Critical thinking and COVID-19 – Initial Response and the Virus

Posted: December 17, 2020 by Jonathan Fader in Current Events, Uncategorized, UTKM Principles
Tags: , , , ,

When it comes to teaching Krav Maga, I do not think of techniques as the starting point of self-defence, but rather critical thinking. This is because critical thinking is a skill which translates into more situations, allowing a person to better walk in peace. This skill, however, can be a very difficult one to teach, as some people have developed ways of thinking and processing information that are totally devoid of critical thinking (which is a hard habit to break), while others may have never been taught to think critically, and, of course, there are those who do not even care to think at all. This is all part of the complex concept that we call the human condition.

Enter COVID-19 and 2020. This year has clearly been a trying one, for many reasons, especially when you are attempting to apply critical thinking and rationality to everything that is going on, while many of those around you simply cannot be bothered. But I remain undeterred, and I will apply some critical thinking skills to analyze the goings-on of this most interesting year as we approach the beginning of 2021. Though to what end, I am really not sure. (You can take it or leave it but it’s really up to you to apply your knowledge, skills, experience, and even trust, to make up your own mind one way or another.)

I am separating this analysis into a three part series, employing my “non-expert” knowledge and experience to break it all down a little bit. This post will be on the initial response to the pandemic, next week’s will be on masks and testing, and the following week will look at vaccines. So, love me or hate me, these posts are coming.

Preparedness (or Lack Thereof)

In case you live in a cave somewhere, COVID-19 popped up in late December of 2019 and was identified and announced in early January of 2020. (Though there are claims that the highest level of government knew earlier, I am not going down the conspiracy rabbit hole.) By March we started to see governments panicking and moving toward full closures of borders or communities in order to “flatten the curve.” Remember that “only 2 weeks, to flatten the curve” lockdown pitch? So much for that!

But let’s take a step back and talk about pandemic procedures. We should start with this; when I studied Occupational Health and Safety I learned about the field of “Emergency Preparedness.” Said field is a subfield of OHS that was so complex it grew into its own specialty, “Emergency Management Planning,” and requires extensive comprehensive training (way beyond the basics) to be proficient in it. I came across this back in 2006, and I expect it was known outside of my training experiences, so, while planning for a pandemic is a monumental task, the requirements of such a plan were on Public Health’s radar for quite some time now.

Thus I find it highly unlikely that Western governments, the UN, NATO, and other such organizations, did not have pandemic plans on paper prior to 2020. In fact, if they did not I would say this is unforgivable negligence. FYI, my understanding is they all did…

Now, with my non-expert knowledge of pandemics, and emergency preparedness planning, let me just take a stab at a basic plan:

I’ll begin by defining a pandemic:

Pandemicadjective – (of a disease) prevalent over a whole country or the world.

Now, a potential plan, made my a layman:

  1. Identify a potential virus or outbreak that has the potential to become a pandemic.
  2. Start the process of doing science stuff to learn how to defeat said virus.
  3. Isolate the region in which the initial infection is located, limit travel as needed.
  4. If and when it spreads, limit travel to the region and test anyone entering or leaving the country (where realistically possible).
  5. Surrounding countries should start preparing emergency plans for hospitals.
  6. If and when it jumps to another country stop travel to said newly infected country while science is done and solutions are planned.
  7. If and when it jumps to further countries, close boarders, implement testing, and post updates on how to identify the infection. Prepare hospitals for potential influx and prep for the possibility of needing field hospitals to offer increased capacity. Start preparing emergency caches of supplies and increasing strength of the supply chain. Re-direct government finances to bolster hospitals, first responders, and infection response teams.
  8. If needed due to high death counts or EXTREME negative symptoms, limit travel inside countries/regions and make widespread, ACCURATE, testing easily available. Implement health procedures needed to decrease exposure risk in various industries. Restrict activities as needed (within reason).
  9. If outbreak worsens and death count increases, implement lockdown procedures until a better solution is sorted.
  10. When governments fail due to chaos, get your guns… (learn how to use them before you need them.)

This, of course, is just a basic idea of what might be a good strategy. If I, with limited knowledge, can come up with something (implementation is obviously more difficult and an expensive logistical nightmare) why did governments get things so wrong in the initial stages?

Well, they resisted shutting things down because at the time, the claim was limiting travel to China would be a racist action. Wait, racist? What does this have to do with a pandemic? Nothing. It’s purely political. A virus like COVID-19 doesn’t care much about race, though differences in genetics and socio-economic status do affect how a given virus will impact certain groups, but racist? Nope. (Practical? Yep.)

