|Resist the 'fear porn': What COVID numbers really say|
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Resist the 'fear porn': What COVID numbers really say - WND
WND Guest Columnist
By Michael Schisler
COVID-19 has been a part of our lives since January. We've witnessed unprecedented measures across the nation along with untold numbers of arguments and debates every single step of the way. We've been bombarded with all manner of news and information telling us what COVID-19 is supposed to mean to us personally. Not a day goes by without COVID-19 being front and center everywhere we look. And to say it's been a draining five or so months feels like a complete understatement. Fortunately, we now find ourselves in the middle of a national discussion over how and when to reopen the country and hopefully put COVID-19 behind us.
Unfortunately, however, this discussion is proving to be anything but an exercise in consensus – which is no real surprise given the history to date. Some are arguing for extended closures citing the rising counts of people dying from COVID-19. Others are arguing for rapid reopenings citing the diminishing trends of infection and death. They all have their data charts to support their arguments. And most of the time, none of the arguments and charts answer our most basic questions.
What most of us really want to know are things like "What is the real threat level of COVID-19 to me and my loved ones?" And things like "Is it really safe to go back to work, go to a restaurant, a store or a park?" We want to know whether or not our leaders are doing the right things and whether or not life will ever be normal again.
But what we get bombarded with daily is what some critics have labeled as "fear porn," something that can be described as intentionally cloaking disingenuous messages within real facts. And while there is at least some good information to be heard amidst all of the noise, it's largely being drowned out, so the phenomenon of fear porn is something that needs to be addressed.
A good example of it would be when someone says, "If we reopen the country too quickly, there will be needless death and suffering." Now granted, an incompetently executed reopening is not going to go well. But is the statement above actually addressing this scenario, and is it being made in proper context? And is its obvious message that "you're going to be guilty of intentionally killing people" really the right message to send? Is that message actually disingenuous, or worse?
The answers to all of our questions lie in the data. But as we all know, data can also be used to drive political agendas, financial interests, fear and most anything else under the sun if you slice and dice it to make it fit your case and ignore everyone else's. Data is a fragile commodity. And while it's true that numbers never lie, they can definitely be made to mislead when placed in skillful hands.
So, I took it upon myself to slice and dice CDC's latest COVID-19 data in a way that, to the best of my ability, allows the numbers to have their own voices and to tell their own stories, free from outside agendas and in a language we can all easily understand. And it turns out that when given their own voices, the numbers have stories to tell us that look and sound very different from what we see and hear in the media every day. The chart is below, but here are some of the highlights:
Student (age 6-18) deaths from COVID-19-involved illnesses are projected at a rate of 0.0001% as a percentage of their peers. They died from influenza-involved illnesses at a rate of 0.0005% in 2018.
Workforce (age 19-55) deaths from COVID-19-involved illnesses are projected at a rate of .01% as a percentage of their peers. They died from influenza-involved illnesses at a rate of .007% in 2018.
Retired (age 66-77) deaths from COVID-19-involved illnesses are projected at a rate of 1% as a percentage of their peers. They died from influenza-involved illnesses at a rate of .05% over the same period.
Geriatric (age 78-up) deaths from COVID-19-involved illnesses are projected at a rate of 4% as a percentage of their peers. They died from influenza-involved illnesses at a rate of .3% over the same period.
The numbers have plenty of sub-plots to tell us too, and they stand ready to answer new questions as we continue to come up with them. But they've already given us the answers to questions like:
Should we close the national school system for a disease with a projected .0001% student fatality rate when we left it open for a different disease with about five times that rate (i.e. the 2018 flu season)?
Do we keep the nation closed when the projected threat to the workforce is .01%, and if things get twice as bad, .02%?
Do we need to continue to warn retirees to take precautions?
Do we need to craft policy measures that protect the geriatric population as opposed to policies exposing them?
Do we need to deal with hot spots differently than places where COVID-19 is contained?
The 5 trillion-dollar question is: Do we as a nation heed what the numbers are telling us? Or do we instead listen to all of the fear porn when crafting state recovery plans?
The numbers are also telling us that we should mourn those we've lost and to seek answers to how and why COVID-19 made it into the wild in the first place. They're telling us that we need to keep using reasonable precautions but summarily reject all of the fear porn we're bombarded with on a daily basis. The numbers are telling us that we'll get past this, but we had better listen to them if we have any expectation that our self- concocted national remedy is not to be worse than the disease itself. So, I encourage you to take a good long look at the chart below and allow the numbers to tell you their stories in full.
See the chart footnotes if you're interested in the particulars of how the numbers were arrived at.
Michael Schisler is recently retired from a long career of analyzing, designing and constructing large-scale data systems for the energy sector. Data analysis and interpretation is one aspect of his accumulated knowledge that he has chosen to put to use in various subject matter projects such as this one.
LIBERTY HAS NO EXPIRATION DATEDemocrats wouldn't buy a clue if it was government subsidized.
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