Saturday, May 23, 2020

Who Wants To Predict The Future? COVID-19 Data Forecasting for Beginners

Let's get back to some basic math. 

Here is the data from May 22, 2020 as posted on the Florida COVID-19 Website.

It reveals some interesting information.


To begin with, the mortality rate of COVID-19 for the State of Florida is 4.4% (2,190/49,451 X 100 - divide the number of deaths by the number of positive cases and multiply by 100).

The mortality rate for Palm Beach County is 6.1% (311/5,072 X 100). This is the HIGHEST rate for any county in Florida. Yet it has been less than a week since the "defcon" rate for this county was upgraded.

So how can you prognosticate? Start by the realization that we have become a society so self-centered and focused on the fulfillment of personal desires that the responsibility for the greater good means nothing, and is often considered an inconvenience.

Combine that with the mobility rate practiced by citizens in their quest for self-enjoyment, and you have a recipe for spread and spike in the Coronavirus in Florida.

The county immediately to the north has repeatedly had to put in place "protective" guidelines (including closing boat ramps and requiring id for use of public beaches) as a result of the refusal of Palm Beach County residents to take reasonable protective measures.

Yet rather than behave responsibly, those residents continue to ignore reasonable guidelines (masks, social distancing, basic restraint) and impose their indifference to risk on others.

We have become an "immediate gratification" society, and if it doesn't happen within minutes of our expectation, we get angry. Look at the success of Amazon Prime as an example - "Next Day Delivery" has fueled an upsurge in the "I want it now!" syndrome.

It should come as no surprise that when there isn't an immediate upsurge in infection rates or deaths, people become even more lackadaisical in their precautions.

Let's look at some simple prediction guidelines. 

In terms of time frames, there are no absolutes - the time from exposure to symptoms has been given as a range of two days to two weeks. And the range from exposure to death can be three to five weeks. 

But these aren't absolutes either, just an approximation given a "perfect world" and laboratory conditions, as well as anecdotal evidence.

So now let's look at some Florida metrics. Notice how there is a subtle manipulation of the perception right out of the gate. 


The data in this histogram below doesn't show ALL of the new Florida cases, just those for individuals identified as Florida Residents. Yet there are many people in Florida that have residency elsewhere.

What does that mean in practical terms? The actual number of new cases in Florida is far higher than that shown when you add in the "Non Florida Residents".

Now look at the high data point on the left of the above graph - on April 23 the number was 1.2K, so by extrapolation, there should be a "spike" in deaths anywhere from one to three weeks later, give or take.




Voila, on May 4 - a "spike" in the data on the graph. And once again, keep in mind that this data is ONLY those individuals identified as Florida Residents.

Given the recent termination of the data chief for the Florida COVID-19 website I found it quite intriguing to see a "glitch" in the histograms for the Resident Deaths.

Above is the data posted on May 23, 2020, and below is the data from May 22, 2020.



In the graph from May 23, the death data reported for May 22, 2020 is 2, and for May 21,  18.

Yet ironically enough, the reporting on May 22 had the number of deaths on May 21 set at 2.  Somehow, 16 more deaths on May 21 "magically" appeared in 24 hours.

Once again, bear in mind that these numbers are only Florida Residents, not the data for deaths of people in Florida who are not identified as residents.

So how can you "predict the future"? Look once again at the histogram below.


There are two more "spikes" in the data as of yesterday. On May 16 there were 1.1K new cases, and on May 20, 1.2K new cases. (In case you aren't sure - K is shorthand for 1000, so 1,100 and 1,200 respectively.)

Given extrapolation, that means around today (one week after the May 16 spike) there should be a spike in deaths that could last a week or more. There should be a second spike beginning on or around May 27.

If you look at a calendar, that means there is going to be an overlap of those spikes in death rates. After all, the above two spikes were only four days apart.

Ironically, the first spike occurred two weeks after Florida entered it's Phase One reopening. This precipitated many individuals ignoring the ongoing request by the governor to continue to practice social distancing and wear masks.

And this is where "flatten the curve" comes into play. It is intended to reduce the strain on the healthcare system that will be caused by wave after wave of overlapping surges in hospitalizations based on these spikes.

What is the solution? 

Recognize that "There are no rights without responsibilities," means that although you have the right to freedom, you have the responsibility to not endanger your fellow humans with your flippant behaviors.

