Curious Case of Sweden (and Omicron! Too)

The media does not like control groups because control groups provide a basis for comparison. Without a basis for comparison, our media and politicians can say without a doubt (as well as without adequate proof) that masks, lockdowns, vaccine mandates, curfews, and all the rest of their top-down controls work. But when there is a control group and we are allowed to compare various countries, states, or cities which have taken different measures, then it is plain for all to see which measures are more effective and which are not. At that point, it becomes hard to maintain the narrative that more restrictive measures are always better. The powers who decide all these things for us prefer to simply have no data so they don’t have to resort to using outright lies and phony data to make their case. Therefore, any country or state which wants to experiment and go against prevailing wisdom has to be shamed before such an experiment can even begin; it is possible they may actually hit on the right formula and make the rest of the sheep look bad.

In 2020, there was one country that defied the prevailing global trend and went their own way: Sweden. For years progressives pointed to Sweden as an ultra progressive country which had shown that democracies can implement effective and humane socialist policies (Sweden itself realized these policies don’t work after a few years and rolled them back, but nevertheless progressives keep saying Sweden had social democracy right). However, when Sweden didn’t follow the standard COVID playbook in 2020, socialists like Bernie Sanders, who are really just authoritarians who want to dictate policy and micro-manage our lives, were no longer happy with Sweden. You cannot be a unicorn in a socialist system; all must sing from the same playbook or you make everyone else look bad when your way proves better.

In the U.S., we followed the global trends on COIVD policies. Early on, we announced “15 days to slow the spread” which was extended and then turned into lockdowns that drug on for the Summer of 2020, and, in some states well into Fall and Winter. We declared masking and social distancing new social virtues. We told people not to work and then paid them to stay home for more than a year. We decided kids must do remote learning instead of in-person (mine did this for almost 12 months). We instituted curfews and shut down movie theaters and restaurants; we basically shut down, for a time, any business not named Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, or Costco. We closed outdoor playgrounds, tennis courts, basketball courts, and other open air venues. We shut down churches and arrested people who tried to gather in parking lots to practice their first amendment rights. We canceled sporting events, even the vaunted NCAA March Madness; later in the year, the U.S.. Open and the Super Bowl were played in front of sparse crowds. We forced people to cancel or postpone, weddings, funerals, and graduations. We wouldn’t let loved ones see each other in hospitals. We told everyone they should be afraid and that we might all soon die.

Sweden did none of these things. They never locked down; kids went to school mask-less; businesses stayed open; life remained normal for Swedes.

So, let’s compare our control group Sweden with the U.S. and other countries and locales. We can clearly see who did better with regard to civil liberties, but who did better against COVID? Did Sweden make the rest of the countries following the herd look bad?

July 2020

In July 2020, a friend sent me an email with this subject: Sweden article…. failure: more COVID cases and death, NO boost to economy, NO herd immunity. I was asked to defend Sweden’s actions when the media was trying to turn Sweden into a pariah. How in the world could I defend a country that, to that point, had the seventh highest (per capita) death rate n the world?

https://www.thestreet.com/mishtalk/economics/swedens-covid-experiment-is-now-a-certified-failure
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/07/business/sweden-economy-coronavirus.html
https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/can-europe-make-it/data-sweden-failed/

This was my response at the time:

These articles are someone’s opinion and that is based on their desire to continue to the lockdown in the U.S.  

In deaths per million, Sweden ranks 7th worldwide (and who knows what China’s and Iran’s numbers really are?).  They have fewer deaths per million than Belgium, UK, Spain, and Italy.  The U.S. has done slightly better and ranks 9th.

Look at the number of cases and deaths in Sweden in the last month.  The pain is over for them, whereas in the U.S. we haven’t quite come out of it (we’re doing much better than in March/April, but still haven’t seen cases and deaths drop to near zero).  The daily number of deaths for Sweden is now 3/day.  They can go back to life as normal whereas we are still panicking over this.  The number of new cases in Sweden has dropped significantly in the last three weeks.  The numbers in July are fantastic and what we want to see for the U.S. Hopefully, we will in another month or so.  The CDC said this week that this could be over in a few weeks.

