- An incredulous reader’s take on COVID-19 reporting
- “You’re way off the mark on this one!”
- Do we really need 5G?
Welcome to our weekly mailbag edition of The Bleeding Edge. All week, you submitted your questions about the biggest trends in technology. Today, I’ll do my best to answer them.
And let me say upfront that this might be one of our most interesting mailbag editions ever. My recent analysis around COVID-19 appears to have rattled a few cages.
I expected that would happen, but the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. There was so much feedback that I specifically asked my team to give me the negative responses so we can explore what is happening right now even further
Read on to see my responses to readers’ concerns.
But before I get to the questions, I’d like to leave us with some positive news. I’m encouraged by the current plans being put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to reopen the U.S. economy.
From what I have seen so far, the planning is very logical and will be done on a state-specific basis. States less affected and certainly in warmer climates will open sooner, and others will follow.
Testing will be more widespread, and there will be more protective equipment available. And schools, daycares, and other facilities that care for children will be the first priority.
While we will still be on lockdown for the rest of April, we have a lot to look forward to in May.
If you have a question you’d like answered next week, be sure you submit it right here.
The impact of inflated COVID-19 numbers…
Here’s our first comment about COVID-19 from a reader…
I find it incredulous that Mr. Brown has insinuated that physicians are placing the incorrect diagnosis code to collect more monetary reimbursement. If a patient comes in with bilateral pneumonia and has a negative flu test and negative blood cultures, the odds are that the patient has COVID-19 in this environment.
Tests for the virus would always be sent out, but the results may not be back if the patient expires early. So when the death certificate is filled out, it is certainly possible to put down COVID-19 as the cause of death when the definitive diagnostic test results are not back. Also, there are four or five different ways that a patient with COVID-19 could have evidence of heart damage, ranging from a classical type I myocardial infarction (MI) to myocarditis from the virus or the cytokine storm.
In these cases, the primary proximate cause of death could very well be an MI, but the underlying causative factor is COVID.
If you watch how incredibly hard these understaffed and underprotected medical workers are indeed working to stave off death and suffering, as well as protecting themselves, it is hard to understand where they would have the mental time to upcode a death certificate or hospital chart to get more reimbursement for the hospital, especially when they are possibly just employees of the hospital and are not getting anything out of it.
– Andrew C.
Hi, Andrew. Even though you seem very cross with me, I appreciate you writing in with your comment in response to my Tuesday edition of The Bleeding Edge.
If you read carefully what I wrote on Tuesday, I am not suggesting that individual health care workers – physicians, nurses, etc. – are intentionally mislabeling the cause of death for some kind of personal financial gain.
As I wrote in a previous mailbag edition, I have great respect for all the health care workers who are on the “front lines.” And I know these are trying times for health care professionals in hard-hit areas like New York City.
The point that I made was that deaths are being reclassified as COVID-19 under the direct and explicit guidance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS).
I never suggested that health care workers were doing something wrong or unethical. My point was quite the opposite. They are doing exactly what they have been instructed to do.
That guidance, for those of us who missed it, states…
In cases where a definite diagnosis of COVID-19 cannot be made, but it is suspected or likely (e.g., the circumstances are compelling within a reasonable degree of certainty), it is acceptable to report COVID-19 on a death certificate as “probable” or “presumed.”
It is also a fact that the HHS has stated that the aid “will focus on providers in areas particularly impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.”
It doesn’t matter whether we are corporate executives, someone running a nonprofit, a hospital administrator, or even a politician. We are always fighting for additional funds every year.
The best of us do that to improve the quality of service that we offer, develop new products, grow our business, better support our customers/constituents, and deliver on our mission or forecast. And yes, unfortunately, there are some bad apples out there that have ulterior motives.
Case in point. Since the Tuesday issue, something remarkable happened. Unlike the pneumonia deaths that have already been and are being reclassified weekly under the direction from the HHS/CDC/NVSS, the New York City Health Department just did something extraordinary.
It reclassified 3,778 past deaths as COVID-19. In one day. City officials released these new numbers of people that have already been issued death certificates for other causes and were never tested for COVID-19. And they will never be tested for COVID-19.
So the “spike” in deaths this week isn’t a bunch of new deaths. This is entirely from the reclassification by New York City officials. It caused a 17% spike in the fatality count for COVID-19 in one day. And this spike will result in NYC receiving a larger proportional amount of aid from the CARES Act.
This single decision, which was not based on testing, will have severe secondary effects. I suspect other cities will go back and do the same in order to increase their funding. If they don’t, they’ll miss out.
These shenanigans are destructive and counterproductive. And they will cause even greater loss of life and financial stability. Why?
Because decisions related to our state of lockdown, employment, and timing to return to normal are based on the data. And if the data are being manipulated in a way that appears to cause a greater crisis, then many others will suffer.
There is a positive correlation between unemployment and addiction, depression, and even suicide.
How many people are going to suffer, and possibly die, because their surgeries have been postponed while many hospitals are running at less than 50% capacity?
Special needs children are not receiving critical services while schools are closed. In this way, economic decisions based on false data have severe consequences for public health.
A question that we can ask is this: Why is the CDC issuing such guidance to health care professionals? Why is it trying to inflate the COVID-19 numbers when that might give the impression that the crisis is much larger than it actually is?
It has been horrifically wrong with its forecasts, which has come as quite an embarrassment.
