Another Week Already?

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Numbers are useful but they are so easy to take out of context. What’s the quote – “figures never lie but liars figure”. In this case, it wasn’t really a lie but a case where you only consider half of the story.

It was a random tweet by someone and I’m not sure whether it will get more airplay just because so much other stuff is going on. But the person looked at the number of new cases in Florida and made the statement that the last four days saw the largest number of new cases at any point in the history of the pandemic in Florida. Oh no! Second wave! Get those people off the beaches!

Now, he is factually correct (although it is really the last five days). But here’s the rest of the story. For some reason, Florida has really ramped up testing. From June 3rd through June 7th, they’ve recorded 166,466 new tests. To get a similar number of tests, you have to include the period from May 25th through June 2nd. In other words, roughly double the time period.

In the last five days, they’ve recorded 6481 positive results out of the 166,466 tests. In the period from May 25 to June 2, they had 6580 positive results out of 178,177 tests. If you do the math, the percentage of positive results is slightly higher in June but not really different.

Or, to just state is more simply, if you do more tests, you will find more positive results.

Saw a similar tweet from someone about Minnesota. On June 5th, they had what looked like a spike. But that spike was based on 46,718 tests recorded that day. For context, they were averaging around 7000 tests before that. Likely had a whole bunch of people decide they needed to get tested and, when you test more, you will find more positive results. (With the caveat that the underlying rate of positives hasn’t significantly changed).

One last thing on this before I get off the subject. I’ve been expecting the number of new cases to start dropping more in the US but it hasn’t. Some of the reason is that the testing has been ramped up. I’ve been compiling weekly numbers and the peak was the week of April 19th where there were 209354 positive cases and the number of tests was 1481675. For the week ending June 6th, we had 155028 new positive cases but the number of tests was 3248188. Basically, we’ve double the number of tests and are finding fewer positive cases.

Granted the number of tests isn’t a perfect marker either. Aside from those reporting with symptoms, there are more opportunities to get tested and so there is the potential for selection bias there. On the other hand, this is a virus where a significant proportion of people don’t show any symptoms. Also, the number of deaths is half of what it was at the peak. We have to wait and see if there is an impact from all the protests but it certainly seems like the staged reopening didn’t result in a second wave.

My car is currently being serviced. The fan that runs the AC was cutting out and I’m not about to drive through a summer without AC. Before the pandemic, I was thinking about trading in because I’ve got 115000 miles on this vehicle which is the first time I’ve put more than 100000 miles on a vehicle. When you get a vehicle that old, it becomes a question of how much more money you should sink into it.

But buying a new car is a hassle I just don’t want now. I’m sure there are lots of shiny new features on more recent models but what I’ve got is fine for what I need. The only problem is having to lift Rocco into the backseat when we go for walks. With the soreness in his back legs, he really can’t jump anymore.

Anyway, it was interesting to see the dealership. The service advisors were about 50/50 on mask usage. The guy who shuttled me home did wear a mask. They had hand sanitizer stations at several locations in the waiting areas and signs to direct you to the nearest one. The sales types who came in later didn’t seem to be masked. (I wonder if they have to mask up before dealing with a potential customer).

Where I was sitting waiting for them to tell me what they needed to fix and how much it was going to cost, none of the other customers around me had masks. There was another waiting area with the TV and most of the people there did have masks. Guess we are dividing up between mask people and non mask people.

Well that’s all I’ve got for a Monday.

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