Lazy Messaging Plus Bad Stats Equals Lazy, Bad Policy
As the country's daily death toll from the coronavirus hit a new high, the Senate is set to meet Monday despite Capitol Hill's physician not having enough tests for all the senators. Meanwhile, states, left to their own devices, are facing mounting pressure to "reopen the economy," and even governors who have handled things well up to this point are starting to slip. Surely they wouldn't allow things to just go back to normal, not without some kind of evidence that things would be fine? Right?
Well, no. There are tons of cliched phrases out there about how anyone can cherry-pick statistics, but what's going on is that there's a ton of really lazy messaging, and it's starting to influence policy. It's coming from our government, and it's out there in the media now too. It has been perpetuated hard enough that it's actually impacting lives, and we need to talk about it.
I deliberately threw the phrase "reopen the economy" up there in quotes because it's a phrase with zero substance to it. You can't just unlock the door at your local Economy and yell, "COME ON IN! WE'RE BACK BAY-BEE!" COVID has rapidly shifted the economy and highlighted its cracks. Rich folks are sequestered away in their mansions, presenting some false veneer of empathy with the millions of people out of a job, and using their influence to tell politicians how to handle things. As many have pointed out, these people don't want to go back to work themselves; they want you to put yourself in harm's way for them, and for what? A haircut? Spoiler: Stylist or no stylist, you're never gonna pull off bangs. What really sucks is that we've now indelibly tied together "opening the economy" with "opening America," and that's a potentially catastrophic pairing.
So while Georgia governor Brian Kemp is claiming to want to use data to make his decisions on allowing businesses to reopen, California governor Gavin Newsom is saying he's using available data to keep businesses closed. Granted, these two states are different in a lot of ways, but how are two governors using the things we know about the spread of this coronavirus to come to opposite conclusions about what to do?
Well, on a countrywide level, there are multiple models available that predict a total number of cases and deaths. None of them are great, but we've blown past even the most optimistic of them. This rosiest model comes from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, and it's what the Trump administration is largely using as a basis for policy now. Other experts think this is a mistake -- the IHME is using neither of the two most battle-tested means of creating models for an epidemic like this. It's completely whiffed on important figures in places like New York and Massachusetts.
So what we've got is a whole bunch of people in the general public acting like things aren't so bad, coupled with people in government following statistical models that make things look better than they are, and what we'll end up with is a disaster. Jared Kushner is on record with this absolutely bananas quote, saying, "When history looks back on this, they'll say, man, the federal government acted really quickly and creatively, they threw a lot at the problem and saved a lot of lives."
Lying about numbers and trying to mislead the public is nothing new with the President. But, instead of trying to gloss over inauguration parade numbers, his bullshit is literally a matter of life and death.
Top Image: US Navy