This is definitely not the summer people had been planning on, thanks to COVID-19. People are understandably frustrated by months of lockdown, and there is growing pressure on governors and county officials to reopen.
In deciding how widely and quickly to relax restrictions, state and local leaders will rely heavily on White House guidelines as well as projections concerning the spread and mortality of COVID-19. But how accurate can we expect those projections to be?
The projections come from statistical models. Epidemiologists at Imperial College of London used their model to predict the coronavirus would cause as many as 500,000 deaths in Britain and over 2 million deaths in the U.S. by October. Their paper prompted the lockdown policies adopted by both countries.
This use of this work was disturbing on several counts. As with any model, the results produced hinge on the assumptions fed into it. In this case, the epidemiologists’ report of their finding didn’t clearly state the assumptions they made. More alarmingly, the lawmakers that decided to use this model to make policy decisions did not require the team to make their codes publicly available.
When the report came out, I repeatedly asked the authors for their models so I could examine them myself. They never responded. Recently, however, some aspects of their code have been released and have been shown to have numerous problems including a lack of reproducibility, undocumented code and frequent bugs.
Failing to get the Imperial model, my colleague Norbert Michel and I looked at another publicly available COVID-19 model grounded on decades of long-standing epidemiological work. We tested its sensitivity along three major assumptions: the specification of mortality rates within intensive care units (ICUs), the asymptomatic infection rate, and the level of communicability.
COVID-19 mortality rates in hospital ICUs are much higher for the elderly and chronically ill than for others. We found that, by using assumptions of mortality rates ranging from 5% to 30%, the model projected anywhere between 78,000 and 357,000 deaths by Aug. 1.
Assumptions about the level of asymptomatic infection also has a large impact on COVID modeling. When varying asymptomatic rates between 15% and 55%, the model’s projections of COVID deaths experienced by Aug. 1 ranged from 118,000 to 394,000.
Assumptions concerning the virus’s level of communicability also greatly impact estimates of disease spread. Popularized nine years ago in the movie “Contagion,” the basic reproduction number, also known as R0, quantifies the average number of people than an individual will infect with the virus. Assuming an R0 value of 1.5, the model predicted 44,000 dead by Aug. 1. When the R0 value was increased to 3.5, the death projection soared to 1.05 million.
Obviously, current death totals of COVID-19 now exceed our lower-end estimates, which were produced in April. Regardless, our modeling demonstrates that, under a variety of reasonable assumptions, COVID models generate a wide range of forecasts. Furthermore, we are still significantly below the high-end forecasts suggested by the Imperial College modeling team.
As state governors move toward reopening their economies, they may continue to use models in their policy decisions. As they do so, however, it is important that the models used for guiding policy be made publicly available and their assumptions be clearly stated. The models must also be constantly updated with new data and tested for robustness.
The public should always be willing to question these models and their assumptions. Key questions to ask are: “What assumptions have been made?” “How legitimate are those assumptions?” and “What happens if you use reasonable alternatives?”
Without answers to these questions, the models should not be used in making policy decisions. After all, their projections can turn out to be just as bad as the Imperial College report that was used as the basis for locking down two countries.
• Kevin Dayaratna is the principal statistician and research fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis.
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Philadelphia down due to COVID-19, but far from out
ANALYSIS/OPINION: Washington Times columnist Cheryl K. Chumley is biking the battleground states as part of an ongoing series, visiting 14 states in 14 days to hear what real Americans think of the 2020 election. All of her interviews may be found HERE. PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia may be masked, depressed and a bit down due to…
Washington Times columnist Cheryl K. Chumley is biking the battleground states as part of an ongoing series, visiting 14 states in 14 days to hear what real Americans think of the 2020 election. All of her interviews may be found HERE.
PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia may be masked, depressed and a bit down due to the coronavirus — but it’s definitely not out.
There’s still a spirit hovering about the Liberty Bell; there’s still a sort of hushed awe while staring at the very buildings where the Founding Fathers hashed out America’s great government.
“I’m an American,” said Sabrina Pasquariello, born in New Jersey but a longtime Philadelphia resident, in an interview in the heart of Philly’s rich historic district, Independence Mall. “So I believe in our flag and I believe in protection of our country and I believe in police and our firefighters and everybody to protect us.”
Her voice shook a bit.
“That,” she said, pointing at the building that houses the Liberty Bell, “is special to me.”
Normally, she said, the area would be jam-packed with tourists, school children on field trips and city employees on their way to and from work. But now? late-September, months after the coronavirus shuttered the entire nation’s economy?