What would have the world looked like if governments across the globe had actually implemented the plans they had on paper, and immediately limited travel restrictions and testing rather than screaming about the appearance racism? Probably a more functional 2020. (A few nations have managed to avoid COVID)

With that being said, from what I have seen many experts assert that this virus would have spread regardless. See Alanna Shaikh‘s “TEDx” talk from 2019 (and pay attention to what else she says). Some were convinced of this virus’s inevitability to the point of basically saying “don’t bother closing boarders because it won’t make a difference.” This attitude seems very morbid and not very forward thinking, because of, and we all know this, the people factor. But, hey, an expert in pandemics is an expert in everything else; like economics, or psychology, right? Clearly coming from the perspective that the virus will spread anyway so what’s the point? The point would have been simple: Governments are slow and inefficient. Thus the more time they have to prepare the less likely they are to be overwhelmed, and the less the general public would have been punished for their incompetence.

Why do I say incompetence? Well, let’s take the widely accepted claim, from many leaders, that “no one could have seen this coming.” This is simply a giant pile of crap and a failure of our leaders and governments to take responsibility for their actions, or lack of actions in many cases. How can I make such a claim? Consider that experts they are now using to shove restrictions down our throats are the very same experts who were telling politicians, for years, that due to “climate change, massive urbanization, the proximity of humans to farm or forest animals that serve as viral reservoirs” pandemics are coming and we need to prepare.

Epidemiologist (ie. pandemic expert) Michael T. Osterholm, who was the guest The Joe Rogan Experience, episode 1439, wrote a book called the Deadliest Enemy in 2017. This was a response to the SARS and MERS outbreaks, in 2003 and 2012 respectively, the fifth and sixth coronaviruses humanity has encountered. (here is another piece talking about what we learned from that outbreak and how to prepare.) There were many other experts telling our leaders to prepare, so what happened to “listening to the experts” back then?

In this book he talks about the seriousness of pandemics and the general lack of preparedness, even going into specific details such as identifying the issue with modern medical supply chains. Yes, that’s right. The whole “don’t wear masks” at the beginning was actually a lie to ensure the medical system had priority access to PPE, rather than sound medical advice. But I will get into that in the mask post. To keep it short here, it basically means governments didn’t properly prepare. Period.

A local example: After the 2003 SARS outbreak in Toronto, governments in Canada and Provinces spent loads of cash on PPE, etc. for first responders. Awesome right? Well, medical gear expires. So guess what happened? It expired. Unfortunately, governments generally did not replace equipment because of ignorance, cost-saving measures, and the attitude of “that’s a future government’s problem.” Enter COVID-19, and, hey, with the crappy supply chain (based in China) first responders were left for weeks or months without proper equipment (this was confirmed by sources close to me).

So, while this was a short analysis it is actually very easy to prove that the assertion “Nobody could have seen this coming” and “we couldn’t have possibly prepared for this,” is simply a lie to coverup government incompetence.

The Virus, the Politics, and the Data

Wait, Jon, did you say there was more than one coronavirus!? Yes, there are many members of the Coronaviridae family, which includes “the common cold” and several flu strains. Some are worse than others, SARS (SARS-CoV) and MERS (MERS-CoV), for example, tend to have a higher death rate, around 20-40%, but spread much slower than COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2). An initial comparison of COVID-19, SARS, and influenza can be found here.

You may recall there were many at the beginning saying it was “flu like” or closely comparable to the flu. Well, it is in the same family of virus, so saying someone who repeats that is an idiot isn’t completely fair. Though COVID-19 does spread at a far more rapid pace than the common cold or flu, with significantly higher morbidity rates in elderly populations and those with co-morbidity factors, the vast majority of people, probably 80-90%, will experience mild to medium symptoms (much like a cold or flu.) It is, after all, a virus with a 95-99% survival rate, depending on age and other factors. Considering the amount of elderly who are hospitalized for the cold or flu, who then develop pneumonia and die, comparing COVID-19 to the flu, albeit a bastard cousin with a reliable, easily available vaccine, was somewhat reasonable. (Notwithstanding the fact that, in Canada at least, COVID-19 has, at the 10 month mark, taken out almost four times as many people than the seasonal flu does in 12 months [13,779 vs 3,500])

Yes, as it should be common knowledge by now, age groups 60+ are generally at a MUCH higher risk from having issues, short and long term, due to COVID-19. This isn’t really debatable, but they are still trying probably to instill fear in young people by bringing those numbers up every single time a young person dies. Yes, it can happen but that is true for most viruses or diseases. Some people, no matter their age or good health, are just screwed. Your own immune system may overreact to cause more problems than the virus itself due to a “cytokine storm.” It’s like winning the unlucky lottery that you played simply by being born. It is unfortunate, but it is what it is. Statistically, however, you are not likely to die of COVID-19 by a long shot if you are under 40, and less so between 40-60 than if you were older.

