LIZ WHEELER (HOST): Let's make one thing clear amidst all this COVID-19 hysteria. The United States is not Italy. We've all heard this prediction, that we're 10 days behind Italy, we're about to see mass death here in the U.S.
But it hasn't happened yet. In fact, the data and the facts underpinning that claim that the U.S. is about to be Italy, that data is not adding up.
As I talked about last week, this is for many reasons. Italy has a much older per capita population, their population has a high percentage of smokers which means underlying health conditions, and their single-payer healthcare system crashed in the first 10 days after just one thousand extra patients. It turns out that Italy is also counting deaths differently, and may be greatly inflating the statistics coming out of the country.
Prof. Walter Ricciardi, scientific advisor to Italy's minister of health said, and I quote, "The way in which we code deaths in our country is very generous in the sense that all the people who die in hospitals with the coronavirus are deemed to be dying of the coronavirus. ... On re-evaluation by the NIH," he says, "only 12% of death certificates have shown a direct causality from coronavirus, while 88% of patients who have died have at least one pre-morbidity - many two or three."
To break this down with me, joining me is senior contributor at the Federalist Ben Weingarten. Ben, good to see you.
BEN WEINGARTEN (SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR AT THE FEDERALIST): Liz, thanks so much for having me.
WHEELER: Alright, Ben break this down. This is interesting: So 12 percent of deaths is the number that are -- show a direct casualty, 88 don't. So right now, Italy has suffered 6,000 deaths that they have deemed from coronavirus, 12 percent is 720. 88 percent is 5280. So that means five thousand -- over five thousand of their six thousand deaths aren't just, they haven't identified a direct causality. That significantly inflates their numbers, I think.
WEINGARTEN: Yeah, absolutely. And as you noted, there are underlying issues here as well in the way of the nationalized health care system that they have, the disproportionately elderly population that has been impacted by this, the fact that most of the cases come from a region in Tuscany and Lombardi as well that have substantial Chinese immigrant populations and not only that, but as well due to their ties to Italy and China via the One Belt One Road initiative, there's been substantial economic activity there between mainland China and Italy as well. So once again there's an issue here of, do we have apples to apples data that we're using in making our own decisions here in America and are we potentially doing devastating economic damage definitively on the basis of hypothetical models and shoddy data and that's something that I think the president acknowledged in his tweet I believe earlier this morning where he talked about the fact that at the end of 15 days we're gonna do a hard reevaluation here.
WHEELER: Right, because this is one of the most important things and I actually talk about the same principle whenever Democrats who advocate for socialized healthcare talk about the mortality rate of mothers and babies in our country. And they say, you know, why do we have a maternal mortality rate that's so much higher than other countries and we have to look at exactly how we calculate that rate versus how other countries calculate that rate. In the case of infant deaths, for example, we actually try to resuscitate babies much younger than others do. And we count babies who are born stillborn differently than other countries do. They don't count a lot of times babies who die within hours of death as ever having been alive, so they count that as miscarriage vs. death. All of those things factor in and this is true here. So there's a gentleman from Stanford University, he's an epidemiologist, we've talked about him a great deal on the show this past week because his analysis has so far been spot on, Professor John Ioannides. He said, and this is a quote, "In an autopsy series that tested for respiratory viruses in specimens from 57 elderly persons who died during 2016 t- 2017 influenza season, influenza viruses were detected in 18% of the specimens while any kind of respiratory virus was found in 47%. In some people who due from viral respiratory pathogens, more than one virus is found upon autopsy and bacteria are often superimposed."
And so, Ben, when you see that, when you read that, when you hear that kind of analysis, it leads you to the fact that this sounds very similar to how Italy is counting theirs except there's no indication that the United States counts these cases where multiple bacteria are found as just being because, that's just being because of coronavirus.