Philadelphia streets are near empty. Pedestrians are face-masked and few and far between. The bustling, thriving downtown area of just a few months ago is largely quiet.
And sadly, safe spots have turned unsafe.
Homeless people, Pasquariello said, have taken over areas where restaurants once flourished; where diners once spilled into streets.
The local government just lets it happen, she said.
It is a bit depressing to see.
Another COVID-19 casualty.
Taxi driver Scott, meanwhile — he declined to give his last name — said much of the response to the coronavirus has been overhyped, leading to a city that’s unnecessarily economically depressed.
“I think this is overplayed,” he said. “The face mask mandates — beyond ridiculous. … I think [COVID-19] is getting confused with the everyday obituary column. You know, 10,000 people die in this country every day from old age. For the people who have [COVID-19], it’s awful. I’m not discounting that … but when it’s time to go, it’s time to go.”
Politically incorrect — but true.
And that’s sort of like Philadelphia these days: Politically incorrect for the anti-America, anti-police, socialist-loving Constitution hating crowds who gather in the streets to smash windows and toss bricks and set fires. But a true-blue taste of what makes America so great, even today: The clear bell ringing of freedom.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter, @ckchumley. Listen to her podcast “Bold and Blunt” by clicking HERE. And never miss her column; subscribe to her newsletter by clicking HERE.
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COVID-19: US passes ‘unfathomable’ 200,000 death toll |NationalTribune.com
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US COVID-19 deaths near 200,000, one in five of global toll |NationalTribune.com
The death toll from COVID-19 in the United States was nearing 200,000 on Tuesday – accounting for more than one in five deaths globally, putting US President Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic in the spotlight as he campaigns for a second term in office. According to Johns Hopkins University, the US has reported at least…
The death toll from COVID-19 in the United States was nearing 200,000 on Tuesday – accounting for more than one in five deaths globally, putting US President Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic in the spotlight as he campaigns for a second term in office.
According to Johns Hopkins University, the US has reported at least 199,818 deaths, while the number of cases has reached more than 6.8 million, also the highest in the world. More than 70 percent of the fatalities in the US have been among people over the age of 65, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
On a weekly average, the US is now losing about 800 lives every day to the virus, according to a Reuters analysis. The death rate has risen by five percent in the last week, after four weeks of decline.
The University of Washington’s health institute forecasts fatalities could reach 378,000 by the end of 2020, with the daily death toll skyrocketing to 3,000 per day in December.
The US coronavirus response: An F for failure? | Upfront (Arena)
‘He failed to act’
Critics say the data shows the Trump administration’s failure to meet its sternest test ahead of the November 3 election.
“Due to Donald Trump’s lies and incompetence in the past six months, [we] have seen one of the gravest losses of American life in history,” his Democratic rival Joe Biden charged on Monday.
“With this crisis, a real crisis, a crisis that required serious presidential leadership, he just wasn’t up to it. He froze. He failed to act. He panicked. And America has paid the worst price of any nation in the world.”
The US accounts for four percent of the world’s population and 20 percent of its coronavirus deaths, while its daily fatality rate relative to the overall population is four times greater than that of the European Union.
The southern states of Texas and Florida contributed the most deaths in the US in the past two weeks, closely followed by California.
Trump adviser warned of potential pandemic in January
On Monday, Trump insisted that the worst was over even as the number of cases climbed in some parts of the country including Wisconsin, a key swing state for the election.
Trump has previously admitted to playing down the danger of the coronavirus early on because he did not want to “create a panic”.
Trump is behind Democratic rival Joe Biden nationally in every major opinion poll and is neck and neck in key swing states. Trump’s handling of the pandemic and subsequent economic downturn has battered his standing among many voters.
Trump has frequently questioned the advice of scientific experts on everything from the timing of a vaccine to reopening schools and businesses to wearing a mask. He has also refused to support a national mask mandate and held large political rallies where few attendees wore masks.
On Monday, Trump held campaign stops in the state of Ohio and many of those who were there did not wear masks.
People in Los Angeles hold a demonstration against US President Donald Trump as the country’s death toll from coronavirus nears 200,000 [Eugene Garcia/EPA]
CDC Director Robert Redfield recently told Congress that a face mask would provide more guaranteed protection than a vaccine, which would only be broadly available by “late second quarter, third quarter 2021.”
Trump has also refuted the timeline for the vaccine and said that it may be available in a matter of weeks and ahead of the November 3 election.
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