Two ghoulish ads out of Oregon’s “Stay Home Save Lives” campaign aim to keep Oregonians compliant with Gov. Kate Brown’s coronavirus lockdown through falsehood, fear, and guilt.
A 60-second video titled “Accidental” has garnered more than 2.8 million views on YouTube, not including when it plays as an ad before other videos. By the alarming tone it strikes with its block-lettered assumptions overlaying somber black and white pictures, you’d think Oregon’s health authorities were begging citizens with a hankering for human flesh not to chew their neighbors. It opens with a question we apparently all should be asking ourselves daily: “Did you accidentally kill someone today?”
“You’re already extremely contagious” before COVID-19 symptoms manifest, it states, before claiming that every infected person will infect three more people, contributing to an exponential growth curve and leaving hospitals with more patients than they can treat. Lest the brain-munching zombies of Oregon forget the crucial question put to them 45 seconds ago, the pandemic iteration of “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” soon follows: Do you want to kill someone today?
“Don’t accidentally kill someone,” it warns, as if reminding us not to stick our hands in a wood chipper. “Stay home. Save lives.”
The fear-mongering in one of the other highly viewed ads is even more blatant and dishonest. Titled “Numbers,” the 31-second video warns: “If we don’t stay home… we will continue to spread the coronavirus. If we don’t stay home, 1.4% of all Oregonians could die.”
The ad continues: “An average person knows 600 people, meaning 5 people you know could lose their lives.” It ticks through a slideshow of categories like “barista,” “neighbor,” “teammate,” and “hairstylist” to the beep of a heart rate monitor accelerating toward flatlining. The list ends poignantly on “your child” as the beep becomes a sobering monotone.
Hardly any information is provided in Stay Home Save Lives’ online content as to who exactly made these shameless pieces of propaganda and three other ads. The campaign is, according to one of its two web pages, “a public-private partnership to communicate to Oregonians about how they can do their part to contain the spread of COVID-19.” (The other website is tamer and can be found here.)
Like the other ad, “Numbers” cites no authority or study for its doomsday predictions, and I haven’t found any models or studies suggesting such a catastrophe as roughly 58,800 (1.5 percent of 4.2 million total residents) COVID-19 fatalities in Oregon, or a rate of child fatalities even visible in the bar graphs. The state’s own latest projections suggest a total of fewer than 400 Wuhan flu-related deaths by May 17.
There have been no child deaths in Oregon so far and three recorded deaths in the United States of children younger than 14. While tragic, these deaths don’t justify the cruel manipulation of telling parents they are mortally endangering their children by leaving their homes. With death rates like these, children are far more in danger from a car accident than from coronavirus. This is just plain scaremongering, an attempt to use fear to make people comply with government dictates.
State health department reporting as of April 20 flatly contradicts such bone-chilling forecasts, putting the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases of individuals in Oregon aged 0-19 at 48, with only three of those cases hospitalized and no deaths.
The data we have is incomplete and most of the modelling has been wrong more often than right, and to a significant degree, but to illustrate the lunacy of the ad’s claims, the percent of Oregonians having confirmed cases as of Monday (1,956) is about 0.05 percent of the state’s population. Given 75 deaths so far, the death rate out of all residents would be 0.0018 percent.
Since Oregon’s curve is well past its peak, the video’s projection of 1.4 percent is likely to be off by several orders of magnitude. And the implausibility of this scenario isn’t because of social distancing. Not even the London Imperial College model that initially scared governors into draconian lockdowns predicted social distancing to have such a dramatic effect. Most of the models being used and predicting such high rates of deaths and disease have assumed significant social distancing.
In fact, researchers at the Institute for Disease Modeling in Bellevue, Washington claim in their recent report, posted by the Oregon Health Authority, that Brown’s “aggressive” measures have reduced the baseline projected deaths in Oregon by only 62 percent—not 10,000,000 percent. Their model projects fewer than 300 by mid-May, assuming the lockdown remains in place. Even if this is accurate, the ads are about as disingenuous as China’s claim last month that they had no new COVID-19 cases.
The Stay Home Save Lives site’s downloadable social media graphics are as panic-inducing as the videos and far outside the bounds of reasonable speech on the pandemic, given that evidence has piled up over weeks that the coronavirus is not nearly as deadly as initially suggested. One of the graphics reads, “KEEP PORTLAND WEIRD ALIVE.” Another echoes the “Accidental” ad: “DON’T ACCIDENTALLY KILL SOMEONE.”
It is outrageously irresponsible for those running the Stay Home Save Lives campaign to leave these videos and graphics posted, and still more scandalous that they do not advertise who they are, where they got their projections, or what grounds their assumptions. These two ads can only be described as lies meant to scare the public into submission.
I reached out to the governor’s office for information on who is on the “private” side of the campaign’s partnership and for comment on the ads’ inaccurate and misleading statements. I have yet to hear back. A spokesman for the Oregon Health Authority would not address the ads’ misleading statements directly, instead referring me to reporting from the Institute for Disease Modelling that shows a 60 percent reduction in transmission due to the lockdown measures.
The last update to the slightly less condescending and aggressive Stay Home Save Lives page was April 9, offering dos and don’ts for outdoor recreation. It has not issued retractions or corrections of any of the videos’ dystopian predictions or the bizarre insinuation that Oregonians might accidentally kill their children if they don’t stay home.
Oregonians don’t deserve to be scared into submission with lies. This work was done at the bidding of cowardly tyrants who are unwittingly teaching their constituents to distrust them. What happens in the next crisis when the warnings are both dire and true? Will Oregonians believe them?