Was the lockdown necessary? Sweden continues to show, No, it wasn’t. Regardless of strategy used, the epidemic curves generally look the same.
I recently noticed, in passing, that the shape of the corona-death curves for Sweden and the USA were very similar. I hadn’t seen anyone graph them together on the same scale (on a per capita basis), so I did it. The graph is above.
They really are remarkably similar, aren’t they? The two curves show the same rise; peaks coming at the same time and reaching the same magnitude; sustained declines also at the same time and magnitude.
Despite it all, the flu epidemic runs its course. Despite all the huff and the fluff, the normal epidemic curves proceed as they always do, making the whole Lockdown effort a sad and tragic farce. Further comments on similarities and differences follow below.
[Update: Federalist raises a good objection to this graph the comments. Viewed alone, some might think: “See? The US curve is lower. That proves the lockdown was a good idea.” The point is, both are something like 25x to 50x below the predictions made in mid-March that justified the lockdowns. Regardless of strategy employed, both ended up following the same, low curve, peaking in late flu-season and tailing off by late spring. See my reply. Both Sweden and US death curves are dwarfed by the prediction curves.]
This USA vs. Sweden graph is a new one in this series, so I am leading with it here. Several other of the running Sweden graphs I’ve been running were updated for this post (Deaths and ICU-intakes; all-cause mortality; actual deaths vs. the predictions) and the four updated graphs and comments on them follow below.
Sweden was Right; the Media was Wrong
The pro-Panic side has always had those loudly insisting there was going to be a big surge in deaths in Sweden, any time now. Right around the corner, inevitable, just you wait! As if divine punishment for corona-blasphemy. To paraphrase quote a Swede for the occasion, How dare they not to lock down (Greta Thunberg, 2019). The media naturally also pushed this, or some implicit version of it.
Here was one CoronaPanic-pusher, speaking two months ago (April 29), stringing people along that his foretold apocalypse was just delayed, that’s all:
No big surge ever came.
For some reason I still see people pushing “deaths are about to mushroom in Sweden!” even now in late June, which just seems embarrassing. And yet they still run the show. The Corona Coup-d’Etat regime remains, and those pushing visions of doom unmoored from reality and more in line with religion remain in positions of relative prestige.
In the realm of evidence, absolutely nothing is on the side of the pro-Panic forces and the epidemic curves continue to complete themselves with the usual plodding dignity, regardless of what government responses were used or how much GDP damage Corona-Demagogues in elected office were willing to do.
The observed/actual/real-world data, not anybody’s models now, has proved Sweden’s no-shutdown strategy was right since mid-April has been all but indisputable since early May at the very latest, nearly two months ago. By mid- and late-April, we were able to grasp of the maximum extent of the epidemic and observe the passing of the peak. Once we could feel out the peak and see the decline path begin — well, everything else that has occurred could have been predicted, in outline. But with Corona, all that is out the window. (Remember: “We’ve never seen anything like this!” Oh, yes, we have. Several times a decade, in most places.)
The course of the epidemic in Sweden is interesting in itself. The surprise is when we run the per capita comparison with the US.
The US caved into the panic, imposed devastating shutdowns and lockdowns, the neew corona junta used its influence the world over to intimidate the high and the low to Fear the Virus. And for what? For a slightly lower death curve some of the time than Sweden had, which may not end up any different in the end? A flu season 1.5x as bad as usual, instead of 1.6x as bad? That was worth destroying the economy? Are we insane?
There was an almost total, lockstep nature to this, which was (and remains, as it is ongoing) disturbing.
I wouldn’t have believed it had someone told it all to me on Christmas Day 2019. Nice story there, but we aren’t nearly that irrational, we’d say.
It was all surreal. We (they) became this:
The people depicted in this cartoon, what would they think/say/do when presented with the data on Sweden and the fact that the epidemic in the USA followed effectively the exact same path?
Most of them tune it out. They tuned out (or “had tuned out for them”) the same when the experts were waving their arms frantically to get attention to this very fact back in April.
Some of them, no doubt, don’t believe it at all because it’s not what the media they consume — and which sets the narratives that control their lives — tells them.
Many of them are full-on members of the Corona-Cult and so will not be reachable by rational argument no matter what.
And some know it’s all, effectively, a hoax but want to push it anyway to make sure Trump is defeated, or for some other political-demagogic or personal reason(s).
What people do know, or rather have been trained to feel in the Corona Dispensation, is that those who die positive for this one virus, few though they may be, are truly VIPs:
The Corona-Panic defeated in four graphs
We can tell a story in four graphs on why the lockdowns were a mistake, an international chain reaction of terrible policy-making driven by (a media-directed) Panic. We can prove it now, as we have been able to since April, but more data is always welcome.
- Graph 1: The magnitude of the epidemic in Sweden (observed data) via ICU intake and Deaths curves;
- Graph 2: All-cause mortality for Sweden for the coronavirus period;
- Graph 3: Sweden’s deaths curve against the influential Neil “millions of deaths” Ferguson projections, released like a poison cloud onto the world on March 16;
- Graph 4: Deaths per capita per day, Sweden vs. the USA (posted above).
