Accurate, Focused Research on Law, Technology and Knowledge Discovery Since 2002

Coronavirus Numbers Confusing You? Here’s How to Make Sense of Them

NextGov: “Turn on the TV news, or look at a news website, and you’ll see charts, graphics, and dashboards that supposedly indicate the latest with COVID-19 – statistics revealing the number of tests, cases, hospitalizations and deaths, along with where they happened and whether they are rising or falling. Different stories are told depending on the dashboard. But one thing is certain: These indicators lag behind the actions we take, or don’t take, on COVID-19. As researchers who focus on public health, we can tell you that a fully accurate, real-time snapshot of the progress of the virus isn’t possible. There are many reasons for this. Here’s one: diagnostic testing data are incomplete. Someone infected with COVID-19 must first come in contact with the virus either through the air or (less likely) environmental surfaces. Symptoms show between two and 14 days later. But at least 40% of those infected will never manifest symptoms, or show such mild ones they don’t even suspect they have COVID-19. So they may never get tested, which means they won’t show up in the total number of tests, or the total number of cases. Another example: because of the lack of testing availability – a widespread problem in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic – not everyone who should be tested gets a test. And another: the tests themselves are not perfect. Up to one-third who get a negative result may actually be infected. This happens because they are tested before they have a viral load sufficient enough for detection. Or maybe the sampling is not adequate. Or perhaps the test itself simply failed…”

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.