After four months, they’ve defeated the virus, but the NY Times wants to convince you this is a failure?  How can you interpret the charts below any differently?  The U.S. numbers don’t look as good because we took a different approach.  Sure Finland and Norway have done better than Sweden, but why that comparison?  Maybe because you can cherry pick them to support your narrative.  Two states, N.C. and Michigan, which have the same population as Sweden, don’t have current numbers that look as good as Sweden’s. So what does that mean?  Look at where Sweden is now and look at where everyone else and then make the determination of whether or not they are a success.

The persons writing these articles want to convince you of something without giving you all the facts.  Do the charts below really show that Sweden’s COVID strategy is a failure?  Their hospitals were never overrun which was the whole reason for the lockdown in the first place (15 days to flatten the curve has turned into 115 days to end the virus).  The media wants you to believe this because it does not support their narrative that lockdowns work. 

If lockdowns control the spread of COVID, why did Belgium, Spain, UK, and Italy, all of which locked down, do worse (more deaths per capita) than Sweden which didn’t have a lockdown?  And look at what those countries have done to their economies and their way of life, and they still had a worse result with regard to COVID.  The U.S. has a slightly better COVID death rate than Sweden, but Sweden is out of the woods and we are not yet; we could wind up surpassing their rate in the end.  I believe our curve will eventually go to zero like theirs; it will just take us a little bit longer.  We will feel the pain for a longer time when we could have the worst behind us by now.

As of July 2020:

It is noteworthy that the UK originally followed the Swedish route, but then media shaming appeared to be too much for them and they followed suit along with the rest of the world. If the UK hadn’t lost its nerve and had followed Sweden, we may have had even more evidence supporting the “live life as normal as possible” path.

In any case, by Summer 2020, it appeared to me that the Swedish path would eventually pay benefits. The U.S. was experiencing a second COVID wave during July and August 2020, but Sweden continued to see good results throughout that Summer and Fall.


January 2021

What had looked like a very promising trend during Summer 2020 had turned bad again over the Winter as deaths in Sweden spiked again. I was wrong about them being out of the woods the prior summer. However, deaths spiked everywhere around the world, not just Sweden. Comparatively, Sweden was, by January, doing better than the US and the UK. They had fallen from 7th worst per capita COVID deaths in the world to 23rd, better than either the US or UK. Furthermore, the spike in the Winter of 2020-21 was far worse for the US and UK than the initial COVID spike, but not so for Sweden; their second COVID wave was about the same as the earlier one as can be seen in the table below.

PeriodTotal DeathsMonthly AverageDaily AverageDaily Deaths per Million
Mar 202038538512.401.22
Apr – May 2020 (1st Wave)4236211869.446.81
June – Oct 2020 13742758.98.88
Nov 2020 – Jan 2021 (2nd Wave)6236207867.786.65
COVID deaths in Sweden -2020

At this point, you could say the jury was still out on Sweden’s experiment. They clearly didn’t have a magic formula to avoid COVID altogether (nobody did) and they were hit with a second COVID wave during the Winter (like everyone else); however, despite forgoing lockdowns, mask mandates, and all the rest, they were doing as well or better than many countries that had implemented all those restrictive measures. Forgoing these measures also meant they had not ruined many additional lives by throwing people out of work, leaving kids at home, separating families from sick loved ones, and scaring the daylights out of everyone. They were also not trampling on civil rights and imposing (ineffective) government mandates as has been done in so many other countries.

