During coronavirus, Mainers have been inundated with statistics of every kind.

John Balentine, a former managing editor for the Lakes Region Weekly, lives in Windham.

We hear them every day, in every way, often with a sense of alarm by newscasters that are quoting the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention, which logs the data.

We hear the latest death count, confirmed case count, probable case count, hospitalizations and overall positivity rate. We hear about available hospital beds and ventilators. The many stats are broken down by zip code, town, county, age, race and ethnicity.

Check out the Maine CDC website and you’ll see lists and graphs with every conceivable virus-related combination and permutation. It’s a math wonk’s dream.

At this point in the COVID-19 proceedings, I bet many of us would agree with the famous phrase attributed, albeit incorrectly, to Mark Twain: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”

A courtroom version of the same general idea goes thusly: “There are three classes of witnesses: liars, damned liars and experts.”

After considering the depth and breadth of the CDC’s data tracking, I’m left wondering about the impact of it all, or lack thereof.

Sure, it’s nice to know the in-depth virus data, but what’s the point when people have come to distrust statistics and the experts who provide them?

If you’ve been paying attention since the dawning of coronavirus last year, you’ve heard many stories that raise questions about COVID-related statistics, especially deaths.

For example, do you remember when the “experts” changed how they listed COVID-caused deaths? They used to say people died “of” COVID. Then, early last summer, they shifted to reporting deaths “with” COVID. That raised many a skeptical eyebrow.

We also remember when statisticians started treating all cases similarly, as if asymptomatic cases were as important as symptomatic cases. Mere cases, as opposed to deaths from a disease, never used to be treated with such importance. That evolution in reporting raised more skeptical eyebrows.

We’ve also heard about people dying from non-coronavirus causes being listed as COVID deaths because they tested positive for the virus at the time of their passing. A motorcyclist’s death is infamous in this regard.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield confirmed this phenomenon last summer in a U.S. Senate hearing and credited it to the coronavirus-relief CARES Act, which awards hospitals more money if a Medicare patient dies from COVID.

“I think you’re correct,” Redfield said in responding to a senator’s question, “in that we’ve seen this in other disease processes, too, really in the HIV epidemic, somebody may have a heart attack, but also have HIV — the hospital would prefer the (classification) for HIV because there’s greater reimbursement.”

Redfield was right, though the disturbing news gained little traction in the mainstream media. The CARES Act, according to the American Hospital Association website, instituted a “Medicare add-on payment of 20% for both rural and urban inpatient hospital COVID-19 patients.”

So, when it comes to COVID statistics, we should follow the science, yes, but we should also follow the money and retain a healthy dose of skepticism for all data.

It’s sad but not surprising that statistics are being used to manipulate the trusting populace, which has been made petrified by coronavirus data. But skeptics are right to question the statistics put forth by so-called health experts and their aiders and abettors in the mainstream media. They’re the liars and damned liars that are using statistics to paralyze our state and nation with fear and dread.

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