All of these are as of the June 28 updates.
Four months into the epidemic, what we see is mundane, which is to say a rather typical flu epidemic with the usual curves. There remains nothing unusual about this virus. All flu viruses, if tracked like this, would show the same curves. This is a strong flu strain of the kind every living adult has seen multiple times.
Anyway, onto the graphs:
(Graph 1.) The Deaths and the ICU-intake Curves for Sweden
First, the zoomed-in graph of the epidemic in Sweden along the two relevant curves:
Blue is the coronavirus-positive Deaths curve. Red the ICU intakes curve.
The ICU-intakes curve predicts the movement of the Deaths curve. Any potential rise on the blue Deaths curve is to be preceded by a rise in the ICU curve, so do not let anyone con you into thinking the Deaths curve is going to spike anytime soon.
ICU-intake data also gets finalized sooner than Deaths (for understandable reasons), and there remains no sign at all of ICU-intakes spiking. As such, anyone still predicting a spike in deaths in Sweden is misinformed or lying.
Much else can still be said for the exact reasons Sweden’s curves look exactly the way they do. The early spike, which looks like a little mound on top of a larger hill, I suspect is the Stockholm nursing home deaths. Each little plateau, I suspect, represents the regular circulation of the virus in another particular region: Breakthrough/spread/circulation preceded it by a period of weeks, and the deaths bunch up. Eventually there were no large areas left. Herd immunity meant the epidemic was over in most places.
(Graph 2.) All-Cause Mortality in Sweden, March to June 2020
And the latest update for Sweden, including the non-finalized data for Weeks 24 and 25:
(This is technically two graphs, but the second one is just the extension of the first by two weeks; call it 2a and 2b.)
As you see, Sweden is cruising along the upper-end of the normal range for Weeks 22 to 25. (May 24 to June 20). This four-week period comes in at cumulative +10.6 z-scores, or +2.65 average per week.
A close look at daily deaths suggest the turning point is May 23, as I discussed in the Sweden section of Part XIV on all-cause mortality. The short version of it is that any week with about <40 or <35 corona-positive deaths/10m/day will likely end up in or near the normal range, all else equal — or so the data suggests. This is also suggested in the US all-cause mortality data, which puts the US back in the normal range also in late May (see Graph 4‘s heavy black horizontal line for about where this threshold is.)
Granted, there is always some kind of normal fluctuation, but the general pattern holds.
Here are Sweden’s weekly all-cause mortality excess z-scores with per capita deaths (normal range is -2 to +2 z-scores; Substantial Increase is above +4 z-scores):
- Week 22 [+1.7 z-scores] averaged 38 corona-positive deaths/10m/day;
- Week 23 [+3.7 z-scores] averaged 34 corona-positive deaths/10m/day;
- Week 24 [+2.9 z-scores] averaged 31 corona-positive deaths/10m/day;
- Week 25 [+2.3 z-scores] averaged 19 corona-positive deaths/10m/day
(Death data not yet final for Week 25; it will rise above that ’19.’)
Teasing out the threshold at which corona-positive deaths push all-cause mortality above the normal range can be done by comparing the corona-deaths curve with the all-cause mortality deaths curve. It is likely something in the 30s/10m/day. I use this in the newest graph, USA vs. Sweden per capita, to put those numbers in perspective.
(Graph 3.) Revisiting Doctor Frankensson’s Monster
Recall that Ferguson released his wild, “millions of deaths” predictions on March 16, which many see as decisive in causing the UK, US, and country after country after them to cave into the Panic, to one degree or another.
That graph alone is enough to discredit the Lockdown-pushers.
The pro-Panic side was simply wrong; Sweden was fine. It easily weathered a usual strong flu epidemic. Sweden’s nursing homes were the vast majority of the deaths; there simply never was a general threat here.
[Update: Comments by Federalist and Peak Stupidity lead to the insight that Graph 3 and Graph 4 may be conceptually combined. The ‘takeaway’ is that both US and Sweden curves are very low. The prediction curves towering over them. The Sweden curve is not appreciably different than the US curve despite the big gap in responses.]
(Graph 4.) “The coup de grace.” The USA vs. Sweden: Coronavirus curves very similar despite it all
Lastly, Corona-deaths in Sweden vs. the USA, per capita, graphed over four months.
The blue is again the same blue line as used above (Graph 1) and as graphed against the wild Neil Frankensson predictions (Graph 3). In this graph I also incorporate the findings from Graph 2 and its discussion. This is not a precise line (there are going to be natural fluctuations) but the true “normal range threshold” line will not be too far off. I find this line helpful to view the epidemic in proper context.
I think this the coup de grace against the Panic, if there ever was one, especially combined with Graph 3.
As already remarked at the top of this post, the two curves are remarkably similar. Given the enormous gap in responses, one can be forgiven for being surprised at this.
