SWEDEN’S EXPERIENCE WITH COVID-19 INDICATES MICHIGAN HAS TAKEN WRONG APPROACH: MIRS August 27, 2020 by tbreport 9 Comments MIRS: Stockholm Doc Talks Michigan, Sweden and Herd Immunity Aug. 26, 2020 Swedish emergency room physician, Sebastian RUSHWORTH of Stockholm recently made national news with his theory this month that COVID-19 “is over” in his country because they didn’t go into a lockdown posture as other countries and its population developed herd immunity quickly. While Sweden may have one of the world’s highest total death rates, it’s not getting much higher because his country “ripped the metaphorical band-aid off quickly and got the epidemic over and done within a short amount of time,” Rushworth contended. “People have gone back to their normal lives and barely anyone is getting infected anymore, he said. “I am willing to bet that the countries that have shut down completely will see rates spike when they open-up. “If that is the case, then there won’t have been any point in shutting down in the first place, because all those countries are going to end up with the same number of dead at the end of the day anyway.” How might what happened in Sweden pertain to Michigan? Former Gov. Jennifer GRANHOLM, who is of Swedish heritage, often pointed out parallels between Michigan and Sweden. Sweden’s population is 10,343,403. Michigan’s is 10,045,000. Sweden is on a peninsula. Michigan is two peninsulas. Like Michigan, a disproportionately high percentage of Sweden’s population lives in its southern region. When it comes to COVID, there are big differences between Michigan and Sweden. Sweden’s pandemic policy is an outlier among nations. The Swedish government told its citizens to voluntarily do social distancing. With few exceptions, Sweden’s economy has remained free to function normally and hasn’t undergone the damage most of the rest of the world’s economies suffered. In early spring, when COVID deaths worldwide were mounting rapidly, Sweden’s policy was viewed, by most observers on both the left and right (including President Donald TRUMP) as the “bad example” of a nation that gambled on a ‘no lockdown’ policy and lost. Now, months later, that diagnosis is being challenged. MIRS interviewed Rushworth via email on Aug. 17-18. As of that point in time, Sweden’s Coronavirus numbers were: 85,045 confirmed cases and 5,787 deaths. Michigan had 102,259 cases and 6,592 deaths. In both places, the bulk of deaths occurred during the initial three to four months of the pandemic and declined to a relatively slow drip by early summer. Also, nursing home patients represent a significant percentage of COVID deaths in Michigan and Sweden. Q1: You offered the theory that Sweden has turned the corner regarding COVID and might end up with (at most) only around 7,000 deaths for the entire pandemic. Would you expect Michigan to possibly top out at a higher number of deaths than Sweden or just take a lot longer time to reach a similar number? Rushworth: “Based on the similarity of Michigan’s curve to Sweden’s, my guess would be — and this is very hypothetical — that lockdown was implemented too late in Michigan to have any meaningful effect on the spread of the disease. If that is the case, then Michigan has also probably reached a point where herd immunity is limiting further spread. Having said that, the populations of Michigan and Sweden are different. I would guess that Michigan has a much higher rate of obesity, and this is the second-biggest risk factor for dying of COVID, so it is possible Michigan has successfully limited spread and still has a big population that isn’t immune. If that is the case, then easing lockdown will likely result in a new spike in deaths.” Q2. Would you expect, due to its restrictions, that Michigan would be more vulnerable to additional deaths than Sweden if both places are hit by a second wave of COVID? Rushworth: “I don’t believe in a second wave. The probability of the virus mutating and causing a second wave is small. Re-opening society might however result in the first wave reaching new people who haven’t yet been exposed. If there is, against the odds, a second wave, people who were infected in the first wave likely will have some level of immunity and be less affected than those who weren’t infected in the first wave.” Q3. Do you suspect that Michigan’s COVID death total would be about the same as it is now if it had taken Sweden’s approach to the pandemic? Rushworth: “I don’t know, there are so many variables in play that it’s impossible to say. The only way to find out would be to open up and see whether infection rates go up or not.” Q4. In Michigan, news of a number of people testing positive for COVID-19 is considered “bad news.” At this point, do you believe that’s the right way of interpreting positive COVID test results? Rushworth: “No. The problem with the COVID PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test is that the specificity is around 99%. It’s not perfect. That means that one in 100 results will be a false positive. If only, say 1 in 1,000 tested people has COVID right now, that means nine out of 10 positive results will be false positives. That is just a hypothetical example to make the math work easily. My point is that when the disease has a low prevalence, false positives become a big problem with the test.” ***************************************************************
Rex LaMore says
I don’t believe the text of the article supports your headline.
David Richards says
Agreed. It is a pet peeve of mine because a number of people don’t get past the headline, and even readers who do get into the article are predisposed to a mistaken conclusion.
Eric Petersen says
That’s what I’ve been saying from the beginning…. forget this shutdown nonsense and let herd immunity do it’s job! All virus’s, the swine flu, the bird flu, etc, have eventually died because herd immunity robbed the virus of new hosts!
