What Are Numbers, Anyway – Just a Measure of Something Important

Numbers can be used to count and to represent aspects of our lives.

Headlines thrive on bad news – the worse, the better. The Omicron variant is like a combined earthquake and tsunami combined inundated and shaking news desks across the country.

When should we be concerned if there are 10,000 new daily COVID-19 cases? If the week before the total new daily cases was 50,000, then we should be elated. What if there were only 1,000 new daily COVID-19 cases the week before?

I have argued since headlines hog the spotlight with record numbers of new cases in Florida, Texas, or Maine, that new cases mean nothing without some idea of the daily death rate. If the number of new cases doubles or triples from one week to the next and there is no increase in the daily recorded deaths, what does it really mean that we are setting daily records of new cases.

World and USA Comparison – New Metric – the Current Factor

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/  I took the number of new cases on certain days and the corresponding number of daily deaths (all numbers are seven-day averages) and made a composite metric incorporating the death rates with the daily new case rates.

I suggest that COVID-19 statistics reflect both the seriousness of rampant increases in new cases along with the impact of deaths. Usually, deaths happen about nine to twelve days after infection. However, for this comparison, I used the same date.

I chose the current Omicron variant surge for one data point (or current factor), a Delta variant surge for another, two other surge points, and a random point when no surges were detected. I used the numerator of my calculation at the number of daily new cases divided by 1,000. The deaths were counted as exact numbers for that day.

For example, on January 3, 2022, there were 1,618,627 new cases of COVID-19 worldwide. I rounded the new case number up to 1,619,000 and divided it by 1,000 to get 1,619. The number of daily deaths reported on that day was 5,914. The result was .00279. I multiplied the result by 100 to get a more recognizable number. When numbers are 0.00x or 0.05 or something else, many people cannot relate as easily to a whole number (with a single decimal point).

Right now, 27.9 is just a number (a current factor in my jargon) – not representative of much. However, comparing that number to previous surges (or dates, or countries, or states), then the seriousness or impact of the pandemic might mean a bit more than skyrocketing new cases of the pandemic virus.

6.5 is the calculation based on a random date within the Delta surge (23AUG21). Our current factor of 27.9 means there were many more new cases with fewer deaths. The actual number of deaths recorded worldwide on 23AUG21 was 10,147. Therefore, to have a value of 27.9 in the Delta surge, the number of deaths would have to be 2,390 – a number less than 24% of the actual number because there were far fewer new cases reported on that day.

The higher the current factor – the lower the death rate regardless of the number of new cases.
For the following dates, 03MAY21, 20JAN21, and 08SEP20, the respective current factors were 5.8, 5.5, and 4.9. Relatively speaking, the surges in June and January of 2021 were roughly equal to the new cases and death rates experienced in an off-surge time of 08SEPT20.

What about the United States on those exact dates?

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/. The respective current factors are 41.7, 11.9, 2.8, 7.4, and 5.0. So when the world was seeing a 27.9 current factor, the United States had many fewer daily deaths in comparison with a current factor of 41.7 (the number was higher).

The 11.0 (23AUG21) for the USA is near twice the 6.5 worldwide current factor. Again, the United States was experiencing about half of the world’s death rate.

Conversely, in May of 2021, the world COVID-19 current factor number was 5.8, and the United States was at 2.8 – much less than the worldwide number – reflecting more deaths in the United States compared to the world. In January 2021, the United States had fewer deaths compared to the date worldwide. In September of 2020, both the United States and the world were nearly equal 4.9 to 5.0.


Worldwide COVID-19 vs the USA

The various health gurus in federal, state, and local governments might have similar statistics that are reported internally. I do not know. However, the public should not feel that 400,000 new cases yesterday is a ‘nothing burger’ compared to the death rate experienced months early when the new case rate was 100,000 – just picking numbers at random to make a case.

Without knowing the number of deaths that correspond to the number of new cases, what does the mere number of new cases really mean? It is just a number – even it is setting daily records every day for a week or more. Look at the deaths and see how bad the pandemic is affecting us.

The chart above shows that the Delta surge did not have near the impact we believed at the time – the deaths and new cases tracked reasonably close to each other. However, the Omicron variant surge has a major diversion from the entire pandemic – far fewer deaths per new case of COVID-19. The higher the number the fewer deaths reported per new case.

Without some indication of ICU beds available or used, the number of ventilators available or used, the number of daily deaths, etc., there needs to be some rationale (a connection of sorts) to the reported numbers of new cases that headlines scream nearly every week. Some states may not have the healthcare facilities to handle a surge. A current factor would even the playing field by giving more credibility to the numbers of new cases in Seattle, Miami, or Akron.

We should receive numbers that mean something to us – a current factor (a number or a statistic) that incorporates the accurate measure of the pandemic upon the country, state, locality, hospital, etc. But, how do we measure it – we must compare apples to apples, so to speak?

My numbers are picked at random to make a point. Comparing Italy to France in September 2021 might have some importance – might? What is the measurement used for? I think with new variants that might be more deadly, then knowing the full impact of the viral variant is more important than knowing that XYZ country has 50,000 new COVID-19 cases this week compared to last week.

Live Longer & Enjoy Life! – Red O’Laughlin – RedOLaughlin.com


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