Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Fun with Statistics

 

I have been manipulating statistics professionally for decades. It’s all been harmless fun, really, because I have been blessed to work in the candy store of life — sports television. One thing I learned over many decades of practice is that through omission and qualifiers, I can pretty much conjure up any number — positive or negative — to back up any argument you wish to make. And that is why I look at all the stats the media and governments throw out at us on the current pandemic with a bit of a jaundiced eye.

Take a look at the following from Google:

What does “-” mean? Does that mean a number is unknown or does that mean no one ever, ever recovers from COVID-19? The one thing I do know is that it means any number under “cases” never, ever goes down. Just up. And up. And up.

Those sites that do provide “recovery” information admit that the numbers are largely made up. In most jurisdictions physicians are required to report infections but they’re not required to report recoveries. And too many authorities at all levels aren’t pursuing that option, either. They’re too busy making their case to build new huge bureaucracies of “tracers” empowered to compel the citizenry to report their every move and every meeting. So while we’re having this debate about continuing, ending, or modifying lockdowns, the one question we’re not asking is “How many active cases have we had or do have at any given time?”

While people are talking about “following the science” and watching for statistical trends, I would like to remind them that good science is more than just asking questions. It’s just as important to ask the right questions to get the right answers. Unless, of course, that’s not what you’re looking for in the first place.

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  1. Repdad Coolidge

    COVID is like a right-handed batter playing for the Red Sox: far more dangerous in confined space at home, and thus, while still dangerous, slightly overrated by the general public. 

    • #1
    • May 23, 2020, at 9:12 AM PDT
    • 10 likes
  2. Hoyacon Member

    repmodad (View Comment):

    COVID is like a right-handed batter playing for the Red Sox: far more dangerous in confined space at home, and thus, while still dangerous, slightly overrated by the general public.

    Covid 19=Mookie Betts?

    • #2
    • May 23, 2020, at 9:15 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  3. The Cynthonian Member

    I have wondered the same thing. Here’s an interesting data point: I work for a large multi-state “essential” employer. Major production sites were briefly closed, before more was known about the speed and methodology of the viral transmission. There is an internal COVID tracker that has provided useful data about the impact on our employee population. Out of approximately 140,000 US based employees, there are have been about 230 cases. Only 23 are currently considered “active.” Most of those are classed as telecommuters, which means they’ve been working from home during the period they were exposed and diagnosed, and did not contract the virus at a work site. There has been only one known death, and of course we have no information on age or other health issues.

    Over 200 cases, then, have recovered enough to be cleared medically to return to work. I suspect most were minor cases. The company is requiring medical clearance to return to a work site, because liability avoidance is a priority to it. 

    So…..there is a way to track recoveries, if you’re motivated to do it. That excludes the media, of course. And, as you pointed out, public health bureaucracies.

    • #3
    • May 23, 2020, at 9:28 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  4. Arahant Member

    Lies, damned lies, and what was that third and most egregious category?

    • #4
    • May 23, 2020, at 9:51 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  5. Darin Johnson Member

    “Cases” is not a meaningful statistic. It’s too closely tied to “tests given.” I wish people would just stop bothering with it.

    • #5
    • May 23, 2020, at 9:53 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  6. Richard O'Shea Coolidge

    I just infer that the total recovered is column “A” minus column “C”.

    Since column “A” is reported, confirmed cases, the more tests are given, the larger this number will be. I find the hospitalized numbers the most useful.

     

    • #6
    • May 23, 2020, at 10:10 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  7. Vance Richards Member
    Vance RichardsJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    EJHill: through omission and qualifiers I can pretty much conjure up any number – positive or negative – to back up any argument you wish to make.

    Just yesterday at work some people were trying to use some survey data to make an argument that really isn’t true. At first I called them on it but then I explained that if you leave out this and this, and just show that, you might be able to convince a few people that it’s true. I thought the point was to learn something to help us increase revenue, but if the goal is simply CYA, we can use numbers to do that as well.

    • #7
    • May 23, 2020, at 10:20 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  8. Jon1979 Lincoln

    I think we are at the point now that even if recovery numbers aren’t posted, more and more people are getting the idea that a COVID diagnosis is not akin to a death sentence, which was sort of the vibe being put forth two months ago, when the lockdowns really began. If you’re going to try to intimidate people into continuing to accept the more draconian measures by using the “People Will Die” mantra, eventually you’re going to have to show them dead people outside of the most vulnerable age and co-morbidity groups. All the stat fudging in the world isn’t going to stop people from wanting their freedom back if you can’t show real-world ultimate negative outcomes sooner or later.

