It’s time for an update on COVID-19 and the Navy. ComNavOps previously examined the issue and stated that COVID was not a threat to the Navy and extreme isolation measures were not needed (see, “COVID-19 and the Navy”).(1) This position was met with skepticism by readers, to put it mildly.
The best way to deal with COVID is to read and understand actual data rather than the fear-mongering press reports and government and CDC recommendations that are not based on science and data. In that vein, let’s get an update on COVID and the Navy/military.
As of 21-Apr-2021, the military, overall, has reported 185,259 cases of infection with 1,634 hospitalized (0.9% hospitalization rate) and 24 deaths.(2) That’s out of approximately 1.4M active duty personnel. The Navy accounts for 37,511 COVID cases of the 185,259 cases in the military.(2)
The 24 deaths out of 185,259 cases makes the overall military death rate from COVID around 0.01% among those infected. That’s as close to zero as you can get.
More sailors die from traffic accidents.
For comparison, the following table shows the number of deaths (all services combined) for a couple of selected non-COVID causes for the single year 2010.(4)
Cause of Death
Contrast those numbers for a one year period with the total of 24 deaths in the entire military over the year and a half that we’ve been dealing with COVID.
A sailor has a much higher chance of dying from some other disease than from COVID and yet we don’t take insane precautions for any of those illnesses.
On a related note, the Navy now has 145,939 people fully vaccinated and 69,711 partially vaccinated.
Do vaccinations work? The CDC reports 5800 verified cases of a vaccinated person being infected out of 77,000,000 people vaccinated.(3) That makes the vaccinated infection rate to be 0.0075% which is, for all practical purposes, zero.
At this point, some of you may be saying, okay ComNavOps, you were right way back at the start that COVID was not, and is not, a dire threat to service personnel but even one death is a tragedy and the military has an obligation to prevent all deaths. Well … that’s completely wrong.
Yes, every death is a tragedy for those it impacts but, no, the military does not have an obligation to prevent all deaths. If they did, they’d confine everyone to quarters, in total isolation, wrapped in bubble wrap, never venturing outside, never driving, and they’d administer full physicals every day. Of course, that’s ludicrous. Service and, indeed, life, involves a degree of risk. We take reasonable precautions where and when we can but we accept that risk and death are part of life.
Even routine civilian life involves risks of death that we routinely accept. For example, for the seven year period 2008-2015, there were 1,610 deaths due to animals, an average of 230/yr . Compare that number to the 24 military deaths in a year and a half. Interestingly, the majority of animal deaths, 57%, were from non-venomous animals.(4) So, should we kill all animals to prevent human deaths?
We see then, that the Navy is engaged in extraordinary measures to control a disease that among service personnel has a hospitalization rate of 0.9% and a death rate of 0.01%. The Navy loses far more personnel to other causes of death and yet takes only passing and reasonable precautions (I’m being generous – they take almost no precautions) against those. It is only ignorance, politics, fear-mongering, and political correctness that has caused the Navy to react in such an extreme manner to COVID. The science never supported such actions in the military’s service population.
My advice to the Navy – based on science and data – is drop the masks and get back to business as normal.
I'm going to moderate the comments for this post due the expected deluge of non-scientific, non-data based comments. We'll resume normal commenting on the next post.
Masks, by the way, do nothing. Report after report has demonstrated the ineffectiveness of masks. Empirical proof also demonstrates the uselessness of masks. If masks worked, COVID would have been gone long ago.
The only mask that offers any protection is the N95 and that offers only partial protection and then only if properly fitted, which almost never happens, and used by trained personnel, which is rare even in hospital settings. Surgical masks offer no protection and homemade masks are pointless.
I generally agree with this but to be fair, your numbers are the number of deaths after taking precautions. There is no equivalent navy without measures taken that you can compare with.ReplyDelete
If the precautions would have been effective the fact that few have died would not mean anything vis-a-vis the lethality of the disease.
