Visualizing the Data

One of the primary reasons for creating this site was to have a central location from which to disseminate the data in a manner that is accessible to the average reader. Who wants to spend the time looking through the spreadsheet data posted by the national organizations tracking the virus? And then spend more time comparing it back to the projections? It’s much easier to just trust that they know what they’re talking about. But do they? Or, as one person put it, is rushed science almost always bad science? In the hurry to get ahead of this terrible virus, are we basing our actions on sound, verifiable science?

There are a lot of different ways to look at this issue, but I think a primary one is asking this simple question: are the mitigating policies put in place by almost every state authority warranted by the danger posed by COVID-19? And as I mentioned earlier, the initial response was “HELL YES, MILLIONS OF AMERICANS WILL DIE UNLESS WE DO SOMETHING!” But as we know now, that was based on rushed, flawed science.

Since that initial cry of “wolf!”, seemingly cooler scientific heads have weighed in and created in-depth models informing us that while millions of Americans won’t probably die, we still face several hundred thousand deaths even if we stay cooped up in our homes til May, which is 2-4 times the toll of a typical seasonal flu. Those models are currently driving the decision making of our various solons and lawmakers. And that’s where this site comes in, to compare the projections to reality and let the reader decide if the overwhelming damage caused by the hard-hitting quarantine policies is worth it.

You can find the graph below in the “Visualize” section of this site, but I wanted to call attention to it and explain how to read it. The blue bars represent the IHME (Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation) projections of the number of beds needed specifically for COVID patients, while the yellow bars are the official numbers reported by the states. As you can see, until Sunday, the projections were about 4 times too high. Then IHME realized something was amiss, so they adjusted their models… to TWICE as high as reality. And based on this morning’s numbers, it may well be headed back to triple the actual numbers. The solid green line is the unfortunate number of Americans who have lost their lives in some way related to this strain of the coronavirus (more on that in another post). The black and red dashed lines are the IHME predictions, the latter updated as of April 5. As you can see, deaths were trailing the old projections slightly over the past week, but for some reason, just as they have begun to plateau or even fall, IHME decided to ramp UP their own models. I think we all agree that the next few days will tell us so much.

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