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We need answers on Covid’s asymptomatic ‘spread’

By Matthew Delaney

As our wannabe handlers strike up renewed Covid hysteria over the new variants, we need some answers on just how damaging asymptomatic “spread” has been. 

Since this pandemic started, it’s been taken at face value that people with no signs of disease can still pass it to others. But asymptomatic spread also serves the premise of lockdowns, and frankly, the dread we all felt at one time or another this past year. It’s worth going the extra mile to confirm if it actually does contribute to bad health outcomes the way we’ve assumed it has. 

Public health officials should be seeking to answer this by asking three questions. 

  • How many Covid-19 infections were caused by asymptomatic spread?
  • How many of those infections led to hospitalizations? 
  • And how many led to deaths? 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attempts to gauge asymptomatic spread’s pervasiveness with its best available guess. 

It estimates that asymptomatic spread is responsible for 30% of all Covid cases. Additionally, asymptomatic people are 75% as infectious as symptomatic people, and 50% of all cases were spread by someone who is presymptomatic, or a few days before symptoms pop up. 

A report on some localized research gives us a clearer picture. One done in Iceland had over 13,000 people volunteer to be tested, with 43% of positive tests showing no symptoms at the time. Another had nearly three quarters of an Italian village (2,343 people) get screened twice for Covid for their research. In those findings, 45% of those who tested positive were also asymptomatic. 

That seems significant until you factor in the total number of people who tested positive. In Iceland, 100 out of 13,080 people had Covid, so only 43 people were asymptomatic. In Italy, only 29 people out of over 2,300 tested positive, so just 13 were asymptomatic. 

Both researchers acknowledged some of those people likely became symptomatic later. This means the numbers could be skewed as we classify cases as asymptomatic rather than presymptomatic ones.  

There’s room to believe that measures such as masking, social distancing and yes, even lockdowns, did help stem the tide of Covid infections. A study on New York City’s outbreak in Spring 2020 suggested that all three of those practices helped cut down on hospitalizations because of the virus.  

But another study conducted on hospital patients in Brazil last July seems to give us more clues to the effects of asymptomatic spread. 

120 people were said to have come down with asymptomatic cases of Covid-19 nosocomially (meaning they got it at a hospital). Nine of them were eventually diagnosed with a coronavirus infection that became a part of their treatment regimen. Of the nine, all had “considerable comorbidities,” according to the study. Each person was obese and suffering from hypertension and diabetes, along with other personal maladies. 

These insights seem to arrive at a conclusion we already knew — asymptomatic spread mostly affects people who are either old, overweight or immunocompromised.  

Or as Dilbert comic creator-turned-political-pundit Scott Adams so eloquently put it, “If CDC guidelines had told us to socially distance from obese people over the age of fifty, the pandemic would already be over.” 

Let’s be fair. Back in January, a Scottish infectious disease expert quoted by the Washington Post said,  

“Maybe asymptomatic transmission is important, but it may be much more important in long-term care facilities and households,” and that there needs to be “more targeted testing for high-risk populations.” 

However, none of that affected the tone of our public health officials. The CDC’s deputy director for infectious diseases told the Post in that same story that his own study’s findings on asymptomatic spread “…are now in bold, italics and underlined.” That was justification to give everyone the same paranoia of getting a severe case of the disease as those at the greatest risk.  

That quote was a part of a wide-ranging story telling us to fret over the then-emerging U.K. strain of the virus and its high transmissibility.  

Sound familiar? It should be, considering similar warnings are now coming back up over the latest variants. Especially since those who’ve been vaccinated apparently aren’t insulated from these new strains. 

CNN reported that the World Health Organization advised countries dealing with the Delta variant that those who are fully vaccinated should continue to wear masks. 

Sydney, Australia just extended its lockdown for another week due to the variant. It’s gotten to the point that some health officials are saying they may just have to live with Covid. 

The Associated Press said that multiple other Australian cities are in outbreak-sparked lockdowns. Meanwhile, parts of Europe have reinstated travel quarantines and some visiting Olympic athletes in Japan have been infected weeks before the games kick off. 

Nearly half the population is fully vaccinated in Britain, AP continued, but the country still postponed lifting restrictions for another month due to cases doubling roughly every nine days. 

We’ve seen similar zaniness stateside. The Delta variant’s proliferation has already convinced officials in Los Angeles County, California to reinstate mask guidance for indoor spaces — regardless of vaccination status. 

While the LA County Department of Public Health called it a “precautionary measure,” according to CNN, try not to forget it was a precautionary measure of “two weeks to slow the spread” that cost you 16 months of your life. 

It gets better. The California-based Epsilon variant is said to be able to weaken vaccines by up to 70%, making the White House’s eagerness for vaccinations and Pfizer’s desire to have people take a third dose even more meaningless.  

You can’t help but feel like the vaccines proving ineffective against a new variant wasn’t willed into existence. It’s no secret that public health officials, like Dr. Anthony Fauci, have been infatuated by the limelight of this pandemic.  

That would all go away if our leaders had the slightest bit of curiosity about the effect of asymptomatic spread. Our public and private institutions have shown remarkable industriousness when properly motivated. Look at how businesses thought remote work was previously impossible, until the pandemic showed it wasn’t. Or the intelligence community’s nationwide manhunt for anyone who went near the capitol on Jan. 6. 

Instead, they’re comfortable sticking with the idea that the lives and pleasures of the healthy must be sacrificed for the well-being of the vulnerable.  

This is a desire for control that’s cloaked in sincerity. A population that feels at ease in freedom won’t forgo it for the promise of safety. But that’s the dichotomy health officials quietly forced us to play in since this pandemic began — you’re either free to go get sick and die from Covid, or you give up your liberties to (hypothetically) reach a sense of security. 

The lack of interest in mapping asymptomatic spread’s damage tells you all you need to know. They’re not concerned about the effects of the virus’ covert spread. If they were, we would have modeling by now that links asymptomatic cases to hospitalizations and deaths.  

(Maybe more disappointing are the people who’ve been open skeptics of our leaders and public health authorities barely raising this issue over the past 18 months…)  

I’m not saying asymptomatic spread is a lie or that it doesn’t carry with it repercussions. I’m saying that better information on the topic doesn’t exist because it’s not supposed to.  

It’s the boogeyman our powers-that-be don’t want to disprove. Keeping us ignorant to how much asymptomatic spread translates into bad health outcomes is their way of keeping us subservient to their version of “science.” 

Unfortunately for them, we’re all too aware of the game we’re being forced to play. 

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Matthew Delaney


Matthew Delaney is a local journalist based in Washington, D.C. When he’s not questioning why he joined the media, he’s doing his part to restore some of its credibility with quality work

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