The issue with the masks is one of the most astonishing things with the whole pandemic. Yes, there is evidence that in a clinical environment with trained users surgical masks can be effective but not only do we not have any factual evidence on a population level (including untrained, unmotivated users using makeshift equipment) - that statistic is also easily available! Several countries (particularly in Europe) have had a set date when masks became mandatory from not being widely used. If the disease dropped from that date (or from a time relating to that date) we would know that there was an effect. Otherwise we would know that there wasn't. I have been able to see no such relation in the data and I have seen no-one that claim they have.
Ergo masks have no more effect than dummies against covid on a population level.
"If the precautions would have been effective the fact that few have died would not mean anything vis-a-vis the lethality of the disease."Delete
You've got this wrong. In a homogenous subset of the general population, which is what the military pretty much is, the effect - or lack thereof - of protective measures has no impact on death rate since everyone who gets infected is the same in terms of age, risk factors, etc. Thus, a protected (or unprotected) subset population is at the same risk of death whether subject to protective measures or not. The death rate, as I've calculated it, is the percentage of INFECTED cases that die, not the percentage of the entire population (or subset) that die. Thus, the death rate is ONLY a measure of inherent lethality. Protective measures can, if effective (which they're not), change the death rate for the population as a whole (meaning infected and uninfected) but, again, that's not how this death rate was calculated.
Now, in a non-homogenous population like the overall US, the ages vary widely, as does general health, risk factors, etc. In this case, if we were to apply protective measures to a specific subset, such as the elderly, and if those measures were actually effective, then the overall death rate could be skewed and you'd be correct but, again, the death rate among infected people would be unchanged and strictly a function of inherent lethality (and improvements in medical treatment of infected people as doctors gain experience - and we've seen this phenomenon actually occur).
Protective measures in a subset affect ONLY the infection rate, not the death rate when calculated based on infections.
Do you see the difference?
In addition to all that, we've seen that our protective measures are pretty much useless. If they had an significant effect, the virus would have been stopped long ago and would not exist at all in smaller groups that have rigorously applied those measures, like the military or a specific ship - and yet the virus 'marches' right past our protective measures because they are ineffective.
"Protective measures in a subset affect ONLY the infection rate, not the death rate when calculated based on infections." That is correct. My argument was based on the death rate in the population - infected or not. Apologies if this was unclear.Delete
Our measures are generally ineffective. Face masks are a good example. But not all measures are equally ineffective. We need to remove politics from the equation and let the scientists get on with finding what really helps. Also a bit of cost/benefit thinking would be welcome.
"Our measures are generally ineffective."Delete
One of the major problems is that we do not yet understand the mode of transmission of the virus. Previous models seem not to apply. I have yet to read an authoritative medical report detailing a study of the mode of transmission. We have lots of speculation based on other, similar diseases but it doesn't seem to apply.
For example, it was initially assumed that surface contamination and transmission were a mode of transmission (hence, the run on cleaning supplies) and yet subsequent small studies as well as empirical evidence suggests that this is not a significant mode.
We assume that droplets (speaking, coughing, etc.) are a significant mode and yet masks offer no significant protection so even that assumption is suspect.
What is the mode of transmission? We don't know.
My fear is that the virus is transmitted via true aerosolization (is that a word?) of the individual viruses rather than via macroscopic droplets. If that is true, then that would explain why micron size viruses can penetrate masks so easily. Let me emphasize, that is pure, worst case speculation on my part and I've seen no evidence to back it up … but it would explain a lot.
"Also a bit of cost/benefit thinking would be welcome."
You could not be more correct. We've devastated our economy and society to protect against a disease that is only slightly worse than the regular flu. All we had to do was apply protective measures to the at-risk population (elderly, underlying conditions) and the rest of the population - and economy - could have continued as normal.
