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Number 1,063, March 22, 2020

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The Chinese Bug
by T.J. Mason

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Attribute to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise

First Time in History -
We can save the human race by laying in front of the TV
and doing nothing.
Let's not screw this up!

— Unattributed, seen on Twitter from @ToddHagopian "Libertarian in Chief"

Note: All statistical data quoted in this essay are from with mapping data from Johns Hopkins at

Note 2: While I have captured many references, time limits have caused me to submit with some references not incorporated.

The United States, and the world, are at a crossroads, brought down by a virus spread from China, called variously the Novel Coronavirus, COVID-19, the China Virus, the Wuhan Virus, the China Flu, and the Wuhan Flu or Wu-Flu (though it's not an influenza). The novel aspect of this virus is its emergence in human populations, which thus have no intrinsic resistance. This Chinese bug has yielded an estimated death rate of 2-4%, and is particularly devastating to the elderly and anyone over 50 with pre-existing conditions including heart disease, circulatory disease, diabetes, and respiratory disease. While the contagion has supposedly been brought under control in China (at horrid cost), it is devastating regions of Italy and has a firm foothold in the United States, particularly Seattle and New York City. This essay offers some reflections, symptoms and severity, some statistics, and some recommendations.

Reflections. First, don't believe a single number out of China. The statistics provided by global web sites are quaintly tagged "as reported by the National Health Commission (NHC) of China" on world-o-meters, indicating their unreliability. It is well known that China knew about the rising contagion for weeks before they publicly acknowledged it,i [China's publicly reported case rates were about the same as the rate of new flu cases but with higher death rates, more or less on order with the number of people who died on an average day.[personal analysisii], which was clearly inconsistent with both the chaos visible on social media and with their public reactions. Brave citizen journalists were reporting on social media until early February about the incidence of body bags; about residences where suspected cases lived while sealed in; about dying hospital patients tossed into the alley to die to avoid adding to the death statistics; about the crematoriums of Wuhan running 24-7.iii These citizens were then reported to have contracted the virus and not been heard from since; whether their fate also included lead poisoning (in convenient calibers) or being bound and thrown into body bags while still alive is not known and probably never will be. Exiled Chinese businessman Guo Wengui estimated the actual death toll at 50,000 at a time that China was claiming only 908 fatalities.iv With the citizen journalists gone, and the rest of the population presumably dragooned into submission, the world outside Wuhan has no way to verify the supposed drawdown of infection in China. The only thing that can be said about the reported Chinese case historyv is that, if the shape of the curve is even approximately true, China bought that slow-down in case growth with not only a weeks-long quarantine like the ones initiated on Friday in California and New York, but also by arresting suspected carriers on the street, sealing them into their homes to die, and burning the bodies before they could be counted—in some cases possibly while the patients were still using them.

While it is negative evidence at best, the sheer effort China put into suppressing not only the epidemic's victims but also all news of what was actually happening is the best evidence that the virus was an—engineered or not—escapee from their Wuhan biological I will say that every infectious disease specialist I've read says that the virus was natural and not engineered—but I have also heard evidence suggesting China may have been studying the virus for that purpose, even if it hadn't been engineered. I personally have no knowledge, and speculation here serves no purpose.

What is true is that China's massive misinformation campaign delayed release of information about the virus for weeks, prevented outside agents from assisting in the early stages, and likely set the stage for the worldwide pandemic we are now experiencing.vii I personally consider that at this point, the world is in the midst of a de facto, if not de jure , biological warfare crisis.

Second, take the numbers currently coming out of the United States with a grain of salt, at best. Due to the earlier incidence of the virus in China than was originally reported, and delays by the Centers for Disease Control in preparing for coronavirus testing, some people were already questioning at the time of the early deaths in Seattle if the virus had been passing among the US population for weeks or months. viii The surge in cases this week (from 2,247 at midnight (UMT) on Friday March 13 to 19,383 at the same time on Friday, March 20—7 days, 168 hours), is not a reflection of increased infection, but a measure of increased detection of existing infections. ix

Political implications have been discussed elsewhere,x and I won't take much time tonight to capture my thoughts on the subject, but spend it mostly in the recommendations below.