The U.S. today is flooded with COVID-19 tests. Millions are being shipped every week, but they are not being utilized. Health care organizations are refusing to work with certified laboratories because they don’t use the same software system for health records, so tests are being backlogged at locations that do.
This is crazy that the industry wouldn’t work through this and would refuse to work with a lab just because it is inconvenient to do so.
My sincere wish is that we have accurate data, which includes testing done on a perfectly healthy population to understand the percentage of the population that has had COVID-19 and become immune.
The data must have integrity, and we now know that both the numerator (deaths reported) and the denominator (number of people infected) are both inaccurate. The numerator is too large, and the denominator is too small. And this leads to bad decision making.
How many asymptomatic COVID-19 patients are there?
Here in Colorado, we have 6,510 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 250 deaths. That’s a 3.8% death rate, and that percentage has been increasing daily!
Am I supposed to believe that there are so many people who have symptoms that are not bad enough to visit a doctor that the death rate is only 0.1%?
Come on, Jeff. I know you’re a brilliant individual (I mean that sincerely), but you’re way off the mark on this one!
– Glenn F.
Thanks for writing in, Glenn. I’m really glad that you raised this point, as it is widely misunderstood in the media.
The actual case fatality rate would be determined by the number of actual deaths caused by COVID-19 divided by the total number of people that have contracted COVID-19 (this includes all asymptomatic and mild cases that sought no medical care of any kind).
The problem is that today, we don’t have accurate numbers. As per my previous comments, many deaths are being reclassified as COVID-19 even without testing. But the much larger issue is that none of the asymptomatic or the mild and moderate cases are being reported in the statistics.
And we do have concrete data that demonstrates that the number of asymptomatic and mild/moderate cases is very large.
Research from Iceland, where 10% of the country’s population has now been tested for COVID-19, determined that 43% of those who tested positive were asymptomatic.
And the research just published about the Diamond Princess cruise ship found that 18% of those infected were asymptomatic.
So let’s look at what happens to the numbers in Colorado using just 18%. If we take 18% of Colorado’s roughly 5.79 million population, that would give us just over a million people who we would categorize as asymptomatic or mild enough cases that they do not require medical help.
There are now 374 deaths reported in Colorado. That would result in a case fatality rate of 0.036%.
Neither one of us knows what the exact number is right now, and we won’t until the healthy population is tested for COVID-19 antibodies (meaning they have had it). But as I wrote yesterday, we do know that the number is likely well below 1% on a national level and almost certainly lower than 0.625%.
To be clear, Glenn, I’m not suggesting in any way that this virus is a “hoax.” It is a very real virus. But based on data that has not been widely talked about by the press, it is nowhere near as deadly as we have been led to believe.
Do we need 5G if we already have Wi-Fi?
That’s enough discussion about COVID-19 for one day. Let’s finish up with a question on the 5G wireless rollout…
Jeff, you said phones and computers would have to be replaced since they are not 5G compatible. Most people connect to the internet via their Wi-Fi. The speed will be determined by the internet connection, which can be much faster than 5G. So the device does not have to be 5G compatible unless it is not connected to Wi-Fi. Your thoughts?
– Jimy U.
Thanks for your question, Jimy.
Before I get to the details of your question, we must understand that there are two wireless networks that we are talking about.
One is the wireless network that our phones operate on when we are out and about – this is through wireless operators like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Vodafone, Orange, NTT Docomo, and so many others.
Then there are Wi-Fi networks that are not 4G or 5G. These are another form of wireless network technology that we use in our homes or our businesses.
Yes, it’s absolutely true that any device that currently accesses the 4G wireless networks will have to be upgraded to a 5G-compatible device if we want to use these fifth-generation wireless networks. That means that all our smartphones are “worthless” when it comes to 5G networks.
And as for your second question: Aren’t fixed broadband speeds faster than 5G? Why can’t we just rely on that?
The truth is that your at-home Wi-Fi is actually much slower than 5G.
Today, the average download speed for fixed broadband in the United States is about 132 megabits per second (Mbps). To put that in perspective, a typical HD movie is about 4 gigabytes of data. With the average fixed broadband speeds, it would take us about 4 minutes and 20 seconds to download that movie. That’s not too bad.
But I recently tried out 5G wireless networks in person during a visit to Washington, D.C. And the 5G speeds I saw there were nearly 1,700 Mbps. In other words, those 5G speeds were about 12 times faster than the average fixed broadband speed. Again, not 12% faster, but 12 times faster.
With those speeds, do you know how long it would take us to download that same HD movie? 20 seconds. That’s it. That is simply incredible.
Now, you are correct that any device that uses a Wi-Fi wireless network will not have to be upgraded. But it will not be faster than an average 5G wireless connection. That may change over time if a house is fortunate enough to have fiber to the home, but that’s pretty rare right now.
And for anybody who’d like to see the 5G speed test for themselves, simply click on the image below.
5G will be one of the most profitable investment trends of this decade. This technology will unlock trillions of dollars in new wealth. And the best 5G stocks will soar by hundreds, even thousands, of percent as the 5G era unfolds.
But I promise that 99% of investors don’t understand this yet. 5G still doesn’t seem “real” to many of them. That’s why the best 5G stocks are still trading at a steep discount. But this setup won’t last for long.
For readers who haven’t positioned themselves with 5G investments, now is the time. Recently, I revealed my No. 1 large-cap 5G stock for 2020. Go right here for all the details.
That’s all the time we have for this week. Remember, you can always submit your questions to me right here.
Editor, The Bleeding Edge
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