The virus won big in July: Here in the United States, the virus did extremely well in the month of July.
We just went back over the Washington Post's numbers from the last week in June (June 24 through June 30). According to the numbers the Post is currently showing, the average number of daily deaths, nationwide, was 518.7 during that week.
Presumably, no reporting anomalies from the July 4 weekend were yet affecting the data. As of that last week in June, daily deaths had come down a long way from their high point, in mid-April, of over 2000 deaths per day nationwide.
That was then, and this is August. Based on the Post's current numbers, this is where matters stood in the recently-concluded last week in July:
Daily deaths from coronavirus, nationwideYes, those are the actual numbers. On a nationwide basis, daily deaths more than doubled during one month's time!
June 24-30: 518.7
July 25-July 31: 1108.4
That strikes us as a remarkable increase. Almost as remarkable is the difficulty the upper-end press corps seem to have dealing with such basic statistics.
Consider this full-length news report from this morning's Post. It's built upon the gloomy appearance by Deborah Birx on yesterday's State of the Union program.
How gloomy were Birx's various statements? In this early passage, the Post reporters included a gloomy-sounding prediction about possible total deaths from coronavirus by the end of the year:
HAWKINS AND IATA (8/3/20): Birx did not rule out an estimate from former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb that virus deaths could top 300,000 by the end of the year, saying “anything is possible.” Such an outcome would be far less likely, Birx said, if people practiced social distancing and avoided large gatherings.That sounds extremely gloomy. But the Post reporters never managed to quantify the rate at which deaths have been increasing. Pitiably, the analysts tore their hair and cried when they hit this peculiar passage:
HAWKINS AND IATA: Birx’s remarks came as the country tallied 478 deaths Sunday, down slightly from the 566 fatalities reported on the same day last week. But some states—including Texas, which has been averaging nearly 300 deaths per day—had not reported their statistics as of Sunday evening, suggesting that the true number of new deaths was higher.It makes almost zero sense to talk about the number of deaths on some particular day. We let the analysts gather themselves, then made them continue reading.
Before too long, the Post reporters were discussing the rise in seven-day averages of daily deaths nationwide! But they only did so for certain (unnamed) states and without using any numbers:
HAWKINS AND IATA: The stalled [budget] negotiations followed another week of grim signs for the country’s pandemic response. The seven-day average for new coronavirus-related deaths rose in nearly half of the states over the past week, pushing the national death toll past 150,000 and prompting health experts to warn that the trend is unlikely to reverse anytime soon.Again with reports of deaths from particular days, and only in particular states! Meanwhile, the seven-day average for new coronavirus-related deaths rose in nearly half the states over the past week? If the seven-day average fell in all the other states, the result might have been a nationwide wash!
Numerous states reported record daily fatalities in recent days, including California, which reported 219 on Saturday, according to tracking by The Washington Post. Florida reported a record 257 deaths on Friday, and seven-day averages for new deaths reached new highs in states across the South, the West and the Midwest.
Nothing like that happened, of course. But at no point did the Post reporters attempt to quantify the nationwide increase in deaths over (let's say) the course of the past month. Instead, they gave us work like this:
HAWKINS AND IATA: Nationwide, the daily coronavirus death toll exceeded 1,000 for the sixth day in a row on Saturday, according to The Post’s data. The 1,198 new fatalities marked the most that officials have counted on a Saturday, when death reports tend to be lower than those tallied midweek, since May 9.At one point, we were told that there has< been an "increase in deaths nationwide." We also received a few gloomy predictions, but we were never given a statistical account of how large the increase in nationwide deaths has been over some specified period of time.
The increase in deaths nationwide has trailed a massive surge in coronavirus cases by several weeks, as health experts predicted when infections started trending upward in June.
“Overall, what this tells us is that now that deaths have started to increase, we can expect them to increase for several more weeks,” Ellie Murray, an epidemiologist at Boston University, told The Post. “We cannot afford to pretend everything is fine and heading back to normal.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent analysis of pandemic fatalities shows weekly reports of new deaths increasing over the next month, with 5,000 to 11,000 new deaths projected in the third week of August. The national death toll could climb to more than 168,000 by that time, with a high estimate of 182,000, according to the CDC’s review.
Math is hard, Talking Barbie once said. At the top of the national press, the most elementary types of statistics routinely turn out to be harder.
We offer this as an anthropology lesson. "Man [sic] is the rational animal?" According to major anthropologists, this claim was always a delusion. We should learn to adjust our most basic assumptions, these despondent top experts all say.
On a nationwide basis, the death rate (more than) doubled in the course of a month! Which part of that do our upper-end news orgs find hard to understand?