Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Day 67: COVID-19 Numidiocy

 

We’re #1! Not a distinction for which the US was looking. And it might not be true anyway if we had a clear picture of what is going on in the world’s most populous country — China. (Or is it India, now?) And we are not #1 on the “misery index” (yet).

I start today with a confession that I am a numidiot. I described numidiocy yesterday as “whenever numbers get so numerous that it ceases to convey clear and useful information.” @markcamp gently reminded me that the problem is not in the numbers it is in ourselves — our ability to order and interpret them. And, of course, he is correct. And herein lies the story of my own numidiocy.

Look at the chart below:

This is from the 91-DIVOC website I mentioned yesterday. I love these charts but it was irritating that when I wanted to see a graphic of the countries high on what I call the “misery index” (Cases/1 Million population) and focus only on the top ten (as the 91-DIVOC site permits) it was highlighting Vatican City (Holy See), San Marino, Andorra, etc. None of the heavy hitters — Italy, Spain, USA — were to be seen. And the reason was that 91-DIVOC draws it data from Worldometer.com which was displaying that data in tabular form at the time like this:

The calculations were accurate but inconvenient. Inconvenient in the sense that I wanted the graphical focus to be on populous locations as a means of comparing what was going on in those countries of more relevance to our experience in the US. And an event about a week ago had primed me to doubt entries in the Cases/1 Million population column: Somebody hacked the Worldometers site and inserted data for Vatican City that were extremely and ludicrously high. The website posted an apology for the hack and the data was corrected. Except that at various times as I would scroll through the tables sorted by total cases I would come upon the Vatican with its 4 cases and see the “misery index” at near 5,000 and dismissed it as some artifact of the hack that somehow hadn’t been cleaned up. Except, of course, it wasn’t an artifact as one can see when you do the sort above that pushes places with small populations to the top of the list.

And you may ask yourself how can the total cases for these places be so small and the “misery index” so high? Well, its based on how we massage the numbers, not the numbers themselves. What I call the “misery index” was a ratio created to try and compare the significance of the outbreak in countries with different populations, i.e., normalizing for population. This is helpful when cases climbed into five digits as a means of comparing how different populations are experiencing the outbreak. Thus even as we speak while the US has more total cases than Italy our “misery index” nationally is 260 compared to Italy’s at 1,333. Spain’s index of 1,370 is higher than Italy even with ~20,000 fewer cases. To the first order this suggests that Spain is in greater national distress with fewer cases than either Italy or the US, while the US is in significantly less national distress than Italy or Spain even with more persons affected by the disease.

But this begs the question of whether Vatican City is about 20 times worse off than the US? Well, of course it isn’t. Which is why I was irritated to have my lovely 91-DIVOC graph messed up with these high index countries whose index was so high simply because the ratio is multiples of the cases you have rather a fraction of them as in other countries. The formula for the “misery index” is Total Cases divided by the product of the division of a given population by 1,000,000. In other words, when the given population is less than a million you end up with an index value of some multiple of the total cases. So, for Vatican City, 4 total cases converted to an index value of 4,944 because Vatican City’s population is less than 1/1000 of 1,000,000. And so on and so forth with San Marino, Andorra, etc.

My numidiocy was driven by my interpretation of the index. The index was simply an index. The math works the way it works. We give meaning to the relationships. The index isn’t even really a “misery index”; that is just a catchy phrase (in my own mind). The numbers do not in and of themselves tell you the severity of illness within the populations, the level of emotions (fear and sorrow) that are being experienced in a particular locale within the indexed countries.

We are going to see a lot of numidiocy in the coming days as we try to sort out the path forward. That is because the meaning of numbers, not the math itself, requires interpretation. And getting agreement on interpretation may be difficult. I stumbled because of something I wanted; something of which the numbers were getting in the way. A lot of people are going to want the numbers to prove all sorts of things. There will be disputes. There will be uncertainty. But there will also be destiny. And, in the end, there will be numbers to describe what happened, if not why.

