How many people have died in L.A.?

WEDNESDAY, MAY 27, 2020

Also, where are last Friday night's transcripts?:
This Monday, we were struck by the highlighted statement in a New York Times opinion column:
WILENTZ (5/25/20): For years, New Yorkers like me have mocked and reviled Los Angeles because of its messy residential sprawl and its out-of-control car culture. They’ve asked: Can you even call that a city? But sprawl and cars means Los Angeles doesn’t have much in the way of virus vectors like subways and residential elevators.

And indeed, the pandemic in Los Angeles has not been anywhere as intense as in New York, where as of this week the number of deaths was about eight times what it was in Los Angeles. We know people in New York who’ve died of Covid-19; here, so far, we know no one.
The column was written by Amy Wilentz. According to the leading authority, she actually grew up in New Jersey, though that could always be wrong. Today, though, she's a professor at Cal Irvine and is the author of well-received books.

We were struck by the highlighted sentence because it referred to "deaths" rather than to death rates. To some, this will seem like a trivial point. To others, this will recall the remarkable problems our upper-end news orgs often have with the simplest types of statistical constructions.

New York is much larger than Los Angeles. For that reason, it doesn't exactly make sense to compare the number of deaths which have occurred in the two famous cities.

We'll guess that Wilentz presented a more sensible comparison, and that some editor changed it. At any rate, we decided to take a look at the record! We decided to see how many people have died in the two famous cities, and also to see how the two cities' death rates compare.

How many people have died in L.A.? You'd think it would be easy to get that information. In fact, it took us roughly half an hour on Monday morning, though we found the figure more easily today.

The problem was the surprising dominance of a jurisdiction known as Los Angeles County. Frankly, who knew? The story goes like this:

The City of Los Angeles—the jurisdiction commonly known as L.A.—currently boasts a population of roughly 3.96 million. (Good luck finding any such figure at the city's own web site.)

That said, the city is part of the much larger jurisdiction we've cited above—the County of Los Angeles. As of last year, the county's population had nudged up just over 10 million—and to our surprise, it dominates the more famous city which shares its name, statistical information-wise.

Go ahead! If you go to the Los Angeles Times, they will tell you the number of deaths for Los Angeles County. If you go to the web site for the city itself, they'll do the same darn thing! (Once you're able to find any statistic at all.)

The city will tell you how many people have died in Los Angeles County; as of yesterday, the number was 2,143. But how many people have died in Los Angeles itself? How many people have died in the world-famous city?

The number is remarkably hard to find, even at the city's own web site.

Eventually, we did manage to find it, although we had to leap one more rather comical hurdle. You'll be able to find it too, if you're willing to struggle a bit.

Assuming the accuracy of the city web site's data, the number of deaths by coronavirus currently stands at 1,051 in the very famous city commonly known as L.A.

By way of contrast, deaths for New York City currently stand it 16,410, as you can easily learn. This means that New York City has roughly sixteen rimes as many deaths as Los Angeles, not the eight the Times reported, if we're discussing what everyone means when they refer to "Los Angeles."

New York City has sixteen times the number of deaths, but its population is slightly more than twice as large as L.A.'s. That means its death rate is roughly eight times that of L.A. We'll assume that's what Wilentz wrote, and that some editor changed it, hoping to make things easier for people who read the Times.

Does this matter? As the past three decades have made clear, virtually nothing does! We paraphrase pols in the ways which feel good. We generate gaffes to keep script alive. Routinely, the simplest kinds of statistical matters are simply too much to deal with.

There's one other point we should mention:

We tell you these things in our afternoon post because the all-time slacker "cable news" channel still hasn't posted transcripts for last Friday's night's programs. We'll show you what Rachel said about Dr. Birx if the slackers at that channel ever find their way back to work from their three-day weekend.

At the upper end of the social scale, nothing much actually matters. It's been this way for a rather long time, and it helped give us our Trump.

24 comments:

  1. This super-famous website gives 2,143 as the total number of deaths in LA, dear Bob:
    https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/usa/california/

    And it has sources that you can check, dear Bob.

    Perhaps the bosses there neglected to send enough infected people to nursing homes, like the bosses in NY did? Who knows...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm in agreeance with Mao about the need for investigating our leader's negligence.

      Criminal negligence.

      Delete
    2. Mao makes a salient point about negligence. We should investigate it further.

      Delete
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    4. Mao is right that we have to investigate criminal negligence.