    • #8
    • May 23, 2020, at 10:24 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  9. CarolJoy, Thread Hijacker Coolidge

    Excellent post for all of us to consider. Why aren’t the COVID recovery numbers better collected and collated?

    The new meme for the following weeks is regarding the contact tracing situation. The Clinton Foundation with all its billions is in part behind this contact tracing.

    The entire reason behind the states that are now insisting we can come out of our hidey holes if we are willing to wear masks is to emphasize on a subliminal level that all of us are suspected of being unclean. This re-enforces the idea that contact tracing is the way to go.

    I can’t find the longer initial announcement by Bill Clinton, regarding how well paid these contact tracing people will be paid. Notice that the Clintons have carefully planned this out, for a national corp of contact tracers. And the Clintons suggest that Cuomo and Newsom pay for this out of the bounty of their state revenues! (While the Clinton Global Initiative will take care of the monetary benefits.)

    The woman speaker implants the notion that there will be necessary quarantines of people who test positive, and also that families will be of necessity separated out. Of course, we are reassured that family members will all be well taken care of in supportive facilities with supportive levels of care. (Give me a break – I have known of too many “missing children” from the likes of those in the Clinton network. CPS and foster care agencies often get a hold of children taken from families. Then a certain number of these children die from lack of care of the foster families, or are disappeared. Remember their good friend who got arrested for illegally smuggling children out of Haiti years ago? IIRC, the Clintons used their political muscle to keep this woman out of jail.)

    Here is one 7 minute video regarding the contact tracing plans, with Bill offering up his wisdom: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Ug9XHT9JQQ

    There is also the continual suggestion by Major Media that these contact tracers will be well trained. Yet we are also told that many have already been trained? (So well trained must indicate a week or two of virtual training?)

    • #9
    • May 23, 2020, at 10:29 AM PDT
    • Like
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  10. Hoyacon Member

    Jon1979 (View Comment):

    I think we are at the point now that even if recovery numbers aren’t posted, more and more people are getting the idea that a COVID diagnosis is not akin to a death sentence, which was sort of the vibe being put forth two months ago, when the lockdowns really began. If you’re going to try to intimidate people into continuing to accept the more draconian measures by using the “People Will Die” mantra, eventually you’re going to have to show them dead people outside of the most vulnerable age and co-morbidity groups. All the stat fudging in the world isn’t going to stop people from wanting their freedom back if you can’t show real-world ultimate negative outcomes sooner or later.

    I agree with this, but I’m also troubled by the almost sole use of the death numbers (accurate or not) as a measure of the damage done. We rightfully hear about the potential economic/health consequences of the shutdowns. However, we should also recognize that there are likely serious economic/health consequences for families and individuals who have contracted the virus but survived after treatment.

    • #10
    • May 23, 2020, at 10:31 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  11. Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler Member

    EJHill: What does “-” mean? Does that mean a number is unknown or does that mean no one ever, ever recovers from Covid-19?

    In the SIR model of epidemics, R stands for recovered. But what that really means is individuals in the population that were once susceptible (S), then became infectious (I), but now are no longer susceptible to infection, so they are recovered (R). By implication, recovered includes dead.

    • #11
    • May 23, 2020, at 10:34 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  12. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHillJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler: In the SIR model of epidemics, R stands for recovered.

    That’s for non-fatal diseases and it’s not a model applicable to all. AIDS/HIV patients aren’t cured but can be stabilized and functional. In a situation like this “R” should stand for “resolved.” 

    But in our current panic, someone who had the disease in February and is recovered is still deemed a “case.” And those numbers will only increase. It’s not a useful metric. 

    • #12
    • May 23, 2020, at 10:57 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  13. MarciN Member

    About two weeks ago, my little town of Yarmouth started showing the “recovered” stats. So for today, for example, it reads that there are “114 confirmed cases, 29 active cases, 83 recovered cases, and 2 deaths.” The recovered cases in our town are people who have gone through at least two weeks in some type of quarantine since they tested positive for the virus without symptoms, or they have gone through 10 days without symptoms since the date they tested positive and had symptoms. This description of the “recovered” matches the description being used by the state of Massachusetts now.