[Note: Links to all my COVID-19 posts can be found here.]

Published in General
Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

There are 37 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Rodin,

    This is the result of living with “the facts don’t matter only the narrative matters” for the last 20 years. When the s$%t really hits the fan then the facts matter or else! Then we try to scramble for facts and the data gathering version of the Keystone Cops takes over.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #1
    • March 27, 2020, at 10:12 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  2. cirby Member

    https://babylonbee.com/news/china-announces-that-theyve-completely-cured-coronavirus-and-everything-is-fine-there-and-no-one-is-allowed-in-to-check

    • #2
    • March 27, 2020, at 10:24 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  3. Ralphie Member

    Saw a meme on facebook that the government needs to quit sending trillions of dollars to foreign governments and keep the money here to buy medical equipment. Looked it up spent 50 billion last year and 39 billion budgeted this year.

    People generally overestimate the percent of spending that the military and foreign aid comprise.

    Most people I know have said at one time or another they don’t know why anyone needs to learn algebra; they’d never need it. Same people who are trying to understand calculus today. We live in a world explained by calculus, it is always changing.

     

    • #3
    • March 27, 2020, at 10:28 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  4. DonG (skeptic) Coolidge

    Rodin: We’re #1!

    #1 in testing and cases detected. All we needed was to get the FDA and CDC out of the loop.

    • #4
    • March 27, 2020, at 10:44 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  5. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    Looking at US state data it seems that we are now off to the races nationwide. % of new cases from NY and NJ as part of national total is declining. And in most of these states there is still not widespread testing. Mostly related to the symptomatic.

    • #5
    • March 27, 2020, at 1:45 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  6. Rodin Member
    Rodin

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… (View Comment):

    Looking at US state data it seems that we are now off to the races nationwide. % of new cases from NY and NJ as part of national total is declining. And in most of these states there is still not widespread testing. Mostly related to the symptomatic.

    Things aren’t going too badly in my area. Contra Costa County is part of the Bay Area 7 that were locked down on March 17.

    • #6
    • March 27, 2020, at 2:31 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  7. Ray Kujawa Coolidge

    If you go to just USA and look at the state by state numbers for today (3/27/20), there are blanks for both new cases and deaths in Washington state, 0 new cases and zero new deaths.

    • #7
    • March 27, 2020, at 3:36 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  8. Ray Kujawa Coolidge

    The Worldometer cases for 3/27/20 is currently showing 162 new cases and 8 new deaths for Washington. It’s a live website, changed since this morning.

    • #8
    • March 27, 2020, at 3:50 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  9. Steven Seward Member

    Rodin:

     

    I start today with a confession that I am a numidiot. I described numidiocy yesterday as “whenever numbers get so numerous that it ceases to convey clear and useful information.” @markcamp gently reminded me that the problem is not in the numbers it is in ourselves — our ability to order and interpret them. And, of course, he is correct. And herein lies the story of my own numidiocy.

    Cheer up! Everybody makes mistakes. My last math error was on a Ricochet post about Global Warming where I miscalculated converting the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere to a percentage instead of parts per million. Easy round numbers with 100’s, 1,000’s and 10,000’s but I still got it wrong. Very similar to your miscalculation.

    • #9
    • March 27, 2020, at 4:06 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  10. Old Bathos Moderator

    The numbers are frustrating because I suspect there is not an apples-to-apples quality to the various national numbers.

    I assume a “case” is a positive test for the bug. But how many countries are testing widely beyond the set of those who present with relevant systems? How many asymptomatic carriers or now-immune persons are there?

    Are “deaths” the result of conditions expressly due to the bug (i.e., ARDS) or any death for any cause of someone who also tests positive? Is it the same criteria in every country report?

    The most current numbers are still useful but the near-global absence of testing capacity for most of February and the lack of an antibody test makes it hard to know the real rate of infection.