Mask up, keep your distance, be responsible.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

A MATH TEACHER LOOKS AT COVID-19: By the Numbers (This Speaks For Itself)


Anyone who has ever paid even the smallest amount of attention should be aware that statistics is one of the most fluid and easily manipulated fields of Mathematics.

Collecting the data is easy. Just count and record.

But when it is time to verify what you are attempting to prove, or disprove, you need to use some form of statistical computation.

In analyzing the released data for my earlier blog entries regarding COVID-19 in FL, I had to dig for numbers that may not have been part of the released reports. 

For example, when looking at a certain county directly to the south of me, I determined the percentage of people testing positive, and deaths, based on the actual population of the county, in comparison to the population of the entire state.

Much to my dismay, the actual rates for both were far higher than when just examining the raw numbers. That meant that those individuals travelling north from their homes to access public amenities where I live were a far greater risk than presented because their likelihood of exposure/infection were a relatively high percentage compared to more populous counties.

I applaud the local county governance for being aware of the threat and responding with a variety of actions, including appropriate law enforcement activities, designed to limit the influx of those who were trying to bypass restrictions in their own county.

Meanwhile, another issue has arisen. From this point forward, the numerical data you look at may not be as accurate as one would hope. Click here for censorship at its finest.

The data chief for the website that I was using as a primary source of numbers is no longer employed there. The rumored cause of her termination is that she wouldn't tweak the numbers.

Before we move into a discussion of statistics, lets look at some simple math - computing combinations.

We can quickly summarize some of the simple numerical categories: a) total cases, b) total cases of Florida residents, c) hospitalizations, d hospitalizations of Florida residents, e) total deaths, and f) total deaths of Florida residents. 

For each of these categories, the former data chief had one of three decisions: under report, give the exact number, or over report.

So there were at least six categories, and three possibilities for each choice. 

But this isn't basic multiplication (6 x 3 = 18) because that doesn't take into account all the possible variations.

Rather, it is: 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 = 729 different possible reasons that her termination may have occurred just using these basic categories.

If you want to speculate, it will take you a while to list all the possibilities that the spin doctors wanted, and then examine other sources to hunt for clues. Let me remind you that this list of categories isn't complete, I just picked the obvious ones quickly visible on the website.

So rather than taking any more time examining the termination issue, lets move on to the issue of statistics. 


When I took Educational Statistics as part of my Master's Degree, my professor made it clear that if the data doesn't support your hypothesis/thesis, just try a different statistical analysis. 

For every type of data, there are usually AT LEAST three different formulae that can be used to analyze the numbers, and one of them should work in your favor if you have a valid topic.

If you enjoy the concept of taking a hard look at statistics presented in the media, try this book (one of my favorite authors): A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper, by John Allen Paulos

But meanwhile, think about it - you should realize that every statistic that you have been given to date regarding COVID-19 can now be called into question. Death rates, positive test rates, hospitalization rates...all of it may have been manipulated to provoke an emotional response from you (and probably was).

Why terminate a data chief? Because if she is giving accurate raw data, there will always be a nerd like me out there who can use it to educate people, and undermine the spin that everyone is trying to put on it.

Educate yourself. Learn some basic math skills. Demand accurate numbers.

The numbers don’t lie, people do.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Open Your...Mind (Not Your Restrictions)


I just need to put this out there.

Personal observations?

  • Over 60% failure to wear masks and/or social distance. 
  • Walking past signs that say "Mask Required" and ignoring/laughing.
  • Getting "up close and personal" (two feet or less) with essential employees.
  • Getting "up close and personal" (two feet or less) with other individuals.
  • Pretending that COVID-19/Coronavirus doesn't exist and that it is "business as usual".
  • Increasing number of license plates from states that have higher restrictions.
Be kind, be human, be respectful.

Wear a mask and keep your distance.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Covidlocks - A Fairy Tale from 2020

Covidlocks was born sometime in 2019, to the best of her recollection. After all, a young virus like her doesn't have much memory regarding her genesis in a lab.

When she reached an age when it was perceived that she would be able to survive on her own, she was released to find her way in the world.

She enjoyed travelling, and so quickly made her way around the world, sampling from all that humanity had to offer.

In time, she arrived in a new country, and quickly realized that something was different. Her arrival was greeted by hostility, and she found locked doors and shuttered businesses everywhere she went.

People were keeping their distance from her, and even were wearing masks. She began to find it difficult to travel.