The President has invoked the Defense Production Act, which allows the government to require companies that cannot meet production needs for wartime critical products (or in this case medical care critical products) to turn over production to a company that can do the job for the duration of an emergency. There are pluses and minuses with this—for one thing, you are assuming that the other company can both learn the new technology and tool up to manufacture faster than the company that owns the product in the first place—but there is a logic to it, and it's about as far down the path of true fascism (not the type of fascism that the Trump Administration is routinely mis-accused of but that the Obama Administration conducted routinely—auto company bailouts in favor of unions, anyone?) as I could tolerate. There is also talk of nationalizing industry—Boeing in particular seems to be a common target of this discussion—but I see absolutely no advantage in doing that. Better for the government to pay them to make monopoly boards or something, or work with them to install technically competent—rather than ideologically pure and politically correct—management. If they're going to nationalize business, why not start with those pustules on the body economic known as hedge funds, particularly any that are profiting from the current chaos, and use that stolen wealth to shore up the greater productive economy. And have the Clintons, the Bidens, and their ilk refund their ill-gotten gains to the federal treasury.

Symptoms and Severity: Severity of this disease appears to have wide levels, ranging from "mild allergy" to "severe allergy/chest cold" to "can't move" to "hospitalization " to "critical care." Here is a discussion of symptoms, from what I have been able to put together.

  • The most common symptoms are a [high] fever, dry cough with no head congestion, and fatigue.
  • Stomach problems are reported as rare (~5%) in non-US cases but are being reported at up to 50% of US cases.
  • Severe cases typically develop viral pneumonia, followed by what is described as "organ background." Photos that are alleged to be X-rays of Chinese patients are in circulations showing white scar tissue and other lesions in the lungs of severe patients.

The timeline of the disease also appears to be widely variable. It has been typically reported that incubation is from 3-14 days, but with extreme cases taking 25 days or longer to go from exposure to symptoms. Mild cases usually last 1- 2 weeks, while severe cases that recover can take up to 6 weeks. About half of all severe cases are estimated not to make it.

Statistics. The following two tables reflect the status of the disease on February 29, and as of the afternoon of March 21.

February 29, 2020: Countries with over 100 cases, and the US for comparison.

Three weeks later: March 21, 2020: The top 8 countries as of 6 PM ET.

Note that the column deaths/cases is the ratio of total deaths to date relative to the total number of cases. This is usually considered an underestimate of the actual final death rate; if that holds true, the suggestions that this can be ignored seem meaningless. The column deaths/closed is the ratio of deaths to all cases with an outcome to date, whether that outcome is death or recovery. Given the rapid rise in cases and the tendency of fatal outcomes to be relatively early in the progression of the disease, this is a loose upper limit on the likely total number of cases.

Arguments that the high death rates in China, and particularly in Italy, are skewed by environmental factors (local pollution, smoking) reflect an optimism that I cannot yet feel regarding the caseload elsewhere. In the US, for example, we presently have less incidence of active smoking, but many older people are former smokers, and we also have the highest incidence of obesity and adult-onset diabetes ( "Present," he cried) in the western world. When we have better statistics on case history and recovery—in a couple of months—we might know enough for intelligent discussion, but we have to make decisions based on the information we have available today.

Moving on to the US, we have to address the novelty of exponential growth. This is expressed in terms of the "double time, " the time required for the number of confirmed infected cases to double. The next figure shows the actual US case history of measured double time of incidence by two curves; one is the double time calculated by the day-to-day increase in cases, and the second calculated over a hopefully more representative caseload from 7 days:

Double time in days for US COVID-190 cases, March 1-20, 2020 (Author analysis)

As can be seen, the double time has been consistently just under three days, except for a slight increase in double time over last weekend, followed by a sharp drop in double time late in the week, presumably correlated with the onset of results from the increase in testing that was initiated this week. Note that long double times are GOOD, while short double times are VERY bad. The minimum of the daily curve is 1.75 days double time, or exactly 4 doubles per week—after one week at that rate of doubling, the number of cases increases by a factor of 16! If this rate continued, it would mean 25,000 US cases tonight would be 400,000 next Saturday night and 6.4 million cases in two weeks. This contingency, which would flood the US hospital system, is what all of the admonishments have been trying to avoid.

