Another Wildly Inaccurate Coronavirus Report, This Time From the Washington Post

Steve McEnroe

This is verifiable information — unless you work at the paper itself.

There has been a remarkable COVID-related surge lately, but it is not about the virus outbreak itself. In the national press, there seems an outbreak is taking place, where the tendency to spew out blatantly false pandemic stories has become contagious. The latest to test positive for prevarication is the Washington Post, where they resorted to regressive statistical games in order to overhype an event inaccurately and politicize the pandemic.

This is becoming both a regular practice and an amazing display of journalistic hubris. Most are aware of the big flare-up this weekend when Rolling Stone Magazine pushed out its false story of Oklahoma hospitals allegedly overrun with ivermectin cases. To go along with that, there was the Associated Press having to retract its widely reported piece on ivermectin poisonings. (Calls to poison control went up 2%, not the 70% figure originally reported.) Then there was Joe Rogan’s story of recovery getting misrepresented, as so many in the press felt the need to demean him for using remedies of which the journalists did not approve. We can also add CBS News, where they needed to overhype a story on hospitals being overrun so they resorted to using a bigger number, saying wait times at some hospitals can stretch “thousands of minutes” in the headline.

Now the Washington Post wants to get in on the embarrassment. In order to shame American humans for wanting to engage in human activity, writer Ashish Jha picked a favorite target of the press — the Sturgis motorcycle rally, held in South Dakota. The media has sought to focus on this event for the second year in a row as a demonized superspreader event. Last year’s rally was claimed to have been a major outbreak hotspot, yet after breathless promises of danger ahead of the gathering and dubious studies after, it was proven to have not lived up to the hype.

Undeterred, Jha turns his sharp focus on Sturgis, and delivers data with import in a lecturing style that we all are expected to digest with solemnity.

The annual Sturgis motorcycle rally in South Dakota is America’s largest bike rally, a 10-day blowout, with attendance this year exceeding 250,000. It was also a serious pandemic stress test. By bringing together hundreds of thousands of people, Sturgis helps answer a simple yet critically important question: Are we at a point in the pandemic where we can safely stage big-crowd events?

This year it was estimated that at least 370,000 attendees descended on the town, and the effects were jarring, according to WaPo. “In the weeks since the rally began in early August infection numbers shot up 600% in South Dakota,” writes Jha. And then he goes from exaggeration to outright hysterics. (Emphasis added.)

We can expect to see big increases in other states, too, since bikers returned home from the event. Last year, after Sturgis, we saw massive outbreaks across the Dakotas, Wyoming, Indiana, even Nevada. Much of the region was aflame because of Sturgis, probably causing thousands of deaths.

This is not reporting, it is speculation. And what makes this worse is that Ashish Jha could have found a source for the actual data about last year’s rally — his own paper. According to the Washington Post the grand total of coronavirus deaths attributed to the 2020 rally was…one. That was backed up by the CDC this Spring. This constitutes pretty bad coverage already, but Mr. Jha is not finished displaying disproven claims.

Deeper in his article Jha references the major concert held this summer in Chicago, the Lollapalooza festival. He touts the precautions taken at that event, where basically people were on the honor system regarding vaccinations and/or receiving a negative test. Concert goers asserted they had not tested positive or experienced Covid exposure in the weeks before the show by signing a “Lollapalooza Fan Health Pledge”. The medical diligence behind this is mesmerizing. 

Nam Y. Huh

The festival had a lower attendance than Sturgis, and Ashish Jha assures us that the concert becoming a hotspot was negligible. He says that after the gathering, “only” a few hundred tested positive. He also excuses those cases by saying it is unclear if they contracted the virus at the festival; somehow those attending Sturgis are in fact assured to have caught it at the rally. No such excusal is offered

But what becomes evident is that, once again, Jha reveals that not only are his research efforts scant, he does not read his own newspaper. While Lollapalooza is dismissed with a wave of the hand for only a few hundred positive cases, Sturgis — with a larger attendance figure — has been reported as having fewer cases — just over one hundred. That was reported, once again, by The Washington Post

Health officials in South Dakota, where the rally was held from Aug. 6 to Aug. 15, said contact tracing has connected 16 cases to the event. North Dakota identified 42 cases, while Wyoming confirmed 32, Wisconsin tallied 20 and Minnesota counted 13.

What clearly is in play is the selected condemnation of these events. The state of South Dakota is run by Republican Kristi Noem, who has resisted many COVID protocols being mandated in her state. The City of Chicago is headed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who is an approved leader in the eyes of the media. Note how there is little in the way of outrage at her decision to allow the concert to go forward on the cusp of her looking to impose tighter restrictions on her city.

These events took place at nearly the same time, and both involved hundreds of thousands of attendees. But somehow only one of these gatherings is regarded as a massive threat to our national health, and the other is disregarded as being impactful in any fashion. It says everything that a biased reporter gets exposed by the fact that his lack of diligent research leads to getting repeatedly debunked by his own newspaper.