"57%, were from non-venomous animals."ReplyDelete
A cow will crush you to death and not notice you were even between it and the wall / fence / whatever,
They are unbelievably strong.
Ive read of ships quarantining before deployments, curtailing port visits etc... But what do you think is the effect of COVID, and the anti-COVID measures, on readiness and the overall state of the Navy?? Is there a noticeable change? I would imagine that the maintenance backlog has increased due to the slowed interaction with shipyards and their workers, supply chains interrupted on the civilian side, etc.ReplyDelete
I would imagine that the Navy, or military overall isnt an exactly representative microcosm of the US population, since the average age must be significantly lower. Im guessing, but I'd think it would be about 26 (??), and of course younger people are at a much lower risk of hospitilization/death. But having said that, youre right in that the extreme measures are almost certainly overkill, and are just one more addition to the services failures and management shortcomings...
Just out of curiosity, I surfed some numbers real quick for the US military overall, and it seems the average enlisted age is 27-ish, and 32 for officers. So the average overall is solidly in a lower-risk category.Delete
"effect of COVID, and the anti-COVID measures, on readiness"ReplyDelete
I had to chuckle. Given how bad readiness was before COVID, I'm hard pressed to see any significant worsening! Yes, some maintenance has been further delayed but once a ship is deferred, does it if it's further deferred? Hmmm ...
I generally agree with this post and some parts of the military do too. But I feel like this is one of those political decisions that is forced down the chain of command similar to extremism and sexual harassment training.ReplyDelete
Another issue I see with the whole COVID-response is the lack of up-to-date accurate situational information. Both the UN and the CDC doesn't recommend one single site where it could be treated as a wiki database available to the general public. Recommendations and suggestions could be made from these PUBLICLY AVAILABLE RESEARCH that instills confidence in both the population and the government. In fact, to that point, there could be debates of the effectiveness of mask with inputs from AROUND THE WORLD or hydroxychloroquine which has largely become political (mostly since Trump backed) even though there exists some information backing its effectiveness. We have people creating wikis for TV show episodes that gets updated the moment they finish watching, how hard is creating this?
I know this may not be related to the military but I believe this public information engagement could allow the military to back its decision if it made the right one, or adjust it if it's stupid. If something isn't common sense, make it one! Part of the reason why I love this blog so much!!!
"this public information engagement could allow the military to back its decision"Delete
While there is no single, all-encompassing website of all existing COVID data, there has been sufficient data available since very early on, to enable sound, medically supported decision making. For example, we've known since very early that the elderly and those with underlying conditions were the main risk group and that the under-40 age group was at almost zero risk. That, alone, should have been sufficient to allow the military to decide to adopt a minimal protective posture since the service age group was not at risk. Despite this readily available data, the military instead opted for a massive, unwarranted effort that accomplished nothing.
The problem with a disease or generally any new threats is that we don't know for sure. We can assess it with what we have but for long-term purposes, most of our predictions are speculation. What if COVID actually have a strong life-threatening effect a year into its introduction to all previously thought safe-groups? Then, we would blame ourselves for not taking the necessary precautions (as simple as wearing a mask or as complicated as adhering to lock-down protocol) when we got a chance to. Like any real combat scenarios, the military was colliding with this new threat and gathering enough information so that they could identify a method to effectively deal with it.Delete
Now, my agreement with you lies with the latter stages where there are an abundance of studies and even experiments by ALL NATIONS confirming the hypothesis that the only affected age-group is the elderly and those with underlying conditions. They should have continually assess those information and lift the requirements as they see fit.
"What if COVID actually have a strong life-threatening effect a year into its introduction"Delete
There's a couple things wrong with this 'what if' approach.
COVID is NOT a new, never before seen disease. It's a variant of the common coronavirus family which includes several types of the common cold. COVID is a SARS-CoV variant which caused the outbreak in 2003 and the MERS-CoV in 2021. So, we do have quite a bit of data on closely related diseases and there is no reason to expect that the COVID variant would be markedly different in respect to long term effects.
