There are several political themes or narratives passing through the Twittersphere. The first is that the pain the country is going through is the result of President Trump’s failure to act. Check out Rachel Maddow’s retweet of the dramatic rendering from CAP, the Center of American Progress.
Watch this. Just watch. https://t.co/gGOZoMDMUE
— Rachel Maddow MSNBC (@maddow) April 10, 2020
There’s a ton of problems with their interpretation. Among their mistakes, they fail to recognize any actions taken by the Administration. Here’s a list through March 23rd of the decisive actions the Admin has taken.
Another mistake—although is it really a mistake if it’s intentional and meant for political gain—the CAP chart does not adjust for population. Most responsible journalists are adjusting all the stats on a “per million” of national population basis.
Finally, and this is something that’s been on my mind for quite a while, how can the Federal response be fairly measured when the NY/NJ corridor is undeniably a hot mess? There are 54 states/territories under Federal leadership. How do the outlier stats for the local response in NY/NJ skew our national statistics?
I’ve never seen an analysis of this question. That would require math. So, here’s my math.
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Did a little math.
Here's the COVID 19 cases and deaths per million (sorted by cases per million) for selected nations. Note that I included the US, the US without NY/NJ, and just NY/NJ.
— Rich Weinstein (@phillyrich1) April 10, 2020
What I was looking to do is see what the stats were per million for NY/NJ, remove them from the Federal stats, then compare the adjusted Federal stats to other nations on a per million basis.
And you know what? We look pretty good. In fact, we look so good we jump almost to the top statistically. What’s going on in NY/NJ is skewing our national stats so severely that if they had simply performed at the same average rate as the other states/territories, nationally we’d have approximately 40% fewer cases and 48% fewer deaths.
So I posted this information in the Twittersphere and got a somewhat unexpected response. The left pounced on the statistical success of Sweden compared to the US. Sweden has not locked down their economy and their cases per million about 60% less than we have nationally. Why are Sweden’s stats so much better than ours?
At first glance, we can obviously blame NY/NJ again. But look at Sweden’s death rate per million. 86 people per million of their population have died from the virus compared to 51 in the US. And there’s even some reasonable discussion that we as a nation are over reporting deaths caused by COVID 19.
Something’s not right. After approximately 2 minutes of research, I found this article from TIME.
Here’s the money quote: “Sweden has a relatively high case fatality rate: as of April 8, 7.68% of the Swedes who have tested positive for COVID-19 have died of the virus. Neighboring countries, like Norway and Denmark, have case fatality rates of 1.46% and 3.85% respectively. (The U.S. case fatality rate is 3.21%.) While Sweden’s elevated case fatality rate could be a result of its low testing rates compared to its neighbors, experts say Sweden’s laissez-faire approach could also be to blame.”
Sweden’s death rate for those tested positive for COVID-19 is 7.68% vs. 3.21% for the US. Why? They’re not testing people and/or they’re just not trying to save people like we are. Their death rate per infected is more than double ours. To normalize the figures, Sweden would need to have at least double the amount infected than they are reporting, which mean their infected rate per million is closer to 2,000 than the reported 959 per million.
Without a lockdown, why are Sweden’s COVID-19 stats so much better than ours? They’re not. First, we have an outlier in NY/NJ that is completely skewing the numbers of the Federal response. Second, even without removing NY/NJ from our stats, Sweden appears to be undertesting and therefore underreporting positive COVID-19 cases as evidenced by their enormous 7.68% death rate per those that tested positive for infection.
As a side note, “According to OECD the Swedish health system is one of the best in the world. … The Swedish government takes about half of the workers’ paychecks but single payer healthcare and higher pensions than most countries make this cost viable for each citizen.”
If they’re playing statistical games with the COVID-19 outbreak by not testing, and they have death rate per million is 60% higher than ours, it kind of makes you wonder just how great their single payer system actually is.