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Opinion: Why Americans Distrust COVID Numbers

I recently had a conversation with an acquaintance during a slow shift. The individual, a millennial man only slightly older than myself, had heard about my political involvement. It's hard to hide these days.

"So, what do you think about COVID?" He asked me. I thought for a moment before answering, "What do I think about COVID? That is pretty broad – can you narrow that question down a bit?"

"I guess I mean I want to know your overall thoughts on the reporting and handling of COVID," he answered.

"Hm, OK." I started, "Well, there are a ton of details and sub-conversations we could have on this, but as a whole, I think COVID is a real sickness that has been intentionally leveraged and misrepresented for political gain. I've read a lot of studies, talked to many medical professionals, and I think it is entirely fair and justified for people to think they have been lied to about the specifics of the entire COVID situation." I answered. Have you ever been in a situation where you can feel the other person frowning without even looking at them? That is precisely what happened as my words landed. After a long silence, my acquaintance said, "I think that it is beyond stupid for people to say things like that – we have thousands of people dead and a global sickness, and people still question things." Now it was my turn to frown, "Wait for a second; I don't think you heard me – COVID is real. I am not making light of anyone dying. But that can be true, and it can be true that the situation was politically leveraged and misrepresented for power and influence. Those two ideas are not mutually exclusive." We went on to have a good conversation, which ended with my counterpart admitting that COVID has been misrepresented and politically leveraged.

These conversations are difficult to have because of the fear and emotion tied up in the topic – it makes people exist on a hairpin trigger. They are just waiting for someone to "make light" of the situation so that they can get incensed. Like I told my acquaintance, COVID is a vast topic, and I could write about different aspects of it for hours. That said, I want to focus on one topic this time around: Why are people justifiably skeptical about COVID reporting from the medical and media communities? A long list of coincidences have raised red flags for Americans – I'll present a few of them. We will move through this list with some semblance of paying attention to chronological order. Let's get into it!

The world-changing COVID situation kicked off amid controversy in Wuhan, China. While the Chinese government knew about COVID and its dangers for several weeks, they intentionally buried the story while abusing their own people. The misinformation campaign spearheaded by China's government caused a veil of distrust and conspiracy to surround the health crisis almost immediately justifiably. That was strike one – Americans had questions and legitimate doubts about the information they received from the first chapter of this story. Then we all learned that the World Health Organization (WHO) was complicit in the Chinese lies about COVID. The weeks lost due to Chinese and WHO deception and negligence were weeks of potential preparation, study, and awareness that the world would never get back. Not only was China to blame for the virus itself, but after the virus began to spread, China covered the crisis, which leads to a long-lasting domino effect ending in the unnecessary and avoidable deaths of countless thousands. Americans were hit with the surprise spread of a brand new virus, and the considerable warning we could have had was blocked by China (strike one) and the WHO (strike two). US citizens with their ears to the ground already had serious reasons to believe they were watching a deadly show of smoke and mirrors.

Gravitas: WHO's internal documents reveal China's 'cover-up'

As if the corruption of China and the WHO was not enough, we see another legitimate complaint as we look back on the past year and a half. As COVID developed in 2020, President Trump claimed that based on the intelligence briefings he had at his disposal, it was apparent to him that COVID originated in a lab – not a fish market. He said China had to be held accountable and joined mainstream news outlets like CNN in calling COVID the "Wuhan Virus." Though President Trump used the same titles spread by mainstream media, he was maligned from all sides – with medical professionals and media talking heads claiming that the very idea of COVID originating in a lab was a wild conspiracy theory and the name "Wuhan Virus" was inherently racist. Again, Americans who were paying attention had serious questions. A little Google digging showed that the lab in Wuhan was a particularly specialized facility that worked on Coronavirus studies. Another quick internet search revealed that many diseases were named after their geographical points of origin – Zika, Spanish flu, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, West Nile virus, and Ebola. With such a well-established medical history of virus names and an extremely suspicious lab being located nearby the outbreak origin, Americans began asking, "Why are we being silenced? Why are these questions not OK to ask?" The true answer was simple – 2020 was an election year. Using COVID as a politicized weapon to attack former President Donald Trump was just too tempting a proposition for the left-wing institutions to pass up. But that wasn't the explanation the news gave us. No, we were told that we needed to believe the narrative, and anything else was racist, hateful, and reckless. Strike three.