Governments implemented COVID lockdowns ostensibly to protect lives from the COVID virus; however, COVID lockdown policies cost lives as well. Many lives were ruined due to lockdowns: many medical procedures and treatments were postponed hastening, dire consequences for some; more people died from suicide, drug abuse, and depression due to being stuck at home. Child and spousal abuse were also increased due to poorly thought out policy decisions. Sweden avoided all this collateral damage and the excess death it caused.

https://news.rice.edu/news/2021/dashboard-displays-troubling-trend-unexplained-deaths

Another measure of the effectiveness of COVID policy in 2020 is GDP growth. Because of lockdowns, most countries around the world experienced negative GDP in 2020. Sweden had negative growth as well, but they did better than most, ranking 76th out of 195 nations for 2020, better than the US and UK, better also than Japan, Germany, India, France, Italy, and Canada had, all of which locked down and masked up in 2020.

https://statisticstimes.com/economy/countries-by-projected-gdp-growth.php

By January 2021, Sweden had proven to be a more free country than virtually any other and was also demonstrating that its method for battling COVID was at least as good and often better than others who had followed the global lockdown trend. Sweden also avoided the collateral damage caused by excessive zealotry in fighting COVID, and, as we will see below, the worst was finally over for them.

In summary, COVID policies impacted Swedes daily lives the least of any other country, their economy fared as well or better than most, and they never turned into a pile of COVID ash despite all the frantic protestations of media and authoritarian governments that they were sacrificing lives at a capitalistic altar. Sweden’s alternate COVID policies were starting to make others look bad. They couldn’t be dissuaded at this point, so they had to be ignored.

November 2021

We have to look out a bit further to be fully certain Sweden’s policies were the right ones. The 23rd highest per COVID capita death rate in the world in January 2021 may not have been something to brag about at the beginning of the year, but Sweden was playing the long game.

Over the summer 2021, most countries suffered through the delta wave, but Sweden did not. The U.S. has had four discernible four COIVD waves the last two years and at the moment is poised to head into its fifth wave this winter (although maybe not; see my last post for the good news/bad news story in the U.S. at the moment https://seek-the-truth.com/2021/11/26/covid-whats-next-2/). Over the same two year period, Sweden has had two COVID waves, and their trajectory and the moment is still downward.

As of December 2, 2021, Sweden ranks 56th in the world in per capita COVID deaths the last two years. One could accurately say in July 2020 that Sweden’s Scandinavian neighbors had fared better, but today is a different story. Sweden now ranks 28th among the 48 European nations and will almost certainly move into the lowest tiers in the coming months.

Since May 26, 2021, daily deaths in Sweden have averaged in the single digits. They experienced a slight increase in deaths in September, but not anything that could be characterized as another COVID wave. Since October 16, 2021, deaths in Sweden have been averaging 5 per day or lower. The current rate is just one per day. World-wide, cases and deaths the last two months have risen as we move into winter in the Northern Hemisphere. The long game is paying off for Sweden.

MonthDeathsDaily AverageDeaths per Million
January 2021 (end of 2nd Wave)241477.877.63
February 202179128.252.77
March 202158318.81.84
April 202157419.11.88
May 202135911.51.13
June 2021903.29
July 202117.54.05
August 202129.94.09
September 20211775.9.57
October 20211554.49
November 20211093.63.36
Monthly Deaths in Sweden – 2021

Now, compare Sweden to Michigan and North Carolina, two states with comparable populations (all around 10 million). Both North Carolina and Michigan are fairly large geographically, although not as big as Sweden. Both states have a couple of large metro areas, just like Sweden. Malmo and Stockholm have roughly the same populations as Charlotte and Raleigh. Detroit is comparable to the other cities.

At the end of November, Michigan was averaging 73 deaths per day. Michigan is clearly in the midst of yet another COVID wave, and an area of concern at the moment. North Carolina is at 14 deaths per day, and Sweden again is at 1 per day. The last six months, North Carolina has had about 5700 deaths, Michigan has 5500 deaths, and Sweden 591.

Between November 30 and December 2 2021, Michigan recorded 554 COVID deaths; in the last three days, Michigan had almost as many deaths as Sweden had in the last six months. Remember, both have the same population levels.

