Obsessing over stuff we don’t know and can’t control will make us nuts.
Instead, focus on what you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones, and help others any and every way you can.
Why you should ignore a lot of the “experts” and their models.
Just two days ago I said: Ignore anyone who says we’ll be back to normal by this date or that.
I’ll add – Ignore anyone who says there will be this many infections and this many deaths – their “models” are based on data that is likely wildly inaccurate and make assumptions that differ wildly.
(the model used in White House press briefings assumes all states impose lockdowns similar to China’s and keep them in place for months. Meanwhile, the President is talking about a lockdown that ends in a few weeks and many states were late imposing lockdowns – or haven’t yet.)
A basic rule of statistical analysis is “when different studies of the same thing don’t agree it’s probably because they aren’t counting the same stuff the same way.” (OK, I sort of made that up – but it’s entirely true.)
A percentage is based on a numerator (the top number), which in this case is the number of people who died “of COVID”, divided by the denominator – the number of people “infected”.
First, the numerator – deaths due to COVID.
What?? How can this be? Is it because Italians are older? no…Germany’s population is older than Italy’s. Are Israelis healthier? Well…
From the BBC – “it might seem simple enough: if a patient dies while infected with Covid-19, they died of Covid-19.” Perhaps – but they may have died from a car accident, or might have an underlying health condition such as COPD or asthma or heart disease. The UK counts ANYONE who dies and has tested positive for COVID as a COVID death. Even if they died in a car accident.
Here in the US, physicians have discretion; they report whether the patient died “as a result of this illness.” So, it’s not surprising that the UK would have a higher death rate than the US.
A related issue – reports from Italy indicate there are a lot more people dying of all causes than usual, and many of those “extra” deaths aren’t attributed to COVID. “Only 12 per cent of death certificates have shown a direct causality from coronavirus,” said the scientific adviser to Italy’s minister of health last week. [source here]
So, we do not know the actual number of people who have died “as a result of COVID.”
Now, the denominator – the number of people “who have COVID.”
Different countries also report different “infection rates”;
- China may not report people who test positive but don’t show symptoms (are “asymptomatic”). As a substantial percentage of people who get infected don’t show symptoms, that makes China’s “infection rate” seem a lot lower than it really is.
- The number of tests isn’t as useful as the percentage of people tested. Reality is, if we aren’t testing everyone, we don’t know the real percentage of people with COVID.
- Here in the US we are STILL way behind testing; we’re only testing about a hundred thousand people a day – about the same number we tested 9 days ago.
Oh, and there are two different “fatality rates.”
Again the BBC:
There are, in fact, two kinds of fatality rate. The first is the proportion of people who die who have tested positive for the disease. This is called the “case fatality rate”. The second kind is the proportion of people who die after having the infection overall; as many of these will never be picked up, this figure has to be an estimate. This is the “infection fatality rate”.
Head swimming yet? Yeah, mine too. Net is no one knows how many of us are infected and we don’t know the number of people who die of COVID-related conditions.
We DO KNOW:
- social isolation will help keep you safe;
- sanitizing everything will help keep you safe;
- helping others will help keep you sane.
What does this mean for you?
Obsessing over stuff we a) don’t know and b) can’t control will just make you nuts. Focus on what you can control.
And be nice.