North Dakota has been getting some national and international attention for our high Covid-19 numbers. We’re the sickest of all! Yay! ‘Course ain’t nobody here really all that sick.
According to my neighbor we all have to mask up and stay home because two people died in town this week. So I asked, “Did they die of Covid?” Answer? “I don’t know, but there was an ambulance at a house and I know who lives in that house.” Then I asked, “Okay, but if they were both sick with Covid, wouldn’t one or both have been in the hospital? Answer: “Ehh…” “Do you know that they died?” Answer? “Well, I haven’t seen them this week.” And that about sums up the story of what’s happening in North Dakota.
In short, people are afraid. Mostly we’re afraid because we’ve been told to be afraid and we don’t know the whole story. We don’t often make it onto the national or international news. So when we do, we tend to listen. Unfortunately, it appears we haven’t checked the truth of what we listened to.
Are there people who have tested positive for Covid-19 in North Dakota? Yes, of course. There are also people who have died. How many died with Covid-19 or from Covid-19 is not entirely clear. What’s also unclear is the accuracy of all these wild claims. Anyone checking for truth, will find that somethings just aren’t adding up.
Things that don’t add up, point #1:
To begin with our small communities are testing people, the same people, over and over again. Thousands of people are being tested twice a week. Every test is a “case.” It doesn’t matter if Lena Olson, an individual who is not sick, is tested 8 times a month, that’s 8 cases. Further if Lena fills out the form, identifying the people she has been in contact with, could just be her husband and two kids. Well, each of those, even if not tested, is another “case.” That’s 32 “cases”. The state data indicates that there are 2,059,045 cases, but that this is only 333,327 people. So, to say that North Dakota is #1 in Covid-19 cases, is, if not odd, certainly a bit disingenuous.
People who have tested positive for Covid-19 are being told to care for themselves at home, which again, seems odd based on the idea that North Dakota is a hotbed of Covid-19 deaths.
Things that don’t add up, point #2:
According to the news, the high plains are home to the highest Covid-19 mortality rate. (3) (4) Typically, the state of North Dakota regularly provides data on the number and cause of all deaths. North Dakota stopped providing this information in October (11). Thus, it is currently very difficult to fact check this claim. Please note that this change occurred right as our Covid-19 mortality rates started soaring- a point in time when people would likely begin to question the data.
We were told that this change, the removal of information, was to “protect residents from becoming over confident”. (11) Now the only mortality reports from the state are Covid-19 related. However, we do have some information. The governor stated that approximately half of Covid-19 deaths in the state are occurring in long-term care facilities, so we can go to long-term care facilities for information.
Note that the deaths this year are not significantly different from years past. 2017 deaths for January through October were 1,842. 2018 were 1,813 and 2019 were 1,926. The current total is 1,896. This does not indicate a crisis.
The Huffington Post has a blazing headline, “North Dakota Hits Highest Covid-19 Mortality Rate In The World”. (12) Is this true? Our state website’s current cumulative death total for Covid-19 is 795 (as of 11/20/2020). We have 762,619 residents. So that is 1 covid-19 death per 959 residents. Within the 795 Covid-19 deaths the state is showing, only 123 are deaths where “Covid-19 is not the primary cause.” Removing these, we have 675 deaths due to Covid-19, thus (hits the calculator again) 1 death per 1,129. That’s not exactly what was reported.
The fact that only 15% of Covid-19 deaths are indicated as “with Covid-19” rather than “caused by” is (at least to my mind) greatly questionable given the following:
66% of all North Dakotans have one or more underlying health condition(s) (11);
half of Covid-19 deaths occur in long term care facilities (11);
and 64% of all Covid-19 deaths are in residents over the age of 80. (1)
It would make more sense if the “with” statistic matched the “long-term care facility” statistic or the “underlying health condition” statistic or the “over 80” statistic. Certainly the percentage of underlying health conditions is higher in octogenarians than in the population as a whole. Just try looking up data on octogenarians, all you can find is heart disease and cancer information. Again… it doesn’t add up.
