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All That and a Bag of Mail

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It’s the morning after the NFL Draft and many of you are bleary eyed — even if you’re quarantining — from staying up until after midnight last night to see who your favorite team would draft.

As we start the mailbag, no big surprise here, but the vast majority of the questions are about the coronavirus and the NFL Draft.

So that’s where we’re headed.

Before we get there, however, I’d encourage you to go check out the March 20th mailbag when I wrote about the ten NBA players who had tested positive for the coronavirus. Now that studies have come out in New York City, Boston, Los Angeles and the San Francisco bay area showing much higher rates of infection than were previously thought — and much lower rates of death — the NBA players were the first evidence we had that the coronavirus was far more common and far less deadly than most experts believed.

The blue checkmark brigade on Twitter loves to police everything that I write and say, but how many articles do you think will be written about me looking at the NBA data and nailing the fact that these players were a big sign that much of the conventional wisdom about the coronavirus was potentially incorrect?

I bet the answer is zero.

And so do you.

But let’s dive into the mailbag today.

Spencer writes:

“If the new antibody studies (in LA, San Francisco, New York City and Boston) are accurate, it not only suggests a low mortality rate but a super high infection rate. How could the medical community (CDC, WHO, etc.) have gotten possibly the 2 most important pieces so wrong and why should we listen to them in the future?”

This is my big issue that I’ve been hitting at for months on this site. Every “expert’s” statistical model that we’ve been relying on is untrustworthy because we haven’t known the two biggest factors at play with this virus: 1. how many infections are there and 2. what’s the rate of contagion?

Unless we know both of these facts — with at least something approximating the correct numbers — then every epidemiological model is broken at inception because statistical models are only as good as their input data.

It’s amazing to me how few people in the media — or the general public — have understood this basic fact. Even the most brilliant epidemiologist on the planet is only as good as the data he has to work with. Give a brilliant scientist bad data and his model will collapse.

It now appears that the WHO and the CDC got the death rates and the contagion rates wildly wrong. Worst of all, the WHO got it completely backwards — they said the death rate was higher and the contagion rate was lower — than is actually the case. This means the WHO blew both ends of the equation — the numerator — the number of deaths — and the denominator — the number of infections.

That makes any predictive model based on their data worthless.

In fact, it would have been more useful to everyone if the WHO had never said anything at all. (And this doesn’t even consider the WHO’s cover ups for Chinese data as well, which were either intentionally wrong or willfully naive. I think either justifies pulling American funding for the group.)

These failures of data led us to undertake a nationwide shutdown which was predicated on the idea, at least initially, that without a shutdown we would overload hospitals. Given the fact that we haven’t overloaded hospitals anywhere — no hospital anywhere in the country has run out of ventilators or beds — that prescription has run its course. Now, crazily, many people are pivoting from the overload the hospital argument to argue that we can’t return to normal life until we have a vaccine

I think that is totally unnecessary given the actual facts on the ground.

What we need to do now is look at what the data is telling us about who is dying and adjust our policy in a strategic manner. We don’t need one size fits all policy because this virus doesn’t impact everyone equally. (This is one of many reason that relying on the data from the 1918 flu, which struck people of all age ranges much more significantly, is not a very similar comparison).

According to Massachusetts data the average age of death in their state is 81 and 97.5% of those dying have underlying health conditions. Okay, well, that’s the people we need to protect from getting the virus, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. (Obviously the bigger the data set the more reliable the data, but I’m just citing Massachusetts here because they recently shared all their data with the public.)

We now know the vast, vast majority of young people who are getting this disease have no serious health issues. In fact, most of the young people getting the coronavirus never even know they’ve gotten it in the first place. (There are, however, exceptions to this rule. These exceptions get shared at a high rate on social media, but they are outliers. Outliers who may, if autopsies are conducted, turn out to have significant underlying health issues they were unaware of. The data continues to reflect that on a statistical basis young people have very little to fear from this virus as it pertains to their own health.)

This data tells me that we shouldn’t be forcing the entire nation to quarantine, we should be returning every young person to work — I suggested everyone under fifty yesterday on Twitter, but you could probably expand that up to sixty and still eliminate almost all the people in danger — and telling the elderly and those with suppressed immune systems to continue to quarantine. The young people would then need to keep their distance from these people still quarantining until such time as we’ve began to achieve herd immunity, which will drive down the infection rates overall to a massive degree, and make it much safer for everyone.

This would allow us to return to work and get the economy — which has now lost 26 million jobs in five weeks — back to functioning while also limiting the amount of serious infections.

In other words, what we need to do with the coronavirus isn’t necessarily to keep everyone from getting the virus, we need to try and ensure that most people who get the virus aren’t in danger of dying from it. The stay-at-home orders are predicated on the idea that everyone is equally at risk.

But this isn’t true at all.

If anything, we should want our kids and young adults to be circulating this disease among each other so they develop immunity, making the passing of this virus much less common for the fall, when the coronavirus may emerge anew.

That’s very different from our present policy.

