Like many, I have spent arguably too much time over the last few years researching COVID 19 and many things related. I have listened to Presidents (Okay I don’t listen to Biden), health officials, pundits in the news and friends. I have read more medical studies than ever before in my life. I have read numerous articles from all sources and read thousands of comments regarding those articles, many of which have sent me to yet more articles and studies.
The country, and world for that matter, is clearly divided on many of the issues surrounding COVID 19. How severe was it really? Do masks protect you, harm you or do nothing at all? Do lockdowns protect you, harm you or do nothing at all? What about the vaccines? These subjects have been argued at great length but many of the arguments are over things I cannot personally control. I have my opinions on these matters but those opinions are not of much practical value in most cases. I would like to present some information that I hope has practical application not just with COVID 19, but in other scenarios as well.
I should note what I mean by practical application. Most of what I will cover I hope will assist you in the way you think and approach this pandemic and other situations. Not much gear, medicine, food, or specific skills, etc. This is largely about attitude and mindset as well as physical and mental preparation for adversity and uncertainty.
My favorite information is information published prior to COVID 19 ever being on anyone’s radar or COVID data (not advice) from state health departments. I will cite my sources although I will provide some anecdotal information as well.
The information I will share in this three-part article falls into several categories:
1. Psychological manipulation (whether innocent or malign)
2. The importance of fitness at all times
3. The viral distribution of Influenza-Like Illnesses (ILI)
4. Vaccine, therapy, and general health implications
5. Final thoughts
I would include thoughts on supply chain disruption but I think that subject is covered quite well on this blog, and although I follow it, I have nothing new to contribute IMO.
To begin my discussion of this topic I would like to relate an old “sea story” as those of us old Navy guys call them. Although the story comes from a shore-based class I attended 25+ years ago.
The Navy, since at least the 1980s when I enlisted, has been very concerned with the adverse effects of drug and alcohol abuse. Every sailor will in their career attend many courses on the subject.
About midway through my career, I attended one of these training sessions. (Probably my second or third.) The format of the course was to have everyone (probably 30 people) sit in circle in an appropriately sized room and have a supposedly free-flowing seminar type environment. The course was facilitated by two civilian contractors and monitored by another. The course was developed by the University of Arizona and was intended to inform personnel about the physical, legal, and moral implications of drug and alcohol abuse and presumably nudge people into zero drug use (drug use got you kicked out of the Navy) and responsible use of alcohol.
It was a standard feel-good, attempt to supposedly get at your feelings while lecturing you a little with facts and figures. However, it had a very annoying twist. Verbal participation was virtually mandatory and everything you said, without exception, had to be prefaced with the statement, “I make myself feel”. If you were asked what the blood alcohol level was for drunk driving in the state was, you had to say, “I make myself feel it is .08.” If you were asked what color is the sky, you had to say, “I make myself feel it is blue.” This policy was strictly enforced under penalty of being reported to your command for non-cooperation with the instructor and possible disciplinary action.
We suffered through this stuff, took a final test and then had to fill out class critiques. Normal stuff. I went to turn my class critique into the man who had been silently monitoring the course and engaged him in conversation. I asked him what this annoying “I make myself feel” nonsense was about. After a little cajoling he told me its purpose.
The University of Arizona had done some research and found that forcing people to say uncomfortable jargon, repeatedly, broke down their inhibitions and made inserting information into a subject’s mind easier and made them retain the information longer. The goal of the course had actually been to teach everyone the rather dry information and statistics about the health and legal consequences of drug and alcohol abuse. We of course had to regurgitate this dry information on the final test. The University had found that teaching the course in the same seminar format without the “I make myself feel” jargon resulted in satisfactory test scores immediately following the course. However, if the students were retested six months later, they retained very little of the information. By simply making all of the students say “I make myself feel” (which irritated everyone) the six-month retention of the information increased drastically. The test scores at six months were supposedly only marginally lower than the final test scores when the class was held.