    I am so pleased with this recent change. Our town’s leaders are doing a good job in acquiring, tracking, and posting this information.

    We’ve come a long long way in understanding the way this virus actually moves through an American community. Our experience in this country has been quite different from Western Europe, Asia, or South America. In most every way, it behaves like an influenza or other upper respiratory virus. It thrives in conditions similar to the conditions the flu thrives in, and it spreads very much the way the flu spreads.

    The first SARS outbreak in China in 2003 burned out relatively quickly and never made it to places where it could be studied intelligently. The fact that this current outbreak spread throughout the entire world is a result most likely of the new wealth of the Chinese middle class who travel around the world now in great numbers. MERS stayed in the Middle East. It had a very high fatality rate–it can’t possibly be true, but it is stated that 50 percent of people who get it die from it. Even if that is wildly exaggerated, it is still a deadly disease. Americans were right to be apprehensive of this new similar coronavirus.

    But I believe we can relax now and focus on how to keep it out of confined spaces such as nursing homes and airplanes and how to treat the heart and lung problems the virus causes.

    • #13
    • May 23, 2020, at 11:34 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  14. Sisyphus Coolidge
    SisyphusJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler (View Comment):
    By implication, recovered includes dead.

    You can’t make this stuff up.

    • #14
    • May 23, 2020, at 12:10 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  15. TBA Coolidge

    Yes indeed. There are cold stats and there are ZOMG stats. You can’t sell newspapers or secure funding with cold stats. 

    • #15
    • May 23, 2020, at 2:00 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  16. Hang On Member
    Hang OnJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Lies, damned lies, and what was that third and most egregious category?

    It’s not nice to make fun of Joe Biden and his disability.

    • #16
    • May 23, 2020, at 4:53 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  17. MiMac Thatcher

    Recovery numbers require that patients (or those testing positive) return when asymptomatic AND have a negative test- both must occur for a person to be “recovered”. I suspect many mild and asymptomatic cases don’t return for testing so they can’t be officially recovered. A similar problem used to occur with MRSA patients- after discharge (& feeling fine) they didn’t come back to have swabs stuck up multiple orifices so they could be proclaimed “cured”- who could blame them? We would always retest them if they were admitted again anyway.

     

    • #17
    • May 23, 2020, at 5:28 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  18. Skyler Coolidge

    People don’t go to the doctor when they’re healthy. If someone recovers, the doctor rarely knows. All they know is the patient hasn’t come back.

    • #18
    • May 23, 2020, at 5:43 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  19. kedavis Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Lies, damned lies, and what was that third and most egregious category?

    There’s also “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.”

    • #19
    • May 23, 2020, at 6:33 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  20. Rightfromthestart Coolidge

    The only two meaningful numbers are deaths and total population, In 1968 we had 100,000 deaths out of a population of 205 million. We are now creeping toward 100,000* out of a population of 330 million. We lived life completely normally in 1968 and 1969.

    * I have great suspicion this number is inflated in the hopes of getting Federal money off of it as in DiBlasio adding 3700 on one day based on ‘suspected’ deaths.

    • #20
    • May 24, 2020, at 4:13 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  21. MiMac Thatcher

    Rightfromthestart (View Comment):

    The only two meaningful numbers are deaths and total population, In 1968 we had 100,000 deaths out of a population of 205 million. We are now creeping toward 100,000* out of a population of 330 million. We lived life completely normally in 1968 and 1969.

    * I have great suspicion this number is inflated in the hopes of getting Federal money off of it as in DiBlasio adding 3700 on one day based on ‘suspected’ deaths.

    So at >155, 000 deaths you are for the lockdowns (when we exceed the 1968 death rate)? In the 6th century AD tens of millions died from the plague-does that change your threshold? It is true we are more sensitive to the death rate than in the past -but that is a GOOD thing- it is a sign of our advancing technology. Since Justinian had no options he took none. If we can take actions that decrease the number of deaths we should do so provided the cost doesn’t exceed the benefit- in Justinian’s time & 1968 we had fewer options and we had much shorter longevity & big fish to fry (neither the Persian empire nor a nuclear armed USSR are at the door). Furthermore, you have the benefit of hindsight-in 1968 no one knew that 100K would die-it was just the flu BTW-we are certain more than that will die due to COVID. We need to consider our options, not merely accept the deaths of 199K-500K Americans. Policy makers are aware of this so we as voters should let them know we want reasonable precautions taken- not Whitmer level micromanagement of the Kroger aisles. We don’t want Cuomo loading the nursing homes with the virus. We need policies somewhere between lockdowns & a return to “normal” while we battle the virus.

