A group of House Republicans led by Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) are calling for a review of the “modeling platforms” the government has been using to make projections on the impacts of the coronavirus during the pandemic.
In a letter to House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), the Republicans urged her to schedule a “formal hearing” to review the “conflicting data” that led to draconian decisions like the stay-at-home orders across the country.
Leading a request along with @GOPoversight colleagues to hold a hearing re: the modeling of #Coronavirus. Many of our decisions have been… & WILL be.. based on models, & we’ve seen massive variations & sensitivity in existing models. Congress should be advised. #BeatCoronaVirus pic.twitter.com/2PQ9QsJvKJ
— Chip Roy (@chiproytx) April 9, 2020
Roy’s letter was cosigned by Reps. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Thomas Massie (Ky.), Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.), Jody Hice (R-Ga.), James Comer (R-Ky.) and Gregory Steube (R-Fla.).
“At the forefront of decisions regarding response efforts lies our ability to understand the breadth and depth of the spread of the illness,” the Republicans wrote.
“To date, there seemingly have been two primary coronavirus modeling platforms—one from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, and one from the Imperial College of London,” the letter continues.
“While widely distributed and used by many thought leaders, these models have exhibited conflicting data over time, as we all as within comparison of the models themselves,” they said. “These models have also undergone multiple wildly varying revisions, and have not seemed to account for real world behavioral changes, even demonstrating assumptions at odds with visible data in real time.”
The lawmakers pointed out that “due to the decisions made as a result of the use of these models, we are facing an enormously negative economic impact if we do not change gears in a matter of days or weeks.”
They went on to note that millions of Americans have filed for unemployment benefits and thousands of businesses have been destroyed.
“At a time when both the lives and livelihoods of Americans are at risk, we certainly must ensure we are not making decisions based on upon potentially flawed or misrepresentative information,” they wrote. “Congress needs to perform its Constitutional oversight duty surrounding modeling information related to the coronavirus response efforts, which the agencies and departments of the federal government that Congress funds have used to justify placing extraordinary burdens upon the American people.”
Some voices on the right, like American Greatness’s Julie Kelly, have drawn attention to the potentially flawed models early on, and were excoriated for it, but the discrepancies between the projections and the reality have drawn increased scrutiny in recent days.
As the letter noted, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has revised its model to predict the country may need fewer hospital beds and other equipment than thought, with a peak of coronavirus-related deaths potentially coming sooner than thought.
That’s at odds with some other models, which together have helped guide an unprecedented government effort to curb transmission by essentially shutting down large sections of the economy and keeping people at home.
Concerns that this virus is significantly more contagious and deadly than any ordinary flu strain are what’s driving the current government approach, in America and around the world. Perhaps due in part to more testing, America reports the highest number of cases in the world right now, with more than 465,000 cases and nearly 17,000 deaths. Symptoms vary widely, with some patients reporting only minor discomfort yet others dealing with crushing physical pain and struggling to breathe, forced to go on ventilators.
Former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson has openly questioned the models, saying there have been discrepancies with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates, which once predicted more than 90,000 deaths by August. The new estimate has the figure closer to 60,000.
Berenson blames the models for the heavy-handed government response.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator for the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force, says the model keeps being adjusted downward because Americans have been doing a good job of social distancing.
“We believe that our health care delivery system in the United States is quite extraordinary,” Dr. Deborah Birx said at a White House press briefing on Wednesday. “I know many of you are watching the Act Now model and the IHME model— and they have consistently decreased the number, the mortality from over almost 90,000 or 86,000, down to 81,000 and now down to 61,000. That is modeled on what America is doing. That’s what’s happening.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci also said that the social distancing efforts are working: “Because remember, what you do with data will always outstrip a model. You redo your models, depending upon your data, and our data is telling us that mitigation is working.”