Sept. 09, 2020: “Post says most Ohioans safe from virus”

by Anna Staver of the Columbus Dispatch

The September 9, 2020 issue of the Chillicothe Gazette included an article labeled “FACT CHECK” in which the journalist attempted to fact check a Facebook post on how safe Ohioans are from the the Covid-19 virus. The two statistics quoted in the Facebook posting referenced:

“chance of contracting the coronavirus”

“Survival rate” for “those who aren’t in prison or a nursing home”

It’s overall point was that the odds for both of those for residents of Ohio are very small.

In fact checking the “chance of contracting the coronavirus” claim Anna makes the following point:

“Perhaps more seriously, health officials have said all along that confirmed cases represent only a fraction of actual cases, many of which are asymptomatic.”

Ana goes on to state:

“That means using only confirmed cases to calculate the odds of getting Covid-19 will fall well short of the actual figure.”

After discussing the validity of both of the Facebook posts stated statistics, the article concludes:

“Our ruling: Partly false”

Some of the numbers in the Facebook post are correct, but the conclusions it draws about the likelihood of specific Ohioans to both contract and survive the coronavirus are inaccurate.”

The article goes on to list the sources it used to fact check the post.

Consistency is important for the purpose of fact checking the post. If it is important to include asymptomatic cases in calculating the odds of contracting the virus wouldn’t it also be important to include asymptomatic cases when calculating the odds of surviving the virus. However the fact checkers use it in the first, but not the second calculation.

The real answer to both questions is: “The odds depend on so many factors and unknowns that we have no meaningful way to calculate the actual odds, but the odds are quite low for both.”

Calculating a statewide statistic is even more meaningless than calculating a county wide statistic when determining our odds. But let’s look at Ross County numbers anyway. Last night I checked the Ross County Health District website for the latest posted information. This is what I found:

  • Confirmed Cases 806
  • Inmate, prison employee and healthcare worker cases: 295
  • Other occupations or no occupation cases: 511
  • Hospitalizations 107
  • Deaths 17
  • Total population 76,600

However those numbers reflect the entire period of time Covid-19 has been around and may not reflect current odds!

A key statistic that isn’t reported anywhere is the number of asymptomatic cases, but that’s for a good reason. Why would one get tested for the virus if you don’t have any of the symptoms? You probably wouldn’t. The articles states:

“…confirmed cases represent only a fraction of actual cases…”

The problem with that statement is it doesn’t give us any indication of what size fraction it is. Fractions range from “nearly equal” like 99.99% to only a small portion like 1.00%. So stating that “confirmed cases represent only a fraction of actual cases” doesn’t help in the least. Furthermore, if we did know the exact number of asymptomatic cases and included them both calculations it would increase the odds of contracting the virus, but decrease the mortality rate.

The real answer to the two questions is:

“We can’t give you an exact number on your odds of contracting and surviving the Covid-19 virus because it depends on too many factors and unknowns. However unless you are in a high risk group your odds of both are quite low.”

So why do we have an article in the Gazette fact checking a Facebook post’s statistics that can’t be properly calculated in the first place? Why challenge the facts with other meaningless facts? And how are the post’s conclusions “inaccurate” as the fact checker states? Maybe this article is in the Gazette and other Ohio papers because the post’s conclusions are actually true for many Ohioans and that might make the virus less important when Ohioans go to the polls in November?

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