    • #21
    • May 24, 2020, at 6:02 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  22. Rightfromthestart Coolidge

    ‘Flatten the curve’ was never promised to prevent deaths , it was to stretch the inevitable deaths over a longer period to prevent overwhelming the health care system. This was achieved in mid April. We are having a very bad outbreak as periodically happens and a large number of , mostly elderly, will be carried off by it, lockdown or no lockdown. I’m looking at actual historical numbers rather than the projections of people like the guy in London who originally predicted 2 million. The lockdown, to me, is like throwing virgins into the volcano to ward off the plague and then using the result as proof that more virgins need to be sacrificed. 

    • #22
    • May 24, 2020, at 9:19 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  23. Arahant Member

    MiMac (View Comment):
    So at >155, 000 deaths you are for the lockdowns (when we exceed the 1968 death rate)?

    That’s not what @rightfromthestart said. He said, even at that level, there were no lockdowns.

     

    • #23
    • May 24, 2020, at 9:20 AM PDT
    • Like
  24. Hoyacon Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    MiMac (View Comment):
    So at >155, 000 deaths you are for the lockdowns (when we exceed the 1968 death rate)?

    That’s not what @rightfromthestart said. He said, even at that level, there were no lockdowns.

    So it’s apples and oranges–comparing deaths with no lockdowns with a number influenced by lockdowns. That and the fact that the latter number is still growing while the former is not.

    • #24
    • May 24, 2020, at 9:26 AM PDT
    • 1 like
    • This comment has been edited.
  25. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White MaleJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    MiMac (View Comment):

    Rightfromthestart (View Comment):

    The only two meaningful numbers are deaths and total population, In 1968 we had 100,000 deaths out of a population of 205 million. We are now creeping toward 100,000* out of a population of 330 million. We lived life completely normally in 1968 and 1969.

    * I have great suspicion this number is inflated in the hopes of getting Federal money off of it as in DiBlasio adding 3700 on one day based on ‘suspected’ deaths.

    So at >155, 000 deaths you are for the lockdowns (when we exceed the 1968 death rate)? In the 6th century AD tens of millions died from the plague-does that change your threshold? It is true we are more sensitive to the death rate than in the past -but that is a GOOD thing- it is a sign of our advancing technology. Since Justinian had no options he took none. If we can take actions that decrease the number of deaths we should do so provided the cost doesn’t exceed the benefit- in Justinian’s time & 1968 we had fewer options and we had much shorter longevity & big fish to fry (neither the Persian empire nor a nuclear armed USSR are at the door). Furthermore, you have the benefit of hindsight-in 1968 no one knew that 100K would die-it was just the flu BTW-we are certain more than that will die due to COVID. We need to consider our options, not merely accept the deaths of 199K-500K Americans. Policy makers are aware of this so we as voters should let them know we want reasonable precautions taken- not Whitmer level micromanagement of the Kroger aisles. We don’t want Cuomo loading the nursing homes with the virus. We need policies somewhere between lockdowns & a return to “normal” while we battle the virus.

    The cold, hard truth is that the only way we’re getting past this is for people to get infected and either get better, or die. The lockdowns were sold as a way to “flatten the curve” and avoid overwhelming the medical system. That’s been accomplished. Keeping everyone locked up and social distancing is just prolonging the pain of the economic depression. There is no guarantee we’ll ever have an effective vaccine. Until we get a critical mass of people infected and recovered to acquire herd immunity, this won’t end.

    • #25
    • May 24, 2020, at 9:50 AM PDT
    • 1 like
    • This comment has been edited.
  26. CarolJoy, Thread Hijacker Coolidge

    MiMac (View Comment):

    Recovery numbers require that patients (or those testing positive) return when asymptomatic AND have a negative test- both must occur for a person to be “recovered”. I suspect many mild and asymptomatic cases don’t return for testing so they can’t be officially recovered. A similar problem used to occur with MRSA patients- after discharge (& feeling fine) they didn’t come back to have swabs stuck up multiple orifices so they could be proclaimed “cured”- who could blame them? We would always retest them if they were admitted again anyway.