But still she persisted, and entered in. And then she found that this was a place of contrasts and disputes.

Despite the fact that from north to south, east to west, and every area in between there were vast differences in climate, speech, and way of life, there were those that wanted to treat everyone identically.

Even Covidlocks realized that just as fish don't climb trees and cats don't behave logically, expecting to use a single "one size fits all" approach was not going to scare her off.

So she decided to find a place to stay to further study this diverse society.

The first place she tried to stay was shuttered tight - windows and doors locked and at first no answer to her knock on the door or ring of the doorbell. The beings within peered carefully out through small gaps in the stacks of toilet paper piled in front of the window - they were masked and gloved and armed with spray bottles of hand sanitizer.

When Covidlocks loudly asked for a place to stay, they screamed at her to stay away, and immediately began spraying the inside of their window with the sanitizer.

The second place she approached looked like there was a party in progress. Crowds of people were hugging and touching each other, not a mask or glove in sight, and it was packed wall to wall with all types of organisms.

Covidlocks spotted a family in the corner that she recognized as members of the Streptococcus clan, and she decided that she'd better find a different place to stay.

The third dwelling looked fairly normal in comparison to the first two and she decided to take her chances. After knocking on the door, the individuals within opened the door with a request that she remain on the porch while they heard her out.

Although they were masked, they made sure that they spoke clearly enough that Covidlocks could understand what they said. When she presented her request for a place to stay, they let her know that she could use their guest room that had it's own entrance and bathroom, but that they would appreciate if she did not attempt to use any of the rest of the house.

After agreeing to the terms, Covidlocks decided to head out to see what else was available. Feeling a bit hungry, she decided to search for a restaurant.

The first restaurant she approached looked dark and deserted, and when she peered in the windows, she saw the chairs stacked on top of the tables and cobwebs and dust.

The second dining establishment had tables packed so closely together that the wait staff could barely move between them to deliver food. There wasn't a mask or glove in sight on diners or employees.

Covidlocks decided to move on, and found a third place to eat. After a brief walk, she found a welcoming location that had both indoor and outdoor seating. She noticed that three out of every four tables inside had the chairs set on top to prevent seating, and outdoors she saw that the tables were placed quite a distance apart. All of the employees were wearing masks, and there was even a box of masks available for patrons to take one if they chose.

She watched a table leave, and immediately a busboy wearing gloves came over, cleared away all the dishes, and wiped down all the surfaces of the table and chairs with a cloth repeatedly rinsed in a bucket that smelled of bleach.

Covidlocks sat down and enjoyed a meal, not the best she had ever had, but the level of comfort in the environment made up for the food deficiencies.

After her meal, she decided to take a stroll to see what recreational amenities were available. First she passed a large skate park, gates locked and signs posted announcing its closure due to Pandemic. Shaking her head in disbelief, she didn't understand how an activity that by its very nature required distance could be considered "unsafe".

As she continued on her way, she noticed a beach with sunbathers packed towel to towel with not a speck of sand visible. People attempting to walk down the beach, in search of seashells or exercise, found it difficult to wend their way through the crowded bodies.

Finally, as she passed a public boat launch, where people waited their turn to put their boats in the water to go fishing, a stray gust of wind caught her long golden hair.

Covidlocks realized that it had been far too long since she had a blow out. She decided to find a salon to tame her unruly locks.

The first place she approached had a "Newly Reopened!" banner across the front, proclaiming its status. All the chairs inside were full of waiting customers, and there was a line going out the door. Every seat was full and not even the nail techs were wearing masks.

Covidlocks moved on to find another parlor. The next one, although it had six chairs, only had a single person working, and a sign on the door stating "Regular Customers Only, Call in Advance for an Appointment". A second sign proclaimed "Masks Required and Documentation of COVID-19 Negative Testing Mandatory".

Not feeling the love, Covidlocks moved on. She found a third spa that was open, and noticed that as a customer was leaving the beautician was wiping down the equipment and chair with Clorox wipes. As she entered, she noticed that the only chairs in use were spaced a body's length apart, and that all the employees were wearing masks. She made an appointment and was told that she needed to be on time or she would lose her place.

After her blowout, Covidlocks went back to the place she was staying to relax and contemplate life for a while. She reviewed everything that she had seen and experienced that day, and realized that she needed to FaceTime her Uncle Darwin later.

Apparently, despite her uncle's belief that nature would provide for adaptation of the fittest, she realized that the "common sense" gene had bypassed around two-thirds of the population.

