How many people are dying per day?

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2021

Statistics are very hard: What follows doesn't matter at all, except as anthropology.

As anthropology, it's painfully instructive. At issue is the following question:

Nationwide, how many people have been dying of Covid-19 on a daily basis?

As you know, such numbers tend to be presented in the form of a "seven-day rolling average." According to the Washington Post's data, these were the averages which obtained at the end of the past five days:

Deaths from Covid-19 per day, nationwide
Seven-day rolling average
Wednesday, February 3: 3,070
Thursday, February 4: 2,906
Friday, February 5: 2,910
Saturday, February 6: 4,112
Sunday, February 7: 2,816

According to the Washington Post, an average of 2,910 people per day were dying from Covid as of last Friday.

By Saturday, the average had jumped to 4,112 per day! One day later, the average had gone back down to 2,816. 

Remember—those numbers don't represent the number of deaths occurring on, or recorded on, each particular day. In each case, those are supposed to be the average number of deaths per day over the prior seven days.

Having said that, you're right! Those numbers don't seem to make sense. 

More specifically, that sudden one-day jump, followed by a return to that much lower number, doesn't seem to make much sense. Also, for what it's worth, the numbers at the New York Times indicate no such one-day jump in the average number of deaths.

For what it's worth, we can't tell you why that Post is showing that anomalous one-day jump. Intuitively, the sudden increase might seem to be related to an anomalous, very high number of deaths reported by both newspapers for Thursday, February 4—but even there, we can't see why the Post's rolling average didn't jump until Saturday, then suddenly came back down.

What explains the anomalous, very high number of deaths reported for  last Thursday? The Post doesn't explain, but the Times does—that very high, one-day number reflects the fact that, on that day, "Indiana announced about 1,500 deaths from previous months after reconciling records."

Stating the obvious, a whole bunch of deaths "from previous months" probably shouldn't be considered in computing current seven-day averages. Based on appearances, the New York Times didn't include those 1,500 deaths in its computation of current seven-day averages.

Having said that, alas! Even those deaths from previous months can't explain why the Post's seven-day average took an unexplained one-day jump two days later, then came back down again. 

The Post's graphic doesn't seem to make sense; neither do the Post's data. Two days later, no one at the Post seems to have noticed how weird its graphic looks, or how odd its data seem.

This is where the anthropology starts:

Unless you work in the building or moon-shot trades, statistics turn out to be very hard for members of our species! Our major newspapers have made this point abundantly clear in a wide array of ways over the course of the past several decades while covering, or failing to cover, a wide array of topics.

National test scores were very hard, even when they were going way up. For that reason, they weren't reported, discussed or explained. Major pundits just kept saying that nothing was working.

Data about lead exposure were very hard, even when we were pretending to discuss the water problem in Flint. It was more thrilling to drop the P-bomb, scaring Flint's parents and kids.

It's hard to adjust economic data for inflation. It's hard to adjust for population in reporting different nations' death rates from Covid-19. 

Back in the mid-1990s, it wasn't hard, it was impossible, to explain whether Newt Gingrich's Medicare proposal would require "cuts" to the Medicare program, or would simply "slow the rate at which the program would grow." On TV, our major pundits were puzzled for a full year. 

In a somewhat similar vein, it would be both boring and hard to discuss the lunacy of our nation's per-person health care spending. For that reason, and perhaps for others, the major newspapers in Our Town never report such data at all.

("Too many numbers," as Chris Cuomo often says, out loud.)

Anthropologically speaking, nothing about such concerns isn't extremely hard. Anthropologically speaking, only recitation of Script and Storyline can be said to be easy.

"Al Gore said he invented the Internet?" Every journalist recited that script. Memorization is very easy, but also reassuring and fun!

Everybody says the same thing! No one has to be nervous! Our reporting is based on advice from major credentialed top experts.


13 comments:

  1. Goebbelsian dembots are retards, brainwashing rank and file liberal retards.

    Yawn. What else is new, dear Bob?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Trump tried to gaslight a virus like it was some common Mao Cheng Ji--cheering along Trump's HUGE tax break for the Establishment, while pretending his bigotry is economic anxiousness.

      No wonder his Father thought he was a loser.

      Delete
    2. Me so stupid

      Delete
  2. This is not hard to understand. 1,500 additional deaths from Indiana were thrown in on one day and that skewed that day's numbers. The reason a rolling average is used is to smooth out such anomalies. The information says that the numbers show "reported or recorded" deaths, not the actual deaths on that day. I'm not sure what Somerby would have preferred be done with the 1,500 deaths from Indiana that had not yet been recorded. Perhaps a little more explanation about why the number jumped for that one day would have been helpful, but it doesn't mean the numbers don't make sense, and it definitely doesn't indicate any big problem with the reporting since it doesn't claim to represent the number of people who died on any specific day.
    Again, Somerby is picking a nit with a major newspaper trying to cast doubt on the overall reporting and claiming there is some script or storyline that has to be followed.
    The storyline is that a global pandemic has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans and the Trump administration did little or nothing to slow it down.
    That is true no matter when the deaths of those 1,500 people were reported.

    ReplyDelete
  3. "Unless you work in the building or moon-shot trades, statistics turn out to be very hard"

    Or the social sciences or epidemiology or any number of other occupations...and what does statistics have to do with building?

    Somerby keeps saying that statistics is hard. It isn't. It doesn't involve calculus or any high school math beyond algebra. It is very easy for math. The problem is not that statistics is hard but that few people learn it. However, 93% of occupations require math, just not all use the same kind of math. Somerby's idea of who uses statistics is pretty weird. Rocket scientists don't. Manufacturing does.

    Somerby doesn't have a clue when it comes to talking about covid. He says the numbers don't mean anything except to anthropologists -- but each of those numbers represents a living breathing human being who is now dead, and averaging them across the nation, tells us nothing about those individuals or the situation in any given location, or what anyone should do about covid, except whether the pandemic as a whole is getting better or worse. For those purposes, the charts that Kevin Drum puts up daily are much more useful. But Somerby is so clueless he cannot even say that. He just complains because a correction was made that produced an artificially high daily average.

    Just as Somerby has never expressed any dismay at the attempted coup on Jan 6, he has never expressed any sympathy for the people who have lost family members and friends to covid, the destruction of normal life and the imposition of hardship on those alive and struggling. Somerby talks about these numbers the way the Grinch talks about Christmas, utterly devoid of compassion or understanding of what the numbers mean to people.

    ReplyDelete
  4. "Two days later, no one at the Post seems to have noticed how weird its graphic looks, or how odd its data seem."

    I don't think Somerby knows what anyone at the Post noticed or thought about that data.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This statement appears in the Post on the very page Somerby links to:

    “The spike on February 4 is due to Indiana's inclusion of 1,507 historical deaths that were identified through an audit of death records and positive test results. Because this spike is an anomaly, it is shown on the daily chart but not included in the 7-day rolling averages.”

    I don’t know where he’s getting his numbers, but it’s possible a simple error is to blame.

    But let’s just assume that the Post is too stupid or uninterested to maintain 100% accuracy on an extremely complex web page.

    It’s a good look for you, Bob. The fool’s cap, I mean.

    ReplyDelete
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  7. I am so glad Bob mentioned AL GORE. The assault on Washington D.C. on 01\06\2021 over THE BIG LIE was built on little lies like Gore saying he invented the Internet [lie] and Gore wanted to abolish the internal combustion engine [lie]. WELL General Motors now, agrees if you HAVE NOT heard. BUT a BLAST from the PAST https://www.deseret.com/2000/4/22/19503215/gore-urges-demise-of-combustion-engine

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