The following chart shows the history of the contagion in the US through yesterday, and my projections for the next two weeks under five assumptions.

Cases of COVID-19 in the US through March 20 with projections to April 4, 2020 (Author's analysis)

The top line is that hideous case mentioned in the preceding paragraph. The second curve is what I consider the most likely analysis: a projection based on the 2.5 day doubling time that is the average of the seven days ending March 20. Note that this still forecasts up to a million cases in two weeks. The third curve is the "best case " in the sense of the longest double time observed in the last week, which was 3 days. The current global double time is 4 days, which is reflected in the fourth curve; and the estimated infection rate discussed in Endnote ix gives a theoretical estimated double time of 6.4 days, which is a lot less scary (and seems to be what the government is using, despite the fact that our data is blowing through that number).

I do expect the curve to flatten some in the next two weeks, but the current data suggests that the moderate curve will likely represent the next week fairly well. Only time will tell how these statistical crystal balls work.

Recommendations. First, everyone should responsibly take care of themselves and their families. Particularly if you are over 50 and have pre-existing conditions:

  • use social distancing;
  • avoid bars and restaurants if they are still open in your area;
  • prepare for a couple of months—not for a couple of years (stockpiling is not necessary).

And that also means to pay attention to your self-defense.

Second, read the articles at Endnote x and elsewhere. This Chinese bug is generally something to respect, not to fear, as by following the first recommendation. This mass shutdown very likely is an over-reaction, and even under the best of circumstances would have devastating economic consequences. Today's declarations by Los Angeles and New York City that they don't even intend to try to protect their citizens or test their citizens is gross irresponsibility, because despite their caseloads they should not yet even be close to saturating their capacity. That, or it is one more step in the globalist/media/Democrat party effort to turn this into a war against capitalism in general and against Donald Trump in particular. Do everything in your power, including prayer if you are a praying person, to assure that the Democrats do not end up on top of the shattered fragments of the American economy with a perceived mandate to implement a socialist alternative to the United States Constitution.

Last, and not least, China—and the anti-Trump media who have orchestrated this into a panic trying to destroy President Trump—owe big time for this.xi

Good night, God bless you, and God Bless the United States of America. PLEASE!



i, Chinese government knew about coronavirus one month earlier than it claimed: report, March 13, 2020;, Earliest case detected on 17 November, weeks before authorities acknowledged new virus, says Chinese media, March 13, 2020.

ii Wuhan has a reported population of 7 million. (1) Assuming 10% catch the flu each year in a 150-day season, that would be 4,600 new flu cases per day vs. new coronavirus patient reports maxing at 4,000. (2) Assuming a life expectancy of 77 years, the average death rate is 250 per day. China's highest reported coronavirus death rate was 150 on February 24; while chilling, a 60% increase in the death rate for one day does not put all the crematoria on 24/7 operation. Not in a city reporting 50 crematoria. (What?)

iii, February 9, 2020;, February 14, 2020;, Chinese woman describes Wuhan virus patients being burned alive, February 20, 2020;, February 10, 2020;; February 14, 2020.

iv It is not known whether Guo would have an incentive—other than incitement against China—for lying or inflating the numbers he received from his cohorts, but the number seems more in line with magnitude of the reported Chinese response. I will also note—Guo didn't say this—that the number may include still living coronavirus patients, but also flu patients and possibly people with the common cold or allergies.


vi, February 22, 2020.

vii, March 19, 2020.

viii, February 28, 2020.

ix, February 29, 2020; With an estimated double time of 6-6.4 days based on early epidemiological studies, the current measured US double time (7 day average ending March 20) of 2.6 days is 2^(6.4/2.6) = 5.5x faster than originally forecast. One infers that the actual number of infections in the US is thus over 100,000, not the 20,000 currently measured as of this writing.



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