Covidlocks realized that in times of difficulty, most people over or under reacted, often to an extreme degree. In their zeal, they attempt to impose their beliefs on everyone else, often with a "one size fits all" approach that is impractical at best.

Covidlocks knew that the "new normal" was like herding cats. Everyone had their own opinion of how best to proceed and most of it was not rooted in sound beliefs and practices. She lay back on the bed, perceiving that everyone was in for a bumpy ride and would need their rest.

The moral of this story? "It is time to turn away from self-interest and return to morality."

Thursday, May 7, 2020

COVID-19 As A Metaphor for Social Media Behavior

After an unfortunate social media episode the other day, I came to a realization.

COVID-19 behaviors are just a public manifestation of what has occurred behind screens and keyboards for over a decade now.

We live in a society (both here in the USA as well as in quite a few other countries) in which it has become routine, commonplace, and even acceptable to say and do things in a virtual environment which would be considered outrageous and unacceptable in face to face interactions.

My "aha moment" came about after an individual, whom I have never met or interacted with in person or online, chose to direct a snarky comment at me in an interchange I entered with two close family members. When I questioned the behavior, a second individual, whom I have never met or interacted with in person or online, informed me that once you comment on social media, you leave yourself open to whatever happens.

Really? Would either of these two individuals have walked into the middle of a real-world conversation with three family members, after eavesdropping, and directed comments at one of the three whom they have never met?

I would hope not, but after the public behaviors I have seen exhibited during the COVID-19 coronacrisis, I am no longer sure of the innate common sense of many members of society.

Rather, in my perception, the social media behaviors which have long been festering behind closed doors and furtive texts and posts have now exploded into everyday life like a pustule. Many individuals are no longer able to distinguish acceptable behavior from flat-out rudeness and this has become evident in how they conduct themselves in public.

Remember the scene from Alien? The snarky comments from strangers, the cyber bullying, the inappropriate interchanges have have exploded full bore, with teeth and an insatiable appetite, out of the virtual realm and into real-life encounters.

Case in point? One of my co-workers is an amazing guy who is always ready to help others and has a vast wealth of knowledge in a number of areas.

The same night I was "schooled" in having to passively accept being attacked on social media, he was confronted in real life for no apparent reason. He offered to help a couple who were patronizing our place of essential employment. Initially they declined assistance, but then the wife asked him a question. Just as he was attempting to respond, the husband began screaming at my co-worker, liberally using profanity and insisting that his wife leave the store with him.

He repeatedly informed my co-worker, at an extremely loud volume and peppered with profanity, that he needed to learn "customer service". The irony is that my co-worker was one who bends over backwards to help customers and meet their needs.

There were several other customers who witnessed this episode and couldn't understand what happened, as the outburst was unprovoked.

Unfortunately, this was not an isolated incident. Patrons in our workplace have refused to follow social distancing guidelines for employees and made statements to the effect of "If you are that f***ing paranoid, stay the f*** at home!", calling employees an a$$ repeatedly for refusing to return stained/damaged merchandise, and otherwise exhibiting socially detrimental behavior.

One individual insisted on paying in cash, and when told "no" threw a product on the counter, breaking it and propelling parts of it into another customer.

Another customer, when the restriction on cash was finally loosened, licked his fingers before touching each bill and then tried to press it into the hand of the cashier.

What immediately comes to mind is the concept that "there are no rights without responsibilities". People have been spewing that they have the "right" to congregate and behave in ways that can contribute to the spread of of COVID-19, without being willing to assume the responsibility for the consequences.

Unfortunately, the consequences in this case can prove fatal to individuals of all ages, whether or not they are immuno-compromised. One of my co-workers whom I am honored to call a friend contracted COVID-19, unable to breath with a high fever. This virus is real and a real threat, not a myth.

And how does this relate to social media behavior? For years individuals have felt free to post and comment whatever strikes their fancy, regardless of how it could affect anyone. They have relied on the relative stealth afforded by not having to look a person in the face.

Unfortunately, now that has spilled out from behind the keyboards and the screens and is occurring in the real world. Perhaps the enforced "stay at home" blurred the already tenuous boundaries in some of these individuals minds and allowed them to lose all pretense of civility.

Is this really what we have become as a society? Maybe now is a good time to become introspective and examine how we really would like to be seen as an individual and as part of a bigger organism.

