaths. We now know these Chinese numbers are lies, but we didn’t know that a month ago when I wrote on Outkick about the coronavirus in Asia. However even with that China falsehood included in my analysis, the numbers in Asia from South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore convinced me the virus would be less deadly than the millions of deaths that were being forecasted a month ago.

Was I perfect with what I wrote a month ago? No. I mean, who was perfect with analyzing the virus over a month ago? Almost no one, including the governor of New York and the mayor of New York city.

Was I closer to right than all the models showing millions of deaths — or even hundreds of thousands of deaths — that have been shared? Yes.

Here are the other articles I’ve written about the coronavirus on Outkick in the past month and change. I’d encourage you to read them all if you want a full context of what I’ve written (and said):

March 13th on the coronavirus

March 18th on the coronavirus

March 20th on the coronavirus

March 27th on the coronavirus

April 3rd on the coronvarivus

I’m not trying to hide the ball here. If anything, I think I’ve been the most reasonable, non-panicked person in sports media — and maybe the mainstream media overall — as we’ve dealt with this coronavirus story.

But, again, yo don’t have to take my word for it, you can go read it yourself.

It seems the scientific consensus is moving in the direction which I’ve been pushing for weeks now — that the virus is far more common, and far less deadly — than initially feared. I’m not alone on this island, these are opinions that have been shared by Harvard, Stanford, and Oxford epidemiologists, as well as the head of medicine in Australia. But I was one of the first people to advance this idea and I did so several weeks ago based on ten NBA athletes testing positive for the virus.

The only thing I’d change about my coverage of the coronavirus is I wish I’d been aware that China’s numbers were faked. You can certainly criticize me for not being skeptical enough of those China numbers, but I relied on the WHO endorsement of those numbers. And I believe many people in government in the United States and Europe relied on these same projections as well.

The current IMHE model forecasts right at 60,000 deaths from the coronavirus. That forecast is probably too high, but even if it’s accurate it means the number of people who die from the coronavirus in this country is likely to be less than died from the flu two years ago. (Two years ago 80,000 people died of the flu in this country and most of us didn’t even notice.)

Now 60,000 people (or less) are going to die of the coronavirus and people have lost their minds.

Many people who believed millions of people would die are going to have to answer this question: were the models they shared inaccurate or has Donald Trump saved millions of lives?

I happen to believe the models were massively wrong and that Trump has also saved lots of lives by his response as well.

I am of the opinion that the White House coronavirus task force — and, yes, President Trump too — have actually done a pretty good job responding to this crisis and I think the reason that people have decided to make me a target is because I’ve never bought into the doom and gloom forecasts and because I’ve been complimentary of the White House’s response.

But you don’t have to believe me. Or even agree with me on anything. The first amendment is and has always been alive and well on Outkick. Again, I’d encourage you to check out everything I’ve written about the coronavirus and the context in which I did so and make your own decisions about what I’ve said.

On to other questions.

Jonathan writes:

“I was just wondering what you thought of the idea of all countries announcing they will boycott the Winter Olympics in Beijing due to China’s role in downplaying the severity of the Corona virus?  It would be a huge embarrassment for China and if all countries were to sign on it could force the IOC to choose a different location.  Considering some of the most successful countries in the Winter Olympics are European and they have been among some of the most adversely affected by the virus, it would be one small way of trying to teach Chinese leaders (not the people) a lesson.”

I’d prefer the IOC pull the Winter Olympics from China in 2022 as a (small) sports punishment for the Chinese lies about the coronavirus.

But sports needs to be part of an overall global response to China’s lies.

I’m not sure what that should all entail, but it needs to be substantial and punitive to try and ensure something like this never happens again.

Bruce writes:

“If Trump pardons Joe Exotic, will he actually win every state in November?”

What if Trump pardoned Joe Exotic and announced an FBI investigation into Carole Baskin?

Landslide!

(I’m joking, I actually don’t think it would have much impact at all).

This was such a great White House press conference moment though.

Stone writes:

“What conspiracy theory towards this Corona Virus do you think has the most legs? Have enjoyed your logical approach to this crazy time!”

I’m not really a big conspiracy theory guy — except for the fact that I believe David Stern suspended Michael Jordan for gambling — but I do think many far left wingers are upset the coronavirus isn’t going to be an epic disaster for Donald Trump.

That’s part of the reason they so aggressively embraced the millions of death forecasts, because they so reflexively hate Trump that they believe everything he touches is toxic, including the virus. I think a part of them wanted to believe it was going to be awful because it confirmed their belief Trump was awful.

As I’ve said many time before, I root for the president to do well regardless of party.

I didn’t vote for Donald Trump in 2016 — I voted for Gary Johnson — but why in the world would I not want his administration to defeat the coronavirus? I didn’t vote for George W. Bush — in fact I worked on Al Gore’s presidential campaign and voted for him — but I still rooted for him to respond well after 9/11.

