Can we trust the data about Corona?


Only around 12% that wear reusable masks are washing their coverings correctly

More than half of people who wear disposable face masks to protect against Corona are using them multiple times, while those who opt for reusable coverings are not washing them regularly, the government's top scientific advisers have found.

According to a report by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), only one in eight people are washing reusable face coverings correctly, with 34% using them more than four times before they clean them.

The "unknown" number of tests

It is difficult to say which country is testing more. Currently, there is no centralized source with this information and many countries do not publish this on a regular basis but aggregate the total up to one particular day. Testing is important to identify as many people infected as possible and isolate them to contain the spread of the virus.

In some countries, they report less tests than there are infections. For example, they tested about 2K people, and they reported an increase of about 6K for the same day. (Israel in case you wonder).

The under-reported cases

The UK Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance regularly points this out, saying the true ratio of deaths to cases is probably one death for every 1,000 cases so there are now likely tens, if not hundreds of thousands of cases in the UK that haven't been identified.

As testing is expanded, we can expect to see more positive results, but the proportion might fall as we test more healthy people.

So, whilst identifying cases is crucial to understanding the scale of the pandemic, there is no way of knowing the true number of people infected with COVID-19 - currently or in the past. What we do know is how many people have received a positive result from a laboratory test.

This is what organisations like the World Health Organization, Johns Hopkins University or the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control are recording as cases. And this is what we call "confirmed cases" and the number is likely to be a small proportion of the true total.

Most asymptomatic people and those with mild symptoms are unlikely to have been tested and will be excluded from the count.

Comparing the number of confirmed cases in different countries is also problematic because many use different criteria to define a "confirmed case" and have different testing regimes. So, comparing the number of cases in Italy and the Israel, for example, is not necessarily comparing like with like.

Deaths "with" or "from" Corona?

Every day we are told the number of people who tested positive for COVID-19 and died but we do not know if this was also the cause of their death. That is why it is important the distinction whether someone died "with" COVID-19 or "from" it.

Around three quarters of people to die "with" the virus are aged over 70 and more than 95% of them have underlying health problems. It is reasonable to assume that many of them might have died from other conditions, despite being diagnosed with COVID-19.

Official figures from most of the countries normally include only people who die in hospital. This means those who die at home, or in care homes, are missing.

So, if the data aren't perfect, then why use them?

The simple answer is: it is all we have and despite it being incomplete, and at times misleading, it still provides a crucial part of the picture.

However, it is the responsibility of those that do use it - scientists, politicians and journalists - to be clear about its shortcomings.

The politicalization of the Corona

Using multiple computer-assisted content analytic approaches, we find that newspaper coverage is highly politicized, network news coverage somewhat less so, and both newspaper and network news coverage are highly polarized. We find that politicians appear in newspaper coverage more frequently than scientists, whereas politicians and scientists are more equally featured in network news. (source)

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