    Depressing fact (the cite for which I can no longer find) from Finland testing 10,000 random people was that they found an enormous number of variants of the bug which suggests it mutates fast so we can’t predict whether it will be something better or worse and how soon.

    • #10
    • March 27, 2020, at 5:08 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  11. EHerring Coolidge

    I guess they are going to add Zaandam to the chart. 4 dead. No port will accept them. Transferring healthy passengers to Rotterdam off coast of Panama. Mostly retired passengers. My last cruise was on the Zaandam. 

    • #11
    • March 27, 2020, at 5:13 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  12. Rodin Member
    Rodin

    EHerring (View Comment):

    I guess they are going to add Zaandam to the chart. 4 dead. No port will accept them. Transferring healthy passengers to Rotterdam off coast of Panama. Mostly retired passengers. My last cruise was on the Zaandam.

    Yes. I just saw the report on Tucker. Apparently the “healthy” passengers are to be transferred to another Carnival Cruise ship, but how is that going to be determined?

    • #12
    • March 27, 2020, at 5:30 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  13. Al French of Damascus Moderator

    Rodin (View Comment):

    EHerring (View Comment):

    I guess they are going to add Zaandam to the chart. 4 dead. No port will accept them. Transferring healthy passengers to Rotterdam off coast of Panama. Mostly retired passengers. My last cruise was on the Zaandam.

    Yes. I just saw the report on Tucker. Apparently the “healthy” passengers are to be transferred to another Carnival Cruise ship, but how is that going to be determined?

    UNREP!

    • #13
    • March 27, 2020, at 5:44 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  14. Rodin Member
    Rodin

    Al French, PIT Geezer (View Comment):

    Rodin (View Comment):

    EHerring (View Comment):

    I guess they are going to add Zaandam to the chart. 4 dead. No port will accept them. Transferring healthy passengers to Rotterdam off coast of Panama. Mostly retired passengers. My last cruise was on the Zaandam.

    Yes. I just saw the report on Tucker. Apparently the “healthy” passengers are to be transferred to another Carnival Cruise ship, but how is that going to be determined?

    UNREP!

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Actually I know a couple of women who were part of a 1300 passenger evacuation from a cruise ship off Norway. Reportedly one of the most frightening experiences in their lives.

    • #14
    • March 27, 2020, at 5:58 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  15. Old Bathos Moderator

    We took a cruise in the Med last fall (40th anniversary gift from our kids) and I paid for a tour of the working parts of the ship on the last day which I enjoyed almost as much as wonders of the various stops in France and Italy.

    One takeaway is that given the shared narrow hallways and small shared spaces in the crew area, the common areas that all passengers use and the size of the population, it would be almost impossible to avoid exposure or protect surfaces.

    A ship population ought to be an epidemiological treasure chest.

    A cruise ship could be an ideal place to hold the infected once screening tools to identify immune staff were available. 

     

    • #15
    • March 27, 2020, at 6:01 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  16. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    Vatican City is 20 times worse off than the US, in terms of the proportion of cases. You should not dismiss this. This should inform your understanding of how few reported cases there are in the US.

    When you look at the US number in your post — 85,906 — that sounds like a lot. But it is only 260 per million. Except that most people probably don’t intuitively understand how small 206 per million actually is.

    It means that if you select 1,000 people at random from the US population, you would expect to find zero — yes, zero — who had tested positive. (You would expect 0.26 of a person, mathematically, but people don’t come in fractions.)

    If you picked 10,000 Americans at random, and filled a basketball arena with them, you would expect to find 2-3 who had tested positive.

    It is quite possible that vastly more people have the disease, or have already had it and recovered, than the reported figure. But we don’t know that. We only know the number reported as having tested positive. It is a tiny number.

    • #16
    • March 27, 2020, at 6:11 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  17. OldPhil Coolidge

    EHerring (View Comment):

    I guess they are going to add Zaandam to the chart. 4 dead. No port will accept them. Transferring healthy passengers to Rotterdam off coast of Panama. Mostly retired passengers. My last cruise was on the Zaandam.

