Monday, August 17, 2020

Do They Know Something We Don't?

This morning, a reader told me about an interactive map maintained by the State of Vermont that provides cross state travel information. On the map, counties in the Northeast are color-coded by the number of active cases of COVID-19 per million. People from green (or aqua) areas may travel to Vermont with no quarantine. People from yellow and red areas, however, are subject to travel restrictions. Columbia County, surprisingly, appears as a a bit of red on the map, surrounded by green and yellow. If you go to the site and click on the little red shape that is our county, you will find that there are 832 active cases per million.   

Now, Columbia County doesn't have anywhere near a million residents. Our population is just under 60,000. You have to multiply 60,000 by 16.67 to get a million. Logically, it would seem that to calculate the number of active cases per million, you need to multiply the actual number of active cases in Columbia County by 16.67. Yesterday, the number of active cases reported by the Columbia County Department of Health was 10. If you multiply 10 by 16.67, you get 167 not 832.  

In his press briefing today, Governor Andrew Cuomo reported that New York has one of the lowest infection rates in the country. Since June, the state as a whole has had an average infection rate of 1 percent or under.

The NYSDOH dashboard, which reports the daily percentage of positive results, gives the percentage for Columbia County today as 0.0 percent. 

Statistics can be confusing, because it is not always clear how calculations are made and if by comparing statistics from different sources you might be comparing apples to oranges. It certainly is a challenge to figure out how Vermont used its algorithm to determine that Columbia County is a COVID-19 hot spot. It seems the message we should take from this though is: Keep wearing a mask and social distancing and don't travel to Vermont.

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