This is not a discussion as to whether the data is flawed or not, or whether we are comparing apples to oranges or not (the way statistics are gathered in different countries). These are of course fundamental questions, but here I will only use data (provided by Google) that everyone seem to more or less agree with, and I am not questioning it here.
The discussion is about why some of that data makes the news every day, while some other critical parts of that same public data set is nowhere mentioned. I will focus here on data from United Kingdom, which epitomizes the trend that all media outlets cover on a daily basis: a new spike in Covid infections. It is less pronounced in most other countries, though it could take the same path in the future.
The three charts below summarize the situation. But only the first chart is discussed at length. Look at these three charts, and see if you can find the big elephant in the room. If you do, no need to read the remaining of my article! The data comes from this source. You can do the same research for any country that provides reliable data.
Of course, what nobody talks about is the low ratio of hospitalizations per case, which is significantly down by an order of magnitude, compared to previous waves. Even lower is the number of deaths per case. Clearly, hospitalizations are up, so there is really some worsening taking place. And deaths take 2 to 3 weeks to show up in the data. This is why I selected United Kingdom, as the new wave started a while back yet deaths are not materializing (thankfully!)
This brings a number of questions:
- Are more people getting tested because they are flying again around the world and vacationing, or asked to get tested by their employer?
- Are vaccinated people testing positive but don’t get sick besides 24 hours of feeling unwell just after vaccination?
- Are people who recovered from Covid testing positive again, but like vaccinated people, experience a milder case, possibly explaining the small death rate?
It is argued that 99% of those hospitalized today are unvaccinated. Among the hospitalized, how many are getting Covid for the first time? How many are getting Covid for the second time? Maybe the latter group behaves like vaccinated people, that is, very few need medical assistance. And overall, what proportion of the population is either vaccinated or recovered (or both)? At some point, most of the unvaccinated who haven’t been infected yet will catch the virus. But no one seems to know what proportion of the population fits in that category. At least I don’t. Some sources say that the number of new cases is probably much higher than reported, missing as much as 90% of new cases (see here) as many young people may not experience symptoms strong enough to get tested. If that is the case, we would reach herd immunity faster than expected, with fewer deaths than expected. It would be interesting to make a comparison with the Spanish Flu, though vaccination technology was less advanced back then.
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About the author: Vincent Granville is a data science pioneer, mathematician, book author (Wiley), patent owner, former post-doc at Cambridge University, former VC-funded executive, with 20+ years of corporate experience including CNET, NBC, Visa, Wells Fargo, Microsoft, eBay. Vincent is also self-publisher at DataShaping.com, and founded and co-founded a few start-ups, including one with a successful exit (Data Science Central acquired by Tech Target). He recently opened Paris Restaurant, in Anacortes. You can access Vincent’s articles and books, here.