    A couple from our community left January 5 for a 42-day cruise to the South Pacific, New Zealand, Australia and ending in Hong Kong. He was keeping us updated on Facebook. Those plans took a hit in the Aus/NZ portion, they never went to Hong Kong, were re-routed to Indonesia and some other places, hit Ceylon, around India and were heading for the Red Sea and maybe Greece and then home, they thought. They ended up a couple days ago in Dubai, where there were only 89 passengers left along with 450 crew. They were still claiming to be having a great time, but finally were let off yesterday, had a 27-hour flight to Newark with a refueling stop in Madrid. Got home last night at 7:30 after an 82-day long 42 day cruise.

    Their daughter left them a kitchen table covered with booze, munchies and a roll of toilet paper.

    • #17
    • March 27, 2020, at 7:54 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  18. EHerring Coolidge

    Rodin (View Comment):

    EHerring (View Comment):

    I guess they are going to add Zaandam to the chart. 4 dead. No port will accept them. Transferring healthy passengers to Rotterdam off coast of Panama. Mostly retired passengers. My last cruise was on the Zaandam.

    Yes. I just saw the report on Tucker. Apparently the “healthy” passengers are to be transferred to another Carnival Cruise ship, but how is that going to be determined?

     

    Rodin (View Comment):

    EHerring (View Comment):

    I guess they are going to add Zaandam to the chart. 4 dead. No port will accept them. Transferring healthy passengers to Rotterdam off coast of Panama. Mostly retired passengers. My last cruise was on the Zaandam.

    Yes. I just saw the report on Tucker. Apparently the “healthy” passengers are to be transferred to another Carnival Cruise ship, but how is that going to be determined?

    Sister HAL ship, the Rotterdam, joined up and uploaded supplies, medical team, and test kits. Carnival Inc owns about 8 cruise lines in addition to the Carnival Line. They can use their large life boats to transfer people and cargo. A large door on the side of the ship can open downward and be a dock. Pax must be healthy and not test positive for corona to transfer to the Rotterdam. Fate of crew and sick pax unknown. They can’t go through the canal to get to Florida. Panama denied them transit. Safety concerns. A pilot would have to come aboard to guide them through the channels and linesmen could be exposed working with the ship.

    • #18
    • March 27, 2020, at 8:38 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  19. EHerring Coolidge

    OldPhil (View Comment):

    EHerring (View Comment):

    I guess they are going to add Zaandam to the chart. 4 dead. No port will accept them. Transferring healthy passengers to Rotterdam off coast of Panama. Mostly retired passengers. My last cruise was on the Zaandam.

    A couple from our community left January 5 for a 42-day cruise to the South Pacific, New Zealand, Australia and ending in Hong Kong. He was keeping us updated on Facebook. Those plans took a hit in the Aus/NZ portion, they never went to Hong Kong, were re-routed to Indonesia and some other places, hit Ceylon, around India and were heading for the Red Sea and maybe Greece and then home, they thought. They ended up a couple days ago in Dubai, where there were only 89 passengers left along with 450 crew. They were still claiming to be having a great time, but finally were let off yesterday, had a 27-hour flight to Newark with a refueling stop in Madrid. Got home last night at 7:30 after an 82-day long 42 day cruise.

    Their daughter left them a kitchen table covered with booze, munchies and a roll of toilet paper.

    Were they on the Amsterdam? Saw some tweets on that.

    • #19
    • March 27, 2020, at 8:41 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  20. EHerring Coolidge

     Two pictures I took from a Zaandam lifeboat that was shuttling pax back from Bar Harbor. They use these when ship can’t dock. You can see lifeboat unloading at its dock. Pax walked up stairs. You can see opening on side in second pic with crew monitoring.

