It's depressing to visit the streets of our town!


The New York Times visits Europe: It's depressing to take a stroll through the cramped, crabbed streets of our town.

That's what all the analysts said after completing last week's Yuletide report. We still plan to examine additional sections of our town. But we told the exhausted, underpaid youngsters that they could take today off.

For today, consider something Nicholas Kristof said about the pandemic in Europe. Also, consider a New York Times news report about the pandemic in Germany.

In his column, Kristof considered the miserable state of the pandemic in these United States. (The column appeared online on December 10.)

It's true that our nation's performance has been a highly instructive disaster. But along the way, we were a bit surprised to see Kristof offer this:

KRISTOF (12/10/20): It’s not that the coronavirus can’t be controlled: Europe had a terrible autumn wave but reined in the virus—while keeping schools open. Yet the United States as a whole still can’t match Europe in rationally managing the virus.

Has Europe actually "reined in the virus" in a way we can't match? When we checked at the FT site, the first two numbers we fell upon looked exactly like this:

Average Covid deaths per day, per million population
Seven-day averages, as of December 10

European Union: 7.3
United States: 7.2

There's certainly more to the story than that. But that's where the story starts.

Briefly, let's be fair! The E.U. number has been inflated by the performance of some of its eastern members. 

Among the major nations of western Europe, the numbers looked like this. For the record, the United Kingdom isn't part of the E.U.:

Average Covid deaths per day, per million population
Seven-day averages, as of December 10
Italy: 10.7
United States: 7.2
United Kingdom: 6.2
France: 6.0
Germany: 5.1
Spain: 4.2

Those numbers are also part of the story. Then again, so are these:

Average Covid deaths per day, per million population
Seven-day averages, as of December 10
Hungary: 15.8
Austria: 10.8
Poland: 10.6
Belgium: 9.7 (as of 12/2)
Czech Republic: 9.5
Switzerland: 9.0
Greece: 8.9
United States: 7.2

Those rates of Covid death were also occurring in Europe. And no, we aren't including all the bad national numbers. (As of December 10, Bulgaria's death rate was worst.)

We offer these numbers because we thought Kristof's account might be somewhat misleading. Concerning the overall state of the pandemic, the largest problem we see is this:

Our daily death rate continues to climb at a rapid rate. By way of contrast, the daily death rate of the E.U. has (slightly) begun to nose down. 

This pandemic has been a disaster here, but so too over in Europe. We continue to be amazed by how little information is being offered to us the people about this basic fact. (Or about the vastly lower death rates  among the major Pacific nations.) 

Does information play any real role in our national discourse? Consider the news report about Germany which appears in this morning's Times. The headline reads like this:

 Germany Locks Down Ahead of Christmas as Coronavirus Deaths Rise

According to that headline, coronavirus deaths are on the rise in Germany. Sadly enough, that continues to be true. 

The daily death rate has dropped a bit in the U.K., and also across the E.U. In Germany, though, the daily death rate is still on the rise as the "second wave" continues.

Germany'a death rate continues to rise! But despite that headline, the Times report offers no idea of what Germany's current death rate is, or about the way it might compare to death rates anywhere else. Little information is offered.

All through the spring and summer, Germany was the model among the major Euro nations—but good lord! As of December 1, the model nation's daily death rate had almost overtaken ours! (See data below.)

We offer these data for no particular reason. As we've long noted, basic facts and information play almost no role in our extremely primitive national discourse. Our discourse runs on storyline and on little else. 

As with public school test scores and international health care costs, so too here:

Tons of data are available, but our biggest news orgs won't use them! Information is boring and hard!

Tomorrow: The analysts return to work

For figure filberts only: As of December 1, the numbers looked like this:
Average Covid deaths per day, per million population
Seven-day averages, as of December 1
United States: 4.8
Germany: 4.2

Holy cow! The model nation was now losing people at a rate rivaling ours! 

Germany's rate has continued to rise. Ours has been rising faster.


  1. “We offer these data for no particular reason.”

    What is the point then? Anyone can look at those Covid tracking web sites and see these numbers. No need for Somerby to cut and paste them.

    When Kristof says “Yet the United States as a whole still can’t match Europe in rationally managing the virus”, he is talking about the entire course of the pandemic since the beginning, not just the current second wave.

    And, using Germany, the “model nation” as an example, there was a time in the spring when Germany was recording 2-4 deaths per day (7-day average) at the same time the US dropped to its minimum of 518 per day.

    To put it another way, the cumulative death per million in Germany (as of 12/13) is 270; for the US, it is 924. Most of the European countries that are now experiencing the second wave had death rates far lower than the US during that spring/summer time frame. They by and large instituted policies that reined in the virus. And everyone knew a second, more serious wave was coming once these restrictions were lifted.

    Kristof gives some examples of national measures that other countries have taken. It’s a list that is really the only list of measures known to reduce the spread in the absence of a vaccine. These measures have been widely reported and are well known.

    And to bolster Kristof’s point, the death rate and number of cases have begun to spike in Germany, and they have now instituted a serious lockdown lasting into January, while we, as a nation, still have no national response. Presumably, our rise will continue, while theirs will continue to slow and drop.

  2. "It's true that our nation's performance has been a highly instructive disaster."

    Actually, it has not been instructive at all, for two reasons:

    1. Trump is incapable of learning anything from experience.

    2. The folks who should have have the authority and power to manage the pandemic already know what to do, but they have not been allowed to do it.

    Our failure to control the virus has been the result of political lack of will, not a lack of knowledge requiring instructive experience. When Somerby uses phrases like this, he appears either ignorant himself about national politics or stubbornly unwilling to acknowledge what has been happening in our country. If our national experience were instructive, Trump would have changed his ways before summer, but he goes on as usual and people keep dying unnecessarily because of it.

  3. It is my misfortune not to live in Europe right now. The comparative numbers that Somerby keeps obsessing over mean nothing to those of us trapped in our homes in the USA.

  4. Since Somerby is a big expert on education, why has he never written a single word about how the schools are being affected by covid? Why hasn't he talked about the difficulties of parents who have tried to home school their kids while also keeping their jobs? Why isn't he talking about the potential affect on NAEP scores of a whole year off from meaningful learning for our nations kids across the board? Why hasn't he talked about the manner in which wealthier families have been able to continue education for their kids while those in public schools have been left to struggle with inadequate technology and lack of training, especially among poor families and those lacking internet access?

    Instead Somerby repeats these tired old beefs about covid stats aimed at nothing but disputing whether the US is the absolute worst in its response or only among the worst, adjusted for population size and converted to a death rate.

  5. There are a lot of reasons to be depressed this Christmas, but this isn't one of them.

  6. Somerby typed the phrase "crabbed streets", as if it made sense. Weird! I hear mushrooms can help with depression.

    The US has had a piss-poor response to Covid, as such we comprise 8 out of the 10 worst areas for deaths per million.

    While Somerby tries his best to deflect criticism away from Trump, Trump takes credit for Operation Warp Speed, except Trump had nothing to do with it. Operation Warp Speed was thought up and implemented by the FDA, and is funded by congress.

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