Next, let's consider how the situation continued to deteriorate via one of the most significant and most controversial measures to mitigate COVID in the US: mandatory lockdowns. Lockdowns began as what appeared to be a good-faith effort to slow the spread. They were suggested, not forced, and they were a shot in the dark at protecting against an unknown threat. As time passed, we began to see two unfortunate trends. First, we saw that leaders in blue states were all too happy to fulfill their power fantasies by using "emergency powers" to regulate, limit, and close churches and businesses forcefully. It is worth noting that many of these leaders did not follow their own lockdown mandates – Gavin Newsom, Andrew Cuomo, and Lori Lightfoot come to mind when we think of COVID-hypocrites. These leaders were ready to harass or fine individuals who chose to open their churches or businesses – but in private, these very same leaders broke their own rules with no legal repercussions. We also saw groups of democratic leaders protecting the functionality of their businesses – Tom Wolf and Gavin Newsom both allowed their side-hustles to remain open and unhindered as other businesses in their respective states were forcefully closed. As relief packages rolled out, companies that Newsom partially owned received millions of taxpayer dollars. Americans had another set of legitimate doubts and questions – namely, "If this disease is truly worth stripping us of our economic and religious liberties, why do the elites disregard safety measures once they think nobody is looking?" If you were among the millions of citizens who asked such questions, you were labeled "anti-science COVID denier."

As the months rolled on, we began seeing that states with the most restrictive lockdown mandates (such as NJ, NY, PA, and MI) performed as bad or worse when compared with the States which had fewer restrictions (such as FL, TX, AL, and SD). The logical reaction would be to assess the situation, see that our tactics were not working and were doing more harm than good, and change tactics. But the media and leftist leaders couldn't risk looking bad or admitting that they may have been wrong – especially not when Donald Trump had been a leading voice in resisting lockdown mandates. The path forward was clear for corrupt leaders – ignore the science, data, and measurable results and shame anyone who pointed out the obvious truth. After all, if people died and the economy crashed, that was a negative story that could be placed at the feet of Donald Trump as he campaigned for his second term.

Another set of questions originated with the CDC and their apparent unreliability amid the COVID crisis. The CDC admitted to mixing viral and antibody test results when the news shifted to reporting infection rates rather than death rates. As infection rates raised and death rates dropped, the news should have been at least partially hopeful – more cases with fewer deaths means a less deadly virus. Instead, it seemed that a convenient mistake in the CDC and a trend in media reporting were working together to paint the situation in a less than complete and accurate manner.

Sadly, the confusion and misleading reporting didn't end with the CDC. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the leading voice on America's response to COVID, seemed to flip and flop his way through the pandemic. Some of his most infamous failures can be seen in his complete 180 regarding the usefulness of masks and his adamant public support of social distancing, which suddenly became noticeably less important amid widespread leftwing riots. As BLM and ANTIFA members took to the streets by the thousands without masks or social distancing, Dr. Fauci was suddenly tongue-tied and unable to advise against mass gatherings. When pressed on the issue, Dr. Fauci refused to offer the medical advice he had previously been eager to share.

WATCH: Rep. Jim Jordan asks Dr. Fauci if nationwide protests helped spread the coronavirus

Other cases which raised legitimate questions about the accuracy of COVID reporting found their roots in quickly buried stories that saw labs exclusively reporting positive COVID test results. This practice undoubtedly leads to artificially raised rates of infections being reported. Yet again, Americans looking for the man behind the curtain saw severe cracks in the narrative, but they were almost immediately silenced, shamed, and shouted down when they voiced concern.

The WHO stumbled in front of the nation again when on the very day that Joe Biden was sworn in, more restrictive and selective methods of testing and diagnosing COVID were released to the public. This action raised serious red flags as it seemed like another coincidence in a long list of convenient developments for a political agenda. By their very nature, the newer and more restrictive methods would result in fewer cases being counted and reported, thus making the newly legitimized Joe Biden appear to be an immediate success story.