I was pretty stunned. I had just been purposely “brainwashed” using a well-researched technique developed by a major University specifically for this purpose.
I apologize for the long sea story, but the point is that I KNOW formal psychological manipulation exists. But what does this have to do with COVID 19?
This is a study conducted by the Johns Hopkins, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center for Health Security and posted here October of 2017, well prior to the COVID 19 pandemic. This is not a medical study. There is little if anything of pure medical value in the study. This is an example of how to conduct a tabletop exercise, to game out communication strategy in a pandemic scenario with the objective to reduce resistance, within the populace, to follow public health guidelines. Although fairly long, I recommend that everyone take the time to read this study. It uses a coronavirus pandemic as its sample pandemic. Not influenza. Not Ebola. Coronavirus. The scenario mirrors what actually happened in 2020/21 by I would estimate 70% or more. It includes conflict about therapeutics and vaccines. It talks about the social media aspects and conflicts. It accurately calls so much of the scenario that played out as to be eerie IMO. It certainly is not 100% but it is pretty close.
I dealt with Johns Hopkins University extensively while in the Navy. Johns Hopkins has numerous government contracts where they analyze information provided by military and government personnel (including myself and those I worked with) and provide suggestions for operational and security decisions. They are not unique in this role, as many Universities do the same thing. However, they are very influential.
I might also add that I never saw anything nefarious in Johns Hopkin’s activities. They did pretty good work, although it seemed from my perspective that their primary goal was simply to demonstrate how “valuable” their information was, continue getting the contracts and keep their jobs.
My point in all this is to provide you, the reader with irrefutable facts that psychological manipulation is well researched, well planned and it is employed. Whether it was employed during the COVID 19 pandemic can be debated, but that it was “gamed” well prior to the pandemic is irrefutable. Whether any manipulation that did occur was for innocent purposes or nefarious purposes is debatable but it certainly was planned for by smart people well in advance. My opinion is that motives are usually a mix of innocent and at least selfish if not nefarious in virtually all cases.
What is the point of all this bloviating? A questioning attitude in any situation (COVID 19 related or not) is essential. Or to put it in the more elegant words of Edgar Allan Poe: “Believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see.”
The Importance of Fitness at All Times
As a conservative living in a western state, it may come to some as a surprise what (arguably) is my favorite source for COVID 19 information: The New York Department of Health Coronvirus Website Fatalities page.
I like this page because it gives one of the best breakdowns of COVID 19 deaths I have found. My own states comparable website is quite good as well but New York breaks down the information regarding race, sex, age and particularly comorbidities better. Being a quite populous state, their sample size is also large.
I like COVID death numbers because I view them as some of the most reliable and useful numbers. The case numbers are rather debatable with the questions regarding the PCR test, etc. Hospitalization numbers, if you look carefully at them, are usually “influenza-like illnesses” not necessarily just COVID. You find that fine print on almost all the states web sites. The death numbers are almost certainly gamed (how much is debatable) but dead is dead and there is extremely useful information in those numbers even if they are gamed.
On the day I am writing this 91.9% of all COVID 19 deaths in New York State involve at least one comorbidity. 44,137 deaths out of 48,066. If you follow the link now or in a month, you will not see an appreciable difference in the percentages. They have not budged since the beginning of the pandemic. The top two cormobidities are hypertension and diabetes. These two are involved in over 25K and 16K of the deaths respectively. They are largely treatable and preventable being particularly responsive to diet and exercise. One can make the same argument for many of the other comorbidities.
If these numbers do not provide motivation for maintaining good fitness, I don’t know what will. SurvivalBlog has a number of articles regarding health and fitness and if you are not in shape, I highly recommend you engage in a sensible diet and exercise program. Your life may depend on it whether that be in a pandemic environment, a snowstorm, a heatwave, riot,… you name it. If there is anything good about COVID, it is that it drives this home like few other situations have.
(To be continued tomorrow, in Part 2.)