Dr. Ferguson’s clarification

As Scott writes in this post, Dr. Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London has clarified his testimony about the number of deaths he predicts will occur in England due to the Wuhan coronvirus. I discussed Ferguson’s predictions yesterday in this post.

I wrote that Ferguson had “warned that an uncontrolled spread of the virus could cause as many as 510,000 deaths in Britain.” (Emphasis added) For the U.S., he projected 2.2 million deaths in an uncontrolled scenario. Now, Ferguson says the death total in Britain is likely to come in under 20,000. I haven’t seen an updated figure from him for the U.S.

In his clarification, Ferguson says, as I did in my post, that his estimate of approximately 500,000 deaths in Britain was based on a scenario in which controls on the spread of the virus are absent. He stands by that assessment of what the death count would have been in that case.

The problem is that, to my knowledge, no serious person in the U.S. was advocating that no measures be taken to control the spread of the virus. Some degree of social distancing and complete isolation of the sick were almost universally viewed as appropriate and, indeed, necessary. Yet, Ferguson’s projection became part of the basis, not just for social distancing and isolation of the sick, but for imposing lockdown style measures in some jurisdictions.

This appears to be what Ferguson wanted. In an interview with the New York Times, he said:

Based on our estimates and other teams’, there’s really no option but follow in China’s footsteps and suppress.

Perhaps this is why Ferguson waited so long to make it clear that, at least in the U.S., the Imperial College forecast that garnered so much attention from policy makers was a strawman

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