This article does a fine job of showing why better data is needed to inform the United States’ response to the Wuhan coronavirus.
A Few Quotes
1)”‘Without data you’re just another person with an opinion.’ These are the words of W. Edwards Deming, who helped develop the sampling techniques still used by the U.S. Department of the Census and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”
2)“[H]ow does the number of cases compare to current influenza cases, for example? We don’t know. Are numbers adjusted for population to make comparisons easier and meaningful? The media simply reports new cases without context and warns the public to stay home to stop the spread of the virus.”
3)“The New York Times reports that in the United States and United Kingdom, national quarantine decisions were strongly influenced by a report from Imperial College that simulated the possible courses of the pandemic and the impact on each country’s health-care system. The simulation was done based using the best available data—from Italy and China—but it was necessary to make many assumptions because there are so many unknowns.
“We counted approximately 20 such assumptions that have yet to be proven. The key unknown factors were:
- How infectious the disease will be in the United States and United Kingdom.
- The length of the incubation time.
- Whether individuals are immune to re-infection in the short term.
- The number of people who will require critical care.
- The proportion of people in critical care who will die of the disease.
“This modelling exercise assumes the rates from China and Italy a) reported accurately and b) applicable to the United States. But it is unknown how country specific factors like population density, use of public transportation, waste treatment, smoking rates, population age distribution, and others affect the applicability of the data to the United States.
“Even if reported accurately, the rates from Italy and China will not precisely reflect what will happen in the United States. But are they close enough that our current decisions based on that data are correct?”
4)“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could do tests with representative samples and repeat it every three days in the coming weeks. The relatively small number of tests diverted to gather data wouldn’t meaningfully detract from ongoing treatment.”