Questionable Data, Bad Science and Fuzzy Math

August 21, 2020

Science is Science.

Math is Math.

The numbers regarding Covid-19 are derived from recording data daily from around the U.S. and the world. By analyzing that information, our political leaders, doctors, and public health officials are making life and death decisions for us all. Decisions that determine how we can safely educate our children and college students, and how to get us all back to work so that we can support our selves and families and serve our neighbors with goods and services they need to live.

Scientists use the Scientific Method to gather data so other researchers can repeat and verify their results.

The COVID-19 numbers we hear reported daily are not comparable because there isn’t a defined way to count who is and who isn’t a COVID-19 death case. At times and in some areas, every death was counted as a COVID-19 death which inflated the number of deaths. In the confirmed cases count, a suspected COVID-19 case is counted as a confirmed case and as you might suspect, the more tests given the higher numbers of cases was recorded. The people who had cases with mild or no symptoms were never counted for the most part, because they recovered at home and most not tested. So while it’s good to know positive tested cases, it’s not a reliable figure to use to compare different locations due to different levels of testing.
To fix this, we need to make a reliable comparison and evaluation of different social policies, events and occurrence rates. Our method of calculation needs to be changed.

We are counting our mortality rates by dividing deaths by confirmed cases. Confirmed cases are influenced by all of the factors we discussed earlier. Since they’re not consistent and ever-changing, our ratios and rates don’t tell us enough. This makes it impossible to compare data from city to city, state to state and country to country.

So let’s apply the Scientific Method and get some solid information.

We will have to accept some data undefined, such as death figures by location, as there is no way to replace that data consistently. If we use population as our denominator, we can reliably compare the severity of the disease from place to place in terms of occurrence resulting in death. The effectiveness of treatments is reflected in this calculation of rate as is the effectiveness of the measures taken and events that occurred. Those effects are all reflected in the death rates when comparing location to location.

Let’s examine how death rates (as of July 19, 2020) compare in different areas:

State COVID-19 Deaths (undefined) Population Death Rate
Michigan 6,000 10 Million .060%
New York 3,2445 20.7 Million .157%
New Jersey 15,699 8.94 Million .176%
Georgia 3,173 10.68 Million .0297%
Florida 4,805 20.6 Million .0233%
Texas 3,865 29.9 Million .017%
Illinois 7,295 12.66 Million .0576%
California 7,595 39.94 Million .0190%
Washington 1,444 7.8 Million .0185%
Country COVID-19 Deaths (undefined) Population Death Rate
USA 140,000 331 Million .0423%
Italy 3,5045 60.31 Million .058%
Spain 2,8420 47.43 Million .0599%
Denmark 611 5.83 Million .0105%
Sweden 5,619 10.34 Million .0543%
Germany 9,163 82.91 Million .011%
Global Deaths 603,697 7.8 Billion .0773%

In examining rates, it’s interesting to note that death rates in Italy and Spain which were the horrifying scenes of death, coffins laid out in local Cathedrals and in refrigerated trucks as there was no where else to hold the deceased we witnessed before COVID-19 cases started with any appreciable velocity in the US . Yet the rates in Italy and Spain are equal to rates recorded in Michigan and Illinois and exceeded in New York State by a factor of 2.5 and New Jersey by a factor of 3.

Washington State, where the pandemic really started in the US had an death rate less than 1/3 that of Michigan and Illinois. Sweden protected its vulnerable with quarantine, but took no closing actions on businesses and had a death rate comparable to Michigan and Illinois.

With meaningful data, we can analyze what measures were taken for prevention, contrast health care methods and conditions, analyze patient population demographics to help evolve our response nationwide.

It appears that the results of the various quarantines in different States in throttling back occurrence rates have been at least partially negated by recent protests and riots in which no distancing or PPE was practiced by many. Also, spring break travel to Mexico by many college-age young people also had an occurrence increasing effect.

The end of risk for everyone from the Covid-19 pandemic will come when we have an effective vaccine or we achieve herd immunity, which occurs at exposure levels of 50-80%. Dr Faucci of the US CDC has stated that a vaccine, when one is available for use, is likely to be 70- 75% effective. He has also This jives with what has been observed in the effectiveness of other flu vaccines at other times, but on average flu vaccines are 50-60% effective according to studies conducted by the Mayo Clinic.

Many Pandemic experts believe that the best way to achieve herd immunity is to vigorously protect our vulnerable; the older and the medically compromised, but let the others of the population return to their normal routines, taking reasonable precautions. The huge majority of young healthy people have mild or no symptoms when infected, but achieve antibody levels that protect them. There is a worry that there is a carrier state, where an asymptotic person spreads the virus for an undetermined time. This could be just an asymptomatic patient during their infection time. This is being studied, but it’s not known at this time. Experts also question how long post-infection immunity will last. That raises the question of how long vaccination derived immunity might last.

A statistical look at how the protect the vulnerable, then return to normal with reasonable precautions method is available because that’s exactly what Sweden did. And as a comparison, neighboring Denmark did precautions similar to the US. Sweden had a death rate (.0543%) similar to Michigan (.060%) Illinois (.0576%) and Italy (.058%) while never closing the economy down.

Remember, the reason for and goal of the quarantine was to keep our Medical resources from being overloaded and being unable to treat and save as many infected as possible. The overflow facilities built around the country were used very little and in some cases not at all. That is at least partially a testament to the success of controlling the rate of spread in that first wave of infection and the great success American health care had in treating and containing the Covid-19 outbreak here in the United States.

This success in managing the opening act in the long process seems to have led some politicians to believe they have controlled the virus and by their efforts the danger averted if we would just follow the restrictions they have laid out. Truth is that as long as infections are raging anywhere in the world, we are at risk for a resurgence of infections to anyone without immunity, whether by recovery after exposure, or by vaccination. The level of travel seen in Countries and the World almost guarantees the continuation of spread, as long as significant levels of infection exist anywhere. Other flu vaccines suggest only partial coverage of populations vaccinated.

The only true end to risk of continued infections and resulting pandemic is herd immunity, through exposure and or vaccine. Anything short of or other than that has no scientific basis in effectiveness.