Forcing us all into isolation defeated herd immunity and so after lockdowns were lifted, the virus had lots of new hosts to attack.
This is not rocket science. (But it IS science!)
Kudos to Sweden for doing it right and shame on Queen Gretchen for doing it wrong.
J.Dallas Winegarden says
Great Job Bill,but I’m convinced
That The Gov Proactivity
Was the best chance for Michigan and Saved Lives.
Look at the South and West in the USA!
She Saved A lot of Lives.
thomas butch says
Mr. Petersen’s Comment requires certain responses.
Most viruses have not “died” because of herd immunity. What about the flu and common cold viruses? Viruses mutate, and herd immunity is not in any way assured. Major threats of late, including MERS, SARS, Ebola, etc have NOT been allowed to run wild. The traditional measures of testing, tracing, and quarantining have stopped these early, so they were not allowed to spread. The human cost could have been severe, especially for Ebola. The affected countries, including the US, jumped on these immediately, so few deaths arose. Unlike the COVID virus which was allowed to spread largely unchecked until it got a strong toehold, because “it will just disappear, it will be so beautiful when it does”. These viruses did NOT die out due to herd immunity !
The bird flu never came near being a pandemic. Overall, only a few hundred humans died from it. As to the swine flu, less than 13,000 died from it. Neither one of these was nearly as severe and lethal as COVID-19. For the swine flu, a vaccine was deployed quickly, within 6 months of the initial case. We are still some distance away from a vaccine yet for COVID, and the threat of mutation is high, rendering any vaccine as problematic. These viruses did NOT, repeat NOT, die out because of herd immunity ! Many billions of people are still susceptible to them.
Finally,the countries which have been most successful in knocking COVID down are those which jumped on it immediately, such as: Taiwan (0.03 deaths for each 100,000 citizens), Vietnam (0.03 per 100th), China (0.34 per 100th), New Zealand (0.45 per 100th), Singapore (0.48 per 100th), South Korea (0.61 per 100th), Japan (0.97 per 100th), etc. These countries locked down almost immediately, and implemented comprehensive testing, tracing, and quarantining procedures. If a “hot spot” does arise, they deal with it immediately. Accordingly, life has returned to near normal in these countries.
On the other hand, the US, which basically ignored the problem entirely for about 2 months and then suffered from paralysis in most of the country, and never locked down in a number of areas, has a death rate of 54.93 per 100,000 citizens !!! Too little testing too late, never an effective tracing system, etc. The US has the 11th worst death rate in the entire world. Of the major counties, only the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, and Brazil have a worse rate than we do. And, other than Brazil, they had it strike earlier than we did (giving us more time to prepare, which we wasted). Further, they dealt with it more miserably than even we did.
Sweden’s chief epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell,has admitted that his policies caused far too many unnecessary deaths. He admits that the country should have moved toward steps other nations took.
It certainly appears that the major countries in Asia got this right while we failed to follow science and let the politicians flounder around, with Washington especially afraid to do something which might make the economic numbers look unfavorable. At least some of the states, like Michigan, took steps early when they were among the hardest hit.
Edwin Wagstaff says
I’m pretty sure Anders Tegnell still stands by his approach, to suggest otherwise is misleading to the point of a lie.
Stop picking on Sweden for getting their epidemic response right.
His science worked better the DimWhitmer’s.
thomas butch says
This Comment relates to the erroneous headline to the interview.
Mr. LaMore is correct–the facts and even the text of the article do not support the incendiary and misleading headline.
See Comment above for the facts.
Thank you, however, for addressing this important area, about which most should be more familiar !
While there the populations and the geographies of Sweden and Michigan are very similar, there are two critical areas where they decisively differ: Sweden is very ethnically homogeneous compared to Michigan and the Swedish political culture is much more homogenous and harmonious than that of America.
The latter cannot be overlooked. Sweden ranks among the least corrupt / most trusted governments according to several independent, nonpartisan world indexes (consistently in the top five among 200 countries, whereas America usually ranks in the 20-30 range. . .still very good). As such, the Swedish people generally ‘buy in’, cooperate with, and trust their government (pay their taxes, even at higher tax rates) in pulling off such a ‘herd mentality’ experiment.
One could argue, of course, that there is a relationship / correlation between Sweden’s ethnic homogeneity and its homogenous political culture (the same also exists for its Scandinavian neighbors, Denmark and Norway). . . but that is a topic for another day!
Hjalmar Bergman says
Trouble with the US., is all our number’s are phonier than a 3dollar bill! There’s to much money thrown at Covid deaths and to many Corona virus’s that our medical people count all as Covid-19, once again for the money. If you die in a car accident don’t be surprised if on your tombstone it say’s, Covid-19, $RIP!
MONEY TALKS AS B.S. WALKS!