The New York Times addresses the virus!

SATURDAY, JULY 11, 2020

Do you think this makes sense?:
The New York Times has long been branded as our smartest newspaper.

Its reporters went to the finest schools. We all know these things.

This morning, on the paper's front page, three reporters tackle the current state of nationwide coronavirus deaths. The opening paragraph says this:
"The daily number of deaths from the coronavirus has risen recently in some of the nation’s most populous states, leaving behind grieving families and signaling a possible end to months of declining death totals nationally."
Signaling a possible end to months of declining death totals nationally? At present, the 7-day average for daily deaths nationwide stands exactly where it was three weeks ago, on June 20.

The decline is over, at least at this point. It shouldn't be too hard to see that.

We marveled at the difficulty the Times was having with this point, starting in its headlines. Then, we reached this passage:
"Some officials have attributed the drop in deaths over the last few months to improvements in treatment for the virus. Doctors have more tools today than they did in the spring, including the use of remdesivir, an anti-viral drug that has been shown to shorten hospital stays though not reduce fatalities."
In that first sentence, the reporters say the drop in deaths may have come from improvements in treatment. Then, they seem to cite one, and only one, of these tools:

It's remdesivir, an anti-viral drug that doesn't reduce fatalities!

This is front-page work in our smartest newspaper concerning the biggest health topic in the past hundred years. Can you see why credentialed experts keep telling us that we should tell you that it's all anthropology now?

Full disclosure: We suspect that the editor did it.

18 comments:

  1. "The New York Times has long been branded as our smartest newspaper."

    It has? By whom? You need to get out more, dear Bob.

    "The decline is over, at least at this point."

    You are really into this minutiae, aren't you, dear Bob? Obsessing much? You sound like you may be losing sleep over some old fart dying down in Florida. And you call other people crazy?

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  2. Remdesivir has not been shown to reduce fatalities in the studies of the drug, but that doesn't mean it doesn't. There may have been other, uncontrolled factors in the studies that prevented the effectiveness of Remdesivir from showing up in the results. For example, shortages of ventilators or other drugs could have impacted the ability of Remdesivir to show an effect on fatalities. Less severe cases wouldn't have been affected by such factors since less sick patients wouldn't need ventilators and the drugs associated with them.

    This seems like a contradiction to Somerby because he doesn't really understand how formal clinical studies work. He most likely didn't take any science classes (beyond his interest in physics). But he is quick to assume that if there is a seeming contradiction, it is because the NY Times writers are all stupid. It doesn't seem to occur to him that he might be failing to understand something.

    What are some of the other tools? Things like turning ICU patients on their stomachs instead of their backs to aid their breathing. Recognizing that this virus presents a different pattern than previous respiratory failure syndromes and that it requires a different approach to treatment. Those advances take many more words to explain than referring to Remdesivir. Technicalities of pulmonary treatment are not familiar with readers, but the importance of new drugs is. But Somerby assumes that no one knows what they are talking about and then he starts calling names and invoking anthropologists.

    Somerby is an ass and a moron. If he believed in expertise, he might think that there is an explanation. I have suggested one and there are likely others, but he instead just assumes experts are wrong and saying stupid shit. This behavior reveals his belief that he is the only smart person in the room and that anything he doesn't understand is either bogus or intended to fool people. This is an embarrassing attitude to have because it is so obvious to others who the actual moron is.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. “ This is an embarrassing attitude to have because it is so obvious to others who the actual moron is.”

      Indeed.

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  3. We have had two days of increased deaths and already Somerby is declaring the decline over.

    These trends are made up of a variety of different patterns in different places around the country. There are a few actual declines. There are some places holding their own. There are other places where the virus is out of control. If a very populous area were in decline (as New York was), then it would have a big impact on that average compared to smaller localities that were showing increases. Saying that the country as a whole is in decline or increasing conceals these individual patterns.

    Unfortunately, two very populous areas (Florida and Texas) are showing large increases while other populous areas are showing more modest increases (CA, DC). This swamps the few areas still showing declines or holding steady at a low level.

    But, Somerby's belief that a single number captures what is happening all across the map, and his belief that only two days of increase mean that we are on an upswing (and not oscillating) shows his lack of understanding of what that average means.

    The New York Times understands more about how numbers work than Somerby does. They included the word "possible":

    Signaling a *possible* end to months of declining death totals nationally?

    That word caused Somerby to chide them, when they are being appropriately cautious about talking about a change that has not really established itself as a trend yet.

    It is annoying to see an ignorant person like Somerby pretend to know more than the writers he is busily criticizing, oblivious to his own mistakes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We have had about a week of increasing deaths.

      CA has had a high increase in deaths.

      The increase in deaths follows a month of spiking cases. Deaths lag cases so it is reasonable to see an increasing trend.

      One major concern about the current spike in cases and deaths is that the previous spikes were centered in extremely high population density areas where you would expect higher spikes. High spikes in relatively lower population density areas might indicate a more severe spike.

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