Cable star's strange remarks: How many Americans are currently dying from the coronavirus?
We've been looking at the numbers of late because of the strange remarks we keeping hearing from Rachel Maddow. On this, as on other key topics, Maddow seems inclined to overstate in service to the production of gloom.
She's been misstating all week. Below, you see the strangest remark we've seen her make:
MADDOW (6/9/20): Back when the White House used to appear to work on the coronavirus epidemic, when they used to have coronavirus briefings, you might remember there was one particular projection model they liked to showcase at all of their briefings. It was from the University of Washington, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington...It's true! According to current IHME model (it was updated on June 10), the U.S. death toll will hit 140,000 as of August 6. (That's the best estimate for that date, within a possible range).
Those researchers at the University of Washington have still kept working on it, and today their projections for the number of American coronavirus deaths jumped another 5,000 from where they were at last week. They're now projecting that by the first week in August, 145,000 Americans will be dead from this thing–145,000! From today, that would be 30,000 more Americans dead in less than a month.
But we'll hit that number on August 6, and Maddow was speaking on June 9. The IHME is projecting roughly 30,000 additional deaths over a period of eight weeks, not over the shorter term Maddow gloomily cited.
Presumably, that was a brain cramp. That said, Maddow had gloomily offered a bogus number just one night before. Ironically, it was part of a longer discussion about the way Donald J. Trump kept making bogus projections when he discussed such things:
MADDOW (6/8/20): We are over 110,000 American deaths already as of this weekend, and we're still losing 1,000 more Americans on average every day.That statement was made on Monday, June 8. In fact, for the first eight days in June, the average number of deaths had been 765.3 (Washington Post figures).
The 7-day rolling average stood at 804.7 (June 2-8). Eight hundred is a lot of deaths, but it isn't a thousand.
Maddow overstates the figures and miscasts the situation every time we watch her. She took Wednesday night off, but last night, she was at it again, glumly pushing her constant claim that we are suffering the biggest epidemic in the world.
To this day, that's only true if you don't adjust for size of population, and Maddow never does. This statistical sleight of hand matches what Donald J. Trump constantly did when he triumphantly claimed, day after day, that we had done the most testing in the world.
Back on May 22, Maddow offered an amazingly bogus criticism of Deborah Birx. In a largely useless White House briefing, Birx had run through 23 slides in 23 minutes as she described the state of the epidemic here in the U.S.
We were struck by how useless her presentation had been. Birx had sped through most of her slides at very high speed with little time for explanation. There was little chance that the assembled reporters would take much new information away from what she had done.
That evening, Maddow took a startling approach. Angrily, she seized on just one of the 23 slides Birx had presented that day. Without mentioning the other 22 slides, she offered a truly paranoid account of what Birx had done:
MADDOW (5/22/20): Today, Dr. Deborah Birx stood up in front of a graph, apparently designed to make it look like things were getting much better, a nice downward sloping graph always soothes the eyes in the grips of an epidemic.That presentation is so crazy we hardly know what to highlight. To watch Birx run through her 23 different slides, you can just click here.
What it was that she was showing is just a graph showing the amount of testing being done in each state, and they stacked the drafts, and the ones doing the most testing are on the left side and the states doing the least testing will be on the right side of the graph, so it will give you that soothing feeling to see bars in the bar chart declining left to right, from a lot to nothing. It looks like it's declining over time, but it's not declining over time at all. It's just set up to look that way, at a glance, right?
That's misleading. That's just the states organized by which states are doing less testing, and that's not testing getting better or states getting better at a time.
Really? At a glance, it feels awesome, though. Look how small it is, over there on the right, by Oregon.
We're sorry, but for undisguised paranoid lunacy, that presentation was right up there with the crazy claims which are increasingly the specialty of a certain crazy president. That was a flat-out crazy account of what Birx had said and done with her 23 slides that day.
At present, our rolling 7-day average for deaths stands at 735.3 (June 5-11). That's a lot of deaths each day, and the number may get much worse. (Or not.)
That's a lot of daily deaths. But it isn't a thousand daily deaths, and it's just as easy to report an accurate number as it is to make one up.
Maddow's been like this for a long time. She's also remarkably good at selling the car, and she was sold to us, long ago, as Our Own Rhodes Scholar.
We don't know why she does these things. Is it possible that she's just amazingly bad with numbers? We're not sure we've ever seen anyone other than Trump misuse statistics so constantly.
Think of this as just our latest anthropology lesson. Also, as a chance to see some currently accurate numbers, the kind you may not always get exposed to on TV.