Calm down and think for yourself

One of the offshoots of being on the debate team in college, taking graduate-level statistics as part of my master's, and working as a lawyer is an awareness of how one can make a case for practically anything by playing around with evidence, numbers, analysis, and language. 

Coronavirus is a worldwide pandemic and should be taken seriously.  But the crisis should not be taken advantage of, nor should politicians manipulate definitions, data, and diagnoses to achieve political aims.   

Getting Down to Cases

There is no such thing as a "case" of coronavirus.  According to Merriam-Webster, a "case" in medical terms is an instance of a disease or injury.  "Cases" are subdivided for public health surveillance by the CDC into the following categories: confirmed, laboratory-confirmed, clinically compatible, etc.  

"Coronavirus" is not a disease; coronaviruses are a family of viruses that may or may not cause illnesses, such as the common cold, severe acute respiratory syndrome, etc. 

It is reported that of the 1,133,453 "cases" of COVID-19 worldwide, 95% are mild and can recover at home.

Thus, the reported "cases" include people who test positive (laboratory-confirmed) or (to use New York's creativity) people with symptoms that match known cases (clinically comparable). 

What's news?

When the "news" reports new "cases" of COVID-19,  thinking people should be skeptical about exactly what they are being told.  For example, the now famous headline about the aircraft carrier where the captain was sacked for raising the alarm about "cases" of COVID-19 on his ship.  The truth: 100 crewmen tested positive — with zero "cases" hospitalized — on a ship of 5,000.

Or what about hard-hit Italy, much reported in the news?  Leaving aside the high percentage of Italy's population that is in the "at risk" age range (over 23%), the nation counts all deaths from whatever causes where there is a positive COVID-19 test.   

Follow the Money

From various federal sources, there is over $50 billion in aid that states are scrambling to get a piece of.  The worse the situation, the more aid states can tap into.  It is no coincidence that here in California, Governor Newsom's "Stay at Home Order" was promulgated the very same day he requested $1 billion in federal aid.  New York is doing the same thing by cooking the books on the number of "cases" it reports.

In fairness, in times of national crisis, it is the job of a state leader to tap into available federal funds to help his constituents.  But that doesn't excuse the rhetoric or political grandstanding based on the "let no crisis go to waste" mentality of some politicians.

Calm down, think for yourself, and have a good day!

Correction: A previous edition of this post mischaracterized COVID-19 as the general family of coronaviruses.  The error has been corrected.