I want to trust The Atlantic more than the White House. I used to subscribe to the magazine, and I am always skeptical of politicians.
It would take a long time to carefully fact-check this article. But I can start at the beginning and see how it goes.
It opens by describing a White House science advisor saying
- “It doesn’t matter if younger, healthier people get infected,” Atlas said in a July interview with San Diego’s KUSI news station. “I don’t know how often that has to be said. They have nearly zero risk of a problem from this … When younger, healthier people get infected, that’s a good thing.”
This sounds interesting, and a little crazy. It seems clear that young people rarely die of the disease. But they can infect other, more vulnerable people. I thought this would be the correction to the White House position.
But after acknowledging the low death rate, the article turns to "health challenges that are serious, if not imminently fatal." This implies that young people should fear harm from the disease.
The next sentence says "The disease occasionally sends people’s immune system into a frenzy, wreaking havoc on their internal organs" with no source provided.
Then "Several studies of asymptomatic patients revealed that more than half of them had lung abnormalities."
Then "A March study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that 7 to 20 percent of sick patients showed heart damage associated with COVID-19."
The claim about heart damage sounds like one I looked into earlier, when it appeared that the heart damage was, or at least could have been, present before the COVID-19 infection. So this sentence made me skeptical. It didn't have a clickable link, but the previous one about lung abnormalities did link, alas, to Twitter.
When evidence is weak, it's a common to make the argument more impressive by adding more weak evidence. The order of these links appears arbitrary, so I checked the first one in The Lancet. Does it support the claim in The Atlantic that more than half of asymptomatic patients had lung abnormalities? Does it show that the infection caused the abnormalities, rather than revealing a pre-existing condition?
The abnormality appears to refer to ground glass "changes" which were found in 56% of patients.
56% means five out of nine.
A single-digit sample size is pretty disheartening for the first solid piece of evidence. The patients were nine passengers who had been on board the Diamond Princess and tested positive, out of 215 passengers tested.
The Atlantic is arguing that young people are at risk of harm. The five patients with ground glass changes were
Maybe it gets better. I feel like it's a waste of time to continue fact-checking an article when the first link is completely contrary to the main idea.