So why did they demonize this comparison? Well, again, politics. Because the system had failed they wanted to use fear to make people take it more seriously so that people would “listen to them” (ie. the government). While some politicians are legitimately trying to save lives, others may simply be incompetent; but instead of being honest and open with the science, both would rather lie, manipulate, and talk down to you.

I have read articles reporting on young people who had a terrible experience with COVID and it is often presented as “you see, young people have problems too.” But buried further down in the information is a note that “oh, they had diabetes,” “oh, they were overweight,” or “hey, they had a health issue they didn’t even know about.” Yeah, I’m going to go ahead and call that manipulative; they are encouraging fear to encourage obedience.

By the way, obesity, old age, and general poor health are some of the main factors that will lead to death if you get COVID-19. So, you know, staying healthy is a good way to keep yourself farther from death… in general… all the time. Oh, and also, vitamin D deficiency can cause complications, which many, many, many doctors have confirmed, but, you know, vitamin D is cheap, easily accessible, and does not need governments or pharmaceutical companies to be involved in a solution. I want to be clear: Vitamin D is NOT a cure, but rather can help your immune system do it’s thing so that if you do get COVID-19 you are considerably less likely to experience severe symptoms (unless you have health problems.) The link above was from Ben Greenfield’s podcast, but there have been many others talking about COVID-19 and other issues. For example on another episode with Dr.Zach Bush he discusses how those on statins or comparable drugs (for heart problems and obesity) are more likely to experience complications with COVID-19 than the average cancer patient (different meds). Weird huh?

Despite the INSANE amount of evidence about how being healthy and strengthening your immune system helps vs COVID (again, not a cure, but a solid preventative medicine against general ailments and the slowing of the inevitability of death), governments have largely only focused on the expertise of ER doctors and epidemiologists. Individuals whom are, in fact, not experts on preventative medicine. In general, Western medicine barely focuses on preventative medicine at all, aside from the generic advice of “maintain a good diet and exercise.” Considering this virus was supposed to be the death of us all… shouldn’t they want to give all reasonable, scientific advice to help people survive? I guess promoting good health and wellbeing isn’t good advice? Or, at least, not good advice with regard to money for the medical system, because, you know, people are healthier… but I digress.

Let’s go back and talk about the concept of flattening the curve. Initially, in Canada, this meant a two-week, partial lockdown, in order to slow infections and space out those that required hospitalization, to avoid being overwhelmed, and also to allow the overall system, medical and government, to make preparations. This is reasonable (although, had they prepared properly it might not have even been needed). I accepted this premise, as, if the hospitals are overwhelmed then, yes, many more would likely die. Except that many hospitals, for the most part, were never overwhelmed in the first wave (in the case of Toronto, the hospitals were filled to bursting prior to the pandemic!). Some ERs had very busy nights as can be seen in numerous articles or ER personnel venting their emotions to the media. Something I consider professionally inappropriate; these doctors should be mad at governments for failing to do their job in maintaining appropriate staffing of doctors and nurses, and providing adequate funding overall. (But, hey, it’s the public’s fault apparently.) I sympathize with frontline workers, this has sucked, but their emotional distress due to being overworked should not translate into bankrupting thousands of businesses.

So, based on frontline doctors panicking, despite the fact that most hospitals were not overwhelmed, the government’s knee-jerk reaction of two weeks turned into months. Goodbye, many other peoples livelihoods and lives! Hello, increased suicides, increased abuse, etc…the list goes on. Lockdowns were not a good idea for this virus, one with a high survival rate for the majority of the population, and yet they still justify it. Anyone saying it was a bad idea was called a “conspiracy theorist,’ yet now, months later, the data is in and it appears that more damage was done, physically, financially, and emotionally by lockdowns than the potential deaths that would have occurred had we stayed open with some restrictions. But hey, now some places are still doing lockdowns. So much for data and science driven decisions.

Infection rate vs hospitalization rate vs death rate. The confusion between these points when presenting data, and manipulation of its presentation, is how they keep you down. But Since I have already gone on enough, I ll expand on this in another post, probably the mask one..

Appeal to Authority

Since “experts” aren’t avoidable let’s talk about them.

“Trust me, I am an expert” is a statement you should always be very skeptical of. Unless those words are combined with the specialized knowledge, valid credentials, or sufficient experience that make someone an expert, quite often they are not as expert as they think. Assuming someone is an expert in everything just because they have some letters after there name isn’t as safe as one would think. It is also important to understand that some of those letters may have been “earned” doing research that is not repeatable, yet they get a pat on the back for it. This is not to say that there are not legitimate experts to be found in every field, because there are. Unfortunately in our society people who want attention get it, leaving those who may be far more qualified to speak on a topic toiling in some poorly funded lab somewhere, all because they won’t step into the spotlight or refuse to play the game of politics.

