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.