Michigan played the short game; they tried to limit deaths and the spread of COVID with some of the most draconian measures in the US. They flattened the curve, but only for a while. They actually widened the curve and delayed the worst of COVID, extended the crisis for another year. Sweden took the hit early and, to some, appeared to unnecessarily bear the brunt of COVID early on, but now they are in a better position than almost anybody around the world.

If Sweden were a US state, it would rank 44th out of 50 in deaths per capita over the two-year period, a few slots better than North Carolina who, as noted above, has done far worse than Sweden the last six months. Sweden experienced the pain of COVID off and on for about ten months while North Carolina has continued to see the ups and downs throughout the entire two year period. Sweden is on the better trajectory for sure and their overall per capita death rate will likely fall below North Carolina’s by the end of the year.

The last six months Sweden has averaged 3 deaths per day. The U.S. has had 205,000 deaths the last six months, about 1120 deaths per day. The U.S. per capita death rate the last six months is 10 times more than Sweden’s which is why the U.S. ranks still ranks 20th in per capita deaths (over the entire two years of this pandemic) while Sweden has fallen to 56th.

What have lockdowns, curfews, and mask mandates gotten us? If this were the NFL, Dr. Fauci would be fired as the U.S. head coach for not producing better results. He would be replaced by his counterpart running the Sweden program. Sweden is the team with the lowest payroll who wins because they have a coach who knows how to get things done. Our coach is overpaid and has under-performed.

You can still say Australia and New Zealand did better at limiting COVID deaths, but at what cost? As island nations, both are isolated from the rest of the world and can better control their borders than most; however, the impositions these two countries have placed on their people’s freedom is as bad as it gets. My next blog needs to be on all the horrible things going on down under. I certainly prefer the Swedish way to Aussie way, even if a few more lives were saved in Australia.

Let’s do a couple more comparisons. Dr. Fauci said last year that “New York did it the right way”, but New York still has the sixth highest death rate in the US. If New York were a separate country, they would rank ninth in the world. Sweden is 56th in per capita deaths and yet Dr. Fauci says New York has done it right while he ignores Sweden’s results? Again, let’s hold Fauci to the NFL standard and fire him for his losing record two years running.

Sweden ranks just ahead of Austria (60th in per capita COVID deaths), another European country with a population about the same as Sweden. Although Austria’s rank is currently four slots better than Sweden, Austria is currently experiencing another COVID spike. As of December 2, Austria is averaging 56 COVID deaths per day. Again, Sweden is at one per day. At this rate, Austria will surpass Sweden in the rankings in about three weeks.

In addition, there are lots of protests in Austria regarding current COVID policies. They are not as happy with their government as the folks in Sweden are. Protests are going on all around the world, in fact, something our media here at home tries to ignore.

https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2021/11/20/Austria-protest-COVID-19-restrictions/6771637431171/

https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/dutch-police-detain-dozens-second-night-covid-19-rioting-2021-11-21/

The Austrian people surely would prefer the laisse-faire approach taken by Sweden, especially since the results to this point are about the same. Dr. Fauci, the CDC, and all the rest of our so-called experts could also learn from our less affluent European neighbor.

Sweden’s current rank of 56th in per capita deaths is middle of the pack world-wide, but I expect them to fall out of the top 100 in the next few months. Certainly in the last six months, they are doing better than virtually everyone else around the world while still respecting their people’s civil rights.

I wouldn’t like the climate in Sweden, but I have thought often lately that it might be a nice place to live.

World wide rankings COVID death rates – as of 12/2/21

But Why?

At a time when the season of respiratory ailments is upon us and COVID death rates are rising many places world-wide why is the death rate in Sweden steadily declining? Why did it take this long to realize the gains? Is it what they did in the beginning or what they are doing now?