    • #20
    • March 27, 2020, at 8:51 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  21. EHerring Coolidge

    Here is a screenshot of marine traffic. You can see the Rotterdam and Zaandam. The little blue diamonds are the ships’ lifeboats. Rotterdam lifeboat #7 and Zaandam lifeboats #11 and #13. Looks like a fourth Rotterdam lifeboat is with #7. Those boats will be moving pax and supplies.

    • #21
    • March 27, 2020, at 9:03 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  22. MISTER BITCOIN Member

    DonG (skeptic) (View Comment):

    Rodin: We’re #1!

    #1 in testing and cases detected. All we needed was to get the FDA and CDC out of the loop.

    Shocking 

    • #22
    • March 27, 2020, at 9:13 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  23. MISTER BITCOIN Member

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Vatican City is 20 times worse off than the US, in terms of the proportion of cases. You should not dismiss this. This should inform your understanding of how few reported cases there are in the US.

    When you look at the US number in your post — 85,906 — that sounds like a lot. But it is only 260 per million. Except that most people probably don’t intuitively understand how small 206 per million actually is.

    It means that if you select 1,000 people at random from the US population, you would expect to find zero — yes, zero — who had tested positive. (You would expect 0.26 of a person, mathematically, but people don’t come in fractions.)

    If you picked 10,000 Americans at random, and filled a basketball arena with them, you would expect to find 2-3 who had tested positive.

    It is quite possible that vastly more people have the disease, or have already had it and recovered, than the reported figure. But we don’t know that. We only know the number reported as having tested positive. It is a tiny number.

    michael levitt says most people are immune. 
    the diamond princess cruise had 3711 crew and passengers. All were tested. All were exposed in close quarters. 712 infected , the majority were age > 60. 8 died. 

    • #23
    • March 27, 2020, at 9:18 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  24. MISTER BITCOIN Member

    Los Angeles reported it’s first positive case on January 26. From January 26 to March 14, pre lockdown, people were exposed. 

    the first case reported by governor cuomo in NY was on March 1. My guess is the virus was in NY before March 1 and since NY is a slow bureaucratic monster they reacted too slowly like Italy.

    Cuomo is an Italian name. Not drawing any connections here. Merely pointing out the irony 

    • #24
    • March 27, 2020, at 9:23 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  25. MISTER BITCOIN Member

    Since the Kirkland outbreak, Seattle and Washington state have not reported new deaths recently. 

    either the situation is abating in Washington state or they are not being transparent 

     

    • #25
    • March 27, 2020, at 9:25 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  26. OldPhil Coolidge

    EHerring (View Comment):

    OldPhil (View Comment):

    EHerring (View Comment):

    I guess they are going to add Zaandam to the chart. 4 dead. No port will accept them. Transferring healthy passengers to Rotterdam off coast of Panama. Mostly retired passengers. My last cruise was on the Zaandam.

    A couple from our community left January 5 for a 42-day cruise to the South Pacific, New Zealand, Australia and ending in Hong Kong. He was keeping us updated on Facebook. Those plans took a hit in the Aus/NZ portion, they never went to Hong Kong, were re-routed to Indonesia and some other places, hit Ceylon, around India and were heading for the Red Sea and maybe Greece and then home, they thought. They ended up a couple days ago in Dubai, where there were only 89 passengers left along with 450 crew. They were still claiming to be having a great time, but finally were let off yesterday, had a 27-hour flight to Newark with a refueling stop in Madrid. Got home last night at 7:30 after an 82-day long 42 day cruise.

    Their daughter left them a kitchen table covered with booze, munchies and a roll of toilet paper.

    Were they on the Amsterdam? Saw some tweets on that.

    Not sure of the ship. It was a Viking Cruise. 

    • #26
    • March 28, 2020, at 5:47 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  27. Steven Seward Member

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Vatican City is 20 times worse off than the US, in terms of the proportion of cases. You should not dismiss this. This should inform your understanding of how few reported cases there are in the US.

    When you look at the US number in your post — 85,906 — that sounds like a lot. But it is only 260 per million. Except that most people probably don’t intuitively understand how small 206 per million actually is.

