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States massaging COVID data to make leaders look good. Stop, please.

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Stop fudging the COVID-19 data! 

coronavirus testing



Getty


So they’re fudging the data again. 

According to news reports, at least three states — Texas, Virginia, and Vermont — are muddling their COVID-19 data by combining results of active illness tests and antibody tests. 

This makes it look as if the states are testing more vigorously for active infections than they are, and confounds the data on whether cases are actually declining — which is one of the key determinants of whether the state has the outbreak controlled. 

In short, the data manipulation is making us stupider. The leaders and citizens of Texas, Virginia, and Vermont know less about the pandemic they presumably want to control.

This is hardly the first example of government sources manipulating COVID-19 data, usually to help win an argument. Georgia’s Department of Public Health published a chart that literally flipped dates out of order to show a steady decline in cases. Florida’s top data scientist said this week she was fired for refusing to embroider data. Two weeks ago, Arizona’s governor tried to sideline analysts whose data predicted the state’s outbreak peak was still to come. 

And of course the White House has treated COVID-19 data erratically, recently releasing a model created by a top administration economist that showed deaths dropping to zero by May 15, which, as you may have noticed, they did not. 

It’s not new for politicians to seek to manipulate data to tell the story they want to tell. After all, there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. 

Still, when it comes to this pandemic, the data games are frustrating and perverse. Manipulating the data doesn’t change the actual facts. The sick people are still sick, the dead people are just as dead. It simply covers those facts with a veil of confusion. 

The purpose of data is to provide guidance that helps our leaders make smart policy decisions. The data themselves are not the policy. The data exist to help us know whether reopening or locking down or whatever is working. 

Data are a tool. Would you want to use a tape measure where the inches were an inch and a quarter long? That’s what these officials are doing. Manipulating the data blinds and deceives the policymakers in addition to the public. Instead of using the data to guide them toward policy — the purpose of the data — they are deciding on policy without data, and fudging the data to support their decision. It’s backwards. 

The politicians should have the courage to let the data speak for itself, and then they’ll know if they’re doing the right thing. — DP

The pandemic has created the most interesting and fast economics experiments the world has ever seen. New Zealand’s 4-day work week is a particularly inspired idea.Let’s learn from them. Universal Basic Income? Permanent working from home? Job-sharing? Doughnut economics? Let’s turn this crisis into an opportunity!

People are ripping Pompeo for holding big dinners at taxpayer expense. That’s silly. It’s his job.


georgia coronavirus lockdown 4

Shannon Stafford styles the hair of Ebony Housey at her salon on Friday, April 24, 2020, in Savannah, Georgia.

Russ Bynum/AP Photos


All 50 states are now at least partially reopened. Connecticut was the last state to start to lift its lockdown. Hold your breath.

Man shoots Waffle House cook after being told he has to wear a mask

Former coronavirus denier now wants everyone to know how serious it is (after wife gets put on a ventilator)


trader nyse pray



Getty Images / Bryan R. Smith


China has actually already had the “V-shaped recovery” that smart people think only suckers think will happen here

Stocks soar again as all states reopen and analyst predicts vaccine candidate will work, be safe, and sell 1.5 billion doses. 

No extension of unemployment benefits, Trump tells Senate Republicans

Strategist predicts stocks will hit new highs by the end of the year


Chad Johnson Ochocinco



Patrick Smith/Getty Images


Chad Ochocinco left a $1,000 tip at a restaurant with a note saying, “Sorry about the pandemic, hope this helps”

This is a great time to be living in an “earthship” — a sealed, self-sustaining biosphere that socially distances you from the entire planet. 

A plastic surgeon says ultrawealthy clients are begging to fly him in on private jets and pay quadruple his rates to get work done during quarantine. They want to look good on Zoom. Ick.

 


The best grilling gloves are these Steven Raichlen extra long suede ones, Insider’s James Brains says. You can get ’em at Home Depot for $20.

The best charcoal, meanwhile, is Royal Oak. Only drawback? It contains sawdust.  $11.89 at Walmart.

Wayfair’s having a huge Memorial Day sale with discounts up to 70%. The plicker of your dreams…

 


Xi Jinping Angela Merkel 2

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend a contract signing ceremony at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, July 5, 2017.

Reuters


An artist made a “Harry Potter” face covering that reveals the Marauder’s Map as you breathe

Europe is turning from the US towards China, abandoning Trump. European public opinion of the US has deteriorated since the start of the crisis. 

France logs 70 new cases in schools after letting kids return to class 

 


YOUR LETTERS

On the President’s announcement that he’s taking hydroxychloroquine, which we argued is actually not so crazy…

I’m sorry, I do not believe that the president taking HCQ is rational. I’m a clinical psychologist with extensive experience working with medically ill patients – both in acute care hospitals and elsewhere. I’ve been part of medical decision-making teams via bioethics committees and been part of transplant teams. 

In my experience, taking a drug prophylactically that has no evidence base and that has significant side-effects (Q-T prolongation is probably the most serious) reflects more on the President’s misunderstanding of the drug, the illness, and good prescribing practices. In addition, I wonder about the judgment of the physician who counseled Mr. Trump. I am sure there was a weighing of the benefits and costs, however, given the context, I cannot imagine there was not some not-so-subtle pressure to allow the president to take the medication.

This is poor social modeling. As you point out, Trump bears some responsibility for those who might suffer negative consequences of taking the medication. And as always, his lack of judgment in these matters stands out. 

Sure, one may say that since there is no evidence for/against prophylactic use to prevent COVID-19 disease it’s “rational” to go ahead and give it a try. As the President has said: “What have you got to lose.” But as a model of rational medical decision-making, I disagree.

Robert Canning, PhD
Davis, CA

 

I think all of you press guys are getting suckered by Trump again.  Do you really believe he is taking hydroxychloroquine?  I don’t. He’s a germaphobe and drugophobe.  He doesn’t have the balls to take it. No one’s in his camp is going to question him or they’d get fired.  If the press asks, he’ll say, “Ask my doctor – he’ll confirm”  Yeah, right. The doctor will say, “Medical confidentiality, I can’t divulge anything.”  He just wants to look macho and hates to have anything he said look wrong. He’s not taking it.

John Haynes


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