I just don’t get the visceral desire and hate for Trump to fail because you don’t like him personally.

I’m more likely than ever to vote for Donald Trump in 2020 — not because I agree with him on everything, I don’t — but just because I’m more troubled by the far left wing’s attempt to stifle the first amendment and brand every opinion he has as evil than I am by any of his opinions.

Look, whether you agree or disagree with my forecasts on the coronavirus, shouldn’t we have people able to argue — using factual data — that the coronavirus’s death tally is likely to be in the thousands as opposed to the millions? Why did anyone who didn’t embrace the gloom and doom forecasts get attacked as not caring about people dying? The media wasn’t anywhere close to fair and evenhanded here.

Without a robust uninhibited debate — on all topics, but especially big ones like this — we actually end up with less reliable public policy.

Which is troubling to me.

Social media, it seems to me, has exacerbated our tendency towards endorsing group think rather than expanded our national discourse.

Patrick writes:

“Between Twitter, articles (WSJ, various city newspapers), etc., I’ve noticed growing unrest over strict social distancing policies around most of the country. Can you see a situation where ppl take matters into their own hands and push return to normalcy without gov’t permission?”

This going to be the next big debate.

Because I think there’s going to be conflict between mayors and governors in many states. That is, I can totally see Democratic mayors insisting we stay shut down in their cities while Republican governors say it is time to open up. (You could also end up with Republican mayors of smaller cities in Democratic states with different opinions on what the rules should be than their governors.)

The result is you end up with a hodge podge of different coronavirus regulations determined by state and county lines.

For those of us in the South, it’s like the counties that allow fireworks and those that don’t. The result is the fireworks stands are all immediately located after you cross a county line.

Similarly, you could drive across a county line and bars and restaurants are all back open, then cross that line in the opposite direction and they’re all closed.

What’s fascinating to me is how similar many of the state results are despite totally dissimilar government responses.

Look at California and Florida, for instance.

Right now California, which has had some of the restrictive policies in the nation, has 20,285 cases of the coronavirus and 559 deaths.

Right now Florida, which has had some of the least restrictive policies in the nation for a large state, has 17,531 cases and 390 deaths.

Granted, California has more people, but the per capita death rates aren’t very much different at this present moment, especially if you factor in that Florida has way more elderly people.

So what explains these two big states being relatively similar in results despite very different responses?

How about Texas, which also has a massive population? Texas has 11,426 total coronavirus cases and 222 deaths, far less than California despite a very similar population.

I don’t think anyone would argue that Texas has implemented the same policies at the same time as California. So what explains the relatively similar rates of infection in these three states despite differences in responses? Sure you can argue that big city responses in these states have been more similar than not — even if Florida and Texas big cities acted well after San Franciso and Los Angeles did — and you can certainly argue Florida and Texas are headed for viral disaster, but the infection growth rates don’t bear that prediction out, at least not right now.

In fact, most of the country looks like Florida, Texas, and California. (Or Washington state for that matter, which had the first outbreak of all).

Really, the big question is this: why is the New York city area wildly different than the rest of the country? Maybe it’s just the density of the population? Perhaps this virus requires a certain level of density to thrive and falls apart when there is natural social distancing within city landscapes? Maybe New York city, like much of Europe, is far more likely to have multiple generations living together at home and requiring everyone to stay at home has actually increased the spread more than allowing normal life to occur would have? I don’t know the answers here and it will likely take months — if not years — for all these studies to emerge to find out what the best practices are as it pertains to the coronavirus, but it’s definitely fascinating to contemplate using the data we presently have.

Frank writes:

“California politicians and Disney execs squashed UFC 249. Quarantine was supposed to prevent an overwhelmed healthcare industry. Now that we’ve peaked, why can’t an event that requires less than 15 people in a room be allowed to take place? Seemed like a good first step towards normalcy.” 

First, I applaud Dana White for trying to get sports back when he could easily have chosen to just kick up his feet in his gilded mansion and wait for the virus to pass.

Second, didn’t Wrestlemania just do what he was planning on doing last weekend in Florida?

I wonder if Dana White’s one miscalculation here was choosing to do his fight on tribal land in California. If he’d elected to do it in, for instance, Oklahoma tribal lands would the same political pressure have been brought to bear on him then? I doubt it.

This points to a larger issue that’s likely to emerge though, what if the NBA or MLB want to play games in California without fans present in June? Would California politicians not allow that? What’s the acceptable date when you could host sporting events with no fans present in the state?

Could the NBA, MLB or the NFL be forced to move their games outside the state? And what does this portend for Pac 12 schools, particularly those that are state institutions like California? Could the state of California forbid the Pac 12 from holding football games in its state while the rest of the country allows college football to take place?

I suspect this will turn into a major political battle before all is said and done.

Thanks for reading Outkick, hope all of you have fantastic weekends.

Written by Clay Travis

OutKick founder, host and author. He's presently banned from appearing on both CNN and ESPN because he’s too honest for both.