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Nevada Today

Nevada Today is a nonpartisan, independently owned and operated site dedicated to providing up-to-date news and smart analysis on the issues that impact Nevada's communities and businesses.

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Nate Silver Urges Caution In COVID-19 Out-Of Context Case Reporting

Editor’s note: Nevada-today will continue to publish reported cases on the COVID-19 virus, but we ask our readers to consider the caveat provided by Nate Silver, of Five Thirty

Nate Silver

Nate Silver argues “that the number of reported COVID-19 cases is not a very useful indicator of anything unless you also know something about how tests are being conducted.”

He says that “in some cases, places with lower nominal case counts may be worse off.” He warns “that a high number of tests is associated with a more robust medical infrastructure and a more adept government response to the coronavirus.”

“The countries that are doing a lot of testing,” he said  “also tend to have low fatality rates — not just low case fatality rates (how many people die as a fraction of known cases) but also lower rates of death as a share of the overall population.”

He points to Germany which is conducting about 50,000 tests per day (seven times more than the U.K.) has more than twice as many reported cases as the U.K., but they’ve also had only about one-third as many deaths.

“Put another way,” Silver argues, “Doing more tests is good, and likely leads to better long-run outcomes, even if it also results in higher case counts that people will freak out about in the short run.”

But he cautions, that educated consumers should consider the case counts in a context that includes other indications such as hospital strain, which are more robust since they aren’t subject to as many vagaries about how tests are conducted.

But he suggests that “even if you’re not from New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s daily briefings are worth watching because they do the best job I’ve seen of providing this context.”

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Michael McGreer Mesquite, Nevada
Dr. Michael Manford McGreer is managing editor of and writes on issues that impact public policy.

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