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Lies, Damned Lies...And Data

· NUMBERS

The latest data from Johns Hopkins, turned into handy visualizations by a guy named Wade.

Wade Fagen-Ulmschneider is a teaching associate professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and an expert in data visualization. (Turning numbers into graphs that don't remind you of High School Hell.)

When the pandemic hit, Wade decided, in his words, to "flip the script and build fantastic things!" With somewhat less unseemly enthusiasm, he goes on to describe his user-friendly Covid data website as building a community around "making the best of the pandemic."

In a surreal period of our nation's history (we still have a nation, right?) information really is power. On Wade's website, you can figure out how bad things are getting in the U.S. (bad, actually) but also check on individual states. The site tracks infections, hospitalizations, and deaths.

When Wade built the 91-DIVOC page -- flip the script, get it? -- he used data from the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering that was open-sourced on GitHub.

What Wade wanted to do was translate the data to human terms, and he succeeded.

Are We Doing Enough Testing? (No.)

The best source for testing data is Our World in Data. Their graphics aren't as warm and fuzzy as Wade's, so we relied on the Kaiser Health Foundation and Politifact to check President Trump's statement at a press briefing: "We’ve tested more than every country combined.”

We didn't expect Trump to tell the truth, but we wanted to understand the testing situation.

While it's true that the United States has tested more people than any other individual country, that's not really the point.

When you factor in population size — which experts say is essential in understanding how well we are doing — the U.S. falls short. Way short.

Germany, Ireland, Belgium and Canada have all tested a much larger percentage of their population than the United States.

The real metric is the percentage of positive test results, according to William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

A low percentage indicates a nation is aggressively testing. A a higher percentage suggests the country is testing only very sick people — increasing the likelihood that its tracking system is missing cases of infection, and undercounting how many people are COVID-positive.

By this measure, the United States fares far worse than a number of countries, including Canada and Germany.

So. Reality check. The U.S. is not doing enough testing. Period. And the Trump administration recently cut federal funding to 13 test centers, making individual states responsible for conducting tests when state budgets are strained.

Under the Trump administration's latest move, much of the testing that experts say would be conducted most efficiently by the federal government will be outsourced to private contractors.

On Friday afternoon, after an outcry by Texas Republicans John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, the administration issued a two-week reprieve to federal testing centers in the hard-hit state. There was no word on Illinois, Pennsylvania, Colorado, and New Jersey. Read more at Talking Points Memo.

The Atlantic Breaks Down the U.S. Numbers

Test results nationwide and state-by-state are available from a daily basis from The Atlantic magazine's COVID Tracking Project.

The Project not only collects the data, but analyzes it, looking at geographic distribution and racial disparities.

World-o-Meter

There is actually a thing called that. World-o-Meter tracks Covid around the world. And, yes, more people have it here, and more people are dying. Read it and weep: World-o-Meter.

- The Editors

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