Coronavirus: A data perspective

Coronavirus: A data perspective

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Read the full story and don’t panic.

Source: Evidence over hysteria — COVID-19 – Six Four Six Nine – Medium

I have no view as to whether the linked data is the correct way to view the data or not. The author has no expertise in epidemics, public health or economics.  He is apparently a data analyst and is interested in how data is presented. This is a very long piece with numerous charts and explanations. The author says he is continuously updating it with new data. Don’t take what is said there as gospel.

The linked item notes:

Big red circle charts tracing body counts, like those from John Hopkins University, are, by how they are designed, inciting fear. There are several other charts that are presented to the public (by the media, etc) which tend to incite fear without creating understanding. This is a good observation.

Trend charts and curves can provide us with a better sense of where we are – as the curves flatten, we are demonstrating control over the viral spread. For example, as of March 21, a curve of cases in Washington State (provided to me by someone in Washington), where the outbreak first developed in the U.S., shows a linear growth rate at this time, rather than exponential. That suggest that in the next days or week, the curve will start to flatten, after which it will bend downwards.

The linked article has some information on death rates suggesting the U.S. death rate is less than other countries. That is true with present data but I caution that deaths are a lagging indicator. People diagnosed as ill may take weeks to recover and some portion of them will die in the next few weeks. Consequently, the death rate in the U.S. does not yet give us a good picture and the author seems to be drawing a premature conclusion.

The author does a lot of comparisons with seasonal flu but be warned, there are many problems with trying to do that at this stage. A. Lot. Of. Problems.

Per the CDC, Covid-19 may not spread as easily as once thought  – the odds of someone having Covid-19 remain low, and the odds of contracting it from having contact with someone with Covid-19 also remain small. For now.

The linked article notes that many policy decisions are made without any supporting evidence. True, although there may be no way to get necessary evidence:

Politicians are competing, not on more evidence or more COVID-19 cures but more caution. As unemployment rises and families feel unbearably burdened already, they feel pressure to “fix” the situation they created with even more radical and “creative” policy solutions. This only creates more problems and an even larger snowball effect. The first place to start is to stop killing the patient and focus on what works.

I agree with that. My State’s Governor says “we will not do X” action and then hears that the adjoining state Governor took action X, and within hours, contradicts herself by then saying “we will do X”. This has occurred many times during the past week.

Worse, are just stupid decisions made without serious thought. Pennsylvania closed all of its highway rest stops and mandated closure of bathrooms and food outlets at retail truck centers. Truckers pointed out this shut down trucking, essential for delivery food, medicine and other supplies. Truckers also have to take mandated rest breaks periodically and they do that at rest stops – in their trucks. Two days later, the Pennsylvania government undid their restrictions.

The Trump Administration has allegedly prepared a “Buy American” Executive Order that would immediately mandate that government agencies only purchase medical supplies from U.S. vendors, thereby cutting of a huge global source of face masks, gloves and gowns. That is idiocy on steroids.

Inconsistent and contradictory messages are coming from all levels of what I call faux government leaders. Messages lack clarity (we spent weeks waiting for CDC to define “older” and “underlying health conditions”) and directions are given without explanation. People are told to “social distance” and self isolate but without explaining what the purpose of that is. People are given scary messages that we will have up to 40% unemployment perhaps lasting 18 months. The media ran wild with California’s projection of 25.5 million sick with in 8 weeks – neglecting that this was a modeled scenario assuming that no one in California did anything at all to stop the spread. No one noticed that such a wild spread has not occurred in any country in the world.

This is poor public messaging that generates unnecessary confusion and fear.

The reality is that isolating the sick and socially distancing the healthy really do work to stop the spread of a viral epidemic. This is known from previous disease outbreaks in limited areas of the world. This is known from the progress achieved with SARS-CoV-2 in China, S Korea, Singapore and Taiwan. Last Monday, Starbucks announced it had re-opened 90% of its stores in China. On Wednesday, 3 China-based airlines announced resumption of flights to the U.S. Their lives are resuming and business activity is getting underway.

Is life there normal? No, but people are out and about. Most are wearing face masks and practicing social distancing. That is likely the new normal for quite some time to come, including here in the U.S.

Here in the U.S., it is possible that large gatherings – conventions, running races, etc – might not occur even later this year.

The scientific and health care communities are proceeding at lightning speed to identify existing drugs and drug combinations that may yield improved patient outcomes. 41 groups are developing vaccines and one vaccine trial has already started.

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