Sweden let the virus spread early on; they didn’t try to stop the spread as the rest of the world did. They knew they could not avoid it indefinitely, so they took the hit early, but while taking the hit, they protected a larger percentage of their population with natural immunity. They also let the virus spread among school kids, the goal being to let it spread among the least vulnerable while the most vulnerable were isolated and protected for a time. Once the least vulnerable were immunized via natural immunity, the more vulnerable could then be re-integrated into society. In contrast, the US tried to shelter its school kids for a year or more and when kids finally went back to school in 2021, they became a vector to spread the virus, those useless clothe and paper masks, notwithstanding. Even today, we continue to pretend that we can stop the spread of COVID, that we can implement one more restriction and finally get this all under control, or that we would have already reached our goal if not for the unmasked or the unvaccinated, but we are chasing the unreachable goal of zero COVID which means a never ending crisis (https://seek-the-truth.com/2021/08/08/the-fools-gold-of-zero-covid/).

The Swedish approach was one that many doctors have suggested, including a number of doctors who signed on to the Great Barrington Declaration last summer, but it was an approach which was largely ignored by the greatest of all doctors, Dr. Anthony Fauci. The US, led by Fauci, decided it was best to quarantine the healthy and least vulnerable, a policy that never made any sense to me. We didn’t stop the spread of the virus; we just delayed it for a time.

Sweden was also late to the vaccine game. The US, UK, and Israel got a head start on the rest of the world with vaccines. Sweden has now surpassed the US vaccination rate and is about the same level at the UK now, but Sweden’s gains were achieved mainly in the last few months and without vaccine mandates.

One criticism from many doctors in the US is that we were “vaccinating into the pandemic”. Many argued that this practice actually made it more likely for the virus to mutate and exacerbate the problem. The US, Israel, and the UK initiated their vaccine programs in December 2020 during the most deadly COVID wave. Sweden waited until its cases were at an ebb and then aggressively vaccinated its population.

The US has relied heavily on vaccine immunity to slow the spread. Sweden instead relied first on natural immunity and then supplemented that with vaccine immunity. Per the former Poet Laureate Robert Frost, Sweden they took the road less traveled and that has made all the difference. The US took the road sprinkled with good intentions and we all know where that leads.

As of December 2, the US is still experiencing nearly 1,100 COVID deaths per day while Sweden is at 1 per day.

Deaths in Sweden through December 2, 2021

Omicron!

The latest news intended to panic everyone regards the new COVID variant: Omicron! (I think we should use the exclamation point when referring to this new variant, sort of like Jeb Bush used the exclamation point after his first name during his 2016 presidential campaign: Jeb!). We can run in circles and scream and shout or we can take a moment to ask: what does the science say? How about we listen first to the South African doctor who discovered Omincron! and says there is not yet reason to be concerned?

https://www.louderwithcrowder.com/omicron-variant-doctor

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/health/omicron-symptoms-mild-so-far-says-south-african-doctor-who-discovered-it-1.4741093

Delta was more transmissible than the original strain, but not more deadly. Lambda was supposed to be the next deadly killer, but it never took hold. Now, Omicron! is the next end of the world–or perhaps just another means to extend the crisis for a few more months. Remember too, there have been literally thousands of COVID variants, Omicron! is just one of many. The next version of ebola may still be lurking out there, but let’s wait for the facts to come in before losing our heads.

Speaking of losing one’s head, the Biden Administration quickly reacted to this new strain by issuing a travel ban on several Southern African nations. This was ostensibly about preventing the spread of Omincron! to the U.S. (too late Ethel, you’ve already been mooned!), but in fact, it was a move that Biden himself acknowledged was actually designed to keep black and brown people from immigrating to the U.S. In other words, Biden says his own policy is racist:

The Vice President as well echoed the President’s sentiment, adding that such a move is hateful and should not be tolerated:

But what does Dr. Fauci say? Of course, he was asked to weigh in on Omicron! as well. Not surprisingly, he admits we still know little about Omicron!, certainly not enough yet for us to be alarmed about its potential impact. He appeared on numerous TV shows this past weekend to tell us exactly that: we don’t know enough yet and not to panic–while he then tries to panic us.

