Frustration with data and politics; updated charts (15 April 2020)

In many parts of Europe, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel.  Denmark (added to the chart), which took early action, is reopening schools and day care for kids under 11, as it appears their response has things under control.  It is interesting to compare the Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, as each took different approaches to societal restrictions.  I’m sure many papers will be written!  Spain seems to have hit the inflection point of their curve, but while cases are down, the death rate in Italy continues to climb.  This might be a data and recording problem – their system was so overwhelmed deaths are just now being recorded that happened days ago.

In the US, it’s hard to tell what is going on.  Testing and data tracking in this country is an embarrassment for a so called developed country.  There are no consistent, mandatory standards for what is and isn’t considered a COVID19 case or death.  What testing is available is so delayed, and again the standards of who is tested and who isn’t, are inconsistently applied even when they exist.  New York just pulled the same thing China did and retrospectively changed their criteria for counting cases.  Delays in tests – sometimes up to two weeks – means that the simple fact is we don’t know what is going on in the US in anything like real time.  So all this talk of mortality rates, much less cases, how fast or slow things are spreading, planning for re-opening, and so forth are being made based on data that is crap.  Decisions are being made in a fog – a totally unnecessary fog.  For what it’s worth, here’s the US data as of last night …

There was, and is, no coherent national plan to deal with this situation.  While there are some efforts for various states to begin multi-state compacts and coordination, events like pandemics highlight the serious flaws of the fragmented US State/Federal system in handling a crisis.  The key issue is as usual political.  I’ve worked in and around government my entire professional life in one capacity or another.  A key fault of the US system is that advisers at the highest level (be it state, federal, or local) are subject to enormous political pressures. This has become a nightmare in recent years with the rise of a highly partisan, very public debate over the raw science behind many issues.  Highly partisan “news” sources doing the reporting have very little science background, and tend to present information in a political framework.  It is making this crisis far worse than it should be.

On a side note, pulling out of WHO is exactly the wrong thing to do, but it fits with the US policy of only supporting multi-national institutions for it’s own purposes when convenient and scapegoating them when it isn’t (across multiple administrations – Trump is more public about it, but not any worse than his predecessors).  Much more on these issues, but out of time …

One thought on “Frustration with data and politics; updated charts (15 April 2020)

  1. If you are going to start writing about the WHO please include information on Bill Gates’ donations – especially his 125 million one announced March 10th, the day before the WHO declared this a pandemic, as Gates had been wanting them to do.

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