COVID-19 Trending Stories for Wednesday, April 22, 2020

  • Don’t read too much into the early studies on antibodies. Statisticians and others are in the midst of a robust debate over the significance of the seroprevalence studies, such as the ones from two counties in California. New York is conducting a 3,000 person, random sample this week, which may be one of the first to give us clear indication of COVID19 rates across an entire population.
  • Dueling Data: Depending on what your news sources are, you may be seeing updates that say “Coronavirus Outbreak in U.S. On Track to Be Less Severe Than This Year’s Seasonal Flu” (One America News Network) or “Coronavirus Kills More Americans in One Month Than the Flue Kills in One Year” (National Review.) The latter points to a chart published on thenewatlantis.com illustrating COVID-19 deaths vs. heart disease, cancer, car crashes, and flu and pneumonia. The lesson: whenever possible, go to primary sources of data, such as CDC.gov, and compare the headlines to the raw numbers.
  • Speaking of duels, the White House is attempting to refute the CDC director’s warning of a possible second wave of COVID19 infections by saying Dr. Redfield was referring to a surge in influenza cases. What Redfield told the Washington Post was: “There’s a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through.”
  • Prisons are hot spots, much like factories and nursing homes, but the extent of COVID19 infections among incarcerated individuals is unknown. Where it is known, it’s bad. One prison in Ohio has an infection rate over 73%. That’s in a state where response to the emergence of COVID19 was early and decisive. We don’t know what the numbers are like in most other states. The Prison Policy Initiative is tracking nationwide developments on this. The CDC’s latest guidance for correctional facilities has ambitious steps for each location to follow.
  • In Australia, efforts to reduce the spread of COVID19 also cut down the impact of seasonal flu – dramatically. “Confirmed cases of influenza dropped from 7002 in February to just 95 in April so far as the government’s measures to slow the spread of COVID19 kicked in,” reports the Sydney Morning Herald.
  • An intriguing analysis pre-published by scholars at the University of Chicago suggests that risk of death from COVID19 was different between viewers of Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity, two FoxNews personalities who conveyed different messages about the pandemic. Carlson warned viewers of the COVID19 risk in February, while Hannity echoed messages from the president that downplayed or dismissed the risks. The result? According to the analysis, many Hannity viewers did not alter behavior until March, by which time infection – and death rates -- in their communities were rising.