A Look at the Narrative and Games with Models, 6/10/20 Data

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For an example of how the news media has shaped its COVID-19 narrative, consider this Reuters story, posted derisively in this space under the question of whether “this [is] the kind of story you ‘patriots’ are hoping for.”

Arizona again told hospitals to activate the coronavirus emergency plans after cases spiked following reopening, turning it into a U.S. virus hotspot along with neighboring Southwest states.

The state’s stay-at-home order ended on May 15, and its cases have increased 115 percent since then, leading a former state health chief to warn Arizona may need new social distancing measures or field hospitals. …

“Since May 15, ventilated COVID-19 patients have quadrupled,” Banner Health tweeted on Monday, adding it had hit capacity for some patients needing cardiac and respiratory care.

What follows these paragraphs is a broader net, to encompass other states that made moves to reopen before the narrative said it was OK, as well as a new, scarier estimate for the number of people who might die of the disease.  The thing is… the data doesn’t seem to justify the fear mongering.

To start with, the number of cases hasn’t increased 115% since May 15.  The number of new positive tests per day may have increased that much, but that is a different thing.  Additionally, despite what Banner Health may be experiencing, the number of ventilated COVID-19 patients has nowhere near quadrupled throughout the entire state.   Finally, new hospitalizations and deaths have been steady or down.

It’s possible the data is wrong or misleading, whereas the anecdotal statements from interested parties in the news media are correct, but that’s a case that would have to be made, not assumed.  Moreover, we have to return to the problem of the one-sided ledger.  Perhaps opening up will lead to a significant increase in cases and a less-significant increase in serious cases, but what are we balancing that against?

Many Americans did not, and would not, agree to destroy our economy so that nobody would ever get sick.  Until this election-year illness hit, in response to a disease with this limited fatality rate, people would have calmly asked, “What are we supposed to do, bring our civilization to a halt?,” and everybody would have understood that the answer could only be, “no.”

And… by the way… in a state with seven times the population of Rhode Island, Arizona has had only about twice the number of cases and only about one-third more deaths.  No doubt population density, climate, and other factors account for much of that discrepancy, but the Ocean State isn’t in much of a position to lecture the Grand Canyon State about the decisions it is making.

Meanwhile, back in Rhode Island, things continue to improve.

New daily cases remain in double digits.  Hospitalizations have plateaued in the 140s, but the lack of discharges is more of a factor than the number of new admissions.  Meanwhile, deaths remain in the single digits, although a few days during the past couple of years have been revised up to 10.

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(See here for my original methodology and here for a subsequent modification I made.)

Projections versus actuals (date of report).

  • Cases:
    • Projection for 6/10: 15,749
    • Actual for 6/10: 15,756
    • Projection for 6/11: 15,810
  • Hospitalizations:
    • Projection for 6/10: 134
    • Actual for 6/10: 148
    • Projection for 6/11: 140
  • Deaths:
    • Projections for 6/10: 811
    • Actual for 6/10: 812
    • Projection for 6/11: 815


  • Mario

    “Election-year illness.” C’mon.

    Rhode Island did a lot right, and people who aren’t motivated to see otherwise will eventually realize it when the virus is essentially eradicated here by mid-July while other states continue to see a rising death toll. If the state is doing anything wrong, it’s that it is preparing for massive changes to schooling to prevent further spread in late August when the local danger will have long passed. Maybe if there is a second wave in the fall this will come in handy, and there is always the risk that it will spread back in from the head-in-the-sand states, but it seems like a waste of effort to me.

    I still see a final toll of 878, with the last uptick happening on July 8th. Tomorrow’s numbers don’t differ significantly from yours, 1 case higher, 2 fewer hospitalizations.

    • Lou

      You’ve got to remember that for someone like Justin who views everything through the jaded lens of political extremism, this is an “Election-year illness”. No matter that a only a quarter of the world’s cases are in the US, to him it’s all about the politics. Could you imagine the meltdown he would be having if a democrat were in the White House? Instead, all we hear about is how it’s bad for the state economy…not the national economy, because that would reflect on you know who.

      • ShannonEntropy

        If there were a Democrat in the WH we never would have even heard of this virus

        Remember the Swine Flu Epidemic of 2009 during the “O’Biden-Bama years” — as Joe so delightfully calls them — that killed between 151,700–575,400 people ??

        Of course you don’t… because the MSM never got around to telling us about it

        • Lou

          Riiiiight, the Swine Flu was “ignored” by the “MSM”. Perhaps it was part of a conspiracy. How did you find out about it if it was so secret?

          The irony is the Swine Flu was apparently handled more to your liking under the Obama administration than the response (shutdown) under the Trump administration. You’re losing your own argument.

    • Justin Katz

      Mario:

      It’s not a phrase I would have used a couple of weeks ago, but it’s clearly justified now. The protests (and the involvement of not only our governor, but also the two officials most commonly on stage with her) proved for all to see that the response to the virus depends entirely on politics. Case closed; end of story. If the political moment had been different, the politicians, experts, and media would have responded differently. If a healthy economy were in the service of their political ends, then that would justify some risk. If religious freedom were in their suite of talking points, then that would be a priority. That conclusion is unambiguous at this point.

      Everything important to you in your life is probably not important enough to escape their regulations, but the right political cause would be.