Category: coronavirus

It’s All In The Data, Maybe

As expert in all things data, I have been examining the COVID-19 case data and am ready make the following observations.

1. All categories of data are inherently wrong. There is at least a two-week lag before data gets reported, and even then is composed of reports from a myriad of sources, not all of whom collect the same sets of data for each case. What you see for today’s numbers is not going to be what today’s numbers are finally tallied to be.

2. Data are reported through public health departments, hospitals, and even the emergency management agencies. The recording formats are diverse, and accuracy depends on the ability of workers to record little things like the sex and race of the case. For example, in Georgia the stats show African-American and White race cases, and also a large number of cases labeled as “Missing”, and “Unknown” where the race has not been recorded. The word useless comes to mind.

3. There are Billion$ allocated in the CARES ACT for help to hospitals in handling COVID cases. Certainly an easily foreseen consequence of this bill would be the obvious incentive for hospitals to categorize as many cases as COVID as possible for the premium the government pays them under the new law. We hear reports that heart attack deaths sometimes turn into COVID deaths.

4. Data on the global status is accumulated from all the various nations’ public health departments. Take ALL of this data, especially if it comes through the World Health Organization with a great deal of cynicism. It is like all the other United Nations efforts, it is biased. The individual countries, like China, have reason to lie, and they do.

This is an exciting time for many academic fields including economics, epidemiology, medical science, psychology, and other disciplines that depend on data to formulate and make their conclusions. It will be decades if ever before we get it all sorted. In the meantime, we make life and death decisions on incomplete, and sometimes false data.

Our future comes down to the normal risk-reward decisions we make everyday.

Sometimes we win. Some times we lose.

 

 

Welcome To Interesting Times

There’a a purported Chinese curse that says, “May you live in interesting times.” These are interesting times. We are living through a pandemic like those we read of in history books. It is not as bad as the bubonic plague when about 40% of the worlds population was killed, or is it as fleeting as the ebola virus which ravaged some of the world, but left parts alone.

Our pandemic has been with us since March, and appears to be heading for the first weeks of summer. Here in Georgia, the governor opted to loosen the pandemic strictures somewhat last week to include salons and tattoo parlors. The outcry around the nation was deafening, assuming that we are willing to send people to their graves just to get a paycheck.

Oh, how wrong they were. The new cases in Georgia have been decreasing significantly the last week. However, we won’t know if we have made a mistake until a couple of weeks have passed. At this point it looks like the governor has made the right call. From the looks of the curves in the south, we will be in relatively safe country in June.

The virus is not disappearing, it is migrating. It is moving from the northern hemisphere to the southern hemisphere for their cold and flu season. As fall approaches in the northern hemisphere, we will see an uptick, or spike in the number of corona virus infections as the virus works its way back north. This is the way viruses propagate. It will be some time before the populations have built up enough immunity to consider it not a danger.

One big hope is a vaccine, even though many people say it is physically impossible to achieve a safe and effective vaccine in less than a year. There are some cases where medical institutions have not been able to synthesize a vaccine to combat certain viruses. HIV is one, and SARS is another.

Until then, our leaders must understand that the American people are not stupid, nor are they inherently careless with their health. We understand the risks of opening the economies, and most people are willing to risk infection to feed their families. This is not a case of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object. It is a case of common sense and Americans have that quality in spades.

What’s Up With The Pandemic?

What’s up? Nothing good. People continue to get the virus, some of whom show no symptoms. It’s a sneaky little devil, that’s for sure.

President Trump is using the Fed’s epidemiology models to speculate on when the epidemic reaches it’s peak, and that is in two weeks, April 13 – 15, or Easter Weekend. Even if this is true the problem is not over. The really big question is, when will President Trump open the nation for business?

Here’s the problem. If President Trump makes his decision too early, the trend of coronavirus infected people will do an about face and start increasing, again. If President Trump waits too long, our economy will be in a depression that some consider will be worse than the Great Depression of the  early twentieth century. He is in a Catch-22 situation, or as they say, damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.

The reality of the situation boils down to this: the President has to make a decision that results in the least overall damage to the population and the economy, and he knows that at some point the economy takes precedence. It’s that simple.

The person you want to make this decision is either a genius, or a really good river-boat type gambler. Geniuses make decision based on hard data. Gamblers make decisions based on their observation of chances to win.

President Trump is a proven winner, he’s smart, and would make a great James Garner-like river-boat gambler. I will go with the President on this one, even though I am in the high-risk group for death-by-virus.

Keep America Great!