How Threat-Free Are Americans from COVID-19? Late April 2022 Update

A spectacle is gracing American transportation: smiling faces. On April 18, in a well-founded opinion based on Supreme Court precedent, US District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle vacated the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) mask mandate for airlines and public transportation. Reaction to this news was very telling.

For many people it was announced midflight, and social media was immediately awash with cabins erupting in cheers, applause, tears of joy, toasts of champagne, dancing, and even singing among airline passengers and personnel. If you’re having a bad day, click on those links. I promise they’ll boost your spirits.

If you’re having a bad day because the mask mandate has ended, click on the links and reflect on your choices a bit. Certain people are very, very upset about the mandate ending. White House chief medical advisor Anthony Fauci is one. Fauci carped to CBS that “The principle of a court overruling a public health judgement by a qualified organization like the CDC is disturbing in the precedent it might send” — as if a judicial check against the executive branch seizing to itself legislative power were unprecedented. Having proclaimed before Congress “I represent science,” Fauci could now match his ironic grandiosity by saying “I represent civics.”

Taking things at face value, however, it’s hard to see why Fauci and others are so upset. The CDC mask mandate for travelers was previously scheduled to expire on April 18, except that the CDC had announced on April 13 they were extending it for 15 days till May 3. What difference would ending it a few days early, as previously scheduled, really make?

None, of course. They’re upset because they had no intention of ending it on May 3, as was obvious. After all, in their twisted game of Monopoly: Public Health edition, they’ve played us with the “It’s Only Fifteen Days” card before.

To those who are terribly upset about this return to breathing as normal, I have an offer. I will send you an “I Agree My Mask Doesn’t Work” mask to wear whenever you travel, whether in a crowded plane, mostly empty bus, or alone in your car or on your bike. You can continue wearing a mask and fearing for your safety, but what better way to show your support of the science?

In the meantime, endemic COVID means people are still contracting the virus, but despite the weird hopes of the media and the suddenly power-starved likes of Fauci for more runaway variants, cases — and more importantly, hospitalizations and deaths — continue to be a fraction of what they were.

As of that day, April 18, the weekly increase in new cases was over 264,000, slightly more than where it was a month ago, but nowhere near the over five and a half million in early January. Based on the most recent government data, as of April 18 only about one American in a thousand could have conceivably transmitted COVID-19 to someone. In other words, an estimated 99.9 percent of people in the United States posed no threat to anyone of spreading the virus. Nearly 487,000 Americans — fewer than half a million — had an active case of COVID-19.

Furthermore, over 98 percent of total cases are recovered, meaning not only that those people are no longer threats, but also that they now have the strongest form of immunity against COVID-19.

Threat-Free Index estimates as of April 18

The Threat-Free Index provides a different perspective to the unrelenting media alarmism over ever-rising COVID case counts by offering context to the numbers and the people they represent — our friends, neighbors, even family members. The index has several components, all easily derived from official government data. They include:

Active cases: the number of people currently with lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19. These are the people who could conceivably transmit the virus to others. The number of active cases is generated by taking the total number of cases and subtracting out presumed recoveries and deaths.

Presumed recovered: the number of convalescent people who have had a lab-confirmed case of COVID-19 and are no longer sick and infectious. The CDC had considered recovery to be generally 10 days post infection. For my index I have been rounding that to two weeks (14 days). The number of presumed recovered is generated, then, by taking the total number of cases from two weeks prior and subtracting out all deaths from or with COVID-19.

Deaths: the number of people who have died either from or with COVID-19.

Population: the daily US population estimate provided by the US Census Bureau. The index states the above numbers also as proportions of the US population. 

Here are the Threat-Free Index estimates as of April 18:

  • Active cases: 486,827 among a population of 332.6 million
  • Presumed recovered: 79,063,118
  • Percent of total cases presumed recovered: 98.2 percent
  • Percent of total cases that are active: 0.6 percent
  • Percent of the total U.S. population with active cases of COVID: over 0.1 percent
  • Percent of the U.S. population to have died with or from COVID-19: 0.3 percent
  • Percent of the U.S. population who posed no threat of passing along COVID-19: about 99.9 percent

These are estimates, of course, and the data are incomplete. They are reflective of a point in time. Also, the estimates will vary regionally, though not by much. 

Importantly, the index does not distinguish among cases according to their severity, an oversight in common with daily news reports on rising case counts. The raw case numbers are being increasingly decoupled from hospitalization and deaths, however, which is additional context that should help allay people’s fears as well as undercut extreme emergency edicts.

The Threat-Free Index gives a close approximation of the current risk to a hypothetical person going out in public somewhere in the United States of encountering someone with a transmissible COVID infection. Notice that the risk estimated here is of encountering someone with a transmissible infection, not of contracting an infection. Becoming infected requires a greater range of circumstances than a chance encounter. It includes length of time spent near an infected person, proximity, location, air circulation and purification, how symptomatic the person is, and one’s own immune protection (especially if one has acquired natural immunity from fighting off a prior infection).

The main threat to people continues to be totalitarian government orders based on COVID and anything else they can get away with calling a “public health emergency.” Courts are an important bulwark against such executive overreach, but they can be fickle. We the people must be vigilant about our liberties. It’s bad enough when unelected bureaucrats like Fauci don’t know their own limits, but all is lost if we the people grow complacent about our freedoms and forget how limited their power is, too.

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