We Need a Better Coronavirus Metric


The U.S. reports a record day of cases: 36,880 new coronavirus cases were reported on Wednesday, which is the largest one-day total since the start of the pandemic. Florida, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas reported their highest single-day totals. — Medium

This is misleading, isn’t it? We’re doing more testing. It’s a lot easier to get tested than it used to be. You don’t need to have symptoms. You don’t need a doctor’s order.

Pharmacies are now doing drive-thru testing. The CVS in my neighborhood takes testing appointments at 10-minute intervals from 9am to 5pm. And they’re not easy to get. People are booking them up. I just got my test yesterday (results next week).

It sounds like from that 36,880 number that more people are being infected. It sounds like that is what’s being implied. But there’s really no way to know that from the data provided. Obviously if we’re doing more testing, we’re going to have more detected cases. Or to flip it around, we’ll have fewer undetected cases. But we don’t know what we really want to know, which is if we have more cases.

It seems like a more useful number would be the percentage of tests that come back positive. If it goes up, that’s bad; if it goes down, that’s good. But it’s unaffected by the number of tests performed.

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