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At a time when Americans are clamoring for accurate information about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, some officials in certain states are doing their best to make the task more difficult.
Last week, Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam’s ‘coronavirus response team’ essentially admitted to padding the state’s testing numbers after announcing a sudden 15 percent spike.
“You need to know the exact number of tests not the number of people who had tests,” Dr. Daniel Carey, Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources, told reporters.
As such, the Virginia Department of Health announced that it will begin counting the number of positive tests, not the number of people who test positive. So, if the same person is tested more than once and all of those tests come back positive, they will be added to the overall ‘positive’ test count, which makes for a major inaccuracy.
“We realized for Virginia that that change in methodology made a clear sense because we want to make sure that other number that we’re reporting since so many folks are focusing on that as we move into the phases so as one of the important indicators,” Carey said, in what seems like babble.
This system of counting multiple positive tests on the same person is something only a bureaucrat or a functionary would love.
Most Americans don’t care how many tests are being done, they want to know how many people have been tested, and more importantly how many are positive, so they can feel more comfortable knowing how the disease is either progressing or receding before venturing out in public again or going back to work.
The number of positive tests, however, will artificially boost the ‘positives’ and that will be all most people will hear; they will see that ‘X number of positive tests’ and believe that it represents an equivalent number of people, which, of course, won’t be true.
Worse, Virginia isn’t the only state engaged in this chicanery. WWBT reports that “other states” including North Carolina is also counting the number of positive tests, not the number of people testing positive.
What’s more, this development comes as Democrats, especially, have been calling for ‘more testing’ in order to argue against states that are opening their economies, albeit more slowly than many Americans would like.
Without ‘more testing,’ they say, it’s ‘too dangerous’ to reopen. Well, padding testing numbers would seem to add to the justification of reopening economies.
But isn’t Virginia a bluish-purple state? Yes, it is. So why would the state’s Democrat governor be in favor of padding testing numbers? Perhaps because he is beginning to understand how economically devastating it has been to keep his state on coronavirus lockdown.
Whatever the reason, counting tests instead of counting infected people is dishonest at best and purposely misleading at worst.
As Nate Silver writes at FiveThirtyEight, misleading test results can lead to misguided assistance policies:
In many parts of the world today, health authorities are still trying to triage the situation with a limited number of tests available. Their goal in testing is often to allocate scarce medical care to the patients who most need it — rather than to create a comprehensive dataset for epidemiologists and statisticians to study.
But if you’re not accounting for testing patterns, it can throw your conclusions entirely out of whack. You don’t just run the risk of being a little bit wrong: Your analysis could be off by an order of magnitude. Or even worse, you might be led in the opposite direction of what is actually happening.
The fact is, inaccurate testing or testing that provides for inaccurate caseloads will lead to inaccurate conclusions about the pandemic, and we don’t need any more of those.
We’ve had plenty of inaccuracies already, which have led to disastrous policy decisions — like killing our economy.
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