Tilting The Numbers.

Downstate New York (in blue) compared to the US.

You’ve heard that the US leads the world in positive COVID-19 cases which shows a failure of the system.

As people have more time at home, they do more examining of actual numbers. One of those folks is a guy by the name of Matt Margolis who looked at the numbers and the conclusions may surprise people.

Margolis takes a look at the numbers in a way that we all should – infections per capita and not just overall numbers.

After compiling data for the top 30 countries with the most cases of the coronavirus, I ranked the top ten countries by confirmed cases per capita (per million) based on the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University’s data as of 11:00 am ET on April 18, 2020.

    1. Spain (4,100.67)
    2. Belgium (3,208.30)
    3. Switzerland (3,166.40)
    4. Italy (2,851.95)
    5. Ireland (2,831.23)
    6. France (2,284.94)
    7. United States (2,135.43)
    8. Portugal (1,930.52)
    9. Netherlands (1,853.88)
    10. United Kingdom (1,698.42)

We’re not number one! We’re not number one!

That’s not to say that we wish the numbers weren’t lower in the US and around the world, but it does give an indication of how population size can skew relevant numbers.

(In addition, Russia, China, and Iran are not reporting numbers at all, so the per capita rate in those countries may be higher.)

Margolis then removes what he calls “Downstate New York” from the US numbers and makes the region its own country.

Downstate New York technically includes New York City, Long Island, and the Hudson Valley, but I am only including Kings, Queens, New York, Suffolk, Bronx, Nassau, Westchester and Richmond Counties. These counties have a population of 12,205,796, according to World Population Review’s numbers for 2020 — bigger than many countries.

After separating Downstate New York from the US and making the region its own “country” for the sake of comparison, the numbers for rate of infection per capita (million) look like this:

    1. Downstate New York (16,230.65)
    2. Spain (4,100.67)
    3. Belgium (3,208.30)
    4. Switzerland (3,166.40)
    5. Italy (2,851.95)
    6. Ireland (2,831.23)
    7. France (2,284.94)
    8. Portugal (1,930.52)
    9. Netherlands (1,853.88)
    10. United Kingdom (1,698.42)

Separating downstate New York from the rest of the United States shows us just how bad the situation there is. In fact, the rest of the country doesn’t even rank in the top ten anymore (it comes in at #13).

Clearly Downstate New York is skewing or weighting the numbers in a direction that does not reflect the rest of the country.

Margolis then looks at deaths:

But, as I’ve mentioned before, confirmed cases are not the best way to compare countries because of the discrepancies in testing between them. So, let’s compare these countries by the fatality rate per capita (per million).

    1. Belgium (470.51)
    2. Spain (428.68)
    3. Italy (376.19)
    4. France (286.53)
    5. United Kingdom (228.28)
    6. Netherlands (210.86)
    7. Switzerland (155.29)
    8. United States (112.04)
    9. Ireland (107.34)
    10. Portugal (67.37)

Once again, even with downstate New York included, the coronavirus has impacted the United States much less than other hard-hit countries. But now, here’s what happens when we treat downstate New York as a separate country from the United States in terms of deaths per capita (per million).

    1. Downstate New York (848.45)
    2. Belgium (470.51)
    3. Spain (428.68)
    4. Italy (376.19)
    5. France (286.53)
    6. United Kingdom (228.28)
    7. Netherlands (210.86)
    8. Switzerland (155.29)
    9. Sweden (149.61)
    10. Ireland (107.34)

Once again, downstate New York leads the pack and the United States (without downstate New York) doesn’t even come in the top ten (it comes in at #11).

Downstate New York in red.

We are not trying to down play the numbers overall. Any death from COVID-19 is a tragedy. The pandemic is affecting the lives of everyone in this country and indeed around the world.

Yet the question must be asked, “why is Downstate New York’s numbers so radically different than the rest of the US?”

The comments from leaders there could supply the answers:

Feb. 2: “There’s a virus that has infected 15 million Americans across the country and killed more than 8,200 people this season alone,” CNN tweets. “It’s not a new pandemic — it’s influenza.”

Meanwhile, New York City Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot tweets: “As we gear up to celebrate the #LunarNewYear in NYC, I want to assure New Yorkers that there is no reason for anyone to change their holiday plans, avoid the subway, or certain parts of the city because of #coronavirus.”

Feb. 7: Barbot strikes again, assuring residents, “We’re telling New Yorkers, go about your lives, take the subway, go out, enjoy life.” City lawmakers have called for Barbot to be fired because of the comments.

Feb. 9: Mark Levine, the chair of New York City Council health committee and a Democrat, tweets: “In powerful show of defiance of #coronavirus scare, huge crowds gathering in NYC’s Chinatown for ceremony ahead of annual #LunarNewYear parade. Chants of ‘be strong Wuhan!’ If you are staying away, you are missing out!”

Feb. 13: “There are ZERO confirmed cases of coronavirus in New York City, and hundreds of Chinese restaurants that need your business!” the New York City mayor’s office tweets. “There is nothing to fear. Stop by any Chinatown for lunch or dinner!”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio adds: “It was my honor to spend time with our Asian-American owned small businesses in Flushing today. This vibrant community is standing strong but they need YOUR support. Our Chinatowns are open for business — make some dinner plans, do some shopping and stand with our neighbors!”

Mar. 2: “Since I’m encouraging New Yorkers to go on with your lives + get out on the town despite Coronavirus, I thought I would offer some suggestions,” de Blasio, the mayor of New York City, tweets. “Here’s the first: thru Thurs 3/5 go see ‘The Traitor’ @FilmLinc. If ‘The Wire’ was a true story + set in Italy, it would be this film.”

Mar. 4: Barbot, the top New York City health official, declares, “There’s no indication that being in a car, being in the subways with someone who’s potentially sick is a risk factor.”

While other states were starting to shut down, New York City was still being encouraged by leaders that there was nothing to worry about.

Mayor Bill de Blasio on coronavirus measures in NYC: “We cannot shut down because of undue fear.”
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) March 10, 2020

Mayor de Blasio is indeed here at the Park Slope YMCA this morning. Passers by have commented negatively. One called him an idot.
— andrew kaczynski🤔 (@KFILE) March 16, 2020

It is difficult to not see how the government of New York City did itself not contribute to the rate of infections and ultimately the deaths of people from COVID-19.

While the Federal government and states were all saying “whoa….we have a problem,” New York City put their citizens at risk by saying “there is nothing to see here…move along….go to a restaurant and see a show!”

Eventually New York City “closed,” and while things got worse because of the lack of initial action by New York City, things there have begun to settle down and that’s a good thing for everyone in the City and the country.

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