The common flu and cold viruses mutate all the time - which is why we don't have effective vaccines for them - so if you believe that extreme protective measures are warranted for the COVID due to unknown long term effects (despite our familiarity with their close relatives) then you must also believe that we should take non-stop, extreme protective measures against the common cold and flu because we can never be 100% sure than one of their variants won't produce severe long term effects, right?
We need to let actual data guide us, not fears of a highly unlikely 'what if' scenario and we need to accept a certain, small degree of risk as the price for living a normal life.
I would like to state that your facts are accurate. But this examination is more of a benefit of hindsight than being in the thick of the situation.Delete
As I recall, the situation during time period was confusing/conflicting to the extreme. I distinctively remember China reporting an extremely low death rate which was doubted to be true. And then the WHO doctors who reported the same and it eases people's mind for a few weeks and then Ex-President Trump ALSO cast doubt on that organization as a whole. Or even if it's true in China, it might not be true with the States? Could China take advantage of the chaos and deploy a biological weapon in the mix? How are we so sure they couldn't? At this point, how is it any different from fighting an actual war?
Imagine this in a combat scenario, we hear reports about a Chinese lazer being deployed with disastrous effects. You, a captain, has been briefed on the state of Chinese lazer development but conflicting reports come in saying that its effect ranging from "harming and blinding the optics" to "wiping out a fleet at first spot". Unsure of the actual capabilities, you do everything in your power to mask yourself and when you see it, you strike with overwhelming firepower. Gradually, you learn its actual capabilities and then you allocate a more reasonable weapon load for such threat.
Don't both of these cases sound similar? It's just a learning process to make sure we don't have unnecessary deaths.
"we should take non-stop, extreme protective measures against the common cold and flu because we can never be 100% sure than one of their variants won't produce severe long term effects, right?"
I don't actually believe that it warrants a non-stop protective measure but a few short months is applicable IF IT'S DEADLY AND UNKNOWN. And how extreme are we really talking about here? Aside from the lockdown, the remaining measures are just normal healthy recommendations that became required. I agree that the lockdown is a step too far but calling it extreme is kinda absurd.
"this examination is more of a benefit of hindsight"Delete
No, the data about which group was at risk and to what degree was available almost from the very beginning. We also knew that overall death rates were on the order of 1%, not 10, 20, or 50%, so we knew we were dealing with a disease that was not a mass killer. We knew from its genetic similarity to previous SARS/MERS variants that the general characteristics would be similar to those, differing only in degree. We had all this, and more, almost from day one. No hindsight was needed. My earlier post, referenced in this post, was from Apr-2020 and, without the benefit of hindsight, pointed out all these things. So, no, this is not a post made possible only in hindsight.
"but a few short months is applicable IF IT'S DEADLY AND UNKNOWN"
As I've just pointed out, COVID was neither massively deadly nor unknown.
"how extreme are we really talking about here?"
Assuming you're a US citizen, you witnessed how extreme the reaction was: devastated economy, closed businesses, permanently lost jobs, huge increase in suicides, disrupted education, massive shortages, massive unemployment, unimaginable federal debt increase, etc. For what? To protect against a disease with a 99% survival rate? If all that isn't extreme, I don't know what is. How much more extreme could it have been?
The 24 military deaths includes the million reservists. Most deaths were reservists, and nearly all of those older and obese.ReplyDelete
Do you have a reference to support that?Delete
Data includes active and inactive Service members (Active Duty, Reserve, and National Guard).ReplyDelete
As of Nov 2020, only one active duty member had died.