But somehow, I feel like I am preaching to the choir and my musings will fall on ears that are deaf to the wake-up call that they desperately need.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

A MATH TEACHER LOOKS AT COVID-19 STATISTICS Part Two AMENDED

I hear a lot of chatter being thrown around the webiverse regarding Flu deaths compared to COVID-19 deaths.

It is patently obvious to me that many of you did NOT listen to your middle school math teacher, because accurately making this comparison involves computation of Unit Rate.

"When are we ever gonna need this?" NOW! 

Before you open your virtual mouth and let your fingers fly over that keyboard or tap on that screen do some simple division.

Why? Because when someone starts talking about apples, and you start describing oranges, you make yourself look like a fruitcake!

Unit Rate is a very simple concept. To compare numbers accurately, you must base them on the same single point of reference.

You have all seen unit rate on the shelf labels in grocery stores: it informs you how much an item costs per ounce, or per pound, or per any other unit by which it is sold.

Unit Rate involves division. For the comparison in question, COVID-19 deaths compared to Flu deaths, divide the total number of deaths to the time period over which they occurred.

USA COVID-19 Deaths (so far): 66,385 over a period of three and a half months (first USA case was January 21, 2020) or 103 days.

USA Flu Deaths: 62,000 (this is an estimated figure from the CDC based on modeling as an actual number of deaths isn't available due to reporting issues) over a period of twelve months or 365 days.

So the Unit Rates for an accurate comparison of these two is as follows:


TypeMonthlyDaily
Flu5,167170
COVID-1918,968645

These figures were derived by taking the total deaths and dividing by the period of time involved (months or days). And because there is no such thing as a decimal or fractional part of a person, the result was rounded UP.

Now let's start playing "Nerd Bingo" for those of you who would prefer to ignore the basic math.

Even if the number of deaths for Flu were the same as COVID-19 (raising the Flu death toll to 66,345),  the following results occur:


TypeMonthlyDaily
Flu5,529182
COVID-1918,968645

And for those of you who are still insisting that the Flu is worse, let's use the absolute upper value that the CDC reports as possible for deaths due to Flu - 79,000:


TypeMonthlyDaily
Flu6,583216
COVID-1918,968645

Finally, using that last value for Flu deaths, and projecting out a possible longer period of time here in the US (first Chinese case - November 17, 2019 which leads to a time period of 5-1/2 months or 168 days):

TypeMonthlyDaily
Flu6583216
COVID-1912070395
So regardless of how you tweak the numbers, COVID-19 is at least TWICE AS BAD as Flu.

Stop making yourself look ridiculous by comparing apples to oranges and do the basic math!

(And while you are at it, stay six feet away and wear a mask!)

Recent claims by armchair scientists and back-seat medical professionals tout the figure of 37,305 by the CDC as the most accurate count of COVID-19 deaths. So let me repost the data using that figure :

At 62,000 Flu deaths per year

TypeMonthlyDaily
Flu5167170
COVID-196783222

At 66,345 Flu deaths per year
TypeMonthlyDaily
Flu5529182
COVID-196783222

At 79,000 Flu deaths per year
TypeMonthlyDaily
Flu6583216
COVID-196783222

So even at the WORST CASE Flu scenario, COVID-19 has already beat it, hands down! 

And that is with all the precautions that have been put into place regarding masks, social distancing, partial/full shutdowns - things that have not been put in place for the Flu.
Let's face it, the numbers don't lie - COVID-19/Coronavirus is WORSE than people realize!

So suck it up buttercup. Put on your mask, stay six feet away, and stop the kvetching.

In the words of Ghandi, "There are no rights without responsibilities!" and some of you just don't get it.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Essential Worker Recognition

Since most "essential workers" are NOT receiving any extra pay/benefits during this time, why doesn't the US Government step up to give them more than just a $1200 check?

After all, pretty much everyone is getting that check even if they aren't working or on the front lines with that ever-present infection risk.

Suggestions?
1) Student Loan Forgiveness
2) Work/Study Grant
3) Fully Paid Health Insurance
4) Tax Debt Forgiveness
5) Housing Grant

You could place time/dollar amount limits on these options, but they should be made as non-taxable income.

Because of the financial strain from the impact of COVID-19 on the economy, many businesses/employers can't afford to give bonus pay to those employees who continue to stay at work providing a minimal sense of normalcy for the rest of us.

Someone needs to step up and do the right thing!