Shameless manipulation: Positive PCR tests drop after WHO instructs vendors to lower cycle thresholds. We have been played like a fiddle

By Meryl Nass, MD

First Published on Dr. Nass’s website

Hospitalization rates associated with Covid have dropped from a high of 132,500 Americans on January 6 to 71,500 on February 12.  The US had 920,000 staffed hospital beds in 2019, of which 14.4% harbored a Covid case last month, and 7.8% do now.

This tremendous drop was predicted. Every hospitalized patient is tested for Covid, often repeatedly, using PCR tests with high false positive rates. False positives are due in considerable part to exhorbitant cycle thresholds. This refers to the maximum number of doublings that are allowed during the test. The problem caused by excessive cycle thresholds was well described in a NY Times article last August, but has otherwise been ignored by the mass media. Dr. Sin Hang Lee challenged the FDA’s reliance on exhorbitant cycle thresholds in its acceptance of efficacy claims for Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine in early December. He and FDA remain engaged in this debate.

The WHO instructed PCR test users and manufacturers on December 14 and again on January 20 that PCR cycle thresholds needed to come down. The December 14 guidance stated WHO’s concern regarding “an elevated risk for false SARS-CoV-2 results” and pointed to “background noise which may lead to a specimen with a high cycle threshold value result being [incorrectly] interpreted as a positive result.” 

The first instruction has been superceded by the second, which additionally advises on clinical use of the test:  If the “test results do not correspond with the clinical presentation, a new specimen should be taken and retested…” While this implies that the test should only be performed in those with symptoms, and its results should be interpreted with the clinical context in mind, most PCR tests in the US are used very differently: to screen asymptomatics at work, at colleges and universities, to permit border crossings, etc.  No caution is applied to the results. One single positive test defines someone as a Covid case. Yet it is well known, and was acknowledged in WHO’s January guidance, that screening in low Covid prevalence situations, such as in the screening of asymptomatics, increases the risk of false positives. And the risk increases as the prevalence of disease drops, such that in situations of low disease prevalence, it is common to find that most positives are actually false positives.  For example, see this BMJ chart and then the real-life example in the comment below it.

Everyone in the field knew that the PCR test results were bogus.  Even Tony Fauci admitted last July that cycle thresholds above 35 were not measuring virus, and furthermore that virus could not be cultured from samples that required a high number of cycles to show positivity. 

But the drumbeat from the Coronavirus Task Force and some academics and others was “Test all, test often”—despite the inordinate numbers of false positives and negatives. Congress repeatedly allocated many billions of dollars for testing (often free for the person being tested) and so testing quickly mushroomed. Nearly two million Covid tests a day were recorded in the US over the last 3 months. Most of these have been PCR tests which, despite their problems, are still considered the most accurate. Most of the remaining tests performed were rapid antigen tests. These tests too suffer from high false positive rates, as the FDA warned last November.

While daily deaths have only dropped about 15% since January 12, there have been dramatic drops during the month in new cases (down 60% from 250,000 new cases/day to 100,000) and, as noted, in hospitalizations (down 46%). Reports claim a total of 475,000 Americans have died from Covid.

However, none of these numbers are reliable.  In addition to inaccurate PCR results, a variety of other measures have skewed the reported number of deaths from Covid.

While CDC electronically codes other causes of death, it has chosen to hand code every Covid death, and explains: 

“It takes extra time to code COVID-19 deaths. While 80% of deaths are electronically processed and coded by NCHS within minutes, most deaths from COVID-19 must be coded by a person, which takes an average of 7 days.”

I am waiting for CDC to answer my Freedom of Information Act query, which requested the protocol CDC’s coders use for coding Covid-19 as a cause of death. Why is CDC treating Covid deaths differently from deaths due to other conditions?

CDC changed the way it coded death certificates for a Covid-caused death last March, to include everyone for whom Covid is in any way contributory to the death. By placing different parts of the instructions about coding on different web pages, CDC successfully hid what it was doing. On one page, the guidance states, If COVID-19 is determined to be cause of death, it should be reported on the death certificate.” On a different webpage, CDC states: When COVID-19 is reported as a cause of death on the death certificate, it is coded and counted as a death due to COVID-19.” 

CDC has encouraged providers to be generous with Covid designations. And the Covid death definition appears to be a moving target, variable across states. CDC attempts to explain why its mortality numbers do not add up, and includes this excuse: “Other reporting systems use different definitions or methods for counting deaths.” But it is CDC that chose not to issue uniform guidelines.

