Covid-19, data, arguments and made-up minds

If we look at the number of confirmed cases in the world and the death count, US is one of the worst hit countries in the world and delivered one of the worst responses to the crisis. Allegedly.

But folks would argue that the figures, when put in terms of per capita, wouldn’t look that bad. The death rate isn’t that bad, compared to that of Iran, Spain or Italy. Allegedly.

But even if the death rate per capita is bad, other countries might have under-reported their figures to make the US look bad. Allegedly.

Let’s say if all reported numbers are true, some would say what is happening is, allegedly, actually better than what was projected by the models which were created to prevent the worst from happening.

And even if things are bad, losing 100,000 to 240,000 American lives isn’t the worst. There is nothing anybody could do or foresee, allegedly. There were other lethal pandemics that killed more in the past when the healthcare infrastructure wasn’t what it is today. Or the number of deaths from the flu or traffic or other causes is bigger than the death count from Covid-19, except the fact that those deaths by other causes are often cited on a 12-month timespan which is far longer than a few weeks of Coronavirus.

The older I become and the more I read and work with numbers as they are my day job, the more I become certain that nothing is 100% certain (see what I did here?). My default feelings go from “am I looking at the numbers from a correct perspective?” or “am I making an apple-to-apple comparison?” to “am I missing something?” or “is it remotely possible that the counter-thesis to what I am thinking is right?”. I realized that we often come to an issue with some pre-determined assumptions. Depending on how open we are to the legitimacy of evidence, especially opposing evidence, there are no numbers or arguments that can change such assumptions. Numbers can be manipulated. Arguments can be doubted and rejected. Like the scenario above.

If you think that there are serious shortcomings in our healthcare and other aspects of life, the data from Covid-19 should help you back up that opinion. If you think that the US is fine as it is and that despite what has happened for the last few weeks, there is nothing anybody could do and there is nothing we need to do after this crisis blows over, the data could help you too, depending on how you slice and dice it. Or not, and you wouldn’t care anyway.

I am in the “there is a lot to do in the US as this crisis shows” camp. But in an alleged democracy (why I say “alleged democracy” is a topic for another day), what matters is the opinion of the majority. For my own personal sake and for the sake of many, I truly hope the majority is in the same camp as I am.

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