- The peaks come at about the same time (mid-April);
- The peaks reach almost exactly the same height (in the 90s per 10m-pop. per day);
- During the long decline period, deaths track each other remarkably well, generally within 10 deaths per 10 million population per day.
- The two countries were back below the proposed normal-range threshold within a week of each other in mid-late May.
Given that Sweden and the US had such very different mitigation strategies, one has to do some serious straw-grasping to come up with any meaningful differences in these curves. What we are left with is that the demagogues who pushed the lockdowns were wrong. that did not result in a Deaths curve any different than what a No-Lockdown policy would have been.
Here are the differences:
- Cumulative deaths are modestly higher in Sweden (5060/10m pop.) than in the USA (3670/10m pop.). There are a variety of possible explanations for this but here is one that doesn’t get too technical:
- Sweden’s corona-deaths curve starts earlier. Sweden broke past the 40 deaths/10m pop./day threshold by March 29, while for the USA it would be April 6, nine days later.
Indications are the virus began circulating in Europe earlier anyway. The dataset is not proper for precise, day-to-day comparisons because the US data is based on “date death was reported” while Sweden’s is based on “date person died.” In practice and in reality, there should not be regular jumps/waves in the data like that. The US curve should be smoothed out even more than my five-day-average does and moved somewhat to the left to correct for this.
What should we have done?
Knowing what we know now, of course the US should never have pulled the lockdown trigger. Having done so in mid-March, it should have rapidly re-opened once more information was in.
Continuing the disruptions, for month after month unnecessarily triggered a major recession; hurt millions for no real gain; imposed endless social disruptions; triggered a bizarre political cult outbreak and riots; caused a coming crash in the birth rate; shocking and sudden defeats for basic political freedoms; major defeats for churches and small businesses; thousands of unnecessary, near-term Panic-induced deaths; and far worse health outcomes, for years to come (due to recession) which will, of course, get no media attention from the bloodthirsty CoronaPanic-pushers.
The victims of the Panic. Almost all of us, to one degree or another, including the misguided but generally good people on the pro-Panic side, are the victims. All will suffer in quiet despair in some way, and already have, with more to come. This was all so unnecessary that it boggles the mind.
Will anything convince the pro-Panic side?
A brief look back over the Corona-Panic over the past several months.
In March and into April, I believed the key to the puzzle was randomized population studies that would show how widespread the virus really was, and which would show that it was not an apocalypse virus after all. This was already highly likely by mid-March from the earliest data, but the studies hadn’t been done yet.
Then is started happening: From all over the world, studies started coming out showing fatality rates in the range of a strong flu strain. I was sure the corner would be turned. To my surprise, people reacted negatively to these studies, either ignoring them or attacking them. The narrative-shapers continued pushing what they always had. The pro-Panic side had pulled off a coup d’etat and was not letting go.
By mid-April, I realized that many even normally rational people weren’t going to be persuaded by these academic studies. They were deeply emotionally committed to the Panic (see Part XII, Corona as Religious Cult). In April the data was steadily discredited the Panic, defeating it on really all fronts. People continued to grasp onto the Panic. I started to think “Sweden is the key.” Non-specialists might not be convinced by academic studies, but surely they would be convinced by actual, observed, real-world data out of a country that never shut down. If there was no “millions of deaths” equivalent in Sweden, surely that would be decisive in defeating the Panic, stopping the bleeding, and swiftly re-opening, as we should have in Easter.
(Had Trump been a stronger leader, he would have stuck to the Easter reopening plan. That they forced him off of it shows he is not in control of his own administration, and maybe never has been.)
Looking back on the Panic, I do think it makes a compelling case for
I have tracked the coronavirus epidemic curves in Sweden closely since April.
By mid and especially late April, it was clear Sweden’s deaths curve had reached its peak (and a somewhat artificially high one it was, in that many of those deaths were to due to systematic failures by refugee staff in Stockholm nursing homes; nursing homes elsewhere in Sweden got better flu epidemic protections).
Now, by late June, the epidemic curves have all but completed themselves. The epidemic in Sweden ends up being No Big Deal, unlikely to cause a full-year mortality spike worthy of particular note on its own terms (see Part XI). No one should have locked down; slowly, they will all have to admit we of the anti-Panic side were right. History will.
The IMHE (Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation)’s influential modelling, which at one time pushed the same pro-Panic line as the discredit Neil Ferguson, now admits the final scope of the corona-positive deaths in Sweden will be 5,750, which was predicted here in early May. I predicted, based on the nature of the Deaths curve and the rules o these things, 5,750 in a comment to a post here, comment dated May 10.
Deaths in this range mean Sweden has gone through a flu wave, comparable to those it sees regularly, and there will be no full-year mortality rise.
Will this matter to anyone still on the pro-Panic side, that coalition of true-believers, media-believers, fanatics, cultists, misanthropes, demagogues, and political or personal agenda-pushers? They continue to push for all manner of shutdowns and disruptions, and now that the anti-racism cult has faded after several weeks of activity, they are back pushing Corona.
It’s remarkable that they can do this against every piece of evidence we have.