The Unbiased Texas COVID-19 Tracker: October 22, 2020

This Week’s Update for Texas:

To reset things for anyone who is new to reading this, the chart above is something that I created months ago and I update it weekly. I work with statistics in my profession on a daily basis and saw the need to track numbers that are not being presented in the media or government in any kind of unbiased fashion. While I always include my own commentary below, I urge you to take a look and reach your own conclusions.

I am particularly frustrated today, so the commentary is probably going to be more blunt than usual. My frustration was spiked by watching the local news in Dallas last night and this morning (and every morning, so this has been building). I bet 40% of the entire newscast was about the positivity rate increasing, subtle jabs at the bars that have been able to re-open, and warnings of spikes in hospitalizations. It is sensationalism, plain and simple, just as much of this has been for months. Then, there’s the little asides from the local news anchors that add to the panic. I’m fed up with it. Hospitalizations have increased a little in the last week or so. Fine. There is a somewhat arbitrary number of keeping hospitalizations below 15% for this issue. We are currently at about half of that, plus surge capacity is significantly higher. Back in MARCH, we were told to hunker down to “flatten the curve.” That curve flattening was to allow for hospitals to prepare, for therapeutics to be investigated and introduced, equipment to be mobilized, etc.. All of that happened very successfully, yet we’re still here in mid-October, panicking about blips on the chart.

That leads me to this week’s questions to ponder. This time, however, I am writing it as an FAQ section. Feel free to chime in.

1. If we just hide for the next week/month/year/decade, won’t the virus just go away? No, it won’t. That’s not how viruses work and you know that.

2. If we can’t just hide from it, and the curve flattening was successful, why are we still crippling big chunks of our economy and our passions, such as bars, music venues, sporting events, and even family gatherings in some places? EXACTLY.

3. The survival rate per population is 99.942% and even higher among younger and healthier folks, can’t we just take great precautions to protect the most vulnerable, such as older people and those with high risk comorbidities? Absolutely. I am not advocating for putting high risk individuals in danger. I am suggesting that the vast majority of us are able to go about our business with minimal risk. Let’s target any relief funds and programs to those at the highest risk so we can get back to our lives and livelihoods.

4. What about the vaccine? Shouldn’t we just wait for that? Short answer: No. Longer answer: How has that worked out for the flu? There’s likely a very good reason that nobody has ever developed a coronavirus (general term) vaccine. These things morph, change and adapt. A vaccine might help down the road, but if you’re waiting for a vaccine to make you feel 100% safe, you’re going to be very disappointed.

5. What about long term medical issues that might be caused by this that we’re not fully aware of yet? See: Answer to #1. Exercise, get some sun, don’t eat fast food 7 times a week, take vitamins (especially zinc, Vitamin D and Vitamin C). Get yourself as far away from being a high risk individual as possible.

6. Shouldn’t we just listen to the experts and do whatever they say? No. Which experts? Virologists look at this strictly from a medical standpoint. Their vision is extremely narrow because that’s their job. This is much more complex. As our society feels the incredible strain of being shut down for almost 8 months, we also must include experts in psychology, economics, sociology, etc., in order to look at this holistically. For example, if we keep everyone home to hide from the virus, but the suicide rate skyrockets, and the domestic violence rate increases, and more people are forced onto social services due to being out of work, what is the net gain from the lockdowns? We’re just playing a shell game with the numbers by moving them into a different column. Don’t accept any kind of “new normal” without being fully informed. Real information reduces anxiety created by fear of the unknown.

I’ll leave you with this:

The best way to fight this virus is by gathering accurate information and making decisions based on facts – not feelings. When done correctly, that is an active process. Sitting back and waiting for CNN, Fox, or any other media outlet to tell you what to think is lazy. Research from as many sources as possible. Read studies that you disagree with, look at how it is being handled in different places. Would you take on any other major life issue by waiting for someone to tell you what you should think or would you try to become as informed as possible? Sadly, this issue seems to have fallen into a couple of different echo chambers and folks are only listening to what confirms their pre-existing bias. That’s not research. That’s irresponsible.

And, as always, don’t be a dick.

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