Everybody’s gone crazy on COVID data.

Well… it’s not just COVID, obviously.  People have gone crazy on a bunch of issues, but with COVID, as a topic, data is involved, which really ought to make it easier to pull everybody into productive discussion.  Unfortunately, it’s not often working out that way (at least among those I encounter).

The latest example to flitter across my screen comes via a tweet by the Roosevelt Society linking to a Daily Mail article that makes the headline claim, “Unvaccinated people who catch Covid are 60 TIMES more likely to end up in intensive care, new research reveals.”  Reading the article, however, this claim simply isn’t accurate.  Even in the first paragraph, one gets the almost imperceptible adjustment that it’s “up to 60 times.”  What’s the difference?  Well, read on to paragraphs seven and eight:

Figures from the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre (ICNARC), which covers units in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, show that between May and November the rate of admission for double-jabbed Covid sufferers in their 60s was just 0.6 cases per 100,000 people per week.

But among people of the same age who remained unvaccinated, the rate was 37.3 per 100,000 per week – equating to a relative risk about 60 times higher.

So, the 60-times measure only applies to those in their 60s.  After a bunch of charts, images, and videos, we learn that the rate is halved (to 30-fold) for those in their 50s and, oddly, in their 70s.  It more than halves again for those in their 30s and 40s (10- to 15-fold).

Yes, those are still big spreads, but look more closely at the numbers in the blockquote.  If we convert the numbers to percentages, the intensive-care risk for unvaccinated 60-somethings is 0.04%.  Sure, that’s a bigger risk than 0.0006% for the vaccinated, but is it reasonable for the Health Secretary to be chiding unvaccinated residents to “think about the damage that they are doing to society” because only 99.96% of them will avoid intensive care if they catch the disease?

As I said, people have gone crazy.  I don’t know how the odds that you’ll be hit by falling space debris change when you step outside, but it’s probably a pretty big increase in your risk, relatively.  But the danger is still miniscule.

If we can’t agree that the risk from COVID is so minimal already that anybody who doesn’t want to be vaccinated can simply live with it, could we at least agree on some threshold at which we can feel safe?  The standard that we can only feel safe when there is no way to feel safer just doesn’t work.


Featured image by Marcelo Vaz on Unsplash.

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