Games with Models in the Midst of a Dictatorship, 8/5/20 Data

Queen Raimondo today decreed, “Starting Friday no bar areas will be allowed to operate past 11 PM at night.”  Moreover, she issued the following threat: “I won’t hesitate to shut down all bar areas if a week from now we don’t see improvements.”

Let it be written.  Let it be done.

Where does the governor get this authority?  Is it really the law that if the governor decrees an emergency at any point, she can then extend her enhanced power indefinitely into the future in 30-day increments, even when her moves become entirely precautionary?  That isn’t representative democracy.

She also decreed that schools can only open if the city or town has fewer than 100 new cases in a week for every 100,000 residents.  Where does that nice round number come from, and what makes that the safe number for school children, and not some other number?  Central Falls, which is one of three municipalities that will be forbidden to open schools by that measure, has a population just under 20,000, so it can only see 20 cases in a week.  How does that translate directly into statements about what’s safe for children?  The disease does not appear to be all that deadly for children, and if an outbreak is in, say, a nursing home, the connection with opening schools is not obvious.

The governor’s attitude is increasingly at odds with the data and reasonable expectations about how we should respond to the threat, and the more data she puts out to support her point, the more clear it is that she’s wrong.  Maybe she thinks that people will think her release of data substantiates her assertions without analyzing the data for themselves.  The state Department of Health is now releasing week new cases by town, as well as the rate per 100,000.

Keeping in mind that 100 per 100,000 of population is the same as saying a single person for every 1,000 people in your town, only three municipalities have experienced even that many infections in any week since the start of July.  How does that state of affairs justify the governor’s condescending, peremptory rhetoric?

Think back to my recent post about WPRI’s scary map supposedly showing high cases of COVID-19 along the coast.  The new data from the state shows how absurd this is.  Almost none of these communities have seen five or more cases per week in any week for the past few months.  Why are we accepting martial-law lite if that’s the case?

Department of Health Director Nicole Alexander-Scott stated today that you have a high likelihood of catching COVID-19 if you’re in a crowd without a mask, but that’s only true if people in the crowd have it.  Not many people in Rhode Island do, especially outside of the urban core.  Four infected people in a town of 16,000 means one infected person for every 4,000 residents.  Statistically, in a town like that, you could have events with 1,000 residents and three out of four times, not a single one will have the disease.

And (by the way) very few of those are having to be hospitalized, and pretty much none of them are dying.  Even just the uncertainty of the message we’re receiving makes it prudent to be cautious, but if the governor wants to continue with the dictator strut, she really needs to produce more justification.

Turning to my regular chart projecting hospitalizations shows no real change (again: people in the hospital with the disease, not necessarily because of it).  The numbers are stable and look likely to remain that way.



(See here for my original methodology and here for a subsequent modification I made. A thorough explanation of the chart is included in this post.)

Projections versus actuals (date of report).

  • Cases:
    • Projection for 8/5 (made 8/4): 19,501
    • Actual for 8/5: 19,481
    • Projection for 8/6: 19,588
  • Hospitalizations:
    • Projection for 8/5 (made 8/4): 78
    • Actual for 8/5: 79
    • Projection for 8/6: 78
  • Deaths:
    • Projection for 8/5 (made 8/4): 1,017
    • Actual for 8/5: 1,012
    • Projection for 8/6: 1,018


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