    It means that if you select 1,000 people at random from the US population, you would expect to find zero — yes, zero — who had tested positive. (You would expect 0.26 of a person, mathematically, but people don’t come in fractions.)

    If you picked 10,000 Americans at random, and filled a basketball arena with them, you would expect to find 2-3 who had tested positive.

    It is quite possible that vastly more people have the disease, or have already had it and recovered, than the reported figure. But we don’t know that. We only know the number reported as having tested positive. It is a tiny number.

    I have been struck by how incredibly small the infection rates actually are, even in the worst countries. They are still small even if you multiply them by 10 times. When I see people estimate that 40% – 80% of the entire U.S. will become infected, as Governor Cuomo said a few days ago, my mind is blown by how they can justify an infection rate tens of thousands of times higher than what we have observed so far.

    I’m sure there are competent epidemiologists out there making more rational projections, but the news media just ignores all of them and publishes the most outlandish prediction they can find, such as the British study that forecast 3 to 4 million American deaths. Makes for terrific headlines.

    • #27
    • March 28, 2020, at 6:17 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  28. EHerring Coolidge

    OldPhil (View Comment):
    Not sure of the ship. It was a Viking Cruise. 

    Amsterdam is Holland America. It was on a “grand voyage” around the world but ran out of ports that would allow them in despite having no sick people. Australia finally let them fly home from there. We drive to Ft Lauderdale for cruises and thus take all the luggage we want. Having my cruise end in another country where amount of checked baggage is limited and costly would be a nightmare.

    • #28
    • March 28, 2020, at 7:32 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  29. Ralphie Member

    OldPhil (View Comment):

    EHerring (View Comment):

    I guess they are going to add Zaandam to the chart. 4 dead. No port will accept them. Transferring healthy passengers to Rotterdam off coast of Panama. Mostly retired passengers. My last cruise was on the Zaandam.

    A couple from our community left January 5 for a 42-day cruise to the South Pacific, New Zealand, Australia and ending in Hong Kong. He was keeping us updated on Facebook. Those plans took a hit in the Aus/NZ portion, they never went to Hong Kong, were re-routed to Indonesia and some other places, hit Ceylon, around India and were heading for the Red Sea and maybe Greece and then home, they thought. They ended up a couple days ago in Dubai, where there were only 89 passengers left along with 450 crew. They were still claiming to be having a great time, but finally were let off yesterday, had a 27-hour flight to Newark with a refueling stop in Madrid. Got home last night at 7:30 after an 82-day long 42 day cruise.

    Their daughter left them a kitchen table covered with booze, munchies and a roll of toilet paper.

    Would make a good book or movie. keep us informed.

    • #29
    • March 28, 2020, at 8:48 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  30. Ralphie Member

    Steven Seward (View Comment):

    I have been struck by how incredibly small the infection rates actually are, even in the worst countries. They are still small even if you multiply them by 10 times. When I see people estimate that 40% – 80% of the entire U.S. will become infected, as Governor Cuomo said a few days ago, my mind is blown by how they can justify an infection rate tens of thousands of times higher than what we have observed so far.

    I’m sure there are competent epidemiologists out there making more rational projections, but the news media just ignores all of them and publishes the most outlandish prediction they can find, such as the British study that forecast 3 to 4 million American deaths. Makes for terrific headlines.

    The virus stats are as flux as a non gender binary progressively woke confused college student. Instantaneously changing and leaving a trail behind, which is our only evidence to work with. Politicians who are unfamiliar with the medical field are repeating numbers, and probably messing them up. About 2/3 of the population under 50 has herpes simplex 1. They didn’t all happen at one time. 

    I am not a trained mathematician, virologist, epidemiologist, crisis dr., etc. but have had enough life experience and math to know that the inputs determine the outputs, and that is the future of unknown events was possible to predict with any accuracy, the lottery would never have a jackpot worth playing.

    • #30
    • March 28, 2020, at 8:58 AM PDT
    • 3 likes