No-Lockdown Wisconsin Still Has One of Lowest COVID Death Rates, NY Times Again Misrepresents Swedish Model

Updated on July 20, 2020
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Ralph Lopez majored in Economics and Political Science at Yale University. He has been published in the Boston Globe and the Baltimore Sun.

Wisconsin Bar in May
Wisconsin Bar in May

Wisconsin, the only state in the Union in which the state's Supreme Court struck down the governor's attempt to close down businesses as a measure to prevent the spread of COVID, has a low COVID death rate, making it number 33 out of 50 states in terms of deaths per capita. Wisconsin stores, bars, and restaurants have been open since mid-May. Wisconsin's death rate actually dropped two places in the lat month.

Wisconsin has a reported COVID-related death rate of 14 per 100,000 in population. New Jersey is the highest at 175 per 100,000 in population.

Of the total COVID deaths so far in the US, nearly half have occured in just three states, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. Most of these are from the New York metropolitan area.

The current estimate by the CDC of the infection fatality rate of the COVID-19 virus is between .25% and .3%, orders of magnitude down from early predictions of possibly a 6% mortality rate. This means the survival rate of all people who get COVID-19 is about 99.8%, versus flu at about 99.9%

However, WHO data puts a key number, the rate of asymptomatic infection, much higher than the number than that which is used in the CDC estimate. This raises the possibility that the actual infection mortality rate (IFR) of COVID is closer to .1%, the IFR of the common flu. WHO estimates 80% of cases are asymptomatic or mild symptomatic. The CC uses the estimate of 35%.

The infection fatality rate includes all asymptomatic, mild symptom, and severe cases. Another commonly referred to measure is the case fatality rate (CFR,) which only includes tested, confirmed cases.


Wisconsin health authorities recently announced that the state is experiencing a downward trend in new cases.

COVID-19 is not the only pandemic of the last half century. Some have been deadlier, per capita than the current crisis as it has been reported.

At no time have entire segments of the economy have been deemed "non-essential," and state emergency powers invoked which, authorities claim, override everyday Constitutional norms of freedom of movement, freedom to assemble, and the general freedom to conduct life in an ordinary, law-abiding manner.

In 1957 the H2N2 Flu claimed more lives per capita in the US than present deaths reported to be related to COVID. The 1968 Hong Kong Flu also claimed more lives per capita than COVID. The 1968 - 1969 Hong Kong Flu pandemic was followed in the summer of '69 by one of the largest mass gatherings in US history, the rock festival Woodstock.

There are many types of known coronaviruses, such as the SARs and MERS. The present virus is only novel in that it is a new type of coronavirus. No safe vaccine has ever been developed for the coronavirus family of viruses, including an experimental SARS vaccine which had been tested in ferrets, and wound up killing many of them.

Common strains of influenza take anywhere between 30,000 and 80,000 people each flu season, mostly frail elderly, many in nursing homes, and the immune compromised.

All schools, colleges, and most businesses have never been closed during any previous pandemic. During the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic, various cities closed schools for a number of weeks. A later survey by the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) failed to demonstrate any differences in illness rates between cities that closed schools, and schools which remained open.

New York Times Again Misrepresents Swedish Model

Like Wisconsin, a number of countries have chosen not to close restaurants, taverns, and most businesses in response to the announcement of a COVID crisis. Sweden was one of them. Many articles have been devoted to showing that the Swedish model was a failure.

The New York Times recently ran a story titled "Sweden Has Become the World’s Cautionary Tale."

The Times and other media outlets have come upon the convenient device of comparing the Swedish death rate to only to pro-lockdown countries which have lower death rates, not higher. Inevitably comparing the Swedish death rate to those of Denmark, Finland, and Norway, which imposed strict lockdowns. However, this omits the fact that other European countries with strict lockdowns have suffered more deaths per capita than Sweden, such as Italy, Spain, UK, Belgium, and until recently, France.

Wisconsin Judge: A "Free Society" Includes Risks in Life

In striking down the Wisconsin governor's order to shut down the state, Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly wrote in an opinion concurring with the majority:

“This comprehensive claim to control virtually every aspect of a person’s life is something we normally associate with a prison, not a free society governed by the rule of law,”

Liberal comedian Bill Maher has dubbed constant media attention to new coronavirus cases and deaths "panic porn."

In a shocking development, the principle scientist whose paper was used as the basis for predicting possibly 2 million dead in the US, Neil Ferguson, is now being derided for his far from stellar record in making epidemiology predictions.

Johan Giesecke, the former chief scientist for the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention, has called Ferguson’s model, on which the world's lockdowns were based, “the most influential scientific paper” in memory. He also says it was “one of the most wrong.”


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