More fun with numbers and the media

I’ve found USA TODAY’s “Coronavirus Watch” newsletter very useful during the pandemic. But today’s lede is a perfect example of the type of cherry picking I mentioned yesterday:

Is there cause for concern? Numbers are going up, right? Well, yes, but how much?

“Alaska and Arkansas more than doubled cases in the last week.” Okay, is that from 50 cases to 100 cases, or is it from 1000 to 2000 cases? Context matters.

“In Missouri, hospitalizations jumped by nearly 30% over the weekend.” Considering the covidestim.org map I included yesterday, this isn’t surprising, and a surge in hospitalizations is what we want to avoid so we don’t overwhelm our facilities and, more importantly, our healthcare workers. But is this from 100 to 130 people hospitalized, or from 1000 to 1300? Again, context matters.

“Mississippi’s fully vaccinated rate of 31% is the lowest in the nation.” Okay, no complaints with the reporting here; that’s a fact. It’s also unbelievably pathetic. Way to go, Mississippi.

Percentage changes, or deltas, are among the most misunderstood and easy to manipulate statistical measurements. Always ask what the underlying data is when you read something like these statements. Context matters.