Right now we’ve created a policy designed to stop the spread and hope for a vaccine to arrive, but the new data seems to be telling us that was the wrong policy — given the ease of infection and the low rates of death for young and healthy people — it seems like herd immunity offers us the best, and quickest, pathway back to normalcy. (This is operating under the presumption that it will take a year or more for an effective vaccine to exist.)

I’m going to write more on this idea this weekend, but the key takeaway needs to be this: we have to adjust our public policy based on the new data we are now receiving. It seems clear that this virus is far more common and far less deadly than the beliefs that motivated the actions we undertook in March.

So our response to the virus needs to be different.

Here are my ideas that I Tweeted yesterday.

And a Stanford doctor — for the YOU’RE NOT A DOCTOR CROWD! — arguing for an end to the shutdown as well.

Nick writes:

“How come people in the media don’t press Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci about the success of the model that Sweden is implementing? Along with the fact that the antibody tests have shown the mortality is significantly less and closer to the flu?”

I don’t think most people in the media are very smart when it comes to looking at scientific data and realizing what matters with that data.

Why is that?

I think media members, and others who make a living with words, tend to gravitate away from math and science. They don’t feel very well versed in these subjects which makes them defer to “experts” more than they should. There’s a particular insecurity in the media when it comes to math and science that I don’t think would exist, for instance, if these same media were writing about non-science subjects.

The result is White House press briefings get bogged down on media details that don’t matter very much in the grand scheme of things and often don’t end up mattering at all — ventilators anyone? — and, frankly, the questions just aren’t that smart or useful for the general public.

In watching these White House press conferences I have been very unimpressed with the media and their questions on all topics. Not just because they are often driven by partisanship and daily wrangling, but also because the questions themselves don’t allow the doctors to really present as good of answers as they would if they were being asked better and more interesting questions.

I think most in the media have led with emotion instead of facts throughout this entire outbreak.

Marty writes:

“Do you think the California governor will be the stumbling block to college football opening, or will a bunch of teams just play 11 games. Alabama for instance.”

This is one of the biggest questions about the return of college sports — what happens if some state governors implement different rules than other state governors?

This will matter less for pro sports because a pro sports team, if necessary, can simply move to a new jurisdiction for a season.

But you can’t move Pac 12 colleges and universities out of their existing footprints and play a season. So what happens if the SEC plays and the Pac 12 doesn’t? This is a huge mess for college football because all the Pac 12 players are forced to sit out a year while all the SEC players play.

It’s just very messy to me and I can see it becoming a real issue in college football, especially with many of the SEC states starting to get back to normal by May 1st. If things go well in the SEC states that means it’s not inconceivable to think that players could begin returning to campus in June to get ready for the season. That’s probably well before Pac 12 players would be able to return to their campuses.

How does that impact, for instance, an Alabama-USC neutral site game? It seems pretty clear that game might well have to be canceled because USC might not be ready to play week one. Which is why I could see a situation where all out of conference games are canceled and teams that elect to play only play in conference college football games.

Honestly, while there is a great deal of talk about pushing back the start of the season and potentially playing in the spring semester, that makes less sense as well. To me the smarter move is to start conference games a couple of weeks earlier than planned, not months later.

If the SEC started playing conference games the last week of August they could finish their regular season before Halloween.

Why would that matter?

If you’re concerned about a potential upswing in infections in the fall flu season as it starts to get cold around the country wouldn’t you want to play all your games while it was still hot in the South? The data suggests the coronavirus is far less transmissible in warm weather. Well, games played during the day in late August and September and October are often very warm in the South. That might allow you to play all your conference games before it even gets cold and it might allow you to play in front of crowds as well.

Playing in January and February and March would put you squarely in the middle of the flu season, putting everyone in greater danger, not less.

Either way I think we’re likely headed towards a season where individual conferences make individual decisions that are predicated by the different governors and the disparate situations in their states and regions.

Having said all of this, it’s still not even May yet. I think the situation in the country will be much different — in a good way — at the end of May than it is right now as we approach the end of April.

So there’s still much to be determined all around.

As I’ve said for a couple of months now, I’ll be very surprised if the SEC, at least, doesn’t play college football this fall.

Cole writes:

“Arguing with my buddy about Clyde Edwards-Helaire and the Chiefs. I agree he was a good fit, but is he not the 4th or 5 most talented RB in the draft?”

I think most of the top running backs are relatively equal in overall ability and scheme and fit matters more than who the “best” overall player is.

I picked D’Andre Swift as the Chiefs running back in our Outkick mock draft, but I can see why Edwards-Helaire makes more sense for the Chiefs. He’s the more accomplished receiver out of the backfield and I can see him fitting in perfectly in the passing game.

Honestly, I think he’s going to be an incredible addition to the Chiefs passing and running game, making the Chiefs even more difficult to defend.

It’s a phenomenal fit, I’d be excited about this addition if I were a Chiefs fan.

As a Titans fan who already worries about being able to match up with the Chiefs if we are lucky enough to be in the playoffs against them again, I don’t like it at all.

Thanks for reading as always, hope you guys have great 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.