Maybe Fauci’s real intent for appearing on all the talk shows was something else, as he also reminded us yet again this week that he is science incarnate. An attack on him, the world’s greatest doctor, is really an attack on science.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/technology/dr-fauci-if-you-attack-me-you-e2-80-99re-attacking-science/ar-AARh0qn?ocid=uxbndlbing

Lawmakers like Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz have called for Dr. Fauci to step down and be prosecuted over the course of COVID-19. Fauci scoffs at such threats, calling it “noise.”

“They’re really criticizing science because I represent science. That’s dangerous.” pic.twitter.com/zLzceD2DHe

— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) November 28, 2021

This same tactic has been tried before. Luckily, the public saw through it in past years.

I would like to ask Dr. Fauci a few questions myself: was he concerned about the science when other doctors were attacked or is it only his own reputation that must be protected? What about Dr. Didier Raoult, the world’s foremost micro-biologist who was attacked for touting Hydroxychloroquine? What about the trashing of America’s front-line doctors, each of whom have treated more patients in the last year than Dr. Fauci has treated in the last forty, but still they couldn’t be allowed a platform to speak some inconvenient truths? What about Dr. Harvey Risch, professor of epidemiology at Yale University who was attacked by a know-nothing CNN reporter for not following the science? What about Dr. Scott Jensen who had his medical license threatened when he spoke out about masking? What about the Evergreen doctors consortium who were censored when they also spoke out on the ineffectiveness of masking? (I’ve included commentary and links on all these in prior posts by the way).

What about Senator Rand Paul who Dr. Fauci likes to criticize as well? Senator Paul, if you didn’t already know, is also an MD who practiced for many years before becaming a senator. When Paul and Fauci attack each other who is defending science and who is attacking it? Can we construe Dr. Fauci’s words to mean that Fauci himself is attacking science when he attacks a fellow medical professional like Rand Paul?

A Couple More Tid Bits

I couldn’t resist sharing this picture of President Biden Christmas shopping in Nantucket this past week. This is the fourth or fifth time I remember him being caught mask-less in the last couple months. I guess we can forgive a forgetful old man for this faux-paus, but why aren’t the folks on his staff telling him to put the mask on? They direct him on everything else (he doesn’t say anything or talk to anyone with staff pre-approval). I don’t actually care if Biden wears a mask or not, but I wonder why does he keep going to these posh places which require masks and then ignore the rules? Can we ignore his silly mandates as well?

Finally, who says COVID isn’t political? The latest variant has been named Omicron!, but if we followed the Greek alphabet, like we have for all the other significant variants, it would have a different name. Next in line was the letter Nu, but that sounds too much like “new variant”, so it was skipped. After Nu, next up should have been “Xi” (pronounced Psi), but that name might offend a certain Chinese leader, so it too must be avoided, hence we skipped over Xi. Besides, Omicron! sounds much more impressive.

I think we shouldn’t care so much about offending the Chinese tryant Xi. I will agree to not use Xi for the next variant name, but instead let’s rename the disease from COVID-19 to Xi-19. How about we also push to boycott the Olympics in Beijing because the country hosting the Olympics is the one who led the world into this nightmare?

5 thoughts on “Curious Case of Sweden (and Omicron! Too)

  1. “The last six months Sweden has averaged 3 deaths per day. The U.S. has had 205,000 deaths the last six months, about 1120 deaths per day. The U.S. per capita death rate the last six months is 10 times more than Sweden’s which is why the U.S. ranks still ranks 20th in per capita deaths (over the entire two years of this pandemic) while Sweden has fallen to 56th.”

    Likely the US has done massive overcounting of covid deaths. Excess mortality doesn’t support the numbers reported by the CDC. 300k deaths, max Probably more like the same per capita rate as Sweden’s.

    Like

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