Perhaps the death rates would be lower if North Dakota adopted more effective treatment guidelines. Anecdotal accounts report that Hydroxychloroquine is not available at all in North Dakota and Remdesivir is only available for those on ventilators. (4) And yes, in the State of North Dakota we are still putting Covid-19 patients on ventilators (14) even though that has been proven to be a faulty treatment plan for many. (13) Or, perhaps death rates would be lower if health care workers who tested positive for Covid-19 were not ordered to work. (15, order# 2020-05.2)
Things that don’t add up, point #3:
Why were health care workers who test positive for Covid-19 ordered to continue working you might ask? This is partially because, as Forbes, MSN and The New York post reported North Dakota is running out of hospital beds and ICU beds. (5) (6) (7) Again, this isn’t fully accurate reporting. North Dakota has 3.8 ICU beds per 10,000 residents, and 4.3 hospital beds per 1,000 residents. We rank second and third highest in the nation, respectively. (8) (9) That gives us 289 ICU beds and 3,276 hospital beds. According to the State of North Dakota’s Coronavirus Case report, there are a total of 289 hospital beds and 45 ICU beds being currently being used by patients with Covid-19. Looking at the numbers, there’s no shortage of actual beds. What there is a shortage of is staffing.
Only 58% of the available beds in North Dakota have health care workers to attend them. Health care workers are the bulk of the population that is tested twice a week for Covid-19. We are testing up to 9 times more per capita than other states (19) and 21% of all tests in ND are positive. (2) That removes a large portion of health care workers. Although 75% of RT-PCR tests are false positives (16), and people who have tested positive but are asymptomatic have been proven not to pass Covid-19 to others (17) this knowledge has not reached all health care workers. Thus, despite State Health Order 2020-05.2 many employees have refused. We have the beds, we don’t have the workers because of testing, quarantine protocols and simply fear.
Things that don’t add up, point #4:
We’re in the orange. (20) In a state where there are less than 10 people per square mile, it seems hard to believe that we’re in the “High-Risk” category for a viral illness that is believed to spread from person to person. As far as social distancing goes, in North Dakota on average, we’d all need to move, a lot, to get within 6 feet of someone. So how can we be “High-Risk”? Well, that is simply a function of the math.
The math goes like this:
40% is based on the number of cases <—- (cases = tests plus contacts, aka “susceptible encounters”)
10% is based on the total number of tests
20% is based on the number of positive tests
10% is based on the change in the number of cases <— (again… cases = test plus contacts)
20% is based on the hospital capacity <— (dependent on who isn’t in quarantine due to testing)
100% related to the number of tests
40+10+20+10+20 does actually add up to 100. BUT! This isn’t an accurate method of measuring risk. Most tests are done as a condition of employment or residency in a long-term care facility. Due to the nature of “the gold standard of testing” (21) false positives occur about 3 out of 4 times. (16) So even when people aren’t infected with Covid-19, there will be positive tests, false positive tests. The amount of false positive tests is somewhat controlled by the number of cycles an RT-PCR test uses. Anything, over 20 is considered likely to give false positives, yet North Dakota uses 45 cycles. Due to this and the North Dakota Smart Restart Guidelines, which while not law, businesses must follow or face punitive action, the state controls a large portion of the number of tests performed, the number of positive tests, and a measure of hospital capacity. Thus, they also control the level of “risk.”
Things that don’t add up, point #5:
21% of Covid-19 tests are positive, which is supposed to be a crisis. In 2018, influenza testing set a new record of having 29.88% of tests come back positive, which was not a crisis. In fact, when we look at the flu in North Dakota we run into a whole host of data that defies logic. The CDC currently lists North Dakota as having no influenza activity at all. Influenza cases were 771% higher this week in 2019 than they are now. (1)
It seems rather odd that the flu has had 771% change. Comparing this week’s influenza cases to other years as far back as 2015, gives similar results.
Here’s the 2019-2020 influenza summary for the year thus far:
Where did the flu go? In years past, our numbers grew every year. We’ve gone from an average annual 108% increase over five years to a 771% change in the opposite direction in only months.
Technically, Covid-19 and coronaviruses are influenza-like illnesses. Prior to the “Wuhan flu” that is what any coronavirus would have been called, an influenza-like illness. The CDC has on their website a very long list of approved diagnostic tests for various illnesses. Including tests for RNA viruses, which both Covid-19 and Influenza are. Multiple tests cover both influenza and coronavirus with the same test. (18)
Although we have been assured that “the gold standard of tests” does differentiate between both other coronaviruses vs Covid-19 and Covid-19 vs Influenza. Perhaps, the results in life indicate otherwise. After all, where did the flu go?
In conclusion, there are lots of things don’t add up. If you can give me a logical explanation why all of this doesn’t add up, I’m willing to listen. Until then, please don’t assume that what you are afraid of is true. Please check the facts.
(14) one of many screen shots from private conversations: