In an analysis published Tuesday, Stanford’s John P.A. Ioannidis — co-director of the university’s Meta-Research Innovation Center and professor of medicine, biomedical data science, statistics, and epidemiology and population health — suggests that the response to the coronavirus pandemic may be “a fiasco in the making” because we are making seismic decisions based on “utterly unreliable” data. The data we do have, Ioannidis explains, indicates that we are likely severely overreacting.
“The current coronavirus disease, Covid-19, has been called a once-in-a-century pandemic. But it may also be a once-in-a-century evidence fiasco,” Ioannidis writes in an opinion piece published by STAT on Tuesday.
“Draconian countermeasures have been adopted in many countries. If the pandemic dissipates — either on its own or because of these measures — short-term extreme social distancing and lockdowns may be bearable,” the statistician writes. “How long, though, should measures like these be continued if the pandemic churns across the globe unabated? How can policymakers tell if they are doing more good than harm?”
The woefully inadequate data we have so far, the meta-research specialist argues, indicates that the extreme measures taken by many countries are likely way out of line and may result in ultimately unnecessary and catastrophic consequences. Due to extremely limited testing, we are likely missing “the vast majority of infections” from COVID-19, he states, thus making reported fatality rates from the World Health Organization “meaningless.”
“Patients who have been tested for SARS-CoV-2 are disproportionately those with severe symptoms and bad outcomes,” Ioannidis explains. With very limited testing in many health systems, he suggests, that “selection bias” may only get worse going forward. – READ MORE
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