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