Another consideration it that experts and scientists are STILL HUMAN! Period. Meaning they are fallible and prone to error, ego, and chasing the funding. Some may even have their intentions corrupted by attention seeking. They are not the god-like, invaluable individuals the media (or they themselves) would have you believe. Also, whose experts? Because I can find an expert in anything to say anything on anything, because, you know, hoomons.

So, who should you trust? The experts saying “keep locking things down” or the experts saying “lockdowns serve no purpose.” Many politicians will listen to whoever they think makes them popular, rather than the actual science and data. This often includes politicians who say the words “science” and “data” repeatedly without actually understanding anything they are talking about. Don’t accuse others of being populist when you are doing the same thing. Anyway.

I do listen to experts who make valid, well-thought-out arguments, based on research and data that has been thoroughly worked through. We should listen when a reasonable argument is made. However, you must always apply critical thinking to what you hear, watch, and read, and know when you are being misled.

Sometimes experts, intentionally or unintentionally, assume you are too stupid to understand so they leave details out. One such example is another “hot mic” incident where the truth comes out when “top Ontario doctors” got caught saying (perhaps jokingly) “I just say whatever they write down for me.” Regardless of intent, this is not a great approach, especially when they go on to express anger at the average person being very scientifically illiterate (which I agree with). They just treat you as such rather than attempting to properly educate you with simple, well-thought-out arguments that are actually backed by clean, unbiased data; the so-called “democratizing of science” (ie. making it accessible and considerate of common people.)

I like experts who don’t like to give black & white answers because answers with nuance are more likely to be true. A working theory isn’t 100% fact yet, so saying things definitively is not always correct. However, they are advising politicians and politicians need to make decisions that are usually based on minimal evidence, because they need to know now. Sorry, science doesn’t work like that, and cherry picking experts to make you look good is unscientific and unethical.

Here’s the other thing with experts; they may in fact be an expert in their field, but when it comes to decisions that affect everyone you should also consult experts in other fields. For example, seek out information from those who know about economics, psychology, etc., in order to get a fuller picture of consequences and knock-on effects. Essentially, experts in other fields were ignored with regard to lockdown policies… because it probably made the decisions too hard.

You should listen to experts when their arguments are well-made, have significant evidence to back them up, are informed by more than just their own study, and include consideration for other areas that may be affected by their advice or decisions. Being too specialized means are very good at what you do, but you sacrifice the ability to give sound advice beyond a specific scope of knowledge.

In defence of scientific experts on COVID-19, I would say that many of the “spokespeople” are acting more like politicians than they are scientists, which is not the appropriate way to deal with major issues. I am sure more of the behind-the-scenes types would be better choices if they stood up and voiced their knowledge and concerns more publicly.

So before you listen to the government appointed person because they are an “expert” or have Dr. in front of their name, ask yourself “am I actually being given the entire, factually accurate truth, or am I being selectively told things to get a desired result?” (A very, VERY, unscientific methodology by the way.)

Conclusion

This is, of course, a only a small portion of the things I could say regarding COVID-19 and critical thinking in general, but I am not writing a book here. My goal is to encourage you to think for yourself and ask “are the things I am being told based in reality or just because it’s easier for those making the decisions at the top?”

While it is easy to say “it’s all about saving lives,” which is an emotional appeal (appeals to emotion should make your Spidey-sense tingle), the reality is that, while some may believe their own intentions are genuine, it has clearly been spun into a complicated web of politics and control.

I despise when people believe what they are told outright, because this shows a complete lack of critical thinking. It also saddens me to see how powerful “groupthink” can be when people perceive their own safety to be at risk.

I do plan on addressing the issues of masks and vaccines as a layman, and, as an outright statement, I am not against either of these things. I will, however, as always, apply critical thinking on these two topics.

I hope I have given you something to think about, so that you can learn to critically think and live your life freely while also considering others.

Written by: Jonathan Fader

For training online visit at www.utkmu.com. If you are in the Metro Vancouver area, come learn with us in person, sign up at www.urbantacticskm.com

Comments
  1. […] First of all, happy new year! Though given what’s going on I am not sure it will be too much different from 2020, at least during the first few months. Rather than doing some new years resolution post which is, let’s be honest, cliché, I am simply going to continue with my series on Critical Thinking and COVID-19. The first being initial response and the virus. […]

  2. […] I would apply some basic critical thinking. This is, of course, part of a series, the first being The Initial Response and the Virus and second being Context, Masks and […]

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.