Letters to the Editor • Opinion
We already know how to prevent pandemics
Commuters wearing face masks walk out of a subway station on Thursday in the central business district in Beijing. (Mark Schiefelbein/AP)

The Jan. 12 front-page article “Grim view of China’s covid toll” reported that the overwhelming number of cremations taking place in many areas across China indicated that the Chinese government’s claim of only about 40 coronavirus deaths since Dec. 7 is clearly unbelievable. As the article noted, we and our co-authors were using information on cremations in Wuhan in January 2020 to make this same point to the Western medical establishment about the vast official Chinese underreporting of the initial outbreak. That alarm fell on ears that did not want to listen.

We are researchers. For most of 2020, we struggled to find a home in a medical journal for this information. The response from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention journal was typical, stating that the use of “unofficial” data in our paper made the results “unreliable.” It suggested instead that in the future, if monthly mortality data becomes available for Wuhan and for Hubei province, we could use that data to calculate excess mortality. That was May 2020. We are still waiting for that future date when the Chinese government makes “reliable official” monthly mortality data available.

The reluctance of the Western medical establishment to cross the official line of the Chinese government, with their lavish resources for research, runs deep. We can only hope that as the new covid outbreak grips China, this time Western authorities will pay closer attention to the signals that are coming from the crematories and other unofficial sources of data across that country. A cremation does not lie.

Mai He, St. Louis

Lucia Dunn, Columbus, Ohio