How many people are dying from covid?

FRIDAY, JUNE 12, 2020

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...

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.
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).

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.

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.
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.

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.


  1. "Presumably, that was a brain cramp."

    You know what they say, dear Bob: when all your "brain cramps" fit the same liberal-goebellsian agenda -- you just might be a goebellsian dembot.

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  2. Every Republican club in America is holding workshops on ballot harvesting just in case. The enthusiasm is at a higher level than it has ever been in my 44 years on earth. Democrats better prepare. Trump is going to win in November but get a boat because the liberal tears are going to flood the entire nation.

  3. Belgium has the most number of deaths when adjusted for population. Though, if you just compare NY, it is even worse. Having said that, Belgium mostly have the pandemic controlled, at least for now. The US is not even close. We are probably in last place in that category.

  4. Maddow describes a model that begins a week earlier than the date upon which she describes it, and a period that ends in the first week of August (which includes Aug 6), then she reports deaths for "a month from now" which is correct for the time she was speaking, but is not the span of the model itself. Maddow is accurate. Somerby tries to confuse us into thinking she was wrong, when it is he who conflates the clearly described start and end points of the model with the 30 days from now (from the point when she is speaking) that Maddow's total covers.

    For people listening to such broadcasts, it doesn't matter whether the total is 765 or 1000 per day, but whether the deaths are increasing or decreasing where you live, and whether it is safe to go out or whether we must continue to self-isolate and wear masks.

    Somerby thinks that poking around in the weeds of these models and daily figures is important when it is the consequences of the numbers that people care about, their interpretation. He never deals with that, although he calls Maddow excessively gloomy because she rounds up to 1000. Is 765 anything to celebrate, to be chipper and perky about? Should we all be smiling beneath those masks, Somerby?

  5. "she was sold to us, long ago, as Our Own Rhodes Scholar"

    Somerby calls her numbers bogus. Does he think she is making this up, was never a Rhodes Scholar? He must know her credentials, but that doesn't stop him from implying that she was "sold to us as" a scholar but is as phony as her bogus numbers. This is borderline lying, Somerby! And yes, I believe you have done this deliberately.

    Not only was Maddow a Rhodes Scholar, but she has written three books since becoming a cable host, two on serious political topics (the role of the military, the influence of the oil industry). Why would we have to be "sold" on her, when she is the real deal?

    Somerby makes himself seem small when he displays his envy so nakedly. But perhaps, like Trump, he has little sense of shame.

    1. For TDH’s jibe “Our Own Rhodes Scholar” to have any sting, it’s important that RM actually be a Rhodes Scholar. There’s no doubt that a corner of corporate media sold RM to her audience as their own Rhodes Scholar. And that sale couldn’t have been consummated unless RM actually is a Rhodes Scholar.

      TDH is saying that RM’s presentations are so brainless that it’s ironic to bill her as a Rhodes Scholar, the epitome of academic smarts and achievement.

      It’s the same thing when I call you professor. I really believe that you’re actually a professor, and I actually believe anyone of that rank should show sharp intellect and demonstrate careful judgment.

      To answer your last question, no one should be “sold” on RM because she’s the “real deal” as a Rhodes Scholar, but because she’s the “real deal” as a continuing exemplar of that title.

    2. Professor is a job title and that sharp intellect etc goes with the job, not activities in every day life. Rachel Maddow's efforts as a Rhodes Scholar relate to the work of completing her thesis, not to how she conducts herself on a TV show. She is no longer a Rhodes Scholar -- she is an author and pundit. She does that about as well as anyone else. I am a very good bridge player but not particularly good at scrabble and terrible at tennis. So what? You are loading too much into such past activities. If you want to know how good a professor I was (other than judging by the FACT that I retired as a FULL professor (another job title), you would evaluate my publications (quantity and quality), just as someone can judge how good a Rhodes Scholar Maddow was by reading her thesis. But that is a different activity than being a TV host, or writing random comments on a blog, or baking bread, or changing oil on your car, or babysitting grandkids, or anything else any of us do beyond our work.

      That's why it is ridiculous for MSNBC to advertise Maddow that way, but just as ridiculous for Somerby to keep ridiculing her because she was once a student in Great Britain, whenever she says something he doesn't like on her show.

      Maddow is the read deal because she has researched and written two serious books after graduating. If you want to disparage them, read them and make some cogent criticisms of them. Referring to her sarcastically as a Rhodes Scholar doesn't do the job when she moved on from that in her education and in her career. To be current, you should be referring to her sarcastically as an author, but on what basis?

      The way you and Somerby try to mock her just sounds pitiful. Same with your disparagement of me -- I have my accomplishments and I know what they mean, so how can anything you say in your sarcastic tone affect that? You just make yourself sound ignorant and kind of mean. And that's how Somerby sounds when he "jibes" Maddow over a transient time in her life, long past.

  6. Maddow: “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.”

    Somerby: “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.”

    Maddow does not say she is looking at the average for the first eight days in June. Nor did she mention a rolling average over the June 2-8 time frame.

    In fact, using the time frame February 15 (date of first case) through June 8, you get 983 deaths per day on average. That’s pretty close to 1000. The day after Maddow said this (June 9), the total number of deaths was 1,093.

  7. “Maddow offered an amazingly bogus criticism of Deborah Birx. “

    Somerby describes the White House briefing as “largely useless.”

    I agree.

    Birx’s presentation was worse than some D student fumbling her way through a perfunctory but required presentation. She rushed through the charts, waving her hands. The charts were barely visible. One got the sense of a content-free word salad.

    Maddow gave an appropriate summary of this useless bs.

  8. “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.”

    An epidemic isn’t only defined by deaths.

    And since Somerby started complaining about the media not using per capita deaths, the US has moved from 12th highest to 9th highest deaths per million.

    We’re inching up! MAGA!

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