“We consider COVID-19 deaths to be:  Deaths in which a patient hospitalized for any reason within 14 days of a positive COVID-19 test result dies in the hospital or within the 60 days following discharge. Deaths in which COVID-19 is listed as a primary or contributing cause of death on a death certificate.” 

Weekly mortality surveillance data include a combination of machine coded and manually coded causes of death collected from death certificates. Prior to week 4 (the week ending January 30, 2021), the percentages of deaths due to PIC were higher among manually coded records than more rapidly available machine coded records. Improvements have been made to the machine coding process that allow for more COVID-19 related deaths to be machine coded, and going forward, the percentage of PIC deaths among machine coded and manually coded data are expected to be more similar. The data presented are preliminary and expected to change as more data are received and processed, but the amount of change in the percentage of deaths due to PIC should be lower going forward. Weeks for which the largest changes in the percentage of deaths due to PIC may occur are highlighted in gray in the figure below and should be interpreted with caution.

INFLUENZA Virus Isolated
  • CDC applies several statistical techniques to deal with anomalous data before publishing its cause of death results. The raw death data are not made available to the public.
  • If Covid is listed as one contributor to a death on the death certificate, even if the death is caused by a cancer or heart attack, CDC relabels it a death caused by Covid. 
  • Because hospitals are paid several times more by Medicare for patients who have been given a Covid diagnosis, and a positive Covid test is not required, it is assumed that the diagnosis of Covid is applied generously in hospitalized patients.
  • By changing the methods by which it performs its calculations, CDC has made it impossible to compare prior year statistics with the period since the onset of Covid.

By accepting excessive cycle thresholds for Covid PCR tests, CDC considerably expanded the numbers of Covid-positive cases and hospitalizations, as well as deaths.

I do not mean to imply that the tests, whose manufacturers may have recently reduced their cycle thresholds, are now accurate. Over 200 different PCR tests have been “authorized” under emergency rules by the FDA, which so far has not standardized or formally approved them. The public is in the dark as to whether and how each individual test may have changed in response to WHO’s instruction, and we remain uninformed about the accuracy of each test. In fact, it has been established by the American College of Pathology that PCR test results are not reproducible.

By hand-coding each death due to Covid, CDC gave itself the power to determine how many Covid deaths would be counted at any particular time.  
And by creating excessively loose case definitions for Covid, several of which did not require a single sign of illness, just a positive test, CDC was able to calibrate the number of Covid-positive cases by the rate at which it rolled out tests to the nation.

Today, the media are telling us to rejoice.  Maryland has just gotten its percentage of positive Covid tests below 5%, when a month ago the rate was 8.76%.  In my state of Maine, a reduction in the percentage of test results that are positive has turned all counties ‘green,’ allowing schools to be open. 


Things are worse, things are better.  Wear no mask–no, wear a mask–hey, wear two masks. New variants with even more infectivity are coming! But they are no more lethal, and SARS-CoV-2 is quite infectious already, so will the new strains make an appreciable difference? 

It seems that despite having recovered from Covid, we can be reinfected with the new viral strains. But how common is that? Does it simply mean you can have a positive PCR test, but be otherwise asymptomatic? 

I found only a single case report of a person becoming severely ill from a new strain after having recovered from original Covid.

  • The point is to keep us begging for the latest vaccine as soon as we have received the last but no-longer-effective vaccine. 
  • The point is to keep coming up with narratives to justify locking us up and reducing productivity.
  • The point is to keep us frightened and confused and unable to use our wits. 
  • The point is to stop us looking deeply and clearly into what is happening, while the media blares Covid hysteria nonstop.

Our families are being torn up. Our small businesses are going bankrupt.  Our countries, and probably we ourselves, are being scooped up by the banks, as borrowing on an unheard-of scale persists at a dizzying pace.  

Who will pay these debts?  What will be the price? Can you see that the crashing of our economies is intentional, buttressed by lie after lie?

We are being lied into the abyss. Our so-called leaders are tossing us and especially our children and grandchildren over a cliff.  They threw away our Constitution long ago. Now, they have stolen and sold our future.

Please calm down.  Turn off all the “news” and ponder what has been happening. We can fix this mess, once enough of us understand it. Give it the time and focus it deserves.  Our leaders won’t save us.  Only WE can.

Meryl Nass, M.D.
Board Certified in Internal Medicine