      For instance Trump came into office with an empty cupboard of PPP. Nothing there. Trump then ... neglected to fill it for ... three years? Then he was told a pandemic was coming and he ... that word again ... neglected again, weirdly, to fill his empty cupboard even when he knew an expected and predicted pandemic was at our door.

      I'm in appreciation of Mao here. For reminding us to turn over every rock and ask every question about the negligence of our leaders in this American tragedy that has caused so much carnage and which will continue to inflict mass amounts of carnage for years and years on America, the land that we love. All because of unexplained negligence.

      Delete
    5. Maozarino:

      Look: Negligence and corruption! We must investigate and prosecute any and every leader who is guilty!

      https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/may/26/andrew-cuomo-nursing-home-execs-immunity

      Delete
    6. Money in politics. The grift that keeps on grifting.

      Delete
    7. I want to thank Dr Emu a very powerful spell caster who help me to bring my husband back to me, few month ago i have a serious problem with my husband, to the extend that he left the house, and he started dating another woman and he stayed with the woman, i tried all i can to bring him back, but all my effort was useless until the day my friend came to my house and i told her every thing that had happened between me and my husband, then she told me of a powerful spell caster who help her when she was in the same problem I then contact Dr Emu and told him every thing and he told me not to worry my self again that my husband will come back to me after he has cast a spell on him, i thought it was a joke, after he had finish casting the spell, he told me that he had just finish casting the spell, to my greatest surprise within 48 hours, my husband really came back begging me to forgive him, if you need his help you can contact him with via email: Emutemple@gmail.com or add him up on his whatsapp +2347012841542 is willing to help any body that need his help.
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  2. City isn't the right jurisdiction to compare. West Hollywood is a separate city from Los Angeles, so is Santa Monica. The greater LA area is comprised of numerous small cities that were once suburbs but have been absorbed into the larger area called LA county. If you are traveling and someone asks you where you are from, you don't say "Glendale" you say Los Angeles. That's why Los Angeles proper is so much smaller than NYC, yet the city itself is considered large.

    Somerby has never been to Mexico City, obviously. It is very large and flat, spread out, just like LA. Why? Because of the earthquakes. For much of LA's history, it was dangerous to live in a building higher than two stories because it was likely to collapse on the inhabitants during a major earthquake, of which there have been several above 6.0 in my lifetime. The taller buildings are relatively recent.

    Wilentz doesn't understand that history. She thinks it is because we like the sprawl. Would she like to be in a tunnel in the ground during an earthquake? Me neither. SF figured out how to build Bart to withstand one, but again that is a recent innovation compared to NYCs subway.

    None of this means that there isn't population density in LA. Because housing is so expensive, there are more people living in apartments and houses together than perhaps originally planned, and certainly more than in anyone's past. The density is inside people's homes.

    Somerby doesn't consider that there may be people living in LA who are not counted by the official figures (wherever he got them). Undocumented people tend to live under more crowded circumstances. So Wilentz's ideas about density are probably misguided.

    On the other hand, I think Somerby may be obsessing over an offhand remark she made. And if he obsesses, then so must we.

    ReplyDelete
  3. "if we're discussing what everyone means when they refer to "Los Angeles."

    What everyone means when they refer to Los Angeles (on the West Coast) is the greater Los Angeles area, better captured by Los Angeles County stats.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The online version of Wilentz’ column links to an LA Times article that states this:

    “Los Angeles County remains the hotbed of coronavirus activity in the Golden State. California’s most populous county has reported 1,976 fatalities, roughly 56% of the state’s total death toll, and accounts for almost half of the more than 86,000 infections that have been confirmed statewide.”

    https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-05-21/coronavirus-death-toll-tops-3-500-as-more-of-california-moves-to-reopen

    Wilentz also links to the NYC web page that gives 16,610 (confirmed) deaths as of now.

    16,610 is about 8.4 times 1,976.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Somerby is engaging in a kind of statistical gerrymandering, where he selects as his geographical unit of comparison Los Angeles city instead of county, even though not even the city itself reports its statistics that way -- because it would be misleading.

      Then Somerby portrays Wilentz' approach as somehow misguided even though she follows common practice. That is dirty pool. It also raises the issue of why Somerby works so hard to portray reporters as inept when they are doing a reasonable job of reporting. Are there not enough actual mistakes that he has to manufacture them this way?

      Delete
  5. What's the point here? When I lived above the Sunset Strip I lived in Los Angeles. When I walked a block west I was in Beverly Hills and a block south I was in unincorporated county territory (now West LA). What's the point of separating city from county? From the San Gabriel Mountains to the Pacific, it's all one big urban area.

    ReplyDelete
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