The oddest thing in COVID politics is the outright censorship of discussions. Youtube has quickly deleted videos by medical doctors who state this is not a pandemic or suggest cheap cures. Dr. Roger Hodkinson offered his informed perspective to Edmonton’s City Council on how governments responded to COVID-19. He called for the end of restrictions, mask use, testing, and social distancing. This was posted for two weeks until Youtube banned it. He is an expert in the field.ReplyDelete
It can be seen here:
Real problem is lose fighting power.ReplyDelete
COVID-19 is highly contagious and naval ships are environments for contagious virus to spread. Sick people cannot perform their duties as good as they are in good spirit. People are not machines. They have up/down in spirit which affect their performances.
Today's naval battles are mostly BVR (beyond visual ranges) which rely on people's concentration on watch signals from sensors and computer screen to track weapons fired.
This is absurd. We are not at war so if, worst case, an entire ship simultaneously contracted COVID, the only thing that would happen is that the ship would be out of action for a week or two while the crew suffered symptoms of a mild flu.Delete
In this age group, that's about the worst that happens - mild flu symptoms for a few days. Also, data suggests that around 40% of the crew would be asymptomatic. Once recovered, the crew would have immunity for several months to a lifetime. We have no data yet on long term immunity although studies on the closely related SARS virus have found antibodies in people who contracted SARS in 2003 so that suggests long term immunity.
Had the Navy done nothing about preventing COVID, the worst case is that they would have had a bunch of slightly sick sailors and would now have a naturally immunized fleet!
Worst case for service age people, you take a week off while the virus runs its course.
We're not going to suddenly have instantaneous outbreaks in the middle of battle resulting in ships drifting at sea while the entire crews are incapacitated. That's absurd.
This also illustrates a major problem with current military leadership: the 0-casualty mindset. It doesn't matter that there is only a statistically zero death rate. ANY death is unacceptable. This is the main reason we are really going all in on unmanned. No dead bodies whatsoever. Even the Marine Corps Commandant is jumping on that bandwagon with his silly missile marines.ReplyDelete
War leaves people dead. That is the way of war. It is not nice, it can be argued that it is immoral, but war is about death.
Statistically, the infamous Tet Offensive of the Vietnam war was one of the greatest victories in US Military History. Taken by surprise, and outnumbered the US and South Vietnam literally destroyed the Vietcong so badly they were no longer relevant. The NVN regulars even with tanks were driven back and defeated. But we lost a lot of men. And that was repeated over and over. In perspective, we lost about as many troops during the Tet Offensive as we lost at Anzio in WW2. We lost 5x either of those battles on the shores of France in June 1944. Between Normandy and the Bulge we lost almost as many as the entire Vietnam War. I'm not arguing one way or another about the "rightness" of Vietnam or more recent conflicts. The point is good people will always die in war. That is how it is done.
In WW2 the Navy dead numbered 62,614. Against China--a larger and more technologically advanced opponent--we should expect no less danger. One carrier sunk could be as many as we lost on Dec.7th, 1941.
A Navy that thinks they can make war a bloodless affair is at best lying to themselves and at worse lying to America.
America actually suffered very little casualties in WWII given the sheer scale of the conflict, having to face the German forces' full might head-on would have been extremely different (ask Russia about that).Delete
This time, unless perhaps India can be duped into providing most of the manpower, the US will have to do the heavy lifting, as in Vietnam except against a peer with some very significant advantages.
I do not believe there will be any full-fledged war with China until 2050 at least or perhaps even later, but if such a conflict happens it might be bloodier than the modern American public can accept.
"I do not believe there will be any full-fledged war with China until 2050 at least or perhaps even later"Delete
There won't be any war until we stand up to China. Currently, China is achieving every objective they have without the need for war. They've annexed the entire East and South China Seas along with almost every disputed territory. They're slowly annexing Philippines. They're pushing into Vietnamese territorial waters and will eventually annex Vietnam. They're making inroads politically in many of the first island chain countries. They're expanding globally. All this while America sits back and watches. Why would they go to war? War will come when we finally say enough and stand up.
How many ship outbreaks were there after the Navy got serious about the issue?ReplyDelete