Shameless manipulation: Positive PCR tests drop
... after WHO instructs vendors to lower cycle thresholds
Below is an expert from an important article by by Dr. Meryl Nass. Numbers can be manipulated as easily as people. Molded. Shaped. Crafted to create a dialog of hope or fear.
Hospitalization rates associated with Covid have dropped from a high of 132,500 Americans on January 6 to 71,500 on February 12. The US had 920,000 staffed hospital beds in 2019, of which 14.4% harbored a Covid case last month, and 7.8% do now.
This tremendous drop was predicted. Every hospitalized patient is tested for Covid, often repeatedly, using PCR tests with high false positive rates. False positives are due in considerable part to exhorbitant cycle thresholds. This refers to the maximum number of doublings that are allowed during the test. The problem caused by excessive cycle thresholds was well described in a NY Times article last August, but has otherwise been ignored by the mass media. Dr. Sin Hang Lee challenged the FDA's reliance on exhorbitant cycle thresholds in its acceptance of efficacy claims for Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine in early December. He and FDA remain engaged in this debate.
The WHO instructed PCR test users and manufacturers on December 14 and again on January 20 that PCR cycle thresholds needed to come down. The December 14 guidance stated WHO's concern regarding "an elevated risk for false SARS-CoV-2 results" and pointed to "background noise which may lead to a specimen with a high cycle threshold value result being [incorrectly] interpreted as a positive result."
The first instruction has been superceded by the second, which additionally advises on clinical use of the test: If the "test results do not correspond with the clinical presentation, a new specimen should be taken and retested..." While this implies that the test should only be performed in those with symptoms, and its results should be interpreted with the clinical context in mind, most PCR tests in the US are used very differently: to screen asymptomatics at work, at colleges and universities, to permit border crossings, etc. No caution is applied to the results. One single positive test defines someone as a Covid case. Yet it is well known, and was acknowledged in WHO's January guidance, that screening in low Covid prevalence situations, such as in the screening of asymptomatics, increases the risk of false positives. And the risk increases as the prevalence of disease drops, such that in situations of low disease prevalence, it is common to find that most positives are actually false positives. For example, see this BMJ chart and then the real-life example in the comment below it.
Everyone in the field knew that the PCR test results were bogus. Even Tony Fauci admitted last July that cycle thresholds above 35 were not measuring virus, and furthermore that virus could not be cultured from samples that required a high number of cycles to show positivity.
But the drumbeat from the Coronavirus Task Force and some academics and others was "Test all, test often"--despite the inordinate numbers of false positives and negatives. Congress repeatedly allocated many billions of dollars for testing (often free for the person being tested) and so testing quickly mushroomed. Nearly two million Covid tests a day were recorded in the US over the last 3 months. Most of these have been PCR tests which, despite their problems, are still considered the most accurate. Most of the remaining tests performed were rapid antigen tests. These tests too suffer from high false positive rates, as the FDA warned last November.
While daily deaths have only dropped about 15% since January 12, there have been dramatic drops during the month in new cases (down 60% from 250,000 new cases/day to 100,000) and, as noted, in hospitalizations (down 46%). Reports claim a total of 475,000 Americans have died from Covid.
However, none of these numbers are reliable. In addition to inaccurate PCR results, a variety of other measures have skewed the reported number of deaths from Covid.
While CDC electronically codes other causes of death, it has chosen to hand code every Covid death, and explains:
- "It takes extra time to code COVID-19 deaths. While 80% of deaths are electronically processed and coded by NCHS within minutes, most deaths from COVID-19 must be coded by a person, which takes an average of 7 days."
I am waiting for CDC to answer my Freedom of Information Act query, which requested the protocol CDC's coders use for coding Covid-19 as a cause of death. Why is CDC treating Covid deaths differently from deaths due to other conditions?
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