     

    And with continual news about how the test kits themselves test positive for corona virus, the tests are now suspect. Even CNN occasionally plays up a story about this.

    • #26
    • May 24, 2020, at 10:39 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  27. MiMac Thatcher

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    MiMac (View Comment):

    Rightfromthestart (View Comment):

    The only two meaningful numbers are deaths and total population, In 1968 we had 100,000 deaths out of a population of 205 million. We are now creeping toward 100,000* out of a population of 330 million. We lived life completely normally in 1968 and 1969.

    * I have great suspicion this number is inflated in the hopes of getting Federal money off of it as in DiBlasio adding 3700 on one day based on ‘suspected’ deaths.

    So at >155, 000 deaths you are for the lockdowns (when we exceed the 1968 death rate)? In the 6th century AD tens of millions died from the plague-does that change your threshold? It is true we are more sensitive to the death rate than in the past -but that is a GOOD thing- it is a sign of our advancing technology. Since Justinian had no options he took none. If we can take actions that decrease the number of deaths we should do so provided the cost doesn’t exceed the benefit- in Justinian’s time & 1968 we had fewer options and we had much shorter longevity & big fish to fry (neither the Persian empire nor a nuclear armed USSR are at the door). Furthermore, you have the benefit of hindsight-in 1968 no one knew that 100K would die-it was just the flu BTW-we are certain more than that will die due to COVID. We need to consider our options, not merely accept the deaths of 199K-500K Americans. Policy makers are aware of this so we as voters should let them know we want reasonable precautions taken- not Whitmer level micromanagement of the Kroger aisles. We don’t want Cuomo loading the nursing homes with the virus. We need policies somewhere between lockdowns & a return to “normal” while we battle the virus.

    The cold, hard truth is that the only way we’re getting past this is for people to get infected and either get better, or die. The lockdowns were sold as a way to “flatten the curve” and avoid overwhelming the medical system. That’s been accomplished. Keeping everyone locked up and social distancing is just prolonging the pain of the economic depression. There is no guarantee we’ll ever have an effective vaccine. Until we get a critical mass of people infected and recovered to acquire herd immunity, this won’t end.

    There have been several good podcasts- some here on Richocet- outlining the very real possibility we could have either a vaccine or an anti-viral medication in 6-9 months. With that in mind, aiming for herd immunity isn’t a great bet when there is a distinct possibility we can beat the virus w/o accepting hundreds of thousands of deaths as collateral damage. No one can know for certain we won’t develop better options-but assuming futility assures many deaths. We can reopen with masks & social distancing to avoid economic disaster while working on effective prevention & therapies. The choice isn’t categorically limited to economic depression or 500,000 Americans dead- we should continue to use measures to reduce transmission while working to develop better options. Betting against American ingenuity is frequently a bad bet.

    • #27
    • May 24, 2020, at 2:49 PM PDT
    • Like
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  28. Arahant Member

    MiMac (View Comment):
    We can reopen with masks & social distancing while avoiding economic disaster while working on effective prevention & therapies.

    I personally have no problem with this. But a lot of folks aren’t going to do it. (I was doing it before it was cool.)

    • #28
    • May 24, 2020, at 2:54 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  29. Brian Clendinen Member
    Brian ClendinenJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    MiMac (View Comment):
    So at >155, 000 deaths you are for the lockdowns (when we exceed the 1968 death rate)?

    That’s not what @rightfromthestart said. He said, even at that level, there were no lockdowns.

    So it’s apples and oranges–comparing deaths with no lockdowns with a number influenced by lockdowns. That and the fact that the latter number is still growing while the former is not.

    What evidence other than conjuter that the lock downs did sqaut? You assuming the lockdown actually in the long is reducing the infection rate on something so highly infectuse. So its a great comparison.

    • #29
    • May 24, 2020, at 5:40 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  30. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White MaleJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    MiMac (View Comment):
    There have been several good podcasts- some here on Richocet- outlining the very real possibility we could have either a vaccine or an anti-viral medication in 6-9 months. With that in mind, aiming for herd immunity isn’t a great bet when there is a distinct possibility we can beat the virus w/o accepting hundreds of thousands of deaths as collateral damage.

    There’s also a very real possibility we’ll never have a vaccine.

     

    • #30
    • May 24, 2020, at 9:50 PM PDT
    • 5 likes