More medical concerns were brought forward when it became public knowledge that hospitals that tested and treated patients for COVID were given a direct monetary incentive for a COVID-positive diagnosis. Though the truth of this fact has been danced around and avoided, the idea that a hospital is at least incentivized to play hard and fast with affirming a COVID case is indisputable. Proving specific cases of abusing this monetary system is something that would require extensive investigations, but the concern that greed is a powerful incentive is a legitimate one. Through 2020, stories began to emerge about misdiagnosed cases. Some were personal anecdotes from friends and family members – I know of individuals in my sphere diagnosed without ever even taking a COVID test. Like many Americans, I have contacted multiple medical professionals who quietly disagree with the mainstream narrative around COVID but remain relatively silent out of fear for their job security and reputation. Local news outlets published other instances of misdiagnosed cases – people dying after motor vehicle accidents and gunshot wounds were being brought in and declared as COVID deaths. A popular counterpoint to these claims is, "OK, sure that happened a few times. But do you think that those few cases impacted the overall numbers reported?" The obvious answer is no – however, it is entirely within reason to ask the following. "If a man who was killed in a motorcycle accident is counted as a COVID death – a case which is so absurd and egregious that it is almost unbelievable – how many other less obvious but still false cases were misdiagnosed?" If you don't understand that concern, let me offer it via a metaphor. Imagine that you are in business with a person who has access to millions of dollars in company bank accounts. Somewhere along the line, you lend this person $5, and when it comes time for the person to repay you, they come up with an outlandish lie about how they already returned your money. It is entirely reasonable for you to then develop severe concerns about how the person in question might be acting with the millions of dollars they have access to, given that they could not even maintain honesty in a simple case concerning $5. These widespread anecdotes mixed with professionally documented cases of mistakes and misreporting caused equally widespread and well-founded distrust – especially when both political and monetary incentives were on the table.

More doubts about testing accuracy and reporting were raised when many false-positive tests began to receive attention. One of the most notable instances saw 77 NFL players test positive for COVID-19, only to retest and find that each of the cases had been inaccurate and misdiagnosed. Again, both officially reported cases and anecdotes abounded, causing citizens to question whether or not the rising infection numbers seen on nightly news truly represented reality.

The last topic we will address in this overview of legitimate questions surrounding the 2020 pandemic is hypocrisy. We have briefly looked at several leaders who broke their own mandates, but the list of hypocritical leaders who emerged during 2020 is lengthy. One massive source of COVID hypocrisy can be seen in mainstream news, where failed and shamed Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) was hailed as a hero while the wildly successful Governor Ron DeSantis (R) was treated as an anti-science failure. Amid all the misleading reporting, a troubling pattern emerged. Red states such as GA, TX, and FL, which performed better than or comparable to blue states, were painted as failures while blue states such as MI, NJ, and NY were heralded equal to or worse than their red counterparts as COVID success stories. Americans stood by and watched as states with lower death counts were ruthlessly attacked while failed governors of blue states wrote books and made nightly news appearances hosted by enamored anchors. If the situation was indeed about saving lives and not power-grabbing or political leveraging, why was the odd discrepancy so prevalent?

The news wasn't the only source of hypocrisy among leaders who claimed to care deeply about American citizens' safety and stop the spread. Joe Biden famously broke his own mask mandate on federal property mere hours after declaring the national rule. Almost immediately after the Biden Inauguration, the Democratic Governors of Illinois, California, and New York eased lockdown restrictions – some amid COVID rates that were higher than when the restrictions were first implemented. Gavin Newsom and Nancy Pelosi were both spotted breaking the California mandates they vocally supported, and Gretchen Whitmer traveled after urging her constituents to stay home. With each case of what appeared to be blatant politically motivated elitist hypocrisy, Americans asked, "Why should we trust anything that you tell us?" No good answer was ever offered to such questions.

Cuomo accuser says N.Y. governor groomed her in an attempt to sleep with her

To summarize - why do Americans largely distrust COVID reporting? Because the entire situation had deception baked into it from day one. All mistakes seem to be strategically timed and spun to benefit one political faction conveniently because misinformation and inaccuracies have been proven multiple times. And most of all, because as much as the powers that be hate to admit it, Americans still have some sheepdogs mingling among the flocks of sheep.

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About the Author:

Luke Negron, is an Air Force veteran, writer, speaker, and activist. He has over a decade of private sector experience - including working to pay his way through Grove City College, where he graduated with Political Science, National Security, and Communications studies in his professional experience. He is proud to say he relates to the American middle class - having worked in restaurants, construction, and technology. In 2020 he was the Republican Nominee to the U.S House for Pennsylvania's 18th congressional district. He has worked with a long list of charitable organizations including Samaritan's Purse, The Pittsburgh Project, and Cleanup 412. As a social and political leader, his goal is simple: to reclaim politics of, by, and for the people.

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